It was a busy year.
This pic and title are a clever draw to get you to read this. I know that you’re thinking New Year’s and resolutions and all that. I just hope you’ll think before you act if you are a parent who wants to lose weight and you are considering buying or selling direct-sales weight-loss products. You should start thinking after you read this post, “How to talk to your daughter about her body,” over on Hope Avenue.
If you are like me, you have about a dozen Facebook friends now who are attempting to sell me some type of “health” product these days. They mention a lot of weight lost with less effort than one might expect. These “health product” shortcuts can help you, but as someone who has watched people close to me suffer from eating disorders, I worry about the message it sends to kids when they see parents use them.
Because I want to live up to my promise, first I will tell you everything you need to know about how I dropped 40 pounds and 6 dress sizes. I really did do that. I hope you’ll read on after that.
I will use just 3 words to describe how I lost the weight. They even all start with S. Sweat. Salads. Spanx.
Sweat is from exercise that burns more calories than you consume. I chose to train for and then run a couple 5ks. Then I signed up for a half marathon in June, 2014. Besides running, I do some Yoga and exercise videos with my daughter, too. We look really silly sometimes and giggle a lot. Sometimes she goes off and colors or plays with the dog while I finish up without her.
are something you can eat a lot of without having to do more exercise than you want to. When I wanted things other than salad, I used the (totally FREE) MyFitnessPal
app to help keep calories burned over calories consumed.
Spanx is because, well, it’s the best $50 you’ll spend in formal dresswear because it doesn’t just shrink, it smooths.
Now, back to my soap box. To be very clear, I don’t mind the sales effort in my news feed on Facebook. Sure, if someone is posting about what he or she is selling more than once per day, those posts are technically spam. But I’m in sales and recognize that most of these direct-sellers are doing a great job with curating and even creating relevant, interesting content.I also know that the product these folks are trying to sell me works. First, because these are people I do believe and trust. Also, with some of those products, I feel like you’d have to do something really wrong for them NOT to work. For instance, some direct-sellers say they replace an entire meal with a caffeine-laden shake. As a result, they say they’ve lost weight and feel like they have more energy. (No Way! It’s MAGIC!)
So, what is my problem with the direct-sellers? A couple quick observations on history:
In the 1980s, news became big media business and to keep us hooked they have to have something on all the time that scares us. So we stopped letting our kids go outside and play. Kids were okay with this because cable kept adding more channels and video games keep getting better and now they really don’t even need to see their friends in person with SnapChat and Social Media.
In the nineties, the USDA introduced the food pyramid and essentially began recommending a diet based around carbs. (You can read a little more on that in this post entitled “The Ultimate Pyramid Scheme” on the Carb-Loaded documentary’s blog.)
These things – staying inside and eating mostly grains- swirled around with a couple other factors like food deserts in poor neighborhoods and the rise of juice boxes and boom, we’ve got ourselves a childhood obesity epidemic.Direct from the CDC: Obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States – triple the rate from just one generation ago. Ouch, scary.
I know what you’re thinking: “That’s why I’m selling and using these products, Jenn! I want to be an example of not being overweight for my child!” Please hear me out.
Kids today are already hearing so much about food. Food that is bad, chemicals in food, not eating enough food, eating too much food, etc. What message do you want to send your kids about food?
When you start using and/or selling weight loss products and let it become a huge part of your everyday life and you let your kids know it, here are five scary things you are demonstrating to your kids:
1. Being thin is very important. They’re going to get this message from stick figures like Bella Thorne, Zendaya, Cinderella, iCarly, the fleet of scantily-clad fairies fluttering around Disney, and most other beloved children’s characters on the media they watch, please don’t reinforce it. (“It’s not about being thin, Jenn!” you say; “It’s about being healthy!” Oh, that’s why you keep posting before and after pics of your BMI.)
Our children do NOT need more thin “role models.” They need role models who show them how to have a normal, healthy relationship with food.
- Strawberry Shortcake, Then and Now
That’s Strawberry Shortcake, on the left, from back in the day when I was a kid. On the right, that’s her AFTER she’s thinned out enough to be a part of this generation’s characters.
2. There is nothing fun about exercise, so we need to find shortcuts to avoid doing too much of it. Once you find something you like doing, EVERYTHING is fun about exercising. The truth is, nothing is fun about finding time to exercise when you’re trying to balance a plate of work, housework, playing with your kids, your own non-exercise pursuits, and heaven only knows what else. As a parent, there is no doubt in my mind that you do deserve a shortcut. But don’t take one-your kids are watching. Try to do exercise that is fun and keeps you healthy, not that makes you skinny or “toned.” Unless you love that. You should totally do it, then. Your body should be a reflection of who a healthy, happy you is. I enjoy the occasional crunch and the back pain it eliminates. I like to think my body tells the truth about me- I like running, occasional light weight-work, drinking bourbon and eating a cookie here and there. My husband loves all of those things about me and totally digs my body, too. I do not look like I love Crossfit, but that’s okay.
3. Being healthy costs money. A lot of money. Actually, it doesn’t. It takes some planning and some thinking and some common sense. And when my daughter is in her first year of college and broke (because Lord knows I’m unable to foot the whole bill) and gains the “Freshman 15” and discovers that binge eating and drinking with no exercise don’t feel very good, I don’t want her to feel like she’s powerless and needs a fancy pill or shake. I want her to put on some sneakers and take a walk or a run and go drink some water and eat an apple. Then, when she does have money and she feels sad or lonely, maybe she won’t just try to buy something to swallow, drink or snort to cure it.
4. Getting other people thin is a fair way to make a profit. If you’re going to make an extra buck or two, isn’t there something else you can sell? Maybe Tupperware or cooking utensils? Stuff you can use to show your children how awesome it is to use really good, all-natural food to make a meal together that you then eat together? If you’re interested in helping people feel better, it seems like a good idea do that for free. Maybe you could learn some fun exercise like Zumba and charge for that if you really feel like you need a profit. Time away from your children shouldn’t be spent contributing to this country’s horrible weight gain/weight loss cycle. If it is, please don’t tell your kids what you’re doing.
5. Food is evil. Especially yummy food. That cake I made to celebrate your birth? It’s like I’m practically trying to kill you. Okay, so hopefully your kid won’t make a leap like that. But what message are we sending when, in order to feel good and be thin, we REPLACE AN ENTIRE MEAL with a shake?For a kid, every meal is an adventure. At school, snack time and lunch time will be welcome breaks and time to chat with friends and eat FOOD. At home, we do everything we can to have our kids stay at the table for the whole meal and try all kinds of new foods. This all fits in with the culture of food and eating that humans have had for thousands of years.Like all animals, humans need food to nourish our bodies. Because we are humans, we need food that tastes good and is consumed as part of a social ritual to nourish our souls. (It’s okay if a nice, yummy dessert is occasionally part of that ritual. That’s why it’s so important we set the right example.)
In schools they’re having conversations with really young kids about what foods are bad.Telling kids who are too young that ANY food is “bad” is a horrible idea. I learned this from Sam Sandwich, a character from the Disney Junior shorts between shows. Last year he told my 3-year-old daughter that eating too much of some foods makes you tired and lazy. Because she’s 3, she refused to eat lunch because what she heard was “food makes you tired and lazy.”
Of course, in schools, they’re not just talking about bad foods, they’re banning those foods. Recently, a friend of mine packed a little package of gummy bears from her daughter’s Halloween candy in her daughter’s lunch one day. This resulted in a reprimand from the school. Her daughter is not overweight or obese and eats a healthy lunch every day.
Obviously, Gummy Bears– created in 1920 — were being be brought to reckoning for their finally bringing about an entire generation of overweight children. By golly, we should have seen this coming almost 100 years ago!
Those are just a couple of examples of what wacky stuff our kids are going to be hearing about food and eating. And trust me, there are going to be LOTS of conversations about food and eating. Disney, Nick Jr., and Sprout and anyone else who acts like they care about children in order to profit, are jumping right on this bandwagon to tell our kids what to eat because actually convincing kids to take action on the other solution- exercising more- could possibly lower viewership.
You see what I’m getting at? As a parent, if you’re letting any part of your life revolve around weight loss, you’re contributing to what is already an unhealthy conversation about foods. Worse yet, you’re not just talking. You’re becoming an example.
And that’s my two cents. And if you don’t like it, don’t read it. I’ll probably be forced to keep reading your posts about “ask me how,” though. Because you’ll still be my friend because I love you and I know you’re an amazing parent and think you’re doing the right thing. Just think carefully about what you let your kids know about it, okay?