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To My Little One Reading the Nutrition Label on Your Chocolate Milk

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Dear Little One,

Today we stood in line at the local coffee shop. You held a chocolate milk in your hands as we waited for our turn.

Seventeen ten,” you said, grazing your fingers across the nutrition label.

It say’s 170.” I watched as your eyes studied the number, processing and saying the number again.

You see, you’re at the age where every letter and number is there for your brain to absorb and learn from. Just like how when we sat in the car earlier we learned the sign next to the car said, “No loitering.” Everywhere we are, you learn.

Except this is one lesson I don’t want to teach you.

One hundred and 70 calories. I wanted to say something inspirational, which would shape your next few years, but my stomach was in a knot. I don’t want you to learn how a number like this can make the emotions of the day unravel. How one day you may learn the quickest math to do is adding up calories and grams of fat in your head, much faster than it would take to make change at the cash register.

I don’t want you to learn how numbers like these, like weight and body mass could be how a stranger might one day gauge your worth. Or how you may step on a scale and use the number to decide if you are valuable.

The lessons I want to teach you first are so much more important. I want to teach you that if you try hard enough, you can outrun the fastest boy in your class. Or you can really be both a nurse and an artist when you grow up, (if that’s still what you want). I want to teach you how to use your words when you’re feeling upset. I want to show you the feeling of looking up at the sky on a starry night and your breath being taken away by its beauty. I want to teach you that the same beauty in that starry sky is in you.

So next time your eyes scan a nutrition label, I’ll know what to say. I’ll tell you those numbers are only measurements. I’ll say, “Drinking this milk will help your teeth and bones stay strong.” And afterwards, I’ll remind you of something completely different. Like how the sky looks that day, just so you can know there is so much more in the world than those numbers.

And I’ll tell myself the same. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo by bhofack2

Originally published: March 29, 2017
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