We are back from our first sun holiday of the year, which is why I have taken a break from writing. Now that we are settling down for more school, work, organising, worrying, caring for others, I can also sit down and process (i.e. write) some of the things I have witnessed in the last couple of weeks. And no, I am not talking about the good stuff.
Our holiday destination featured, apart from blue waters, a lot of people I would never want to turn into. This may sound harsh, but honestly, we all have those types in our heads. I am not an unsympathetic person, but I have limits. When it comes to personal health, I can understand the lack of enthusiasm to seek help, make changes, or even simply admit that you have a problem. But there should be a stage that no one should reach without realising that the problem is there and will not go away unless they do something about it. And more importantly, there should be an earlier stage when you know there is something wrong, whether you are ready to admit it or not, and you understand that you cannot raise your children in your own footsteps. This is beyond my limit. Whether you are ready to change your life or not, you should not be willing to take the risk that your children have the same problem as you do. So I have very little sympathy for those parents who are unwilling to make an effort to get their kids to eat right. I have no sympathy for those who volunteer their children to the sugar industry.
There is one thing I have noticed on the terrace of our holiday restaurant: the wider the people, the whiter their food. And I am not talking white cabbage and parsnip. I am talking pasta with cheese, white bread with everything, pastries, mayo-coated veggies, if veggies were even present. There were only two exceptions to the white rule, both found in abundance on the wide menu: meat and chocolate.
Despite my personal feelings as a chocolate lover, I do not believe chocolate has its place in a healthy diet. Cacao may have one, in small quantities and unaccompanied by sugar, but not chocolate. I thought it was bad enough that the breakfast buffet had a wide display of dessert choices, including several types of actual cakes, along with the sugary cereal and candy (yes, candy). But whenever I heard someone speaking French, I could bet there would be chocolate on their plates (and I would have won the bet every time). “Chéri, how many pains au chocolat do you want, 4 or 5?” (actual fact) “Chéri, make spaces for the big bowl of chocolate milk in between your chocolate pancakes” (this happened, it’s just that they didn’t actually say the words in italics, that’s my description of the plate in question).
I can sort of understand when you are not fat and your kids are not fat that you may feel like you are still within acceptable limits of sugar consumption. But when both you and your children are overweight, can you really believe that you are doing the right thing? Can you honestly say that you are eating the right kind of foods? Is it possible to not blame your diet at all? Is it really just genes and bad luck?
Now I want to go back to sympathy a little bit. It is so easy to judge and blame, I am guilty of that too. For instance, I judge and blame the thinner parents, because I am not a fat person myself, but I struggle with a sugar addiction that was born when I was small and allowed to eat chocolate to my heart’s content. I know I am lucky because I gain very little weight from indulging in bad foods, but the weight that I do gain is hard to lose. For me, worse than my weight is the way I feel. Headaches, nausea, lack of energy, and that feeling of wanting to curl up into a ball and hide in a dark and silent place (actual medical term, of course). I know that people with a different metabolism would add up more kilos than me with the amount of sweets I sometimes consume. I also know that there are more people who, like me, do not add up the kilos and who may not even get those physical discomforts I do. But that does not mean that the level of sugar consumption is right. We are still doing our bodies a great disfavour.
So while I sympathise with the struggle to eat right, with the feeling of powerlessness, with the sadness and the guilt, I cannot sympathise with ignoring the problem and I will not sympathise with passing it on. Hard as it may be, we need to face the facts and be sympathetic in trying to help each other, not in making excuses. I have a ton of space for sympathy for slip-ups and exceptions; I will not judge parents who allow their child an occasional treat, or have one themselves. But when the meal itself is a treat, and when that treat is repeated three times a day, maybe even more if snacks fall into the same category, I cannot be sympathetic with that. Judge me all you want, I just can’t do it.
P.S. If you have the answer to the question in the title, please tell me, I really want to know!