In our society and it is so greatly described by Doctor Wayne Dyer in his movie the Shift, people have objectives, expectations and so as working parents, it is common and accepted to think that we are here to train our kids, to coach them to get good grades, to coach them to not become fat or anything outside the norm, to coach them to become responsible adults and if we don’t do that, we are laid back parents that just let their kids be….Same tyranny applies to body image. Our kids need to be fit and healthy and I align with that but when it becomes Fat shaming disguised behind good parenting skills, it becomes way out of control to me. This is a bit too Manichean according to me because we are left with only 2 possible options here:
1 . Your kid is fat so you are a bad parent and you take drastic dieting options to become a good parent again. You should be aware that if your child is overweight then that is your fault because you are not doing your job as a parent properly.
“Well, it would be obvious self-denial to not be aware that a diet composed of cookies, chips, fried chicken, fizzy drinks and candies is not healthy for your child”
2 . Your kid is fat so you are a bad parent and you do nothing or encourage it and you are a “very bad laid back” parent.
“Lazy, selfish parents would rather let their child shovel sweets into their gob than take them to the park“
In some countries, like the UK, the government has even started sending annual “fat letters” to the parents of overweight kids. Yet there is a lot of controversy around these so-called ”fat letters” the parents of overweight children because apparently, they are not having any effect on tackling obesity. They could have the opposite effect as the parents often feel attacked and judged and in some cases, share the information with their kids resulting in a loss of confidence.
Yet, my view on the topic is that complacency is never the solution. Denial either. A worrying number of parents of overweight children in England and the USA think that their youngsters are at a healthy weight and are struggling to pick up signs that their children are putting on weight.
“The problem lies with parents being overweight themselves – it becomes the new ‘normal’,” said Tam Fry, chair of the National Obesity Forum (UK)
Previously a study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the US found that half of the parents with an overweight child were in denial about their child’s size – thinking they are slimmer than they actually are.
With a growing population of obese or overweight children, these issues must be addressed and parents should start owning “their shit” because they are 1000% responsible for the food their kids eat. That’s a fact. So you can say what you want but the parents have a role to play here…Does it mean that I advocate a strict diet for children? Certainly not, unless it is requested by serious medical conditions.
I feel that the issue should be addressed globally as it is pretty obvious that children eat “bad food” because everyone eats bad food at home. So there must be an effort on education and the need to take into account social actors, parental obesity as a factor and namely the bombing and praising of ”junk food” on our screens and TV.
If you ask many kids to draw a fish, they will draw fish fingers. Children across the UK and US too are confused about the origins of key foods, a new poll suggests, with one in five believing fish fingers are made from chicken. When five- to seven-year-olds were asked where cheese came from, nearly one third said they thought it was made from a plant… No comments needed here …Don’t know who is to blame but there is clearly something missing here…
Many studies indeed highlight the importance of the shared family environment as a multi-factorial contributor to the childhood obesity epidemic and the necessity of implementing family-centered preventive programs. Schools and families can and should successfully work together to, in turn, educate children and then motivate them in their endeavors to make healthier choices. There is some mass educational work to do and shaming cannot be the only answer.
Some parents also use food (”comfort food or candies”) to reduce the frequency of tantrums, instead of using non-food method related to social and emotional intelligence and positive parenting. It is probably not a good idea to use food as a calmer and to educate parents not to use food as a reward.
That said, to me, we often forget the key point according to me: the kid.
What is the real emotional impact, it can have on the child psyche and this is what I wish to address today.
I trust that being a so-called good parent depends not only on what you give your child to eat but also about what you feed their mind and hearts with.
It ain’t easy for a kiddo to be fat and it becomes ugly during teen years where they face rejection or bullying…So how do we address this as parents?
What about loving acceptance?
What about teaching our kids to love themselves and their bodies, no matter how they look like and teach them to take care of it. How about teaching to take care of themselves and eat good food because our body is our temple. Taking care and loving our body can be done through diet, play, exercise, dressing up, meditation, yoga, really anything …
As a healer and a coach, I have seen so many adult people coming to me to heal their inner child, (they did not know that they were coming for that when they came …) but usually all the roots of our inner suffering, the struggle, the unworthiness, come from childhood. So many suffered from the pressure put on them by parents who thought they were doing the right thing by forcing them to do things they did not want to do.
Always with the best intentions: to help them to get good grades and to fit in if they looked different or overweight… Or calling them with unflattering nicknames related to their weight …to make them want to lose weight. Or calling them with unflattering nicknames related to their looks or their not so smart brain to make them want to learn and thrive at school.
As parents, we certainly do our best till we know better as Maya Angelou used to say but yet, we need as parents to make our best to know better.
The other day, a good friend of mine called her son Potato, I overheard it and I saw the kid’s face change… Her mom did not notice it and to be honest, she did not mean to be mean. She has a beautiful heart and is always very kind to everyone. So, I was quite puzzled and I decided to discuss with her as that’s also what friendship stands for…She was a bit confused and tried to justify herself and then suddenly said that her parents used to call her chubby when she was little.
So, I asked her:
“Did you feel good when they called you chubby? “
She answered: “No …but I call him Potato, it is cute, not mean lah*, Chubby is mean…. But Potato is quite cut “
She was obviously in denial…So I told her:
“Well to me, Potato does not sound any better than chubby…Truth is, I don’t like that much nicknames in general, because they tend to define us. If we are chubby, calling us this way, conveys the message that our weight defines us, that we are nothing but this chubby body. You know, when I was little, I was super thin and my siblings used to call me Skeleton…I hated it and felt that I was not worthy…because of that, I really felt that I was ugly… “
She asked: ”Did your mom also call you Skeleton?”
“No, luckily my mom never did. As much as I can remember, I could always see myself as beautiful every time she looked at me. When it was windy and I was afraid to fly off, she used to tell me with a smile that I was light as a feather and that I could fly but I was afraid so she told me to put some stones in my pockets, so I would stay on the ground… so I used to carry small stones in my pocket”
She remained silent. The silence became slightly awkward so I said this.
“Why don’t you ask him one day when the moment feels right if he likes his nickname? Just to be sure. Would that be ok?”
She said yes and two days after, we were all together at the beach, in swimsuits. It was really us, the naked truth of us…our bodies fully exposed and vulnerable.
I started a conversation about nicknames and started telling about mine and explained that I was so thin that my siblings used to call me Skeleton.
Then my friend started telling about her nickname, Chubby and then out of the blue without us asking, he said: ”Mum calls me Potato”
That was the right time, I knew it.
“Do you like it?” I asked. He paused and said:
“Not really because I am not fat, you see, I am strong. What do you think Auntie? Look at my muscles”.
‘’Yes, you are strong and beautiful but you still have to eat your veggies and exercise, then you get super duper strong and even healthier”
He laughed and said: ”I knoooow Auntie”
I looked at my friend and she had tears in her eyes. That was the last time she ever called him Potato….
What I just want to say here is, that it is ok to want the best for our children, ok to do our best to help our children, ok to teach our kids good diet and exercise but never should we forget about the love…Never should we forget about lovingly accept our children for what they are. Never should we forget to remind them that we love them at the maximum and that this will never change, no matter what grade they get, what weight they are, no matter what…Never should we forget to tell them that they are beautiful just as they are.
… That’s our first mission as parents…We are not here to coach or train our children… I am always afraid when I hear that or read that because it implies that there is a target associated with that. Would we need as parents to teach them to lead a responsible life? What does that exactly mean? Does it mean that an overweight person can’t lead a responsible life? Some people are just not the “thin type”. Should they starve themselves all their life and hate themselves because they have been taught since childhood that they are ugly?
Just asking …, and questioning here …I trust one thing in life and it is the power of intentions… Intention must be pure and field with love and not being guilt or fear based. So, to all the parents, out there, build a home filled with love and happiness and your kid will find his way and eventually find a sport suitable for him or her… Expose them to new activities, try new things…
To the gorgeous voluptuous women out here and those who used to be “overweight”, please try not to teach your kids that they are ugly because of their weight, and the best way to do that is to love yourself, to have compassion for yourself….
Please let’s try not to project (as much as possible, we all can only do our best) your own fears and expectations on your children… We teach our kids by example, take care of yourself, eat well, try to exercise, be happy in your skin, that’s is the best gift we can make to our children.
The rest will flow and follow … on divine right timing.
Also, remember one thing, we are guardians for our children and we are not responsible for the path they choose as a soul, sometimes that path is to be overweight, maybe to learn and teach you about loving acceptance and self-love.
See the blessings and help them as much as you can:
With a healthy nutrition, with movement and exercise (do things with them as much as possible) but most importantly with love, unconditional love, and loving acceptance. That’s what they need the most.
Our job as parents is to love our kids.
Please do let me know your thoughts on this post.