Ever wondered what tweens think about weight? Here's a glimpse.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: It's hard for me to talk about my 11-year-old daughter and eating without feeling intense anxiety. Food, a mother's most obvious nurturing gift, has become a battleground that sometimes undermines our close relationship. It's a subject that brings me great sadness -- and not because I think my daughter should be slender. I don't. But I do want her to be healthy and avoid diseases associated with childhood obesity. I feel sad because I know how our entire culture (her peers and mine) often judge us: me as a failed mother who "hasn't fed my daughter correctly," and her as an adolescent who is attempting to build self-esteem in a lookism culture.
Always off the height and weight charts, my amazing child walked at nine months. At 11, she's already 5'7" and 153 pounds. Her bountiful physique comes from some sound stock: I am 5'10" and her father is 6'4." God played a fun trick with my little girl's genes: Instead of giving her my ectomorph physique -- the "tall and skinny" one sought by so many in our culture -- he gave her some glorious curves. He gave her another challenge, too: an inability to feel full. And exercise isn't her favorite activity. As she informed me at age seven, "Get used to it, Mom. Reading is my sport."
Sometimes our family life becomes a power struggle over portion size and exercise. I vacillate between phases of extreme vigilance (during which I involve the pediatrician and a family therapist) and utter negligence (where I "give up" and just love my child deeply). My belief is that it's more important for her to know that she's loved no matter what her body weight or shape; that she's loved for her mind and her soul. Her intelligence and kind nature mean more to me than our culture's limited notion of how a woman should look.
I wondered how all this feels to her. After all, it would be unfair to only give my side of this sensitive story. So I have asked my daughter if I should write this article at all -- and if so, if she'd like to contribute. Here is the perspective of an 11-year-old on food and body image. Take it over, honey ....
Carrington: Hi. I am in the sixth grade. My mom is super skinny, and that doesn't bother me. My sister is also really skinny, and, because she's my sister, of course I'm going to be jealous of her. I think that it's unfair that my sister gets to eat whatever she wants and not get fat. I would think that that would be unhealthy, but my sister [doesn't] seem to care about being healthy. So she eats whatever she wants, and my mom tells me that I can't eat the same. Even the doctor told me that everybody is different and that I have to get used to the fact that I can't eat the same. It's completely unfair that I have to suffer, but my sister and my mom don't.
While I'm at school, I get teased about being fat. Even if it's just a joke, I don't like it at all. And when I'm at home, I feel like I'm being nagged to get skinny and be like everyone else. When there is so much pressure on you to do so much already, and then people start telling you that you're gonna die and get diabetes, it doesn't feel good. Since I'm not skinny like most of my friends and relatives, I feel out of place and anything but normal. I hate being bigger than most people, and I wish more than anything that I could not have to worry about my weight. I know my mom loves me very much, but sometimes I wish that she would just stop nagging.
Wendy: So there you have it. I'm hated if I attempt to help her eat healthy, and I'm slammed by my peers if her eating gets out of control. It's a delicate situation filled with lots of anguish. Sometimes we both feel like failures, and judgment from our peers doesn't help the situation.
|Dr. Wendy Walsh holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and her area of interest is Attachment Theory -- a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory that provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for understanding interpersonal relationships between human beings. As a psychological assistant registered with the California Board of Psychology, Dr. Walsh has treated individuals, couples and families for a variety of mental-health concerns, including personality disorders, anger management, eating and substance disorders and depression. Connect with Dr. Walsh on Facebook.|