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?