Jun 4, 2012

Kids and Fat

If you live in Australia, you will have seen, read or heard of the attacks on Chrissie Swan for having an overweight toddler. Chrissie Swan seems a lovely decent person and many have sprung to her deference - e.g. Susie O'BrienMamamia, Five Frogs on a Blog and Woogsworld to name those I have read. All made excellent points.

I will add another.

People are born with varying propensities to getting fat. We're not all born the same clean perfect slate as so much parenting commentary seems to suggest these days. Everyone is different. So every kid is different. Some get fat easily, some don't.

Like Chrissie Swan, I have struggled with weight all my life. Swan says in the latest Sunday Life magazine that she was put on her first diet at 11. Well I was put on my first one at five, so I win!
My next one was at age ten, and I have been dieting, exercising, or intending to diet and exercise, ever since.

I got slim in my late teens and held it till I was thirty. Then, wham! office jobs. I was a goner.

When I was slim in my twenties life was pretty glorious, except for the fact I was hungry constantly, my muscles were sore from exercising all the time, and I was resentful of every boyfriend who wolfed down whatever he wanted and asked me why I wasn't eating.

My husband is a thin person, and when we first met I couldn't believe I'd snagged him. Then I got nervous. Then I was happy. Apart from the fact I loved him, I reasoned being married to a thin person would keep me on my toes. I would be too ashamed to get fat married to someone like that.
(Sadly, with time I managed to overcome this obstacle).

Also in the back of my mind was the thought that when we had kids, his thin DNA would offset my fat DNA and my kids would be a lovely mix of just-right, avoiding the misery and self-doubt that had plagued my childhood as variously sturdy, chubby, or overweight.

Eighteen years later and here we are with two beautiful, beautiful girls. One of whom is tall and thin and eats a tonne, and the other who is rounder and sturdier, eats a lot less and has a propensity to gain weight.

We didn't get mixed versions of ourselves. We got one of each!

M. is a wiry bundle of energy like her Dad. She can't sit still. She is often hot, runs around wearing nothing and is always hungry. She self-regulates well with food. She eats most things. She loves cakes and sweets but no more than she loves fruit, meat and cheese. Her one weakness is chocolate, which she used to be able to eat heaps of but lately is going off.

A., like me, is naturally sedentary and likes her carbs. She would sit and watch TV for hours if we let her (though with regular bouts of energetic dancing as she watches). She loves anything sweet and craves sweet tastes, getting grumpy or upset (sometimes with a tinge of shame, which breaks my heart) when we refuse her. She is fussier with "proper" foods and drives me crazy not eating dinner.  I find myself bribing her with dessert to eat her meat and veggies, which I know is not the "right" thing to do.

I'm very conscious of not inducing food paranoia and try to be natural and relaxed around food and exercise with my kids. We have fruit every day, I cook meals from scratch, they drink plenty of water and we have both healthy and unhealthy snacks. I try to inculcate the behaviours and attitudes around food that M. exhibits naturally. I model good food behaviour around them.

But A's propensity is innate and whatever I do, she will battle this problem.  It pains me to anticipate the difficulties she will probably have in this area, and the inevitable comparisons she will make with her sister (in fact she has already started to do that). When she was five I had my first of no doubt many pep talks with her when she asked me "why is everyone else skinny and I'm not?"
She was (and is) not overweight, and not the only "rounded" little girl in her circle, but kids pick up on what's the "right" way to be very early.

I know when she gets older she will probably blame me for her battles, and in the sense that this was inherited from me she will be right.

Of course there are worse things - I know that. And I will make sure she knows that too.

The thing is, we all have our cross to bear. If you're not fat, then you're something else.
If your kids eat well and it's easy to parent them in relation to food, then you are struggling with something else that Chrissie Swan is managing effortlessly.

What's your cross to bear? 
Have your kids inherited it or do they have their own?
How supportive/understanding do you find people to be?


  1. Oh Jackie, how I feel for your little girl. Mine too is absolutely normal but, at thirteen, has twelve year old girls in her class that
    a) haven't menstruated yet
    b) are ballet and gymnastics stars
    c) flat chested
    ...and so she feels fat in comparison!

    I guess all we can do is explain that EVERYONE wishes that they could change something or anything about their bodies. I tell Sapphire that the skinny minnies like to brag about how much they weigh in public but in reality would love to be able to have something to put inside a bra and hips that show a woman emerging instead of a little girl.

    All we can do is our best and that'll include making some mistakes along the way....

    1. True - we do what we can, don't we! So sad and frustrating for us when our kids look askance at others and then feel they don't measure up. Because we know it's not true and just wish they could see what we see!

  2. Jackie, the story you shared with us, for your childhood and marriage and the constant issue on the back of your mind of the weight management, are really things that so many people struggling with, including me. I remember when I was teenager and later on, and was never overweight, but just somehow more rounded than the rest of my friends and relatives, I was always getting different sayngs about it, even until today. But the difference for me is that I finally start liking my body in the way it is, probably because my boyfriend, always assures me how much he loves it too and just helped me build my confidence, so that is very important! Teach your daughter to like herself as she is!

  3. If you have time, I've tagged you for a meme - http://blurbfromtheburbs.blogspot.ch/2012/06/it-goes-all-way-up-to-eleven.html



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