Q&A: kids and messages about body size/shape

Our own Charisse writes:

"Can we talk about girls and body image and weight? These 3 things have
happened in the last week and it's freaking me out:

-Mouse was
riding in the car with me and said "mommy, I hate this reflection (in
the window), it makes my legs look fat and I never want to be fat" and
stayed upset about it no matter what I said ("oh sweetie, reflections do
funny things to how we look", "people come in lots of shapes and sizes"
and "you use your body a lot and eat good food and you're very healthy"
being among what I said)…and she is in fact a healthy weight too.

friend E's mom posted that E refuses to smile because it "makes her
cheeks look fat" and is also very upset about this

friend L's mom posted that L ate half a cookie and handed her back the
other half saying "I'm worried that this isn't good for my body"

of these girls are 6. I can't speak as closely for the other families
of course, but I don't diet, don't comment negatively on my own or other
people's appearance in front of Mouse, talk about exercise for fun and
strength and good food for pleasure and energy…Mouse sees very few TV
commercials, takes dance at a place that celebrates multiple styles
& body types…swims and gets lots of active play where appearance
isn't the physical quality in question – in short I feel like I'm doing
the right stuff, but hearing this out of her mouth at such a young age
makes me feel like I'm not doing enough. Or worse, like there's nothing
I can do. And I can't imagine it's going to get better. She's only 6! I
would love to hear what you think, and what readers with older girls
are doing about it that works."

Upon further correspondence, I revealed that my boys had been making
similar comments about "not wanting to get fat." Charisse expressed
surprise, thinking that this was mostly a girl issue. I think that it
may have been primarily a girl thing in the past, but body issues seem
to be for everyone now.

I know that I've been trying to emphasize being healthy. I talk about
exercising and needing to exercise to keep my body running. And I talk
about not wanting to eat too many foods that are unhealthy because that's
bad for my body.

I talked to the kids about making some of the changes I talked about
last Thursday. The older one was arguing with me that he was "only a
kid" and wasn't going to get sick from eating bad foods. But then I
pointed out that he'd told me on the way home from Cleveland that he was
feeling slow and tired and fat (his word) from eating so many vacation
foods. And, more importantly, health is something that's cumulative, so the best way to be healthy later is to take care of your body now.

(In other sad news, one of my kids' dad's friends from high school died
in his sleep a few days ago. He was 45, and had no real health problems. It's hitting my ex-husband hard, and he's
reevaluating his diet, along with pretty much everything else. So I think my kids are going to be getting a whole lot of whole grains in both households.)

From the comment Charisse quoted about Mouse's friend not wanting to eat the cookie
because it wasn't healthy, I'd guess that a lot of us are communicating the
same message about health. (Although apparently in a Nancy Reagan-ish "zero tolerance" kind of way.)

But what I'm wondering now is if we're not being specific enough about
separating health and size when we talk to our kids. If we're talking
about health health health, our kids are probably receiving the message
thin thin thin. It could be just like discussing race, in that we
*think* we're saying something, but our kids need to be told explicitly
every aspect of it. By only talking about health, society is still
getting its "Thin At All Costs" message into our kids' heads.

I am wondering what will happen if I start some deliberate conversations
with my kids about how it's possible to be thin and unhealthy, fat and healthy, fat
and unhealthy, extremely thin and healthy, and extremely thin and
unhealthy. I wonder if being super-explicit about body size relating
only loosely to health will change the self-talk my kids seem to be
engaging in.

Any thoughts about this? Experiences about talking specifically about
body size with your kids?

55 thoughts on “Q&A: kids and messages about body size/shape”

  1. My daughter is 3 and 95th percentile for height, off the charts for weight (48 lbs). At her last doctor’s visit, she was officially labeled overweight. On the one hand, she eats a pretty balanced diet–lots of different fruits, veggies, and proteins, as well as the carbs that she loves. On the other, she is ALWAYS hungry, and I know she snacks too much. We have lately been making a concerted effort to cut back on snack carbs and she is accepting that fairly willingly, which is good.She isn’t aware yet that weight is an issue–we don’t talk about “being fat,” we do talk about eating healthy foods–but recently at the playground, I heard some older kids call her fat. And she’s 3! She didn’t hear it, I don’t think, or didn’t internalize it, but jeez….I didn’t think the name calling would start so soon.

  2. Wow. And double wow on the fact that boys are not exempt from the whole “not wanting to get fat” thing. I would have coasted along believing that DS would not be as affected by this issue (or at least in a similar way that girls are), so thanks @Moxie for bringing that up.@Charisse, it sounds like you *are* doing all the right things. I’m always impressed with the nature of discussions you have with Mouse and only hope that when my DS gets to that point, I can be as reaffirming and eloquent.
    I suspect that ‘facts’ about bodies and health and body image spread like wildfire with kids in the same way that ‘facts’ about sex do. Not the most comforting thing around, I know. But I really think the only defense is to keep having the conversations, and to go deeper as @Moxie suggests. I think the link she makes to the chapter on race in NurtureShock is a good one. We have a whole bunch of information (and baggage) about health and body image, so it doesn’t surprise me that what comes out of our mouths may sometimes send confusing or conflicting messages. BUT. I think that’s just the way it is. I don’t think it’s because we are saying the ‘wrong’ things. It’s just that the details/context of what we’re saying need to be affirmed more explicitly. Hence, more conversations. And also conversations where we say ‘What does this mean to you? Or what do you think about that?’
    Even going as far as saying to Mouse ‘Why do you never want to be fat?’ might open up more conversation. If she says ‘because I won’t look nice’, then you know what else to address. If she says ‘because I want to be healthy and live a long time’ then you know what extra facts to provide. etc. etc.
    I know I often try to fill in the blanks for what my son might be thinking (and well, I kind of have to for now as he’s not too verbal, but I hope I’m aware of this in the future and try to ask him directly to explain what he’s thinking or feeling, instead of me filling in the blanks).
    Sometimes I think we fill in with our adult brains as it’s very difficult for us to look at it truly from their perspective, with their limited knowledge/experience.
    So, that’s all I’ve got. Keep talking. Go deeper. Ask them to elaborate on their perspective. Looking forward to the responses, esp. from those with older kids who have BTDT.
    P.S. I really do think this is an uphill battle as the ‘be thin’ messages are all around. I think kids (of all ages) pick up on this, even if they don’t totally understand all that it implies.

  3. Oh my, I have been hoping for a post about this! My almost three year old is a giant (gorgeous) girl (38 inches and 38 pounds, a square, sort of) and she is obsessed with food. We have had to monitor her constantly for the last 2 years, although finally she seems to have shifted her interest and has become much more active. The doctors aren’t overly concerned, but they have said we need to watch her. All of it is strange since neither my husband nor I are heavy, although he is 6’5″, so some of my daughter’s size must be linked to that. My biggest concern is that I will create a body image problem for her. It doesn’t help that I’ve had issues myself and some anorexia which has almost disappeared since having children (no time to care anymore and I’m so grateful that my body was able to produce two beautiful kids. It’s MORE than worth the cellulite). I try very hard not to ever criticize my own shape, and I emphasize to my daughter how great it is that our bodies function so well, are so strong, etc.I’m nervous for my girl to notice that she is quite chubby, more so than other kids. I also don’t know what more to do for her. She eats an excellent diet and I don’t think I’m over-feeding her, though if I let her she’ll eat more than I and my husband at a single meal. She also runs around constantly. She’s just a big kid. And she has hit a more rational stage in the last month or so, where she seems to understand that certain foods are “treats” and that I give her healthy foods because it’s best for our bodies. Anyone else deal with a big girl? And did your child slim down eventually? And how can I stop caring whether she slims down or not? I confess I have a tendency to be worried about fat, probably because I was raised with an endlessly dieting mom who is still a tiny, tiny thing. I can’t wait to read all the comments; thank you so much for this post.

  4. Good for you, @Charisse, for being so concerned and for looking for a healthy way to proactively address this.I think body image issues are one of those things in our culture that somehow manages to seep in under the front door. The message of thin = beautiful is just that pervasive. It is seriously everywhere we look. Hard to escape it.
    So I just want to say that perhaps a young girl making sad statements about her body has nothing to do with mama having said or did the “wrong” thing – I think it is cultural, and she is getting it from friends and the popular culture, like we all do.

  5. The list of things to worry about just keeps getting longer and longer. Seriously, how are we not all completely basket-cases by this point? (I’m not saying we should ignore/deny everything that’s potentially an issue, just that my personal capacity for worrying is just about fried, and my daughter’s only 2).Haven’t faced this issue yet in our own house – our 2 year old is still figuring out male/female and the appropriate pronouns to go with them. I think it’s funny when she asks me if daddy is a girl; he is less amused!
    When a friend of ours lifted her up and was surprised how big she’s getting, he said “You weigh a ton!” and she said, in a very pleased tone of voice “I weigh a ton!” So I guess she hasn’t yet been infiltrated with the idea that this might be a bad thing.
    We’ll tackle this one as it comes up. She will probably learn at an early age about healthy vs. not-healthy foods, though, because her dad is Type 2 diabetic and we put quite a bit of effort into healthy eating.

  6. Oh yes! I have such issues when I hear parents (and grandparents, who I think can be the worst in my family’s case) really harp on weight, etc. It needs to be more about balance, etc.I’m saddened to think that children as young as Mouse and her friends and Moxie’s boys are already dealing with this. I think I noticed extremely fat people when I was little, but beyond that, I had no concept of weight being an issue.
    My cousin is now 17, but my Gram (who Cousin already has a crazy relationship with) has been harping on her about every morsel she puts in her mouth since she was 12. Like many kids, my cousin went through that very awkward phase in her preteens where her weight kept chunking out, etc. My Gram just made it worse (and I CANNOT stand to hear an adult tell a child of that age that they are fat – as if they don’t have SO much else to deal with, and my cousin was dealing with a bunch of personal issues at that point, in addition to all that you deal with at that age w/ hormones, etc.) So, in defiance and to deal with her issues, she kept eating and now, at 17, actually does have a weight problem, but no one is helping her deal with it, they are just telling her she’s fat. (I see her about twice a year, so I’m no help, really. I wish I could be)
    Knowing that my husbands family has major issues w/ weight gain and health-related problems, I have learned to encourage the healthy eating in my toddler from the beginning. She gets very little refined sugar, ever. She LOVES fresh fruit, veggies, lean meats, etc. (though the meat thing is iffy on any given day, but I think that’s normal w/ a child her age) I’ve tried to keep the snacks healthy and it’s also a good way for us to keep ourselves focused on what we are putting in our bodies as adults… if she can’t have it, should we?

  7. I worry about this all the time too. My kids are only 2 so they have no concept of this stuff, but I am still careful about how I talk. My own parents never ever talked about weight or dieting or anything like that and my sisters and I grew up happy and healthy and I don’t honestly think the concept of watching what I ate even entered my mind until my twenties. We were all active, naturally skinny kids which helped but I also think it was less of an issue back then, and our daughters now have steeper challenges. Now they are being sexualized at younger and younger ages, their weight is being monitored, it’s just a much less healthy culture.My MiL incessantly talks about weight and dieting and she judges people who are heavy. She constantly struggles with her weight and is always on the latest diet, and none of them work. I worry about her talking like this around our kids. I only hope that our immediate family influence will counteract some of this stuff, but obviously the messages are everywhere, in our case even coming from Grandma, and it seems so pervasive. I hate the idea of my daughter monitoring her weight or even thinking about it as a child, but don’t know how to protect her from this.

  8. Oh, this makes my heart hurt. I will say — and I don’t know if this is reassuring or not — that I am someone who has struggled with disordered eating since I was 11 or so, and although my parents did have both positive and negative effects on my relationship to food, it had very little if anything to do with the way they ate or felt about their bodies. Both of my parents are normal weight, neither of them ever mentioned dieting, and food was definitely not an emotional issue for them. In so far as my mom played a part in my eating disorder, it had everything to do with issues of control and high expectations and disappointment in *other* areas — food became a metaphor for lots of my other fears and resentments, but there wasn’t a direct link between the way my parents raised me with regards to food and the fact that I ended up with an eating disorder.I suppose the lesson is that whatever messages we want to give our kids about food and size and appearance and health will get filtered through all sorts of other relationship noise, some of it having nothing to do with us. The answer is still, probably, talking — and being explicit about what we mean, but also trying to ask questions that get at what might be the larger issues swirling around.
    I think this is true, actually, whether the issue is a kid whose body image seems to be getting a little skewed or a kid whose weight and/or diet are actually a concern — either way, my personal instinct would be to assign actual food and weight the smallest possible sphere of interest and concern. I’d even do this with the whole issue of health — health is good because it lets us do things, but it isn’t the most important thing; it isn’t a measure of how valuable we are as people, or how interesting and happy our lives can be; it isn’t a *moral* category. It’s a more valid ideal than, say, being a size 4 or eating as few carbs as possible, but it too could end up taking up too much space or getting mixed up with values that it actually has no relation to — like self-worth or strength of character.

  9. Thanks so much for posting my question, Moxie!! And everybody who’s commented too!@hush, I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong, I’m just wondering what else I can do – I sometimes think all the focus on healthy vs. unhealthy food is part of the problem too as Moxie said with the “Nancy Reagan” idea (love it) – is it a good idea to teach kids that food is dangerous and their bodies aren’t trustworthy?
    Of course, that would be easy to say if we lived in an environment where what was available was a bunch of whole foods and home-cooked stuff. But a lot of the food around really is pretty bad, I would say worse than when I was a kid in the 70s and never worried about what I ate. (Got body-disconnected and borderline anorexic later as a ballerina…whole nother story.)
    @the milliner, that is a great idea, thank you – I think I’ve just frozen up every time it’s happened so far. I need to push farther, calmly, with the questions. (& thanks for your kind words too) 🙂
    @Moxie, YES, totally “lalalala if I don’t talk about it maybe it won’t be a problem” – ok, need to get over that.
    @Alisha, Mouse was also a square at 3 – 37 & 37 – and her doctor was unconcerned. At 5 she was 45 1/2 inches, 48 1/2 lbs. Also not concerned – she’s not wiry-skinny like some kids in this age range, she’s muscle-y with a few soft spots – but then, not everybody is or should be skinny. 🙂 As we’re discussing, ha. I can feel myself needing to defend her even though I know there’s nothing wrong – this is hard.
    Eagerly awaiting what others have to say!

  10. @Cathy “health is good because it lets us do things, but it isn’t the most important thing; it isn’t a measure of how valuable we are as people, or how interesting and happy our lives can be; it isn’t a *moral* category. It’s a more valid ideal than, say, being a size 4 or eating as few carbs as possible, but it too could end up taking up too much space or getting mixed up with values that it actually has no relation to — like self-worth or strength of character.”I really like this way of stating things, and I think you’re right about how easy it is to attach moral weight when we attach personal responsibility…and the idea that we can control everything including our health. (Which we may be able to impact to some degree through behavior but possibly not nearly as much as we think.) This makes me very curious whether this is mainly an American phenomenon – we are the champions of believing everything is in our control.

  11. I’m watching this thread closely. I have too many emotional issues with eating/food to even begin to comment, but this is something close to my heart.

  12. It’s so nice to hear from others who have big 3-year-old girls! Mine is about 42 lbs. and VERY tall, so she looks like a 6-year-old! She is proportional, but we struggle with how big she is vs. how young she is. She is HUGE for her age (off the percentile charts for both weight and height) and it does come up in conversation because people often assume she’s much older, then comment on her size when I clarify. She’s proud of being so big right now, but I wonder when the comments will start to make a negative impact.I have an obese friend and we have discussed how she’s a “big mommy” (we have also discussed “brown mommies” and “curly mommies”) and she has talked a little bit about it with my DD too … My husband is very very tall, so we talk about that a lot — and we are both pretty average weight and active, so I think the message we’re sending are good …
    Of course, the flip side of the coin is that my son (22 months) is barely hanging on to the 10th percentile for weight …

  13. I worry a lot about this, particularly because my son – with mild autism – goes to a school where they work with positive reinforcers which are nearly always food. Now DS expects an oreo or some other treat as a reward for certain things (usually things he hates to do, like poop on the potty – so it’s worth it to us to do it).I feel that right now helping him learn appropriate social behavior is our priority, but I worry about the lesson he’s learning that food is a reward and that cookies/sweets etc. are ‘better’ than other foods.
    Aside from the reinforcers he eats a healthy, although limited diet. I haven’t really started talking to him about healthy foods and healthy bodies yet, but this thread has convinced me I should. Thanks, this has been very helpful and thought provoking.

  14. My 10 yr old son is a bit hefty for his age. Doc thinks he’s just storing up for a big growth spurt, but I can see in what he chooses to eat when there are no boundaries (like on vacation) and how he chooses to spend his free time (playing video games) that his weight is not *just* the pre-growth spurt weight. We try to talk to him about it in non-judgmental ways. We don’t say, “No, you aren’t ‘husky.” Rather, we try to say, “When you choose the macaroni and cheese AND mashed potatoes as your vegetables, you aren’t making great choices for your body.” All in all, he seems fine with the situation, but I’m not sure *we* are.He went to sleep-away camp for a month in June and came home about 5-8 pounds lighter than when he’d left (this happened last year too) despite the fact that I would not term camp meals as anything healthy. We immediately said, “Wow, you must have stayed really busy at camp! You lost weight!” He was proud of the weight loss–though this is not a weight loss camp nor has the doc ever recommended he actually lose any weight… just stop gaining it. Anyway, over the next couple of days my mother went on and on about how much weight he had lost, how great he looked, etc. And *I* read between the lines, “You are fat and you need to lose weight, grandson.” I finally asked her to knock it off.
    So, I guess my contribution to this is that they don’t have to pick it up from mom and dad. Grandma, kids at school/camp, Barbie, can all play into their interpretation of how they look.
    I also think we tend to freak out over a little weight gain in kids in ways generations before us did not. My niece is a great example. She really put on a lot of weight as a pre-teen… kids at school called her “heavy” which gave her self confidence issues, and her mother fretted over her weight. Then boom, she grew taller, thinned out, and now looks great. She did not diet or change her habits… she just grew into it (as my doc says my son will). The problem is… she was told as a 10 yr old from all sides that she was “fat”, and now she still sees herself that way even though she looks like any skinny teen-aged girl now.
    So, I think before the attention on childhood obesity, chunky 10 yr olds were just getting ready to grow. Now we see chunky 10 yr olds as something to be fixed. I’m not discounting the issue of overweight children… I just think the kids are talking about it in ways foreign to our child selves b/c that’s not how it was viewed when we were 10 (or 6 or whatever).
    Does this make any sense??

  15. I’ve got tons of baggage from growing up with a mother who was totally obsessed with body weight, so I’m working really really hard at not passing my issues along to the little one!Instead of healthy vs unhealthy food, my husband has gone with the food vs treats scheme. You’re allowed to eat as much of a food as you like, but you only get 1 treat a day. And you can have that treat any time you like. Want cake for breakfast? Fine. Want to start dinner with icecream? No problem. If she asks for something else later, we just remind her about that tasty thing she ate earlier in the day and how great it was, and that she can have the thing she’s asking for tomorrow. It mostly works. Obviously if there is dessert and everyone is eating it, she gets some even if she had something else earlier, but that doesn’t come up often. If I’m having my “treat” and she wants a bite, that’s also fine (and also encourages me not to binge on junk because I’m going to wind up sharing it with her).
    I think this works because we mostly don’t have a bunch of snack food around. Just fruit & veggies, toast, yogurt, and pickles (we do limit the pickles, there’s so much salt in those). It really helps to distinguish between being hungry, and eating because you’re tired or bored or just because there’s something really yummy over there and you’re worried that someone else is going to eat it!
    But she’s only 3, and so the whole body-image thing hasn’t come up yet…

  16. @Charisse, I totally know what you mean about freezing up in the moment. Especially when you are shocked/saddened to hear what comes out of your child’s mouth and it sends you into an internal tailspin of ‘what ifs’. I know this will be a challenge for me too as DS gets older.@Cathy, I too love the paragraph that Charisse quoted above. And the point @Charisse makes about attaching moral weight combined with personal responsibility to health issues. Yes, personal responsibility is a component. You can do things to help lower your risk for certain health issues. But control? I don’t really see it that way.
    I’m very conscious about making the link between healthy = morally right. Especially with DH having chronic health issues, I don’t want to unwittingly send the message to DS that healthy people are morally superior.
    And finally, @Charisse, I do think it is probably a more North American centric way of thinking (to think we have control). Probably more pronounced overall in the US than here in Canada, but still a common thread here. I have a hard time imagining a French or Italian person imagining they can control everything about their health. Perhaps some European Moxites / other outside NA Moxites can confirm if that’s true in their area of the world.

  17. Oh! Big insight for me. I’ve been thinking of “being healthy” as a really important quality because it will allow me to be around a long time for my children and other people who love me because of my other, more important qualities.My kids don’t automatically get the connection. So they have no idea why “being healthy” is so important.

  18. One thing that has helped me a lot is reading the Shapely Prose blog (http://kateharding.net), but I am coming at this from a more radical place than some of you, who may recoil. But it’s a good way to explore your feelings about weight and health even if you do eventually decide to stick with mainstream beliefs.We no longer have a scale. The old one broke, and we got to have some good discussions about why we weren’t going to replace it.

  19. My mantra, for myself and my kids, is “eating like a normal person”. Unfortunately, I have a history of problems with food that makes that a little hard, but basically it boils down to, reasonable portions of healthy foods, and treats on special occasions. So I don’t keep candy around the house, but when my cousin brought me chocolates from Paris, or when someone brings in the homemade cookies at the office, I eat them.That said, kid #1, almost 3, is also a square (about 39/39), though he has been lengthening out. My husband was of the “first grow out, then grow up” pattern as a kid. I really worry about the emphasis that people are placing on childhood obesity. Encouraging people to diet has mostly the effect of making them obsess about food and gain more weight.
    While there is a relationship between weight and health, it is not as tight as most people think. We would not spend anywhere near the time thinking about it if it weren’t considered unattractive (Height is also associated with some diseases. Consider how much you’ve heard about that fact, vs. about obesity.)

  20. I don’t have much to contribute today, but want to share this link: http://familyfeedingdynamics.blogspot.com/ It’s a blog kept by a family doctor, documenting her implementation of Ellyn Satter’s food philosophy with her own child and her clients. It’s been really helpful to me as I grapple with feeding stuff.

  21. I’ve been thinking about this issue because we fell into the dreaded trap of bribing to go on the potty with a food-treat. But in the larger picture, I myself love treats, I love the concept of the treat and employ it often for myself. Now I’m taking a hard look at how this might work differently for a toddler than an adult, and that I might have to curb my treat-talk until he’s much older.It’s possible that one of the things that might help our children deal with all this new obsession with body-weight-obesity-health in society is to be careful not to demonize certain foods, as well as make sure we offer them “healthy” foods at home. I think making a problem, like forcing a kid to eat veggies before getting dessert. I don’t really want my son eating McDonald’s/fatty foods/too many convenience foods (or processed sweets), but we maintain a all-foods-in-moderation approach to eating at our house. There are foods we eat a lot and foods we eat rarely, rather than bad foods and good foods. To help mitigate the anxiety they might feel about food.

  22. I was a slightly chubby kid who got told by my mom and grandparents that I was fat. I’ve been thin and athletic my whole adult life, but always felt fat; it wasn’t until I got pregnant that I appreciated what an awesome bod I had up until that point and was able to enjoy my body much more after I lost the baby weight. Even though I consider myself relatively well adjusted about it now, I know I’m not totally free of body image issues and I am frustrated with the misogynistic aesthetic that seems to pervade mass media.That being said, I am now going to say something that might get me booed off the stage. In this country, the reality is any given child is at much greater risk of becoming overweight/obese than developing anorexia or bulimia. A teeny tiny percentage of people are very skinny (of course, they all seem to be on the cover of magazines) and an even tinier percentage of those people have a true eating disorder. On the other hand, a huge proportion of our population is overweight. If I saw my child developing a weight problem, should I really be scared that I’m going to throw him/her into an eating disorder and lifetime of self-esteem issues by having an honest discussion about it and addressing it head on? Or is the greater risk that by tip-toeing around it I (a) make it worse and (b) my kid picks up on my concern anyway (like the failure taboo Bronson and Merriman discuss)? I know it’s a fraught issue, but shouldn’t we be able to discuss these things with our kids in an honest and reasonable way? (BTW, @Cathy, I LOVE your framing of the health issue– great context.)
    It’s just such a friggin’ tightrope to walk between the two extremes that seem to dominate the discussion of weight in our society– it’s always either about being too skinny or too fat and having disordered eating in one way or another (under- or over- eating). I am very frustrated that there are not more images and discussion in the media and pop culture of normal, healthy weight women and girls (of course, the Dove campaign is a notable exception). Moreover, there are few guidelines about how to have a sensitive, honest discussion with your kids about weight and health, both if they ARE overweight and if they are not. Seems like we need some better tools here.

  23. I have a 3 year old daughter. I can’t remember having any body image or weight issues as a kid and I’ve been trying since she was born to figure out why I escaped this trap. I was a heavy kid and am a heavy adult. There were times in High School and now as an adult where I think I need to lose a few pounds, but it was/is never an all-consuming thing. And I don’t hate any part of my body.Almost every woman I know had some moderate to severe body image issues as a girl/teen – so how did I escape it? And how can I raise her in a similar fashion?
    The only thing I can come up with is that I was in organized sports for as far back as I can remember. I internalized at a very early age that strong is beautiful, strong is good and strong looks different on everyone. The smallest girl at the swim meet could lap everyone…the heaviest on the soccer field could run circles around the leanest – you couldn’t tell someone’s capabilities by the way they looked. I WANTED broad shoulders and big thighs. The bodies of Mia Hamm & Gabby Reece were what I aspired to (not Kate Moss – the “it” girl of the time). I wanted to look like them not in a beauty sense, but in the powerful/strong sense. I remember thinking Mia’s thighs/quads were amazing and that she must be able to run with such strength.
    I know it’s not the only reason I escaped the body-image wars, but I think it was a huge part of it for me. And now, study after study shows that girls in sports have much higher self-esteem along with other benefits like less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior at a young age. It’s only one piece of the puzzle but you can bet my girl will be playing on team sports in the near future!

  24. Ugh, this is a big problem area for me. I come from an eating-disordered family (in which some of those with eating disorders were men) and developed bulimia as a graduate student. I am no longer bulimic but I struggle massively with liking my body and am in a phase of not feeling good about it at all. I complain to DH about my body all the time, and he has even begun to complain to me about his after putting on the 35-year old man’s obligatory 10 pounds around the middle. I try very hard not to complain in front of my son, but I also know, from my own family experience, that there’s no way that parents’ own feelings about their bodies won’t be communicated, verbally or otherwise, to their children. It’s a major kick in the pants to try to heal my own relationship with my body. And to heal other parts of my life as well, since as someone else already pointed out, so often feelings around food and bodies are a proxy for other feelings that cannot be recognized or safely expressed. I have no advice about how to talk to kids because DS is 2.5 and so far nothing has come up. But I am thinking about it, and thinking about how strong our own relationship to our bodies can be as a model.

  25. I don’t have anything to add, but I guess I won’t let that stop me from rambling on!My older daughter (3 yo) seems to have inherited her daddy’s build- so she is very slim, and has been since she was a baby.
    My younger daughter (9 months) seems to have inherited my build, although it is really too early to say. Certainly, she is a far chubbier little baby. If she does indeed turn out to have my build while her sister has her daddy’s, I can see that I’m going to have to figure out how to handle having two kids with very different metabolisms.
    Ugh. I don’t even want to think ahead to that- and I won’t, because it is too early to know if it will indeed be a problem I face.
    But if any of you have dealt with a big discrepancy in body type between siblings, your insight would be read carefully!
    I agree with the people who point out that the messages about body weight are everywhere. My super-skinny 3 year old has taken to sticking her (non-existent) tummy out and saying she looks fat. I’ve been at a loss as to where this comes from (from what she’s said, my best guess is from a little friend at day care, who is also really skinny) and also for how to respond. I’ll be stealing some ideas from this thread.
    @Anon for this- my heart breaks for your little girl. 3 is too early for the names to start. Really, any age is too early.

  26. This is a big issue for us too. Both my husband and I have been on Weight Watchers (well, hubby still is … I’m preggo now so had to stop) but my 5 yr old quickly started asking us “how many points” various foods were/are. We told her that WW is where grown-ups go to see how healthy and big they are (just like she goes to her peds) and that the points are a way to tell how healthy a food is.We didn’t allow any added sugar foods (cookies, cake, etc) until she was 2 and are fairly restrictive about her sugar/fat intake still – we don’t have anything at all in the house that has added sugar and when we are out and about she can have 1 treat a day. We also follow the “Eat This Not That for Kids” book to some extent when ordering out at restaurants.
    We also try to limit tv shows to 1 hr a day or less on most days and do not own video games. She only watches PBS.
    My family is riddled with diabetes and female obesity and morbid obesity (I am obese as well). I want for her to have an active, healthy lifestyle. She too, tends to chunk up right before a growth spurt. I have to be careful that I don’t start worrying too much. Her doctor syas she is perfectly height/weight proportionate.
    I don’t want her to feel like being fat=bad but I do want her to want to be at a healthy weight for her height. How do I convey that without also conveying these negative body images? She talks about healthy foods a lot and knows that some for foods are not as healthy and that we should not be eating them as often as we do other foods. When does that stop being healthy and move to being obsessive?
    No easy answers. It seems no matter what i do there are pitfalls.

  27. I suppose the fact I went Anonymous this time tells me I am communicating some amount of shame to my kids. That alone was worth it.Last week, my four year old, who adores me beyond all reason, said to me, “Mom? Do you know that you’re fat?”
    And I am. (really, medically, I’m working on it, but factually, yes, I am, not just pouchy.) So I said, “Yes, sweetie. Why do you ask?”
    And he just answered in a small little voice, “No reason. I just wondered if you knew, is all.”
    That was a real heartbreak–clearly he just absorbed that from somewhere. And who wants to be diminished in our kids’ eyes?
    Charisse, you sound like you are doing a great job. And I wish you luck walking that line between explicitly talking about and giving more power to the topic.
    And to the first Anon poster–courage. Our older son has always been off the charts both height and weight but moreso weight. Our doctor has been kind about it but has been firm in ensuring we understood her concerns about pattern setting. And with a concerted effort on our part to talk about “nutritious foods” vs. “not really nutritious foods” it seems to be settling in. We went to a barbeque and he got his own plate, with a burger with ketchup, tomatoes, and lettuce; chips; and half a plate of mixed berries. It was a Proud Mommy Moment for me–he picked it himself, it was all food he likes, and he did a great job. I’m going through a zillion berries this summer but I keep thinking–would I rather spend $3 on blueberries or potato chips? And the berries stay on the table for snacking. I have to think that with better foods, he’ll regulate himself better. That might be magical thinking but it’s working for me these days.
    @Cloud–I have the opposite: my older son is built like me. We are channeling the heck out of him in to energy-draining (but body-building–not like that–you know what I mean) activities–swimming, running, now (be still my heart) football. My younger was born at almost 11 lbs but has been skinny as a rail since his 1st birthday and hasn’t stopped. The hardest has been helping my older understand that he can crush his younger brother without even realizing it due to the size difference. And they are young, but we are talking about how different bodies are great at different things, and the important thing to remember to work together. I try to keep a mental list of what’s easier for each of them to bolster esteem when one is frustrated, some body type related (the older one struggles on the monkey bars–so much mass to pull along!–while the younger falls more easily with his different center of gravity) and some not (riding bikes or swimming earlier and later).
    Thanks for the thoughtful thread, everyone!

  28. @Cloud My kids were totally different as babies and now both have the same body type. They are both built like my husband and his family.

  29. For specific thoughts on how to talk about body image, I recommend googling “fatosphere” and “body positivity”. Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose is a good resource, though mostly just in the archives/FAQs now — she’s not really writing about fat anymore.I was raised to believe, like many of us, that being fat is a moral failing. I reject this logic now, but my husband still believes it. Both he and my mom make flip remarks about how they’re still growing, just not up anymore, and this sort of thing. And my mom uses the word fattening as if she needs to get it out there as much as possible because they’re going to take it away soon.
    The only thing I can recommend is for us as parents to change our own attitudes. If WE are deathly afraid of “fat”, our children are going to be too, no matter what sort of lip service we pay to accepting different body types. It has helped me somewhat to accept that just as my daughter will probably have large breasts (all women, all sides of our families do) and will probably be much shorter than average (ditto), she will likely be overweight (yep, you guessed it!). I hope she will also be strong and athletic, and THAT I think we have some measure of control over, so that’s where I concentrate my effort. And most important of all, I hope she will appreciate her body and not let anyone else tell her she is less-than because of its shape or size.
    I do agree that “healthy” can be a euphemism for not-fattening and we have to be careful not to go crazy with it. Food is so hard with kids this age because the concept of moderation is just lost on them — there is nothing a 5/6 year old likes better than a set of hard and fast enforceable rules, and non-disordered eating doesn’t work that way. Some days your body needs more food than others and some days it needs different kinds of foods.
    FWIW (and I hardly think I’m anywhere near perfection), I try to use language that encourages listening to our bodies. If I see my kids eating really quickly and then asking for more, I encourage them to take a few minutes and listen to whether their tummy really has room for more or not (and explain that sometimes it takes tummies a few minutes to catch up to how full they are). And I encourage them to think ahead — the nights my daughter has gymnastics for 2 hours, I ask her if she’s really sure she’s done since she’s going to be asking her body to work very hard and there won’t be an opportunity for a meal.
    I try to take the moral value out of different food choices (though I admit to my own bias again processed sugar and flour, which I believe have addictive qualities, at least in myself). When I make choice that are counter to what I WANT, I tell my kids that I think those donuts look delicious, but that I know that I will feel better later if I have oatmeal instead.
    All that said, I have to point out that you can do all the talking you want at home, but a 6-year-old has been Out In The World and unfortunately, there’s no clearer message in our society than Thou Shalt Be Thin (except perhaps Thou Shalt Buy Stuff, but that’s a whole different rant!)
    OK then, that’s enough preaching for one day, yes? 🙂

  30. You know, I really like Anonymous this time’s comment above that different bodies are great at different things. That’s a wonderful message, one I would like to embrace going forward.I mean, even when talking about the morbidly obese, those people’s bodies are great at storing food for times when there isn’t a lot of it.
    Other people have athletic bodies, good for running and jumping or dark skinned bodies, good for spending a lot of time in the sun without damage, or short bodies, good for fitting in small places–I really really like that idea Anonymous. Thanks!

  31. WOW! This is such a hot topic. I can’t say I have any wisdom on this but I do have a few points of interest.To Charisse. It was so perceptive of you to tell mouse about the reflection part. You can go even further, if you want. We’ve all seen what a fun house mirror can do. It distorts the view of things. You could show her mirrors like that so she can see she isn’t seeing her true reflection.
    Also all women have seen mirrors that make you look fat, and ones that are more accurate. Do some research first, but see if you can find a couple of mirrors in a department store that make you look a little different depending on the light or the quality of the mirror. Once you find a couple of them, take her there and show her that body image is all in the eyes of the beholder. Help her see that some windows and mirrors reflect back a pretty accurate view of a body and some don’t. Then help her see that some people reflect back a pretty accurate view of a person’s body and some don’t. That’s why it’s so important to hold you own healthy view and not listen to others.
    I bring this up because believe it or not, the majority of this information is not coming from you, or from TV, it’s coming from the playground. The kids on the playground are using body type to make distinctions and rules. Things like she can’t play, she’s fat. Or he’s slow because he’s chubby. It’s horrible, I know, but true.
    Another thing I wanted to mention is height. I don’t want to make excuses for anyone here, but I think children need to know just how much they’ll be growing into their bodies. Yes, it’s our job to watch what they eat, but they will stretch out and grow into their body, including the round cheeks, heads are still growing too.
    You can make rules about what time of day your kids get carbs so they can run them off, or any other rules you need too for your family.
    Another thing that comes into play with weight are the words. I’m a rock solid believer in the statement, “Thoughts are things” so that means parents have to watch what they say too.
    When I was little I was told I was heavy. I look back at photos now only to find that most of the time I was stick thin. I did get heavier as I developed, it had to come from somewhere. It’s true development isn’t happening at age 3 or 6, but you can look at height during those years.
    Each time I got taller, I looked fat. My kids did too. Why do I bring this up. Because of all the comments I got when I looked heavy. Family members assumed that this new heavy stage was the way it was going to be forever and so they made comments.
    All you can do is watch what you give your child to eat, as long as he or she isn’t obese. Create opportunities for them to exercise, and really reduce the amount of conversation on the subject.
    A client who was really, really thin as a child. Everyone tried to get her to eat. She grew up believing that love came in the form of food because that’s when people paid the most attention to her, when they wanted to get her to eat. Because of that she grew up thinking she wouldn’t gain weight, so she ate anything she wanted. Now as an older person she’s heavy and has to struggle to watch her weight.
    Talk to your child about this now and in the future. Just make sure conversations about food don’t become the main topic. The food rules are the food rules, and that’s about all you can say about weight as you wait to see how they grow.
    Remember those kids on the playground? Most of them come from families where the mom says negative things about her body all the time, they’re parroting it on the playground.

  32. What a topic! I love the discussions here.I just recently learned how to (finally!) manage my own weight, so I feel like I’m in a slightly better position to teach my kids what makes their body run well or poorly than I was a year ago.
    Right now I think that’s the angle I’ll take with my own kids (3 and 1) – something akin to Dr. Oz’s seeming love and fascination with the body and what makes it work and why vs what can make it sick.
    No idea how that approach will translate into a healthy body image, but I do want my kids to understand that their body is incredibly functional, and capable, and works even better if well-tended.
    Fwiw, I asked a related question here: http://parentsguild.com/post/question/1345/what-do-you-do-to-teach-healthy-eating-exercise-habits because this post sparked my curiosity and concern.
    – andrea @ http://blog.parentsguild.com

  33. I’m (mostly) sticking with the Slatter approach to feeding: I provide the what and when and my 5yo decides whether and how much. He’s normal weight for his height (though small for his age) and has become quite good at self-regulating and most often makes very good food choices.I’m obese and healthy, my husband’s bizarrely skinny and healthy (I’m a lot stronger; he’s a lot faster). So far, our son is between, which is just what I’d hoped.
    DS has said things about my being fat and about DH being skinny. He’s joked about being fat while poking his belly out. He’s joked about being skinny while sucking his belly in. He flexes his muscles and says he’s as strong as Superman.
    He seems to have a pretty healthy body image. And I’m really worried about what impact we might see in the future of media and peer norms.
    Like the PP, I recommend reading up on fat acceptance (http://www.fatshionista.com/cms/ is another good source). It’s about attitude, of course, but also about presenting alternative views of the science (e.g., how much of the current childhood obesity epidemic is really about norms established 50 years ago?).

  34. oh the RAGE that this topic induces in me. RAGE.I also have a 6 year old girl (ok, she’s 5 for another month, but you get the picture).
    Our weight talks have been a result of what goes on in school (public school, in our case). Both the school district and the state collect information about the children’s weight/height/eye exams/scoliosis as part of the stuff the school does. We were able to opt out of the state information collection, but my daughter was still weighed/measured/check for scoliosis and near-sightedness, etc.
    In principle, I have no problem with this. HOWEVER. The school gets this information by lining the kids up and having them step on a scale, in front of the whole class. Then, the kids know each others’ ‘numbers” and talk about it. This opens up the conversation about size and weight in a way that might never occur to kindergarteners if the school didn’t invite it. As a result, L was labeled “fat” by several of the boys, because she had weighed the most of all the girls and had the second highest weight in the class. Mind you, she’s also the tallest in the class, by at least an inch, and is the tallest girl by 4-5 inches (she was 4’1″ at the time. she’s TALL).
    What happened was that, at home, she started asking to do exercise videos on netflix, and talking about eating less and exercising more. When pressed, she told me that this was because a certain kid in her class had been calling her fat and that she knew it must be true because she weighed so much.
    Can you imagine what a ruckus I kicked up at the school the next morning? Multiply that by about 10.
    We ended up talking a lot about how muscle weighs more than fat and that if you want to be strong, you need lots of muscles. And we talked about how she can run a 5k and swim 100 meters in a row, and that that requires a lot of muscles – and that those are things that not many 5 year olds can do. Plus, we talked about the height issue – of COURSE she weighs more than the kid who called her fat – she’s a full FOOT taller than he is.
    We did talk, briefly, about food, but I think we generally send a good message about eating well – I’m heavily involved in the local food system and so my kids get to see where their food is grown and help prepare it, so they’re pretty well schooled on nutrition. They also know the value of the occasional treat. (phew! that’s one thing I’m doing ok on)
    For what it’s worth, my objection to the state’s BMI study is not that i feel they shouldn’t be gathering information – it’s that 1) I don’t agree with public weigh-ins for anyone who hasn’t voluntarily joined weight watchers or asked to compete on the Biggest Loser – it’s humiliating, and invites criticism where there’s no cause. 2) it’s statistically invalid – a 5 year old grows in such fits and spurts that taking 1 BMI measurement per year is meaningless. At the time that they weighed her, she was in the “at risk of becoming overweight” category, but a month later, she had grown an inch and not gained anything, so she landed well within the “normal weight” category. In a MONTH. Unless they want to commit to weighing and measuring kids on a more frequent basis, it’s just not meaningful information to collect.
    Also, “at risk of becoming overweight” – don’t even get me started on that. It’s like saying, “there’s nothing wrong, but why don’t you start worrying now, just in case there’s a problem later on.”
    Ok, so this is probably unhelpful for anyone else, but clearly I still need to rage about it, so I’m going to. (and there’s a new principal at the school, so I’m going to go make a stink to him soon, too! what a lucky guy…)

  35. I thought I commented earlier but it doesn’t seem to be here! Here goes again. This topic has been on my mind lately too… a few months ago I wrote a post on my blog about how my Rosie (then almost 3) has such great self esteem and thinks she’s beautiful. Really, she would look in the mirror and smile and be proud of how she looked. I loved it. But I also knew that one day that would change.And it already has. She’s now 3, and thinks that she is only pretty if she is wearing a dress, with all her jewelry on (all toy stuff), and her “make-up” (which is just chapstick). When I’m brushing her hair and getting her ready I’ll comment on how pretty she is, and sometimes she said “I know” or “thank you” but sometimes she says “no I’m not”.
    I’m just realizing as I type this that instead of telling her she’s pretty, I should say things like that her hair looks nice or her smile is so cheery or whatever… think I’ll try that approach from now on.
    She has never complained about being fat or even commented on other people who are heavier. She is very slender though at 42 inches tall and 34 lbs. We do talk about what is healthy and what is a treat when it comes to food, and we also talk about specifically what foods do for us. Like that milk makes our bones and teeth strong, and meat helps build our muscles. It seems to make her more inclined to eat things she doesn’t love if she knows why they are important.

  36. The only thing I notice about the conversation between Charisse and Mouse is that (as relayed here, which could clearly be leaving something out) there’s not an acknowledgement of how Mouse is feeling. Maybe this is because I’ve just finished reading one of the Faber Mazlish books, but I also seem to remember as a preteen feeling frustrated because my worries that I was fat were dismissed. It’s almost irrelevant that I wasn’t, I just had hips while my mother and sister did not. And I was the first of my friends to start developing so I was rounder. But being told flat out that it was nonsense and I was fine made me very secretive about how I was feeling. I’m not saying that one conversation at 6 is going to have that effect, and it is hard to acknowledge feelings you’re dismayed to hear (dealing with a different version of this with my 3yo who doesn’t want to see her cousin). But just saying “Oh, you don’t like the way your reflection looks here. You think it looks fat. That isn’t how I see you. What about all the things your body can do? Remember when you ran all that way (okay, I’m a little sketchy on what would be a reasonable accomplishment at 6, but you get the idea)” Other than that, it sounds like you’re saying all the right things. (Of course, it’s easy for me right now because we haven’t hit this stage, but I’m sure we will.)Also, this may be part of why it’s starting to show up with boys. Even when I was a kid it wasn’t “allowed” for boys to be concerned with what they looked like. Our culture is becoming more and more visual and boys are included in that (shirtless vampires and werewolves, anyone?). 100 years ago even a girl may have been spanked for talking about her appearance, positive or negative, because concern over one’s appearance was Vanity and that was a Sin.

  37. Also,http://www.fatnutritionist.com/index.php/dear-fat-nutritionist-am-i-making-my-kid-fat/
    Again, this is for people who are comfortable with letting their kids be who they are; if you’re of the telling your kids they’re beautiful or don’t worry about your weight as long as you’re thin and healthy school, this won’t fly.
    But as this thread has shown, there is a lot of pressure out there to be thin, or at least to have one’s weight below a certain level, and if you want to give your child the resources to resist that pressure, this is a good start towards teaching intuitive eating.

  38. I dislike the whole “I’m just concerned about your health” thing that people do surrounding fat. (FWIW, I haven’t had this directed at me.) It’s a matter of proportion. People are much more concerned about his kind of healthiness than other kinds of healthiness, and it becomes a politically correct way of saying being being fat is bad and a personal failing. I’m convinced kids pick up on that. I think kids are really fine-tuned to our little societal hypocrisies (on the collective, not individual) level and, like what ailikate is saying, it turns them off from the conversation. To a certain degree I do think it’s impossible to escape the thin = beautiful and moral messages. Ugh, depressing.On the other hand, my mom did a fantastic job of obviating the message just through living her belief that that stuff was bs, like you’re doing, Charisse. Though I had my own struggles with it, I think it was relatively easy to overcome because that’s just what it was in my house: bs. Even though it may not always seem like it, those counter-messages get through.

  39. “To a certain degree I do think it’s impossible to escape the thin = beautiful and moral messages.”I think our children are bound to hear them, and it is depressing, especially when people I otherwise like and trust around my children are delivering the message. But I also think — and maybe this is a link to the racism discussion — that you want your child to have had discussions about topics that are important to you, and you want to have had plenty of chances to transmit your values, so that they aren’t just going to hear and accept whatever’s out there.

  40. Coming back to add that I forgot to credit my dad for expressing his views on the non-importance of weight/appearance. This kind of reinforcement within the family can be powerful, I think.

  41. @BlueBirdMama, it’s true that children are more likely to become obese than become anorexic or bulimic. But both extremes seem to me to stem from society’s toxic obsession with body shape.Obese children, teens, and adults are aware of their size. There is no escaping the condemnation, the derision, the disgust, and the vitriol that is heaped upon people whose bodies are larger than what is considered acceptable or beautiful in our sick culture. No one chooses to bring that level of animosity on themselves.
    When I was 12, after 11 years of being super-skinny, I had a small amount of fat on my growing body. I grew breasts around the same time. All of a sudden, I was bombarded with fatalistic messages about how horrible it would be to be a fat adult, how I faced certain misery if I was fat in high school, how much easier it would be to lose weight now than to try to lose it later in life. At that time, the last thing I wanted or needed was more attention to my growing body – I was confused and ashamed and wanted to be invisible – but it seemed that that was all I got from adults around me. I looked at the mirror and a body that I liked all of a sudden looked grotesque and horrible to me.
    And you know what I did? I escaped from that pain, the intensity of self-loathing that I felt, by soothing myself through food. It was a coping mechanism, not one that I chose consciously, but one that worked to get me through the hardest times of adolescence, including being sexually abused. I hated myself then, and hated myself even more for my eating and for how my body grew fatter. But I look back at that lonely adolescent now and I **congratulate** her for finding a way to get through really terrible times, for finding a coping mechanism when no other support was offered by the adults around me.
    And I condemn the adults around me for focusing on my body shape rather than my brain, my wonderful personality, my desire to please, my curiosity about the world, my willingness to try new things and take risks, my fierce loyalty and sense of justice. All anyone seemed to notice was the fat, fat that probably would have disappeared on its own as I grew taller in a growth spurt.
    Feed your kids nutritious food, and tell them that body shape is no indicator of a person’s goodness, of their value in the world. Body shape is just shape, it’s not a moral measure or a health measure. Compliment fat people in front of them. Fat should be a neutral descriptor, not a pejorative – demonstrate that.
    If you equate fatness or thinness with health or with a person’s value or virtue, you will create kids who are obsessed with their body shape over their character development or their health. If you treat fatness or thinness as simply measures on a continuum of human body shapes and sizes, and no measure of health or virtue or worthiness – because it’s NOT – you will help to heal the world of its sick, sick focus on body shape over what’s really important in life.

  42. I don’t know any way around it honestly. He’s almost three and in a full day of daycare and they already sort themselves by various characteristics: fast, slow, big, small – I’ve yet to hear fat but I don’t doubt it’s there. He’s a chubby toddler (36 by 36) and I imagine he’s going to grow up to be “stocky” like the other men in my family. I think he’s adorable – my son – but I can’t tell when it’s supposed to switch from “baby fat” to growing into a leaner body. I know I was a round child, then a baby faced teenager and got lots of comments that I still hear and have trouble with my own body image. So I’m at a loss because just saying it’s okay to be who we are – well, that hasn’t worked in my own head. How am I supposed to sell it to my son?? It’s a very sensitive subject that I’m trying to avoid by having food and body image be two totally different subjects. Probably not the best approach I guess.

  43. This came up recently with my 3.5 year old daughter telling me “Grandma has a fat chin.” I said something about how everyone’s bodies are different sizes and that’s just how people are. But I spent more energy noting to her that it would hurt Grandma’s feelings to hear that, because many people think that “fat” is a hurtful word. In hindsight, I think my anxiety about a social faux pas ran away with me– I didn’t probe at all about what my daughter was thinking. But… how do people handle that social aspect? My daughter wasn’t saying this in a mean way, more of a description– yet for many, many people in the world, a child pointing out that they’re fat would indeed be hurtful. And, frankly, my daughter’s gauge for fat is not well-developed. She subsequently pointed at my thighs and said they were fat, at which point I said “no, they’re just like that, those are my legs” (I’m on the slender/average side, if that matters– if my thighs WERE particularly big, would I have answered differently??) If fat is a descriptive term, like skinny, then do I coach her on how to apply it accurately? only to animals, not to people? How are folks managing that social aspect, especially for preschoolers where their sense of social appropriateness is still very loose– I’m not sure she’d understand a nuanced explanation of body size, health, self-esteem, etc. I’m guessing she’s hearing the word “fat” at school, but it’s the only potentially pejorative word she knows i.e. “stupid” or “ugly” aren’t in her vocabulary. She’s not using fat as a pejorative, but certainly her Grandma would– and others too. Or do I let those chips fall as they will and treat it like any other descriptor?

  44. We have a blanket policy against talking about other people’s bodies, as in the bodies of people outside our immediate family, and I have said that it is because some people don’t like parts of their bodies, and you never know what they won’t like, but we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feeling by accidentally talking about something they don’t like about themselves.I don’t know if this works if you’re not comfortable in your own skin. When my youngest said my belly looked as though I was going to have a baby, I could say that maybe it did, and he could say that to me, but other people don’t like having bellies that stick out, or they wish they did, and so you might end up hurting someone’s feelings by saying that. Had I felt angry or sad or defensive, I think he’d have picked up on that, and I think that might have undermined my point. But maybe it would have be an opportunity for a frank discussion of societal expectations.

  45. From my European perspective I find that in some ways nothing has changed since the 1920s. In the sense that my relations from that epoch always commented on any change in size of anyone. And to your face too.Things like ” are you getting fat? “, “too much of a good thing ? “, ” time for a diet, I think ” etc.
    My daughter now 2.5 is asked those things by elderly relations and friends.It worries me as she can talk more now. They love her and she them but the f-word is horrid to me. But it was ever so in our circles.
    In our family it was also a sort of nasty competition with the in-laws. We all kept our figures. My grandfather went to his 60 year wedding anniversary in his wedding suit. Smelling of mothballs.
    It’s because we’re tall and skinny with such floppy joints and a tendency to hip dislocation that gaining weight is an ordeal. I needed a special support system in pregnancy. It wasn’t willpowe
    With my mother and her friends there was continuous nasty gossip about other women’s sizes. Mums in the various playgroups are no better today. Middle class life.
    For the record my 2.5 year old daughter is 99th centile for height 97th for weight, and 50th for upper-arm, neck and waist. So to the government she’s obese but not to a paediatrician.
    She’s not slightly built but very strong and my sad fear is that life will be harder for her growing up than it was for me.
    She first gains weight, then grows in spurts and was teething forever when her jaw swells and she gets a double chin that then vanish again. Such phases get lots of comment from the elderly and gossip from contemparies.
    My late grandmother, born 1896 ( we have babies in our middle age in our family) used to intone anytime anyone heavy came by that they were digging their grave with their knife and fork. Rather loudly so they could hear. Youths still heckle heavy people with shouts of ” who’s eaten all the pies ? “.
    It’s not stopped much of the population in the UK getting much heavier and many are obese. Children included.Many are poorer.
    It’s the same on the continent. I’d say the real difference is that here obesity is portrayed as a social ill and adanger that will wreck the nationalised health systems, with high costs in money for chronic conditions and also in terms of future productivity lost by obese children grown up into unhealthy adults. Fat is bad and antisocial and is society’s, not the individual’s problem.
    News items of how hospital floors need reinforcing, special ambulances built, special operating tables.
    So it’s the government’s task to help these groups eat more healthily and slim down. Government ads on the television and on the side of buses for instance.And all sorts of initiatives.
    And here in the UK at least the controversial child weighing thing. Not as crass as @sueinithaca |described. That’s terrible and infuriating.
    But at 5 your child’s height and weight is measured, and if found overweight after the results are compared a form letter goes out from the local health authority that tells you your child is at risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer and should eat vegetables and go swimming.
    The problem is they use pure BMI. So someone who is strongly built with muscle has a high BMI but is not at all overweight.
    So such children are pictured in the newspapers holding up the letter. Even sadder a five year old with cancer was sent it and appeared in the news. Heartbreaking.
    Here the rate of people becoming obese has slowed a bit. But it’s peculiar to me that my late grandmother is reincarnated in a health system that sends five year olds a letter telling them that they’re digging their graves with their knife and fork. Not what I’d call progress.

  46. There seems to be two issues conflated. Self-confidence towards one’s body, and obesity. Being self-confident is achieved the same way self-esteem is (and really is just a specific type of that). Namely, kids in sports, kids who get praised for using their bodies to move and who make good food choices are hopefully going to feel better about themselves. Especially for girls, picking role models about strength vs ‘thinness’.Girl’s and an obsession with thinness is a reflection of an overall social pressure to conform, more than it is about weight per se.
    Regarding weight, it is unhealthy to be overweight, much less obese. That’s a fact well backed up by studies. I think BMI is worthless because we should want people to have muscles! AS someone who just lost 70 lbs and is planning to keep it off, I was fundamentally less healthy when I was fat.
    With my kids I plan to be very clear that our society provides unhealthy food more easily than healthy food, that they need to make good choices, and that treats are just that, once-in-a-while treats. And, that they need to be physically active. I’m glad that the pre-school has outside time often and the schools still have PE (the middle school did cardio).

  47. “That’s a fact well backed up by studies. “Except it’s not. Being inactive is unhealthy. Certain diets are not healthful. But people can be active and eat well and still be fat and still be healthy.

  48. Statistically it has been shown that people over a certain weight per height will die more often and have more illnesses and medical problems. That’s why my life insurance dropped when the weight did. My chance of death was reduced. I’m not trying to be mean here! Yes, you can run 10K races and be in the obese category but it will be a LOT harder on your body. I know this from experience.Being inactive is unhealthy, yes. I couldn’t run when I was 265lbs because my knee hurt and trying to run caused worse problems. I put the time in on another form of exercise and my knee stopped hurting and I could run once I lost 35 lbs. Sure, I could have starting eating more at that time instead of continuing the aim for a calorie deficit, but I wanted to be in the healthy weight range for my height. (And get my life insurance cost reduced!).
    When I talk to my kids about why I worked so d*mn hard to lose weight, I emphasize that there is a healthy weight **range** and I wasn’t at it. That there are risks and downsides to being overweight. I talked about how I liked how much stronger I was, and told them how happy I was to run so many miles more this month vs last month.

  49. Nice website Heather, looks very plaseant and professional. I did toy with the notion of providing my own website but could not be bothered with all the hassle. Your picture of of a railway trespass banner reminds me of a railway platform sign someone sent me Don’t stand too close to the edge, or you will get sucked off! Never happened to me yet Ray

  50. Try out that new stuff The Big Things its amazing toatll oposite on other methodes check it out : bit.ly / the-big (remove spaces from the link)TheBigThings(.)net search it!

  51. Hi! I’m a 37 years old spanish men. I live in caotianlan coast (Palamf3s Costa Brava). One of best place’s of the world. I like photography and video. It’s my passion!In my travels (Cuba, Jamaica, Turkey, Morocco, Nepal, India ) always, always i make my travel photo book, and sometimes, work vido too. I have two special works videos for me about my travels: India-Nepal and Jamaica. If you want to see them, just tell me about.

  52. i get this post but i’m going to show you the flipside, why soimemtes in order TO be happy you NEED to give up.i wanted to give up ttc after about our 5th year but i also didn’t. we’ve officially given up now, 10 years after we started and too many losses to count.we needed to in order to have any hope of moving forward.in reality, i wish i had of given up at that 5 year mark, we would be in the same position that we are now but without anywhere near as many losses under our belts.so yes while NOT giving up is soimemtes the way to happiness, so is giving up.xxx

  53. Am a Nigerian of 26 years and have a great passion for wrnitig. i have actually published an edition of my personal magazine named FULLY LOADED. And currently working on the second issue. I have a column in the publication that deals with travel.I love to share my experience through every medium at my disposal and i don’t mind to write travel stories for you across African continent. thanks

  54. everyone on here that posted nitvgeae comments your all FAGS!!! Everything in this patch is just fine with your body and will not damage your heart. Yes you have to eat healthy and work out But this is an aid in all of that. And it really is only 69.99 you CHEAP ASSES!!! I am using these patches and guess what IT WORKS!!!!! So if you really want to bash it then first TRY IT. until then SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!! thanks for your time.

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