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Diary of a working mum: Why we have created a toxic environment for our children

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Fizzy drinks are seriously big business

Fizzy drinks are seriously big business

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Fizzy drinks are seriously big business

The facts on childhood obesity are depressing. The implications are frightening. If we keep going the way we are going, we could be responsible for rearing a generation that will have a lower life expectancy than their parents. That is reprehensible. Abusive. We have to fix this.

We have created a toxic environment for our children. We are so afraid for their safety that we don't let them play outside. No running around all day driven home only by hunger for them. They have organised activities, supervised play dates, or they sit inside playing on iPads or watching TV. Sedentary and probably snacking on processed foods.

I worry a lot about this. I was fat for a couple of years in my early 30s and I hated it. I just hated it. I hated the feeling of not being quite good enough. I hated having to think so much about what I was going to wear every day. Trying on outfit after outfit searching for some magic combination that would make me look thin.

I hated that I dreaded things like weddings and nights out because I knew now matter what I spent on clothes I would still be kind of ashamed of how I looked. I do not want that for my daughter. I never ever want her to have her wings clipped like that. To have the 'not good enough' shameful feeling.

I want her to feel how I felt when I lost all the weight - happy and free and healthy and strong. Invincible. Happy. I was so happy because I was so healthy. I was strong. I ate well and I exercised four or five times a week, I was in control. Healthy body, healthy mind.

And I stayed in control right throughout the pregnancy. And for the duration of my maternity leave. I was taking it slow - because I had been so frantic I had ignored all the advice and gone back lifting heavy weights in the gym way too soon post-partum, but eight months after Ava was born I was on course to getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I had about 8 pounds to go. I was getting up at 6am and going to the gym before my husband left for work four times a week. I was eating well. I was happy.

But as soon as I came back to work, I started to struggle. I was so tired, that getting up at 6am got harder and harder so I got up later and later. By 7am, the baby was awake and I had missed my window. About three months ago, I stopped going to the gym altogether. I started eating rubbish at night after the baby went to bed. The 8 or 9 pounds is now more than a stone. That crappy feeling has started to come back.

But I can stop it. I might not have the time or the money to spend in the gym that I used to, but I can certainly eat properly and I can exercise at home. I can't expect my daughter to learn a healthy lifestyle if I don't model it for her. I want her to have the joy of being fit, being in shape, in control. I want it for myself, too.

I also want to make sure that I am happy with myself so I don't project my issues on to her. I was starting to - when people commented on how great an eater she was, I found myself getting defensive. Where they said - 'Aren't you lucky she's not a picky eater?', I heard 'You're fat and you will make her fat too'.

 

We have a crazy culture. We are obsessed with watching fetishised cookery programmes, and we have never cooked less. We are all about consumption, yet our body ideals tend towards the malnourished. All around us, are unhealthy foods masquerading as wholesome options. We need be educated and we need to be strong. We need to model the lifestyles that we want our children to live. Because baby see, baby do.

 

Follow Yvonne on twitter @YvonneHogan

Don't miss Health & Living's childhood obesity special, in your Irish Independent on Monday Feb 10

Online Editors