I want to talk a little about body image and small children. This post might be a little premature, after all Thatbaby is only 2.5, but at the same time, this is something that it's best to start as early as possible.
You're probably well aware of the childhood obesity epidemic affecting America. And the adult obesity epidemic affecting America. But it's important to remember that a healthy child is one who is "fit" both inside and out. Often times in our quest to create less obese children, we play upon their psyches, which is one of the reasons many of us have such unhealthy relationships with food.
I remember from the time I was a small child my mother was always on a diet of some sort, with daily weigh-ins. Her constant critique and examination of her body was almost certainly passed down to me. I don't mean to make it sound like I'm playing the blame game, it was never anything intentional, and never anything she meant to pass on. I'm certain that she inherited this from her mother. We pass things down to our children unconsciously. Our own anxieties become theirs. And I strive not to pass those along to Thatbaby. Whether I'm successful or not remains to be seen, but here are some of the philosophies I'm trying to follow:
No such thing as bad foods
We don't do "bad foods" or "good foods." As far as Thatbaby is concerned, all foods are "good foods" but they serve different purposes. Things like vegetables and chicken are good because they help you grow big and strong. Things like chocolate and cookies are good because they're yummy. We still limit the amount of chocolate and cookies he eats, because he doesn't need a diet made of sugar, but we limit by not making it available at all times. Which means we don't do/need dessert every night, but there's nothing wrong with having some ice cream (frozen yogurt) every now and again. Instead, we offer him a variety of healthy foods to which he has constant access - like a bowl of berries or grapes at Thatbaby level in the fridge. (Or right now he's really into snap peas, so they're always in the house)
Food is not a motivator or reward
Thatbaby already knows a birthday party = cake, but I don't really want him to associate food with events. So he doesn't get a lollypop after he gets shots at the doctor, and we won't be using candy or food in our potty training regime. Which is not to say we don't resort to bribery. Of course we do. Every parent does. We just don't bribe with food! My hope is that if he doesn't associate food with "comfort" or "praise" he won't turn into a person who eats to comfort himself or make himself feel better.
Lead by example
This is a two pronged philosophy. The first is having Thatbaby witness an "active" lifestyle. He knows mommy goes running and daddy goes surfing. He watches me do pilates in the evening. The hope is that watching us be active will make him want to be active too. So far, so good. He already goes skateboarding with Thatboy, and helps me with my pilates - holding a little weight and mimicking me. Or joining in on "Running pushups" (what he calls Mountain Climbers). We've also implemented "Good Night Stretches" into our bedtime routine, where he does stretching with Thatboy and I as a family.
The second part is not letting him see Thatboy or I worry, talk, or make a big deal about our weight or food choices. Watching us express positive self images will hopefully help him build his own.
No Fat Jokes
It's easy to slip into it with infants and toddlers. Those fat rolls, chubby thighs, and cheeks are adorable. But we really try hard not to make any comments about Thatbaby's weight, chubbs, or eating habits. I try harder than Thatboy who made a remark about our "fat kid" after Thatbaby had covered his face in chocolate cake. Comments like that seem innocent enough, and probably are at this age, but can become hurtful and harmful when they continue. Eventually Thatbaby is going to pick up on these comments and it's not going to help him create a healthy body image.