‘You do eat, don’t you mum?’ My nine year old had wrapped her arms around my waist this morning as I was fastening a clip in her hair. She squeezed tight.
I kissed her head and stepped back. She looked so concerned.
A couple of years ago, a friend of the kidlet’s had developed some disordered eating behaviours. Using age-appropriate explanations, we discussed what this meant for her friend, what we had to do when we were spending time with this friend and what was being done to help her friend ‘feel better.’ More broadly, I briefly explained that some people do have ongoing issues with how they think their body looks and tried to describe how this wasn’t necessarily about the food that they were eating, but had to do with their feelings and how they felt they looked. Trying to give the ‘eating disorders 101’ talk to a then-six-year-old possibly made my head explode with sadness.
This was a difficult conversation to have because I’ve always been concerned about how we discuss food and weight and body image. When I think about it, this was probably the first time that we’d ever had a discussion about food as being anything other than ‘Gee – that’s yum!’
The relationship between food and diabetes is mentioned occasionally – but again, usually because I’m low and need something to help get my BGL up.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve lost a bit of weight in recent times. This was not part of a weight-loss strategy. I wasn’t eating differently, or cooking different foods. I am a hobby baker and throughout this time, our bench top housed Tupperware containers full of cakes and cookies and slices. And I talk a lot about Nutella. Food is something that is celebrated in our house. Nothing is forbidden. We just eat a lot of fresh, healthy stuff with a decent splattering of (mostly home-cooked) treats.
We eat out regularly, but never at fast food restaurants. Our local café (a two minute walk away) is an extension of our kitchen; their coffee machine is our coffee machine!
But it seems that even though I’ve not discussed my weight loss with our daughter, she has noticed. Perhaps she hasn’t noticed that I look different, but, when she hugs me, I certainly feel different; when she wraps her arms around my waist, she knows that they go a lot further than they used to.
Should I be concerned at her concern? Does she equate weight loss with there being a problem? Is she worried that I have developed some of the eating problems her little friend had?
I dealt with this morning’s question by reminding her that we eat together at least one meal each day – more on weekends and holidays. I reminded her of the other night when we were toasting marshmallows by the fire as we watched a movie together. I pointed to a recent trip to the country where we ate pizza and shared doughnuts. We talked about the pasta dish I’d made the night before and how we sat at the dinner table eating it.
‘Okay,’ she said. ‘You just feel skinny when I hug you, that’s all.’ And then she changed the subject. I cringed at the word ‘skinny’ just as I would have if she’d used the word ‘fat’.
But perhaps I was making too much of it. Perhaps she was just stating a fact. Maybe using the word skinny was just an adjective that seemed appropriate, just as fat would have been in a different case. Maybe there was no judgement call attached. Maybe. Or maybe not.