Having two girls, I’m very conscious of food issues. Having had my own issues with food growing up, and still having them to some degree now, I’m very careful not to berate my body in front of them, and not to talk about going on a diet with them.
Unless of course, they bring it up. On Friday, I got a text from The Princess, “Can I be a vegetarian?” Now, putting aside my initial response, which was “Why the heck are you texting this to me?” my second thought was wondering where this desire came from and worrying about whether this was a symptom of an eating disorder (to all grandmothers out there, relax, it’s not, I checked).
When she got home, we had a brief discussion about the idea. I remember wanting to be a vegetarian when I was in college. Of course, my desire was directly tied to other issues, and while I love vegetarian dishes to this day, I’m not a vegetarian. There wasn’t time for much of a discussion, as she was packing to go away for the weekend, but I did have time to ask a few questions and to impart some advice.
The first thing I asked was why she wanted to be one. She has several dancer friends who spend a lot of time talking about diet and their own weight, and my biggest concern was that she was concerned about her own. Anyone who knows her would know how ridiculous that is, but there’s no telling what a fifteen year old girl sees when she looks in the mirror--I know. Thankfully, she does not think she’s fat and she’s not looking at vegetarianism as a way to lose weight. She sees it as a way to eat healthier.
I applaud that desire in her. While she basically eats whatever is put in front of her, she has a very limited list of things she likes, her tastes run to sweets and she’d rather skip a snack than eat a healthy one. So the advice I gave her, in the limited time we had to talk, was that eating healthy was a great idea, but vegetarianism wasn’t the only way to do it. We could limit her junk food and increase her healthy food. If she truly wants to become a vegetarian, I insist she meets with a nutritionist, who will show her what to do and how to do it. And, being the mom that I am, I told her the only way I’d allow her to consider this at all was if she agreed to eat eggs, soy, tofu and beans. I stressed the word, “and.” If she’d told me she was considering this for ethical reasons, I may have reacted differently, but I don’t want her further limiting her food choices, or only replacing protein with vegetables. She needs to be healthy.
Throughout the weekend, I got multiple texts from her telling me about the salads she was eating. I asked her what she put in them and then bought the same ingredients from the grocery store so she could have them at home. I’ve also told her if she wants to try it for a week, I’ll do it with her. Then again, I served London Broil for dinner the night she came home. ;)
I’m not sure where this is going. I’ll support her choice as long as she goes into this with the right attitude. I have a hard time picturing her actually going through with this. But if it gets her to develop a healthy attitude toward food, regardless of what her actual decision is, I'm all for it!