Dieting SUCKS, so there’s usually some triggering event that convinces someone to start eating better.
For a friend of mine, it once was getting thrown out of a roller-coaster line by an attendant twice her size. For me, it’s been arguing with my five-year-old about not actually being pregnant. Because she insists that the last time my belly got SO BIG, she ended up with a baby sister.
She doesn’t mean any harm. It’s just that toddlers are painfully honest without any grasp of the social ramifications. Like how she keeps playing with grandma’s upper arms because they’re so “fun and squishy.” Or like the other day, when my daughter grabbed a handful of my postpartum belly and asked why it looked like that.
“Because you lived there for year,” I told her. “Your sister too, before you’d even taken down all the staples from your posters.”
She was understandably confused, and I’ll admit leaking a twinge of bitterness into my response. Even though I should know better, because kids say ridiculous, rude things all the time.
It touched a nerve, though, because my jeans are indeed getting tight. I can still CLOSE them, thank you very much, but it’s not super comfortable and results in some sideways flare-out. My husband looks mildly panicked every time I frown at my muffin top, because it could mean all the chocolate is about to vacate the house.
The weird thing is, I actually lost the baby weight from both of my pregnancies within six months. You see, I’d grown up hearing countless women talk about how they used to be so skinny and had such fast metabolisms until they had children and then never managed to regain their pre-pregnancy figures again.
Since I didn’t have a fast metabolism to begin with, the threat of permanent explosion seemed imminent. So I hopped right onto a diet and exercise program as soon as I recovered from childbirth. I knew I had to unleash a Tony Horton-style dictatorship onto those rioting hormones before they swallowed me whole.
And I conquered it LIKE A BOSS. Why? Because I was prepared to fight that estrogen-soaked battle of making people, but knew nothing of the parenting lifestyle’s insidious creep. It turns out, you still can’t let your guard down once pregnancy is over, because having kids makes it really, really easy to put on weight.
So I’ve been thinking about why this is, and have decided to warn prospective parents about what they’ll be up against:
1- Kids have really small bodies
Once you have children, you’ll never take a normal, grown-up step again.
See, most of your free time is spent in their company. That means if you walk anywhere on foot, you’ll have to take them with you, usually while holding their hand.
And kid bodies are very small, which means their legs are really tiny. They can’t walk at a grown-up pace. If you try to walk like a normal person, the child will trip on the sidewalk, smack their face on the ground, begin screaming and make everyone stare at you in horror like you’re a monster who won’t wait for your kids.
So, you’ll have to start walking at the pace of someone with ten-inch legs. It’s slow, even without accounting for them being mesmerized by the mysteries of sidewalk grooves or the life-freezing eurekas of passing thought, both of which will occur approximately every 15 seconds because kids really don’t care about getting somewhere on time.
Clearly, strollers would seem to be the obvious answer here, except they mean sacrificing the exercise your pent-up toddlers so desperately need. I’ve seen far too many über-fit moms pushing grumpy, pudgy 8-year-olds in strollers to think strollers are a good idea once the kiddos can walk.
2. Kids take ages to get through everyday activities
Things that used to take 30 seconds now take 10 minutes, if not half the morning. Things like just putting on shoes and walking out of the house.
You used to just grab your keys and walk out the door, but now you’ve got to clean up, change someone, and lace their shoes up, assuming that locating shoes doesn’t become it’s own drawn-out detective saga, or that said child isn’t naked, which are both wildly optimistic assumptions when parenting.
Remember how I said kids get mesmerized by sidewalk cracks? Apply that same principle to eating a meal or exiting a vehicle…
You’ve unsnapped their car seats, you’ve opened their door, and you’re now standing on the side of the car while they stare blankly into space. “Okay sweetie, time to get out of the car,” you say.
So they take a step forward and start messing with the parking brake. Thirty seconds go by and you’re telling them, “Don’t mess with that, sweetheart. It’s time to get out of the car now.”
And then they step onto the doorframe, hold the back of the front seat with one hand, then stare at the ground with all the intensity of someone trying to solve the Palestinian crisis. They just keep standing there, as you look at your watch.
It’s all you can do, at this point, to not scream, “GET OUT OF THE DAMN CAR,” except you’ve read about how vitally important it is to never, ever rush a child through trying to do something. Because rushing your kid means being impatient, which makes them feel incompetent, eventually destroying their self-esteem and leaving them sobbing in the women’s bathroom a decade from now, right after their pole-shifts, wondering where it all went wrong.
If only frustration burned calories.
3. Because kids want to eat garbage
Before I had kids, I used to go to the farmer’s market to find fresh, seasonal produce with which to make elaborate meals from scratch. In fact, my insistence on unprocessed food was once a bone of contention with my Hot-pocket-eating boyfriend (later my husband).
I assumed I’d keep my lifestyle up after the kids were born, neither envisioning how much less energy I’d have, nor my frustration at seeing a thousand carefully-prepared meals splatter against the wall.
Or how desperate I’d be to keep the kids from rioting. Ideally, I’d love to feed the kids healthy food, all the time. I do still try, but it’s hard to keep throwing money and time at meals that end up in the garbage when literally every television channel and store display is flashing cartoon utopias of brightly-colored garbage that’s so much easier and cheaper.
You’ll also find yourself in the grocery store with a wound-up kid and a dozen reproachful eyes, just waiting for the looming meltdown, while knowing you could either put a stop to it all with a 50 cent treat, or hold your ground through yet another public episode of overwhelmed-mom-with-the-tantruming kids.
The struggle is real. And sometimes I cave.
4. Because kids don’t eat much
You know how you finish your lunch because you paid for it and you don’t want to throw your food away, only to get hungry an hour later and have to pay for something else?
Yeah, kids don’t worry about that. They don’t care what you just spent on their dinner when you’re eating out and will push it aside then literally start throwing a fit about being “so hungry,” 20 minutes later.
You’d think a few rounds of “Well, you should’ve eaten your dinner then, because I’m not not getting you any more food” would fix that, but they’re surprisingly stubborn. Because kids always plan roughly five minutes ahead of wherever they are now. They don’t remember how hungry they ended up being last night and won’t apply that lesson to this evening. Sometimes I’m amazed the human race is still around.
Even when they DO eat, it’s frequently only a tiny bit. I’ve watched my daughter suck the chocolate out of a croissant, pick the croutons out of a salad, lick the parmesan off pasta, and pick the Shake-n-bake coating off pork chops before loudly declaring that she was done.
My husband cleans up our kids’ leftovers like a champ. It just sucks too much to spend your hard-earned money on a meal that ends up only two tablespoons lighter, so my husband takes one for the team by polishing off the rest. Problem is, I’ve noticed him pushing the kids to order something he really likes an awful lot. Which makes sense, because you may as well order something you like if you’re going to end up eating most of it… except it’s a slippery slope from being thrifty to eating an extra, fatty meal because you “have” to.
Most of these meals, I notice, involve a lot of melted cheese. On the plus side, he’s really been leaning on our 3-year-old to practice her silverware, because who wants to polish off a meal someone’s massaged with booger-hands?
5. Your own habits start to backslide
So… you find yourself ordering increasingly empty-caloried garbage in hopes that your kids will possibly eat it, then polishing off said garbage so you won’t feel like you just set your wallet on fire.
You find yourself keeping a few more boxes of cookies around too, because it’s so helpful to have little rewards handy for when your kids finally pick up all their Legos and use an appropriate receptacle to pee into.
And after a while, that kale & quinoa salad isn’t looking so appetizing to you either. I’m not sure it ever really did, but it’s a lot easier to lie to yourself without all this peer pressure.
You get used to meandering along, taking 45 minutes to do what used to take you 10.
Plus, you may be eating a few more chocolates now, because it’s the only vice you’re still allowed. I mean, after you’ve put all that drinking, swearing, and watching violent movies aside, what else can you do?. Who doesn’t want to stuff their face after 300 hours of Caillou?
Either way, these are some of the health pitfalls to watch out for after you move into a lifestyle with kids.
It’s tough, but I’m sure we can overcome it: start following an exercise program and letting the kids get hungry enough to choke down some well-balanced meals. Remind my husband to stop ordering out for pizza or bringing home fast food before we’re shelling out for whole new wardrobes of pants…
Wish me luck 🙂