Last night was All Friends Night at public skate. (I've realized that I'm going to have to be more careful in my blogging, as I've narrowed us down to one of a handful of kids.) Stitch had two friends from school and Other Kid who he usually skates with. Other Kid showed up eating an ice cream cone, but loudly said "I should not be eating this, skaters do not eat junk food."
"Who says?" I ask, ever the defender of a kid's right to Kidfood like Lucky Charms and Creme Eggs.
I know who he's referring to and I roll my eyes.
All the kids get skates on and start playing. Friends from school start Not Practicing, while their mom rolls her eyes. We chat and laugh, encourage Friends to "go backward! do crossovers! Practice!" all to no avail.
One of the Friends takes a hard fall to the knee and exits the ice, sobbing. Stitch comes out to assure that she's okay, then asks me for a dollar. "What for?"
"I want to get friend a treat, because she fell."
Well, that's sweet as pie, but wait until resurface. "So she can sit and enjoy it, okay?"
Stitch agrees to wait, and goes back to playing.
The group gets moved to the big rink, and a cheer goes up from the children. Stitch takes this moment to get Friends some candy and himself a soda. Other Kid spots this and shakes his head. "Soda is the enemy of the figure skater."
"Is that what your coach says?" I ask.
"Good thing she's not Stitch's coach, then. He can eat whatever he wants."
Other Kid doesn't like this answer and frowns. If he only knew that we hit the McD's drive thru on the way home that night. Today I spotted him, holding a candy bar from his mom's purse, while a fellow skater chastised him. "Don't do it! Don't eat it!" Neither of these kids were over twelve. I just walked away.
Folks, this is how Eating Disorders take root. It starts real small, like that Mustard Seed you learned about in church. Small Rules and Rituals. No Soda. No Candy. No Junk. This sounds okay on the surface. But then some people take it too far. Nothing other than water or coffee (black). No Candy, ever. Junk food? Let's talk binging/purging. Apples, one slice at a time to savor it. Cans of tuna are only 80 calories. Mustard is calorie free and flavors everything. No food at all after 6pm or before 8am. I've seen a lot of this in the theatre, and there are always horror stories coming from the Gymnastics people.
I have a real issue with this coach putting restrictions on her kid's eating, even if she just does it in passing or "for fun." She's in a position of authority, and some of these girls look at her like Juno herself. She has the power to set up a negative association with food, whether she likes it or not, and all it's going to take is a few comments like "soda is the enemy."
Soda is not your enemy. Soda, every so often and in a moderate quantity, so no worse than candy, also fine in moderation. Kids need to be taught what is junk food and what is not, and that it's okay to have "junk food" every once in awhile because (face it) it tastes real good and is a great treat.
Coach hasn't said word one to me about Stitch's eating, beyond "give him some coffee" before group lessons to make him pay attention. If she ever does I'd be curious to see what she'd say. If she starts telling me to restrict during these years, pre-pubescent up to 16, I would question that. I keep Stitch on a pretty even keel of the Basic Food groups, but I don't cut fat or count calories because he looks like a twig in his skinny jeans. I typically don't keep chips, cookies, or stuff like that in the house, and when I do buy it I earmark it "as a treat." Yes, we do eat fast food on occasion because I love cheeseburgers and french fries and Chicago style hot dogs. But last night at the drive thru was my first time having red meat since last week and been to McD's I can't remember when. (I only remember my last cheeseburger because it was the Speedskating Meet.) Even Stitch said, "this is really good, but we can't do this all the time."
Nope, this was a treat since it was late and we were starved.
If anyone wants a great goulash recipe, or homemade pasta sauce, chicken stock, or vegetable minestrone, I'd be happy to share. Cutting kids off from junk food, rather than teaching them how to enjoy it, is a critical error. There's really no such thing as a Diet, it's all a bunch of daily choices with an overall goal of good health. Having some candy every now and then never hurt anyone, figure skater or otherwise.
Pass the cheetos.