By Elizabeth Bottiaux
Swimsuit season has arrived. Ready or not, thousands of nearly nude sunshine seekers of all ages are flocking to beaches and pools. As moms, we must decide if we’ll partake or watch from the sidelines.
I grew up skinny. Never thought twice about what I put in my mouth. Friends joked that I had a tapeworm because I could eat anything I wanted and never gain an ounce. But, by high school, I’d developed an unhealthy relationship with food. I had to be skinnier. Smaller. Obsessed about the size of my newfound teen curves, I spent hours in front of the mirror, at the gym and pouring over weight loss literature.
As a kid, I remember my mom dieting constantly. Mom wasn’t obese but wasn’t thin either. She was always trying to lose weight. Weight. Diet. Calories. Fat. These were all words that were common in my home growing up. While my mom didn’t force any of us kids to diet, she was careful to provide low-fat food. Strangely enough, there was little or no emphasis placed on exercise.
To my wholehearted dismay, junk food rarely crossed the threshold of our childhood home. No sugar cereals, no chips or packaged cookies. The standard afterschool snack at our house in the 80s was graham crackers and apples. Every single night we choked down dark, leafy green salad with chopped scallions and vinaigrette.
Thin is in. Just standing in line at the market, we are inundated with magazine covers telling us how to lose weight. Society seems to be dabbling in plus-sized, curvier bodies, but slim still wins.
I realize the impact that we, as moms, have on our children. Kids are always watching, imitating us. As a mom, I’m extremely cautious about how and when I use that F word, especially around my daughters. In our house, fat is a word we try to avoid.
I don’t want any of my kids to develop unhealthy relationships with food like I once had. I want them to eat nutritious foods and exercise to be fit. We talk about making good food choices and living active lives. When they want ice cream for breakfast, we discuss how that’s not a healthy choice for our bodies.
And they’re watching; there are four impressionable young kids who are eyeballing me. The struggle is real.
On our family vacation, I was quite aware that all of those 5:30 a.m. cycle classes hadn’t quite done the trick. Instead of hiding out in a cover-up poolside, I got out there. My kids and I took full advantage of the hotel waterslides and pools. I was definitely self-conscious about the bikini situation. However, it was more important to make lifelong family memories than worry about bulges and misplaced jiggle.
So, to the old man with whom I recently crossed paths at Costco, who slowly looked me up and down, then with squinty eyes proclaimed, “Well, I can tell that you like to eat.” Yes. Yes…I do. Thank you for noticing, and I shall continue to eat. I will model healthy food choices, exercise and bravely go where no mom in a bikini has gone before, all in the name of blazing positive trails for my kids.
Elizabeth Bottiaux is mom to four small humans, ages 4, 6, 8 and 10. She’s a San Clemente resident and has lived in Orange County for the past 16 years. She publishes a blog, www.fourkidsandadog.com, about family life in our tri-city area.