Since the time I remember I have been a little chubby, the one with the pull-able cheeks and extra requirement of fabric for childhood ‘frocks’. When I went to school I was always the ‘Moti’ girl in class (meaning fat not pearl!). While my classmates ran around with their slim waists I struggled to contain myself within the constraints of the standard issue school-belt. Fat, chubby, roly-poly – the adjectives that haunted me throughout my life.
As a once overweight child who is now an overweight adult, there is one aspect of parenting that is in starkly clear focus for me – my child’s weight. While most parents I know are conscious of their child’s nutrition and health, as a parent with a health issue I find myself being perpetually on the vigil. A little bit of a belly or one extra serving of chocolate cake is clamped down with military precision. Once you have served the fate of being fat yourself– you don’t ever want your child to deal with the same.
However, it is not as simple as that. I do not really want to instill a ‘fear of fat’ in my child. I realize that she needs to know that being fit and healthy is just better for her in the long run. She has to run, she has to play. Food is to be that colorful gamut of colours and experiences that go beyond brown and fried. And most importantly this is not a difficult choice but rather a way of living.
All lofty goals.
How do I tell my kid that chocolate is an occasional treat when I treat it like my emotional succor every time I feel low? Why should I expect her to run and play if I myself prefer the company of a hot drink and a book, curled up at home? And indeed why should she devour the requisite fruit and veggie servings for the day while all I do is gulp down umpteen cups of tea with a side order of biscuits? Something had to give.
And that something had to come from me. I realized that the only way I could justify my moralizing on food was by leading by example. So though there is a perpetual tug-o-war between me and the chocolate, I insist on having at least two servings of fruit and vegetables in a day. Lunch has to have dal-veggies – non-negotiable – for both the kid and me. Desserts are not an everyday affair and treats are restricted to birthday parties and weekends – for all of us!
As for exercise, it has slowly become a part of our lives. When I look back at the last five years, I realize that I have been exercising more and more regularly than I ever did before. And by that I don’t mean running around the kid. There is something within me that has shifted – which pushes me to keep moving. And I have a feeling that a large part of that stems from my not wanting my kid to have an inactive or incapacitated mother.
The road ahead is not yet all hunky dory and set for success though. I worry about the cavalier attitude towards food creeping back in, conversations harping on fat and thin, getting overwhelmed by choices and giving up resolve. It is going to be an ongoing battle.
I am still at pretty much at sea and that’s what this confession is all about. Overweight Mom’s have one added weight to carry with them as they go about their parenting life. It is a mixture of guilt, fear and adipose. So next time you are at the park don’t be so quick to judge the tummy mummy – she might be weighed down by much more than you can imagine.
Nidhi Dorairaj Bruce is a Freelance writer from Mumbai. With no formal education in Parenting, she has been getting on-the-job training ever since her daughter, affectionately referred to as ‘the kidlet’, arrived on the scene 5 years ago. On Twitter, you can connect with Nidhi @typewritermom