It’s taken me a long time to realise that the way we talk about food and weight is just a bit crazy. We categorize food as good and bad (rather than delicious or tasteless), we are terrified of being called fat (as if it were a moral issue rather than a physical feature) and we constantly justify our hunger (“I had such a small breakfast, you know”).
Perhaps I shouldn’t say we. I do this. Even though I try to keep a lid on it, the occasional apology or justification still slips out. It’s ridiculous, because I’m guessing nobody cares why or how much I’m eating (except maybe the cook who is happy I’m digging into their hard work!). But I still feel I kind of need to excuse the fact that I’m hungry, that I enjoy food, that I eat more than a salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The silly thing is that I would never do the same about alcohol. I love wine and pre-baby not just the one glass but it would have never thought to comment on each refill with “But you know I only had juice for breakfast”. I also don’t see smokers apologetically lifting their eyebrows and saying “I just walked up the stairs” before they light a cigarette.
It might only be words but words matter, especially when you hear them over and over again. Kyle, this week’s guest blogger, totally gets that. She has reminded me that choosing my words is so important – not only for my own self-esteem but because my son is listening.
Language is a very powerful tool. As parents, we need to be especially careful about how we wield it. […] There’s a classic picture book that I loved as a child that I refuse to read to my own children.
In “There’s a Hippopotamus On My Roof Eating Cake”, the little girl protagonist who tells the story from her own point of view is talking about everyone sitting down to dinner and the food that they are eating. She says: “Mummy is on a diet. She eats lettuce, tomato and cheese.”
What disturbs me about this line, other than the fact that lettuce, tomato and cheese are relegated to “diet food” rather than just being normal food that you would eat everyday, is the casual way the diet is mentioned. It implies that this Mummy character has been on diets before and it is no strange thing. It requires no more mention or context. Mummy is on a diet. Obviously.
The language that we choose and use can have a profound impact on our children and their own developing body image. Let’s try to make it a positive impact!
More about Kyle, aka the Bookish Mummy:
I’m Kyles. In a previous life I was a human rights educator with a Masters in Law and a PhD. I’ve now tumbled down the rabbit hole and into another life. In this one I live with my husband and two very tiny humans named Pickles and Pords. Part-time university teacher, some-time blogger at picklesandpords.com, full-time mum. I love travel and music. Chocolate and wine. And books. Always books.
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