Stop Being So Weight Sensitive With Kids

If your child is overweight, it can be a very difficult conversation to have. Push too hard and they could feel awful and end up developing an eating disorder, focusing too much on weight, and ultimately suffering from terrible self-esteem. Push too little and they stay fat. It's not really easy for us parents, is it?

The Boston Globe recently did an article on this exact topic. John Mayer, a clinical psychologist in Chicago and author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance, said we are doing it all wrong. According to him:


Would you be ‘delicate’ to insist that your child needs to take chemotherapy for a suspected cancer?? NO, as a responsible parent you would say: ‘This is what you are doing to save your life.’ Why do we treat obesity and weight control differently when so many more kids suffer from this illness than they do cancer?? Let’s stop the rhetoric and take action as parents.

Well said. Much as I feel for parents who have difficulty in talking to their children about weight, I also think if you have a child who is already overweight, that conversation is long overdue.

By being more direct -- "you seem to be gaining a bit of weight, let's solve this problem" -- you also avoid a lot of hurt feelings and misinterpretation. There is no drama, no wringing hands or tears or fears that you will make your child feel bad.

It's simple and direct. Of course, those of us for whom weight is a fraught issue anyway will likely wonder whether we're actually seeing real weight or the imagined weight our own neuroses make us see. It's hard to tell.

But here's a clue: If his or her doctor says your child is fine, then he or she is probably fine. If the doctor wants you to talk weight, then maybe you should. And if so, be direct.

I was an incredibly skinny child, so skinny my pediatrician twice accused my mother of not feeding me enough. Then when I hit puberty, I grew boobs and got some roundness, and my mom started to look at me funny. To this day, I second guess that look: did she think I was fat? In retrospect, I really wasn't. But at the time, I would have appreciated it if she had just been honest with me.

If you have a good trust with your child and the doctor says to do it, then do everyone a favor and be direct. Address the problem, talk about it openly, and be matter of fact. No hand wringing required.

How do you talk to your kids about weight?


Image via Tobyotter/Flickr

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