BY JO ABI
Being a fat kid isn’t any fun. I remember being teased at school for being a ‘fat wog’ (how creative). It’s quite a life-changer to have twenty skinny young girls pointing and laughing at you in the playground while your ‘friends’ inch away from you.
It was the first time I realised I was overweight. Now every time I overeat I remember that day and I hear their taunts in my head.
This is probably why I’m so paranoid about my own children’s weight.
Like most parents, I’ve been conscious of feeding my kids the right and healthy amount from the time they were born. My son went from being too little due a severe food allergy to my breast milk to making up for lost time on formula. I was so relieved he was eating that I let him have as much as he wanted.
The nurse at the baby clinic told me to restrict how much formula I was allowing him to have. She explained that the amount of fat cells he formed now would stay with him for life. At first I thought it was silly. Babies don’t need to go on diets. But I did start measuring his meals and was more careful from that point on.
My children are eight, five and three now and one of my biggest fears is that they will end up being overweight. I let them eat unhealthy food but not a lot. I offer them three healthy meals a day. If they aren’t hungry I put it away for later. I never make them eat when they don’t want to. And I don’t use food as a reward. Stickers and stamps work just as well as rewards.
The problem is that every time I restrict the type of food and the amount of food my children eat in public, someone always comments. “They’re only kids once”, “Let them have a treat”, “That’s a bit harsh”, “A bit of cake never hurt anyone”.
I see so many overweight children these days. I know their parents don’t mean them any harm. They are often struggling with their own food issues. It’s just sad because we teach our children manners, we teach them how to count, how to cross the road with adults but we seem to think that if we talk to them about how to eat they’ll end up with eating disorders or something. But if we don’t teach them how to eat without putting on weight, who will? Isn’t it one of our most important jobs as parents to teach children how to eat in a way that encourages healthy and happiness?
I don’t praise my children for finishing food. I don’t equate finishing meals to good behaviour. I don’t let them drink slushies. I don’t let them have seconds when it comes to dessert but they can have a small piece and an apple.
I read an amazing book recently called The Heavy by Dara-Lynn Weiss. You remember her. She’s the New York mum who put her daughter on a strict diet and was hung, drawn and quartered for it. The Vogue article describing her as a socialite and glossed over the fact her daughter saw several doctors due to obesity. Read the article on Mamamia here .
Reading this book opened my eyes to the struggle of parents with overweight kids. She had a normal weight son and an overweight daughter. The judgements placed on her were typical of a society
that judges us for restricting our children but also judges us if they are overweight. We are damned if we do, we are damned if we don’t. People made comment when her daughter was overweight and eating cupcakes, and people made comments when her daughter was losing weight and not allowed to eat cupcakes.
This is why I can’t wait for the latest season of The Biggest Loser. It teams parents with their children to break the cycle of obesity within their families. I saw the ads on TV last night and they make me want to cry. I never want my children to suffer as a result of their weight. To me, parents who teach children to take care of how they eat are brave. More of us should do the same.
The Biggest Loser is back in 2013 for what is possibly the most significant challenge in the history of the series: to help
break the cycle of generational obesity in Australia. We now know that habits formed early in life can follow on throughout childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. Bad habits in childhood can increase health risks such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes in a person’s adult life. The Biggest Loser is addressing these issues both within the program and through a free health and fitness initiative called The Promise. This year The Biggest Loser is not just a television event, but also a social movement, a movement that aims to break the vicious cycle of generational obesity. To find out more about how you can receive free health and fitness tips and help break the cycle of generational obesity, head to The Promise website.
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What was your relationship with food like when you were growing up? What’s your approach to kids and healthy eating? Would you ever put your child on a diet?