Spare the shame, spoil the child

A reader alerted us to a Daily Beast opinion piece in which writer Lee Aitken argues that the best way to keep your kids healthy is to tell them they’re fat.

My friend was distraught when we met for lunch. The night before she had involuntarily, noticeably winced as her teenage daughter ordered a big slice of chocolate mousse cake. The girl was battling extra pounds—there for all to see—yet for her mother to publicly register disapproval, in front of friends, left her humiliated and furious. And now her mother was wracked with guilt because she’d broken a cardinal rule of last-century parenting.

This rule was summed up in the phrase “fat is a feminist issue.” That could actually mean any number of things, but it became codified as a prohibition against implying, in any way, that weight matters to a girl’s worth or self-esteem. To do so was to promote oppressive, media-driven ideas about body image that would warp your daughter’s sense of self, derail her career ambitions and likely drive her to eating disorders.

Seriously, god forbid we should tell girls that their weight doesn’t matter to their worth or self-esteem. Isn’t it terrible how feminism has bullied mothers into being too terrified to tell their fat or average-sized or insufficiently-willowy daughters how worthless they are? I know that practically no adult woman I’ve ever met has stories about being made to feel hatred and shame for their bodies as a young person! It’s a shanda, really.

Aitken does acknowledge that even when mothers were silent (oh, so silent!), “girls absorbed extreme weight-consciousness anyway, from peers and popular culture, and developed eating disorders after all.” I know, right? Fucking peers and popular culture, telling girls that their worth depends on their weight! That message should be coming from their mothers.

Ever sensitive to the latest data on kids’ relationship with food, Aitken also mentions the recent New York Times article showing a pronounced trend towards orthorexia nervosa among children whose parents are restrictive about what they can eat. Whether or not you think orthorexia is a valid diagnosis (it’s not yet in the DSM, but these things can lag), the article’s stories of children paralyzed by fear of food will affect you. Not so much Aitken, who shrugs, “The hysteria those parents telegraph to their children stems from the realization that they are badly outmatched.” It’s fine if your child is wracked with anxiety about what she eats, as long as there’s really genuinely a lot of junk food out there. (I wonder if Aitken noticed the part of the article where Dr. James Greenblatt is quoted as saying “A lot of the patients we have seen over the last six years limited refined sugar and high fat foods because of concerns about gaining weight.” You mean, even after we discovered that fat is a feminist issue?)

The real fuck of it is, Aitken has a point, in a certain sense. The central thesis of her article — and trust me, I am sensitive to the fact that she probably had to lead with exaggeratedly controversial statements in order to get the piece published — is simply that there’s a huge industry devoted to getting children to consume. It’s the job of the parent to be the thin red line between kids and indiscriminate wanting. Aitken writes, “Children’s brains are undeveloped in the area of ‘executive function’—where one weighs immediate impulses against future consequences.” If kids were left alone with a television and a credit card, it’s entirely possible that most of them would devour the world, toys and video games and candy and Lunchables and all. Hell, I was probably the most socially and culturally backward kid this side of neurotypical, and I still had occasional fits of absolutely needing to have the latest He-Man figure. I primarily played with crayons and buttons and I still tried to make my mom buy me some fucking doll that roller-skates. And she didn’t, and good on her. It’s fine for parents to give in to kids’ demands, to a reasonable degree, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with firm, calm, and rational refusal. I’m not a parent, but I do know it’s hard; still, in theory I agree with Aitken that kids aren’t good at evaluating outcomes or seeing beyond their present desires, and parents have a responsibility to help them, even require them, to make sound decisions.

But nobody seems to know how to be firm, calm, and rational about food, especially when their kids are fat. Here’s a bit of evidence: Aitken wrote a fucking opinion piece  saying that being publicly disgusted when your fat child eats cake is actually the mark of a loving parent. When a mother can’t lecture her chubby kid in the grocery store about all the calories in a Lunchable, apparently the femiterrorists have won! The fact that Aitken could theoretically have a good point about parents, marketing, and peer pressure in there just makes me angrier. Why does that point need to be bracketed on one end by a mother humiliating her teenage daughter for eating, and at the other end with a call to “ask Starbucks to post the calorie count for every mocha cinnamon white chocolate caramel concoction it comes up with”?

Put it this way: Can you imagine someone writing this article about kids’ overwhelming desire — certainly equivalent in power to their desire for Lunchables — to get an Xbox, or a doll that roller skates, or a space hopper, or whatever the hell kids are playing with these days? “Roller skate dolls are so popular and widespread, kids have a meltdown if they can’t get them, so you should NOT balk at humiliating your daughter if she wants one!” No, in that case it’s just about marketing, not morality. Teaching kids to question advertising, to resist peer pressure, to avoid hanging their self-worth on what they get to own or use or consume — no time to wring your hands about that, there’s a fat girl ordering a piece of cake!

Let me say, because naturally it will need to be said again: I would love it if all kids could have nutritious, healthy food lovingly bestowed on them by Mom AND/OR DAD (love how the article’s directed at mothers, by the way — sure, they’ve long cornered the market on body shame, but they actually don’t have to be the ones doing the shopping or the negotiating with school lunch programs, you know). Really. LOVE. IT. I am no huge fan of the “junk food” industry — I don’t think all food needs to be unflaggingly nutritious, but I do think there’s a preponderance of cheap, convenient, non-nourishing, and potentially harmful food that is MARKETED TO HELL AND BACK. (I’m always reminded of MEALSTM in Good Omens — food that is carefully designed to be utterly unrecognizable by your body as nutrition, but with added sugar and fat.) I would like it if every kid had reliable access to other options. I support parents promoting other options. I’m even in favor of just keeping the “junk” out of the house — I won’t say I didn’t die a little inside when my mom wouldn’t buy me Cookie Crisp, but I was like seven. It didn’t traumatize me, and as an adult there is genuinely not a single part of my mind that cries out against the injustice of never having eaten a Twinkie (seriously), or for that matter a Lunchable. But being in favor of healthy food for all doesn’t mean that I support shaming children! For fuck’s sake! Believe it or not, there are ways to promote healthy attitudes towards food and activity that don’t involve humiliation, lecturing, school crusading, or instilling food anxiety. It’s just impossible for some parents to notice that over the deafening sound of their own neuroses.

To all the mythical mothers who are unwilling to upbraid their fat kids in the grocery store about how they Shouldn’t Be Eating That: good for you, wherever you are. Your kids need a gentle hand guiding them away from the manic acquisitiveness that marketers try to instill and exploit — but they also need to be guided away from the opposite gulf, the abyss of self-hatred and self-doubt that’s equally alluring to kids of a certain age.

229 thoughts on “Spare the shame, spoil the child

  1. This article just gave me flashbacks for when I was publicly shamed for my food choices (at family gatherings, at birthday parties – once even at MY OWN DAMN PARTY). All it did was give me major meltdowns and mile-high body image issues.

    Damn, I’m tearing up a little just thinking of those countless, awful incidents. For some of them I was only 8 or 9 AND we were at Sunday brunch buffet (which my parents took us to damn near every Sunday…)

    Who is this hack anyway?

  2. Right. Shame is soooo effective. In face, my parents shamed me so much that I got depressed. And ate more. So that they shamed me more. And then I ate more.

    vicious cycle, anyone?

    GAAAAH! Reading this makes me so sad.

  3. I am one of those kids who managed to develop a roaring eating disorder even though my mom has a relaxed, balanced attitude about food and did her best to transmit that to me (I was non-willowy in high school and remember not giving a f*** about that; neither did she; we always had a lot of unprocessed foods in the house but cookies were fine too). I cannot imagine having had a roaring eating disorder AND a controlling, shaming mom. And yes, telling your kid she can’t have cake because she’s too fat is controlling, shaming, and completely counterproductive. Shame NEVER accomplishes lasting change– and if that girl in the article is just born to be a Shapeling, insisting that she “change” is like telling the sun to turn green anyway.

  4. And I want to clarify that I use the term “change” in reference to how the mother sees the situation: that there is something “behavioral” that the daughter needs to “change.” I am not implying that there is anything behavioral or addictive going on with the daughter; she’s probably just a normal eater enjoying her cake.

  5. As a parent, this makes me feel sick. Literally sick. The way we treat out children in this society regarding weight is just disgusting, and I fear for the sorts of ideas about food and their bodies that kids today will grow up with. We are basically, I think, training an entire generation of children in disordered eating. Not that society hasn’t been doing that for a long time, but the job of parents used to be to counter the messages that society was sending them about themselves, not to agree with them. Having been fortunate enough to have grown up with two very loving and supportive parents who never made me feel anything other than beautiful and accepted, and yet still managed to learn to hate my body, I just cannot imagine having your parents send you the same shitty messages that the media is selling you.

    I highly recommend the work of Ellyn Sater for anybody looking for sane advice on feeding children.

    And, in my experience, even left to their own devices, children won’t devour the world, at least not food-wise. As per a recommendation by Sater, I’ve started having occasional snacks where my son can eat as much as he wants of a “junk” food. If he’s able to eat as many Oreos as he wants, my son might eat 4 or 5 of them, maybe 6 if he’s really hungry. If he’s able to eat as many brownies as he wants, he’ll have two. Eating too much does not feel good, and kids know that. An adult may eat themselves to the point of sickness, but in my experience children only do that if it’s Halloween and the one time in the entire year they get to eat all the candy they want. I don’t let my son eat all the candy he wants all the time, but I do sometimes let him eat as much of a treat as he wants, and since it’s not a forbidden or extremely rare thing, when he does get the chance, he doesn’t go out of control. His Halloween candy lasts for about six weeks because he’ll eat two or three things out of it then be done.

    Just like we can trust our bodies, I think we can trust our kids’ bodies, too. And, we can trust them to figure things out. My son was begging me for Little Einstein’s cereal for a couple of weeks, and I finally told him that the people selling us things can try to trick us by putting things we like on the box, even though the stuff inside is just the same as other cereal. But, if he wanted to try it, he could. He wanted to try it. When he did, he didn’t like it; he realized he likes Cheerios much better. That was honestly the last time he asked for a food that had a character he knew on it, and he’ll even tell me know, “They’re trying to trick us!” when he sees that.

  6. THANK-YOU!

    Even though we are extremely careful about the messages we send to our daughter about food in our home (b/c I had an eating disorder that really hurt me for years after “recovery”) I still cringe when (at 6) she starts obsessing over her meals asking “is this healthy?”. We try to provide her w/ a good variety of healthy food and throw in a little “fun” food to help her learn to make decisions about junk food, but I don’t know where her obsession w/ the nutritional value of her meals came from. It actually makes me want to cry when she gets so concerned. My biggest concern at six was if the weather was gonna hold long enough for me to go swimming in the lake.

    We just try to reassure her that while, yes, we try to provide healthy meals, we also don’t mind her enjoying less nutritious things. That’s why we make the active choice not to restrict junk food so it isn’t so taboo and desirable. I mean, she’s 6 for fuck’s sake, I don’t think having an ice cream bar after dinner is going to ruin her life. I don’t want her to have the painful relationship w/ food that I do, and I don’t want her to be, like me, almost 29 and struggling to love her own body.

  7. I recall being envious of other kids’ Lunchables as a child.

    Then I ate one. And boy was it completely non-delicious.

    And my mother didn’t even need to shame me, wtf.

  8. This piece just made me really, really thankful for my mother.
    Growing up we, mom and I, would visit my father’s parents (minus the father… makes sense right?…yeah) for the summer. My grandmother is a fat woman. My Aunts are all fat women. We would grill and chat and go see the Pony’s on the island and they would take me to the Pony Pinning Fair.

    My grandfather liked to call me “Big Bertha” that summer. I wouldn’t eat any meals in the house due to it.

    So my mom packed us up after a few days and headed home. We never spent another summer there.

    I always feel so bad for my grandmother, because she is a sweet, dear woman and I lost out on a lot of good times with her.

    The revolution starts one body at a time, and I am happy to be my family’s representative.

  9. Ouyang Dan, if your daughter is living in the USA, she is getting it from school, if that school gets even a whiff of federal funding. My twins did the same thing starting at 6. They started asking if everything was healthy or not. Or telling us that we shouldn’t eat potatoes because they aren’t “real vegetables.”

    To which we both steadily replied “All food is healthy. All animals, including humans, need to eat the food that they get strong eating. We’re omnivores and lots of things, and so are bears, which is why they steal campers’ food. Boomer is a carnivore and eats meat, like other dogs. Rabbits only eat plants, they’re herbivores.” And I pull the scientist card regarding sugar – which the current USDA food pyramid says “has no nutrients.” Biologically, sugar is THE nutrient. You know, the only fuel our BRAINS run on, THAT nutrient.

    Then the “healthy eating” messages were rolled out along with anti-alcohol and drug messages. In fact, this year they’ve MERGED them with the mandatory drug/alcohol pledge. (An effort to USE peer pressure to make them sign a pledge form they can’t possibly understand, to get them to IGNORE peer pressure in later grades regarding drug and alcohol use. Brilliant, eh?) Now it is an anti-SWEETS, drugs and alcohol pledge. I am not making this up.

    We’re seriously told to send in carrots instead of candy for birthdays. And snacks have to be “healthy” too, or they can be TAKEN AWAY by the teacher! I do have to add that all of Katie’s and Teddy’s teachers so far have considered Teddy Grahams (no relation) and animal crackers healthy enough to pass, though. And they’re fine with birthday treats actually being treats.

    This is the same school that never informed me that my 7 year old rail thin son wasn’t eating his lunch. Ever. Because he stopped liking PBJ sandwiches, the only thing he had liked at all and therefore stopped eating anything, although he went through the line and paid for lunches he never ate. And I don’t mean for a week or two, I mean for well over a year. Did the adults even notice? Or did they think it was a “healthy choice”? I don’t know. In the end Katie told me because she was worried.

    On the other hand, Katie is fat and gym is her favorite class. Which would have been literally impossible for me back in the 70s and 80s. So the PE teacher is definitely doing things right and maintaining an HAES class atmosphere whether she knows it or not.

  10. I have no words.
    So I’m just going to go upstairs, and kiss my daughters good night, and whisper into their receptive, sleeping minds that they are wonderful, delightful, beloved creatures.

  11. Props for the Pratchett/Gaiman reference.

    I live in the Bay Area, which is probably the epicenter for the whole orthorexia phenomenon, and you know what I see every time I hear some parent going on about how she/he only allows little Sophie to have organic sprouted wheat rolls with flax seeds in the lunchbox she takes to pre-school? Naked class anxiety. I mean God forbid someone mistake your precious baby for one of THOSE kids, the ones that eat Lunchables. Both fat and processed foods have become symbols for “working class”, and I really think that’s a huge part of the crusade against both.

    I was spared the whole parent/child drama over blatant consumerism until the age of 8 because I was in Libya and there was no TV marketing to make me want stuff, nor were either processed food or toys avaliable. We could only get either on trips back to the UK, which happened a couple of times a year. Which didn’t stop me from getting sweets or my Mom from giving them to me – we baked them. When I was 8 we moved to Texas and suddenly fruit roll-ups and Flintstones Fruity Pebbles became my favorite foods, but you know what? Since they were never forbidden they were never a big deal, and I just kind of grew out of them as I got older. Putting those foods in a category labelled “wicked and sinful”…well, we’ve all seen how well that works for sex, right?

  12. Biggest pet peeve ever:

    Dear parents,

    Your kids are not a reflection of you, they are actual miniature OTHER PEOPLE! If they are fat, it doesn’t mean that you made them that way, it does not mean that you are fat, or any of the negative things fat is all swirled up with in your mind. Your kids are going to grow up, and the relationship you are going to have with them as adults depends a lot on how individuated you are and how individuated you help them to be. So, get on that . . .

    On the same subject, other people who are not your kids are also OTHER PEOPLE. They are REAL, not just extras who walk in and out of your life to provide an interesting backdrop, they have lives that are as interesting and varied and nuanced and fucked up as your life is. This might be a good thing for you to teach your kids as well.

    That’s all,
    Bellacoker

  13. Yep, my kids are getting it from school too; I do my best to point out the good in all kinds of food, yes, vegetables are full of vitamins and phytonutrients, and yes, there are essential fats too, and protein is very important as well; and aren’t we lucky to live where we have all the food we need.

    My daughter is particularly concerned about the amount of fiber in food because her older brother had constipation so bad that it was squishing his kidneys (he’ll be fine, he’s much better already), she’s practically memorizing the amount of fiber in all sorts of things. I keep having to remind her that fiber is not the be all and end all of the nutrients we need.

  14. Thank you for writing about this. I saw this article on The Daily Beast and was disgusted. What particularly bothered me was the way it was framed. The byline was directed at
    “Mothers and Daughters” as if fathers and sons have absolutely nothing to do with the picture because fathers are not responsible for instilling healthy habits and it isn’t nearly as big of a deal if your boys are fat. You can’t insist that we divorce food and body issues from feminism and the frame your argument as a Big Problem with Girls and Moms at the same time.

  15. As much as I think Kelly Brownell is a big red rubbernose sometimes, he does have some compelling research that fat people are much more likely to react to fat shaming by eating more, not less. (If you actually WANT me to get a craving for Chicken McNuggets, by all means keep talking about how evil they are. Otherwise I’ll forget they’re there.)

    I remember what it was like for me starting when I was about 12, I just had to lose weight and get a boyfriend (I figured one would follow the other like back wheel follows front). Back then, 1000-calorie diets were de rigeur. I remember seeing some “sensible diet” information in a magazine like Teen that recommended 1200 calories, and I was like, “I’ll never lose weight eating THAT much!” Whenever I did break down and eat, I got rations of shit from my family. I was never allowed to forget for two seconds how disgusting and unappealing I looked. Nobody ever told me I was pretty, because they didn’t want to lie to me.

    I remember many mornings skipping breakfast, drooling over the prospect of eating my meager “diet lunch” of bologna and cheese cubes (no, seriously), wolfing it down in seconds, coming home with massive hypoglycemia headaches and cramming everything I could get into my mouth to get my blood sugar over 75 again. And feeling like shit because I couldn’t stick to my damn diet. I would never be loved. By anyone. Ever.

    So I guess I should be slim as a reed now, huh? I certainly wasn’t lacking for shame-based motivation. Instead, here I am having to take antidepressant medication that makes me even fatter, thanks to my having plunged into a deep life-threatening depression over how completely worthless I thought I was. That what you want for your friend’s daughter, Ms. Aitken? Then by all means, feel free to haul out the “you’re getting chubby, boys won’t like you.”

  16. ARGHH! This is so painful! I can’t help myself to go back to when I was 11 years old.—I was 142lbs.. My sister, two years older, and I were put on DIETS by a well meaning , but ignorant family doctor. My beautiful sister- on diet pills- why didn’t they leave us alone?-went on to surpass a size16, dieted herself to 18, went on Atkins, dieted herself to much- who knows?- how much more- liquid protein, hamburger and mustard– while I became a religious anorexic, even with a young son to feed. I would not eat so much as a morsel per day, even though people were telling me I looked much too thin.

    Arggh!This is so painful to express-how much I feel that we, could have been nurtured into womenhood, instead of being jerked around. My sister went on to have stomach stapling- hey- back in the day- it was supposed to be the cure. NOT. While she suffered stigma-all the while gaining weight, I was secure in my superiority. I had willpower! Until– orthopedic surgery, not once, but over and over, while my career
    c areened, and I went to the weight– that– stubbornly is beyond socially acceptable, but seems to be what was genetically programmed– especially when a lifetime of deprivation is considered- is considered obese.
    My sister- brilliant, accomplished in so many ways,
    a nurse, in contact with healthcare every day, endured years and years of stigma.
    Young and energetic women: please know that others wish that you don’t have to go down the same path.
    Love who you are-if you could see yourself as you really are you would weep with joy- for such wonderful potential and power is within you.

    With a glance, the shabby armour of the derisive ones can be dispelled when you know your own worth.

    Well, it sounds like jihad, but I wax on wantonly….

  17. I have a friend who has started doing this with her 9-year-old and it makes me so sad. She was told her daughter’s BMI was in the red zone a year ago, and now she’s obsessed with making her exercise, count calories and read nutrition labels. She even got her “Lake Rescue”, one of those Cinderella stories about the lonely fat teen who “figures it all out” and loses weight and finds acceptance and self esteem. Ick.

    The thing is, I know she thinks she’s doing the right thing. She’s scared. There are a lot of confusing messages out there, and we are all constantly being told what we SHOULD be doing by so called experts. Which in my mind is the heart of why HAES is completely different and such a revelation for me. Because it is about honoring what my intuition and body tell me is right for ME. It’s about the crazy concept that everyone is unique.

    Think of it like this. I spent most of my life trying to be a sponge cake. I tried everything I could. I listened to experts, read books, spent money, joined clubs and put everything else on hold. Then one day I realized I’d never be a sponge cake, because I’m an English muffin. And that’s okay, because English muffins are grand. I make a delicious English muffin.

    And now I’m hungry.

  18. Ashley, good call on the shitty gendering in the article. A lot of people seem to think that, because feminists tackle a problem, it must only affect women. It’s a totally weird conflation I don’t understand. So–reproductive health and freedom, domestic violence, social injustice, body image (just to name the ones that come immedately to mind), all things men don’t have to worry about, right?

    Also, Fillyjonk, you totally knocked it out of the park on what sucked so badly about the article. Basically, Aitken is arguing that kids are victims, or at least targets of unscrupulous marketers. So we should help them out by mortifying them? I love this quote: “American kids are under attack from a corporate food culture so powerful and toxic that parents should be combating it as ferociously as we would pesticide contamination or the return of Polio.” And y’all know what conquered pesticide contaminations and polio, right? A concerted program of humiliating the sufferers, shaming the DDT or the polio virus right out of their bodies.

  19. This “shame as motivator” shit just pisses me off so fucking much. It DOES NOT WORK. Being shamed by my family and peers when I was a child for a bodily issue that was mostly not under my control but was helped by certain habits (nothing to do with food or eating) did not motivate me at all to actually work on developing those habits. It, a) made me feel like shit b) made me never want to talk about or think about the problem at all because thinking about it made me feel like shit c) kept me isolated and afraid of getting close to other people because I expected them to treat me with contempt when they found out my “secret” (and it was something I could sometimes keep secret, unlike being fat, but I’m sure it was less secret than I was willing to admit, there was serious denial).

    I’m pretty sure I would have been more cooperative and constructive if my family’s primary tactic hadn’t been to get angry at me and shame me. I absolutely retreated into denial and solitude and deliberately resisted things I knew would help.

    here I am, mostly anonymous on the internet and I still can’t even bring myself to mention what the problem was.

    I love my mother, and she’s a good woman, but I think she made some serious mistakes there — and it was my mother who was the primary shamer. She’d lose her temper with me and I’d just feel disgusting. What I was thinking and feeling and way I coped was NOT FUCKING HEALTHY and sacrificing your child’s mental and emotional health for physical health (or in both my case and the case of weight, social acceptability) is goddamn shitty thing to do.

  20. Let’s see:

    If I wasn’t hungry at dinnertime, Mom would throw out guilt about how I didn’t appreciate that she’d cooked dinner. So not eating was something I did to HER.

    If I was hungry and ate dinner, Mom would remind me not to eat too much because I should lose weight and she wanted me to be thinner than her.

    Exactly how could I win here? Answer: I couldn’t.

  21. We’re omnivores and lots of things, and so are bears, which is why they steal campers’ food.

    I read that as “which is why they steal campers” and had a O.o moment. Heeee.

    Biologically, sugar is THE nutrient. You know, the only fuel our BRAINS run on, THAT nutrient.

    Yes! In second year biochem we had this table about which nutrients were “necessary”, “preferred” or something else (see how much attention I paid) in different tissues, and I remember BOGGLING at glucose being “preferred” almost everywhere and NECESSARY – absolutely, fullstop, necessary for continued brain function. So many people had been feeding me the idea that sugar was UNEQUIVOCALLY BAD for so long it was a mindmelt to see that no, actually, my body’s really quite happy to make use of it. (Even if it is better for long-term blood sugar balance if it comes in the form of complex carbohydrates. Point is, sugar: not a poison.)

    (An effort to USE peer pressure to make them sign a pledge form they can’t possibly understand, to get them to IGNORE peer pressure in later grades regarding drug and alcohol use. Brilliant, eh?)

    They pulled that on us at our Confirmations (age 11) with a pledge that we would not touch alcohol til we were 18. (Peer pressure AND Jesus, nice touch.) Because at 11 you have a complete handle on the complex social, cultural and emotional issues that are going to affect your decision about whether to drink alcohol in your later teens and it’s in no way manipulative to get you to make such a pledge. Oh, ABSOLUTELY! Just like 7-year-olds understand transubstantiation and 11-year-olds understand….actually, I still don’t know what the fuck was meant to be happening to us at our Confirmations. We were ELEVEN. Jesus.

  22. Mary H: Yeah, I am pretty sure it is school. We are in Korea, but she is going to the DoD school, and given the military’s slant towards food and body shaming, I am not surprised. They still believe that weight is a simple equation of intake and output.

    I had a friend whose son was classified as “underweight” b/c he is a picky eater, and the doctor actually encouraged her to send him cookies and some slightly more caloric treats in his lunch, and the lunch monitors took them away and sent a note home saying that she needed to encourage healthy eating and send fruits and vegetables. I can not believe it is OK to take food away from kids like that.

  23. Remember, parents! The quickest way to teach your children unhealthy ideas about eating is to make food a battle!

    I am hypoglycemic, but in a borderline way. By the time I was about seven, I had figured out how to tell when I needed to stop eating sugary foods because I was going to have an issue with them. My mother refused to believe this. I remember the year I went away to Girl Scout camp thinking, finally, finally I can determine my own damn sugar intake, but no. My mother had called the camp and instructed the counselors that I was not to have more than one s’more, more than one cookie, etc. etc. etc.

    And you know what? At 26, even though I can tell when my body needs to stop having sugar, I still keep eating it anyway sometimes. Because I have to do it before I get caught.

  24. Oh, hey. I didn’t know that would happen. I signed up with Gravatar so I could have the Dip sign over at I Blame The Patriarchy. I didn’t know it would show up here, too.

    Neat.

  25. I had a friend whose son was classified as “underweight” b/c he is a picky eater, and the doctor actually encouraged her to send him cookies and some slightly more caloric treats in his lunch, and the lunch monitors took them away and sent a note home saying that she needed to encourage healthy eating and send fruits and vegetables. I can not believe it is OK to take food away from kids like that.

    I know, right? You can take away my kid’s food when you’ve fucking paid for it. It’s outrageous.

  26. Uh oh, what’s wrong with lunchables? I was so happy my kid was eating them, she hadn’t been getting enough protein but it turns out that she will definitely eat ham and cheese if it is cut into neat little squares and circles and put into plastic compartments.

    She’s 2 and a half and has been allowed largely to rely on her own whims and appetites to eat. She asks for bananas and broccoli at times, and never finishes the Capri sun drink that comes with the lunchable, it’s too sweet–she asks for water to clear her palate. Who’da’ thunk it? She also is incredibly enthusiastic about oatmeal.

    (I always keep the “dessert” compartment for myself, hehehe.)

  27. You know, my mother never missed an opportunity to heap shame on me for being fat, lecture me on healthy eating and offer unsolicited advice on every morsel of food that I dared to eat in her presence. Which basically means: my mother did everything right by Mrs Aitkin’s books.

    Somehow I still turned out fat. Could it be Mrs Aitkin’s advice doesn’t work? NAAA – I must be delusional…

  28. I know all about how effective shame is. My mother certainly never missed an opportunity to make me feel bad for growing hips and breasts. I can remember at 14 years old, walking to the pool with my mother and the lecture I got on how chubby I am getting and how I need to watch that. I really thought I was disgustingly fat and hated myself for it. That wasn’t the only time I was made to feel bad for being a normal growing girl, this was a constant thing in that house. I watched my mother struggle with her own body issues, surviving on basically nothing but yogurt for as long as I remember, just to stay thin and she constantly “encouraged” me to have just a yogurt at meal times. Talk about disordered eating.

    My self-hatred led me right into a full blown addiction to meth, not because I liked being high but because I noticed that I could go days without eating. My mother’s only reaction was to congratulate me on how good I looked. WTF. I nearly killed myself in an effort to be thin, so I could have her approval and her love and the love of others. Shame definitely worked out well there.

    And you know what? I am now, at age 30, maintaining a weight of about 250-260 pounds no matter how much or how little I eat and I AM loved. I learned how to love myself and then an amazing thing happened; I learned how to let others love me too. There’s no lack of it in my life. It has nothing to do with fat or thin. We need to stop equating being thin with being lovable. It just needs to stop.

  29. I love this quote: “American kids are under attack from a corporate food culture so powerful and toxic that parents should be combating it as ferociously as we would pesticide contamination or the return of Polio.” And y’all know what conquered pesticide contaminations and polio, right? A concerted program of humiliating the sufferers, shaming the DDT or the polio virus right out of their bodies.

    RAWK.

  30. Uh oh, what’s wrong with lunchables?

    I have no idea… no lie, I’ve never eaten them. I am picturing little packets with crackers on one side and a well of cheez on the other? Or is that wrong?

  31. Oh, that is wrong! I just googled it. They look to me like mini sandwiches that kids can put together? Yeah, I can’t see what the hell’s so bad about that… it’s probably high in sodium but whatever, you need that to live too, if the kid retains water give her something to drink. Maybe it’s the fact that some of them are “pizza” and “taco” style and you shouldn’t teach kids they can eat those? Or more likely, as CassandraSays points out, it’s class anxiety — only poor moms buy prepackaged food! Even though kids of all classes ask for it!

  32. What’s wrong with Lunchables, as CassandraSays so astutely pointed out, is that poor people send their kids to school with them. They’re cheap and fast, and so a common choice for single parents and parents who are too busy working to cook up a macrobiotic lunch every morning.

    Seriously, so much of this is about class, and about what your child eats being some sort of performance of your class status, your cultural capital, your forging of an identity. And I know I’m not immune to it. I can remember, moving from a very white, very upper-middle class suburb where I was like the only parent I knew who allowed my child to eat cookies and ice cream, to Detroit, where I was the only parent in my son’s preschool who didn’t send him to school with a big bag of Cheetos or pork rinds every day. I was sending him to school with a sandwich, a piece of fruit, and a cookie each day, and was actually asked by his teacher if I could send him with chips, because he was the only kid who didn’t have them and would try to steal them from the other kids. :/ I can’t say I was particularly thrilled with that, either, because I don’t want to be told I can’t send my child to school with a chocolate chip cookie (which the first preschool I had him in told me) or that I needed to send him with Cheetos because all the other kids had them. But, the point is that it is so, so related to class and to culture.

    I remember being really horrified by what I was seeing kids eat in Detroit, until I heard a piece on the radio about how the food choices the poor make actually make good sense: they tend to choose things that get them the most calories for their dollar, and the most essential thing for our bodies, especially for growing kids, is having enough calories. So, yeah, I’m not going to say somebody is a bad parent for feeding their child Cheetos rather than apples, because that bag of Cheetos is getting them more calories for their dollar than the apples would. It’s so easy to feel superior to people because we’re fortunate enough to have more resources and more choices, and I think that’s a huge part of what is going on here.

    Meowser, I think I’m about 10 years younger than you, but I remember the teen magazines touting 1000 calorie a day diets as totally healthy and sensible, too. And then thinking that if 1000 calories a day where healthy and sensible and good for weight loss, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with 800 calories. The only time in my life when I’ve ever binged was when I was trying to stick to a 800-1000 calorie a day diet. I’d get so freaking hungry and desperate for sugar and calories and fat after a few days that I would just eat anything I could get my hands on. I still can’t believe that magazines aimed at teen girls could give such horrible unhealthy and dangerous advice. I really hope that they aren’t running the same sorts of articles today they were running 10 and 20 years ago.

  33. Just to add, does this mean I should blame my parents for my being fat, because they just didn’t do a good job shaming me? Because they totally didn’t. My parents never told me to diet, never criticized what I ate, and never made me feel like me or my body was anything other than totally acceptable just as it was. Damn them for that! I guess I would be thin if they’d just done a better job shaming me, rather than somebody who is fat, happy, healthy, and has maintained about the same weight for the last 10 years.

  34. I think Lunchables are relatively expensive? I think they got their reputation a few years ago because there was a story about them that showed that the versions specifically aimed at children had higher sodium and fat and I think the speculation was that these can be literally addictive to kids. I don’t recall where I remember seeing the news story–at some point in the late 90s? At any rate, there is no shortage of shaming of girls or mothers so people should keep their eyes on their own plate.

    I was not shamed many times but I can recall every single one of them. And I’m still highly neurotic about it.

  35. I got fed Lunchables when I was a kid AND I got shamed for being “fat” when I hit puberty. Best of both worlds, amirite?

    I guess I should have told my mom she couldn’t shame me because it was her fault for buying me the processed food I begged for every once in awhile in elementary school. *eyeroll* It’s clearly all her fault!

  36. On Lunchables – I always thought that the reason people thought they were terrible was because of the amount of packaging used for one meal. So an environmental reason, not a “Lunchables are terrible, you fatty mcfatterson” reason.

  37. And y’all know what conquered pesticide contaminations and polio, right? A concerted program of humiliating the sufferers, shaming the DDT or the polio virus right out of their bodies.

    Given that my brain is fried today and the first thing I think of when I see “DDT” is that it’s the only compound known to man that will kill bedbugs on contact, my first reaction was of course “I wonder if we can shame bedbugs out of houses?”

    Brain werk gud.

    I also think that House gave the best advice ever on how to deal with children and food: “Happy Birthday. And buy the kid a damned ice-cream cake.”

  38. It’s funny – I remember lunchables as something my family didn’t buy because my mom thought they were a bad deal monetarily. So I grew up thinking of them as something richer kids got to eat (in retrospect, my family was quite solidly middle to upper-middle class, but we lived in a well-off area and my mom grew up working class and carried over a lot of her money worries). I always desired lunchables, until I finally tried one and realized that I got more food in the sandwich, apple, carrots, and cookies my mom packed.

    Also, not that she’ll read this, but I just want to say thanks to Mama for not shaming me about my body. She has been worrying about her weight as long as I can remember, but she still managed to instill healthy body image in all her daughters. You know what works? Teaching your kids about nutrition, healthy eating, and moderation. Not so much with body shaming and making all food taboo.

  39. I think Lunchables are relatively expensive?

    Overall, sending your kid to school with Lunchables is probably going to be cheaper than sending them to school with a separate sandwich, snack, and drink.

    Kind of O/T, but I’m so tired of this “but processed foods are more EXPENSIVE than whole foods!” message. It’s a lie. While it is true in some cases, for the most part, I could feed my family far more cheaply if we ate hot dogs, Hamburger Helper, Spaghetti-Os, and boxed mac and cheese every night than making meals from scratch. I generally do make meals from scratch and stay away from processed foods, and I spend about $110-120/week on groceries for the three of us. Once in a while, though, we’ll have a really busy week (usually when I’ve got grades to submit and my husband has a chapter due), and decide we’re just going with the easiest meals possible. I’ll make hot dogs, grilled cheese, spaghetti with canned sauce, fish sticks, and things like that, and my grocery bill will only be $80 or so.

    Again, it’s a way, I think, to look down on the poor. “These people are so *stupid* they don’t even realize that it would be cheaper to make all their family’s meals from scratch!” It’s just not true. Yeah, if it’s a matter of choosing between like those pre-cut stir-fries and making a stir fry from scratch, it’s cheaper to do it from scratch. I can make a homemade lasagna for cheaper than buying one of the big frozen ones. But, there is a lot of VERY cheap processed food that is going to get your family calories and nutrients more cheaply than making homemade meals would. The poor are not stupid, and aren’t somehow less aware of how much food costs than the upper-middle-class. When you’ve got $100 or $150 or $200/week to spend on food for your family, it’s really easy to imagine that you know how people with $30 or $40 or $50/week should eat, but while I know a whole lot of people who are very certain of how they’d be able to feed their families nutritious, unprocessed, home-cooked meals if they only had $50/week to spend, I’ve never actually seen any of them do it.

  40. Just to add, does this mean I should blame my parents for my being fat, because they just didn’t do a good job shaming me?

    Totally, Lori. You had BAD PARENTS, didn’t you know? I’m wondering if maybe I got in and out of fat-hood because my mother was the only family member who *didn’t* shame me — it counts differently if it’s from male relatives, right? That must be why my set point range straddles BMI categories.

  41. The poor are not stupid, and aren’t somehow less aware of how much food costs than the upper-middle-class.

    Right, and the “packaged food is more expensive” argument completely ignores the time factor. Cooking for multiple people, in addition to requiring some cooking skills, also requires a good deal of time management. Because what working class parents have a ton of is free time, am I right?

  42. Lori, not to mention the time calculation. If the extra hour of pay I get if I hand my kid a Lunchable and go in to work instead of making a sandwich, filling a Thermos, etc., is going to make the difference between being able to afford food in the first place and not, you bet I’ll do it. The leisure to prepare healthy food, as we’ve said many a time, is a luxury. I’m sure Aitken lovingly fashioned organic bento boxes in her pied-a-terre in Paris, but come on, not everyone can do that.

    And I haven’t looked at the nutrition information, but I doubt a Lunchable is a particularly unequal substitute for a separately packaged sandwich, fruit, and treat. (And if you don’t believe in sending your kid to school with a treat, you are in for a nasty surprise. Food-restricted kids will find a way to get treats, and then they’ll probably end up eating nothing else for lunch.) Word on lunchboxes being more environmentally sustainable, though, kristen. (Again, not something everyone has the luxury to care about.)

  43. I am and always have been a huge nutrition nerd. I did the Foods & Nutrition Quiz Bowl in 4-H for eight or nine years (I was even the captain for a while and we won one year at the State Fair!)

    But of course, that just meant that whenever I would want an extra piece of dessert, or come home from school and try to grab a snack, my parents would say, “Oh, great choice, Miss Foods and Nutrition.” So of course I would just do it MORE, in SECRET.

    And even now that I’ve been able to move past my binging/purging tendencies, and am finally letting go of my FoBT … I cannot — physically CANNOT, like a phobia — eat delicious, healthful meals for any length of time. This weird “That is healthy you cannot do that you are not worthy” klaxon goes off in my head.

  44. Re. Lunchables, I still enjoy a good pizza lunchable zapped in the microwave. I suppose that is why I am a fat fat fat fatty.

    Re: Parents restricting food intake.

    Growing up I was only ever allowed to have 3 oreos. Only 3. Also, since I grew about 3″ every year until I was 13, I was hungry, ALL THE TIME. All the time.

    So of course, I snuck freaking oreos as soon as I was tall enough to reach the cabinet. (Epecially good late at night when the oven had been left on and they were all gooey.)

    I don’t think that’s why I’m fat, I think I’m fat because I’m fat. But y’know, that just bothered me.

  45. even though I can tell when my body needs to stop having sugar, I still keep eating it anyway sometimes. Because I have to do it before I get caught.

    This is still the way I eat today at 38 years old despite a husband who loves me whether I’m fat, thin or inbetweenie because my mother knew exactly how many slices of bread there were and if there was one “missing” she would shame my sister and me about our bodies. Portions were weighed (only 4 oz of oj and 4 oz of cereal every morning).

    I don’t have very many memories of childhood, but one of the ones I do remember was being in a WW meeting and saying that I wanted to be thin before I started middle school. There was a big cheer from the attendees.

    I have spent more than 20 years fighting bulimia. See, shame DOES work.

  46. I had to de-lurk for this terrific piece (thank you, fillyjonk), because it hits so close to my heart.

    I was a thin kid until around third grade, when I started to gain weight. (My twin sister started to gain weight at around the same time; it couldn’t have been, I don’t know, genetic?) My eating and activity levels hadn’t changed, but still I gained weight.

    Well, one thing my parents didn’t want was a fat child. Cue years of shaming, the details of which I won’t go into because it still hurts to think about it. I did get made fun of at school for being fat sometimes, but what I really needed at home was parents who were ON MY SIDE, who accepted me as I was. I didn’t need to go home from elementary school and hear the exact same things from my parents that I might hear from my peers.

    I’m still dealing with the fallout from this. I have food issues and self-esteem issues, and they have absolutely affected my life. Even though I know objectively that I have a lot going for me (just as everyone does), I have an entrenched feeling of worthlessness that I haven’t managed to get rid of. I get angry when I think of what a difference it might have made, if I had just had parents who loved me as I was and told me so.

  47. This thread has totally made me want to go out and buy a ham and cheddar cheese lunchable to see if it is as good as I remember.

  48. The other processed food issue, I think, is that while it may not be the most food you can buy for your money, if you are on a very tight budget, you don’t have the luxury of thinking about that. A small example is when we buy olive oil. We don’t have a particularly restrictive food budget, but we also aren’t in a position to spend as much as we want. So if we’re out of olive oil, I can sometimes afford to buy the gigantic $28 tin that will last us six months, which is a great deal. But, I might not be able to. I might need to buy the $8 bottle that will only last a month, which is obviously a worse deal, but that extra $30 might make a huge difference. A lunch box makes more economic and environmental sense than using bags or buying pre-packaged lunches, but if you’ve only got $3, you’ll have an easier time finding bags than a lunch box. I love my Sigg water bottle and have ended up saving a lot of money over buying plastic bottles, but if you’ve only got $5 and not $18 for a bottle, buying an 18-pack of bottled water is going to make more economic sense, even if in the long run you’ll be spending more. Sometimes making the most economical choice for the long-term is not something you can do unless you have enough money to begin with.

    In terms of the amount of food you get for the money, Lunchables probably aren’t as good of a deal as making lunch from scratch. But, if you’ve only got $10 to spend on your kids’ lunches for the week, you can probably buy five Lunchables (or a generic equivalent) more easily than you can buy bread, lunch meat and cheese or PB and J, a fruit, drinks, and ingredients to make some sort of homemade dessert. If you were able to buy the stuff to make lunch from scratch, you’d probably end up getting more food from your money, but you’d have to spend more money than somebody might have.

    Not to mention, of course, that people in the suburbs pay less for their food than people in inner cities, and get higher quality stuff. We live about four blocks away from an inner-city grocery store, but drive into the suburbs to do all of our grocery shopping, because it literally costs almost twice as much to do the grocery shopping in the city as in the suburbs, and the produce in the city grocery store is really low quality. So, yeah, when you have access to a Trader Joe’s and a few different large grocery stores that have good selections of healthy foods, it’s easy to imagine that everybody could find better choices for their kids than Lunchables and Cheetos, but that isn’t always the case.

  49. FJ, you are so talented. I adore your posts.

    All food shame ever got me was a childhood of hoarding food in my toybox. Because then I could eat in my room without anybody knowing or saying anything about it. I still fight that urge now, at 30. I’m still apt to hit the McDonald’s drive-thru when I have a craving, wolf it all down in the car, then throw the bag out in a public garbage can so that my husband doesn’t find out. My wonderful, sweet husband who has *unquestioningly* loved me no matter what my weight and never says boo about what I eat. I know that I don’t need to hide from him, ever. Still, these habits…they’re just, ingrained…

    When my son turned 2 a few months ago, I took him to our family doctor for his regular checkup. The doctor asked the usual questions, including how the kid is eating. I expressed some concern that I can’t seem to get any protein into the kid except cheese and fried stuff. And the doctor’s response. Eh. Let him eat the fried stuff, then, so what. He needs the protein, it won’t kill him to have a little crispy breaded coating, too.

    That was an absolute revelation to me. I’d just assumed, all along, that letting your child eat “bad” food would make your child unhealthy and make you a bad parent. And I’m someone who reads SP and actively works on HAES! So it’s not like this “no food is inherently bad” mindset was a newsflash to me. But it was a huge huge huge thing to bridge the gap between applying it to myself and other adults and applying it to my child.

  50. My experiences are the same as Joie’s.

    I was also adopted and my parents were told of some obesity in the family/genes. My adopted mom figured I would not get fat because I would be in a different family. Well wishful thinking ….

    I think me being fat is what my mom considers her biggest failure. She tried pleading, bargaining, paying me, threatening me, humilatating me in an effort to get me to lose weight.

    There is nothing I could ever do/can do to make up for my fatness.

  51. Nina, I’m glad I’m not the only one who considered Lunchables to be a status symbol! It’s probably a class issue, for sure…the kids at my school were almost all middle/upper middle class too, so in that context prepackaged lunches were a luxury rather than a time and money-related necessity. Especially since at that point they cost more than the school lunch.

    Have I mentioned lately how much this blog encourages me to examine my own privilege and cultural context? :)

    Also, I was lucky enough not to have been shamed for eating at all, really, until I got to college. Between the other students there and the ex, I managed an eating disorder followed by a significant weight gain. Yeah, shame works, really, really well.
    (The ex used to inform me that I needed to not have second helpings and/or dessert in front of other people constantly, among other things. How the fuck did it take him so long to become the ex?)

  52. JR: Me too! Ham and cheese was the kind I begged for as a kid. I don’t think they have Lunchables here, period. I know they don’t have Cheetos.

    Lori: those are some good, good points you have there.

  53. I don’t buy my kids lunchables often because they are more expensive than just buying the components (I’m not going to say that’s true for everyone, but it’s definitely true in my supermarket). But yes, there is also the time factor. I have the luxury of time to make my kids things. But they like them so sometimes we’ll get them.

  54. As others have said, Fillyjonk, this post is fantastic.

    And I think the discussion of Lunchables as a class thing is fascinating, because I totally do believe they’re looked down upon as “low class,” but also think they’re expensive for what they are. (Though Lori’s point about the “processed foods are more expensive” meme being both horseshit and classist is AWESOME.) I suspect that if you bought a package of Ritz crackers, a package of processed lunchmeat, and a package of Kraft singles, you could get a lot more Lunchable-style meals out of it for your buck. But the whole point of Lunchables (for the parents) is the convenience factor, which goes to what FJ and SM said about time.

    Yeah, it would be a healthier meal if you used multigrain crackers, real cheddar (low-fat, natch), and turkey cut off the bone before your eyes — preferably after you’ve roasted it yourself, to ensure it’s in no way adulterated — then lovingly cut all of the above into circles for the child to assemble, and of course included a piece of fresh fruit or some raw veggies as well. (Which, of course, your child would totally not throw out in the lunchroom.) But that’s both way more expensive and way more time-consuming.

    And I think the time thing is a huge part of the classism/mom-shaming going on here. If you don’t have the time to lovingly prepare the healthiest possible meal for your child, you are clearly too poor or too selfish to survive on one income. Either way, YOUR CHILD IS SUFFERING, AND IT’S YOUR FAULT. Giving your child processed food means shirking your duties in the kitchen — which are totally not about retrofuck gender roles but about YOUR PRECIOUS CHILD’S HEALTH. So when I say “Get back in the kitchen, woman” I’m totally not being sexist, I’m just LOOKING OUT FOR YOUR CHILD.

    Unless, of course, you can’t afford to spend time in the kitchen because you have to work long hours to feed your child anything at all, in which case I will feign sympathy for your plight while secretly judging you for not keeping your goddamned legs together if you couldn’t afford to be a parent.

    So, yeah, the idea that Lunchables=pure evil is really not just about their being high in sodium and fat, which I’ll grant that they are, compared to a homemeade sandwich composed of minimally processed ingredients — it’s just that, as usual, screaming IT’S UNHEALTHEEEEE! is a great way to cover up unexamined prejudices.

    Which means it does not surprise me one bit that someone who has a hate-on for Lunchables is also someone who thinks shame is a good and healthy motivator. In order to get fired up about the scourge of Lunchables, you have to believe that A Good Mother would never send her child to school with a conveniently pre-packaged basic nutrient delivery system. You have to believe that a mother who risks her child’s optimum health (in theory) for the sake of saving time, money, and effort should… drumroll… be ashamed of herself. And if she’s the type of person who’s not even ashamed of such an egregious offense, it probably follows that she doesn’t have the decency to shame her kid appropriately. WE MUST TEACH HER.

  55. Shame is a notoriously poor motivator, yet people keep insisting on using it “for your own good”. Shame drove me into eating disorders and a myriad of emotional problems. It never changed my basic body shape, it never made me permanently slender and willowy, it never convinced me to stop wanting to eat like I wanted to. It just made me hate myself and grow up convinced that something was fundamentally wrong with me.

    Where’s the “good idea!” part of that tactic again?

  56. Oh wow…this is the one that always hits home for me. Shaming, and made to feel bad by mom AND dad. I’ll never forget my mom getting ready to give me a bath in my new bathroom and looking at my belly, saying, oh no…better be careful you’re getting fat.. AT SIX YEARS OLD. My aunts telling me I sat around too much, and bribing me with clothes if lost weight at probably 8 or 9. And my dad making little jokes at the diningroom table. And like many of the posts above, my mom restricted sweets, etc. Which made me want them more. She packed me yogurt for lunch, but because I envied everyone else’s little debbies, I traded them. And I always envied lunchables. But my mom thought they were too expensive. She had time to make our lunches, etc. But I eat them now and then…they’re good for quick lunches. No worse than a mcdonalds cheeseburger. And like someone said above…I’m always eating crap…but eating way more because I have that feeling of getting caught. God, it’s horrible.

  57. In our house, the focus is only on healthy food and not on weight. My 5 y/o stepdaughter knows that I won’t buy her the cookies and other pre-packaged snacks in the store because they have “the icky bad stuff” in them (hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup…), but we will go home and bake some cookies without the icky bad stuff. She accepts that with no complaint.

    But the other day she asked me if we don’t eat the icky bad stuff because it would make us fat. I was speechless. I have no idea where she got that idea, but I explained to her that we avoid the icky bad stuff because, over a lifetime of eating those things, they cause a number of diseases that we want to avoid because we want to stay strong and healthy. She accepted this easily, but I have to wonder where she got the idea that our food choices are related to weight. Everybody in our family is naturally relatively thin, and our girls are very active so we’ve never really worried about it, and we certainly never discuss weight issues in front of them. Even if we were concerned about their weight we would never discuss it in front of them, or do anything to associate weight with shame and self-worth. The only thing I can think is that she must have made the connection based on the weight-loss ads on TV. At the age of 5! So depressing. At times it feels like the things you do and say as a parent are irrelevant given the relentless stream of messages to the contrary that they get from everyone else.

  58. This is only marginally related, but once my mom told my elementary school vice principal off over a similar issue. See, being the fat kid (as so many of us here were/are) I got relentlessly abused by my classmates, especially on the bus. You know, names, not letting me sit down, taking my things, going through my backpack and so on (all the classics…at once). So my mom started driving me every day. So one day the v.p. saw her pull up and started into her about how I should be riding the bus because it’s good for kids to develop something or other and she basically said, really? good for her? do you know what goes on because she’s fat? how about you guys actually do something about how the kids are treating her, then we’ll talk about whether or not it’s “good for her” to ride the bus.

    That was the mid 1990s. Apparently today she’d be abusive because she “let” me get fat? wtf?

    Also I think the Lunchables thing that I heard is that they have a lot of sodium and wonky chemicals to preserve them so they can make it through the day without being refrigerated. I don’t know. I had them a few times when I was little (probably until the sodium and preservatie stuff came out – see, my parents cared what I put in my body even though they let me get fat!) but they were still a relatively new thing, no pizza ones just a stack of ham, a stack of cheese and a stack of crackers. They seem like a good idea as long as they aren’t secretly poison.

  59. I do get the point about kids today being in what is labeled as a “toxic food culture” — but as you point out, shaming is harmful and makes things worse.

    The way I handle it as a mom is to set tighter rules about what I buy and what we have in the house, and have times where little human gets to choose for herself. I might wince at her choice, but it’s imporant that she does get to choose occassionally. She generally doesn’t go shopping with me, and when she does I strategically avoid certain isles, but I’m with the mom above in allowing it to be a teachable moment if she chooses a cereal with a character on the box, it’s only happened once, and she didn’t like the cereal. She also doesn’t see TV commercials, but she watches Nick Jr. and PBS shows on DVD, so she’s susceptible to character’s being used to push product.
    I think that making kids feel bad about the things they want to eat is not the way to go, regardless of the size of the child. I think a better tack is to say, “yes, that looks good, I can understand you’re wanting it, but” we don’t buy that because our tummies don’t feel good after we eat it, or it’s too expensive, or we can make something at home that’s going to taste better and be better for us. Mr. Rounded and I draw the lines at different things — he thinks ice cream is bad for you but baked goods are not as bad, I try not to categorize foods but tend to worry about little one not getting enough fruits, vegetables and fiber. But I try not to put that on her. I provide good choices at home, some “fun” food as long as it’s not knocking out other good choices, and when we are at a bakery or out to dinner, rare occurances for us, she gets to choose what she wants within reason.

    And, Meowser, this: “Nobody ever told me I was pretty, because they didn’t want to lie to me” killed me because it’s exactly what I thought about myself.
    I have been thinking about it, and I’m sure there’s a cultural element there, my parents wouldn’t have praised me for being pretty even if I fit some standard of slimness — it just wasn’t their style to do that once I got past a certain age, unless it was to compliment me on an outfit or something. It’s tricky, because I look at my own daughter and see how gorgeous she is, and I want her to know she’s beautiful, but not to the exclusion of how creative, imaginative, bold, bright and amazing in a myriad of other ways.

  60. I preferred the turkey and cheese Lunchables. And now I want one.

    But does anyone remember, shortly after the original ones were introduced, the short-lived adult-targeted Lunchables? I absolutely loved the cream cheese and herbs-of-some-sort one, and got lightly teased by my friends because they (the Lunchables, not my friends) were far too prissy for 6th grade.

  61. I hope to have something coherent to say soon, but this post and this thread is – no exaggeration – making me weep with joy at not, for once, being the weirdo killjoy suggesting intersections between mother-shaming, classism, fat-hate, orthorexia, and an ideal femininity wherein a woman should erase herself just enough so that she stands as a reminder that good women are to erase themselves.

    I’ve said it before, but I loathe most white middle-class mom conversations. They are so deeply, deeply similar to white middle-class diet conversations. The script is basically thus:

    “My [body/child] is Not Ideal, to my Everlasting Shame. This is a source of Deep Anxiety for me. I focus on it with all my might. Don’t you dare try to deprive me of my Deep Anxiety at Falling Short, as it is the substance of all of my friendships with other women. We get together, bemoan how far we Fall Short, and measure our own [body/child] against the ideal [body/child]. Because clearly, if our home had a Healthy Lifestyle (TM) my [body/child] would match the ideal. This is why it is Totally Worth It to spend HOURS a day researching the bestest bestest bestest bestest bestest bestest way to be a [female parent/female-embodied person]. Books written by men who have opinions on how we would live if we were perfect are a GREAT source of information here! Yes, it’s annoying, but we are willing to make that Supreme Sacrifice, because anything short of perfect is failure AND DEAR GOD we don’t want OUR [CHILDREN/BODIES] to look like those obese soda video game cheetos messy house daycare poor people whom we don’t actually know but see on the teevee because OMG YUCK!”

    This is not solely to blame the mothers in question — I mean, we didn’t invent this crappy construct — but it’s just to say that there are a lot of parallels, I think. And they are odious.

  62. And I wonder if giving kids Lunchables falls into the same category as things like thrift store shopping and whatnot: perfectly cool and fun and socially acceptable, as long as you do them because you want to, not because you have to. Class privilege FTL.

  63. And like a dozen people posted while I was writing that last comment, including Lori, who made another awesome point:

    Sometimes making the most economical choice for the long-term is not something you can do unless you have enough money to begin with.

    Totally. I’d add that it is also not always the most economical choice if you have a small family that won’t use up the stuff you buy in bulk before it goes bad. I’ve bitched a hundred times here before about how hard it is to cook for two people without either wasting shitloads of food or spending a lot of time and effort making several different recipes at once for the freezer. (If I hear one more person tell me to just spend my entire Sunday cooking for the week, I’m going to scream. What if I don’t want to cook for hours on end? And for someone other than me, what if Sunday afternoon is the only time in the entire week you really have free to spend with your family?) So I buy a lot of stuff in smaller packages, and use a lot of frozen fruits and veggies so I can buy larger quantities that won’t go bad, because that makes more economic and practical sense than getting a really good deal on a lot of food and only using half of it. Also, quite honestly, because I have no love for cooking and like to make things as easy as possible on myself. But if I have a kid and continue doing this — even though I have the time and money to do it differently — I will totally be a Bad Mom.

    I remember doing a sociology project in high school (in a very wealthy, very white district), where we had to imagine we were the head of a family of four living beneath the poverty line, and figure out how we’d get by. This consisted of finding a classified ad for an apartment we could afford, estimating the utility bills, and working out a grocery budget. It was probably a good baby step for spoiled kids like me, except we weren’t encouraged to consider how an apartment in our price range would be maintained, or if it was in a safe neighborhood, or whether the landlord would rent to us in the first place. We also weren’t encouraged to think about putting together nutritionally balanced meals, or the time required to do that relative to the time we were spending at our minimum wage jobs — just about buying enough food to theoretically last a week for four people. And of course we weren’t encouraged to consider whether our minimum wage jobs would include health insurance, or what we’d do if someone in the family had an accident. Or how to set aside money for emergencies — or, you know, for trying to get ourselves above the poverty line eventually. It was strictly a math problem: You have this much money to spend, can you get a roof over your head and food in the pantry? Well, yes, in theory. But there are a whole lot of fucking variables in reality. Unfortunately, the message most of us came away with was that being poor is tough but totally doable. The math works!

    It embarrasses and infuriates me that so many people with backgrounds like mine, including entirely too many who hold elected office, still think that’s all it is — a simple math problem. If you can’t make it work, you must not have a grasp on basic arithmetic. The end.

  64. “But nobody seems to know how to be firm, calm, and rational about food, especially when their kids are fat.”

    That is the heart of the whole issue for me right there. Nobody seems to know how to be calm and rational about food. It’s all about shaming and lecturing and fear.

    I was a schoolkid waay before there were lunchables. My mother sent me to school with half a sandwich, apple slices and maybe a cookie. Only half a sandwich becasue I was a fatty. No wonder I was so hungry when I got home. At least back then I didn’t have to deal with my school shaming me too.

    Thank you for another great post fillyjonk!

  65. A Sarah, I can’t really sympathize personally, not being a mom, but I can say that you just described the mom who lived next door for the entirety of my childhood, and my own mom wanted to throttle her on a near daily basis. So yeah.

  66. I do get the point about kids today being in what is labeled as a “toxic food culture” — but as you point out, shaming is harmful and makes things worse.

    I sort of see it, but I also have trouble believing that the food culture kids are being raised in is more toxic than the one I was raised in, or even my parents. The only difference I see today is that kids are getting very conflicting messages: powerful forces are telling them that they need to buy these foods right now, and other powerful forces are telling them that those foods will kill them. The fact that Chuck E. Cheese and McDonald’s now advertise themselves as part of a kids’ “healthy” and “active” lifestyle shows how completely messed up the whole thing is.

    Plus, if we’re going to talk about a toxic food environment, I don’t see how somebody like Aitken can’t see that perhaps the multi-billion dollar diet industry is part of the reason why she holds the views she does, and is no less toxic than fast food companies or cereal makers.

  67. They hadn’t been invented yet when I was a kid, so no happy lunchable memories for me, LOL!

    It’s also an age thing. The age of the kids. Someone mentioned their 5 year old being happy to not get the store bought cookies. The kid might not be as happy about it when she’s 8. Or 10.

    And that definitely goes for the thrift shopping example. Both of my kids get thrift clothing or hand-me-downs and very rarely get new stuff (other than shoes, underwear and socks). But they’re 6 and 10. AND, neither of them is in school. We do a lot of freecycling (we live in an urban area with a big freecycle network) and both kids think it’s perfectly normal.

    Now, if they were in school it might be different. But even so, I wonder in a few years if my daughter will still be ok with all of this.

    But just to say it’s not just class, it’s also age. Your average 5 year old really does not give a shit if all her clothing is handed down. The average 15 year old does.

  68. But the other day she asked me if we don’t eat the icky bad stuff because it would make us fat.

    Rachel in WY, one of the reasons we avoid “good food”/”bad food” talk over here at SP is this very thing — it’s nearly impossible to live in our fatphobic culture and not have those categories magically transform in our minds to “fat-reducing”/”fat-causing.” I’m treading carefully here because I’m not a parent and I’m in no way trying to judge your choices; I just wonder if the way you’ve framed it (some ingredients are “icky bad stuff”) is too easily coopted by the fatphobic messages your daughter’s getting elsewhere to accomplish what you want.

  69. Oh God, I read this post and couldn’t stop thinking about being seventeen years old, in my mother’s kitchen, holding a shrinkwrapped bulk pack of boxed juice drinks under each arm, feeling so helpless and panicked while my mother wept and begged me to STOP DOING THIS TO MYSELF. Those packs of juice boxes were supposed to represent all the weight I’d gained that year, and please, please, for her sake, I had to lose weight. I was killing myself. I would get fatter and fatter until I died.

    I joined Weight Watchers that year.

  70. Interestingly, growing up in a solidly working class household, I think part of my mother’s obsession with food, dieting and having thin daughters was about trying to fit in with/pass in the upper middle class world of which she wished to be a part.

  71. This:

    Totally. I’d add that it is also not always the most economical choice if you have a small family that won’t use up the stuff you buy in bulk before it goes bad. I’ve bitched a hundred times here before about how hard it is to cook for two people without either wasting shitloads of food or spending a lot of time and effort making several different recipes at once for the freezer.

    is why I keep thinking about writing a cookbook of quick/simple recipes for TWO people, not four or six or eight.

    And A Sarah wins again. That is the template of every parenting conversation I’ve ever heard my agressively normal aunts have. (These are the relatives I have who think that their kids don’t not hear people talking to them when they’re reading, they’re just being rude. And that depression and insomnia are due to a lack of exercise-for-exercise-sake (because if it’s for fun or to get somewhere it’s not exercise). And that all my health problems are due to needing to lose weight, and I don’t because I’m so lazy not getting any exercise (see note on definition of exercise above) ) Whoops, sorry about that.

  72. Once again the rebel in me must speak. Tell me what to do or eat out of ‘concern’ and you can bet I am doing the opposite when you check in on me next time. My mom loved to pull out the concern card when she’d shame me about my body. When I would be ballsy enough to tell her how angry/hurt I was then she’d play the guilt card saying I was ungrateful to have such a caring parent. Same for makeup. My mom just loved to say “You know if you wore just a little bit of makeup you would be so pretty” Now I am 220 lbs with no makeup and I’m still saying ‘fuck you’with every binge and hating myself the whole time. Shame? Epic fail.

  73. mmmm… Lunchables.

    The line I always got from my mother was that they were too expensive. By which I believe she meant they were more expensive than the reduced lunch at school that I qualified for (I believe that my lunch tickets cost about $13 a month in 1991-1994 era) so, you know, fair enough.

    Once I was able to acquire some… through a friend or whatever… they weren’t as good as I thought they’d be.

    I buy them for my boyfriend sometimes :) He attends law school 50 miles away and sneaks his “lunch” between classes and walking to the library, so something that’s easy to eat with his fingers is A+ for him :)

    Also, great article FJ :)

  74. The stories on this thread make me so sad. As someone said above, I can’t believe anyone thinks there’s any shortage of shame among girls.

    A Sarah, I don’t know if I’ve ever read something you posted and not been made better by it. The righteous rage makes me so happy. And the insight. Man. I want you to have a talk show. Or possibly a pulpit.

    It’s tricky, because I look at my own daughter and see how gorgeous she is, and I want her to know she’s beautiful, but not to the exclusion of how creative, imaginative, bold, bright and amazing in a myriad of other ways.

    That is beautiful. You have a lucky daughter.

    Only half a sandwich becasue I was a fatty. No wonder I was so hungry when I got home. At least back then I didn’t have to deal with my school shaming me too.

    When my mother was making my school lunches I got one round of sandwiches for lunch and that was it, with maybe a snack for break. And she’d, you know, met me, so she knew I a) didn’t eat breakfast and b) didn’t have any money for extra food. When I look back, I was hungry all the time My friends and I used to spend all our time commiserating about how embarrassing it is when your stomach rumbles in class. Well, yeah, and it’s going to if you’re eating basically nothing for 8 hours a day. Why did I think that was enough food? Why did she? Not a bit of wonder I put on a ton of weight when I moved away to uni, I wasn’t starving myself anymore for half the day.

  75. re: Lunchables – in our house, Lunchables are considered “field trip food.” All-in-one, portable, no fixing or packing, nothing to bring home again. But I won’t buy them outside of field trips because I think they’re just too expensive for what they are. In our district, she can eat a school lunch for less than the fancier Lunchables (the kind that include drink and dessert), and what she gets is far better for her (entree, veggie, fruit, & milk). Lucky for us, she actually likes school lunches.

  76. To add to the class / time discussion, I once thanked my mom for making us so many home-cooked meals and ensuring we had very little processed food. Her response, “You know if you girls didn’t have those allergies, I would have definitely gotten more processed food.” She did like baking and cooking to a degree, but she mostly fed us home-cooked meals and homemade lunches because she had to. (And when I had lunch at home, it was either leftovers or a special treat of hot dogs and Kraft mac n’ cheese.)

    So like Kate says, home cooking is not always the preferred option, even for people who have the time / money / skills.

  77. I just read a social history of the victorian era that described the way in which the middle and upper middle classes carefully avoided eating foods associated with working class people, especially cheese and bread. Cheese and bread was a common working class lunch because it provided the most calories for the money–important when you’re performing hard manual labor all day for very little pay. That really resonates with the comment above about the cheetos. Cheese and bread was also quick to assemble and didn’t require hours of cooking, as much victorian cookery did, which was also a sign of working class life, and that’s not unlike the lunchable. And of course, middle class victorians concluded that cheese and bread were unhealthy. There is nothing new under the sun.

    I was actually just thinking about nutrition and class this morning when I sitting in the WIC office waiting for my appointment and looking at the condescending “here is what a portion of broccoli looks like” posters on the wall. I love WIC. I really do. But the “nutrition education” that goes with it hurts my head. The assumptions they make about your eating habits just because you’re there are ridiculous, and the tone of the “education” component leaves much to be desired. To their credit, the people who work there don’t come across that way, but the literature surely does.

    despite the ick factor, I do think WIC is a great program because it provides expensive essentials like milk and cheese, which means there is more money in my budget for other foods and better quality foods. My mother really could have used a program like WIC. If she didn’t have to spend money on milk, she might have had something in the house besides popcorn at the end of the month (it’s cheap and filling!) and my sister and I wouldn’t have been putting water in our cheerios.

    I also wanted to second Lori’s comment from way up the thread that my kids will not devour the world, if left to themselves. Eight times out of ten, my four year old will choose fruit over ice cream for dessert and I think that has to be partly because she has equal access to both. She doesn’t feel like she has to take her chance at the ice cream RIGHT NOW because there will be more ice cream tomorrow and the next day and next week and so forth. I know that hungry feeling that says this is my chance, better eat now or who knows when my next opportunity will come. That messes with your ability to listen to your body and figure out if it wants fruit or ice cream.

    My main goal with my kids is that they learn to feed themselves when they need to eat, which is mostly when they’re hungry. I’m not even against eating when you’re upset or sad or celebrating–why is it wrong for food to be comforting and fun, anyway? But mostly, I want them to listen to their bodies. I let them eat their fill and my experience is that they really don’t sit and eat themselves sick because that doesn’t feel good. I don’t have to monitor their every calorie to prevent that. In the meantime, I hope I’m teaching them that it’s okay to feed your body. It needs fuel. I swear to God, it took me until I was 25 years old to figure that out.

  78. My friends and I used to spend all our time commiserating about how embarrassing it is when your stomach rumbles in class.

    Dude, I did that to myself. When I was on Jenny Craig in college, I had a late-afternoon class that was just a little too far away from lunch for me to get through it without my stomach rumbling like a freight train. Which was mortifying. So I switched around my eating schedule, and started having my Jenny Craig Snack Bar right before class — which meant my stomach only rumbled about half the time. And at that point, to my mind, I was fucked. The only other option would be to eat the bar in class and hope that would keep my stomach busy, but that was out, because it would have meant eating what looked like a candy bar in class, and then everyone would think I was a huge pig.

    You know what literally never even occurred to me as an option? EATING SOMETHING THAT WASN’T ON MY JENNY CRAIG PLAN, BECAUSE I OBVIOUSLY WASN’T GETTING ENOUGH FOOD ON IT.

    And why was I torturing myself like that? Oh yeah, massive body shame. Which my parents had indeed done yeoman work to encourage, even though peers and media probably could have done it alone.

  79. Who knew? Poor people are actually intelligent and organized in their food choices. Sort of like fat people knowing that we’re fat.

    Speaking of which, I’m earning my Masters in Social Work and devoting all of my research projects and papers to fat acceptance. And European medical societies have started putting out papers whining about the tendency of parents to just plain lie about their kids’ BMI information so that they are “under-diagnosed” with overweight and obesity. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that perfectly healthy children are being “diagnosed” with non-existent problems based on measures developed when medicine relied mostly on blood letting to cure diseases? And that parents are perfectly well aware of it.

    When we did the kids’ joint check up (where they were so hyper and busy talking over each other that I made my yearly vow to never give in to the siren call of the scheduler and arrange another “convenient” double physical!) the doctor showed me that Katie is in the 96th percentile for weight and only the 93rd for height (the horror!). When i nodded and said that Katie eats a lower calorie diet than Teddy naturally and NEVER STOPS MOVING, while he languidly drapes his reedy frame across the couch and plays video games, the doctor just said, “Calories in, calories out!”

    When I asked Dr V if she realized that she had just called me a liar, she said, “We both know that can’t be true. She has to be eating more than you think.” She’s EIGHT! I know exactly what she is eating, since I still make it for her or read it on the lunch menu.

    I’m going to start taking the kids to our family doctor who isn’t a hater. And understands basic science.

  80. You know what literally never even occurred to me as an option? EATING SOMETHING THAT WASN’T ON MY JENNY CRAIG PLAN, BECAUSE I OBVIOUSLY WASN’T GETTING ENOUGH FOOD ON IT.

    Right? It honestly never in 14 years occured to me that the solution was to EAT MORE FOOD. How does the crazy manage to block basic thought processes? I don’t know, but it does.

    When I asked Dr V if she realized that she had just called me a liar, she said, “We both know that can’t be true.

    You’re not a liar, Mary H, you’re just a Bad Neglectful Mother. Tsk! TSK I SAY.

  81. Watching my friends and their mothers shame each other when I was a teenager made such a tragic impression on me (I was lucky my mom didn’t do that and my dad was never worse than “stand up straight and suck in your stomach,” more of a Marine posture thing than anything else) that it makes me feel literally nauseous that someone’s recommending this. Raising kids to have a bizarre love/hate relationship with food may or may not make them thin (I’m guessing “not” much of the time, thanks to diets), but it definitely won’t make them healthy. Yeah, make your kids feel bad all the time, or YOU DON’T LOVE THEM. WTF?

    (Also, never had a Twinkie or Lunchable–can’t even imagine doing so now, ew, despite all the other junk food I’ve happily eaten. They just gross me out.)

  82. How does the crazy manage to block basic thought processes? I don’t know, but it does.

    I know! Some advice I got for learning to eat more healthfully (which I’m not totally sold on yet, but I’m giving it a shot) was to pack up a whole day’s food in advance and then just eat whatever I wanted out of the bag all day. (And to try to eat ALL of it, not be “virtuous” by leaving as much uneaten as possible.) I can’t tell you HOW many times a day I’ll sit here going, “Ugh. Hrm. Man, I’m hungry. Ahh. This is uncomfortable. Err. Argh.” Because, you know, god forbid I eat a banana at 11:45 am instead of at noon when everyone else is having their lunch. But I don’t even think of it on that level, it’s just “I’m hungry. I wish I weren’t.” And FINALLY it will occur to me that I should eat something out of the bag, which is sitting RIGHT THERE!

  83. Really, Mary H, your daughter is probably sneaking out at night and meeting up with other fat kids to go break into vending machines and eat all the candy bars. They totally spend recess leaning against the back of the gym and scarfing down snack cakes.

  84. Totally agree on the not-all-packaged-foods-are-more-money point, Lori. And on time being money. Though fwiw, I’m pretty sure Lunchables in particular WERE more expensive than straight-up cold cuts and crackers. It was surely a little more work for parents, which some couldn’t do, though. But I remember the price because I desperately WANTED Lunchables (OMG, food in little organized rectangles! WHAT COULD BE BETTER!!), but my parents refused because they could just buy me sliced meat and cheese from the deli counter for less.

    Not to mention, of course, that people in the suburbs pay less for their food than people in inner cities, and get higher quality stuff.

    Okay, I believe you when you say this is true near you, but in my area the opposite is the case. I have debated taking the train into the city to buy groceries where the prices are halfway reasonable, because out here in the suburbs they are RIDICULOUS. fwiw.

    They seem like a good idea as long as they aren’t secretly poison.

    I assure you that Lunchables are most certainly not poisonous.

  85. Really, Mary H, your daughter is probably sneaking out at night and meeting up with other fat kids to go break into vending machines and eat all the candy bars.

    THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED TO ME.

  86. Fuck that shame noise.

    Fuck it in its ear.

    You know what I thought to myself two nights ago? “Hey, I don’t have to hide these Girl Scout cookies, and I don’t have to eat them all right now, locked in my room, as fast as possible. Because they are my cookies, I bought them, and they will still be here tomorrow.”

    And that thought was such a fucking lightning bolt breakthrough. Growing up, I had to sneak cookies. I had to find their hiding place and when I did, I had to eat them all, otherwise next time I swung by, my mother or my sister would have likely been by that cache of snacks and eaten them all, because they were Bad For You.

    Fuck that noise. They’re cookies. I can have cookies for dinner if I want.

    I had to stop myself from hiding an ice cream bar in my sleeve at work, smuggling it to my desk. I am a grown woman, I can have an ice cream bar if I want. And at that point, I didn’t really want it, for Christ’s sake, it was 7AM! I had seen it in the freezer and reflexively snagged it before it was ‘gone’.

    Fuck that noise. I put it back. If it’s not there later, I’ll go buy more and share them with my coworkers.

    And this was just this week. I’m 29 years old. This is what shame does to you– it keeps you a child, unable to make your own decisions.

    I’m growing up.

  87. I read an article a couple years ago in Readers Digest (Don’t judge me! I was in a waiting room and it was the only thing to read except for Podiatrist Daily or something) about the Freshman Fifteen. One girl said that inher house, her mom made all the food choices, so she had no idea HOW to pick food that was healthy. She got overwhelmed by the choices and ate everything in sight.

    My mother is a nutritionist, and she tried to teach us how to plan meals that were balanced and yummy and also looked good (she was not a fan of mac and cheese and corn, for example- too much yellow). She also taught us to cook, and let us cook, and wouldn’t meddle with what we chose.

    I still flirted with an eating disorder in high school. I still wanted liposuction at age 12. I still wanted something to make my face less fat.

    And I still gained a shitton of weight in college- not because I couldn’t make the chices, but because the dining hall closed at 6:30, and my nautral OMG DINNER NOW time is about 7:30 or 8. So I’d eat a whole bunch at 6:30 to try and hold out until the next morning, and be starving to death by 10:30. And mom, for all her virtues, was not pleased with how much weight I’d gained, but she worked really really REALLY hard at not shaming me about it.

  88. FJ- Thank you, what a great post. It brought back so many memories of family-shaming for me, but most notably the time when my (now-ex) husband (when I was in law school and still crash dieting and desperately trying to lose weight, largely to please him) *begged* me to stop drinking so much water, because it was making me fat. Yes. WATER. And I,bringing my oh-so-extensive history of family shaming to bear, just took what I now recognize as his abuse right in stride, as if it were totally normal. Gah!

    Kate – I don’t know whether Fresh & Easy (U.S. version of Tesco) has made it east of California, but if so, they are planned primarily for singles/couples cooking. And it also doesn’t hurt that they have the best house-brand cheeses and chocolates!

    Also, slightly O/T, but FJ, your use of the word “shonda” — so totally perfect, it absolutely made my day. A leben ahf den kepele! :-)

  89. Really, Mary H, your daughter is probably sneaking out at night and meeting up with other fat kids to go break into vending machines and eat all the candy bars.

    THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED TO ME.

    I never snuck out at midnight, but I did actually sneak junk food whenever I could in school.

    Then again, I was raised in a fat-hostile environment, so I was reacting by sneaking around. I am convinced that if I was raised in an emotionally healthier environment, I wouldn’t have felt the need to sneak and binge.

  90. I’m confused. I would’ve thought the “toxic food culture” we live in is due to the hysteria about fat and the spread of major eating disorders and psychological complexes being forced onto kids by the moral panic over obesity, coupled with relentless advertising to kids about food. Never would I have thought the problem was the existence of Lunchables, which I doubt are significantly worse than the processed food that was available and popular when I was a pup. I mean, fruit roll ups? What kind of chemicals and preservatives are in those, for heaven’s sake?

    Anyway, I was hit with a painful memory reading all of this. When I was in college and working B shift during the summer I would get home after midnight. I insisted on my Mom buying chocolate peanut butter ice cream because I was the only one who liked it, so that meant after I got home from work and showered, I could sit and watch late night tv with the ice cream carton open on the floor in front of me and eat as much as I wanted without my parents finding out how much ice cream I ate at once. With one ear open, of course, to someone coming down the hall to use the bathroom and possibly catching me like that.

    So, yeah. Shame works. Really. Just not in the way Lee Aitken seems to think.

  91. PS I also have never eaten a Lunchable or a Twinkie. Lunchables didn’t exist yet back when I was a kid and nowadays I’m more a grilled chicken salad person.

    As for Twinkies, no chocolate outer coating! And we were more Zinger people, except for when we could get Drakes Cakes. :)

    DRST

  92. Lunchables must have come out just about the time I stopped eating lunch at school. (Social anxiety + 220 kids packed into a noisy lunchroom + school rules prohibiting eating outside the lunch room = no lunch for me.) I do remember having some at home for when I got out of school, but not often, and I wasn’t encouraged to eat them.

    I think even if I were not fat I would have been shamed for eating. Food was allotted based on a very specific hierarchy in our household, with my father firmly at the top of the ladder.* I was shamed for eating outside of set mealtimes, but I was also shamed if I took a second helping at mealtimes. I should say, it was my mother who did the overt shaming, with my father making his little “jokes”. (The man had a million of em, did you hear the one about the people with a different skin color, because I heard them all. My dad, king of the tools.)

    Often times I was shamed for eating normal meals. It was a mine field with my mother over whether or not I was going to get breakfast without a lecture on how much I ate. I still can’t eat breakfast, I literally sit around kicking my own ass for being hungry because I “just ate” without remembering that I haven’t just eaten. That’s my mother’s voice “You just ate!” even when I hadn’t had anything for 8 hours.

    Shame doesn’t work to make kids thin, it just fucks them up for life. News flash to anyone who doesn’t know, children are growing human beings who need a lot, a lot, of food to get to adulthood. More food than you’d think was possible. Eating is something we have to do to stay alive. It makes no more sense to shame a child for eating than it does to shame them for going to the bathroom.

    Of all the shit your kids could get up to (stealing, cheating, breaking things, fighting, bullying) shaming them over eating is really fucking stupid. Being fat, or just having a higher than average BMI, is not the worst thing evar! It’s not a moral failing. Reserve shame and ridicule for when they start dealing drugs behind the gym.

    *Our family might have started off poor, but we were firmly middle class when the guilt kicked into high gear. Even today, I have the mindset that my husband comes first when food is served because he works and I don’t. Mind you, we’re poor and it’s a sensible allotment because if he isn’t nourished enough to work we’re fucked. In a middle class household with plenty of food security it’s just the patriarchy in action. They wonder why we’re estranged, go figure.

  93. Don’t judge me! I was in a waiting room and it was the only thing to read except for Podiatrist Daily or something

    Off-topic: WAHAHAHA!!! I totally love this. I just have to cheer. Really, it’s the “Daily” that makes it so funny to me. Because… I mean, daily updates on podiatry? In the form of a published periodical? Just imagine a world with that much foot-health-related news, and then imagine the central offices and all the different jobs people could have. “Shelly covers the bunion beat, but we mostly have stringers writing on arch issues.”

    (Sorry. I’ve been having serious insomnia lately and I’m really starting to lose it.)

  94. Many posters have pointed out how harmful shaming is. Many have pointed out how it never works. And many have wondered why folks continue to try shame as a motivator. IMHO, it’s because it has more to do with the shamer than the shamee. Feelings of “moral superiority” have much less to do with what you believe about the people you are looking down on (their size, their class, their food choices) and more to do about trying to say something about who you (the shamer) are.

    My father was a direct shamer (“You are a fat pig.”). My mother was an indirect shamer (“What will people say if we have to buy your clothes in the Chubby section?”) . Without a doubt, I internalized all of that shame and became a direct AND indirect shamer of myself.

    Here’s to safe places like SP, where we don’t have to pull anyone else down in order to hold our heads up. I love you guys.

  95. But so here’s my question… if the little individually-wrapped snack packs of crackers and fake cheez that I was thinking of aren’t Lunchables, what are they? Anyone? They came with a piece of red plastic that was ostensibly for spreading?

  96. OMG I LOVE THE FAKE CHEESE WITH THE SPREADER THINGIE. I cna get them at CVS for 50 cents.

    In fact, i am tempted to go get some RIGHT NOW.

  97. if the little individually-wrapped snack packs of crackers and fake cheez that I was thinking of aren’t Lunchables, what are they? Anyone? They came with a piece of red plastic that was ostensibly for spreading?

    ACK. I know EXACTLY what you are talking about and I cannot remember the name for the life of me.

    Google said: Handi-Snacks

  98. But so here’s my question… if the little individually-wrapped snack packs of crackers and fake cheez that I was thinking of aren’t Lunchables, what are they? Anyone? They came with a piece of red plastic that was ostensibly for spreading?

    MREs? Sorry, I know what you’re talking about, but I spent a month living on MREs and that exact fake cheese was packaged with two huge crackers in every single MRE pouch. I always ate those first because they were filling enough to be lunch and I could save the entree for dinner. (I’m not kidding, they did science to that food so it was very dense in calories.)

  99. Can I just say, I once ate a Twinkie when we were in the US on holiday and was like, “What the fucking fuck?”

    I think they’re one of those things you have to have grown up with, because to me they taste…not unlike nuclear waste.

    I read an article a couple years ago in Readers Digest (Don’t judge me! I was in a waiting room and it was the only thing to read except for Podiatrist Daily or something)

    Now listen. I’ve read every single Reader’s Digest published in the UK since about 1989 (my parents have a subscription, don’t talk to ME about coffeetable books) and I don’t want you insinuating that that might not have been a valuable and stimulating use of my time. Do YOU know how to survive if you’re caught on top of a mountain in a blizzard and your wife’s about the give birth to your third baby?

    No you don’t, and neither do I, but I read about someone who did once when I was seven, so of the two of us WHO IS BETTER PREPARED? That’s right.

    *clutches heart* Reader’s Digest taught me everything I know.

  100. I am astounded by the author of that article. Wow. What a total witch-factor. I wonder, even, if she has children. Or if so, perhaps they are so perfectly wonderfully “normal” that she never even has to do so much as raise one perfectly plucked arched eyebrow as high as her botox will let her before her “normal” daughter (and I do think we all know this is focused at girls, not boys) quickly decides that “a moment on the lips is forever on the hips”!

    I wholeheartedly disagree, like a previous poster, that children will “devour the world”. My three-and-a-half year old daughter never finishes her ice cream. Never. Why? ‘Cause she’s full. So her body tells her when to stop. Not her Shapeling mom who hovers around just to be able to devour it herself having experienced a lifetime of subtle slights due to the size of her thighs.

    Oh, heh, my bad. ;-)

    As an aside, I just wanted to thank you for writing this blog. It is so refreshing.

  101. Handi-Snacks! That’s the one! Never had them as a kid but always coveted things with their own personalized preparation devices. (The sugar packets with a candy dipper were also huge. I also do not know what those were called.)

    I really like cheez crackers now though. Lance Cheese on Wheat, which were a huge part of my husband’s childhood and zero percent of mine, sometimes figure into my lunch. They are scrumptious.

  102. And you know… thank HEAVEN shaming doesn’t work, eh? Hooray for kids for not relinquishing themselves so easily; for getting complexes because of the conflict that arises when you’re told to hand yourself entirely over to someone else’s control and you just can’t manage it.

    Suppose shame *did* work to make a kid thin / make a kid get good grades in school / make a kid not have sex until the authority figures in her/his life preferred, or whatever other arenas in which shame is currently used most. I would SO much rather have a fat c-minus-getting kid with a sex life that made me uneasy, than a shamed kid who met my standards. I mean, the thought of a world where shaming actually *worked* really frightens me.

    Of course, if you’re a mom and your kid becomes or is “one of those kids” – whether by virtue of behavior within their control or by factors outside of their control – then you risk being shamed for being a BAD MOMMY. But what adults are able to do (hopefully, with help from communities like these) is to say, “Your being shocked – shocked! – and saddened – saddened! – at my inability to meet your standards is really not my fucking problem. Nor, frankly, are your standards either original or interesting. So I’m moving on to something more worth my attention.” Kids can learn this too but from my limited experience the best way for a kid to learn how is to be mentored by an adult who knows how already.

  103. (I’m not kidding, they did science to that food so it was very dense in calories.)

    Hahaha, GH, that’s beautiful! I think this is my new favorite phrase. “They did science to it.”

  104. No-idea-what-a-Twinkie-tastes-like solidarity! *air five*

    But seriously: the fact that my mom, dad, and relatives used to give me the ol’ ‘Are *you* really gonna eat that (second helping/piece of pie at Thanksgiving/etc.)?’ look remains one of the most notable obstacles to intuitive eating for me. Because I don’t have much of a rebellious streak, as such, but it can still be so hard to be looking at a menu (less so the fridge, because when I grocery shop I tend to hanker after produce and fish) and think around the oh-the-hell-yes-I-*am*-going-to-eat-that programmed response to get at what I *really* want. (Kate has said the same thing before, and waaay better).

    By way of random trivia, I find that my other major obstacle to intuitive eating is getting dehydrated and then eating like a vampire. Occasionally I’ll catch myself sucking down food for the moisture. ;o9 And that’s when I know that I need to do the dishes. So I can get to the faucet. So I can get a glass of water.

    Stat.

    (Baby steps. Baby steps).

  105. I’m not sure this is kosher – and if it’s not, Kate, Sweet Machine and Fillyjonk, PLEASE kick my ass and make me apologize, but…

    I lost my psychiatric social worker job in December, with only 3 job interviews out of 1200 resumes. And we’re terrified because we only have $70 to last until the 15th, and we have to feed our kids with less than half of it. The financial aid office just turned me down for an already-approved loan because it overshoots my educational budget – which, since I live off campus, allows no money for room and board. Or medication for my disability.

    I’m terrific counselor (not a therapist yet, but I’m working on attaching the appropriate letters to my name). If anyone would like help with getting rid of the shame forever from a psychiatric social worker with 16 years of experience, please consider hiring me for one on one counseling – my license allows me to do counseling but not in depth therapy. If I believe you need therapy, I’ll refer you without hesitation. References available, email or chat or phone calls or all 3 can be used. My email is : maryheil@sent.com.

  106. Fillyjonk, the sugary things are Lik-M-Aid, I believe, although I think they have a different name now. A friend and I got some of those a couple of years ago in a wave of nostalgia. When we tried them, we quickly realized we were no longer the all-sugar-all-the-time children we once were.

  107. This is the same school that never informed me that my 7 year old rail thin son wasn’t eating his lunch. Ever. Because he stopped liking PBJ sandwiches, the only thing he had liked at all and therefore stopped eating anything, although he went through the line and paid for lunches he never ate. And I don’t mean for a week or two, I mean for well over a year. Did the adults even notice? Or did they think it was a “healthy choice”? I don’t know. In the end Katie told me because she was worried.

    Mary H, I’m told by family members I must have been a ‘picky eater’ at school because my mother was one at home. What I remember is refusing to eat anything but the tiniest amounts of what to me were ‘icky’ lunches for approximately the first three years of school. And constantly being badgered about it by staff and monitors. Odd thing is, in all that time nobody seems to have told my mother – or at least, not told it to her to the extent that ‘your daughter is barely eating any lunch’ was actually a major concern to her. When somebody finally got it through to her that maybe sending me in with a packed lunch might be a good idea, I turned from a very thin kid to a chubby one more or less overnight. Not sure which is the more disturbing possibility between the school not being bothered and her not being bothered (heck, if I was thin like her I must be eating ‘enough’, right?).

    And Meowser, damaging as this is:
    Nobody ever told me I was pretty, because they didn’t want to lie to me.
    …there is something worse: being told that anyone who does say you’re pretty is lying to you. This won’t turn your geeky, bookish teen into a thin, pretty looks-obsessed teen like you want. But it may give your geeky teen some very long-lasting problems with confidence, self-worth and trust.

  108. the doctor showed me that Katie is in the 96th percentile for weight and only the 93rd for height

    MaryH, I’ve heard stuff like this before from doctors and I find it astounding. You’re that worried about a 3% percentile mismatch? Seriously?

  109. What we really need to do is admit that this entire planet is screwed up.

    Advertisers pushing products on us cause all sorts of unintended consequences. Unfortunately, those same advertisers often do not give a rat’s behind about the collateral damage they leave behind.

  110. I think Twinkies are largely suited to the tastes of children. I remember loving them when I was a kid. My son begged me for some one day after another kid at school had them, and so I got him a pack. He liked it okay, although wasn’t wildly into them, and I finished the one he didn’t finish, and I thought it was gross and flavorless.

    Do YOU know how to survive if you’re caught on top of a mountain in a blizzard and your wife’s about the give birth to your third baby?
    No you don’t, and neither do I, but I read about someone who did once when I was seven, so of the two of us WHO IS BETTER PREPARED? That’s right.

    Reader’s Digest scarred me for life, I think. I was a strange and precocious child, and I used to read anything I could get my hands on, and when we were at my grandparents’ house, they would always have a bunch of Reader’s Digests around. I’d be bored, so I’d just read them straight through, at like 7 and 8 and 9 years old. I read articles about flash floods and Chernobyl and strange illnesses, and it was like worse than watching horror movies. I used to have a little prayer I would say before bed as a child, a litany of all the bad things I didn’t want to happen, which went from nuclear war to a meteor crashing into earth to killer bees and hit a whole bunch of stuff in between, most of which I’m pretty sure I picked up at one point or another from Reader’s Digest.

  111. The sugar packets with a candy dipper were also huge. I also do not know what those were called.

    I think those were Fun Dip. My sister used to eat those all the time. I’ve never been big on really, really sugar things, but she would eat gummies and Pixi Stix and Fun Dip in astonishing quantities.

    They now sell these enormous Pixi Stix type things: they are seriously like two feet high, probably 1/2″ in diameter, and filled with sugar. I am NOT somebody who is very restrictive at all about what my son eats, but I honestly cannot fathom why any parent in their right mind would buy such a thing for their child, unless they get warm feelings inside when their child bounces off the walls, turns the couches into trampolines, and basically acts like a feral animal.

  112. When we tried them, we quickly realized we were no longer the all-sugar-all-the-time children we once were.

    You might still like Twang, though.

    (And yes, Fun Dip was the name under which I knew the stuff. I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten it. Pixie Stix, on the other hand…)

  113. But what adults are able to do (hopefully, with help from communities like these) is to say, “Your being shocked – shocked! – and saddened – saddened! – at my inability to meet your standards is really not my fucking problem. Nor, frankly, are your standards either original or interesting. So I’m moving on to something more worth my attention.”

    ASarah, I think this is one of the more brilliant replies to shame trolls EVER.

    Here is your shiny award. You deserve it. You rock.

  114. Oh, also? I love Lunchables. I eat them when I don’t have time to whip up my own cheese and crackers meals.

    There’s nothing wrong with Lunchables.

  115. I used to love Reader’s Digest before it became Scared of Fat People Digest.

    And Lori, ditto on Twinkies. Loved them as a kid, can’t stand to look at or eat them now. But Twinkies are one of the token foods haters list when mocking fat people, along with donuts, cheeseburgers, and Doritos.

    The Diet Fail, whoops uh, I mean Daily Mail, must have a rule that says they have to do at least three fat-shaming stories per week, and one must be about shaming children. No shame, no journalism career. (Though if you call this crap journalism, I have treasures in Al Capone’s vault I’d love to sell you).

    Last night, a local news channel was doing yet another FAT KILLZ!!! story about how obesity is causing higher cholesterol levels and featured a man, who despite losing 40 lbs, still had bad cholesterol. I told my grandfather how contradictory that was, how fat is blamed for every ailment these days, and that the fat folks in our family are pretty healthy. He told me we just have the fat gene, and there has only been three people he knows of who were blood relatives and thin. And most of our family members rarely eat fast food or eat out and have pretty well-rounded diets. Maybe they’re eating too much of the good stuff. It is all about calories in/calories out, right? *evilgrin*

  116. There’s nothing wrong with Lunchables

    Uh, yes there is – they don’t make a version for vegetarians. ;)

  117. Lik-um-Aid Fun Dip is the full name, according to the Wonka website… I actually just brought some of that and some pop rocks back from the US for my husband’s niece and nephew (they’re 7 and 10, and right in that ‘sugar that colors my mouth blue or purple? lead me to it!” phase). Pixie Stix were always one of my favorite candies, personally, all the way through college. By the way, FJ: the powder in Fun Dip is the powder in Pixie Stix. Seriously. The smell of the grape and blue powders when the kids were eating them put me RIGHT on memory lane. My sister-in-law and her husband fondly remembered the pop rocks from their childhood, when they apparently were actually available in Germany.

    I loved Handi-Snax, too. I think for the same reason I liked lunchables, when we could have them. small, contained in little compartments and you could combine them yourself however you wanted.

  118. I have to laugh. Oh, cheezus.

    I was in kindergarten and elementary school in the 1960s, and back then the high-status lunch foods were all of them things that today are despised as ‘junk foods’ — soft white bread, prepackaged extra thin-sliced lunch meats, presliced American cheese, deviled ham and Hostess baked goods. My parents were both counter-culture and health nuts so my lunches were more in line with what’s considered high-status now, and I suffered ridicule because of it. My mother was more than once called in for consultations because of my lunches, too, because they were weird and too foreign (like donburi) and surely unhealthy for a growing American child. And where was the milk? Never mind I was, and am, lactose-intolerant.

    In my more paranoid moments, I think our culture promotes humiliation and shame as means of social control because it makes us more vulnerable to other forms of manipulation and thus more likely to spend money on crap we don’t need.

  119. I just have to wonder how much those ‘shame the fat kids’ articles contribute to a sort of eugenics – how many fat women choose not to have kids because of the probability of their children being fat? I’m a fat woman with an average-sized husband. We have two daughters: one is overweight, and one is obese ( this is starting to sound like one of those number problems, or an unusual riddle) by the BMI scale. I love both my daughters dearly, and I am VERY glad I had them both before this whole fat -kid panic hit the headlines. If I were ten years younger, and starting to think about having kids now, I would have to say… maybe not. Because bringing kids into a world which has become so focused on the wrongness of fat kids, where kids are told to ‘stay away from the obesity’ with slovenly-Barbie posters, where fatness is this huge, freaking, other-making stigma…

    Who would want to make babies with a big genetic chance of being fat when the only world waiting for them is waiting to shame them and put them on a diet?
    I love my girls – I just wish they had a more understanding world to grow up in.

  120. It was quite heartbreaking enough to have my mother chide me about “getting too plump” in the privacy of our own home (though she didn’t refrain from mentioning it in front of my thin siblings). That kind of “encouragement” can often come from a well-intended place, but intent doesn’t seem to matter so much when all you can think is “OMG, my mother doesn’t love me the way I am.”

    I can remember every time my mom made the littlest of hints with vivid, brutal clarity and even now it stings.

  121. I honestly cannot fathom why any parent in their right mind would buy such a thing for their child, unless they get warm feelings inside when their child bounces off the walls, turns the couches into trampolines, and basically acts like a feral animal.

    Many kids don’t go crazy on sugar, unless they’re trying to live up to the suggestion that kids go crazy on sugar. (And some do, but it’s not a rule.) I never did.

    Oh man, I loved pixie stiks and FunDip and PopRocks (!) and all of that stuff, and I don’t think I could handle the sweetness now. I also preferred hot cocoa mix straight from the packet to in a cup (though i liked it there, too). And I didn’t even consider myself as having nearly as much of a sweet tooth as some kids! For instance, I never liked Twinkies. And I did eat them.

    OMG Drake’s!! Those were our standard lunch snacks – devil dogs, coffee cakes, occasionally ring dings or those cupcakes but they were too sweet for me. So delicious!!

  122. Oh, milk! I used to get chastised by lunch staff for not taking milk and wanting the teeny tiny juice I was allowed to substitute instead. It was some ridiculous policing. I was made to feel shame just for disliking milk.

  123. I just have to wonder how much those ’shame the fat kids’ articles contribute to a sort of eugenics – how many fat women choose not to have kids because of the probability of their children being fat?

    And then add to that that fat women are blamed for any health problems they will have in pregnancy and any problems their babies might have, and that we just see story after story scaring fat women into thinking their bodies would be a danger to any child they become pregnant with, and I do think we are seeing an attempt to discourage fat women from having children.

    I got pregnant about six years ago, and I just do NOT remember their being the hysteria around obesity and pregnancy that there is now. I mean, it was certainly there to some extent, but it’s really taken off in the time since, to the point where I was afraid for a while to have another child, thinking that I would not be able to find decent medical care.

  124. Y’know, my eldest boy is following in his parent’s stocky footsteps – not fat, just stocky. Big all ’round. ( I started getting fat when I started dieting.)

    I think that me finding FA has helped us all. My eldest eats too quickly and can make himself sick: before, this really was an “OMG don’t get fat” issue for me (although I never framed it that way for him, because already I was feeling that shame didn’t work) but for the past 2 years has been simply a matter of treating self and body right. As soon as I stopped being freaked, it became easier to talk to him.

    We have a very nutritious diet at home: always did. But NOT wincing, even internally, when setting boundaries, getting exercise, making healthy choices, means that the kid is invited *inside* the conversation. When fat is seen as an indictment of unhealth, then there’s no pride, no success, no win. Makes all the difference.

    Also, I’m sick of these “french people weren’t fat until fast food” rabbiting assholes. We’re stocky, we’re french. Yeah, dieting takes us from stocky to fat, since we gain really quickly – my smart sister never dieted, and she’s the only one that’s stayed “slim-for-us”.

    Maybe the “French” weren’t fat because they avoided Jenny freaking Craig, and it’s not fast food, but no food, that’s the problem. French paradox, my patoot.

  125. The whole “French women don’t get fat” is a pile of bollocks anyway. As I remember reading somewhere around the time of that ridiculous book, it’s true to say that young, media-oriented, fashion-concious French women don’t get fat — much like, say, their American counterparts. But anyone who’s ever been to France can tell you there are fat women everywhere, especially older women and especially in rural areas. It’s a class thing there too.

  126. Oh, I love this thread. I do.

    I adore Reader’s Digest because, like Lori, I would read it at my Grandparents’ house. All the cool stuff they had and the dusty smell of all their books, plus the wonderful smells of cooking (almost always it was for the family holidays and my family are good cooks). Reader’s Digest and the old Perry Mason books, the ones with all the characters in the front listed in order of appearance with a line of description… Wonderful memories. I also remember that food wasn’t restricted at all, except that you could never take the last of anything without asking if anyone else wanted some. This meant I never got to eat *all* the whipped cream, which I would have happily. My brother also always got his very own pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving during his teen years. So we never had the food shaming from others, but I certainly saw all the adults doing diet talk all the time; and worrying over whether they should have a second serving.

    And it’s absolutely crazy for a doctor to worry about a three percent difference. Close enough in biology folks, it’s not nuclear chemistry where you can actually discover something interesting by figuring out where each eensy bit of mass goes. Glad you’re going to a more sensible doc, glad you’ve found one!

  127. Speaking of institutionalized shame, fat-hating, classism, orthorexia and assholishness…I have a letter brewing in my head.

    Dear General Mills,

    Please stop with your “LOSE WEIGHT & HELP FEED AMERICA” campaign, sponsored by “The Biggest Loser” TV show…on CHEERIOS.

    Which is it? Eat more or eat less? Eat less if you’re rich and more if you’re not? If you “need” to lose weight, should you be imagining how much food you are taking out of the mouths of the poor everytime you stuff your face with another…what…Cheerio?

    Shove it up your ass, General Mills, and just make the goddamned cereal. My 20-month-old doesn’t need to see this bullshit every morning for the first years of her life.

  128. Everyone has said it all, including the scream of frustrated rage I let out (scaring my MIL) after reading the first couple of paragraphs.

    So let me just say that food issues aside (yeah, right) I’m also worried that my children will be interested in playing with ‘space hoppers’ (or retrorockets for that matter) at too young an age . . . talk about blatant advertising!

  129. This line cracked me up: “Hell, I was probably the most socially and culturally backward kid this side of neurotypical…”

    Semi-related story:

    My 6th-grade son came home with a chart from health class where he is supposed to fill out everything he eats every day and how much he exercises. (I want to add the points on there, but I’m afraid they wouldn’t get the sarcasm)

    He is NOT neurotypical, and eats only about a ten foods, almost all of which are processed (except fruit, which he;s pretty good about, thankfully). To him, the most important requirement vis-a-vis food is that it tastes, smells, and feels EXACTLY the same EVERY time.

    At least it makes filling out the chart reeeealll easy.

    I’m expecting the panicked call from the health teacher any day now.

  130. Somewhere, the idea of anyone knowing how much I eat became really terrifying to me. So while I can eat in public in a cafeteria or something, when I had a roommate in university, I tended to smuggle food around and try desperately to hide it from her because she might think I was a horrible fattie or something.

    At least at university I didn’t hide food anywhere stupid enough to forget about it and have it go bad. That was childhood. I also hid in the bathroom to eat as a kid.

    To this day, I still get nervous if I’m in the kitchen getting food and my husband comes in. I immediately tense up and try to hide what I’m doing.

  131. I meant to mention that Lunchables as lower class cheap food baffles me, they’re way more expensive than the free and reduced price lunches the school promotes around here; plus they take more effort.

    I get the whole calories per monetary unit thing, did that myself as a poor student (ate lots of oatmeal and Snickers is actually a pretty good choice too); but free school lunches are about as cheap per calorie as it gets, and we nearly qualify ourselves, so it’s not like there can be a large class of people who don’t qualify but can’t afford sandwiches and crackers; because I know I can afford such and we’re so close.

    My biggest flaw as a Mom and eating is insisting that the kids eat breakfast. Neither of my elder ones particularly want to eat naturally until about ten in the morning, and of course they can’t just stop the schools and have lunch/breakfast then. So I do insist they have calories before they head off (eldest got whole milk with vanilla and sugar today–all he’d eat). So I go off on little rants about how they need calories to think and function and THEY MUST EAT. Gah, then I worry I’m screwing up their internal monitors. And I do it on weekends too, hoping that their food schedules will adapt. Fighting nature is very discouraging; but they do need food before they can get it at school.

  132. If I were ten years younger, and starting to think about having kids now, I would have to say… maybe not. Because bringing kids into a world which has become so focused on the wrongness of fat kids, where kids are told to ’stay away from the obesity’ with slovenly-Barbie posters, where fatness is this huge, freaking, other-making stigma…

    Who would want to make babies with a big genetic chance of being fat when the only world waiting for them is waiting to shame them and put them on a diet?

    Yep, this is actually a BIG part of why I’m seriously considering NOT having any kids, ever.

  133. My apologies if this winds up as a double post…

    If I were ten years younger, and starting to think about having kids now, I would have to say… maybe not. Because bringing kids into a world which has become so focused on the wrongness of fat kids, where kids are told to ’stay away from the obesity’ with slovenly-Barbie posters, where fatness is this huge, freaking, other-making stigma…

    Who would want to make babies with a big genetic chance of being fat when the only world waiting for them is waiting to shame them and put them on a diet?

    This is a BIG part of why I’m seriously considering not having kids ever.

  134. The sugar packets with a candy dipper were also huge. I also do not know what those were called.

    Lik-M-Aid! My health-nut mother would never let me have sugary treats at home (although it was always very clearly a health thing and never, ever a body-shaming thing, fortunately), but my dad would buy me forbidden treats at the gas station on the way home from school. I remember those, and the ice creams that looked like Mickey Mouse’s head.

    The only time I ever got criticized for my food choices in school is when I was about ten and I came back from the salad bar with salad bar with only vegetables. Having not been brought up with processed meat and cheese, I thought the texture was gross, but a teacher was worried that I wasn’t getting enough protein to get through the day and made me put ham and cheese on it. Her interference annoyed me at the time, but looking over these posts, I feel grateful–at least she really was worried about health, not health as a code word for weight.

  135. Eh. I’m fat. My dh is fat. We have kids. My dd is already looking like she might take after me.

    Maybe I’m an eternal optimist but come on. Non-existence is better than being fat in the US? Nah.

    Sometimes I read this blog and feel like I’m in an alternate universe. Having kids is not some horrible thing. I like being a mom. I enjoy raising my kids. My conversations with my friends are enjoyable, not annoying, LOL! (hell, if they were annoying, they wouldn’t be my friends – I’m too old to put up with THAT shit anymore).

    If someone doesn’t want kids they certainly shouldn’t have them. But don’t let the shitheads in the world (and there have always been shitheads and always will be shitheads) stop you from having kids just because you’re (gasp) fat.

  136. Food/body shaming from the parents…sigh.

    I didn’t become fat until I was in six grade…mother nature decided that my 11 year old body need some serious curvature. Puberty was an extremely unhappy time for me.

    In my case, I got body/food shame from my parents and my grandmother. The summer after sixth grade, my brother and I spent the summer in VA with my grandmother. She constantly commented and harped on my about how fat I was, and got mad at me because I preferred to sit inside and read instead of running around outside. It got so bad that I started secretly drinking her Slim Fast shakes (which tasted gross, by the way) as a desprate attempt to lose a few pounds.

    My mother constantly commented on the size of my portions, saying things like “you don’t really need to eat all of that, do you?” and “Oh, should save the rest of that for later.” To this day, I’m still extemely paranoid when I eat around other people; I’m afraid they’re judging me based on the size of my portions. I even go as far as to deny myself food because I’m so worried about what people will say.

    Everytime I said I wasn’t hungry, my dad would accuse me of having an eating disorder.

    My mom would tell me she was glad I was fat because being fat meant boys would’nt talk to me. But in the same breath, she’d turn around and say that boys use fat girls for sex because they know they’re desperate for attention, and since they’re so desperate they’ll put out.

    Yeah…I had lots of crazy, mixed messages growing up. It wasn’t enough that I would get beat up about my fat at school, I also got it at home.

  137. I don’t think anyone said having kids was a horrible thing. And it’s good you have a support network, but not everyone does – that doesn’t mean they didn’t want kids.

  138. ARGH! This is exactly the sort of shame inducing tactic my mother used, not just towards my weight and appearance, but about everything. When I screwed up on a math test, I wasn’t just not good at math, I was stupid, unmotivated, lazy, and I couldn’t afford to be any of those things because I was fat and not that pretty so I was never going to be an actress or model or anything (forget that, you know, acting and modeling actually does take a heck of a lot of work) so I had to turn my lazy self around and “knock it the hell off”. All this was told to me over every screw up and in a piercing roar coming from the tops of my mothers sternly shouting lungs. Not to mention, all of this worthlessness about me was totally never going to make me any friends or get me a boyfriend (yes, she would say that too).

    But you know, the shaming totally made me not be a procrastinator, totally didn’t at all scare me even more about doing anything for fear of screwing it up, and it totally made me the size 2 my mother always wished I could be that she couldn’t (vicarious living anyone? P.S. that was sarcasm, I doubt I would’ve been able to get a size 2 pant leg up past my calves even when I was ten). Not to mention even when she wasn’t around, after a while I started to internalize her tactic of shaming and use it on myself whenever I was the least bit worried or broken up about something. Oh yeah, the shaming? It’s t0tz made us supar close too. Happy Endings! (sarcasm)

  139. You know, I understand the worry about having fat kids, but my kids have something I didn’t – science showing them it’s culture’s problem, not theirs, and a mom who’s working on not hating herself on the culture’s dime. I mean, I read “Fat is a Feminist Issue” when I was 15 or so, and the take home message for me, who wanted to fit a size 6, was that fat wasn’t physical but psychological. And that was a rack I stretched myself on.

    I really think that it’s sad, but I do understand why we want our kids to be without these struggles against oppression. At different times, this has meant not being girls, or darker skinned, or deaf, or Downs, and now it means fat, even for roly poly little infants who once were considered the picture of health.

    But I really do think the way we as parents feel about ourselves makes a world of difference. And the proud fat parent helps solidify the confidence of tomorrow’s fat activists.

    I think how far gay folks have come in my community – when I was a kid, I remember a progressive friend of our family’s hoping that her son wasn’t gay (he is) because of the stigma attached. And it certainly isn’t a battle fully won; but now her son is married, and happy, and proud, and I don’t think he’d pick ‘straight’ if he could be magically made straight. He’s got community and loved ones and acceptance and a career, and he’s got challenges but they’re not the same as those who were living their lives 50 years ago, or 100.

    We CAN do the same with fat. We WILL.

    There’s no other choice – as the discrimination via health care ramps up, we have to be loud and we have to be proud, and maybe someday our fat kids won’t want be magically made thin. There’s hope for us all.

  140. ( Which is not to say that anyone who would prefer not to have kids should have them! It’s just that there’s a hope for fat kids… )

  141. There’s nothing wrong with Lunchables

    Uh, yes there is – they don’t make a version for vegetarians. ;)

    OK. I’ll give you that one. Let’s write them some letters and demand Veggie versions! :)

  142. Dear Shannon,

    You sound WAY more relaxed about the fat-gene issues than I am – good for you. I worry so much about what’s out there now – I want my girls to be appreciated for who they are, to love themselves as they are, but there’s a whole lot of propaganda put there telling them they’re not okay.

    As for non-existence vs. being fat in the U.S. – there was a poll done in the early 90’s (stop me if this is actually an urban legend – because it seems too heartbreaking to be true) asking women which genetic conditions would cause them to choose to abort their fetus. Eleven percent said that they would abort a fetus if it had a genetic predisposition towards obesity.

    And – I was thinking about this in the shower – if you hate a particular group of people, and wish for their kind not to prosper – what better way would you have than to make them hate themselves to the point of not having kids?

  143. Arwen,

    Actually, I secretly hope that all those dismal prognostications about everyone being fat in the future come true – because then ALL the kids in the schoolyard will be fat, and there will be nobody left to pick on them.

    And I have always tried to model HAES for my kids – they’ve NEVER heard me moan about being fat, and I am the first to jump in the pool when we go swimming. In some ways, I am a good model for them, in others… it took me some time to realize that I didn’t have to shove my eleven-year-old into the 16-plus size at Gap Kids ( that’s plus for a sixteen-year-old) when she could fit quite nicely into the smaller sizes at an adult jean shop. She had been thinking of herself as irredeemably fat, when she was simply past kid-sized clothes. So it takes some creative thinking, and the realization that the cookie-cutter isn’t going to fit my kids – and I shouldn’t worry so much about it.

  144. I was raised on the “if only” method of shaming:

    You know, “you’d be so pretty if only….”
    I’d lose weight
    sit up straight
    stop breathing through my mouth (never mind that my nose doesn’t give me enough oxygen and I feel like I am suffocating)
    I’d dress nicer
    hold my head up so my weak chin wouldn’t show so much
    etc.

    My mom meant well, I’m sure, and we have a good relationship, but she doesn’t understand how much that hurt. I got fatter (man, I look back at early pics of me and I so was NOT fat back then, but everyone made me feel like I was a cow! so I dieted, and tried, and just got fatter).

    In college I flirted with an eating disorder (was hating myself, comparing myself to every pretty girl I saw, starving myself until I felt faint, and using my nails to scratch my neck clean because I hated my body, and ate two diet shakes a day plus a salad and that’s it for an 18 yr old).

    Luckily, my mom was fixing us our diet shakes one morning to take with us for lunch and she made a mistake. She put curry in the vanilla shake instead of nutmeg. I get to school and stop to eat lunch after one class. I pull out my almost room-temperature diet shake and get –Curry! I almost choked to death. I tossed it and announced to my mom that I would never do it again. I sort of woke up and said I was being stupid.

    It wasn’t the end of dieting but it was the end of a diet fixation which could have killed me–at least when I dieted after that I was actually eating something. The end of diets and such took a lot longer.

    Hating myself has taken longer to get rid of, but SP has helped a lot.

    I’m pretty now (whatever my weight)! My husband agrees! (yeah!)

    No more “if only” for me. Don’t do it to yourself either!

  145. Don’t even THINK about forgoing the joy of having kids because they will face ignorance and prejudice for their size. Hatred and isms have always and will always exist. It’s possible to find fat friendly midwives and OBs – often they’re in collusion. In Chicago my OB (I had to upgrade due to the twin pregnancy) signed off for the midwives – I just asked them for a recommendation and they couldn’t say enough nice things about her.

    Dr Bihcalo is Central American and doesn’t sweat the small stuff. She didn’t consider my 275 lb starting point or the twin pregnancy “high risk”, encouraged me to breastfeed and repeatedly noted that I was the healthiest twin mom on board at the time. Indeed, her only concern was that I might be tempted to diet, but when I snorted she laughed. The one time I had preterm contractions, she said that dehydration is usually the cause, sympathized at the difficulty of drinking enough for three and prescribed two gallons of water a day. And it worked.

    I had my twins vaginally 36 hours after induction for pre-eclampsia – most OBs would have done a C section within 12 hours. 36 is unheard of. I still steer all of my Chicago friends to her. :)

  146. actually, I still don’t know what the fuck was meant to be happening to us at our Confirmations. We were ELEVEN. Jesus.

    Jeez, eleven is young. I was brought up Catholic, and our confirmations were at age 14, which I think is more sensible, since I decided to opt out of mine. (Thanks disappointed, but supportive parents.)

    if you don’t believe in sending your kid to school with a treat, you are in for a nasty surprise. Food-restricted kids will find a way to get treats, and then they’ll probably end up eating nothing else for lunch.

    Yeah. My mom was a hippie sort of mom who was doing her best not to warp me, and tried to be really non-shaming, which means that I remember two instances very strongly. The first has to do with junk food. It was definitely a forbidden fruit in our house. All I wanted was fruit roll-ups, and what I got was fruit leather. So I had a friend at school who coveted the fruit leather (probably, from an adult perspective because it was more expensive? I’ve had friends tell me that fruit leather was a treat at their house) and would trade me a “fun-size” candy bar. When my mom found this out she flipped out and said “She’d better stop trading with you, you’re getting big!”

    The other instance stands out much more strongly. I had leukemia when I was ten and was on chemotherapy until I was 13, for those unfamiliar, chemo kills virtually all fast growing cells, so my growth and development were held up about three years. (I was still growing taller at the standard age start of college, for example.) As soon as I came off chemotherapy, my development shot through the roof. I went from a less than A to a full D-cup in six months. I also gained quite a bit of weight, which settled into a size ten (which I thought was heifer) for most of high school. (I gained quite a bit more in college, but that’s not important to this story.)

    The month after I stopped my mom was concerned about the amount of weight I was gaining. (In total fairness, there were medical reasons for her to be concerned, which I understand now.) So I weighed myself of my own accord and said, “Don’t worry mom, I’ve only gained seven pounds.”

    My mom said, “That is a HUGE amount to gain in a month!!”

    It hurt a lot.

    My mother died about a year and a half ago of cancer (believe me, it still fucks me up, she was one of my best friends and greatest allies). After she had a double mastectomy her mother said, “It’s amazing, you’ve never looked thinner, what a silver lining!”

    No irony, people.

  147. I was reacting to the posts that talked of not wanting kids because they might be fat and have to deal with the shit fat kids get. How about the shit nerds get? Or goth kids? Or gay kids? Or anyone who doesn’t conform in the right way? Should no one have kids unless they are like everyone else?

    (Ok, I also might be a bit annoyed at the description of how boring we moms are because all we do is try to one-up each other on how awful our kids are. I’m still not sure if that was a joke but if my life was like that, yeah, it would suck.)

    I just really feel like it’s buying into the fat hatred to not want kids because they may be fat. If someone doesn’t want kids then of course, don’t have kids, but if you want them and the only reason you don’t have them is because they might be fat, then that’s just fucked up. The fat haters win. Game over.

    How about have kids and show them that you can be fat and HAPPY. Be fat and go swimming with them, be fat and take them to museums, be fat and teach them how to bake cookies, be fat and take them to the mall to buy something you look beautiful in. Be fat and love yourself and love them and show them that fat is just another variety of body and not a life sentence of dieting and self-hatred.

    There are far, far, FAR worse things that could happen to my daughter than growing up fat. That’s not even me saying that just because I’m into FA now. I wasn’t into FA when my fat husband and I conceived the kid.

    “And – I was thinking about this in the shower – if you hate a particular group of people, and wish for their kind not to prosper – what better way would you have than to make them hate themselves to the point of not having kids?”

    That sums up better what I’m thinking.

  148. Hey, um, so I just was reading more carefully with fewer distractions, and I saw that a lot of smart people said very nice things to me here and while the attention makes me kind of embarrassed I wanted to say thanks mumble-mumble-trail-off-blush-look-at-the-floor.

    No, seriously, y’all, this place is where I come to remember I’m neither crazy nor alone. My real-life routine encounters would suggest that very few people see things this way or could ever see things this way. But then there’s this whole community here on the infernet where we all get it. (HA! “Infernet”… unintentional misspelling but I think I’ll leave it.) FJ, I loved this post, and the rest of y’all are like a bazillion million… um, whatever the “activity points” versions of Sanity Watchers is. (In the sense that you counteract all the crazy crap out there, not in the sense that coming here is atonement for being bad/indulgent. Though there’s an idea: atonement for asshats by means of forced Shapely Prose reading. Hmm.)

  149. Lunchables are great for kids who have the heebie jeebies about “food touching different foods,” too. Not an issue I have ever had (I am one who stirs my veggies into my potatos and gravy) but my daughter seems really squicked by different types of food touching each other. I think that’s why she likes the lunchables, it comes cryo-sealed so she knows mom hasn’t had a chance to mess things up.

    They go on sale at my grocery store for $1.99 every couple of weeks, and I stock up. For that we get a drink, a candy bar (that I steal because it’s too hard for her to crunch), 18 grams of protein, and some crackers. Really not bad especially considering she cleans every crumb as opposed to letting half of it go to waste like she does with a lot of things.

  150. You know … I just reread the article, and damn — our environment is saturated with toxic media messages aimed at children (adults, too) and what’s recommended …?

    Modifying the individual eating behavior through humilation and shame.

    Never mind if could work or not — it’s an attempt to address a systemic sociocultural problem through attempts at modification of one aspect of individual behavior. It’s like insisting we’d have world peace if only moms would knuckle down and nag their kids to keep their rooms tidy.

    And I’m supposed to think this is rational?!

  151. Shannon: Ok, I also might be a bit annoyed at the description of how boring we moms are because all we do is try to one-up each other on how awful our kids are. I’m still not sure if that was a joke but if my life was like that, yeah, it would suck.

    Do you mean my rant? It’s not a joke, exactly, but it’s also not quite intended as a depiction of moms trying to one-up each other. It’s more like…. this shared sense that falling short of the ideal so *thoroughly* situates our lives that it’s all we can find to bond with each other about and talk about. For both bodies/eating and children/mothering, and in really quite similar ways, I think. But I did mean to stipulate this as white middle-class motherhood, such that I’ve observed. And I’ve not observed all white middle-class mothers, obvs!

  152. I *love* how the sidebar for the NY Times article has a “Health and Fitness Tools” section whose sole items are “BMI Calculator: What’s your score?” and “Calorie Calculator for Goal Weight: What’s Your Limit?” There is just no escape from this stuff…

  153. A Sarah, I’m obviously in the minority here, I just didn’t find it funny. Actually, I think moms get a lot of shit piled on us. A LOT of shit. From everyone – doctors, the general public (who don’t like kids acting like kids), our relatives. Anything that goes wrong with our kids, it’s because of us. Anything that goes right, it’s despite our influence. If we don’t worry enough, we’re neglectful. If we worry too much, we’re what you described. So yeah, I didn’t find it funny, any more than I’d find a “this is what fat people sound like when they talk” joke funny.

    And I don’t think you meant it that way and I realize I’m the only one here who feels like this. I don’t know. Whenever the subject of kids comes up on this blog (this blog I otherwise love) I find myself alternating between cringing or getting pissed off at a lot of the comments. I should really learn to just not read the comments when it’s an article about children and how we should and should not raise them.

    Sorry.

  154. Boy, I just love everyone’s rants, and yeah to the nth that a lot of criticism about “processed food” is covert antifeminism (and classism).

  155. “Right, and the “packaged food is more expensive” argument completely ignores the time factor. Cooking for multiple people, in addition to requiring some cooking skills, also requires a good deal of time management. Because what working class parents have a ton of is free time, am I right?”

    And there’s another factor. Everyone I know who does feed their kids mostly processed foods does it because they’re really really busy and short on time as well as money. Processed foods can be ready in seconds or minutes, cooking from scratch is time consuming, especially if you’re talking about the stuff that’s really cheap like dried beans. You could PROBABLY live cheaper on a mostly beans and rice type diet, supplemented with small quantities of cheaper meats, but that stuff takes a long time to cook, and a fair degree of cooking skill to make it taste good. And then the recommendation is always “make a stir fry”, but guess what, not everyone knows how to do that. And if you start looking at who does and who doesn’t, again, a distinct class pattern emerges.

    Another area where the impact of class on dietary choices gets overlooked – shift work. it’s mostly poorer people doing it, and it often leaves them in situations where not only is time scarce, their schedule may not synch up well with either their kids schedules or places where they can actually buy non-processed foods.

    Sorry to ramble, but my inner socialist always wants to jump up and down screaming every time people start talking about people’s diets (and fat) and they leave class out of the conversation. Try finding fresh stir fry ingredients affordably in, say, inner city LA, then let’s have this discussion again, shall we?

  156. Wow. Whenever I see some press release like this I can’t help but wonder if someone’s going to pop out and say, “This article was brought to you by The Onion.” Absolutely disgusting.

  157. Oh, yeah. Yes, yes, yes.

    All the food shaming, and the sudden freakout when I started putting on weight in preparation to grow like a weed at eleven, and the fucked-up dieting. And never mind that I’m cold all the time, and my hair is dry as a desert, and I itch constantly, and I have no energy AND a mother diagnosed with a low thyroid at twelve…

    I think the other assortment of genes appears to have hit my kids; the one who is the bookish geek appears, as an adolescence, to have got my grandfather’s height and build, and HE only got a bit of a paunch when he lost a leg and couldn’t get around so much in his eighties. But he’s going to be tall and lean-ish. The other, well, he’s a kid, and he’s Always Moving. So I don’t worry so much.

    Everyone in the house suffers from food enthusiasms, so it’s never been unusual for us to make a huge batch of whatever and eat it for dinner for three nights running. I think it’s the non-neurotypicalism coming out. I can always freeze it if the enthusiasm vanishes, and we’ve always had a very gourmand’s take on food; what if you might have a new favorite food, whether it be hollandaise sauce or Twinkies or sauteed cabbage in bacon drippings, and you didn’t know? And you retry at intervals, because after all your tastebuds change as you grow, and no offense taken if you find out they haven’t, or decide some things just aren’t your thing. There’s not much processed sweet in the house, but I bake weekly and there’s always homemade stuff around. And they can get all the processed sweet they want at Grandma’s.

    We’ve got fructose problems, and so that does influence food choices. It’s fortunate, in a way, that the awful feeling comes on fairly quickly, because by nine my kids both will thank someone for the candy and save it for when they can eat it and sleep off the headache and unhappiness of high fructose corn syrup. It is also a house rule that if you did eat it you must not take the foul mood out on anyone else.

    It helps me that I’ve had several lovers who were passionately vocal about the charms of a larger woman, and that I converted to paganism where difference is just different, and no two people are alike. But it’s taken quite a while for me to learn to say, “Yes, I know, I could have ice cream, but I really don’t want it. “

  158. Unless, of course, you can’t afford to spend time in the kitchen because you have to work long hours to feed your child anything at all, in which case I will feign sympathy for your plight while secretly judging you for not keeping your goddamned legs together if you couldn’t afford to be a parent.

    Oh seriously, that’s the greatest response to this ever.

    is why I keep thinking about writing a cookbook of quick/simple recipes for TWO people, not four or six or eight.

    But what about for one? I am 27 and am cooking for myself alone. I don’t think I’m the only one in this situation.

    I once thanked my mom for making us so many home-cooked meals and ensuring we had very little processed food.

    Aw, yay for you thanking your mom!

    They totally spend recess leaning against the back of the gym and scarfing down snack cakes.

    Heh, that was sort of me. I would take a book out to read during recess and was pestered for not playing with the other kids. Which led to me… reading while half heartedly pushing at the swings.

    This is not really relevant to the thread, but my father is an emergency pediatric physician, and I always wonder how to best talk to him about fat and health.

    In the last year or so he’s lost 70 lbs (from 280 down to 210) and he is always fishing for compliments about his weight loss. The thing is, I see my dad as a yo yo dieter, while my dad seems himself as a compulsive eater getting his cravings under control.

    I’ve tried sending him links about the BMI project and so forth, but he doesn’t really seem receptive to the idea that a) BMI is not an indicator of health, b) that a person’s weight can’t tell you how healthy they are, and c) that even *if* it dud, there’s no way to keep that weight off for more than 5 years.

    Any advice on sources a doctor who loves his fatty daughter and doesn’t say word one about her weight should be exposed to?

  159. And I don’t think you meant it that way and I realize I’m the only one here who feels like this.

    Goodness I certainly didn’t mean to call you out for not finding it funny! (And I doubt you’re the only one.) I just wonder if we actually disagree on substance? I kind of hope not, because I think your remarks are dead-on, and if I sounded like I was either disagreeing with you or, worse yet, making a joke about “those stupid mothers and the silly ways they talk… God, stupid MOTHERS! ” then I deserve a serious talking-to. (And I also apologize, if that’s the case.)

    Fwiw, I totally agree with you that we get shit, shit and more shit hurled at us. We’re told we have to get every tiny thing right as dictated by Experts and/or by Nature and/or by Random Strangers, and even though that’s really incredibly unpleasant we’re supposed to be 100 percent blissed-out by it because if we aren’t then we must not really love our children.

    Part of what makes me so sad about that phenomenon, is… well, I mean, I’ve seen interesting woman after interesting woman become *consumed* with achieving the ideal of a mother, such that she gives up the interests and priorities that were uniquely hers, and opts for friendships based primarily on this kind of self-shaming perfection-seeking. That’s not to say that she’s broken or blinkered, but that this construct harms us all a lot. (I’ve done/said all of those things too. I’m totally a self-shaming middle-class white mother, and I’ve also dieted, like, quite a few times.)

    I do think that in my circles there is a lot of classism in the background — I think there’s classism in the background almost anytime middle-class people set out to detail Correct Eating and Correct Parenting — but I didn’t mean for my sendup of those conversations to lay the blame for mom-perfectionism solely at the feet of the mothers themselves. Sort of like I think it’s possible to mock what actually goes on at Weight Watchers meetings as pathological instruction in harmful self-talk, without being like “People in WW are SO STUPID! Let’s laugh at them!”

    And also, of course, I was interested in how similar the two are — self-shaming body talk and self-shaming mothering talk — and what that says about the arenas within which many women are told they must prove themselves.

    Sorry, I don’t mean to freak out and write pages of rebuttal… But, like, I have in the past been really righteously pissed-off at other people’s talking about moms like they’re stupid trivial control freak weirdos obsessing over minutiae, not like “us real adults over here.” So it’s disconcerting – but probably instructive, if I can keep my defensiveness in check – for me to discover that I came across as doing just that. I’m going to need to think about that some more.

    Anyway, thanks for making me uncomfortable and making me think. And selfishly, I hope you keep reading comments when the subject is kids. (I totally understand, though, avoiding subjects where one knows one’s crazy buttons will be pushed. I’m like that with breastfeeding/formula. Just cannot go there and stay mentally healthy.)

  160. I love how this has turned into a Lunchables discussion, hehe. Mom would not buy them except for SPECIAL occasions. (like long road trips, if I recall). She didn’t buy them because they were more expensive than making a sandwich for us every day, though.

  161. Re: Mary Sue, “Fuck that noise. They’re cookies. I can have cookies for dinner if I want. ”

    Ha. I had Girl Scout cookies for breakfast this morning – 3 of ‘em. It would have been 4, but the kid swiped the last one right. out. of. my. hand. on her way out to the bus stop. Of course, she wasn’t trying to prevent me from eating cookies so much as trying to prevent me from eating what she thought was the *last cookie.

  162. Oh, yeah, CassandraSays…whether cooking for yourself is actually cheaper or not absolutely depends on what you already have on hand. I remember back when I used to read the Cathy cartoon (another lifetime ago), there was a panel about how she wanted to impress a new boyfriend with her (nonexistent) cooking skills and frugality by making a meal at home, and she calculated to herself that (paraphrasing) “with the cost of the pots, pans, and spices, it comes out to about $200 a serving.”

    And Cathy was comfortably middle-class, and actually had a real kitchen to cook in. If you live in some dinky apartment or rented room with either no stove or one that’s always on the blinker and the landlords are taking their sweet time fixing or replacing it, and you have no exhaust fan and the smoke alarm goes off every time you so much as make toast, requiring the entire building to evacuate itself every time you get a hankering for a patty melt, and you can’t even run the microwave without tripping the circuit breaker, you pretty much avoid cooking. Boy, I’ve been there.

    And while you can get pots and pans and utensils cheap at yard sales, if you’re in a really urban area that’s all apartment buildings and no houses, where are you supposed to find a yard sale? You can also get spices cheap if you’re lucky enough to be near a store that has spices in the bulk bin and you can buy only what you need, but not everybody has access to that, and buying bottles of this and that and the other thing really adds up, especially if you figure those are ingredients you will only use a few times a year at most.

    And that’s not even going into whether you’re going to have the energy to shop and cook if you’ve been on your feet all day working and commuting (yes, a lot of people have to commute long distances standing up).

  163. Goodwill and other thrift places are good for pots and pans etc. in urban areas. I still remember going off and getting my first spoons in the local thrift shop; I still have one of those spoons, it’s a nice long icecream spoon.

    Oh, and there are books for people cooking for one or two. I used to have a couple, a long time ago. Librarians are useful for helping with things like that.

  164. A Sarah, no, thanks for writing all that. I appreciate what you wrote just there. For me, motherhood is definitely a feminist issue and I bristle at how often it’s put down, so I was probably over defensive.

    Let me touch on one thing you wrote though.

    “I’ve seen interesting woman after interesting woman become *consumed* with achieving the ideal of a mother, such that she gives up the interests and priorities that were uniquely hers, and opts for friendships based primarily on this kind of self-shaming perfection-seeking. ”

    I see people talk about that, how women become boring when they talk about their kids. I take issue with that.

    See, in college, I majored in Archaeology. A subject *I* find fascinating but, it turns out, many other people don’t. I also like vampires, which many people apparently think is stupid or juvenile. I like sci-fi and yeah, a lot of people mock that too. Basically, whether something is interesting or boring is definitely subjective.

    And yup, when I became a mom and my kids were young, I was one of those people who talked about things like birth, breastfeeding, diapers, etc. And yeah, I sought out other moms to talk to. So I was a bit annoyed to find so many people think that means I’m boring. Or brainless. Or anti-feminist.

    So I’m only interesting if I talk about what the other person is interested in. That’s called being a doormat and I’m not very good at that ;-)

    So yeah, with my mom friends, I do talk a lot about kids. And sometimes we talk about religion or gardening or education or feminism (Sunday is International Women’s Day and a group of us are going to a monologue on the suffrage movement – sans kids) and occasionally I talk about vampires and I’ve even talked about fat acceptance with my mom friends (though really, no one seems to be interested in that but me – maybe it’s boring? LOL!). But if you had seen me with a newborn, it would have been all diapers and nursing and birth and child development because that was my main focus at the time. Which, in my opinion, are all valid and interesting subjects. If you’re interested in them ;-)

    I’m rambling now, huh?

    ~ Oh, don’t get me started on Girl Scout cookies. My daughter is selling them for the first time this year and I can’t eat a single one. I found a recipe online for making gluten-free GS cookie knock offs but honestly, it just doesn’t seem worth the effort. I’ll stick with peanut butter cups instead of do-si-dos ;-)

  165. A Sarah, uh. I said I appreciated what you wrote and then I wrote another novel. Yeah. Sorry! I really didn’t mean to go off again, I was more just chatting. It *is* a subject I’ve thought about a lot (women being boring if they talk about their kids) so yeah, I was just rambling a bit on my thoughts.

    Ok, really going to bed now ;-)

  166. I’d like to say that I grew up in a home that accepted all body shapes and sizes at face value, because that is how it appeared on the surface. But like many other families, that wasn’t the case. All of the body-shaming in my house was subtle.

    My mother never brought ANYTHING junk-food into the house. If I brought something vaguely sugary home, my mother wouldn’t outright call me on it, but she’d give me the strangest “I’m disappointed” face. My father was worse. He liked to make jokes about fat people. Never directly at my expense, of course. But he’d tell a short anecdote at dinner, laughing at “some lard ass” he saw during the day. What always got me, was that he’d emphasize the enormity of the person, and then look at me as if to say, “Of course I’m not laughing at you, you aren’t that big, but if you ever got that way…”

    Both of my parents has body issues, but instead of working through them, they spend their time inflaming the problems of everyone else under the guise of concern. I love both of my parents, but I wish they would’ve realized the effect they had on my self esteem. I wish they would’ve reacted to the 20 lbs I lost in 6 weeks at age 11 with a reaction other than, “good job!” It’s something I’m just beginning to work through now.

  167. My mother started nagging me about my weight BEFORE I even got fat. I generally thought she was just being a b*tch who didn’t want me to enjoy life until I saw, really saw, the little sticks I went to school with. The weight aesthetic in this country is sicky thin for women. My sibling wore ridiculously small sizes in high school but I didn’t. Clothes and thin standards were even worse back then.

    I asked the DOCTOR what she would have me weigh, and it’s like 40 pounds more than my mother would have liked me to weigh. Of course, I’m a b*tchy old hag myself now…

  168. As for cooking for two (or one): I cut recipes in half all the time. Sometimes in quarters, if I’m only cooking for me. We also do things like make cookie dough and only bake a few cookies at a time in the toaster oven; the raw dough will keep for a few days.

    And when I do make more than that I try to pick recipes that we don’t mind eating as leftovers; some things keep a lot better than others. (Generally I find that if I cook something with lots of spices in it, like this Madhur Jaffrey chickpea recipe I make a lot, it actually tastes better the next day. Also, roasting the leftover chickpeas turns them into finger food!)

    Cutting down a recipe is extra annoying when the recipe calls for one egg, though. I will admit that.

  169. Meowser, you could be describing my apartment building.

    You can also get spices cheap if you’re lucky enough to be near a store that has spices in the bulk bin and you can buy only what you need, but not everybody has access to that, and buying bottles of this and that and the other thing really adds up, especially if you figure those are ingredients you will only use a few times a year at most.

    It’s a good job they make those containers small and easily theftable. Not that I’d ever advocate or do that *whistles innocently*. (And before you judge, YOU try feeding two people on $1 a day and see how far you get. Megacorporations can handle a little “shrink”.)

  170. Meowser – Chickpea recipe? Care to share?

    And yeah, back in my student days I once looked at a flat that literally didn’t have a kitchen. There was a microwave in the living room and that was it. Oh, and a small bar-size fridge. I’d love to see anyone try to cook from scratch in that apartment.

  171. The recipe is in Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking. It’s called Chickpeas Cooked in Tea (yes, really!). Since it’s copyrighted material I don’t want to post it on the Net, but if you email me (andeejr at gee mail) I will share it with you.

  172. Just for the record: I’ve been uncertain whether I ever wanted kids for a long time, ever since I got used to the idea that I may not be able to have them (hi, PCOS! I got told when I turned 19 that I was “probably unable to conceive”). So the way that fat people, fat parents, and parents of fat kids are treated are few of many reasons weighing down the ‘not’ side of the scale. Along with things like overpopulation.

    Natalie: I’m pretty sure there are already cooking-for-one cookbooks out there; I think my brother was given one as a present once.

  173. I don’t give a shit about weight, having been fat most of my adult life. But I’ve also been pretty healthy (touch wood) and I think it’s down to the fact that although I eat a lot (yes, I do eat a lot and I’m not sorry AND BY JINGO I’LL DO IT AGAIN) what I eat is mainly a variety of fresh ingredients cooked from scratch – with the occasional Whopper with Cheese thrown in, obv. I have a few friends who are very slim, who eat nothing but processed/ready-prepared stuff, and they tend to pick up every bug that’s around, whereas I for the most part don’t. But the thing is, eating well (which is what I think I do) costs a lot more than eating processed and ready prepared stuff. I did a friend’s shopping for her recently and her shop, which was mainly frozen chips and pies and microwave meals and stuff, came in at less than half of mine, which was mainly fruit, veg, cheese and meat.

    I personally think we would all be a lot happier and healthier if we stopped worrying about fat and sugar and carbs and all that sort of rubbish and just cooked most of our food ourselves from fresh ingredients, but there is no doubt that doing that costs money which most people don’t have.

  174. … and it takes time, obviously. Which is fine for me because I love to cook, but if you don’t like cooking and you’re very busy then it’s a bit different.

  175. I see people talk about that, how women become boring when they talk about their kids. I take issue with that.

    Hey, I love your novel :) and I dig what you wrote. I think you’re right — what I wrote had a

    Let me try to explain where it’s coming from for me, in terms of my own experience as a mother. For myself I don’t especially enjoy those aspects of motherhood that seem to have a lot of crunchy cultural purchase — hated pregnancy, didn’t find birth wonderful or empowering (and yup did the midwives doula tub thing, at least the first time), found breastfeeding to be painful rather than a beautiful bonding experience, did cloth diapering but didn’t really know how to contribute to cloth diapering conversations (maybe because I don’t know anything about sewing), don’t find that the popular parenting methods fit me or my family, etc.

    And yet having said ALL that, I actually do love to blab on and on about my kids. And I would like to talk a lot about my kids more, actually, but around here I often feel like the odd one out when many of the moms I know get together. Because for me the wow-I-love-my-kids moments don’t ever seem to come at the “right” culturally-prescribed moments. And what I feel like I see a lot of, in my kid’s preschool crowd is that mothering has become a whole lot about Getting It Right. Such that only certain kinds of joy count, and everyone’s trying to change themselves to find joy in those things. And then I’m left out because I just don’t, kwim?

    So anyway, that’s a sore point for me… It’s a phenomenon that I’m not just noticing and trying to see through a feminist lens, but have felt personally burned by such that it still hurts. So given that, I probably maybe you can help me articulate whether there’s a way to differentiate between women loving to talk about their kids, and women becoming crippled with anxiety because they read authorities on proper motherhood like Dr. Sears / Alfie Kohn / Henci Goer / Ezzo (I forget his first name) and are scared to death of Not Getting It Right?*

    I mean, let me say without any hedging, I think YOU ARE CORRECT. The way I wrote my rant made fun of the mothers, not the script wherein motherhood has to be about Getting It Right. Or the mothers as much as the script. When it’s the script that, I think, sucks. So I’m sorry for that. I’m just… you know, I want to learn how to rant about the one without making fun of the other, and if that’s not possible, then I should probably learn that too.

    Really enjoying this, Shannon. Thank you.

    * – I included a variety of authorities in the hopes that it would be clear I’m not trying to castigate a particular method, but rather a cultural script that has so many women finding a mothering authority and then trying to “achieve” the particular motherhood ideal that the authority is seen as offering. I’ve taken useful ideas from all of those people I mentioned. I just haven’t found much room for myself in their depictions of What Mothering Means.

  176. ARGH! I think I left THREE sentences unfinished in what I wrote last. Sorry! I was… being nibbled to death by ducks. (Actually I just hadn’t had coffee yet and the kids were screaming.)

  177. Faith, on March 6th, 2009 at 4:50 pm Said:
    Interestingly, growing up in a solidly working class household, I think part of my mother’s obsession with food, dieting and having thin daughters was about trying to fit in with/pass in the upper middle class world of which she wished to be a part.

    Nailed. My childhood in a paragraph. Shaming was mainly directed at my sister who became ‘chubby’ at adolescence. (My mum, at that age, had been super-teeny). It also coincided with my mum being on a 1000 calorie a day diet that made her thin, weak and ill – but thin was what she wanted. For her and for us.

    The shaming wasn’t directed at me – but I took it on too. My eating is all over the place, but I’m trying these days to be nicer to myself. And appreciate my body. Baby steps…

    I went to a family party recently – the nice thing is all my female blood relatives and I are shaped the same – we’re all short and fat with racks of doom. No diets will ever sort that out. But family feel quite able to say to your face ‘you’ve put on weight’. Like it’s some bad thing. If the worst thing I’ve ever done is put on weight, then what’s the problem?

    My MIL is upper middle class and is a bit horrified I think by my sturdy, working class body. We went out recently and I wanted to buy some sweets – I fancied one or two. At the top of her voice – and in public – she said ‘BUT THEY’RE FATTENING CURVYGIRL’. For the sake of peace of quiet I didn’t get them – but went home and ate chocolate… And am still peeved at being lectured on my food choices at 37 years old FFS.

    Actually, the shaming thing from my MIL has got worse since her son and I set a wedding date. I think she’ horrified I’ll show her up. Wait till she meets my family LOL…

    This has been such a fascinating thread. So much ingrained classism (poor people eat crap because they’re stupid – not poor – FACT). Misogyny – women must reduce themselves and their daughters because we must NEVER EVER take up the space we are meant to – keep us weak and docile and concentrating on shit (body size) that really, really doesn’t matter. And using all our mental energy on hating our lovely bodies instead of working to change the stuff that needs to change in the world. More misogyny – a mother’s place is always in the wrong – society will always judge her by her weight, her kids and their weight… Thank you for opening my eyes a bit more people.

    I can’t remember who said it (sorry!) but fuck that shaming noise in my ear. And fuck it again and again and again.

    Sorry, rant over. This time anyhoo. Peace out.

  178. Rant away! I think I get sick of reading and hearing about parents who treat their kids like they are movie-stars, and that mom and dad are personal assistants. Children should be treasured and nurtured as part of the family unit, NOT the center of the universe. You create a spoiled kid. Who is a member of a nation of spoiled kids. Who make demands, can’t understand the concept of no. Then they grow up and become like my creepy sister-in-law. Adult babies who have NO CLUE about humility, delayed gratification. Weight/appearance is just one aspect. I love watching the mothers try to get in to lengthy explanations with their toddlers in the mall. Cajoling, wheedling, debating. No debate needed. My grandmother used to spin me around to see if I was fat. I was told by my step dad I looked like a half side of beef. At least I wasn’t spoiled. And if we are spiraling into a nation in depression, I hesitate to see how this generation of entitled brats and helicopter moms (I’m not saying all families) but the majority of them will handle it. The onset of adulthood and risky behaviors is much earlier. The window of childhood closing. What reason is there for a seven year old to wear make-up or a teenager to spend 800 dollars on a bag. I work with teens and let me tell you, Attention parents, if you think you know what your kids are doing, you really don’t.

  179. Shannon, I’ve had coffee now. May I try again? I guess what I’m trying to articulate is: it seems to me there’s a difference between:

    1) talking about your kids and the day-to-day realities of parenting (which is indeed looked down on by many as uninteresting unfulfilling work that makes for boring conversation yet inexplicably is supposed to satisfy every female parent completely such that she needs nothing else in her life);

    -and-

    2) conversations in which white middle-class mothers frickin’ *bond* over talking trash about how far they fall short of Nutritionally- and Developmentally-Perfect Motherhood… which ideal, in turn, carries some classist overtones inasmuch as it depends on ideas about “those people” and the faulty ways in which “they” raise their kids. I don’t think those conversations are the same as “talking about your kids,” and I don’t think they’re healthy conversations to have.

  180. A Sarah and Shannon, I’m enjoying reading your conversation. And fwiw, as a non-mother with nothing personal invested, I really did NOT read A Sarah’s comments as complaining about all mothers who talk nonstop about their children. I really thought it read (and has always read) as complaining about those mothers who are obsessed with being the Perfect Mother and never stop talking about that in really unhealthy (and cliquey) ways.

  181. There are a couple of narratives about the American Diet and Fat that I don’t quite understand.

    One is the narrative that “back in the day” we ate natural, non-processed foods, eating wonderful, home-cooked nutritious meals, and this lovely picture got ruined forever with the advent of fast food.

    The other related idea is that health-conscious homes are thinner than those that keep junk food around.

    Here’s the thing, back in the 50’s my grandmother used to cook her children meatloaf, friend chicken, lasagna, grilled cheeses with copious amounts of butter, mashed potatoes, and dessert every single night–a diet that would freak the fuck out of most of most dieticians. Most of the aforementioned with say it’s no wonder that my mother and all of her siblings are fat.

    Here’s the thing though: having been shamed and inducted into Diet Culture (TM) in her early adulthood, my mother entered motherhood quite educated about nutrition and what (allegedly) causes teh fat. We got home cooked meals 6 nights a week that consisted of baked fish, baked chicken without the skin, whole wheat pasta, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat sauces cooked with the leanest possible beef (and the excess fat drained off). We never felt hungry or deprived, because the food she cooked was hearty and satisfying and my father (who is athletic and thin) wouldn’t have enjoyed anything considered to be “diet food.” Every single one of us has struggled with our weight nonetheless.

    There was another family in our neighborhood. The mom also cooked home-cooked meals but, never having struggled with her weight, knew nothing about diets and was never forced to educate herself about nutrition in order to conform. She made regular use of a deep frier, and one of their weekly family meals was a bucket of KFC. Every single person in that family is thin with the single exception of the daughter they adopted. Genetic component perhaps?

  182. I’ve been supporting a young woman who’s body image issues are alternating between mildly and completely debilitating. I do my best to help her, but I can’t help but think that if she hadn’t been harassed for being overweight and that if she hadn’t been supplied with so many of these objectifying so called “Women’s Magazines” over the course of her life, she would be more inclined to eat healthily and excercise rather than starve herself. The fact is that there is reason to believe that there is a healthy body weight, but it is so much more to do with your individual nutrition needs and how you maintain your health than the actual weight itself. My 2 cents, take it or leave it.

  183. FJ, you aren’t missing anything. Twinkies are disgusting.

    This article makes me want to adopt a young shapeling as a little sister. That’s just so fucking sad.

  184. A Sarah, thanks again :-) I’m enjoying the conversation too.

    For the conversations you have – gah, I really would have to be there to hear them, LOL! I don’t know. For ME, I really feel like my relationships with other moms are healthy ones – even if I do sometimes email a friend to complain that I have no idea what to do with this issue or that issue, or a kid is driving me nuts (for full disclosure, I’ve realized I mainly stress like that when I’m PMSing). Really, it’s no different from venting to a friend because you have job troubles or had a bad day.

    I guess the difference is in frequency. If that’s truly all the person talks about – yeah, that’s bad. Last year I found an old friend through facebook (not a mom) and when we talk it’s all about her drama. Every single conversation we’ve had since we reconnected is all about her. I went out with another friend the other week and we talked about the drama in his life, true, but also about the good stuff in his life and – shock – we talked about my life also, LOL! And about things other than us too ;-) It really drove home the difference between the friends. Guess which one I’d like to hang out with more , LOL!

    This may sound cold, but I tend to stay away from people (or message boards) that aren’t healthy for me. So yeah, I have dropped some friendships over the years for my own mental health. I just left a mom’s message board I’d been on for years after realizing that I was not getting anything positive out of it any more. I don’t mean I dump friends who are going through bad times, that’s completely different. I mean I just don’t pursue friendships in the first place if people are always about drama or stress or themselves or whatever.

    I hear about the “mommy wars” but you know, it hasn’t affected me except online. I guess if someone was like that, I’d probably not end up friends with them? Since you mentioned it, breastfeeding is a good example. I nursed both kids way longer than socially acceptable (I won’t even say how long on here because I’m sure someone will flame me). My best friend has 4 kids and formula fed all of them. It’s just not an issue with us.

    Breastfeeding is a good example in more ways than one actually. Seeing some obnoxious lactivists in action drove home how I *don’t* want to be. I’ve read things written online (message boards mostly) by annoying lactivists, annoying homeschool activists, annoying feminists and yes, annoying Fat Acceptance activists. It doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with breastfeeding, homeschooling, feminism or FA, you know? But someone can take any subject and be annoying and pushy about it and turn people off (I’m not sure if that had anything to do with what you were saying, sorry).

    You know I don’t just SAH, I homeschool (unschool) so yeah, the kids are a HUGE part of my life. They’re with me almost 24/7. And I have some friends who I don’t even talk about kids with. But with my mom friends, yeah, that’s mostly what we talk about. It is a huge part of my life though. It just makes sense (IMO) that I seek out other people I can share that with.

    I do have friends who worry about ingredients, or forbid packaged food, or who are vegan, or who are dieting, or who are Born Again Christian or who believe school is necessary, etc., etc. But what I have found is that our differences don’t matter if we can politely and respectfully talk about them and disagree without being mean about it. Some people can do that, some can’t. I’m getting better with age ;-) The people I find friendships with are the ones who can deal with our differences. The ones who can’t be friends with me because we’re not Christian or because we’re unschoolers or because we eat meat and McDonald’s, well, that’s their loss.

    But I also get it’s where you are. I’m in northern NJ, USA. Lots of diversity here (in all senses of the word – religion, ethnicity, tax bracket, dietary choices, etc). It’s easier for me to find people who won’t immediately roll their eyes if I tell them that actually, I *don’t* believe in dieting, yes, we eat McDonald’s, no, the kids don’t go to school, no, we’re not a member of any religion (I could go on but you get the point ;-)

    I wrote another novel ;-) I do that, LOL!

    Thanks for answering me that first post instead of letting me get away with just being pissy. Better conversations that way ;-)

  185. Confusing article. The main thesis makes sense. We should definitely pay more attention to what our kids eat but is it that hard to get them to be healthy in a healthy way? Why does weight matter?

  186. Oh, and interesting. I also thought of lunchables as a thing for people with more money. I was told things like lunchables and dunkaroos were too expensive. I didn’t get juice boxes either. I got juice in a plastic drink container, a sanwhich, fruit and a couple snacks.

  187. Shannon and A Sarah, I really appreciate this conversation, because I too felt indirectly attacked by A Sarah’s first comment (though I did think it was funny; I have been well-trained to find attacks on me funny, humorless feminist that I am) and was deeply relieved to read the bit where A Sarah realised she’d apparently blamed mothers and not the-rest-of-that-shit etc etc.

    I also see a big difference between bonding over parent-geeking (which may include expressions of dissatisfaction) and bonding over self-flagellation.

    Bonding over self-flagellation is fine, of course, but it shouldn’t involve children.

  188. Bonding over self-flagellation is fine, of course, but it shouldn’t involve children.

    LOL Ailbhe!

    I’ve gotten a lot out of this too. Shannon, it seems like you and the moms you know have a really awesome community going there. So when can I move in with you, then? Or, you know, next door?

    And hey… I’m really sorry again that I contributed to cultural mother-blaming and that two such cool moms as y’all experienced it as an attack. It also occurred to me that some antifeminist passerby dude (um, cuz they, you know, really like it here I’m sure) could read it and go, “SEE? Even a WOMAN thinks that mom talk is STUPID!” *cringe* And that’s pretty crummy. Wish I’d stopped, thought, and edited. I plan to next time.

    I expect I shall continue to struggle with how best to point out what I see as flaws in the cultural script, without being cruel to the people who’ve been given the shitty roles. Because I continue to think that the cultural script that I feel like I was handed — with its unwieldy working title “Be A Perfectly Self-Sacrificing Mom, Bitch. What Are You, Stupid? It’s Not Like It’s Hard, Just Follow My 380-page Manifesto To The Letter. Or Are You Just Lower-Class I Mean Uh Selfish?” — is really awful and gives me and my friends a lot of anxiety. However, just because it’s a script often handed to white, middle-class mothers doesn’t mean that every white middle-class mom is following it, let alone wrote it. Nor does it mean that the only reason someone could dig certain culturally-sanctified ways of mothering is because they’ve accepted the cultural script.

    Well, lots for me to think about. This has been really really instructive for me, thanks.

  189. is really awful and gives me and my friends a lot of anxiety

    Uhhh, okay. The “me and my friends” bit was meant to acknowledge that this is really my own experience, as well as to locate me w/r/t the gender- and class-based (and sometimes coded race-based) cues going on in the script.

    Instead I fear it sounded like, ‘This script is bad exactly to the degree that it makes my fellow incredibly privileged white middle-class friends and me SAD.” No, it’s bad on a number of levels, among the worst being the manufactured fear of being like those moms, those Twinkie-video-game-daycare moms. The wrongness of middle-class anxiety is not primarily that it makes middle-class people feel ookie and precarious, but that it is oppressive and wrong.

  190. Curvygirl, this:
    The shaming wasn’t directed at me – but I took it on too.
    Makes me want to point out that shaming doesn’t have to be direct, and that it works beautifully on observers. (Focault.)

    And as far as the parenting goes — A Sarah, you said that you didn’t enjoy breastfeeding, and I wasn’t one of those women who found it to be a source of ecstatic physical pleasure, but I did enjoy it, felt fulfilled by it, felt it aided bonding, etc. As I worked full-time since my little girl was 2 months old, and there were times since she was born that I her dad wasn’t able to be around, I found it a source of comfort to be able to parent her in that specific way. I felt bad about how and when the weaning happened. And throughout all of this — I felt also like an outsider, I wasn’t supposed to talk about it much, it was weird that I nursed her for more than a year and anxiety expressed about when we were going to stop. I felt like, hey, I carried these giant breasts around for 36 years before I got to do this, but that wasn’t something I expressed to many people, either. So, alienation comes from all quarters.

    Being a mom came late to me, and I did enjoy bonding a bit around the mom stuff. I also balk at the idea of perfection and trying to create a perfect child — there is no such thing as these are human beings we are talking about.

    I know what you are talking about in terms of how boring it can be to be stuck on the same subjects, but I’ve managed to find a middle ground, finally, thanks to a group of moms I joined within the past year who before they were moms, I would have wanted to be friends with them, too. It’s no coincidence that most of them do work or live their lives in an attempt to be consistent with their (liberal) values, and generally, there’s not trashing of other moms or what they serve their kids, let them watch, etc. More, we talk about how hard it is to have balance, how do we raise our kids without shame while not “spoiling” them, how to navigate the school system, how to make it through periods of “disequilibrium” without losing it, etc.

    Recently, we went from a daycare with a more “granola” population (not necessarily all middle-class) to a daycare with a more diverse (in terms of class and ethnicity) but in many ways more “traditional” daycare and I haven’t yet made any connections with these parents. I know this may come, but a person with a more conservative bent in viewing the world is less likely to be someone I connect with, rather than someone who has a different income bracket but shares a similar worldview. So, it’s interesting. Some of these parents may be “twinkie-video-game” moms, but that’s not what would lead me to feel we didn’t have much in common. To some in the very left-leaning town we live in, the fact that we don’t commute to/from daycare and work by bike, allow our child to eat goldfish crackers rather than something purchased from the co-op, and let little one watch Nick Jr. on the computer puts us in the “twinkie-video-game” parenting camp. I don’t much care if that’s how someone sees me, if they are that friggin’ judgmental, I don’t want to be around them much.

  191. “Bonding over self-flagellation is fine, of course, but it shouldn’t involve children.”

    LOL! (ok, how do you guys format?)

    A Sarah, I really have lucked into a good group of friends here. It’s maybe not huge and I don’t get to actually see them all as much as I’d like but we always have email ;-) We all met through homeschooling.

    I do think a lot of our worries are uniquely middle-classed. We have the luxury to worry about crap like this. If you truly can’t afford food for your kid to eat you’re probably not going to object if someone offers you something with high fructose corn syryp, you know?

    Homeschooling does seem to be a middle class thing. I have met (online) a very small handful of people homeschooling below the poverty line. I admire them and don’t know how they do it because I’m pretty sure I couldn’t. Especially in the area I live in (high COL). Our friends are pretty diverse here as far as religious beliefs and ethnicity (and, now that I think of it, body size! Huh, never thought of that) but yeah, we’re all pretty much middle class.

    Funny you mention experts writing books. I burnt out on parenting books years ago. Recently, when I had jury duty, I went and got a new one. Read it, agreed with it, then emailed my friend and complained about just what you said up there. The whole “oh, it’s so easy, just do it, what’s wrong with you?” shit. And my friend said “Shannon, that’s why I don’t read parenting books” LOL! Yeah, that’s why I stopped too ;-) I’ve found over the years I’d rather talk to 100 mothers with 100 different opinions than read one “expert” written book on parenting. I get more out of it too ;-)

    (Though, for the record, one of the coolest, most laid back, nicest moms I admire is really into parenting books. She parents the way she thinks is right, but she just enjoys reading books about it I guess. So yeah, it’s not for me, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have worth for someone, you know?).

  192. wellroundedtype, I let my 6 year old play Halo on the Xbox, LOL! I think I’m a twinkie mom ;-)

    We talk about that stuff with our friends. I do have friends who don’t allow their kids to play on the computer or watch tv or who don’t allow them to eat anything processed. So if they came over here, I’d ask my kids to not put on the Halo out of respect to that family’s rulse. And when we went to a playdate with some vegan families in attendance, I made sure to bring a vegan treat to share with everyone so their kids could have some too.

    (and on another note, once I went to a playdate and one of the moms made gluten-free cupcakes just for me! I was so incredibly touched ;-)

    But yeah, there certainly have been people who didn’t want to be friends with me because I’m a twinkie mom (actually, I don’t think my kids have ever had twinkies but I think I like that so I’m running with it ;-) And I agree with you. If that is all they care about in a friendship, then you don’t want to be friends with them.

    My main thing is how someone treats their kids. I tend to get along more with parents who try to be gentle and respectful with their kids, no matter what they eat or watch or how they dress or what religion they are or how they educate their kids or whatever.

    ~ Twinkie Mom Extraudinaire

  193. Shannon, I’ve been enjoying this conversation, too.

    To me, a “Twinkie Mom” would be someone along the lines of a mom sweet and pretty and “processed” but without much depth or “flavor.” (I’m not a fan of twinkies but neither am I a fan of granola).

    I don’t know what I would call moms of substance, other than that. Not focused on the trappings of parenting, interested in the substance of it but not lost in the details of it. Mindful? Doing the best we can?

    I have really come far around to the morally subjective perspective when it comes to parenting. Here’s what I put out to the world, I think: If I haven’t walked a mile in your mucked-up galoshes, I do my very best not to judge. And please, spare me your judgments about what my child eats, watches, wears, toileting-habits, un-brushed hair, manners — you haven’t lived through what we have so save it for someone who cares. Is she spoiled? A bit. Do we shame her? Not if we can help it.

  194. I have really come far around to the morally subjective perspective when it comes to parenting. Here’s what I put out to the world, I think: If I haven’t walked a mile in your mucked-up galoshes, I do my very best not to judge. And please, spare me your judgments about what my child eats, watches, wears, toileting-habits, un-brushed hair, manners — you haven’t lived through what we have so save it for someone who cares. Is she spoiled? A bit. Do we shame her? Not if we can help it.

    *manic, wild applause*
    Awesome.

  195. the narrative that “back in the day” we ate natural, non-processed foods, eating wonderful, home-cooked nutritious meals, and this lovely picture got ruined forever with the advent of fast food.

    Yeah, and the people who subscribe to that never get around to telling us why, if the “old ways” were all that and a jar of hand-combed honey for everyone, fast and processed foods sold at all if they’re so inferior. The same people who understand the statement “it’s not that simple” perfectly when it comes to sex, get a big F-minus in understanding it when it comes to food.

    Besides, most of those people eat Quorn. Can’t imagine how they think that’s not processed.

  196. My parents were never good about it. Both of them were thin as children, my sister looks anorexic despite eating nothing but crap, and I am the only heavy set one (with a trend of ‘good, sturdy stock’ German women in my family).

    My mother was always trying to cover my tum with certain clothes and I hit puberty early, so by middle school, I was already in the women’s section. My father began to work out and made obvious comments on my weight.

    Mostly, I was raised by a single mother who worked in customer service all day and came home to cook something quick and filling so she could satisfy herself and her child and go lie down. I have never blamed her for my weight, but I do blame her for giving me a bad body image. I never ate obsessively, but do to low funds we didn’t always have the healthiest food. She worked out Saturday mornings and ate lean cuisine and walked every day for four months and lost 30 lbs. I didn’t, but I wasn’t eating a microwavable meal and I didn’t have friends to play with during recess.

    Now, I’ve somewhat grown into myself, but I still dislike my mother for always trying to hide my body. I think if she had been better with helping me accept myself, I would have had more confidence than I do now. I don’t want to join sports because if I fail to make the cut, I know it’ll be blamed on my weight. I’m mostly meek in social situations and I refuse to date because I can’t believe someone would actually be attracted to me.

    What parents do to their children is ridiculous. I’m still a teenager but I see the pressure. It’s one thing to teach your child about moderation and responsibility, but it’s another to tell your kids that they’ll be fat, unattractive, or need to ‘hide their yum’ when/if they eat even one Twinkie or have one french fry. And what’s even worse than that is when a parent makes their chubby child go to fat camp or forces a diet on them to make them the way society wants them.

  197. I don’t know what kind of mom this makes me. My friend complained that her daughter would pee in the bathwater when she put her in and she would ‘have to’ drain, scrub and refill the tub to finish her bath. I told her all babies pee in the tub, if it bothers you make her sit down so you don’t see it.

  198. “I don’t know what I would call moms of substance, other than that. Not focused on the trappings of parenting, interested in the substance of it but not lost in the details of it. Mindful? Doing the best we can?”

    I think most moms are doing the best they can. Even some of the ones that really screw up their kids.

    I didn’t mean “twinkie mom” in a serious way ;-) I just liked the way it sounded. My kids watch cartoons, read comic books, play Halo on the Xbox and eat at McDonalds so in a laughing sort of way, it does fit us
    ;-) I just thought I saw myself in that description.

    Nonegiven – I’m totally with you on that one, LOL!

    BeccaBoo, I’m sorry you’re still dealing with all that.

  199. Re: Lunchables

    The convo about that here is really making me examine the frame in which the “Lunchable” and similar pre-packaged delicious items (Hot Pockets!) were presented to me growing up. It was always “Too Expensive” and “Not worth it”. Maybe that was the working class mom trying hard to NOT be associated with buying “poor” foods…maybe as a meat-cutter she really did object to fake-y meats in plastic wrap. Still working that all out in my mind. And I love me a good Hot Pocket now and then!

    Re: Shaming

    Oh yes. Lots of that. Piggy noises from family members if I dared wear *gasp* SHORTS in the summer. Because, you know, running around outside and not overheating is bad if you’re letting people see your offending fat. And above all the unique events of shaming, details of which I’ll spare you, there was always the overwhelming sense that I ate too much, no matter what that amount was, despite my brother harfing down EVERYTHING and anything all day long and not gaining an ounce (put down to him playing outside while I read books, you know nothing to do with metabolism or his being a growing boy younger than me but whatevs).

    All I came out of that youth really knowing is that it took a VERY long time after not living with mom and crew to STOP sneaking more bites of food in the kitchen as I put leftovers away. You know, because I was still hungry or just shamed about eating in public (aka in front of family members) and would react by trying to get something quickly, sneaky, before other people might come in and see me…which then triggered more guilt and created this nice blanket of self-perpetuating shame and guilt wrapped up with the feel of food being snuck and….actually you know writing this is bringing back all those same nasty feelings so I’m stopping the thought train there and getting off for now.

    Re: Twinkies.

    About once every 2 years I have to try one again to remember why it is that I really DON’T like those too-yellow pasty too-sweet cream filled atrocities. I don’t care if someone else wants to eat it or wants to batter it , fry it deeply and then eat it….as long as they don’t expect me to join in I’m happy. Get me a Yodel (man it has been like a decade since I had one of those….) and I’m content.

    Off Topic slightly:

    I’m now really craving a Klondike bar. And even though it is almost 10:30pm…what would I do for one? I’d almost put pants back on and drive out to get one…

  200. Shaming – I just realized why I’ve said almost nothing on topic about this. The fat hatred in my family was all self directed (except my one grandmother who no one took seriously). I don’t think my mom ever said a negative thing to me about my weight. But she was a good example of hating herself for her fat and that’s what I learned quite well (with help from school kids of course).

    I’m sorry for all those who had parents who said (or are still saying) these things to them. That article – crazy.

    To continue the lunchable discussion ;-) April, maybe she honestly felt they were too expensive? I really don’t see them as cheap things, despite what has been talked about on this thread (it might depend on your area though). And for the record, I’ve served (and will serve again) my kids ramen noodles, which are 20 cents a package. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that. Ramen is definitely a food associated with being poor (at least around here). I don’t think I’m being snobby or classist, I just really don’t think of Lunchables as a cheap food. Unless, like someone said, we’re talking about two different items and people are really talking about the crackers with cheez spread.

  201. Shaming – I just realized why I’ve said almost nothing on topic about this. The fat hatred in my family was all self directed (except my one grandmother who no one took seriously about much of anything – nag non stop about everything and eventually people tune you out). I don’t think my mom ever said a negative thing to me about my weight. But she was a good example of hating herself for her fat and that’s what I learned quite well (with help from school kids of course).

    I’m sorry for all those who had parents who said (or are still saying) these things to them. And that article – crazy.

    To continue the lunchable discussion ;-) April, maybe she honestly felt they were too expensive? I really don’t see them as cheap things, despite what has been talked about on this thread (it might depend on your area though). And for the record, I’ve served (and will serve again) my kids ramen noodles, which are 20 cents a package. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that. Ramen is definitely a food associated with being poor (at least around here). I don’t think I’m being snobby or classist, I just really don’t think of Lunchables as a cheap food. Unless, like someone said, we’re talking about two different items and people are really talking about the crackers with cheez spread. Which, if memory serves, are also pretty yummy, LOL!

    It’s funny how many people on here say that cheap food like this is yucky. I think Ramen is delish. And twinkies and crackers with cheez spread. All that yummy, cheap food I don’t eat for digestive reasons only. Sure, it would make you sick if you ate nothing but Ramen every meal (I don’t think there are actually any vitamins in it) but still, it’s pretty yummy.

  202. Ack! Sorry! I hit “submit”, it told me there was something wrong with the server, so I wrote a little more, hit “submit” again and now both took. Sorry!

  203. Yeah, I kind of love twinkies. I mean, I only eat them every year or so and they are too sweet for me to finish a pack of two but something about the sponge cake and the cream filling totally calls me in.

  204. My mother swears we never fought about my weight, ever. I honestly think that she thinks it’s all in my head…

    …and can I just say that if one more person calls my just-turned-one year old last Sunday a ‘big boy’ I’m going to freak the fuck out? I swear it’s all I can do to mutter ‘We like him healthy’. Seriously, he’s a freakin’ baby – they’re supposed to be fat!

    Meh.

    I fear for his future, what with the current hysteria.

  205. A Sarah, you rock. I got away from those conversations by going back to work, I swear – the stay-at-home moms in my neighborhood all have more money than is good for them. Though I do hate the corollary working-mom conversation that goes ‘ “I would love to be home with my kids but I just can’t afford it” – from women I know very well could. There shouldn’t be any shame in saying “I see my babies 14 hours a day and I am pretty damn grateful to have the other 10 away from them.”

    These articles/discussion just make me think of two conversations I’ve had with moms.

    One was this formerly-homeless woman I met, who told me her crowning achievement in her life was that she & her girlfriend got custody of all their kids & made them a home where nobody hit them and they could have seconds at dinner if they wanted.

    The other is my boyfriend’s sister, the nurse, who said to me quite seriously, that it was OK for my (underweight) 3-year-old to have whole milk because “it’s not like you’re going to still give it to him when he’s *nine* or something.” Because nine would be *way* outside the pale, apparently.

  206. I just have to say that I am so grateful for my mom. My eating disorders came years later, after trying my damndest to be a ballerina (turns out DDDDs can’t be dieted/starved down below a full C, NO MATTER WHAT), but never from my mom. I remember taking pineapple and cottage cheese to school, not because it was “diet” food, but because I LOVED it. And I remember getting mocked mercilessly by my classmates for not having something “normal,” like Lunchables. My poor mom. She did her best. Turned out in the end that society was stronger. But she tried.

  207. For the record, Shannon, ramen does not have any vitamins. I knew a guy in college who tried to live on the stuff and got scurvy. Actually scurvy. No kidding.

    If you’re going to live on ramen, add some kimchi so that it doesn’t happen to you. ^_^

  208. The image of being regarded with disgust is really powerful. Anyone who thinks this is a good idea is sick or ignorant.
    It was perceiving these looks of disgust that helped lead to an eating disorder that severely damaged my health for many years.

  209. Gah! Yes! This!

    I was fortunate enough to grow up with a relatively sane family. But I still remember being a fat kid and being shamed about food. And encouraged to diet. And receiving unquestioning praise when I lost a stone in under a month.

    I went through cycles: The Good Girl, who doesn’t eat breakfast or lunch, never eats sweets, only finishes half her dinner and lies to her mother that she is eating 1000 calories, not 650, and works out every day even when she is in pain and can’t understand why she keeps getting headaches and dizzy spells and passes out if she tries to stand up too quickly. The Failure, who sneaks bites of food from the fridge even when she isn’t hungry, and scoffs several mouthfuls of whatever is in the fridge when she is “making coffee”, because she needs to get as much food in as possible without anyone knowing. Even though she just had dinner and is genuinely full.

    I became addicted to the sensation of hunger. Now, I have to work at recognising hunger at all. And am fat.

    Seriously, learning to smooth the edges of a block of cheese down so no one can tell you’ve bitten a chunk out of it is not part of a healthy lifestyle.

  210. The funny thing is, people who shame you for eating nothing but nutritionless or nutrition-low convenient food probably wouldn’t shame you for eating rabbit (at least not from a nutrition standpoint), despite the fact that game keepers used to die of malnutrition notoriously despite gorging themselves to joyful bloatation at every meal – because they ate nothing but the rabbits they cooked, which contain literally nothing but protein.

    Although rabbit is damn tasty.

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