I know you have been raised in a generation of dieting. I know that you have been taught not to trust your body. I know that our society idolizes a thin ideal and this has been ingrained in your head. I know you have been taught to try and change your body over and over again in order to fit a norm deemed acceptable to society. I know you have lost weight more times than you can count and gained it back again. I know you are ashamed and embarrassed by fat on your body because generations before you told you you should be. I know that you are bombarded by ads and messages hundreds of times a day that tell you have problems to fix and encourage you to look like everyone else.
None of this is your fault, it's a problem with the society we live in. Your body has never actually been a problem.
I know your doctor likely tells you, you need to lose weight. I know your partner might make snarky comments when you are having a bowl of ice cream. They have seen you diet so many times and make the snarky comments yourself that they think they are helping you. I know all your friends restrict their food and work out to burn calories. I know no one can figure out why Jane can eat steak, fries and beer and never gain a pound or why Sally runs all the time and can never seem to lose one.
But my daughter does not know all of this. And I don't want her to know more than she already does.
So please on this holiday, I ask that you don't tell her. She has already started to question me, she senses something is amiss. She has asked why her aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are so concerned with diets and losing weight and changing their bodies. She hears you talk about not eating bread or cake or limiting your portions or going for a run to work something off. She hears you say you want a large piece of cake but will take the small one. She hears your partners tell you - yes, you should definitely take the small one and it doesn't even phase her when she should be horrified that someone would tell someone else what to eat. She hears you talk about special protein shake diets and why you need to start running when you never liked to run before. She is baffled and confused.
She wonders what everyone is afraid of.
Isn't food delicious and wouldn't we want to eat it? Can't I trust my body and eat when I am hungry and eat a variety of foods that are filling and satisfying? Why should I try to look like everyone else? Aren't I ok just being me? Isn't the body I was given good enough? Why do I need to change? Why should I compare myself to my friends and want to look like them? Why should I move my body in ways that are not fun?
I thought you told me I was pretty awesome? But you are not? Are you saying I really need to change too?
So I ask of you, family, as we are sitting around the dining room table. Please no diet talk. No talk of limiting foods or restricting calories. No talk of what you can't eat. (Why can't you? Is something wrong? Are you sick?) No talk of needing exercise to work off what you ate. No talk of "eating clean" or "eating healthy". She is a smart kid and knows that is just more diet talk. No talk of goals to change your body size. No body checking, shaming or bashing. It comes in all forms, I heard one family friend call himself porky yesterday with his young daughter nearby. The children can hear you.
We can stop perpetuating the cycle of body hatred and anxiety around food. It starts by supporting our children in the bodies that they have and helping them to thrive and grow, not shrink and think they need to change their bodies to be ok. This is your time to be that role model that you always wanted to be and to really make a difference in a young person's life. Losing weight is not what we were put on this planet for. It is not our life's work.
Let's try and save a new generation from wasting as much time thinking about food and weight as we have wasted.
There is much more important work to be done.
Thank you for your time and I'll see you at the table.