I recently saw a post from EDRDpro (an amazing organization if you work with clients with eating disorders www.edrdpro.com) that said “81% of 10 year olds report to already having tried a diet”. This stat scared me but didn’t surprise me. I live with a 10 year old. Now having me as a parent means that we have worked very hard in our house to leave diet culture outside however she does go to school, watch tv and interact with other humans so I am not naive to what she likely hears from other sources. She has come home from school talking about so and so becoming vegan and another person being vegetarian but not vegan because they like cheese too much. Or how many of her friends have FitBits and compare their steps to each other to see who is getting the most steps in a day. Also at this age I have started to notice how the bodies in the school pictures are becoming more varied as kids start to move into puberty. Which is why I am not surprised to hear that so many girls have started to diet by this age. Their bodies are starting to be different, round out and prepare to become adults. And as I reflect on the time of the year it makes perfect sense that a 10 year old would think that a diet or a “lifestyle” change is what they are supposed to be doing because that is what the world seems to be saying right now.
Welcome to “International Diet Month” otherwise known as January. It is the month where it seems that everywhere you turn someone is talking about starting a new diet, new exercise plan, new life. This is the year they will magically turn the corner and become the “best version of themselves” (Ok…so I HATE that term…WHYYYYY?!?!?!? WTF does that even mean??!?!?! because if someone is telling me I need to just become the better version of me what does that mean about the me right now?? ugh…) It is as if we turn the calendar to January and kale and pilates become the key to your best life. Yet if I use my logical brain, and thinking that I turned 40 this past February and therefore have lived through 39 New Years Eve’s in total, I am fairly certain that for all of those 39 New Years Eve’s I would know at least 1 person who made their New Years Resolution to be something about changing their weight. In fact I know that for many of them I made that resolution. (I remember babysitting one New Years Eve eating bag of chips watching Dick Clark’s Rockin Eve thinking “ok this is my last bag of chips ever because I am going to only eat healthy foods ever again after midnight”…I was probably 14 at the time).
Now with social media and the onslaught of mass media the wave of weight loss resolutions has become a tsunami. It is hard to escape, even if you do not have social media accounts yet. And that is how I believe many 10 year olds (and younger) are introduced to the world of dieting. If someone in the house is starting Whole30 (or insert any other plan in here) on January 1st to “improve their health” (I do think that often times people do not come right out and say weight loss, they say health with the implications that weight loss is needed for health…another post for another day) then it seems like a no brainer that when a child feels like they are losing control of their body and its changes that they would think that food could fix that because that is what they are getting modelled at home. Of course it makes sense that if a parent says “oh mommy can’t have that because she is trying to eat healthier” then the child will internalize the food that they are having as a bad food, a food that is not good enough for their mom to eat because she is healthy.
Over the years of continued New Years Resolutions to lose weight/get healthier it makes obvious sense that at some point the children listening to these messages will try it as well. It may not be in January, and it may not look like a plan you tried but it will be something. At some point they will decide to restrict a food item to manipulate their body and if they receive any positive feedback about the body changes then they will likely try it again and again throughout their lives. That feels like a tiny stab in the heart to me as I am sure that most parents would look at their children and love them as they are, not wanting to hurt or scar one tiny millimetre of them. Yet we, the adults around them, have taught them this and International Dieting Month reinforces it.
So maybe this year we kick it up a notch and let January be January, not the diet industry’s holiday. Maybe set an intention instead of a resolution. An intention is not something that one can fail at which might actually make it beneficial in your life. If we start now, today, New Years Eve 2018, and set the intention to quash diet culture maybe the babies born in 2019 will not start dieting by 2029.
Thank you for reading this year. Wishing you love and peace for the new year xoxL