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So, what should we do when our kids are overweight in an unhealthy way? Hearing about my weight from a nurse as a teen did me no good--she didn't give any advice about what to do to change it and if she had, I doubt I would have followed it. Tough tough situation.
It is a really tough situation. My sense from researching the article is that adults need to get a handle on family feeding and exercise and this can be difficult to do especially if we're dealing with our disordered eating or struggles with diet/exercise. I think Ellyn Satter's books are helpful (I really like Your Child's Weight: Helping Without Harming) and it can help us start divorcing weight from health so that we can tackle health and let the weight work itself out. Long-term, we want to be people who can mind our body's through the food we eat and how much we move, after all, whatever our body type/size.
Dawn has hit upon something that all pediatricans and parents should think more about. THe concept that wieight gain may be a symptom and the vitriol that has begun to be part of the conversation, demonstrates how far off we are in understanding this complex issue. Skinny people are always the first ones to criticize. Yes, there is rational eating habits and nutrition, but why blame the victim over and over. Dawn's experience is probably multiplied over and over as a result of no one stopping to figure out what is going on. Manufacturers of diet plans and diet foods are making zillions and kids and adults are still suffering. How can we get this information out to the world--or at least in nutrition and medical training programs. What does this all mean about us.
I read this article in "Utne" yesterday. It's by far the best thing I've ever read on the subject. I've seen families bullying children, brothers and sisters about weight and allowing themselves to do it based on the "only thinking of your health" excuse. It's as wrong for teachers to make children feel bad about their weight as it would be to make them feel bad about their race or height or anything else that is simply a part of their physical form. Parents can provide nutritious meals and try to interest their children in sports or dance but anything beyond that is going to just make the problem much worse. My parents started pointing our the slight saddlebags on my upper thighs when I was thirteen. I was 5'5" and weighed 110lbs. From then on I was questioned about exercise and my food choices were scrutinized and I was eventually told they were ashamed of me when my weight reached 130 through the rebound effects of early dieting.I'm now 65 and have yo-yo dieted all my life. I can eat no more than 1000 calories without gaining and I currently weigh 190. The truest words in Dawn's article are that if you want to make your child obese, put her on a diet.
On the one hand, as a thin person who cannot gain weight unless I eat total crap (diet food, sugar, etc.) I do believe Dawn. I of all people know how hard it is to change your weight and metabolism. Shouldn't gaining weight, of all things, be easy? But it is HARD to change one's weight. I believe you when you say you gain weight at 1400 calories per day because my body is in the opposite spiral. The more I eat, the more my metabolism churns the fat through. I and others like me are living proof that fat people are not making this up. I have no reason to fib about this. The suggestion that we never put our kids on a diet--alow-calorie diet, anyway--is sound.However, I think the article has an unforgivable flaw. While Dawn may be the exception in that she is very heavy but has great "numbers", many children do not. And pretending that extra weight carries no risks (the poor joints!) does us no good. Dawn makes no positive suggestions beyond fat acceptance. I accept all people for who they are, but it seems absurd to suggest that I get counseled on my diet when I'm underweight by 2 lbs and make it a point to eat a nourishing, fresh, whole foods diet but that fat children are given no such advice.I believe Dawn overlooked an obvious solution: accept that obesity is a high risk marker, but rather than advise diets, instead advise a whole foods, whole life approach with subsidies for real foods like fish, organic dairy, nuts, and veggies cooked in a delicious way with salt and seasoning. Unlimited raw fruits and veggies. Though I'm sure the author, with her fitness regime, eats like this most of the time, I was also concerned with her dismissal of boxed foods as nearly inevitable. As a single student working parent, I managed two boxed pizzas and two take out meals the entire year. Mainly this was due to budgetary concerns. I can't buy salmon as well as Tostino's. It's hard. But health is so important that I do make time. And it's condescending and dare I say dangerous to suggest that children struggling with their weight somehow deserve less than my kids.We don't talk about fat in my home. We talk about food and not food. Sugar we treat like a kiddie drug-a fun high but it rots your bones and sucks the vitamins out of your body so no you cannot have it every day. We do not comment on personal appearance unless it is positive. We talk about fresh food as a privilege and a luxury, not a chore. We don't say "healthy" but talk about the flavor in the food, how fresh and sweet and real it tastes. How lucky we are that we are to not have to eat that salty fake food from boxes. We listen to our bodies afterwards when we eat from boxes. "Wow that salty food made me so thirsty!"I hope that we can get back to food as a joy, the source of life, and not a temptation, but at the same time learn to reject things that are not food without feeling deprived. No child ever died for lack of a Happy Meal, but if our "fake food environment" remains as it is, children may die from over-consumption of these so-called treats.Thank you Dawn for sharing your story. Please consider that the alternative to bad advice is not no advice, but good advice. All the best to you and your family.
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