I Put my Kid on a Diet and in the April Issue of Vogue

HealthGal Health Guide
  • Here's the short version: Woman who herself struggled with weight issues, self esteem and body issues raises daughter who is chubby, and who finally gets diagnosed as clinically obese by pediatrician, who tells mother that now she has to get help the child lose weight because the child's weight issue is more serious. Mother tries to accomplish this first by herself, then enlists a nutritionist, and with "love, at times deprivation techniques, exercise, defiance to friends who feel she is depriving her child," succeeds in helping her daughter to lose weight, fit into "nicer" clothes and get featured in an article on the topic in Vogue magazine.

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    Some additional details: From reading the article you see that the woman clearly struggles and recognizes her own shortcomings as a parent, and she also accepts some responsibility for ignoring the weight issue as it developed in her daughter. She probably recognizes better than some parents might (because of her own food issues) that some of the hunger her daughter experiences is due to thirst, or maybe just the expectation and habit of overeating, and so the mother shares moments when she is harsh with her daughter and forbids more eating or more servings of certain high calorie, high fat foods (and this often occurs in the presence of family and friends). She so vividly paints the picture of how difficult it is to "keep a kid on a diet" when family and friends are questioning her parenting and questioning the concept of putting an obviously "more than chubby kid" on a diet. She also conveys the tone of certainty that some of her friends use, predicting that a "food disorder will come of this kid diet." In the end, despite many acknowledged mistakes and some poor judgment, her daughter did lose a significant amount of weight, and the daughter does understand that she will have to be somewhat vigilant for the rest of her life, since she will always be prone to weight gain. Oh, and there was a beautiful photo of mom and daughter dressed in fashions that would make Ana Wintour applaud.....well maybe just raise an eyebrow in approval.

     

    So why the madness in blogospheres on this whole topic? To start, many moms simply cannot comprehend how the mother could "do this to her child." This referring to withholding food at times, intervening when treats were handed out at school, discouraging treats at celebrations and pretty much running food interference for the better part of a year in the child's life. The whole idea of a kid on a diet is still an anathema to most parents and people in general. The simple idea of restricting food and treats is an upsetting concept to many people. The notion that a cute, chubby kid is actually obese and needs treatment is just too painful for most people to contemplate.

    So here's my take on this. I think the article should have been written anonymously or at minimum the names obscured and no photos used. The child is too young to reckon with whether or not she wants this personal story out there for the duration of her life. A fashion spread accompanying the story puts the wrong spin on weight loss success for a child. Yes, it feels good to be able to wear prettier clothes and to look prettier in clothes - but health and quality of life need to be the focus and emphasis. That being said, it is unbelievable to me, a health professional, that society is in denial still, despite the alarming rates of childhood obesity. Yes - we do unfortunately need to put kids on a diet - if it makes you feel better, you can call it a calorie controlled, quality food driven eating program. We need to help kids to understand the difference between food habits and true hunger. We need to give them fruits and vegetables and quality proteins when they "want more" - not another slice of pizza or pie. We need to stop using food for rewards. We need to stop making the focus of every celebration, the food. We need to stop keeping sloppy refrigerators and pantries, filled with highly processed foods. We need to teach kids how to self regulate their eating and how to feed their "boredom, stress, anger, anxiety" with something other than foods. We need to shop and prepare and eat foods as a family unit and really promote mealtime as a family habit. We need to tell well intentioned on lookers to "butt out" when their discomfort interferes with the effort to help an overweight child lose weight and get healthier. We most definitely need to seek guidance and help from health professionals and realize that each individual child and family may need a personalized approach that has to "keep evolving."  Mostly we need to fix ourselves, because as parents, we owe it to our kids - especially, if we have eating and weight issues.

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Published On: April 02, 2012