Good Kids — How to Not Pass your Body Issues Down to your Kids with Elizabeth Laime
[00:48] Hi, I’m Elizabeth Laime and this is Good Kids.
[00:58] So something I want to start out with was a thing that my mom did that I love so much and I’ve continued to do for my family. And it’s something so simple, but it doesn’t actually come naturally to me. And it was something I don’t even think I really noticed until I was older. I definitely took it for granted as a kid. And that’s just when one of your kids, or your partner or loved one, walks into the room, stop what you’re doing, look up and greet them warmly. Which for me, I tend to get lost in what I’m doing, or Twitter, or whatever. But it’s such a good reminder when my husband or kids come into the room after being gone or out, just how lucky I am to have them in my life. And I think as a kid, even though I didn’t realize it, my mom did this anytime I came into the room, I felt the love radiating from her. And it made me feel so seen and important, which I think is really the root of what all of us want. So I wanted to start with that, but today what I really want to talk about and I also wanted to start with something wonderful that my mom did because I’m about to get into some other stuff.
[02:17] My mom, who has passed away, was an incredible parent. And what I’m about to talk about, I have to preface by saying she did this stuff because this is all she knew.
[02:31] And I think that’s true for most mothers of her generation. What I wanted to talk about is the subtle messaging we expose our kids to and more specifically, body image. And this is going to be more specifically for our kids who identify as girls, although it definitely affects boys as well. But I’m a girl, so this has been my experience. My mom put me on a diet when I was 10 years old, which is bananas. Her mom put her on a diet when she was 4. Let that sink in. My mom would tell me stories of when she was, like, 6 years old and would get to go to the corner store once a week to get a treat, and her mom gave her a dime or whatever it was, and she would just buy a whole stick of butter and eat it. Because probably she was so calorie-deprived. It just really breaks my heart to think about. And that chased my mom her entire life. It was always feast or famine in our house. It was either like, let’s be naughty and pig out, or she was on Slim Fast or whatever other starvation diet. And the messaging that that gave me was very profound. And I am now, at the age of thirty-nine, just untangling myself from a very distorted idea of my body and its relationship with food and its relationship with the world. And I’m hoping we can change that for our kids. And we have a long way to go. I will say I was just at a birthday party with 15 five-year-old girls and three of the moms — who are great parents — were just standing there talking about their diets. And I just was like — I didn’t say it because I wasn’t comfortable. But in my mind, like, can we not do this? Can we not do this for these little precious girls?
[04:37] I think about how many hours, days, weeks, years. I honestly am guessing I could have spent an entire year of my life collectively thinking about dieting, hating my body, trying to make it smaller, smaller, smaller. And to what end? I mean, truly, the purpose of that, whether it was told to me or not, it was understood, was to be attractive to men. And that, in turn, informed me of my purpose in this world. Ultimately, this bazillion-dollar diet industry, and the messaging that’s coming down from generations, is at its root, a patriarchal tool to keep women submissive and oppressed. When I think about what I could have been doing with that time — and to this day, I still struggle with this. It’s a very seductive thing to think I’m going to make myself better. I’m gonna go on a diet. I’m going to get thinner. I’m going to show them, whoever them is. I’m going to seek approval. People are going to like me more. I’m going to be more worthy. And I’m going to have self-control. I’m going to be in control. All of this is incredibly seductive and it’s incredibly hard to detangle yourself from.
[06:09] I am exploring this because I recently read the book ‘Intuitive Eating,’ which was by Evelyn Tribble and Elise Rich. I highly recommend this if this subject is of interest to you at all. And there’s a whole chapter dedicated to parenting children. And the truth is, children arrive in this world knowing how to eat intuitively.
[06:28] They eat until they’re full. And of course, there are exceptions to this, I will say I don’t want to shame any mom who’s struggling with nursing and feeling it’s a very complex relationship. And I had a very smooth situation with that with my daughter. And then I had a very not-smooth situation with that with my son. So I understand that frustration. I’m speaking more of when kids are able to eat food. And of course, there are exceptions, but they know how much they want to eat. They know what their body is craving. My kids can eat half a donut and leave the rest there, which blows my mind. And I’m very kind of envious of that. But that’s intuitive eating. Our culture, also — you know, I live in a very liberal area where all the parents think about, like, the feelings of the kids and the messaging they’re getting — for some reason, this is like a one issue I keep seeing slip by. I have so many instances of seeing a parent talk badly about their body, or compliment someone on their weight loss, or any of that stuff in front of their kids.
[07:40] And that messaging is still landing. On the flip side of that, there’s the health and wellness industry, which truly is just the diet industry in sheep’s clothing. The health and wellness industry is also capitalizing on this patriarchal shame that we put ourselves through. And it’s all about ultimately being thinner, even though it’s saying it’s healthier. Obesity, by the way — it is a myth that obese people are automatically unhealthy. And I know I’m going to get pushback on this, but this is the truth. Obese people can be very healthy. And I think also another truth is that people, especially children who are put on diets or shamed for their weight, are much, much more likely to have health-related weight issues in adulthood. Lastly, the last fact I’m going to give — and this is a tough one for everyone to accept, including me — dieting doesn’t work. Statistically, dieting causes weight gain. Dieting causes weight gain.
[08:49] So what this book is teaching me how to do is trying to get back in touch with my hunger and fullness cues, connecting with my body and seeing what it wants. And the truth is, it wants a lot more healthy stuff than I would have given it credit for. Because I came from this household of feast or famine, and it was just about, are we being good or are we being bad? And now it’s about what does my body want? What sounds good? Knowing I can have anything I want at any time releases this, like, bingeing before being a saint, going into dietland.
[09:26] And it’s really freeing, but it’s also really challenging. And I do not want this for my daughter or son. And I already have seen my daughter notice bodies. And she said something to me — she’s only five — that made me think somewhere she’s picked up the message that smaller bodies are better for women. And when you think about what that means, you know, women should not take up space. Women need to be small to what end? It’s not a health thing, again, women can be any size and be completely healthy. And I truly think stress and emotional duress, mentally taking the diet stuff out of the equation, will create a much healthier person regardless of if they’re thin or not.
[11:34] I’m trying to work with my kids and myself, and we teach them to trust their bodies, and I love, love this new messaging. I think it’s pretty new, like, potty training — listen to your body. When does your body tell you that it needs to go? Listen to that. Check in with your body. Check in with your body when you’re feeling feelings. What does it feel like in your body? Stranger danger. Like when you meet someone, if you have a sense in your body that you don’t like this person, listen to that. We teach them to listen to their bodies, and I love that.
[12:05] But for some reason, when it comes to food, there are all these rules and restrictions put on it. I know so many parents right now who do not give their kids any sugar whatsoever. And I can say growing up in a home that had zero anything — zero sugar, zero fat — I mean, we hardly had anything to eat except for carrot sticks. I would go to my friends’ homes and binge. I remember bingeing at the age of 10. I mean, coincidentally, the same age that I went on a diet. My mom put me on it and we went on it together. And it was this bonding experience, I guess. But she had no idea the damage that she was doing. And that’s just because that’s where she came from.
[12:50] But the pressure that we’re putting on these kids with restricting sugar, or they have to clean their plate before they get dessert, or they only get one snack. And all of these rules are basically cutting short the intuitive eating that they come with naturally. So I’m trying to foster an environment of supporting them. If one day my son only wants to eat cheese, you know, I’m providing him healthy meals and he can eat what he wants and not eat what he wants. But they also get treats and snacks. And my husband grew up with lots of treats and snacks and he can completely take it or leave it, which, when we were first dating also blew my mind. So it’s a new version of self-love and kindness that I want for my kids, particularly my daughter. I try not to talk disparagingly about my body in front of her, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that. And talking about how strong my body is, and how strong her body is, and how healthy it is, and how good it feels to be active.
[14:00] Actually, I recently started swimming, which I haven’t done since high school. And I don’t think I would have done this without being on this journey, because I always feel really insecure in a bathing suit. And I have loved — I’ve been going to swim laps at my local pool and it has felt so incredible. I feel so strong. It’s not about losing weight for the first time ever in my life. It’s about what makes me feel good, and what makes me feel stronger, and what gives me a clear head for the day. And I just feel so grateful for this message to come into my life at this point. And I’m very grateful that I hopefully will not pass my dysfunction along to my kids. So that’s it. I highly recommend this book. And I also just recommend being more conscientious about the messages that we’re giving our kids regarding their relationship with food and their bodies. And that we can all have healthy bodies at every size. Every body is beautiful and perfect. And they can use that time I spent starving myself on, you know, curing cancer, fixing the earth.
[15:11] So I wanted to end with a quick little anecdote, just as a palate cleanser of just something so sweet and beautiful that my kids did recently, especially my daughter said. And it just is one of the things that makes me so grateful that I have this opportunity to be with these magical little people. And it was my son Otis, who’s three, was really scared of the dark one night. And I was failing at comforting him.
[15:39] Logic was not working. He shares a room with his five-year-old sister. And finally, his wise five-year-old sister came over and said, ‘Otis, the dark is special because the stars get so excited that they get to shine their twinkling lights! And sometimes they get so excited that they become shooting stars!’ Which I thought was just so beautiful. And Otis calmed right down and went to sleep. And I left the room and just started weeping.
[16:13] Thank you so much for listening to me. You can find me on Twitter @totallylaime. You can find me on Instagram @ElizabethLaime. Thanks!
[16:24] Good Kids is produced and edited by Samantha Gattsek. Our executive producer is Stephanie Wittels Wachs. Our music is by Dan Milad. Ad sales and distribution is by Westwood One. You can find more about us at LemonadaMedia.com or on all the social platforms at @LemonadaMedia. If you like what you heard, share the gospel with everyone you know and rate and review us on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever else you listen to podcasts.