I’ve been secretly dieting. Counting calories, checking carbs, and weighing food. I’ve become rather obsessed with how many steps I take in a day, and I usually wake up before the sun (and my kids) to walk.

At the moment, I’m rather consumed with my healthier lifestyle, and I will talk the ear off of just about anyone who will listen. That’s right. I’m not keeping it a secret from everyone. If anything, I want to shout it from the rooftops. I want to share my experience with others to make myself more accountable … and to brag a bit. You see, I’ve lost 25 pounds, and I feel fantastic!

So, who am I keeping it a secret from? My children.

At the ages of four and six, they have absolutely no idea what the word ‘diet’ even means, and I want to keep it that way. Right now, they are both active and healthy and don’t need to worry about cutting calories or the number on the scale. 

They are naturally energetic, preferring to run wild outside than participating in any indoor, sedentary type of activity. Even when my son watches television, he spends the time bouncing on the sofa or jumping off the coffee table. If I put my Fitbit on either of their wrists for the day, I’m sure it would put my step count to shame.

They are not adventurous eaters by any means, but we talk about healthy foods and how important it is to eat vegetables. Although they still prefer junk food, they know they can’t always eat treats.

I know there will be a day when I need to talk to them about what it means to be on a diet and how to lose weight in a healthy way. But, today is not that day.

Today, I don’t want them to worry about eating an occasional ice cream cone or an extra slice of pizza. Instead of dreading the temptation of an Easter basket filled with jelly beans and chocolate, I just want to hear their squeals of excitement. Today, they just need to be kids.

So, as I resist the urge to stuff all of those jelly beans into my mouth, I’m on my own. I don’t tell them I’m on a diet. Instead, I tell them things like “Mommy is trying to be healthy” and “Mommy needs to get more exercise, so I can keep up with you.”

It’s hard keeping it a secret, though. My son wonders why I won’t get an ice cream when we go out for a treat one night. I’m sure he sees me glancing longingly at his. My daughter tries to share her bowl of pretzels with me during a movie, but I say no and glare at my bowl of carrot sticks instead.

It would be easier for me if I told them I was dieting – maybe they would stop offering me their treats, and I wouldn’t be tempted to eat the heads off of all of their marshmallow peeps. But for now, I will keep it a secret.

I will continue to gradually change the dialogue in our house to contain more phrases like: being healthy, exercising, and eating until you’re satisfied.

I will insist that they eat healthier snacks (most of the time) and try new foods.

I will model by example and let my kids see me jogging next to their bikes or kicking the soccer ball around the back yard.

I will let them see me all red-faced and sweaty after I get off of the treadmill, so they remember that being healthy can be hard work sometimes.

What I won’t do is let my kids, especially my daughter, hear phrases like “I can’t eat that,” “I feel fat today,” or “I can’t believe I gained a pound this week.” I have no desire for those ideas to echo through her head in a few years when she becomes more aware of her body and more likely to fall victim to comparing herself to unrealistic images in magazines.

I know that one day this will get easier, but right now it is hard. Hard to lose the weight and hard not to talk about it. However, I know with certainty that I do not want to pass on my weight loss struggles to my kids.

So when I step off of the scale only to find my daughter standing behind me, no matter what number just blinked up at me, I turn and smile. And when she hops onto the scale, I tell her, “Wow! You are growing so big and strong! So healthy! But, I know a better way to tell. Race you to the living room.”

She yells “Ready. Set. Go!” as she flies out of the room. I smile, sneak a glance at my slimmer profile in the mirror, and run after her. I am happy to have lost the weight; however, it will make me even happier to raise a girl who would much rather run and play than pause to reflect on her own weight.

Sarah Clouser

Sarah is a current stay-at-home mom. After years of teaching high school English, she is enjoying focusing on her two children while learning to slow down and look at the world through their eyes. She has learned more about dinosaurs and princesses in the past few years than she ever thought possible. She recently started writing about parenting on her blog, https://onemilesmile.wordpress.com/