Body image doesn’t come up in my household. We often talk about being healthy and strong, but never about weight and body dissatisfaction. Now, more than ever, I like my body. Sure, sometimes I over-indulge during the holidays and gain some extra padding. At that point, I go back to my healthy habits and get back on track without stressing about it. And I certainly don’t mention that part of my life to my kids.
That changed one day during the week before lifting in the IPA Powerlifting Worlds.
It was the first warm day of the spring, and my kids and I were driving past our favorite ice cream stand. My daughter asked if we could stop for ice cream. I said, “not today.” She asked why, as I’m always up for an ice cream cone. Without thinking about the answer, I said, “I need to lose weight for my competition.”
Confusion reigned. My daughter asked “But…why?” and I realized that I had somehow stumbled into a field of landmines. My answer would have the potential to shape her ideas about body image. Here’s some advice about talking to your kids as a weight-classed athlete.
Don’t Make it About Weight
Being in a weight class has nothing to do with weight as a number. It’s a way to encourage fairness within your sport. If you’re a fighter, you want to be sure that you are equally matched in physique to your opponent. With all other things remaining equal, the fight will come down to practice and skill. The same applies in weightlifting or powerlifting competitions. In most cases, someone in a bigger weight class will be able to lift more than you. Your weight class also acts as a benchmark as you become more advanced.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. However, when explaining things to your kids just keep it simple. When you signed up for your event, you said you’d be a certain weight so the organizers could match you fairly.
Be Honest and Call Yourself Out
Don’t lie about what you’re doing or try to hide a noticeable change. Children are perceptive. Sometimes as we get closer to an event, our modes of weight change may not be healthy or sustainable. Make this fact known. Telling your children “I am doing this to meet a goal, but it is not a healthy way to live.” will acknowledge the fact that it isn’t something they should strive to do.
Now is the time to reiterate the importance of healthy habits with your family. Reassure them that this phase is just temporary and you’ll be back to normal in no time. Encourage them to continue eating full, healthy meals to help them strengthen and grow.
Give Them the Floor
Most parents are used to their children looking at them like they’re aliens by times. If they don’t seem to understand where you’re coming from (or why you’d EVER give up your weekly ice cream cone) then let them lead the conversation. Tell them that they can approach you with any questions they may have, no matter how silly they might sound.
Not only will this practice help your children process the information you share with them, but it will also open a dialogue for future conversations about health and body image. Empowering your children to ask questions about this topic will empower them to bring forth their own issues.
Remember how awesome you are for challenging yourself to do something you want to do. Your kids are always watching. By being active and driven, you’re being a role model for your children and showing them they can smash their goals too. That doesn’t mean they’ll stop looking at you like you’re an alien by times, but they’ll also look at you with shining adoration. Good for you! You deserve an ice cream cone too.
Do you have any advice on talking to your kids as a weight-classed athlete? Share them with the group!