I have to take a minute to brag on my husband. He lost 115 pounds last year and he did it all on his own.
He simply decided he wanted to be healthier, that he wanted to be able to do some things that he no longer could, and he made up his mind to change his lifestyle. He did it without spending a cent – no programs, no meal plans, no products. He did it by passing up every donut in the breakroom, skipping every dessert, dramatically cutting portions, making healthier food choices, drinking nothing other than water. He did it without forcing anyone else in the family to make the same changes, politely saying, “No, thanks,” as the rest of us had a second helping of pasta followed by dessert. He did it without complaint. Whereas I, on the other hand, would have been a hangry beast.
I am in awe of his willpower and determination. It is an incredible accomplishment. I am so proud of him.
His weight loss journey has had an unintended side effect.
One thing – maybe the only thing – I felt like I was really getting right in this parenting gig was how my husband and I handled body image.
My kids have never heard either of us say we are fat. Ever. We’ve never called ourselves any derogatory names.
My kids have never heard us say we are dieting. Even through this whole process of losing over 100 pounds, my husband never said he was “on a diet.” He never said he couldn’t or shouldn’t have something to eat, only that he was choosing not to – that he was trying to make healthier choices.
My kids and I are only weighed at doctor appointments. We don’t talk about how much we weigh or how many pounds we need to lose. We don’t even have a scale in our house. (My husband tracked his weight loss at work.)
Obviously, my husband was obese, morbidly obese according to the charts. Though he weighs less now than he did the day we met 14 years ago, he is still considered overweight. As am I. But we have only ever talked about getting healthier and making better choices. It isn’t about our appearance. We have never talked about wanting to look better, only feel better.
All of this was very intentional. We did not want our kids to absorb body image issues from us. We want our kids to know it is OK to be comfortable in their own skin, to love themselves, to be content and even happy with themselves, regardless of their appearance or size.
We could control this narrative within our home. Until now.
Ever since my husband’s weight loss started becoming noticeable, the first thing people say to him is how great he looks. A lovely compliment, no doubt. But, it didn’t stop there. Almost every conversation would then lead to how the other person needed to lose weight, to diets, to pounds, to listing faults in their appearance.
Good intentions, but sending the wrong messages.
My kids are repeatedly seeing their dad praised for how he looks, immediately followed by seeing others chastising themselves for needing to lose weight. They can’t help but notice the importance appearance holds over every conversation lately.
And that was all it took.
My daughter (whose last wellness check showed she was in the 40 percentile for weight) began talking about her “fat.” Even mentioning once, how she felt “lighter” like she “lost a pound.”
My heart aches when I think of how a negative body image can affect an adolescent.
My husband’s weight loss may have been the catalyst, but these issues were bound to arise sooner or later. These issues are too deeply ingrained within our society to have ever been avoided completely. All we can do is hope that we are setting a good example, that our positive messages will outweigh the negative barrage from society, and that our kids will grow up having healthy a relationship with their own body.
This story originally appeared on Facebook
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