Talking to children about their weight

We all want the very best for our kids, we want them to be happy and healthy. But what about if you have a child who gains weight easily? How do you best broach the subject without making their weight an issue?

One of my three kids gains weight easily, all three eat the same things and live similar lives yet two of them are beanpoles who don’t have an ounce of body fat and one is bigger and puts on weight quickly and easily. I’ve googled and asked around and can’t find an answer to how to deal with this.

I don’t want weight to become something they think about but equally I don’t want them to be overweight and have to deal with all the issues that surround being overweight, both health wise and socially. As part of my blog I am all about loving your body whatever size you are, but I do feel it’s my job as a mum to make sure that while their eating and exercise habits are under my control that they are as healthy as possible.

But the line is a difficult one to tread. I want my children to love themselves, to be happy, healthy and live good lives. And as hypocritical as this may seem coming from an overweight woman, I don’t want them to have weight issues. So how do you talk about weight without making it an emotional and mental issue?

We have tried talking in general terms about health. About eating healthy, colourful and tasty foods and limiting sweeties. We have talked about how we need energy to move around and be fit and that if we take on more energy than we burn that it is turned to fat stores. But this hasn’t sunk in to a child who will eat half a packet of biscuits when I’m not looking. Or the child who only wants to sit and watch tv and play on a DS. A child who is classed as overweight.

Tonight it came to a head after my child ate a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to himself. I had said they could have a little bit each which two of them did, the third ate the rest and when I saw the tub had all gone, I admit I was annoyed and the awful words came out of my mouth “this is why you’re getting fat”

The child’s face crumpled and I felt like shit. I sat and cuddled and told them I loved them more than anything. That they were beautiful and awesome and I thought they were fantastic. I said that I was sorry if I’d made them feel bad and that my intention was only to make sure they grew up healthy. I feel terrible. I feel like I have scarred my child and given him a weight issue.

Am I a total hypocrite to write about loving the body you are in whilst not wanting my kids to be overweight?!

The reality is that being overweight isn’t healthy, it causes health and social problems and I would rather my children not have to deal with those things through their lives. If there is a way to ensure they are the fittest they can be then that is what I want. But am I causing problems by bringing it up?

We talked tonight about how everyone needs to eat yummy healthy food and that exercise is about doing the fun things you enjoy and getting moving. We talked about starting swimming again weekly, something we stopped with my surgery and we made a plan that we would walk the dog together every day and it would be ‘our thing’.

You see some children who are very overweight and I wonder whether parents need to be a little harder on diet and exercise. Is it mean to discuss the child’s weight and risk them feeling sad, or is it worse to say nothing and allow them to gain weight?

After my almighty gaff, my child and I had a chat and lots of hugs. I used lots of positive words and we talked about all the fabulous qualities. Then tonight my kid came in and said “mum I’ve made a plan!” I was shown a list of all the fun things that could be done instead of sitting on a DS ( which we agreed should be limited to one hour a day) including den building, walking the dog, playing with lego, swimming and writing stories. There was also a discussion on what healthy meals we could all eat together. I’m hoping that our chat has made a positive impact and that my awful comment can be forgotten.

So dear readers, have I screwed up my amazingly awesome son by using the f word?

Do you agree that we are responsible for our children’s weight? Or should we allow our kids to settle at their own desired weight?

Is discussing weight going to cause problems with self esteem and confidence?

Please comment and let me know what you think because I am at a total loss and feel like the worst mum ever. I’m so confused as to the best way to deal with this situation and would appreciate any advice or comments.

I’m aware this is an emotional and contentious issue and hope I haven’t offended anyone as that was never my goal. Equally please be kind and know that though I have messed up tonight, I’m just a mum trying to do her best.

Love Sam x

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4 thoughts on “Talking to children about their weight

  1. Stop beating yourself up! no good will come of it xx
    I try to get my kids to think about why they are pestering me for food when they’ve not long had breakfast or lunch? are they really hungry? thirsty? bored? Just trying to make them aware of why they are eating. I’m guilty of comfort eating and have gained a lot of weight over the last couple of years as a result.
    I think I would try and focus more on moving more than eating less. My lot would be wanting to eat more if they thought I was cutting them down. Or even worse, not giving them all the same!

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  2. No Sam, you’re only responsible for your childs genes, not their excess weight. What you can (and have ) do is talk to the child and explain cause and effect, then help the child address their weight issue if they are motivated to do so. Then reinforce that message over time and praise the good results. Fat building into muscle is awesome.

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  3. Oh Sam, this is a tricky one isn’t if? I completely understand having been that child and now having two daughters… I think the others’ replies are very sensible.
    Just to share my experience – all I know is that I was teased a bit at school when I was about 8 and was self conscious- looking at photos now I wasn’t huge, just round (!) but it must have been enough for my mum to take action and I remember taking in healthy substitutes into school to have instead of stodgy school dinner puddings. By the time I was 11 or 12 I had got taller and slimmed out a bit. But I can recall going on my first diet (the f plan!) ages about 14.
    I
    wonder if the first ‘no puddings’ intervention set me up for a life of dieting, or if it is the climate I’ve loved in -both in and outside the home- that you should watch what you eat and not be fat. Now I really try to curb my negative body talk, to not make a big deal of it when I am dieting but to make exercising a normal part of our family routine. Hope that helps x

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  4. Sam,
    I really wouldn’t be worried about their weight. I’m somewhere between chubby and kinda fat, and perfectly healthy. I just happen to have genetics that favor being pudgy. As long as your child is eating balanced foods and exercising, whatever weight his body settles at will be nothing to worry about. The same way that some people naturally have a higher body temperature, or low blood pressure, or a million other things, some bodies naturally just keep more fat on them.

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