You read that subject line right. According to this post on Mommyish, a mother found a heartbreaking “diet list”, complete with documentation of daily food intake and exercises, on the floor of her 7-year-old daughter’s bedroom.
I can’t even imagine.
It’s been a while since I’ve written about something like this. I’m grateful for that fact, truly, because any time I come across something like this every hope and dream I have about the world in which we live dies just a little bit more.
Sorry for the melodrama but here’s the deal — I have a kid now. Not that this wouldn’t have pissed me off a year ago, but it’s a little different now that I’m a parent. In a moment of fleeting amnesia, I forgot how terrible the world can be sometimes, so I decided to bring a little life into it. So I had a little boy. A little boy who will sit next to little girls in his classes at school. Girls he will talk to and possibly befriend. Or fall in love with. A little boy whose utterances about girls’ appearances could either be encouraging or incredibly damaging.
See, people? Now it’s personal.
Anyway — here’s a picture of the “diyet” list this poor mother found.
If you read the article, you’ll find that the mother’s discovery of her 7-year-old’s diet plan sends her into a tailspin of parental questions, as I’m sure would be the case for any warm-blooded parent with a heartbeat and a brain stem — How did my daughter learn about diets? Did she hear this from me? Was it from someone at school? Was it something on TV?
I’ve only been a parent for 7 and a half months, but I am already wracked with so much mom-guilt it’s not even funny. Guilt because I work full time. Guilt because my son once choked on a piece of carrot that somehow didn’t get pureed enough. Guilt because he’s teething and so nursing isn’t exactly his favorite thing at the moment. The idea that I’m hurting my child in any way causes me paralyzing grief each day; I can’t imagine the pain I’d feel in my gut if I ever knew that my child didn’t like himself and that feeling was somehow tied back to something I said or did.
The reality is that we do live in a broken world, one that puts so much emphasis on our outward appearance that it’s literally (in this case at least) destroying our youth. We can’t get away from airbrushed magazine covers or commercials for diet pills or anti-aging cream. But what we can control are the words that come out of our own mouths.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are capable. You are worth so much more than your skin color or weight or height or eye color or anything gives you credit for.
Here’s the thing, though. I sincerely doubt this mother ever told her 7-year-old she needed to go on a diet. I also find it highly unlikely that this mother ever uttered anything to her daughter that might suggest she didn’t like her appearance at all. I’m sure this mom doted on her daughter every day like all of us would our own children. So what’s the disconnect?
While it’s extremely important to make sure we say these things to our children (both boys and girls) as well as our friends and family, we’ve got to start with us. The words we say to ourselves are just as important, if not more so. They’re not just heard by us; they’re heard by others. Especially, I’d argue, the littlest ones. The ones we wish couldn’t hear us the most.
What if she heard her mom complaining about her body? What if this woman (who, at this stage in life, is her daughter’s main example for womanhood) offhandedly commented on her lovehandles or something like we all tend to do? And what if this little girl just assumed that’s what life is like for a girl these days? To be unhappy with her body?
Furthermore, what if this little girl was a classmate of Dax’s? And what if she had no idea what a diet was, but when talking to Dax, learned I was on a diet.
“What’s a diet?” she might inquire.
“My mom says she has to eat less food because she’s fat,” he might respond, if he were to repeat anything I’ve ever said around him concerning my own body.
Let’s break this cycle. Let’s start with us. Let’s talk about ourselves positively and encourage others to do the same. Let’s tell our children they are the perfect creations they are. Let’s end this.
5 thoughts on “mom finds “diet list” in her 7-year-old daughter’s room.”
How heart breaking, makes me sooo upset 😦 but I love your post and you are so right, it all starts with ourselves!
What you have written has so much truth and it is sad. I started dancing when I was 3 1/2 yrs old. One of the first things my teacher told my mother was that she would have to watch my weight – her reason was that my mother was a little heavy and she told my mother that I would be predisposed. (I remember this conversation – one of my earliest memories) My mother started watching my weight when I was 3 1/2. Not in a bad way, she just made sure I did not eat too many sweets – it was always about being able to get into a costume…. I learned about abusing laxatives when I was in the 6th grade. I read it in a book about being a ballet dancer. Needless to say I have never ever been happy with my body and have been bulimic since I was in the 6th grade. I do not have girls – thank god – boys – but if i did, i would make certain that they would learn to appreciate who they are – in all meanings of this word.
Yes, just absoloutely appalling that this 7 year old set a goal to eat fruits, yogurt, and get some exercise. What is this world coming to?!?
Lindsay, I completely agree with your concern about how children internalize these messages – and I also have vivid memories of my own mother and her friends being self-critical when it was not necessary.
But your end point about eating less IS a topic I think people should discuss, particularly because society assumes “eat more, lose weight.” As you likely know, I’ve been doing Weight Watchers since November 2011, and it’s completely altered the way I see food. And it has forced me to realize that my previous weight issue was less about my self-perception and much more about inadequate understanding of the science behind eating and exercise.
A few weeks ago, one of my coworkers was medically ordered to lose weight. Talking about the process, he said, “Oh, I guess I’ll just have to eat less.” Too few people (and I used to be one of them!) think that we can drop 20 pounds if we have just a little bit less barbecue with our collard greens. I tried, nicely, to explain to my much-older colleague that it wasn’t serving smaller portions of the same Rice-a-Roni that does the trick; rather it’s rounding out each meal with fresh produce, calling upon whole grains and low-glycemic foods and still allowing small indulgences. Simply put: we eat the wrong stuff, and we have to eat a lot more of it to feel satisfied.
Those lessons ARE ones I wish I had learned as a child. I am so fortunate to find few faults with my upbringing, but food education certainly was lacking. I often joke that I grew up in the drive-thru, which had a HUGE impact on my concept of a “diet.” As a result, I steadily gained weight every year of my life until I was 5’3″, 182 pounds with a BMI of roughly 33 percent and too ashamed to buy new pants. It’s true I wasn’t some hideous giant, but I was lethargic, sad and physically uncomfortable climbing into the backseat of a coupe – pretty embarrassing for someone fresh out of college. All of that could have been avoided if my parents had approached the topic proactively and explained that a “diet” is simply what you eat.
YES TO ALL OF THIS. I learned a lot from weight watchers as well. Dan did it for a while, too, so I’m hoping we can tag-team with our kids. I’ve already started by not feeding dax rice cereal because it’s literally just filler. it has no nutritional value. as of right now he only eats my milk & fruits & vegetables (organic of course)! & I hope to instill good food education in him now. I’m thankful for him bc he has forced me to become neurotic about what my family eats & why they eat it.