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.