So, I am finally on the bandwagon of reading Eat Sweat Play about a year later than most people, and it’s making me think all the things about everything and I could probably write a post on each chapter (!)
Firstly and quickly (because this opens up an entirely new kettle of fish) something that reminded me of an earlier piece I wrote, was Tammi Grey-Thompson questioning why children are allowed to skive PE if they don’t like it, but this wouldn’t be accepted in any other subject. THIS IS SO TRUE. You have to do maths, so you do it. Why isn’t PE afforded the same level of respect?
Secondly – read the book!
However, neither of these points are the subject of this post, so here we go.
I was sitting having lunch a few weeks ago when I overheard a little girl with her grandmother – the girl was probably around 4 or 5, and she asked her “Granny, why aren’t you going to have a scone as well” – and the response was “I’m not going to have a scone because it will make me fat”
Cue smoke coming out of my ears. NO WONDER there is a continual struggle with eating, body image and this general health fad if we are hearing that kind of comment from such a young age. A throwaway sentence that can kick start a lifetime of worry. That’s now a simple link between what should be the enjoyment of something delicious and “the fat dread”.
The problem is, it’s a hard habit to break. I call your bluff if you are evangelical about this and say you have never uttered something similar. But at the age of 5, that’s a fairly strong association between food and being fat starting to be imprinted in your mind. Kids aren’t on my horizon in the super immediate future (wondering how much I can wind up my boyfriend here) but it’s really making me think about how I talk about myself, my body and my eating habits to others around me. I want to raise children who understand the difference between food you should eat a lot of vs food that should be more occasional – but not to see it all as “bad” food.
Similarly, as someone who loves to exercise for the sheer fun of it – the buzz, the views, the mental strength, the camaraderie, the challenge, the competition, the sense of achievement…THAT’S what I want anyone growing up with me to see it as. Exercise isn’t purely a weight management tool, and if you see it that way, you’ll never appreciate all its intricacies. I was raised on cycling on holiday and horse riding and playing badminton with no net and running round the garden just because – and I never want that to change. It’s about fun, enjoyment and the trillions of other benefits, and shouldn’t feel like a constant chore just to justify what you put in your mouth.
I mean, it’s harder than you think – I’d question anyone who says they have never finished a decent ride, run or gym session thinking about pizza and how it’s now that bit more justifiable, but it’s all about balance. See the below picture for example – this was mid way between two fairly tough mountain bike loops last week, but it wasn’t just “because I have exercised I can eat this” it was more “I AM REALLY HUNGRY AND NEED SOMETHING TO KEEP ME GOING”. So I ate it and got on with it. And to be fair, even if I hadn’t been cycling, I probably would have eaten it anyway because it sounded yum. And I’m past caring about it.
So, I implore you – next time you have an inkling of the thought “I’m not going to have it because it will make me fat” – don’t verbalise it in exactly those words. Even “I’m just trying to eat a bit more healthily right now” or “because my body doesn’t do as well as it should if i eat too much cake” or simply “I just don’t fancy it”.
I don’t care if you’re saying it near a 5 year old, a 12 year old or a 59 year old – take some time to think about your words. Eating disorders in any shape or form are often below the surface and you probably have zero idea how your throwaway comment will impact anyone in the vicinity. It’s the same as commenting on what someone else is eating, or if they’ve made a request to order something slightly off menu – 99% of the time it’s really none of your business.
Yes, eating too many scones will make you fat. Eventually. But one scone won’t (and hey, there are worse ways to die than death by scones)
If you’ve got children – ever had to tackle these kinds of subjects? Am I (in my current childless state) picking out something way more easy in theory than in practice?