We Are What We Feed Our Children?

Recently, I read Peggy Orenstein’s article The Fat Trap on the New York Times’ website. Here’s part of the opening paragraph of The Fat Trap:

Food is never just food. Food is love. Food is solace. It is politics. It is religion. And if that’s not enough to heap on your dinner plate each night, food is also, especially for mothers, the instant-read measure of our parenting. We are not only what we eat, we are what we feed our children.

Not only what we feed them, but how much we feed them. According to the article, ‘good’ parents these days are expected to have normal-weight kids. An overweight child, especially a girl, is viewed as a failure. Reading this floors me. It’s true, but I don’t want it to be, especially in my own psyche. I hate hate hate to admit it, but a lot of the worry I have over my daughter’s health is centered around how others see her and me as a result. I never wanted to be this kind of parent. But is it possible not to be?

Another thing about the article that hit home for me was the unrelenting internal dialogue Orenstein describes that includes eating, social pressures to grow your own organic carrots, body image, and being a model for her daughter. Just reading about the fact that someone else is conducting this balancing act blew my mind.

I’ve never put it into words before, but I try to be thoughtful about the way I approach food in front of my girls in a lot of the same ways Orenstein does. I never talk about growing food organically, but I do make it a point to enjoy my broccoli as well as my ice cream. I try to stay away from my own body image completely. But with the girls I soak up and point out their beauty and strength as often as I can.

Have any of you out there read Orenstein’s article? Reactions? Thoughts?

Author: Cindy

Born in Charleston. Raised in the Silicon Valley. Live near Hartford, Connecticut with my husband and two children. We have lots of tropical fish.

6 thoughts on “We Are What We Feed Our Children?”

  1. I just read the article while feeding my baby her first carnivorous meal (ground turkey, bought from my local German butcher). My mother thought I was crazy for making my own baby food and not just buying the Gerber stuff. Maybe she’s right. After all, I credit my mom’s laissez-faire attitude toward dining for my own lack of food neuroses: some nights we ate Kraft Mac n’ Cheese with hot dogs, other nights we had fresh pan-seared scallops in an organic orange glaze. When I got to college and was confronted with the all-you-can-eat cereal buffet, I just ate Cheerios, while other people who had grown up in strident anti-sugar households gorged themselves on Capn’ Crunch till they landed in the campus food issues clinic. So for now my strategy is to embrace variety.

    1. Yes. Variety is a must. Some nights mama just needs to make mac & cheese. Some nights scallops. It’s all good. I also keep hot dogs and stuff to a minimum, but don’t forbid them. I loved them as a child and don’t think my kids should be denied the spoils of an American childhood. Plus you can get the free-range, bottle-feed, all-beef kind now – probably all-beef-eyeballs, but whatever.

  2. Oh, there’s so much to be said about a mother-daughter relationships… This is just another tiny aspect of this complex bond.
    Feeding is way more than just “feeding” and so much beyond the physical act of serving, cooking, giving, preventing, etc of food.
    And, I agree, I think that eating disorders/abnormalities are a sign that there is a problem in the parent-child connection.

  3. Variety and moderation are key for me, as is studiously avoiding “fat talk” and really most “body talk” in general. When my daughter and do talk about these things, we talk about food and bodies from the standpoint of health, not “shoulds” and “don’ts.” There are foods that are great for our bodies and foods that aren’t so great (but damn, a lot of those taste good). So we maximize the “grow foods” and eat the treats more occasionally – but I agree, forbidding categories of foods often creates a disproportionate desire for those foods! So Cheetos sometimes, broccoli always . . . .

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