Why am I worried about weight if my kids aren't overweight?Apr 22, 2022
Let’s talk about worries about weight.
Why are parents worried about weight?
I’ve found in my own experience… as well as that of my patients and my clients… parents are worried about their kids’ weight. It isn’t dependent upon meeting a threshold of weighing “so much,” being diagnosed with overweight or obesity. It's not actually the numbers.
And yet, we are still worried.
Let’s understand why.
Think about it:
How are you worried about your kids’ weight?
In what ways?
Is it seeing clothing fit changing, bellies growing, the numbers on the scale increasing? Is it a fear of bullying? Or of saying the wrong thing?
What is your concern?
The most common thing that I hear is that it’s bad to be overweight – so I’ve gotta protect my child. I have to make sure they don’t get overweight.
The news is out: overweight and obesity have increased remarkably.
We are focusing on weight.
And we have a problem.
And it’s not our kids’ weight.
It’s our FEAR of our kids weight. It's fear of what it will mean for them to be overweight.
Let that sink in for a moment.
See how it applies to your family.
As I look at the clients for Family in Focus, as I look at my own journey, there are families who have children with diagnoses of overweight and obesity.
There are many more who aren’t crossing some invisible diagnostic line.
And yet, they are still worried.
Worried about numbers, trends, growth charts, percentiles, whether there is more growth in the belly than in the legs, whether a child is eating too much, or the wrong types of food, or for the wrong reasons. And now, worry about trigging disordered eating by saying anything about it.
Why are we so worried about our kids’ weight?
I’ll go first.
I grew up in a house where there were no specific restrictions on food that we remember. I remember Tang and powdered iced tea (loved that stuff), mac and cheese and plenty of Pennsylvania Dutch sweet bologna and bag bologna.
What I don’t remember a whole lot of is veggies - they were there, but my memory only goes to brussel sprouts, which I learned were vile when boiled.
I participated in sports because our friends did, I definitely wasn’t good at them. In fact, I was cut from just about as many teams and tryouts as I was selected. I was the manager of the boy’s basketball team… to be around my boyfriend and my 2 girlfriends who were also point-tallying, ball-retrieving managers.
I went to college and gained quite a bit of weight with all you can eat bagels.
When I joined the Navy I remember losing quite a bit of weight my first summer during indoctrination. And I thought that I was creating a new path. I would eat better, workout regularly and the Navy lifestyle and uniforms and mandatory fitness tests pretty much locked that in.
When we had kids, I had no particular focus on food or movement - we did what we did. I followed the general pediatric guidelines.
And then the kids started to grow, and were much more vocal about what they wanted to eat and how they didn’t want to move. I started paying more attention to the growth curves during their well visits. I was worried about their weight.
Not because they were crossing thresholds to diagnosis.
But…because I thought that I had succeeded. I thought that I had found a healthy path - I had learned all the right things and was practicing them.
I “knew” what was healthy.
I was worried about what their weight would mean for their health.
I was worried… that if they crossed the thresholds to overweight and obesity…. That it would mean I was doing a crappy job as a mom, and as a pediatrician of all things.
I was also worried that all the work I had done was for nothing… instilling what I thought were healthy behaviors, saying no to treats, living in moderation - whatever that meant.
The worry about weight has very little to do with the actual scale.
It’s about what it means for us as parents. What we think it will mean for the kids (like we have a crystal ball), what we have been told that extra weight means from a health perspective (BTW, that is not a given that a certain weight means a certain health outcome),
And it’s about what kind of job we think we’ve done as parents. We don’t want to fail our kids.
We are afraid.
And so we are on it like white on rice.
We control portions.
Types of food.
We create diets at home.
Because diets are fear-based.
They restrict. They force things…. All of which are short-fused. Because our brains and bodies get exhausted of the restrictions and the willpower that is being used.
Think about it, where else do you say, “I love you so much that I’m not going to let you have any of this?” That’s a diet.
It’s all because we are choosing to focus on the weight.
And it’s backfiring tremendously.
We are focusing on the weight, on the food, on the ways to control and restrict and “manage” whatever that means.
And our kids push back.
And our willpower runs out.
And we throw in the towel.
What we focus upon - we actually create more of.
When we focus on seeing weight as a problem - through the cycles of restriction and seeing food as the enemy - we actually create bigger problems for ourselves.
But here’s the thing.
It’s not that there is something wrong with us.
It’s not that we’ve done it all wrong.
It totally MAKES SENSE.
We are worried about all of the health effects and consequences we’ve been told that we will have in the future. And we are overlooking what we have right here, today:
Building relationships with our food.
With our bodies.
And 100% building relationships with our kids.
We don’t want diets.
We don’t want restriction. Or to have to manage our weight for the rest of our lives.
We don’t want worries about the future.
We want what’s here, right now. And that’s relationships. Building them. Repairing them. Strengthening them.
Where do you start now?
Take a deep breath. Let it out.
Momma, Poppa, it’s ok. Of course you’re worried about your kids’ weight.
You’ve been taught that weight is bad, that weight is increasing; you’re watching for it and witnessing it.
Of course you question yourself. But ask these questions:
What will it mean for the kids… and what does it mean for you if they are living in larger bodies?
Explore that. Don’t run away from it. When we ask what will it mean, and truly answer the question - we will understand WHY we fear it so much.
We think that if we worry about it, we will fix it. But the real fix is addressing the worry. Bringing us back to what we have today. And what active steps we are taking towards a future we want, not spinning and worrying about what might be.
Nah - worry just takes up bandwidth. There’s a saying that “Worry pretends to be necessary”. It occupies a space within us that keeps us from deepening the connections with each other, as well as keeping us from connecting with what we really want.
You are not alone in your worries about your kids’ weight.
And, there are ways to understand and address it.
That’s what we do at Family in Focus. We meet parents where they are - we understand the worry, the fears, the challenges - and work together to create a plan… because that’s what we need right now. Not worry. We need a plan to be calm, confident, and the parent that our kids need to navigate all of this weight bologna.
We’ve got this. Join me at www.wendyschofermd.com to find out how to dive in and work 1:1 to apply this in your family.
So much love to you!
Check out the Family in Focus with Wendy Schofer, MD Podcast!
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