19 Comments
Nov 1, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

This is so awful.

Speaking as a lifelong sneaker of food when around my mother, I was glad you got to putting snacks in backpacks. It's like, you don't want to sneak around but if it's that or your kid being hungry... If the kids are old enough to have lockers at school, putting food there, or if they're old enough to use money and go to stores on their own, making sure they have money, could also help. None of which gets to the root issue, but again, keeping kids adequately fed is so important.

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Yes! I love how Hilary calls it harm reduction. This has to come first and in some cases, that’s all you can do — but it’s actually doing so so much.

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Nov 1, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

This is SUCH A THING. It is absolutely a question of sovereignty over one's own body.

Here's the deal: my younger kid is just picky. I think it runs in the family, as my sister & my ex's sister are both extremely picky, unto middle age. School lunches at his elementary school were objectively gross, and so I'd pack him a lunch every day I had him. But on dad's days, he just wouldn't do it, because he thought our son should be able to do all of that without being reminded. I'd pick up a starving and angry 4th grader, and eventually had to put my foot down.

Now dad refuses snacks in his house & only makes "healthy" food the now 12-yo won't eat. He still won't usually eat lunch at school, and most days doesn't eat breakfast (even at my house). The saving grace is that the kids take the bus to my house after school every day, so I can usually make sure he eats something that day.

He likes junk food most of the time. Considering his growth stage & general eating patterns, I know I'd want something calorically-dense too. My ex blames me and my family for this, as some of us are in larger bodies, but we're just trying to feed him food he will eat. Kiddo's therapist is going to have words with dad, so there's hopefully some light on the horizon.

Back to the sovereignty question, this is absolutely a man who views the needs of others as inconveniences at best; at worst they are moral failures. For 15 years, he tried to tell me I needed less sleep than I actually needed. Sleep! The other physical requirements that went along with that were also.....rigorous? Abusive? I'm still figuring that out.

At least my kid is rebellious as hell with him, unlike I was. Hopefully the therapist will straighten him out - we've had precedent with him actually listening to therapists in the past.

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Thank you so much for sharing - and I'm so sorry you're dealing with this (and have dealt with it for so long and OMG just what on the sleep thing!). Fingers crossed on the therapist.

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Nov 1, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

. I wish I had burnt toast along for the ride after my divorce! The big take away: ”You can always tell me something that happened at Dad’s that was harder for you. I’m not going to get mad when you want to talk about what happens there.’” Help your kids feel emotionally safe. It’s the bottom line. Sometimes we fail. That’s ok too. ♥️

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Yes yes yes.

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Nov 1, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

WOW.

This is so absolutely infuriating and important to read. Thank you so much for sharing and amplifying these stories, and connecting them to our broader culture of misogyny and abuse.

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Nov 1, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

ditto

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Nov 1, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

First, I'm deeply grateful for your work. Thank you for writing about these issues with such intelligence and compassion. Second, LORD how I wish I'd had you and this community when I was parenting step-kids. It was such a struggle and a constant point of friction. And third, GAHHHHHH these poor families. It sucks so hard.

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I interviewed an amazing step-mom dealing with this and then didn't find a spot for her in this piece (when I realized I really wanted to hone in on the particular dynamic of diet-y dads) but I SEE YOUR LABOR. Step-parents often do so much critical heavy lifting on these issues. And it's so much.

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My step-son grew up to be 6'4" and I like to say it's because I fed him so well. :D and thank you for seeing the (often unacknowledged) work of steps in the family dynamic. Whew. It is so much.

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Nov 1, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

This newsletter is very very very good. Forwarding it like crazy !!!

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Thank you so much!

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Nov 1, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I have started to .pdf your newsletters to save them as I am this crazy lady scared that content is going to disappear from the internet at some point (I haven't reached the binding them in a book stage.......yet)(I have of course pre-ordered your book!)

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Well this is amazing. (And makes me wonder if other people want PDFs of the newsletter? Like we could, in theory, MAKE that... maybe a year end compilation of essays or something.)

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Nov 1, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

yes! I like this idea.

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Damn! This is so good- AND so heartbreaking and infuriating.

I learned the term "orthorexia" last year thanks to the guys at the Conspirituality podcast- where they tackle the intersections of conspiracy thinking, alt-right/white supremacy, grifter/cult culture, and new age/hippie think. Which I think is what you're naming here with the Cross fit dad?

I've lived on the west coast for most of my adult life after being raised in the south with southern parents and a chubby mom who loves to cook, who b/c I am straight sized didn't really put any trips on me about food, but now, as a grown up I hear from youngest sister, who was chubby all through her youth, that it wasn't the same for her- so my parent's anti-fat bias was definitely there. Then I meet my ex and I would have panic attacks in the kitchen w/ him b/c my food isn't "organic" enough and I was afraid of him judging me. His mother still to this day at age 70 eats very restricted and counts calories like crazy, and his sister was a staunch vegan for many years- so I see disordered eating for sure in his family of origin. Through him though I got into organic farming, herbalism, fermented foods, the Weston A. Price foundation- I'm grateful for that learning, but I also became a real asshole to be around b/c I wasn't considering things like access/size privilege/class/race. Eventually I pushed back, and now my kitchen/pantry (I think) is a nice blend of foods, where our 13 year old son knows he will often find cheetos, coke, frozen pizzas, boxed brownie mix, alongside things like homemade kimchi, veggies from our CSA box, and local pastured chicken in the freezer for roasting. My son loves to cook which recently involved a hilarious incident with a fried chicken recipe from Tik Tok that resulted in a burn to my eyebrow from hot oil! But he's also getting into working out, and already I'm getting worried that a big part of it is b/c he is concerned with how he looks.

I think a lot of the folks here in western WA know have a form of some kind of "orthorexia;" there is so much stress about food for them- it's not organic enough, it has gluten (though none of the are actually diagnose with celiac, just "intolerant,"), the meat is not grass fed, the fat is not the right kind of saturated, the list goes on and on and on. (all this feels adjacent to the link to Anjali's post on the whiteness of local food/farmers market over on the Anti-Racist Dietitian- thanks for that share). I always feel a bit of relief to go back to South Carolina to see my folks b/c the access to food is so very different. This is where I see a change in food policy needed, but I don't quite understand that world enough to try to make connections to my "healthy" eating white folks who are all shrouded in deep diet culture and anti-fatness. It's exhausting to be around their eating parameters, and thus many of those friendships met their demise during the pandemic especially as many reared up to heir alt-right/libertarian anti-collective thinking- my ex and many many former friends organized a mask mandate protest in their tiny majority white thin privilege western WA island community bubble- and I'm just thinking about anti-blackness and women being forced out of the work force since we don't pay for the care work that Motherood is and the rate of covid deaths in places like the Navajo nation and all the disparities the pandemic highlighted. So many other more important issues than an anti-mask mandate!!! The blinders these woke white people have is effing astounding and I just can't anymore.

I'm sharing some of my story here in part to say THANK YOU for Burnt Toast. This piece in particular really drove home some things I see in my own co-parenting journey, the legacy of diet culture, and the intersections of this with white supremacy. Burnt Toast has also been a wonderful companion over the last year during my 2nd postpartum journey with a body that's the biggest it's ever been, while I reckon with my diet culture anit-fatness while helping me be better friend to my fat friends, a better doula to my clients and their families, and a better human in general.

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Nov 1, 2022·edited Nov 1, 2022

This story impressed me for various reasons. I had two children with my first wife, prior to our divorce. Although my wife was fat and I was thin (at that time), the only way in which weight issues affected our marriage was due to her intractable low self esteem due to living in a fatphobic society. I was an adoring husband who struggled in vain to make her see her own beauty.

Whenever children are involved, they can enormously complicate any marital problems that exist--but in our case, we had a "civilized" divorce, and never had the kind of post-divorce struggles about their upbringing that are described in your story. I can't imagine the stress being part of a marital breakup where there are weight or other issues involved in the kids' upbringing. Yet I know that is commonly a problem.

I would absolutely refuse, on moral grounds, to participate in forcing my kids to be a certain size or eat a certain way based on the theories and weight hangups of their other parent. Fortunately, that did not happen to me. If anything, their mother and I were allies in facing the countless challenges the kids faced. The kids mostly lived with her, and she was grateful that I was so supportive, despite the fact that we both went our separate ways.

I am 81 now, and she died of cancer 27 years ago. In looking back, I am amazed at all the challenges we faced with having kids, and how much harder it might have been if we couldn't agree about things. Too bad that we couldn't have agreed before we split up--but it wasn't in the cards. The five major stressors in our marriage had nothing to do with the kids' upbringing.

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