The Conscious Anti-Diet

by Jamie Doak

How do you teach kids to eat healthy without giving them a weight complex?  Especially when we live in a society in which one-third of kids are overweight but nearly 50 per cent of girls report engaging in some form of disordered eating.  Michelle Obama, warrior princess against childhood obesity, got some heat for disclosing that her daughters’ doctor mentioned that their weight was off-balance and for telling the public that she decided to cut down on her children’s portion sizes, encourage fruit for snacks and limit TV time.  Doomsday predictions that Michelle had just given her daughter’s a lifetime self-image problem surfaced immediately.  And even though Barack told everyone Malia used to be a little chubby; no one really cared: Michelle’s the one held responsible for her daughter’s future body image issues.  Why?  Because she’s the Mama and little girls watch their Mama’s relationship to her body like a hawk and then emulate it.  So careful, offhandedly remark that your jeans make your butt look fat and you’ve screwed your kid over for life. 

Okay, not really.  But kind of.  Peggy Orenstein explores the complicated relationship mothers have with their daughters when it comes to weight and her fears that she might pass on food psychosis to her own kid.  America’s pretty masochistic.  We are SO obsessed with food (and uh, kind of gross food i.e. IHOP Stuffed French Toast and the now infamous KFC Double Down.  Whatever, I can’t talk.  I’d sell my first born for Taco Bell if I, for some reason, didn’t have 89 cents on me.) But we are simultaneously SO obsessed with being thin.  Hi, uh, advertisers, those two things you’re selling us aren’t compatible.  But it is for them.  Sell us food, tell us we’re fat, sell us diets.  It’s a brilliant but evil strategy.  Unfortunately, women are the prime targets and most women I know are at least conscious of their caloric intake if they don’t have a flat out screwed up relationship with food.  Even the women who have normal eating habits still do the, “OMG I can’t believe I ate so much ice cream!  I’m SO bad!”  Guilty food confessionals are rampant.

It’s hard to balance between eating healthy for the right reasons and obsessing over food for the wrong ones.  And it’s even harder to teach kids those nuances.  Orenstein decided to adopt what she calls the conscious anti-diet.  She doesn’t weigh herself, she doesn’t count calories, she makes a point to enjoy everything she eats (whether it’s a salad or a Double Down…okay, she would probably never eat a Double Down) and she exercises because she likes it.  It’s a thoroughly studied and conscious unconcern.  Despite Orenstein’s efforts her 6-year-old still warned her “not to get F-A-T.”  Well, you can’t blame the mama this time.

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