1 week ago, I was in the grocery store when I overheard a very upsetting conversation. That conversation has been replaying in my head all week and really been bothering me-- so what better to do than take to the blog to vent for a minute??
Let me start by setting the scene. It was Friday evening, I was in the grocery store with a basket full of pints of ice cream, rice cakes, and pancake syrup-- you know, the usuals necessary for many of my staple meals like protein waffles and ice cream, PB& J rice cakes...
So, I'm strolling the aisles with my basket full of food. I'm in an aisle where they also have candy and chocolates. A younger girl, probably about 11 or 12, is walking down it with her mom and goes over to a bag of Hershey kisses. She asks her mom if they can get them, followed by a few "pleaseeee"s. Now, I didn't hear the full beginning of what Mom said because I wasn't really paying attention, but then I heard, "Monday will be here soon enough," and thought, "Oh maybe they're fasting for some religious thing...". I proceeded to hear the daughter beg her mom some more and then her mom said, "Think of how much weight you'll cut if you don't eat all weekend."
**insert eye bulging emoji here**
I thought for sure I'd heard her wrong and looked at my fiance, who was also listening in at this point,-- his shocked face assured me that I had heard correctly. We paused in the aisle with our backs to the mom and daughter to listen some more. The daughter continued to ask for food, the mom continued to tell her no and that she can eat on Monday. Eventually, the mom gave in and told her daughter, " You can explain to your coach why you gained weight. You want to make the cheerleading team don't you?" and with that, they walked away as the mom laughingly called the daughter a "little b***h" and the daughter giggled with her bag of kisses in her hands.
This is 100,000% an absolutely true story. I was/am dumbfounded by this. I absolutely could not (and still cannot) believe what I had heard-- it was so wrong on so many levels.
To start, putting the idea in such a young girl's head that the only way to lose weight is by not eating is so insanely incorrect and morally wrong! As I've mentioned here, society is already delivering the message that we need to essentially starve ourselves to be "fit" and "skinny", and having a parent reinforce that is even more harmful. If anything, we need to be eating more to lose weight! We need to be eating good foods consistently, working out, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, taking in essential vitamins and minerals, etc. This is the message that we should be communicating, especially to youth, not that dream bods are achieved only on little amounts of calories. Eating less and less is not going to bring any healthy, sustainable weight-loss.
I so badly wanted to interrupt that conversation, show the daughter my shopping basket full of carbs and "bad" treats, flex a few muscles for her to show what eating can do for you, and tell her to screw what her mom is saying-- food is fuel, there is nothing wrong with eating, there are no "good" or "bad" foods, there is just moderation and balance. I wanted to tell her all of that and about a healthy approach to food/eating and fitness. I kept my mouth shut, though; it wasn't my place.
As for the other reason this rubs me the wrong way? Because of the serious, long-term health problems and effects this could potentially give this girl if she's often hearing comments like that from her mom. As I already said, girls are exposed to so many messages about body weight, being skinny, and their "value" based on their weight/body composition. These messages can be hard to combat because they come from everywhere, but if a parent isn't challenging them at all, they can start being internalized.
And lastly, because this girl (who was not overweight/was not underweight by the way) was a cheerleader. I think about my time cheerleading when I was her age, and even when I was in high school and college, and quite honestly, weight was never a deciding factor on if you could make the team or not, your talent/skill was.
As well, I never had a single coach shame me, or any other girl on those teams, for weight-- which is what this mom made it sound like the coach was doing, and if so, shame on the coach for pushing that message in yet another area of these girls' lives.
Aside from the fact that she was a cheerleader, she was an athlete (don't challenge me on my use of that term right now), and being an athlete, she needs to be eating like one. She needs to be getting in her vitamins, her proteins, her carbs, her fats. She needs to be fueling her body to do those flips, jumps, stunts, and so on. Not eating for 2 days, or continuously eating very little, is just going to completely drain her of the energy she needs to perform her best.
Obviously there is so much wrong with that 3 minute conversation I overheard; and obviously there are going to be people like that in this world that shame their kids/put unrealistic or unmanageable weight expectations on them. There is always going to be parent pressure out there. We can't tell people how to raise their kids-- because quite honestly they're going to do whatever they want--, but we can try to positively influence the kids around us.
We can be a role model of health and fitness, and try to combat all of the negative messages these boys and girls may be receiving. Kids need to be educated on healthy lifestyles and they need to see it from people they look up to! I'm really hoping that little girl has a positive role model somewhere...