Is Your Child Is Overweight?  You Need To Read This Is Your Child Is Overweight?  You Need To Read This
  But while the subject is a source of public debate, there’s also a shroud of awkward silence over the issue – parents don’t... Is Your Child Is Overweight?  You Need To Read This

 

But while the subject is a source of public debate, there’s also a shroud of awkward silence over the issue – parents don’t feel comfortable discussing it openly, they’re anxious about giving the topic too much emphasis for fear of instilling complexes in their kids, and only a psychopath would want to body shame anyone, much less a child.

So a recent discussion thread on UK website Mumsnet has shed some fascinating light on the topic, with mothers of overweight kids giving powerfully compelling descriptions of just what it’s really like to have – or have been – an overweight child.

And one thing is clear: there are no easy answers, no simple explanations, and it’s not a question of “kilojoules in, kilojoules out”.


It’s really not just a question of eating more fruit and veg. Source: Getty

One mum explained that her young son’s repeated hospitalisations have left him with a terror of being hungry.

“I’ll answer because I have a 3 year old who is very chubby compared to my other [children] and on a higher weight centile than his height. But he sees a paediatrician regularly and she says not to worry about his weight so I’m not sure if he counts as being overweight or not,” she wrote.

“He has had 13 general anaesthetics. So every 3 months he is starved for reasons he doesn’t understand. Being hungry scares him because he associates being hungry with operations and pain. He doesn’t understand time so he doesn’t know when his food will suddenly stop again. So he wants to snack a lot, eat 2nd and 3rd helpings of everything. I try and make sure he gets lots of exercise but it’s hard when one of my others is a bolter so we can’t go out much without someone to help keep him safe. I make sure the food I do give him is as healthy as I can, he just eats a lot of it.”


What kids don’t need around their food intake: guilt trips. Source: Getty

Other mothers pointed out that siblings within the same family can have widely varying attitudes to food – one child may have a “take or leave it” response to eating, while her sibling is constantly hungry.

“My youngest became overweight when she was about 3.5 because I was unwell for a few months and it was easier to sit on the sofa, let her sit on the sofa. And feed her whenever she asked,” one mum explained.

“Her character is that she is naturally inclined to sit around if she gets away with it. And she also eats when bored. So as soon as I took my eye off the ball it happened.

“She’s now a healthy weight but going onwards my biggest problems keeping her there are that she would eat rubbish until she pops (unlike my eldest, who stops when full). And my husband keeps offering the children rubbish while I run around being killjoy mum.”

Another mother had a similar experience.

“I have 4 skinny children and one at the top end of the healthy BMI (body mass index),” she wrote. “We mainly eat healthy, home-cooked food. She will eat a good range of foods and fruit and veg, but is always looking for more, eats the others’ leftovers etc. She is also quite sedentary as prefers reading/writing/drawing to sports or playing outside. I am definitely not in denial, but am anxious about creating an issue around food. I find it hard to find a balance between stopping her overeating and possibly causing an eating disorder. She often asks me if she is fat and I don’t know what to say.”


It’s time to set aside the judgement over parents, kids and food. Source: Getty

Because parents are largely told not to worry about their baby’s weight unless it’s under the norm, many find it hard to know when, exactly, they should start to be concerned about chubby legs. At what age is baby fat just “fat”?

“One thing I was thinking of just today is that when they’re babies you get so praised for having a chunky baby (breastfed) & then how much food they were taking,” one woman pointed out. “There was never a point where anyone said ‘they are eating too much if… and if that happens you should…'”


How do you know when your child’s baby fat is no longer a good thing? Source: Getty

Some kids just have a bigger appetite than others, and there’s no clear-cut, obvious reason why.

“One of my mine hovers at the very highest point of a healthy BMI and has since she was 10 or so,” wrote one mother.

“Not technically overweight, but would be if she had a free rein. She overeats; looks for seconds when we are full, sneaks things from cupboards and is lazier and less interested in physical activity. It’s a constant battle. [My husband] buys them ice cream etc so I then look like a nag or the bad guy. To think that I used to judge parents of overweight kids… It really isn’t easy at all.”


Childhood obesity isn’t a cut and dried issue. Source: Getty

An “obsession” with food can come seemingly out of nowhere.

“My daughter started to gain weight at the age of 4-5, she gained an obsession with food,” a mum wrote. “One evening I bought breakfast muffins for the next day. 4 times she woke me up in the night so she could eat the muffins. I’ve seen that child complain that she doesn’t have the same size portion food as me and her dad. She would actively leave vegetables on her plate but ask for seconds when it came to fatty/ sugary foods.”

Other women spoke up about what it had been like for them to grow up overweight.

“I was an overweight child and for us it was that all my peers were eating mountains of junk food. They were mostly slim. This was 20 years ago but I just couldn’t eat as much as others without piling on the weight. How do you restrict a child’s intake when they see all their friends eating lots? It’s very hard,” one woman explained.

“Also, there were so many adverts and SO MUCH FOOD. Everywhere you go there are so many items which have all been designed to taste very sweet and very full of flavour and of course we’re programmed to want things like that. It’s endless battle wanting them and trying not to eat them.

“I now eat a low carb diet and eating no sugar has stopped my cravings. So I’m getting towards a healthy weight. But childhood obesity was very miserable and the worse you feel about yourself, the more you comfort eat.”


Turns out, the discussion around children and food can be respectful. Source: Getty

Then there’s the fact that some children – especially those who who are non-neurotypical – can either have trouble recognising the feeling of hunger, or managing their hungriness when it strikes.

“I have a very picky eater (I now know she has some sort of sensory processing issues which leave her genuinely scared of trying new foods…) when she refused to eat healthy foods for several days at a time. All while crying that she was hungry,” one woman wrote.

“I would relent and allow her to eat only the (very few) foods she considered safe – bland, processed high calorie rubbish mostly. I ended up allowing her those most of the time as at least she would eat.”

Finally, let’s try to dispel the notion that parents whose children are overweight are oblivious to what’s happening, or ignorant, or wilfully doing it “wrong”. Sometimes, maybe oftentimes, they know exactly what’s happening but the support systems just aren’t there.

“I have an eating disorder and my children are overweight,” wrote one mother. “I have asked for help from the GP, school nurse etc, but apparently no help is available other than the standard healthy-eating-and-exercise advice. I know all that – show me an anorexic who doesn’t!

My point is that anti-obesity campaigns are usually predicated on the assumption that parents are ignorant or in denial. It can be much more complex than that.”

Nkasiobi Chukwu

  • Courtney dolliole

    2017-05-17 #1 Author

    So true I agree

    Reply

  • Joi

    2017-05-17 #2 Author

    I have one that’s over weight but the rest are so stuck on candy

    Reply

  • Carley

    2017-05-17 #3 Author

    Great read every parent should read this

    Reply

  • Audrey

    2017-05-19 #4 Author

    This is a really educative article, every parent should read this for sure.

    Reply

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