Should I put my child on a diet?
Trying to change kids’ bodies through diet, exercise and comments will not set them up for a healthy and happy life. It could lead to disastrous affects…
The normal fluctuation of childrens’ body fat
Children’s bodies change rapidly. They don’t just grow taller, their body fat levels fluctuate as a natural part of their growth. As babies, their body fat is high then decreases through the toddler years to a low point called the “adiposity rebound” around the age of 5-7, and then their body fat naturally increases again through puberty.
Kids’ bodies are supposed to change. There may be times when they are soft and round, and other times when they are thin. It may seem like they suddenly transform into a body you don’t recognise.
Of course we worry about children. We want to protect and nurture them, give them the best possible start to life, and instil in them values and habits that will serve them well.
Are we seeing kids through ‘body shaming’ lenses?
In western society, our culture is one of deeply ingrained size discrimination. We’re bombarded with images via television, magazines and social media of what the current so-called perfect body looks like. This one body type is heralded as the epitome of health, fitness, attractiveness, happiness, admiration and success. We get trapped into thinking that if only we could have that body, we’d get everything we ever wanted, that all our life problems would be solved.
Untying ourselves from that trap is bloody hard. Health and fitness doesn’t come in just one body size. The evidence is clear that we can be fit and healthy in large bodies. To get out of this trap we also need to know that we are all valuable human beings regardless of appearance. We don’t base our love for our siblings, parents, grandparents, and friends on what they look like or what size they are. Just like they love you for who you are not what weight you are!
We need to be very careful that in our effort to protect and nurture children we’re not succumbing to that size discrimination that’s so prevalent in our world. When their bodies change as they age, and we suddenly don’t recognise them, is our view of them being coloured by the years of body shaming we’ve seen around us or even endured ourselves?
Putting kids on a diet, removing foods from their repertoire, using exercise as penance or punishment, commenting on their changing bodies, and expressing fear of weight or fat, will not protect them. It will not set them up for a life of health and happiness.
But it could:
- make them self-conscious about their own body
- help to ingrain society’s loud messages about size discrimination
- lead to a fear of food or hatred of exercise
- start them on a dieting cycle
- make them feel that there is something different or wrong with them
It certainly could lead to the feeling that they need to look a certain way to earn love.