With one in four children are overweight or obese, it’s no secret that Australia is in the grips of a national health crisis.
While it’s undeniable that unhealthy eating and sedentary lifestyles drive this trend, when you look beyond the numbers, when you look at the boys and girls that contribute to them, it’s not always that simple.
A Mumsnet user proved just that this week when she reached out to parents of overweight children as research for an educational play. She was met with more than one hundred stories from mothers around the world, many of which unearthed the deeper roots of their children’s issues with food.
These are just a few.
‘I don’t want them to feel hunger’
“When I was a child I/we were always hungry – always,” one poster wrote. “We had no money, food was Weetbix with half and half – milk and water, free school lunch, cheese and bread or beans on toast and water from the tap. I was skinny – skin and bones.
“I’m now fat and finding it hard to work out what is good nutritionally for my kids since I do not want them to feel hunger, but I do not want to over compensate and make them unhealthy. My ‘poor’ past has meant many food issues.”
Rebecca and Robin talk about all things food and whether we can consider it our friend or foe. Post continues…
‘It’s just who she is’
“She’s always been like this, since she was a toddler, it’s just who she is,” another user wrote of one of her daughters. “In today’s world, kids are exposed a lot to food and she has had to consciously (with our support) learn portion control, making healthy choices and keeping active at an earlier age than most.”
‘My son is autistic’
“It has been a battle to keep his weight down but he is still obese. He is getting better as he gets older but the main problem is his lack of activity which is made harder by the autism (his obsession with computers and problems with motor skills). He eats pretty healthy food and I’ve managed to keep his weight the same for 18 months now which has been hard work when he is shouting at me for food or trying to sneak it when I’m not looking.”
‘I took my eye off the ball…’
“My youngest became overweight when she was about 3.5 because I was unwell for a few months and it was easier to sit on the sofa,” wrote one user. “Her character is that she is naturally inclined to sit around if she gets away with it. And she also eats when bored. So as soon as I took my eye off the ball it happened.
“She’s now a healthy weight but going onwards my biggest problems keeping her there are that she would eat rubbish until she pops (unlike my eldest, who stops when full). And my husband keeps offering the children rubbish while I run around being kill joy mum.”
'She refused to eat'
"I have a very picky eater (I now know she has some sort of sensory processing issues which leave her genuinely scared of trying new foods...) and she refused to eat healthy foods for several days at a time. All while crying that she was hungry," wrote a concerned mum. "I would relent and allow her to eat only the (very few) foods she considered safe - bland, processed high calorie rubbish mostly. I ended up allowing her those most of the time as at least she would eat. "
'She's always looking for more.'
Another commenter has four children, only one of which is approaching an unhealthy weight.
"She will eat a good range of foods and fruit and veg, but is always looking for more, eats the others' leftovers etc. She is also quite sedentary as prefers reading/writing/drawing to sports or playing outside. I am definitely not in denial, but am anxious about creating an issue around food. I find it hard to find a balance between stopping her overeating and possibly causing an eating disorder. She often asks me if she is fat and I don't know what to say."
Remember, 24-hour counselling is available via Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 or reachout.com.au. Adults, please contact the Eating Disorders Helpline on 1300 550 236.
What do you do to promote a healthy attitude to food in your household? Tell us in the comments below.