Madison is an American toddler whose favorite foods include salmon sushi and seaweed salad.
Raising a Normal Weight Child in an Overweight Society
This is part 1 in a multi-part series that explores “Raising a Normal Weight Child in an Overweight Society.”
Many mothers feed their children readily-available convenience foods. Often these foods are consumed while the children are seated in front of the TV, which unfortuantely contributes to mindless eating. Not to mention, children ages 2-5 are influenced by more than 5000 ads per year for cereal and junk food. A lack of understanding of the poor nutritional and high-caloric value of these foods, our time-starved lifestyles, and too much screen time have contributed to -- if not caused -- the steady rise of overweight children. Currently one in 3 children ages 2-19 is overweight.
I was one of those many mothers. It was not until my daughter was in college that I learned what it meant to eat healthy. My daughter on the other hand, has taught her child healthy eating habits since the cradle. So today I asked her, given her upbringing, how is it that she raised a 5-year-old child who loves raw veggies and playing outdoors?
My Bariatric Life: What made you realize the value of teaching healthy eating habits to your child at an early age?
Crystal Wyatt: I wanted it to be natural for Madison, not something she had to consciously do. Just something she had always grown up doing and was accustomed to. I know for me, and I think for a lot of people, changing your eating habits it difficult and I didn't want that struggle for her. I wanted her to just be accustomed to eating healthfully and enjoying it. I wanted that healthy relationship between her and food from the get-go, not something she would have to overcome later.
MBL: What challenging situations have you encountered trying to raise a normal-weight child in a society that normalizes the overweight and bad dietary habits of our children?
Crystal: I had a friend who once incredulously told me the story of how our pediatrician told her that her 4-year-old daughter was obese. I had a difficult time knowing how to react only because I wasn't sure what reaction she was looking for. It caught me off guard. Did she really not realize that her daughter, who had stomach rolls, bulging thighs and a double chin was clearly at the very least overweight? And the answer was no. She really did not realize it, “My daughter is tall and has big bones. She is just off the charts in general!" Honestly, I wouldn't touch that subject with a 10 foot pole. It's not my place to "educate" these moms. That is the pediatrician's job. I'm here to be her friend, or for my daughter to be her child's friend, I'm not here to look after the health and well being of her children, only my children. Denial is a very powerful thing, so good luck getting through to a mother who normalizes her child's overweight.
If anyone asks my opinion and advice, of course, I will gladly give it. But otherwise my focus isn't on trying to tell them how to parent. For the most part, everyone is just doing their best. I've had to ask parents to pack food for their child when they’ve come for playdates or if I was babysitting the child in my home, simply because the child wouldn't eat anything in my house! Sorry, I don't stock grape jelly, white bread, chicken nuggets, fries, and fruit snacks —i.e. sugar gummies — in my home. And the raspberry preserves with nut butter on whole-grain bread with the crust left on, fresh fruit cup, and raw veggies sticks with ranch dressing that I served for lunch went over like I was physically punishing the child by having these healthy foods touch his “sensitive” palette.
And there have been times I've had to tell Madison “no” to snacks in front of her friends, especially at the playground. Yes, moms are always super kind to share with Madison and offer her fruit gummies or whatever they are packing. As I said, we don't eat that type of snack food. Plus we came to the park to play, not to eat. Either we ate just before coming to the park or we will be eating right after we leave the park. I'm not going to teach my child to graze, which is a huge contributor to obesity. Why waste precious play time — quality time with other kids — sitting there eating? Go play and have fun! And when we get hungry we then will leave the park and have our next meal.
MBL: Did my obesity influence your decision in any way?
Crystal: Oh yes, and not just yours. Obesity in our family is unfortunately all-inclusive. My PCP once told me that I had really beaten the odds coming from an overweight/obese family and was not myself overweight or obese. My doctor and I had been going over family medical issues, most of which could be attributed to our family being overweight. I didn't want those odds stacked against Madison — especially since we have to fight the odds of being an overweight/obese child in the U.S. with childhood obesity on the rise. I remember going kayaking on a family vacation in Maine and you were turned away due to your weight/size. I never want to miss out on spending time and having experiences with Madison. And I never want her to miss out or be unable to do the things she wants to do because of her weight.
Continue to part 2, “How My Daughter Raised a Normal Weight Child.”
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life
Published On: December 15, 2014