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Dear Daughter, Please Ignore My Dieting

Photograph by Getty Images/EyeEm

I bought an activity and sleep tracker because they offered it in purple and I thought it looked super cute. I'd never been one for dieting or food diaries or exercise tracking. I tend to feel that whatever I'm doing is "good enough," plus I hate to deny myself any of my favorite foods (s'mores). But I was curious about my sleep patterns and the fitness tracker doubled as an alarm clock and, again, it was super cute.

The moment I secured the small, silver clasp around my wrist, however, and synced the device with the app on my phone, I was seized with a sudden mania. I realized I had to get off my butt and walk more. I thought it might be nice to pull my bicycle out of the garage—the one I hadn't used in approximately 15 years—get it checked out at a local bike shop, and start using it regularly. I considered buying a bathroom scale. I vowed to stop snacking, watch my portion sizes, keep a food diary, and lose 30 pounds.

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My reaction alarmed me. For about five years now, I'd been proselytizing about the importance of accepting one's curves. I'd told my mom she should quit staring at the numbers on the scale and start paying attention to how she felt. I'd immersed myself in a yoga practice that allowed me to focus on my strength and flexibility rather than on my weight. I had come to what I thought was a tentative peace with my body.

Now I wondered if I had just been rationalizing my unhealthy habits by co-opting the language of the body positivity movement. Because while I had been taking extra care to promote self-love around my 2-year-old daughter, the truth was that I hadn't felt particularly healthy for about a year. And being deliberate about one's health is a sort of self-love in itself.

While I believe there's a difference between culturally-based body hate and wanting to be healthy... I know the line can look thin from the outside.

But how do I frame this shift in my behavior in a way that makes sense for my daughter? While I believe there's a difference between culturally based body hate and wanting to be healthy—between accepting my body and making excuses for my weight—I know the line can look thin from the outside.

And finding the right balance feels especially crucial in light of the most recent recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which touch upon the harm that diet and weight talk can do to adolescents. According to the paper it released in the latest issue of Pediatrics, the focus of such conversations should be on a healthy lifestyle rather than on weight.

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So how do I model healthy choices for my daughter in such a way that allows her to distinguish between the two?

According to the AAP, I'm on the right track. I can continue placing emphasis on home-cooked family meals that we all eat together at the kitchen table. I can model healthy food choices. I can watch the way I talk about my body in front of my daughter, in addition to the way I talk about her body. I can make exercise fun by encouraging family bike rides and walks to the local playground. I can show her how to be proud of everything her body is capable of.

And as for my favorite foods, I can still indulge in s'mores. I just have to remember that moderation is key.

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