When Do You Share Your Body Issues With Your Child?
My 8-year-old daughter Mila has the most loving, uncomplicated relationship with her body. I'm in awe that I've never once heard her compare herself to other girls. She gasps in horror at the mention of the "F word"—fat (though she gasps at the other "F" word too) and loves to tell me how everyone is beautiful in their own way. She particularly loves her own long hair and hazel eyes. She's never once asked me if what she's wearing is flattering or if eating a few extra cookies (her favorite dessert) will make her gain weight.
I hope she stays in that positive, confident, all accepting headspace. And more than anything, I hope that I'm able to help keep her there. My daughter marvels that I look like "a grown up version" of her. She's never pointed out when I've gained or lost weight—and I made a really conscious choice to never share when I'm feeling bloated or upset at the number on the scale. I never say "diet" or "fattening" in her presence. I should also mention that Mila was just shy of 3 years old when I had weight loss surgery.
At the time, she was much too young to understand the real reason mommy spent the night in the hospital—but she wasn't the only one who I hid the truth from. In fact, it wasn't until recently that I openly told friends and family that I was so unhappy with my health and weight that I took control with gastric sleeve surgery. That is why it does concern me that my daughter does notice I easily get full, often complain "I shouldn't have had that last bite," and that I rarely clean my plate or have room for dessert.
My weight still fluctuates—even post surgery. So far Mila hasn't probed further but I expect with her inquisitive and empathetic nature that it's coming, making me wonder—should I tell her about my surgery too?
Allison Chase, Ph.D., CEDS-S, regional clinical director at the Eating Recovery Center, suggests if (and when) Mila asks questions that I "very matter-of-factly and clearly" answer by telling her that I'm focused on my health and trying to take care of my body the best I can, which means figuring out what foods and how much my body needs. "If she asks no more, then no need to answer more until she keeps asking—and only if she wants to know."