If You Want Your Children to Be Healthy, Don’t Talk to Them About Weight

Image: Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesMichelle Obama made headlines this week when during a Google+ Hangout for her Let's Move campaign she said, "I have two young daughters. We never talk about weight." It seems shocking that she would never discuss weight with her children when as the First Lady she has made her platform the importance of getting kids moving and reducing childhood obesity rates. But the first lady is right. If we want to raise kids who are healthy and don't have a weight problem, then we need to stop talking about weight.

Read More: Teaching My Kids Healthy Eating Habits (Even Though Mine Always Sucked)

You don't have to look far to find places where our culture emphasizes a person's size over their health. Glance at any fashion magazine, movie or television show and you'll see the thinnest of the thin glorified. But it is virtually impossible to look like that for most people, and being skinny doesn't mean being healthy. On the flip side, there are those who are over eating and as a result they are unhealthy because they are overweight. If everyone eats and exercises for health instead of for appearance or to reach that magic number, they will be much more likely to maintain a healthy body.

Read More: Reflections on Vogue Mom's Struggle with Her Daughter's Obesity

As someone who has struggled with my weight my entire life, this concept makes so much sense to me. I was a little bit overweight as a child and the discussion of it gave me a mindset that that is who I was. I was overweight. That is what my name was equal to in my mind. Even as I got older and I wasn't overweight, I always believed I was fat because that's what I had been told, and also being a tall girl, I was "big" and could never get to that size six that all my friends fit into. But looking back at photos from my developmental years, I can now see that I wasn't fat at all. My body was at the weight it should have been at. But that doesn't mean I was healthy. Sure, I was athletic and spent two hours playing sports every day, but I subsisted primarily on pasta.

Read More: Study Finds 5-Year-Olds Being Treated for Eating Disorders

The bottom line is that if I had been told, or more importantly taught that the reason I needed to skip eating that Oreo was because it wasn't good for my body and not because I would get fat (since I already was in my opinion), then I might have been more apt to make healthier choices. Certainly, we know much more about processed foods and how the body works now than we did 25 years ago, which makes these discussions easier to have with our own children. When my children ask why they can't have sugary drinks or loads of sweets, I tell them it is because those foods have things in them that aren't good for their bodies. I don't tell them that they can't eat. I just redirect them to the fruit bowl.

I've always been very cautious about talking to my kids about weight, but now I think I'll be removing that discussion altogether and truly focusing our discussions on healthy eating and fitness. As I'm getting older, health is definitely more important to me than how I look, but hopefully by being healthier, I'll also be able to fit into my favorite jeans and by teaching them about health they'll never have to worry about it.

Sarah O'Neill Fernandez is an interior and event designer. She blogs at Chateau & Bungalow.

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