Seven-year-old Logan asked his mother the dreaded question: “Am I fat?” Logan is big—his BMI is at about the 97th percentile, he has a double chin and a roll of fat around his middle. But his growth is consistent, and his parents follow the Satter Division of Responsibility with Feeding (sDOR). They have regular meals and sit-down snacks, keep a firm hand on the TV remote control, and give Logan lots of opportunities to run and play. Logan, in fact, keeps up with other children. “You would think he would run some of that off,” say his parents wistfully.
Be honest and address teasing
Logan’s mother kept her cool. “Why do you ask?” she responded. “We were weighed today in school, and they said my BMI was too high,” he said. “And the other kids teased me—they said I was fat.” At first, Logan’s mother was just mad. She made a mental note to have a few well-chosen words with the principal about setting children up for shaming. But first things first. “Why yes, you are sort of fat,” she said matter-of-factly. “Why do they tease you about that?” You can’t get around the word fat, so you might as well neutralize it. Denying it won’t help. Children’s logic can lead them to the conclusion that parents don’t notice that they are fat and, if they do, they might not like it—or them!
Logan wasn’t expecting his mother to make a value judgment or to protect him from the slings and arrows of the playground. He just wanted to know. How would it have been different if he had asked, “Do I have freckles?” She could easily have said, “Well, yes, you do. Why do you ask?” For freckles, she wouldn’t feel responsible. For weight, she would. You know how she feels.
Settle down and stow your guilt
If you, like Logan’s mother, are doing all you responsibly and realistically can to help your child maintain the body that is right for them, then you need to settle down. Stow your guilt and get on with parenting. Your feelings are your problem, not your child’s. Deal with your own feelings and help your child to cope with theirs. If you act apologetic or treat your child as fragile, they will grow up to feeling there is something wrong with them.