I had my first awareness that I was heavier than my friends when I was in sixth grade.  We had a tire playground at my elementary school (literally, it was made out of tires) and I was following my friends through one of the structures and noticed I was struggling a bit to fit where they had navigated easily.  Judging from childhood pictures of Brian, he was overweight even earlier than me because there are chunky pics of him by about four years old.  By adulthood, both he and I tipped the scales at well over 200 pounds before we finally managed to lose and then maintain healthy (although not skinny) weights  long-term (he lost the weight before I met him, me after we met and partially inspired by his story).

Julia is five and a half and at her five year checkup she was in the 95% percentile for weight but also in the 75% percentile for height.  In other words, she’s not THE fat kid, but she’s not as skinny as most of her friends.  Other than a belly that sticks out (which to be fair, even many skinny kids have) Julia doesn’t look overweight when she stands by herself.  She’s got round cheeks and an adorable booty, but she doesn’t look heavy per se.  Put her next to her friends though – the gazelle-like Laney, the petite Kasey and Karma, the positively model-esque physique of Eva and suddenly Julia starts to look a bit…. bigger.

This causes a tremendous deal of parenting stress for me.  I don’t want her to be bullied for her weight, don’t want her to feel different, don’t want her to have low self-esteem.  Yes, I know she is only five, but I feel like if I screw her up in some way (because all parents screw up their kids somehow), this might be the one I end up causing.  So I worry, even though I don’t think I am doing nearly enough and likely doing ineffective or potentially even harmful things about it.  Here’s a short list of my crimes:

  • Using food as a reward.
  • Using food as a punishment (i.e. not giving her a cookie at the diner if she behaves badly).
  • Refusing to give her something else to eat if she won’t eat what we gave her.
  • Giving in and giving other things to her when she won’t eat what we gave her.
  • Letting her eat meals that mostly involve her favorites of mac and cheese or cheese sandwiches instead of pushing harder for healthy options.
  • Insisting she be served a meal of healthy options that I am fairly certain she won’t actually eat.

How do you get a picky carb loving five year old to eat healthy?  We don’t let her have dessert regularly and we don’t keep juice in the house but we’re not tyrants. She gets ice cream on Wednesdays with Grandma & Papa and that cookie at the diner on Fridays.  She also gets chocolate milk once a week with school lunch and most weekends she gets to have one mini chocolate after lunch.   But she eats the same things for dinner most nights – mac and cheese, cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets, sometimes with a side of the rare fruit or vegetable she’ll eat. I don’t mind the nuggets (compared to the meals that are strictly carbs and cheese) because it’s one of the only meat things she’ll eat.  She seems to have a textural issue with meat although I’ve seen her eat the occasional cheeseburger.

In case you were wondering why she doesn’t eat what we eat – we aren’t there yet with dinner because she goes to bed so early.  I come home early on Diner Friday so we can eat together but that means that she also goes to bed late that night.  I suppose we could keep her up later Saturday and Sunday too, but an overtired picky eater is less than fun to eat with, so it hardly seems worth it.

So what does she eat? She’ll eat American cheese and occasionally mozzarella but no other cheese.  She’ll eat pancakes and waffles but not french toast.  Bananas, apples and grapes are ok but not strawberries, pineapple or blueberries.  Peppers are fine, and the occasional carrot, but no broccoli, peas or anything else green.  Any food she doesn’t like is “disgusting”.  She’ll occasionally try new things but often either gag on them or spit them out.  There will likely be crying.

We never ever talk to her about her weight or her body.  We talk about eating less carbs, more variety of foods, how important it is to try new things, but never ever in the frame of her size.  But I worry.  That she’ll keep getting bigger. That she’ll realize it.  That we’re the ones making her this way.   Despite being so picky, she’s obsessed with food.  She thinks about it all the time.  At parties where there are less healthy foods out like chips, she’d eat 100 if I didn’t stop her.  Am I making her this way by restricting what she eats?

Brian and I both passionately love food, could eat it to excess if we don’t keep ourselves in check. Neither of us, despite working hard at keeping ourselves in more reasonable shape, will ever be skinny.  I don’t think she’ll ever be skinny either, you can look at her wrists and see just from the size of her bones that she’ll be a bit more sturdy. But that doesn’t mean she is destined to be fat either.  I know the route to keeping her somewhere in between is to give her both healthy foods and a healthy attitude towards food even when the food is not healthy.  But I’m not sure I am able to deliver on that properly at this point based on my confused and complicated path with food and weight in my own past.

I’d love to hear from some of my fellow moms of their ideas and suggestions for how to address this?  Book suggestions are welcome as well, if you know of any good ones.  I know there are tips for picky eaters, but what about picky eaters that are also overweight?  Is she overweight? See, I’m in the dark here.  Many people tend to reach out to me via text, email or in person as opposed to writing comments on this blog (how come guys? I’ll look more popular if you comment on my blog!), so I will collect all the feedback across sources and share it with everyone in a future blog, as I assume I can’t be the only mom who deals with this.  Thanks in advance!!







3 thoughts on “The Weight of it

  1. I recommend the book “Child of Mine – Feeding with Love and Good Sense”. I have 2 kids so I had a chance to experiment. One had true sensory issues and is picky because of that. She will NEVER try the strawberry (or other fruit or veg) in order to get a cookie (or whatever). But the generally typical one will. That was a long time ago. Always put a few fruit and veg on the plate with the thing she loves most. I was the queen of sneaking healthy food in – there are a few cookbooks that offer this (again, planning if you work full time) I even add extra egg to and whole grains things like pancakes or any baked good.
    I don’t want to tell you what to do, but as for your list of crimes, come up with options for reward or punishment – plan ahead, you can do this!
    My mother advised a friend of mine with a similar concern just to keep her daughter on the move. Be mindful of your language. My carb lover understands a bit about nutrition, because I’m trying to teach that. She knows to get some protein now that she’s 12 and she’s at a party without me. She understands that she actually feels better when she does. My other one fills the plate with whatever her friends do because she is up for taking bites and trying things, knowing that she doesn’t have to eat it all (whew!)
    Mama, don’t stress! She’s still little. Work on your end to balance. It will get easier when you do eat together – maybe on weekends do lunches that you can all share and she might get to experiment? Good Luck!


  2. This one is so hard! How do we not pass our own food issues and hangups onto our kids? I have been raising a carb and cheese loving “bigger” girl in Asia for 11 years and it is brutal. I feel like I am constantly saying the wrong things. She is more beautiful than she will probably ever believe, but she will never be tiny. And we all love food, and I don’t want her not to love food! Keep offering Julia healthy things as much as you can and she most likely will take more of an interest in them. My son had a gag reflex with foods he didn’t like for YEARS. It was painful, but now at 17 he eats pretty much everything. The struggle is real. Know that you are not alone…


  3. The struggle is real for sure! You are definitely not alone. My little guy use to be a carnivor. Now he takes two bites of whatever kind of meat I serve, and he doesn’t want anymore. He’s ok with vegetables like carrots, celery, peppers, and string beans, but they have to be separate unless I cook beef stew. If I try a new recipe, he won’t even try it. And yes, some of my concoctions were pretty bad, but others turned out to be pretty good. I think we all throw our hands up in the air and want to give up at times, but hang in there. We just have to keep offering healthy food, and hope something works. I also think we have all been brainwashed into accepting only certain foods for lunch or dinner. If fruit salad is the only thing they’ll eat for a meal, so what! Especially if it’s mostly organic berries. Also, my friend Gina (from school) advised me to go to the library to try out different cookbooks. Great advice because they have tons. One was titled: Dinner- The Playbook. I forgot the authors name, but there are some great recipes there. I think Julia is a beautiful and healthy girl, so you have nothing to worry about. Unless your pediatrician says different, don’t worry Mommy, you’re doing a great job! Thank you for keeping it real for all us moms.


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