Parents, is it Time to Stop Dieting?

As a weighty parent, with more ‘body’ for my children to love than I would like, I diet and seek support from others to succeed. All too often, in the past, those others could be my children. But by including my kids in my dieting support group, I was nurturing an excess of issues in them which they could find themselves unhealthily feeding upon for years to come.

Despite my love of food, I can honestly say that I do get the desire to diet! As an overweight parent, I long to turn my body back to the time before I had kids – when clothes shopping was not an exercise in shame and body image pain and when the physical challenges of enjoying time with children did not result in being out of breath sooner than it had begun.

I’ve been riding the merry-go-around – or should that be roller-coaster! – of dieting since just before I got married 16 years ago, and I’ve yet to find a way to stay off it for a significant period of time.  I’ve been to Slimming World, counted calories, cut out sugar, South Beach-ed it and many, many others. I’ve seen good, sometimes even significant, weight loss with each of these and I’ve reached some of my goals.  Then I’ve got busy and stressed again, before stumbling and failing to keep the weight off. Yet the biggest failure of mine has been to let my children know I was dieting!

When your children know you are dieting, you are connecting them to body image shaming issues. One of the biggest challenges for parents today is to help our children accept themselves, especially their body and appearance – but when we model discomfort with our appearance, we increase the chances of them forming similarly unhealthy views of their own bodies.

Most adults tend to diet in short bursts and so offer confusing messages about healthy and balanced eating to their children. And if they do manage to diet long term, going on and on about their food intake in front of their children can be rather like going on and on about practicing times tables… far from inspiring enjoyment, it inspires life-long loathing!

When we do succeed at dieting, by manically shunning certain foods as if they were kryptonite to our bodies, we all too often add even more confusion to our kids’ minds by then ‘rewarding’ ourselves for losing weight by eating the very things we have been avoiding! This models to our children that reward equals food and that eating must always be one extreme or another.

I hear the argument that by including our children in our dieting we are modelling our attempts to better ourselves and, yes, that is true. But this small positive does not outweigh all the negatives. It’s like eating 6 donuts and thinking a 10-minute run will burn off the 1500 calories you’ve just consumed!

This is not going to be a popular sentence but here goes: When it comes to eating, our children are very likely to follow our habits and that includes becoming overweight and joining us on the dieting merry-go-round. You don’t want that for them and nor do I, which is why I advise us to drop the ‘d-word’ hide our diets from our kids.

Here are some tips to successfully be on a diet while being a parent:

  • Get yourself an amazing support group that does not include your children ( – and never take your children to a Slimming World/ Weight watchers type weigh in!)
  • Eat the same main meal together as a family: healthy food for you is healthy food for the kids. Don’t eat weird ‘diet food’ in front of them and don’t join them in eating crap. You’ll all be happier and healthier. This way you can model healthy, balanced eating.
  • Use snack-time for your weird ‘diet food’ as your kids will not notice that.
  • Celebrate your success – you deserve it! – but not in front of your kids.
  • Be active together as a family!
  • Reward yourself and your family when you all do things well – but with treats other than food!
  • Be kind to yourself and the kids when dieting, as we can easily be moodier parents when cutting the calories.
  • Talk about being healthy… dump the diet word!

I honestly wish you all the best in becoming healthier. I hope it makes you happier and able to more fully enjoy your wonderful family. I hope the way we achieve our healthier success means we give the next generation a better shot at being happy in their own skins.

And if you are trying to diet, I weigh in once a week on my FB page – come and see how I am doing and share your story!

Perfect Parent Newsletter

2016 has been another perfect year for the faultless Shorters.

Before we begin, it is worth pointing out that by merely reading this letter you will undoubtedly be inspired to follow our example of parental perfection. This is completely normal and does not necessarily imply any inadequacies in your own parenting.

The perfect birthday bash

January 2016 literally went off with a bang! For our son’s birthday, we raised the bar for in-house party entertainment in a way which could best be described as ‘not age appropriate’. A wayward outdoor firework mistook our dining room for the night sky and exploded under the table. Thankfully, and miraculously, no one was hurt, although everyone’s party bag subsequently came with a complimentary phobia of fireworks. Obviously, I blame the entire incident on a faulty firework. If I were not such a perfect dad, I would have had to graciously accept that, in situations such as these, some fault must be attributed to the guy with the lighter in his hand – namely me… but of course, being a perfect parent, I don’t have to!

Holidays are perfect learning opportunities

While having a lovely week in France, staying at a converted barn in Normandy, we solved the issue of keeping children educationally engaged whilst on holiday.
‘Kids, put the iPad down and look out of the window,’ led to this parenting breakthrough. Like many parents on long journeys, we often let the iPad parent our children so as to avoid the trauma of the inevitable and repetitive grilling of ‘how long?’ and ‘are we nearly there yet?’

But while driving through quiet and picturesque towns in rural Normandy, we insisted the kids look out of the window – only for us to pass two cows enthusiastically experiencing carnal knowledge of one another. This deeply amused our eldest, who with the unnecessarily over-the-top exuberance of a preteen boy, gave his sisters a detailed anatomical commentary of what was going on – replete with sound effects! This left my six-year-old daughter decidedly underwhelmed by any subsequent car journey that did not include copulating cattle.

Near perfect new school transition

Our son started secondary school in September and his calm management of this stressful change demonstrates the amazing perfect job we have done with him. However, it has not been an easy transition. A week or so beforehand, the nerves and sleepless nights set in. Worries about bus trips and how to find the toilets were the foremost causes for concern. Cries of ‘where’s the lunch box?’, ‘where’s the Oyster Card?’ and ‘is the right P.E. kit packed?!’ echoed throughout the house.

Thankfully, he quickly became aware of the anxious mess his parents (well, his dad) had found themselves in and helped us (ok, me!) successfully process the transition. Taking everything in his stride, he listened respectfully to our concerns and said all the right things, enabling his unstable parents to cope with his change to big-school. A clear example of the excellent empathy and counselling skills we have instilled him with.

Professional Encouragement

As you probably know already, our business, Tender Shoots, is up and running – Alison is operating a very successful Forest School programme and I am offering private parental coaching. One of my key take away lessons from this experience has been that children often fail to realise just how perfect their parents are. ‘Dad, you are a rubbish parent, how can you be a parenting coach?’ has rung out around our house more than once in the last year, simply proving they don’t yet know how lucky they are… right…?!

Honest Weight Loss

Teaching children honesty is so important. My youngest daughter embraces filterless honesty by regularly observing that my bum is too big for our toilet seats! This kind of motivation from the children has meant that yet again this has been a year of dieting – and I think I have lost a total of over three stone! Regrettably, I have also put on around 2 1/2 stone… but at least I’m a few pounds better off than when I started.

Perfect Pet Care

Most parents will testify to the traumatic experience of allowing your child to have a small pet. However, I doubt many parents have provided as intimate care for their child’s rabbits as I have.

This year, we welcomed Len and Bruno into our home, our middle child’s beloved rabbits. Within a few months it was evident that they were fighting and had to be separated. I then embarked on a three-month rabbit conflict resolution program, aided by hours and hours of watching YouTube videos about how to support rabbits to get along with each other. All the advice seemed to suggest that getting the rabbits ‘done’ was the best way to resolve the conflict. After an insanely expensive operation, I’m pleased to say both rabbits came through the procedure neutered and relatively well.

Unfortunately, Len’s empty scrotum would not heal. To aid Len’s recovery the vet presented me with a tube of Manuka honey. I have never tasted this expensive condiment, but this was not for eating – rather the vet instructed me to spread the honey on the rabbit’s scrotum! And that twice-daily for a week! Sadly, Len is no longer with us. The combination of my soothing hands and expensive honey did in fact heal Len’s scrotum. but the many hours in rabbits’ couples’ therapy with me could not heal the emotional wounds between him and Bruno. Len has therefore moved on to pastures new, although I doubt they will offer him the intimate care he received in our household.

With such a busy, perfect family life, it’s a wonder I found time to write this!

May your 2017 be as memorable as our 2016.
Don’t try to be perfect, just be yourself…it’s far more fun!

God Bless, The Shorters