by PATRICIA MILLER
Often times when we think of body image, we only think about how it directly affects our selves after weight loss surgery.
I find that parenting is even more important when it comes to teaching your children about body acceptance and body image.
It’s a normal process after weight loss surgery to be concerned with weight, numbers, inches, and how our bodies are changing. It happens so rapidly, it’s exciting and thrilling, and sometimes scary.
But when you have young children around you, it’s also very influential.
I quickly learned that my children were greatly affected by the difference in my body transformation. Both physically as they felt the ease of snuggling hugging and being physically active but also mentally.
I watched them concern themselves with what they were eating, if they were going to get fat- what was healthy and what was unhealthy.
These things began to creep into our conversations more and more and I realized there’s a certain amount of privacy that should be taken when you are going through a weight loss process this extreme.
We choose it but small minds may not understand why. When you are around impressionable children, especially pre-teens, you need to be extra careful.
As I watch my daughter become a beautiful young lady, I’m very aware of her eating habits– when she chooses not eat; when she’s concerned with how she looks. The best medicine I could provide for a healthy body image is to tell her she’s beautiful and I love her very much. I tell her size does not determine your worth.
Yet I can’t help but to feel somewhat hypocritical because after all, I did go through a very dangerous surgery in order to make my body smaller to be healthier so how do we draw the line between teaching our children, size is not important but to stay healthy. As a parent it’s a very difficult struggle.
My suggestion would be to be honest with your children or preteens and explain to them the purpose of food. No one ever explained to me that food is fuel, not a reward. Food is fuel, not compensation for emotional stress or boredom. No one explained to me that food is for fuel and not a substitution for something else that might be missing in my personal life. So I’ve done my best to try and explain to my young daughter and my son (because boys do suffer from body image trust me I know I used to teach body image to young males at a modeling agency and they suffer anorexia and bulimia as well).
I try and teach them and explain to them that food is to fuel your body the same way gas fuels a car. If you put low-grade bad gas in your car, your car is not going to last very long and isn’t going to run to the best of its abilities but when you put premium gas in your car, you’re going to get the best results and your car is going to last longer.
This explanation seemed to make sense to both of my children and I’m thankful that thus far neither one has any weight issues or health problems. My children understand the difference between cheap easy fast food options versus a premium home-cooked nutritious meal. Now so do I. I also explain to them that candies and sugars are things that will break down your body the same way that there are things that can do damage to your car. This seemed to make sense to them. Now they opt for healthy snacks without even being encouraged too.
I’m proud of my children and I’m proud of the decisions that they make every day. They’re very rarely in the doctor. They don’t have dental problems or the diabetes that runs rampant through my family. Both are athletic and enjoy things like boating, swimming, kayaking and lacrosse.
So far, we’ve been extremely lucky and proactive as parents, especially after having gone through weight loss surgery, I try to teach my children the necessities of a healthy lifestyle as I’m just learning them myself.
Patricia Miller is a weight loss surgery patient advocate and volunteer. Find her live on Facebook every Tuesday night at 8 p.m. Follow Fusion Union on Facebook to catch the live broadcast and ask questions. Keep an ear out for a possible radio program in Bristol with Miller as host.