It all started with watermelon. Yes, watermelon. It was still relatively early in the morning, and my daughter Julia was already on her third bowl. After her forth request, I told her that she had enough. Within seconds, I realized the absurdity of my statement. Could she really ever have enough watermelon? A wonderful, healthy fruit loaded with vitamins? While I couldn’t take back what I had just said, I did hand over an additional bowl. I then proceeded to go back to eyeing that box of cookies in my cabinet. It was only nine o’clock in the morning but I wanted them. Needed them. I am not just talking about one or two either; I was ready to devour half the box. That was the moment when I realized the cold, hard truth: my five year old daughter was officially a healthier eater than me. I was sad and very ashamed. But, I still ate the cookies.
My parents were over-protective in many ways, but they really weren’t on us to eat healthy. This could have been due to the fact that they weren’t the greatest eaters themselves. My dad has had a lifelong penchant for jelly donuts and lemon meringue pie. My mom loved her chocolate. As their daughter, I guess it is safe to assume I inherited their sweet tooth. One of my mother’s fondest memories of me was the uttering of my very first word. While most babies were saying “mama” and “dada”, my word of choice was “cookie.” Growing up, soft drinks were a staple in my home. Soda was actually my version of water, and it was pretty much all that I drank. The only time I would drink water was on the rare occasion I found myself parched at school and paid a visit to the nearest water fountain. “Too boring” was how I described the taste of water. Chips, cookies and ice-cream were always in abundance as well, and if by chance we happened to be running low, there undoubtedly would be a grocery store trip in the offing.
I can’t completely blame my parents, however. The time period had a lot to do with it as well. While growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, our generation saw an introduction to mass marketed junk foods. Most of my ideas for snacks came from television commercials. It also wasn’t uncommon for any school party to feature a wide array of fattening snacks. Potato chips in the morning? Sure! Soda to wash it down? Of course! There definitely wasn’t the same emphasis on healthy eating as there is today.
Over the years, I have made a conscious effort to eat better. I really have. There are some fruits and vegetables that I really do like. I just simply prefer my cookies and brownies over them. In the past, when I have had issues with my weight, I did whatever fad diet I could get my hands on. Any “quick fix” to get me skinny fast. I also had the benefit of a much faster metabolism back then. When entering my 30’s, I started eating more due to impending stress. I have been an emotional eater since then. In fact, I am noticing that most of my binge snacking occurs during particularly stressful days. I have gotten to know my triggers.
As a mom, I do worry about my children’s diets. My son Owen, at almost three, is just learning to enjoy his food. My daughter, at five, has enjoyed her food for awhile now. I do love how Julia favors fruit over ice-cream on a hot summer’s day. I smirk when she wants to pair her chicken nuggets with apples (Hello? What about French fries?). My husband and I have made a good effort to buy them healthy snacks; not that they don’t enjoy a good treat every once in a while. I would never deny them completely.
My own turning point was when I did my usual sneaking of the cookies from my kitchen cabinet. Julia spotted me and wanted one too. With a pit in my stomach, I obliged. I will also admit that this has happened more than once: daughter watching mommy eat a treat and wanting one as well. Hiding my cookies had become very frequent in my house. I became very calculated in when I would sneak a treat, usually doing so when my daughter was enamored with a t.v. show or coloring in her coloring book. I feel guilty admitting that it wasn’t just that I didn’t want her to develop poor eating habits- I also didn’t want to share.
One of my best memories last summer was my kids and I feasting on fruit salad in the park. It was a perfect summer’s day and we sat together all messy, sticky, and quite content. It was at that point that I decided we would at least “try” to eat healthier as a family. I giggle to myself when I sneak an apple piece over my son’s plate and wonder just who I have turned into. Just recently, Julia requested a plate of blueberries with a side of tomatoes. Without hesitation or questioning, lunch was served. As I looked at the plate, I couldn’t help but be amazed by just how colorful and pretty that it looked. Fascinated with the creation, I made a plate of my own. Yes, I thought to myself, this is what healthy eaters do: make better choices. The new bag of cookies I had bought would remain unopened for today. And that is fine with me.