I speak freely about my own weight. Hi, I’m Linda and I’m fat! Nice to meet you! I am comfortable talking about it regarding myself. I’m fine with the word fat as a descriptive adjective. I can blather on all day long about my journey, my struggles, my approaches.
I am less confident when it comes to talking about the same topic - obesity - regarding my child.
My daughter is turning 8 in just a matter of days, and it’s been awhile since I’ve tackled the subject. We’ve implemented many changes like the ones I blogged about back when she was 4. We stopped serving rolls or bread at dinner. Our pantry is quite a bit more healthy than it was. Sugared breakfast cereals have been gone for many years now. We all eat meals from 8″ salad plates. We avoid high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated anything like the plague. Soda and sugared drinks were cut out eons ago. If we have cookies occasionally, they are ones we baked. If we have snack chips occasionally, they are the kind of baked tortilla chips that have none of the really bad stuff in them, organic even. Stuff like that.
Jadyn is and always has been an active child and we do all that we can to promote and support her activity. She is in a 90 minute karate class each week, as well as a 45 minute swim class. In season, she plays softball, soccer, and now basketball (that means 1 practice and 1 game per week). We do Wii Fit for fun. We turn the TV off quite a lot, especially in good weather so the kids will play actively. She has recess every day and gym class three times a week at school.
I’ve read many books. I mean, I had already read so many books on this topic for myself that it wasn’t that far of a reach to grab the books about overweight children. How to get your kid to eat, but not too much. Feeding with love. Helping without harming. I’ve read those titles and many more.
We met with a nutritionist a couple years ago, at the request of our pediatrician. I got nothing out of the encounter, to be honest. I’m sure our experience is not typical or representative of what many may experience. The nutritionist seemed annoyed that we had not brought our daughter to the meeting with us. I explained that because Jadyn, at age 5 or 6, did not shop for, buy, or prepare the foods she ate, my thought was the counseling should be directed at us, her parents. I was unwilling to single Jadyn out and treat her differently from her sisters. Obviously the nutritionist disagreed with this point, but the meeting continued in spite of the absence of our child.
She asked us a lot of questions and listened to our answers. She recommended a few books that we already owned and had read. In the end, she told us we were doing all the right things. She made a few suggestions, but mostly her message was “Carry on. You’re doing fine.”
And we’ve been carrying on. We’ve implemented all sorts of changes and improvements for more than 4 years now - more than half of Jadyn’s life. It hasn’t really done much about the issue we’re trying to address. Oh, I know - I’m sure someone will say “Surely, your daughter is healthier and better off for you having done all that than she would have been had you not.” and this is probably true. But the core issue - her weight, her health, the fact that she is obese, has not changed. Not one bit. At 7 years old, she is 110 pounds.
All along, any change my husband and I have implemented has been done across the board. No one in this household has been singled out. When we switched to whole grain waffles, we all ate whole grain waffles. When we parked in the last row at the supermarket or the mall, we all walked the extra steps to get to the entrance. The changes have been family changes. And yet? We’ve not seen positive manifestation of these changes in our little girl - the one who struggles.
I never wanted to single her out. I still don’t want to.
However, life has found ways to single her out nonetheless. She is older now and she is aware of her weight issue. It’s pure hell finding clothing that fits her. Yes, they make plus-sized clothing for kids but even that doesn’t accommodate her well. Several months ago, Jadie said “Mommy, I want JEANS. All the kids wear jeans. I’m tired of only having stretchy pants.” It nearly broke my heart. Most brick and mortar stores don’t have kids’ plus sized clothing. Some online stores do, but it’s VERY hit or miss on sizing. I have bought so many things that should have fit and didn’t. Recently, I bought my 7 year old daughter size 14/16 plus-sized stretchy jeans and though they fit (snugly) in the waist, in length they are about 8 inches too long. (What, ME sew? You’ve got to be kidding!) We did discover that if we buy a women’s size 8 capri jeans, they mostly fit Jadyn like full length jeans. Mostly.
The problem is not just with clothing purchases, there are other manifestations where her weight and size are impacting her life and causing her some concern. The point is, this whole weight thing is affecting her now and she realizes she is different and she WANTS to do more toward making it better. She WANTS help.
Last week, we started her on an custom, balanced eating plan. My 7 year old daughter is on a diet. We are logging her food intake and counseling her on proteins and carbohydrates and fats and calories.
The good news is that she is not only a willing participant in this, but an enthusiastic one. I realize we’re in the honeymoon period and all, but right now, she is pretty excited about this.
And so, Internet, I have now singled my daughter out about her weight. I hope it’s the right thing to do, but I’m not sure - just like I wasn’t sure if what we were doing before was right and I probably will never be sure of anything on this particular subject. I don’t think anyone would condemn me for that uncertainty. Hell, even the experts don’t seem to agree on the right thing to do most of the time (leaving us parents to wade through all that conflicting debris and pick and choose which advice we think is the right advice).
I was doing OK, just swimming along upstream like always, finding my way through. Then in my blog surfing, I came across an article posted by CityMama called Calories: Please Don’t Talk About Them When You’re Seven. And, Internet - my child is seven and she is talking about them. Now, I didn’t take offense at the article or anything. This isn’t any sort of a big showdown with a fellow blogger (I’d get my ass kicked if it were that, I can assure you haha). I can totally see CityMama’s point and I, too, know the frustration of having children who are way too young worry about things like fat and calories and how their body is shaped. Because most kids shouldn’t have to care or worry about that stuff at all.
But, Internet, some kids should. And, like it or not, they do.
I came across CityMama’s article right when we were starting on this journey where we singled out my Jadie (which, as I said, is something I never wanted to do) and I couldn’t surf past it without commenting. So I did. My comment there created a tremendous amount of traffic to my blog (Hi! Welcome! Put your feet up and make yourselves at home! COMMENT!!) which caused me to give even more thought to this topic. And, people, I already think about this topic way too much! So I was inspired to write about it again. I wanted to further clarify my point.
My Jadyn is 7 years old and she might talk about calories. I wish that wasn’t the case, and I wish it wasn’t necessary, but as her mother I have been doing my best to help her navigate these choppy waters and so it is the case and I believe it may be necessary.
Because she is worth it. Whatever it takes, she is worth it.
JustLinda fabulously imperfect Nothing to See Here... Just Linda
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