Dieting while the little darling is trying to dunk doughnuts!

Me and Ben, he can cuddle me easily now!

“Mum, what can I have to eat?”, “Mum, I’m hungry”, and “Mum, can I have some sweets?”. I am sure I am not the only mum who hears these phrases all the time!! Children have a massive impact on what food we buy, what we cook, and the time we have to cook. I am a mum of one, I have been a mum for over 10 years now, in some ways it gets easier in other ways it gets harder. There are children that wont eat certain colour foods, certain texture foods and of course all children seem to love anything unhealthy!

My son Ben has special needs and as such looking after him can be very time consuming. Over the years there have been times where I have attempted to diet and been unsuccessful due to having to weigh and measure everything I ate, which when your child has a fascination with water and at 4/5 years old is determined that phones and remote controls should be in the fish tank, toilet, or sink! Sometimes trying to lose weight and children are just not a good mix, but I do believe this can change over time and that some diets are easier to manage with children than others. For me Slimming World worked, I could cook food at my own speed whilst dealing with Ben and not worrying about cooking my food separately, weighing everything and counting grains of rice! Ok so I know there are no diets that require this but the weighing and measuring in some diets made it feel that way!

Ben made his “own creation” pasta!

I am fortunate enough to have been invited to some Slimming World groups as a guest speaker and share my weight loss story on quite a few occasions since reaching my target. I really enjoy doing this because I know how beneficial I found it when a guest speaker came to my group early in my Slimming World journey and talked about his weight loss. He is now actually my boyfriend, who I have talked about in a previous post. Whilst we now often do the Slimming World group visits and talks together our weight loss journeys have been very different and the questions I am often asked relate to being vegetarian, not exercising, my skin, and being a mum. The other areas will be subjects of future blogs but for this one I will talk about the things I am asked and the advice I give based on being a mum and dieting!

Ben is my world, I love him so much, but as a mum I need to be strong and remember that food shouldn’t regularly be used as a reward. I feel it is also important to try and feed your children healthily where you can but also allowing treats and not making food too much of an issue. Something a friend once told me really sticks in my mind which is food is a fuel not a reward, you’re not a dog! I do try to remember this with Ben but it is not easy since I have in recent years been trying to change to this approach whereas I am ashamed to say previously I hadn’t paid that much attention to what I had been feeding him. Ben is not vegetarian, he knows that I am and he knows the reason why however doesn’t fully understand as he often asks me if I want to try “just a little bit” of his meat! I have always believed that as his mum I should feed him a variety and when he gets to an age that he would understand the choice is his. Of course this is not the same with eating healthily, I don’t feel that for children this would be a choice they could make, us adults struggle enough! I do however give Ben lots of choices in his food as I feel it important that his likes and dislikes are respected.

I used to struggle to move much let alone sit
playing on the floor with him!

How do you buy treats for your child but not for yourself? and how do you resist eating their treats?
I only buy Ben treats that either I do not like or know that I can resist. I buy jelly sweets as I don’t like them and crisps as I know I can resist them. On the occasions I do buy Ben chocolate I never buy him galaxy chocolate and try to ensure I buy him something small he will eat straight away so it is not hanging around to tempt me! I try to always take a shopping list out with me and not buy things I do not need!

Do you cook family meals or separate meals for Ben?
I do both, sometimes we eat together and sometimes we don’t. I always let him try some of my food if I am having something different to him but do not insist he tries things he doesn’t want to. Luckily curiosity usually gets the better of Ben and he wants to try things even if I don’t want him to! He recently was helping me make a curry when he insisted on trying a bit of chilli powder! I try to involve Ben in cooking when I can, even if it is not what he is eating, because his interest is sparked then and he tries new things. Ben often has some of the same parts of a meal I have so we may have Slimming World chips and vegetables but the other item on the plate may be different so I am not making two entirely separate meals.

Ben cooking again!

Does Ben follow the Slimming World plan because you do?
I do not make Ben follow the Slimming World plan but he does eat a lot healthier than he used to and he only has Slimming World chips now unless we are out and I use the Slimming World guidelines and syns in choosing what to buy him so he has syn free sausages, 5% fat mince, and fat free yoghurts etc but I also give him chicken nuggets sometimes and don’t always cut the fat off his bacon! Ben is a child and his dietary needs will be different, I am conscious that he needs calcium so try to add cheese to meals for him if he has had toast instead of cereal that morning, and always ensure he has a cereal with plenty of fibre in and wholemeal bread because I think these little changes are easy and vital.

Do you find that the stress of being a mum impacts on you “sticking to plan”?
I do, very much so, when I am worrying about something linked to Ben I know that I am easily tempted turn to comfort eating. I do find being a mum stressful at times especially because Bens disabilities mean that there are uncertainties in the future, there are times he does not progress as well as other children, and there are challenges that you don’t expect to face when you get pregnant! Since I joined Slimming World I have had some very emotionally difficult appointments with professionals about Ben and his difficulties and I would be lying if I said that these had never lead me to comfort eating because they have. One appointment I had went as well as it could have but something in me made me compare Ben with another child of his age and realise how difficult Ben has things and think about the pain Ben is in daily. On the way home I bought a packet of teacakes (you know the ones you toast and cover with butter!) that were reduced at the petrol station, I ate them all that night, with butter on too! Did they change Bens disabilities? Did they make me feel any better? No! Of course I knew I shouldn’t have eaten them but I am only human and we all slip up sometimes. What I did learn from that was to limit where I need to go following any appointment that may be stressful so temptation is not put in my way, and to plan so I have healthy comfort food available to me at these times.

A trouser leg each now!

Do you still eat out with Ben, get takeaways or take him to fast food outlets?
I do, but not anywhere near as often as I used to! My choices are also very different to what they used to be and you know what, I don’t actually miss them! I used to have take away around 3 times a week, a 12 inch pizza and some garlic bread to myself, sometimes with chips too. I used to go out for lunch and eat a massive main course followed by pudding and sometimes even had a starter first, never having the salad of course and always sneaking in a side order of cheesy garlic bread or onion rings! Now I chose a healthier option such as a jacket potato or salad. Sometimes if I am getting Ben fast food we go through the drive through so it is easy just to get him something and get home rather than sitting watching him eat while I wait for my meal later! I have discovered though that most of the time Ben is just as happy cooking with me at home and finds as much enjoyment in designing his own pizza as he does in ordering one, I can make sure it is much smaller and healthier too!

Do you think losing weight has changed you as a mum?
I am much healthier now and much more able to do things physically with Ben that I couldn’t before. Ben uses a wheelchair a lot and isn’t able to walk far or play at the park for long so doesn’t need a mum who can run around for ages with him however does need a mum fit enough to push his wheelchair without getting out of breath! When we recently went on holiday I was able to go in the swimming pool confidently with Ben without feeling self conscious. Previously I wouldn’t have even wore 3/4 length trousers so a bikini was a new thing to me! Also, I feel that losing weight has been part of what has given me a lot more confidence in myself which has impacted on my confidence as a mum. Every aspect of being a mum I feel in hindsight was affected by my weight, I dreaded going to parents evening and other events at school because of the small chairs you have to sit on. I rarely took Ben to places that I felt my weight would stand out and was especially embarrassed when I was turned away from a ride at Alton Towers as the safety bar wouldn’t close because of my size. Now I do anything that I want to with Ben, money permitting of course!

A meal out always involved dessert!

What about children’s parties, Christmas, Easter and buying ice-cream in the summer, do you make Ben miss things like that because of the temptation or do you go “off plan”?
Neither, I plan well for these things and ensure that Ben never has to miss out on anything but I eat before I go to a party if I can and plan food for when I come back so that the temptation is less, I avoid sitting near a buffet and I try to help Ben to chose healthy options as well as the usual sausage rolls and crisps! I buy Ben an Easter egg for Easter and selection box for Christmas but do not go overboard and make sure again they are things I can resist and try to limit how much he eats at once. I would never make Ben do without something because of my issues with food but equally there is no need to give him more than necessary either.

What does Ben think about your weight loss?

Ben is so proud of me and also tries to help me by telling me off if he thinks I might eat any of his sweets. I am not entirely sure if he is telling me off to keep me slim or to keep his sweets but it is lovely all the same! Ben loves that I can now do more with him and says that it is better sitting on the sofa with me now as there is more space! It was amazing when Ben said to me during my weight loss journey that he loved that he could cuddle me properly because his arms reached all the way around, that really motivated me to never go back to how I was. Ben also loves getting my old clothes out and trying them on with me as we can now fit in them together! He is always calling me beautiful and says he loves that I am thin, lovely comments from him make any bad days where I comfort ate or got upset at a gain seem so insignificant! He also jokes and says that at least now if we played football it would be fair because he could get the ball past me into the net! The reality is I am terrible at football so that wouldn’t be hard anyway!

We have so much more fun now!
Do you worry about Bens weight and the chance of him getting as obese as you were?
Yes, I worry about this lots, I do try to feed him healthily most of the time and I monitor his weight a lot too but am determined to not draw attention to it with him and to just talk about healthy choices. As Ben has difficulties with his mobility he doesn’t move around as much as most children his age which probably has an impact on his weight too but I will always do my best to educate him about what is healthy and what is not and to feed him as healthily as I can.

Do you have any suggestions on how to encourage my children to eat more healthily?
Every child is different but the things I have found that have worked are:
– involve the child in the cooking, by them choosing how to cut the peppers and how to arrange it on their plate they feel more inclined to eat it!
– Ask what vegetable they want with their tea sometimes rather than dictating, you may find they really enjoy a vegetable you don’t often cook.
– If they have school dinners get a copy of the menu and ask them to show you what they like and don’t like.
– Give them a list of foods they like and can help themselves to as snacks, my son now has an list of fruit, pickled onions, mushrooms (he likes them raw) that he can help himself to at any time. This makes him feel grown up and he has started opting for them often without asking for other things!
– lead by example, let them see how nice your food looks, tempt them into asking to try it as they are more likely to properly try it than you begging them to “just try a little bit”
– allow them to have dislikes, if the only vegetable they like is carrots then is there any harm them having carrots most days? Equally will it do them any harm to never have apples?
hide your favourite cereal bars if you have them for your healthy extra B or a snack or buy plenty, kids seem to love the Slimming World Hifi bars or Alpen lights!

Fruit picking encouraged Ben to try raspberries!

There is no reason why being a parent should stop you losing weight, it may add extra challenges but I think if you plan for them the best you can and do not beat yourself up for mistakes then you are doing the best you can do. Just think, this time next year your children may be looking at you proud of what you have achieved, do it for you but also do it for them for your life with them and enjoy your weight loss journey, there is nothing worse than being a grumpy mum because you have limited yourself to salads every day and are bored! I hope that I will continue to be the best mum I can be, I no I will never be perfect as no parent is but if I do the best I can for my son then I will have succeeded. I know for sure that for Ben there is no way I will ever go back to the morbidly obese lady I had become.

Slimming World do a plan called “Free 2 Go” for 11-15 year olds on referral from a doctor and with a parent also attending group with them. If you are concerned about your child’s weight you could speak to your G.P. or look into this, remember the Slimming World plan is designed for adults and children’s nutritional needs may be different. Information about this is found on the Slimming World Website which can be found here.

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