food

FitnessGrams: the Latest in Fat Shaming

A gawky 12-year-old girl gets off the bus and skips to the mailbox. She collects the mail and notices a letter from her school.  Curious, she opens it up to find the results of her annual physical fitness assessment.  She rolls her eyes because she’s a bookworm and PE is not her best subject. She can’t do pull ups or run the mile in the required time. She frowns as she reaches the bottom of the results: there is a grade, and she has been graded to be overweight based on her height and weight. She is mortified.

As the excellent article from Salon points out, these FitnessGrams, letters on the results of students’ physical fitness assessments, are a reality for students in 19 states and include with a judgment of whether the student is at a healthy weight, underweight, overweight or obese.

I wondered why I reacted so strongly to the practice of sending FitnessGrams, and then I recalled 6th grade.  Weighing and assessing children is nothing new.  We were weighed annually with that information recorded in our files by the school nurse even in the dark ages of the 80s.  At the 6th grade weigh-in, we shared our weight with each other as usual. My weight was 114 pounds, and I remember some friends exclaiming at how high the number was.  I was embarrassed because it was one of the highest weights in my class that day. In no way was I overweight or saw myself as overweight. If anything, throughout high school, I was probably underweight given my height. I never had a weight problem as a child, which was fortunate since I could put away some food.

Starting in the 4th grade, however, I grew taller and taller. By the 6th grade, I was one of the tallest girls if not one of the tallest students in my grade. I liked being tall and never had any problems with my height except for the usual complaints about the difficulty of finding pants and shirts that are long enough.  A lot of things begin to change in the 6th grade, though. You are on the cusp of becoming a teenager; suddenly boys are not as icky, and girls start wondering what would happen if they experimented with a bit of makeup or clothes.   Appearance begins to become more important and the judgment about whether you are attractive or not becomes less abstract and more emphasized.

As I grew taller, my shorter friends’ height began to stabilize. I felt gawky, awkward and huge. They were dainty and petite. I remember walking down to the field for gym class with a friend that year. She was tiny and blonde, well-dressed and well-coiffed. She was like a perfect doll. I felt like a lumbering, clumsy hulk next to her. My thighs looked fleshy and pale next to her tiny tanned limbs.  114 pounds sounded like a lot of weight, and it would not surprise me to have received the shaming, damning judgement of being “overweight” if FitnessGrams had been around in my day.  Already not feeling great about my appearance and body at age 12, I wonder how much further damage there would have been to have seen my school’s judgment of my body and health in print.

I’m sure that the decision to engage in FitnessGrams was meant well.  Headlines scream about the epidemic of childhood obesity.  The country clearly has a weight problem; it makes sense that the key to prevent overweight adults is to help prevent overweight children. My son’s pediatrician begins testing cholesterol and recommending a switch from whole milk to low-fat milk at age 2.

The problem is that while well-meaning, these initiatives are meant as a panacea instead of attacking the root causes of obesity. As the article points out, instead of patronizingly reminding overweight children to eat fruits and vegetables, why don’t we stop cutting recess and gym from the school day and stop serving crap in school lunches?  Instead of assuming that the majority of parents are clueless and give their children heaping bowls of sugar and fat at every meal, let’s look into the economics and reality of what it takes to cook and eat a healthy meal: access to fruits and vegetables, the ability to afford them, time and the ability and equipment to cook them.  Unless those root causes are addressed, you are shaming the victims.

We are so sick about weight in this country. If I run into old classmates from high school, I wonder if they are thinking how much weight I have put on in the last 20 years.  I look in the mirror and instead of celebrating my good features, I frown and pinch skin, knowing I’d look better and acceptable if I were a skeleton, a coat hanger. Weight was always a touchy subject in my family; you could have any other problem or behavior, but being overweight was taboo. My aunts were obsessed with their weight and the weight of their children. I was told to enjoy being able to eat what I wanted because it would catch up with me one day. I was also told by my mother that my thighs resembled those of my father’s family; it was not meant as a compliment.   The message I internalized was that fat was bad, and I suspect my experience isn’t outside the norm.

The funny thing is that historically, fat was associated with wealth. If you were anything but gaunt or skinny, you likely had the means to eat consistently if not also very well. Fat equaled success.  Modern society has reversed that. Now, thinness is equated with success. I attribute this shift to Puritan values such as the much-vaunted Protestant work ethic that influenced this country from colonial times.   The Puritans shunned epicureanism in favor of hard work and austerity.  The Protestant work ethic is the belief that individual hard work leads to success. A lack of success, therefore, is due to a lax moral character that results in self-indulgence instead of self-discipline. Therefore, successful people must be thin because thinness means a person has self-discipline and willpower.  Thinness means that the person is in control of himself and his appetites and can withstand temptation. At the very least, thinness means that the person has the wealth to buy the food, the trainers, the equipment and/or the surgical procedures to be thin. And as a result, being overweight is often considered to be a moral failing, a failure of willpower.

I don’t know what the solution is. I used to think that having a son meant that he was immune from the pressure to be thin, but that’s less true every day. I do know that the solution to the obesity problem is not shaming children.  It is not ignoring the cost of food and the inequities that make it so much easier to buy crap instead of healthy ingredients.  As usual, though, it’s far easier to finger wag than to make the necessary changes that might put us all on a healthier path.

Friday Fun, Frustration, Frivolity and Food

Preschooler kitchen destruction

Kitchen destruction at the hands of a sick 3-year-old

You’d think that since I had nothing to do today but chase around a 3-year-old who behaved like I had given him mass quantities of speed, I could have completed this post earlier today.  Funny that.  It turns out that 3-year-olds have a finite limit for how long they are willing to have you out of their sight and attention.

Marty, my fellow Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham co-producer, and I optimistically scheduled a conference call for late this morning so we could discuss the manual, potential venues and our charity.  She had her almost 3-year-old at home with her, and I of course had Daniel.  It was a very amusing video chat as about every 5 minutes, one of us had to look away to shout, “No!  Don’t do that!” or “Hi sweet pea.  Yes, say hello.  Can you return to your movie? Mommy won’t be much longer.”  Somehow we managed to conduct a lot of business over the course of an hour before we both accepted that the natives were restless and signed off.  I’m happy to report, though, that we hope to be able to announce our venue and performance date very soon!

We were supposed to travel to my hometown to have Thanksgiving with my mother and stepfather this weekend, but we cancelled due to Daniel’s illness.  I feel bad about it (because I always feel guilty), but I think we made the right decision.  The last thing we want to do is to have to subject a sick 3-year-old to a different routine and a location other than home.  Or maybe that’s just us.

Hopefully my mother and stepfather will be able to join us for Thanksgiving on Thursday instead, and I have to admit that it is not unwelcome that we have another quiet weekend at home to clean and get ready.  Or just relax before the onslaught of cooking and cleaning begins next week.  Oh, we are hosting by the way.  Perhaps I neglected to mention that?

Daniel is having a lot of fun with family relationships and gender right now.  He occasionally refers to himself as a girl, me as a boy, Jimmy as a girl and the cats, oddly, as girl-boy (for our cat Bit, that’s actually more accurate than he knows because s/he may identify as a girl while being a boy.  Or we might have confused her by referring to her as a “she” early on due to not realizing she was a boy).  He also called his grandmother his sister and his father his sister.  It’s been fun. Imagine if we were Egyptian royalty or polygamous and had explain sister-wives!

Speaking of Thanksgiving, while Daniel was “napping” (read: destroying his room and throwing his stuffed animals everywhere.  Remember that scene from Poltergeist when the researchers from the parapsychology department opened the children’s room and found the items spinning around?  Yeah, that), I succumbed to the allure of searching for Thanksgiving recipes.  If you follow me on Pinterest, I apologize because I think I pinned 20 recipes in a 2-hour period.

We are huge fans of Thanksgiving in this house now that we are adults (and this rumination is partially in response to JJiraffe’s post on Thanksgiving today).  Jimmy and I both liked Thanksgiving as children, but I admit that it was more like, “yeah, yeah, Thanksgiving.  Let’s get on to Christmas!”  Now, though, we have new appreciation for the holiday.  First of all, other than the 4th of July, I can’t think of a more seminal, meaningful holiday to celebrate as a nation.  Also, now that I have much more to do for Christmas than decorate a tree and show up at someone else’s house for dinner, I appreciate a holiday that is about food and fellowship only.  It’s like a chance to exhale before the end of the year.  Finally, we adore Autumn, and Thanksgiving is sort of the culmination of Autumn with its emphasis on the harvest.

Anyway, my massive Pinterest pinning was more wishful thinking than reality because my husband is a creature of habit, and no holiday brings that out more than Thanksgiving.  Over the years, we have fine tuned our menu and recipes, and I, to my chagrin, don’t have many opportunities to experiment because Jimmy really likes what we’ve come up with.  And I’m OK with that.  I have free rein at Christmas, so I can let him have the menu he wants at Thanksgiving.  In truth, we both want to make traditions for our family, and our Thanksgiving menu is one tradition that we have created so far.

So here is a rough outline of our menu:

  • Herbed turkey breasts
  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Sweet potato casserole (with marshmallows!)
  • Green beans (leaning towards a bacon-balsamic-shallot sauce)
  • Corn pudding
  • Collard greens (Southern girl FTW!)
  • Cornbread dressing
  • Rolls (frozen; I haven’t mastered yeast yet)

I’m thinking about adding a glazed carrot or butternut squash dish as well.  I don’t make dessert.  I LOVE making desserts, but I find I run out of time and energy, so my mother-in-law usually makes or brings one.

I’ll post next week what exact recipes I use for the potatoes, green beans and corn pudding.

I’m getting really excited.  I’m even thinking about making a decorative arrangement for the table (vs buying some carnations and arranging mini-pumpkins around it and calling it a day).  I’m even pondering a few crafts with Daniel.

So, yay, Thanksgiving!  It took me many years, but I finally appreciate you and want to give you your due.

What Not to Buy Me for Valentine’s Day

Brownie

Lovingly-made brownie. I hear it tasted good.

I have a confession:  I don’t like chocolate.  There, I’ve said it.  Feel free to brand me with a scarlet “W” for Weird.

The Crazy Situation that Turned Me Off Chocolate

It wasn’t always this way.  When I was younger, I loved chocolate as much as the next person.  My favorite birthday cake was yellow with chocolate frosting.  I adored Whitman’s Samplers and chocolate chip cookies (especially fond memories of Hardees’ Big Cookies); I saw those giant heart-shaped boxes of candy in the store around Valentine’s Day (or the day after Christmas as it happens now), and I dreamed of having a boyfriend give me one.

It all changed when I was in the 9th grade.  My classmates had been giving rave reviews on the cafeteria’s chocolate chip cookies and one day, I gave in and decided to try one.  Later that night, I was sick.  I wasn’t majorly sick, but it was enough to make me dislike chocolate forever.  Was it the chocolate chip cookie?  Probably not, but it was the only thing outside of my routine that day, so my brain projected my nausea onto the poor cookie.  It probably did not help that my duties for the newspaper staff meant that I worked in a room in which those horrid chocolate bar sale kits were stored.

Presently

I’m 34.  I was 14 in 9th grade.  That means that for the last 20 years, I have not eaten chocolate.  I can’t stand it.  Any desire I had for it was killed.  The only other food I’ve had this reaction to was Doritos when I was 6 years old and licked too many (still can’t eat or smell them to this day).

I do cook with chocolate.  Jimmy loves chocolate, and I will bake cakes and cookies for him.  I made chocolate souflees for a dinner party a few years ago.  However, I violate the main rule of any decent cook: I don’t taste my food.  I can’t.  I can’t taste the chocolate and evaluate it impartially.

That means no Whitman’s Samplers for me for Valentine’s Day.

Poor Me

It’s very hard being a non-chocolate lover in a chocolate-lover’s world.  Consider the desserts on most restaurant menus.  If they have a non-chocolate option, it’s usually cheesecake or something with apples.  That’s nice, but cheesecake gets old after a while. Fun fact: if you’re dieting, not eating chocolate is a great way to avoid dessert.

Petite Chocoholic

Daniel likes chocolate.  He had his first take of chocolate ice cream on Ocracoke Island just after his first birthday in 2010.  He has since explored and enjoyed Oreos and Kit Kats (thank you, Halloween).  We occasionally buy him a piece of cake from our local bakery and give him tiny bits from it over the course of a week.  He devours all chocolate eagerly.

Or so I thought.

After having some disappointing reactions to some homemade non-chocolate sweets, I thought that I couldn’t go wrong with brownies.  We made brownies last weekend, and Daniel helped by adding the water and oil and trying to stir the thick batter.  I had high hopes for this treat.  After lunch, I served him a tiny bit of brownie and he…rejected it.  He acted like I had tried to get him to eat brussel sprouts.  He wouldn’t eat the brownie.

Heartbreak.  My little boy will freely and happily eat store-bought cake but not brownies made at home by his mommy?  Ouch.  Rejection.

He’s 2.5. I know that can be an exceptionally picky age, and we’ll keep trying.  I love baking, though, so I’m suddenly afraid he won’t want what I can make.

Asserting himself already.  I guess I’m sort of proud.

A Thanksgiving Recap

A day of prep and cleaning on Wednesday.  The first item in the oven just before 9am.  The last item out of the oven at 4:30.  One emergency trip to the grocery store for more celery and onion due to an old sauté pan’s coating flaking into the veggies, thus negating some of the prep effort from Wednesday. Panicking at noon when the turkeys weren’t in the oven yet and beginning to wonder if we were going to pull this shindig off at a reasonable hour.  One clingy toddler who wasn’t thrilled that the meal preparation was getting more attention than he was.  I got a shower (a Thanksgiving first); J did not.

Somehow, it all came together, and miraculously, we were sitting down to dinner at 4:30, the time we had planned to eat.

The dining room table pre-feast

 

And it was delicious (if I do say so myself!).

Good food and fellowship.  Precious time with four generations of family (from 91 to 2 years old – we’re practically the family in The Christmas Song)  who have been through so much in 2011 and still have more rough times ahead based on recent news.    Last night, none of that mattered.  We ate and toasted.  Laughed and chased Daniel who was extremely hyper.

I prefer to eat and run

 

It was perfect.

J and I had the dishwasher loaded and the hand washing finished by 8:30.  The Wee One collapsed into bed at 7.  And then we settled in to watch Lady Gaga (I wasn’t joking about the DVR being set to record it).

J's mom, Daniel and I laughing over a video

 

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope yours was great too.

Menu

  • Leg of lamb
  • Turkey w/ rosemary and garlic
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Rosemary garlic mashed potatoes
  • Green beans w/ shallots, bacon and almonds
  • Collards
  • Dressing
  • Corn pudding
  • Rolls

Week in My Life: The Weekend

This is my final entry in Adventuroo‘s Week in My Life project.  It’s been a lot of fun!

Our weekends have become fairly unstructured.  On Saturday mornings, Daniel and I used to go to The Little Gym for a 9:45 class, but our gym closed down before the Fall semester started 😦

Saturday

I woke up at 6, and Daniel woke up at 7.  I tried to let J sleep in a bit since we haven’t been sleeping well while we’ve been sick and, well, I do better in the mornings than he does.  He couldn’t sleep and got up at 8:30.

While I made Daniel’s breakfast, he proceeded to destroy the kitchen.

Amazing how quickly the kitchen can be destroyed by a determined 2-year-old!

After breakfast, Daniel requested his crayons.  He doesn’t like to color by himself, so I draw things and have him color them.   Yes, this is me pre-makeup, unbrushed hair and glasses.

Art project and me in all my glory

We were going to run a few errands that morning, so while I was getting ready, J and Daniel played on his easel.  Daniel can count to 10, so J was working on spelling the numbers with him.

Daddy and Daniel playing with the letters

J helping Daniel on with his jacket, and then we’re off.

Snuggles with Daddy

 

Getting ready to run errands

Our first stop was at Target.  I used to dislike Target and the whole “Tarjay” phenomenon because it seemed to pretentious.  I preferred the honesty of WalMart (in theory anyway) and how it didn’t try to dress up what it was.  And then they built a Super WalMart in my area, and I quickly ate my words.  WalMart is icky.

Is that Halloween candy behind me?

We also stopped at Kohl’s where I bought new bedroom slippers and a gold turtleneck.  The final stop of the morning was Lowe’s so I could buy flowers.  I thought it would be fun for Daniel because he LOVES flowers and plants but that’s why it may have been a mistake: he kept trying to pick every flower he saw.

Smelling flowers

Daniel wasn’t in to lunch, but he did agree to eat…wait for it…yogurt!  And then he decided to share with Lucy.

Sharing yogurt with Lucy

After his nap, Daniel saw my laptop and wanted to play with it.  In addition to cats and flowers, he is fascinated by gadgets.

Time for a little work post-nap

I’m always amazed at how quickly the day passes after nap time.  Next thing I know, it was time to make dinner.  Another healthy dinner rejected by Daniel, though he did find a creative use for one of the shunned carrots!

Carrots are more fun to play with than eat

Out of desperation, we made him spaghetti with our homemade sauce.  He hadn’t been into pasta lately, but we discovered tonight that his noodle preferences have changed.  He now prefers spaghetti to penne. Good to know!

Spaghetti!

 

Sunday

Daniel and I woke up at 7 and I again let J sleep in since we both had a lot of congestion the night before.  Daniel surprised me by eating a pumpkin muffin (he calls them “cake”) for breakfast.  Yay!

Pumpkin muffin for breakfast

We had originally planned to head to Hill Ridge Farms Sunday morning, but after Erin responded to my tweet, telling me that her family’s day there on Saturday had been fun but exhausting, we decided to go another weekend when our coughs will hopefully, finally be gone and we would be better able to chase Daniel.

So we headed outside instead.

Uh oh - scarecrow casualty!

Like I said above, Daniel LOVES flowers and wants to pick everything.  Poor petunia.  She had served her purpose well.  Guess it’s time to plant some pansies anyway.

This used to be a petunia

That’s our weekend in a nutshell!

I really had a good time with this project.  It’s priceless to capture all those little moments during the week, but it has also been so helpful to read everyone else’s posts and see that we all struggle with the same sorts of things and that no one has it all figured out.

Being a working and fairly new mom, I worry a lot about whether we are doing enough around the house, for Daniel, etc.  Why aren’t we more organized?  Are we being lazy?  Does everyone else have super structured lives?  Reading these glimpses into your lives have helped put those fears to bed.

Thank you.

Nine

Having fun in his room


The Oscars are about to start, and this may be the first time that we have seen absolutely none of the movies nominated. I’d like to put the blame at Daniel’s wee feetsies, and there were a few nominated movies I wanted to see but didn’t (Up in the Air, District 9), but J and I have been averaging maybe one movie a year the last few years. What I can lay at Daniel’s feet is the unlikelihood that I will manage to stay up to watch the entire cermemony.

I’m feeling a little disconnected from some of our pop culture traditions this year. I barely saw the Superbowl and any of the commercials. I saw only a little of the Winter Olympics (did see LOTS of curling unfortunately) because most of what I wanted to see aired after my body had forced me into bed. I had traditional shows I watch for Halloween and Christmas, but I never got around to them last year. That’s ok! It’s just…different and a little unexpected.

Daniel turned 9 months old last week, and we are wondering where our tiny baby went! He’s closer to a toddler than an infant now. He is three-quarters of a year old! As always, he is keeping us on our toes. He is a pro at crawling now and his new thing is pulling up on everything. He wants to stand as much as possible and is getting better at balancing with only one hand. I took my first steps at 9 months and I think J did too, so we expect Daniel’s first steps in the next few weeks. EEK! He has a walker and can pick up some serious speed in it. He has managed to crash into two out of three cats LOL. The kitties have been a bit slow to realize that they need to move a bit faster.

Nice stroller! Let's walk!

After what seemed like forever, three of four top teeth came in, and the fourth is imminent. Two of them are his incisors, and when D grins a certain way, he has fangs. So adorable! J and I are shocked at how BIG his top teeth are. They are like chiclets! He is babbling a ton and giggling. This weekend he started crawling to us and holding out his arms when he is upset, so I wonder if we are seeing the beginning stages of separation anxiety.

We had two big milestones today. All the stars finally aligned and the weather cooperated, so we took Daniel for a family walk this afternoon. It was his first walk in his Maclaren stroller. We had a good time. And just an hour ago, Daniel took his first big boy bath in the bath tub! He did very well and didn’t cry. I think J and I have been coddling him a bit and treating him like a younger baby than he is in some things, so I’m trying hard to make sure that we realize that he’s–gulp–growing up! Our next challenge will be letting him sit in the cart at the grocery store. Right now we either push him in the stroller or put the car seat in the cart depending on how much we need to get.

I love standing!

Food-wise Daniel is progressing well with solids. He eats carrots, sweet potatoes, green beans, peas (sometimes), acorn squash, bananas, peaches, pears and apples. I’m trying to get him to eat some protein in the form of chicken, but that hasn’t been going overly well. I’ve also been trying to add more texture to his foods by mashing instead of pureeing them, and Daniel hasn’t been too thrilled with that. But it’s necessary, and he’ll get used to it! Interestingly, he is not a fan of mashed potatoes. He has had a bit of cottage cheese, and I think I discovered today that he likes plain yogurt. We’ll get there. I’m still making his food myself and find myself constantly searching for yummy baby food recipes.

I have been missing having time for reading. I typically have time to read after about 9pm but by that time, I am exhausted and just want to veg. I recently discovered audio books, though, and am a little embarrassed that it has taken me so long to do so. I finished one and am halfway through my second one. I spend about an hour in the car each day, so I can make a good bit of progress. Listening to a book vs. reading takes a different set of skills, so I find I have to focus more. But I’m pleased I have the option and the local library system just unveiled audio book downloads, so that’s great, especially since they are expensive to buy. Daniel is a very good traveler in the morning and usually a good one in the afternoon, so I appreciate his cooperation in letting me listen!

Daniel is just a joy. The past 9 months have flown by. We really have enjoyed every stage with him, but he has so much personality now! He is such a sweetie. Sooooo much energy, but it melts my heart to see him take so much joy in his world. My little strawberry blonde baby! He wears us out, but we love every minute.