"The fat kids are at the tuckshop every day."

How one mum’s cruel words hit way too close to home.

My son is getting fat. There’s no doubt about it. What I saw as temporary weight gain due to the stresses of Kindergarten have turned into permanent rolls of fat covering his stomach. I buy pants that fit his legs but don’t do up around his waste. I buy shirts one size too big so they fit round his stomach, just, and have to roll the sleeves up because they’re way too long for his little arms.

So when a mum-friend said the words, “The fat kids are at the tuckshop every day” as we watched our children swim in the pool and slide down the slip-and-slide, I could only nod. Because it was true. He is at the tuckshop, every, single, day.

My son is one of the fat kids. And I really don't want that for him.

Last year I vowed to do better. I would pack him healthier foods, even if they came home uneaten. I'd cook healthier foods, even if he just starred at his plate and didn't touch it. I'd buy less snack foods, more fruit, less juice, more low-fat milk.

I'd do better. Because his weight was my fault. I was the one giving him tuckshop money and thanks to the fact that Australian tuckshop food is often cheap and incredibly unhealthy, he was able to feed his junk food habit cheaply while leaving his sandwich and carrot sticks untouched.

Then I look at my other children. They are skinny. They are small for their age. They are a completely different body type. Is it really my fault that my son is fat? I've raised them all the same. I've fed them all the same.

But for some reason, my skinny kids don't think to visit the tuckshop very often. They often can't finish their meals. They eat healthy food, and junk food. But they aren't obsessed with it. They can take it or leave it. It's different for my other son. He likes around ten foods only, the healthiest of which are bananas, and he eats them over and over and over again.

Schools are weighing kids in classrooms these days. My son is one of the heaviest.

I've done all the hard stuff. I've taken away all his tuckshop money, I've offered his a reward to try a new food, any food. I've booked him into martial arts and started taking him three times a week. And yet, nothing. He's a big boy and I'm worried he's getting bigger.


So while this mum's comment, that "The fat kids are at the tuckshop every day", is accurate, it doesn't explain something very important. Are the fat kids at the tuckshop every day because they are fat, or is the tuckshop making them fat.

Should I even be using the word 'fat'? Should I be saying, 'portly', or 'over weight', or 'big-boned'?

Should I be worried so much when he is only seven? How aggressively should I attempt to make him healthier?

Until you are in my shoes, you can't understand how hard it is to tackle a problem like this.

There isn't one food here my son would touch. He'd rather starve.

At the end of the day my biggest concern is that he is happy. By taking away his tuckshop money I am worried I am filling him with food-shame. By taking away his tuckshop money I am worried he is not enjoying his day as much as he could. By taking away his tuckshop money I am blaming the tuckshop for his weight, not the foods he eats outside of the tuckshop that account for 80% of his total food intake.

By taking away his tuckshop money I am worried that I will prove something I think I already know...that the tuckshop isn't the problem. I am. Or he is. Or metabolic rate. Or different body types. Or genetics.

Who knows.

I am navigating this whole mother-of-an-overweight-child thing blind. I know all the food facts. I know all the advice. It's not working for me, for us, because I'm worried it isn't addressing the real problem.

Now all I need to do is figure out what the real problem is.

Do you have a child who struggles with their weight? Have you ever successfully helped them to lose weight? What do you think is the biggest cause of overweight children? 

Want more? Try:

Should junk foods be banned in schools? Two mums go head-to-head.

Dear kids - I'm not a silver-coined ATM. It's time to earn your tuckshop treats.