Weight commentary sticks. In practically every initial nutrition session with clients, I hear of a family member, coach, doctor or boyfriend/girlfriend who once said something about their appearance or size. And 10 or 20 or 50 years later, these remarks can be repeated verbatim.
And so, when I received this, in an email, yesterday, I took it seriously.
Loved your last two blogs – saved me from watching “what the health?” (Which everyone is recommending). Here’s a blog idea on how confusing/hard it is to raise girls with a healthy body image. Took my 2.5-year-old in for her check-up and was told her BMI is “high” (over 85%). I thought the pediatrician was kidding but then he said no, part of his job is now fat shaming two year olds.
We are all sensitive when it comes to our kids or we should be. I was shocked when my pediatrician suggested I take one son to the eye doctor (I thought he was overreacting). And yet, I almost fell out of my chair when I witnessed his eye exam. At every check-up when the pediatrician plots their height and weight on growth charts, I’m anxious about the results. I could get into how growth charts are developed and my issues with BMI, as a measure, but I don’t think that’s necessary. Doctors would be remiss if they didn’t test and plot and share results with parents.
However, I don’t think young children need to hear from doctors or nurses about their height and weight. As a parent, you can request to be the one who filters this information, decide if it’s important to share and what action to take. We don’t see young children at Foodtrainers because we feel that parents (or adults) food shop and make the variety of food decisions.
I think it’s difficult to raise children, regardless of gender, with a healthy body image. One approach is to focus on non-physical characteristics. Even if it’s positive, if we are always commenting on children’s appearance, we’re sending the message this is most important. Try to note when your child is kind or diligent or patient. I also avoided, and this may be surprising, conversations about nutrition until my boys were old enough to ask We have wholesome food in the house (and good versions of snacks and treats) and home cooked meals. We are active and so are the kids. As simple as this sounds, I think basics and a foundation of sound habits are key.
With young children, you can shield them from callous or potentially hurtful comments, to a certain degree. But the goal isn’t to raise kids with healthy body images. Our goal is to raise kids with healthy self-images so when comments about their weight, intelligence, athleticism or character come their way, they don’t internalize them for decades.