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Old 05-27-2005, 05:19 AM   #1
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Exclamation How do you break the cycle of food&weight issues w/your kids?

Hello, all. I have a question/concern to all of the mommies out there. My daughter is 4 years old & has recently added the word "fat" to her vocabulary. Unfortunately, in our large family, only three of the adults is at a normal weight (both of my parents & my brother). As a matter of fact, I am almost certain that most of the remainder could be considered obese, & 3 of us are morbidly obese (sadly, I am one of the three).
My issue is actually two-fold. My daughter is thin & there have be times when she'll say "mommy, if I ate that I would be really fat". I don't know how to deal with this, so all I have said is "Hmmm, is that right?", or something just as lame as that. My dilemma stems from MY issues with weight. I don't want to tell her that being fat is okay, because its not. I'm not only talking looks, but in terms of health, comfort, shopping, & dating, you just have a lot more options open to you without carrying all of that weight around.
Also, I don't want to her to have weight issues. I went on my 1st diet at 10 years old at the insistence of my father (that stupid diet where you eat a ton of beets, cauliflower, etc. ) & with each attempt have only managed to gain it all back & then some. When I look at pictures from my childhood, I was AT WORST chubby, and I am certain that my weight issues would have found a way to fix themselves if I would have been shoved out the door to play.
Long story short (too late) I want to know how I can balance the importance of health/nutrition with the knowledge that a person of large size isn't lazy, or lacking in any personality traits that makes them a decent human being.
Is there anyone out there who has dealt with this problem? If so, how did you resolve it without letting the issues from your substandard upbringing impact how you interact with your children regarding weight?

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Old 05-27-2005, 11:40 AM   #2
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Hi Nweisha!

Now firstly I must say that I am not a mum (yet) - but you have raised a really important issue and it's something I have thought about when planning to have children.

I think that there are two issues - one is how to protect your child from food and body hang ups and eating disorders at the tender age of 4, and the other is your worry about your own example as an overweight woman. I can see how they are strongly interlinked - how can you tell your daughter that she won't get fat when she is surrounded by fat people in her family?

This is something that I have thought about alot - children are so body conscious at such a young age now and want to emulate the (mostly underweight) stars in music and film. How do you protect your children from it? I'm afraid I don't have an easy answer. Certainly setting a healthy example is invaluable - if she grows up eating naturally healthy foods and being part of an active family then I'm sure she'll benefit both mentally and physically. I think it's also important to teach our children that beauty and self worth comes from within and to not place such an over inflated importance to looks.

I know I'm rambling on here and maybe this is not helpful to you at all - it's just things I am considering as I prepare for children.

Finally - I think you need to respond when she says 'this will make me fat' - how about saying ' only if you ate too much of it' or 'no you won't, you eat lots of lovely healthy food'. Try to involve her in your weightloss - help her colour in a chart of your weightloss, and get her involved in preparing healthy foods with you. If she is mature enough - sit her down and tell her that yes you are fat right now, but you are going to change that because you want to be healthy.

These are just my opinions..... hope they help!

Love Amanda x

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Old 05-27-2005, 12:27 PM   #3
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Very well said Amanda.

I have had to deal with this somewhat with my 10-year-old stepson. His mother is extremely thin (like 95 pounds) and she thinks she is fat and is always telling him she thinks she's fat. She told him one night when I was making dinner (tamales and pork n beans--not real healthy I know) that it tasted like boogers. So it was hard to get him to eat. He has even told us he thinks he's fat and can he take hydroxycut (thank you television for that one). We have finally told him that he is just fine the way he is (he is of average height and build) and that as long as he eats healthy foods for the most parts and exercises he won't have to worry about getting fat.

since I have started to change my eating habits and exercise I am hoping to lead by example for Lilly and William.

I agree with Amanda that if she is asking if something will make her fat that you need to address the question and not pretend it wasn't asked. My mom gave me great advice and told me that if a child is old enough to ask a question about something then the child is old enough for an honest answer. Granted the answer you give your 4-year-old may not be the same answer you'd give a 10-year-old.

As for her asking if it would make her fat. I would probably respond with "why do you think it would make you fat?" try to find out what she thinks fat is, where she learned about being fat, stuff like that.

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Old 05-27-2005, 06:15 PM   #4
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What a great thread! As a "morbidly-obese" mom-to-be, this question is on my mind a lot. I think it can go both ways - ranging from overweight children to teenagers with dangerous eating disorders (anorexia, etc.).

My eating habits have greatly improved over the last year, both from weight loss efforts and just trying to have a healthy pregnancy. Plus I started exercising, a word that wasn't in my vocabulary a year ago! So like Dawnyal, I'm planning to lead by example. Fortunately, I have a few years to lose the weight before I have deal with those questions. I do know that good eating habits start young, before they're even able to talk. I can serve my toddler veggies or french fries - obviously the veggies are a better choice. I agree with other responses about answering the questions about food completely and honestly.

And point out that it's not just food. I know as a child that I was lazy, not physically active. My brothers and friends ate the same food that I did, and didn't gain the extra weight. I think the difference was activity. I plan to get my children physically active (limit TV, encourage playing outside, get envolved in sports, etc).

So, bottom line, I hope to change the family tradition from overweight to healthy by first changing my own habits and then teaching my children the good habits. (I hope it works!)
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Old 05-27-2005, 10:47 PM   #5
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There are times when you can have the very best intentions for feeding your child healthy food but when you have a picky eater you are happy to see any food going into him regardless of what it is!! I also face this problem. My son will be 4 in a few months and I am concerned about how he eats and how much activity he is doing. When he is at daycare he is outside playing for at least 2 hours a day and I try to have him outside when I pick him up in the afternoon. I also take him out a lot on the weekends. Still he does spend a fair bit of time in front of the tv but actually it has decreased a lot since the winter.

I think it is terrible how parents influence their children in this manner because they are frightened of them developing weight problems. I have 4 nieces who are all rail thin and I think they are influenced by my brother and his wife because they don't want their kids to be fat. Both of the parents were skinny but have been packing on the weight in recent years. My feeling is that if a parent has a weight problem then they should not discuss it in front of their children because kids can take the most innocent remarks and construe them as something completely different as what was intended. Also they tend to worry about stuff more than what we would and turn a molehill into a mountain. Not that parents shouldn't talk to their kids about these issues but I think 4 years old is too young for a child to be concerned about weight issues. I would think that the child has been told something or overheard something and is turning it into an issue.
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Old 05-28-2005, 12:30 PM   #6
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I'm a mother of 4 and 2 are chubby. My hubby and I are overweight, yes but we are big boned people. So they will never be what the world considers thin. They both have big hands and feet. My baby girl is 5 and she's in a womans 6 shoe. And my boy is 8 and is in a mens 7 1/2. Now when some butt hole kid calls them fat at school, I just tell them 1st- That they don't have no home training, 2nd- Fat is only skin deep and ugly is to the bone. And while in the car we think of bad things to call them ( thats just in the car they know not to say it to them). It's funny and it makes them smile after dealing with what could mark them later. And when they start talking about diets I tell them you just worry about being a kid and I'll worry about what your going to eat. After all we are the parents and we control what comes in the house. Being unhealthy is not ok, but it all starts with us.

I'm a big girl and I have been most of my life, and yes I do have issues with weight. But I have to be careful not to put my issues on my kids. Yes I sometimes worry about what they're going to encounter in the world. But as long as my children are confident (and they are) I'm cool. They're like that cause I am. I never down myself not even in a playful manner.

My oldest son told me (he's 14 year old 6.2ft, thin, and fine size 14 shoe get the picture) you look just fine the way you are. I said "really now", he says "yup". Then he shows me a girl he likes and shes not what you would call a skinny chick. Hips and behind and she had a rack on her. All I was thinking was he likes them think (not fat just thick).
That just made me smile.

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Last edited by Reaferg; 05-28-2005 at 08:20 PM.
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Old 05-28-2005, 02:31 PM   #7
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I agree that you should answer you child's questions with honesty and place your focus on health and exercise (at 4, of course, exercise is just play). When any of my three children (age 6 and 4 year old twins) bring up the subject I use myself as an example. They've seen first hand the difference losing weight has made in me. Also, they know that I am a decent human being and that I'm not lazy even though I've been overweight. So, again, I use myself as an example to explain that people come in all shapes and sizes and that, except for health, one isn't better than the other. But I do point out to them my own struggles with losing weight and take the opportunity to make sure that they understand it is easier to prevent being overweight than it is to reverse it. They have a surprisingly accurate grasp of the whole subject. I make a real effort never to refer to myself as being on a "diet." They ask all of the time why I am measuring or weighing my food. I just explain that it is an easy way for me to make sure I am eating a healthy serving. Sometimes we even throw their plates on the scale just to let them see what it is all about.

Finally, the hardest part for me has been making myself tell my children no to second helpings and too many treats. Now is the time for them to learn portion control and the difference between hungry and full. It is a lesson that will serve them well for a lifetime.

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Old 05-28-2005, 06:21 PM   #8
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i would say by example of healthy foods and that snacks are sometime food and that exercise if fun and good for you

Last edited by angelinoh; 05-28-2005 at 06:52 PM.
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Old 05-28-2005, 06:36 PM   #9
if only she'd lose weight
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Originally Posted by Jen
I think 4 years old is too young for a child to be concerned about weight issues. I would think that the child has been told something or overheard something and is turning it into an issue.
I agree w/this 100%. You need to find out what makes her think eating a certain thing will make her fat. At 4 years old, she would not have come up w/that on her own. Then you need to let her know food is not her enemy, and no food is off limits, etc. Everything we tell ourselves & others here. Treats are just that--treats, not for every day.

Also, it might be beneficial to her to be in soccer, gymnastics or ballet. Get her active early if you are that worried about her future weight gain, w/your family history you've given us.

And then please smack whoever said that in front of her in the head.

"It's never too late to be what you might have been." -George Eliot
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Old 05-29-2005, 02:10 PM   #10
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Thanks so very much for the input, especially regarding ignoring or just changing the subject all together. I know that the reason I have been silent is because I a really afraid of saying the wrong thing & having a bulimic or anorexic on my hands in 10 years. Those are life problems that will be a lifelong issue.
I am absolutely certain that she has picked that up from my side of the family. This is something that has cause a lot of guilt on my part. She is their only grandchild, so they spend every free minute with her, and she is quite nosey. I am sure she has picked up on my father ribbing my mother about her middle-age pudge (she went from about a size 2 to a size 12) and, true to fashion he deals with it by teasing (or, kidding as he calls it).
GOSH...this problem just seems so totally overwhelming.

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Old 05-29-2005, 03:18 PM   #11
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Nweisha - >>hug<< It seems overwhelming but what a good mother you are for dealing with it. My advice is simply give the kids the facts - "No this won't make you fat." and explain to her how people get fat (we all know - lack of activity, too many calories).

Has anyone seen cookie monster lately? Cookies are now a "sometimes" food. I thought that was hysterical!
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Old 05-29-2005, 11:00 PM   #12
if only she'd lose weight
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We call dog treats "cookies" in our house & believe me, they are a several times a day occurrence.

"It's never too late to be what you might have been." -George Eliot
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