Fit Girl Series – Friends, Strangers With Candy

birthday cake

Ainsley’s in the other room reading to her brother and my husband and I are having a consultation with her doctor. And I’m hearing myself say this,

I don’t understand how this could be happening. This doesn’t make any sense. We’re doing most things right. We don’t keep junk food in the house, we probably eat better than half of America. We rarely go out to eat. She doesn’t eat school lunch. We have a trampoline, she rides her bike around the neighborhood, and we put her in karate and soccer. She gets gym 3 times a week at school.

And it occurs to me, somebody has to be lying.

Since I’m the one talking – it’s probably me.

Maybe we’re not looking in the right places. Maybe we’re not paying close enough attention to what she’s eating. Maybe the foods we’re eating aren’t what we believe we’re eating. She’s getting exercise, but its obviously not enough.

My husband was counting his calories at the time and frequently commenting, “did you know that lunch I had at that business meeting was 1,200 calories?” Uh, No.

So we counted Ainsley’s calories for about 2 weeks to get a clear picture of what was really going into her mouth.

The first surprise was that neither one of us, myself or my husband, really knew how many calories a kid her age should be eating.

The second surprise was that we were feeding her several foods that we didn’t think were high calorie, but were super-high in calories. One of the major things was the “real fruit slushes” at Sonic. We didn’t have air conditioning in our van (still don’t) so I was having mercy on my poor sweltering little children frequently. When we looked it up they were taking in about 1,000 extra calories and I was being distracted by the healthy-sounding, misleading “real fruit.” We cut their daily calories a good deal when we started ordering diet sprite slushes.

The 3rd surprise were the number of unauthorized and unaccounted for calories given to them by kindly strangers. I started noticing that we are rarely in public without someone giving my children sweets.

In one single day, some kid came up to Ainsley at an indoor playground and gave her a box of Dots. I had already allowed the ice cream in the child’s menu at Dairy Queen because we were rushing and out of town. Later someone was having a birthday and gave her a massive piece of cake. I was saying NO to the sugared gumballs when a kindly stranger came in and gave both the children quarters for gumballs. We visited my grandmother and I just couldn’t stomach her stricken look when I uttered a firm NO to her offer of pie, jelly beans, a cookie, and a piece of chocolate.

I started asking what Ainsley was eating over and friends’ houses and discovered that the lady down the street fed her an entire extra lunch – peanut butter and jelly on white bread, Cheetos and 2 juice boxes. Extra 500 calories. At another friends’ they were chomping down entire bags of chips, eating ice cream bars, sucking on suckers, etc.

I started noticing the ridiculous amount of candy, cookies and sweets they were getting at church and school. Ainsley gets rewarded with 10 animal crackers for good behavior. Zack gets a sucker nearly every day for being cute. The sweet church ladies think its so fun to make these giant bags of candy to hand out at various “special occasions” and functions.

The parents, coaches and organizers at sporting events are handing out sweets after sports or to reward athletic achievement. The irony of this one really baffles me. Go out and get some exercise and if you do well – we’ll take the team for ice cream cones at McDonalds or have a pizza party. Stop and buy some Skittles at the snack bar after the soccer game as a fund-raiser. Duh. With such a double message – its no wonder there’s an obesity epidemic.

One of my inherent flaws as a mother is my total lack of desire to be “mean mommy.” I hate that role. I think it sucks. It makes me clench up my stomach and grit my teeth to “make a big deal out of nothing.” So, when all of these strangers, teachers, coaches, neighbors, grandparents are offering up sweets and fattening foods I’m going along to avoid being rude to them or mean to my kids.

I say “okay” when I should be saying “No freaking way.”

What I learned in our 2 week calorie counting experiment is this:

Lots of people were lying. Food makers are BIG FAT LIARS. Every day can’t be a special occasion. No one eats “just one cookie.”

Strangers, neighbors and friends won’t offer your kids candy laced with LSD or full of razors, but it will be laced with sugar and fat, which has pretty negative consequences too.

Ainsley and I agree on this now:

Which is kinder, the mother who lets her kids eat everything, but her child gets really fat, gets diabetes, is very unhealthy and feels too lousy to exercise?

OR the mother who teaches her children how to eat healthily, make good food choices and says NO to foods that will make her children sick and unhappy in the long run?

The second one people – the second mother is truly the kindest.

It’s a pretty radical change. When the church ladies give them bags of candy, we confiscate them and secretly eat them when the children are in bed toss them in the trash or dole them out slowly. Same applies to birthday parties, school valentines parties, Halloween booty, Christmas, rewards at school and soccer. Thank goodness my husband has no guilt or conflicted feelings about this whatsoever. Because, I am likely to cave to whining, pleas and negotiations any second.

Fit Girl Series: Comparing Children

Fit Girl Series: Exercise Poll

Fit Girl Series: Eat This, Not That!

Fit Girl Series: BIG FAT LIARS!

Fit Girl Series: Obese Teens on Oprah

Fit Girl Series: Weight = Moral Failure

Fit Family = Fit Girl

17 replies
  1. Margaret says:

    We do that with candy from holidays and parties – it all goes in a box and we dole it out, one piece at a time. After about two weeks, they forget about it and we do a major purge!

    Margaret’s last blog post..

  2. Tracee says:

    Margaret – I wish I could say that I don’t feel like “mean mommy” when I confiscate their special occasion candy.

    This year Ainsley was actually required to bring candy for the Valentine’s party. They sent a note home saying it was one of the few times they were allowed sugar in school (look at the label of those Animal Cookies lately teacher?). Then Ainsley said they’d have to move their tags if they didn’t get their parents to supply candy for the bags.

    What would be terrible about a Valentine’s Pencil?

  3. Tracee says:

    True that Painted Maypole.

    I don’t need anymore trinkets. I throw out all the ones we get within days of getting them. Pencils are useful. That’s why I wanted to give those. Or pens – we can’t seem to keep pens around. There’s a vortex in the universe or something that needs to eat pens.

  4. Jen says:

    Ugg, the school parties. I want to cry every time we have one. The huge trash bags full of Styrofoam, and wasted food, the made-in-china crap, the sugar. I would suggest doing things differently, but I’m sort of sick of being the squeeky wheel freak mom @ school. I just roll with it three times a year.

    Jen’s last blog post..Meat Is Out of Control

  5. jeanie says:

    I am sorry – when we were kids, we made a Valentine’s card if we were so inclined, but never any sweets.

    We thought it was Easter when we got chocolate – and it very likely was.

    There is all too much in your face with it all these days.

    jeanie’s last blog post..Nothing to say

  6. Tracee says:

    I was thinking the same thing Jeanie – when I was a kid maybe 3 moms would throw in a sweet tarts or a sucker. It was a big deal. When the old lady at church would give us one small Chicklet gum we thought that was major.

    I got the impression from my daughter’s teacher that there was an issue of fairness? Everyone has to bring candy for everyone. So, that’s 21 pieces of candy coming home. Sometimes someone throws in a full sizer. How bout no one bring candy for anyone?

    But, then I just feel like an old stooge. Like those people who want to kill Halloween and take up Fall Fest and ban Santa.

    The other half of me is hoping they bring home GOOD candy that I’ll want to eat. You can see where the problem originates.

  7. Shannon says:

    We too have those drive-through days. Some days I wish every restaurant and store in town would have a drive-through option.

    Additions to this excellent discussion:

    My oldest is ten, and we have been trying to impress her with the importance of mindfulness and focus in all things, specifically being aware of the fact that she’s eating, and not making meals/snacks a mindless secondary activity. If she’s going to get herself a snack while she’s reading or watching a video, she needs to decide how much she’s going to eat and pour it in a bowl, rather than not noticing how much she’s chomping from a bag. Again, the focus is not on the food, but on being present and aware of what she is doing (reading, writing, eating, playing, cleaning up, etc.) and not trying to do more than one thing at a time if she doesn’t have to.

    SJ at I, Asshole (www.iasshole.org) talks frequently about how she has helped her oldest become aware of the different types of food (protein, carbohydrates, etc.), and how they affect her energy and moods. SJ has reinforced this knowledge and helped foster intelligent eating habits by having her daughter make her own lunch every school day.

    None of these approaches focuses on calories, and all of them focus on helping our kids be smarter and positive with life choices in general.

    Lovely new home you have here, btw. Thanks as always for advocating for our girls.

  8. jessica says:

    My sister works in an obesity clinic and it is unbelievable how many calories are in certain products that we think are “healthy”. We watch our carbs around here quite a bit b/c although a necesssary part of a diet we as a culture consume way way way too many.

    I love this series Tracee

  9. Kendal says:

    I’m sorry. I’m a little disheartened by your “fit girl series”. I very much respect most of your writing. I appreciate your insight into topics that are often not addressed in main stream media – and especially from the point of view you give to them. I think it’s crucial that society starts viewing the effect of our actions on the huge demographic of young girls. I sincerely applaud you for taking the time to do this. However, I feel that this “fit girl” series is basically the same message that is seen in every women’s magazine, dieting handbook, and t.v. show out there. To me it’s beginning to seem a bit obsessive, and is probably more detrimental than helpful . I agree that children’s health is an important issue. I do not mean to minimize the importance of it. I just feel it distracts from some of the (in my opinion) more important messages and topics that affect young girls.

  10. Tracee says:

    You’re entitled to your opinion. What’s most important to some girls is different than what’s most important to others. It depends on which issue the girl or family is facing at this moment. Right now, a large percentage of the country is facing a weight issue.

    Hopefully you’ll come back in the future when we’re discussing some of the other issues that interest you more.

  11. Ellen G says:

    This is one area where it helps to have a food allergy in the family. Someone might as well be giving my kid LSD if they are giving her something to eat. It’s simply not an issue because she knows what she can eat, and if there is any question as to whether or not it’s safe, it’s a no go. I’ve found the biggest challenge is portion control. Knowing that you get what constitutes a regular serving, and that’s it has been hard. Telling the kid that she cannot have any more rice, but feel free to load up on the salad wasn’t easy, but she’s surviving. She’s also out of the red zone, BMI wise, and reading as normal. So hurrah for that!

    Ellen G’s last blog post..Oscar Night

  12. Tracee says:

    HURRAY Ellen!

    I caught my husband telling my daughter, “you can’t eat more fruits or veggies until you finish your hot dog.”

    I had to ask him what health benefit there was in that.

    Old 1970s parenting like “finish what’s on your plate, there are starving children in China” is hard to replace with “stop eating when you are full.”

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