If you're like me then the answer to that last question could well be pretty much all of your adult life. One thing that connects most of us is diets. I know this because we mention it - all the time.
On a night out people people joke they'll be hitting the gym tomorrow. Over coffee they tell you how many pounds they've lost or gained and we all stick to a skinny latte. On Facebook there is post after post of the latest Slimming World recipe or organic seaweed breakfast wrap with caramelised roast root veg smoothie (only 75 calories *smile emoticon*). At toddler group we refuse a biscuit with our coffee. And if you take one, you feel a guilt. I'm overweight....I probably shouldn't....
And the weeks, months and years go by, and we continue to diet (on and off), chasing the perfect that we will rarely find, and keeping hold of it is the equivalent of someone other than Harry catching the golden snitch.
And our children watch and they listen, and they learn.
When your children are small it's easy to forget that they don't only copy colours and shapes and numbers, they learn the rest too. It's easy to teach them that their value is based on their appearance, and it's incredibly easy to teach them that they can't be happy unless they are slimmer.
In 2015 Beat (the UK's leading eating disorder charity) found Anorexia affected over 725,000 people in the UK (11% were male). A study published by Kings College London in 2013 found that the highest incidence of new cases was in the 15-19 age group.
"...about 4,610 girls aged 15-19 and 336 boys aged 15-19 develop a new eating disorder in the UK every year.”Patients spend around 6-12 months at minimum being treated for anorexia in a hospital unit and all too often their time in hospital is measured not in months, but in years. They may be miles from home, ill and scared. Their tiny hearts fail to keep rhythm, and their bones start to break down inside. These young people don't only lose weight, they lose so much more...the average duration of Anorexia is around 6-8 years.
Aim for the 'green band' on the weight chart, but don't talk about your 'diet', focus on being 'healthy'.
Walk for all of its merits. Splash in puddles, feel the wind on your face and keep your bus fare in your pocket. Tell the truth, you exercise because you want to and you enjoy it.
Don't give children free access to knives, poisons or junk food.
Don't teach children that food is a sin or has a negative points value. Falling off a roof playing LEGO Batman has a negative points value, and eating your tea is rarely a sin.
Don't make dieting an everyday forever thing.
Don't pass on the guilt you feel when you take that biscuit.
One of worst things as a parent of a teenager is watching them doubt their appearance. When your gorgeous stick-thin teenager hates a photo of themselves or asks if they look fat it makes you sad. When you realise their friends all feel the same, you wonder how we can ever turn this around...
Teach your children what you know, that they are already beautiful. They are already perfect enough. Lose weight if you need to, but always remember just how close to perfect you already are.