Well it has happened. After a weekend of health issues stemming from food sensitivities The Gent and I sat down for a bowl of fresh fruit this morning. Sounds nice doesn’t it? It was until I realized something was bothering him. He did not look happy, and when I asked him what was going on, upon which he hiked up his Spider-Man t-shirt, sucked in his belly and said, “I want my stomach to be flat.”

Warning! Warning!Warning! Sirens blaring, alarm bells blasting!

“Woah, woah, woah” I put down my fork. This is it I said to myself, don’t panic. I know that body image issues affect boys just as much as girls, except girls are over socialized to talk about it. Whereas for boys it is much less of a topic for conversation. Boys see the trim waistlines, iron pecs and bulging biceps in media, just as much as any of us and they want to look like that too. And of course, this is how young it starts.

I was heavy when I was ten. A gym teacher in grade school commented…“You have slimmed down so nicely.”

I wasn’t aware I had or that I ‘needed’ to. I don’t know when my weight became my preoccupation, but in grade thirteen after my dad died I got a membership at the gym where he worked out. I bought a prom dress that was snug, dieted and worked my way to the best shape of my life, but it changed nothing inside. I was still desperately trying to avoid processing my grief, as well as my fear of the realization that I was gay. And when I looked at my body in pictures in the sequinned red dress, my exterior was irrelevant, I hated myself and told no one. I do not want that for him.

“Honey,” I began, “we are not doing this to lose weight, we are doing this because last weekend mummy was in the hospital because there are foods that she should not eat any more. You eat more healthily to be more healthy and if weight loss happens it’s just a bonus.”

“Oh.” He took a moment to process this. I was still on high alert.

“And you should not be worrying about your weight because you are still growing.” Somewhere around that sentence I started to breathe again and realized how triggering conversation was for me. I ate more apple and tried to think of what to say next. My mind flipped back to the first years of my Wellness Promotion Diploma, and how to explain things in a way he could understand.

“You can’t always tell how healthy a person is by looking at them. Being thin is not the same as being healthy, and being bigger is not always unhealthy.” He did a double take like the world had just turned on its head. Then I remembered a way someone once explained it to me.

“Do you love my body exactly the way it is?” I asked. He nodded. “And I love your body exactly the way it is. But when you say you think your belly isn’t flat enough, imagine how that makes me feel about my belly.”

“Oh.” His eye grew wide. “Yeah. I want you to love my body the way it is, and I want you to love your body the way it is too.”

And so as I sit here at Freshii eating my Bamboo bowl (brown rice, chicken, green curry, coconut, mushroom, cabbage, cilantro and lime) my insides are finally starting to feel cool and clean. Not like the raging inferno they were last weekend. That’s what I want to teach my son.

Food is medicine and eating well is caring for yourself inside and out, no matter how you look on the outside. And because our bodies are meant to change all of the time through illness, accident, habit and environment a love for our bodies is the only thing that we must strive to ensure is a constant if we want to maintain a healthy body image.

So eat those greens, love that beautiful body, and read the list of ingredients in any processed foods!

About the Author

Kelly Wilk is a freelance writer and single mom to a six-year-old, red-headed, Irish, Aries boy who is growing up way too fast. Follow them on PinkPlayMags' parenting blog "The Ginger Gent" (www.pinkplaymags.com). Also, find Kelly on her own website and blog, Brave. Creative. Me at www.kellywilk.ca.