About Me

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Concord, California, United States
I am a sometimes-writer, everyday mama, creative failure and experimental cook. I am interested in living a beautiful life, spending time with my family and making things that I can feel proud of. When I'm by myself I'm usually outside. Don't bother calling because chances are that I didn't bring my cell phone because I couldn't find it. If you see me walking, it's because I lost my keys and if you see me with only one child... I'm probably in big trouble.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

kids and food and weight

At what point do you begin worrying about a child's weight?

Lila has always been a chubby little thing. She loves to eat. Once, when she was about a year old, she overate and then threw up. I took her to the doctor because I was concerned about the fact that she was always crying for more food ("more" was one of her first words). The doctor basically said to watch the types of food she was eating but that she was probably dealing with a sensory thing where she was really enjoying the textures and flavors of foods and that all children go through it at some point. For the most part she is offered healthy choices, but I notice that she struggles with portion control. I also notice that she tries to eat as much as Bunny eats. And Bunn has a funny appetite. Bunny tends to eat frequently but makes better choices than Lila, choosing fruit or cheese where Lila would want crackers and cookies. At the dinner table, Bunny will always eat her meat (and struggle to eat anything else) where Lila will ignore her meat and eat her starch and veggies. And when it comes to breakfast, Lila will eat a pancake, and egg and a fruit salad and then sneak another breakfast after she gets to school. Bunny would just eat the fruit salad.

Recently, at the doctor, we discovered that Lila weighs 60 lbs. To put that in perspective, Lila is five years old. She's very tall for her age. Bunny is almost seven and is about an inch taller than Lila. She weighs 10 pounds less than Lila. At her well visit, the doctor didn't seem too concerned about Lila's weight because she's also so tall. Her biggest concern was how much belly fat Lila has. She has quite a little Buddha belly. Her belly is so round that we are not able to buy jeans or pants without stretch for her. We'd have to buy size 10, which is impossible for someone her height. For this reason, we stick to stretchy bottoms and dresses.

Because Lila has a tendency toward overeating, we just started a food schedule (which I have mixed feelings about). The girls can eat breakfast, snack at 10, lunch at one, snack at three, dinner and then a dessert.

Also, the girls walk a mile home each school day.

But I think that people are saying things to Lila about her weight. She has started talking about how fat she is. She doesn't say it in a bad way or complain about it (though one day she did mention that she isn't able to run as fast as the other children because she's so fat). When she uses the word "fat" it's clear to me that it doesn't mean the same thing to her as it does to me. She seems to like herself a lot and doesn't have negative feelings about her body or her weight. I really do not want that to change.

I've noticed that she seems to think that eating more healthy food is the best thing for her body. Before she overeats she'll often ask if something is healthy and is very concerned about the nutrients in her food (though, she'll happily gobble up chocolate chip cookies and ice cream as well). I have tried to talk to her to tell her that though her body likes healthy food, too much food isn't good because her body isn't able to use it all. I NEVER EVER EVER associate food and weight, and I'm certain if she gets the connection or not.

What do I do? How do I get control of a potential, lifelong struggle without passing along self-esteem problems and weight obsession? Or, do I just accept that maybe Lila is a bigger person? She does tend to favor my sister (she's nearly her spitting image) and Kaitie was a bigger person.


  1. ugh.

    i have no answers. i do think you are taking the right approach though, not equating food with weight. i'd just continue to watch what she eats when you can (when she's not at school).

    i'd try to talk to her about where the "fat" comments are coming from though. that's concerning. if people at school are saying things, it may not bother her NOW, but may at some point.

  2. I asked and she said, "I AM FAT, Silly!!!!!!" And then she laughed and laughed and laughed. I asked her not to say that about herself. But i wonder if that's the wrong thing to do. Frankly, she might be a person who is overweight. Some people's body type makes them bigger and I suspect that she's always going to be one of those people. So, some people in life might call her fat. I am confused because where too much fat isn't healthy... some people who are very healthy have too much fat. And is it right to set her up now to know fat as a bad word? I keep hitting a brick wall when I think about it because I've always had such hand-ups on the subject... I just don't want LIla to be like me. And I'm not sure that (though I've worked on this for years) I've unlearned all of my bad behaviors and thoughts.

  3. it's such a touchy subject with me too.

    it sounds like lila has great self-esteem, thank god. i hope she always does!

  4. Have you asked Lila what the word "Fat" means to her?

    Maybe identifying how she views it will help determine your course of action.

    I know you don't want to give her a complex. I think it is a good idea to help her recognize different body types and how someone built in one way will carry weight differently. That it's okay that we're all different and that you can still be healthy while carrying a few extra pounds.

    I wish my parents would have been more helpful when it came to helping me understand good eating habit for life. I was super lean as a young one and in high school. I ate whatever I wanted. Now, especially at 5' 2", I struggle because every 5 lbs looks like the equivalent of 15lbs gained on a taller person.

    I think you do a great job of dealing with the situation and the girls as they are now, as well as setting them up for success in their future.

  5. Oh wow....this is a tough one and I'm not sure what to tell you. I've always had struggles with food on both ends of the spectrum. I do know, though, that with your smarts and compassion, you'll figure out the right thing to do. :)

  6. hmm, it sounds like you're handling it well. if the doc isn't concerned about weight, i would focus on the fat to muscle ratio which changes in diet and exercise will help. kids don't tend to judge themselves or others like adults do. like when they make comments to adults like 'you have a big bottom' or 'do you have a baby in your belyy' when you don't it's not meant to be hurtful. also some kids and adults are just bigger, i never thought of lila as anything other than a little chubby and not even that much. i'd keep an eye on it, though. i have a great pamphlet 'body size diversity and acceptance' fyi

  7. Hey Nikkol, I think that I need to do a lot of reading and educating because I am definitely at risk for ruining my daughters life by passing on body image problems... and I NEVER want to do that. When I found out that I was having girls it was one of my first concerns.

    And I think that you're right about fat/muscle.

    Also, the other day I picked LIla up to give her a huge huge and she told me not to hurt myself because she's so fat. And I asked her what that meant and she just started acting silly and wouldn't answer me... so I just made sure to tell her how much I love her.

    Here's something that confuses me: when she says that she's fat, am I supposed to say "no you're not. Don't say that about yourself." Or, by doing that am I telling her that there's something terribly wrong with being fat... so in turn, if people say that to her will she have learned taht it's this awful thing?

  8. it's never too early to educate yourself and your girls bc i know media skews the reality of realistic body image. even before i lost weight i was average or a little below and i am below average size for women my age, yet am seen as plus size or bigger or thick, which is fine by me bc i like my body now =)

    here are a few things from the author: -she answers the question "What size should i be?" with "ME SIZE". -"we don't expect everyone to be the same height, how is it that we expect everyone to have the same body or size" -"when you think 'normal' with body size, think diversity." -"Remember that fashion photographs are technologically enhanced"

    hmm, when you ask her what she means about being fat, she acts silly? maybe she doesn't know? i would keep trying to find out if she knows what fat means and maybe where she heard it, maybe kids at school are saying it but it isn't hurtful to her but could grow into something, so background info is important.

    i think saying 'no you're not fat' might send the wrong message if not now, later, like you thought. so i would ask her (to define fat) to give other words to describe herself and see if they are all about her body or if she's like, i'm a good artist, i have pretty eyes.

    unfortunately bc of the media and the unrealistic standards body image is super important in positive self esteem and it's pretty great that you're concerned already but at the same time actually kinda scary that this is a 5/6 year old little girl.

    love xoxoxoxoxoxo