Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fat Kids, Bad Parents?

We’ve all seen the talk shows with obese toddlers who gorge themselves on spareribs and Coca Cola, right? And who among us was not shocked and disgusted? Who among us did not swear right then and there that their child would only eat perfectly balanced meals and nutritious snacks?

I’ve said my share of my child will nevers. But I’ve realized (due to eating innumberable helpings of crow) that many of those ideals were born out of ignorance. So I usually just shrug, accept that my idealism was misguided and try to adopt a more realistic approach.

My Diminutive One is getting fat.

I don’t want him to be fat. Being a kid is damned hard enough.

My sister was a fat as a child and I watched her deal with the hurt and embarrassment for many years. I could do nothing to help her, except try to shield her from the taunts and jeers. And as she grew into a young woman, I know she feared that she would never be asked to go steady, or get that first kiss, or marry and have children. Thankfully, we had wonderful, caring parents who fostered very healthy ideals in regard to worth and identity. She grew into a strong, confident and successful woman despite her struggles with weight.

But I suspect that the heartbreak of those years stayed with her. I don’t think hearing “Fatty Fatty two by four…” chanted by your classmates on the playground is the sort of thing that ever really leaves you. I don’t think hearing your first real crush oinking as you walk down the hall is the kind of thing a young girl ever really forgets, though the shame and humiliation may eventually fade.

I recently watched a program about a young man who is morbidly obese and I cried, knowing my Diminutive One could well be on the same destructive path. That young man spoke of killing himself to end the pain of feeling less than human. It broke my heart. I would go out of my mind with grief if my child committed suicide because someone made him feel that he didn’t deserve the basic kindness, dignity and respect that all human beings are entitled to. Because someone made him think he would be better off dead than fat.

I don’t know what to do.

Diminutive One has ALWAYS had a sweet tooth. It was evident from a very early age, though we did everything the baby books advocated in regard to starting solids and forming good eating habits. We started him on veggies first, so that he wouldn’t grow to prefer the sweet taste of fruits. We introduced new foods slowly and singly. If he rejected them, we offered them again and again, never pushing, only encouraging. He did develop a fairly serious juice habit, because after weaning from the breast, he refused cow’s milk. I offered him fortified juice to stave off scurvy and rickets. It was stupid, but well-intentioned.

Despite our efforts, he very quickly grew to love all things sweet. As a toddler, he would hoard cookies, candies and other snacks to ensure a ready supply should a request be denied. We did allow treats in moderation (we didn’t want to create the “forbidden fruit” syndrome all the baby books so stridently warned against) but it was never enough. We had to lock up any and all contraband and when that failed to deter him, we took to storing them on top of the fridge. It was an exercise in futility. You can read all about that here. Still, it was fairly easy to keep him well nourished, because I could impose my will upon him with relative ease.

Now that he is older, we constantly battle and I hate being the food Nazi. I hate that our dinner table, which I have always considered a really important part of staying connected as a family, has become a war zone. I hate that I have to constantly deny him the things he wants, to ensure that he gets the things he needs. I hate that he has become sneaky and manipulative with food.

The other night at the ballpark he asked if he could get something from the concession stand. I gave him a five dollar bill because it was all I had at the time I told him he could choose one thing. He came back with three Butterfingers. I made him take them back. The other day Husband was checking his purchase history on Mealpay and found that he has been purchasing rice krispy treats, chips and fruit drinks. We had to put a lock on his account. And two days ago Husband found twelve Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups in his old hiding place behind the recliner. I took the treat jar, emptied it into the garbage and put it away.

I just don’t want to do it anymore.

It would be so much easier to give up and let him eat cakes and cookies and soda anytime he wants. It would be so much easier not to pack a healthy lunch everyday and let him graze on chicken nuggets, pasta and white bread to his heart’s content. It would be so much easier to let him have fast food every night and spare myself the “YUCK.” and “There’s no WAY I’m eating THAT.”

Because it’s not working anyway.

Diminutive One is an active kid. He plays baseball at least three nights a week. When he’s not playing, his brother is, and he spends that time at the park playing tag or running races with other siblings. He and his brother spend hours jumping on our backyard trampoline. He rides his bike all over the neighborhood. He is in constant motion.

At the very least I have the satisfaction of knowing that his weight problem is not due to sitting on his butt in front of the television or the Gameboy.

But I’m doing everything I can and still he is getting fat.

We talk about making good choices. We talk about sugar being bad for you. We talk about all the reasons being overweight is harmful to your health. I’m trying to motivate and empower him because, that’s what the books say you’re supposed to do. But they also say you shouldn’t create power struggles over food. I suppose then that insisting he eat his green beans before he gets a second helping of mashed potatoes is really playing with fire.

But what is a mother to do?? What kind of parent would I be?? How could I live with myself??

I’m going to continue to fight, weary though I may be.

Because I don’t want my son to know the heartbreak of being that kid on the playground. Because I don’t want him to wind up on some tabloid talk show. And Because I don’t want him to ever wonder if he is good enough to be worthy of the love and respect of thin people.

I have ten years before he strikes out on his own. I hope that I can teach him something, anything, that will keep him from spiraling out of control once the choice is in his hands. But I hope that what he learns above all else, is that he has value and worth no matter what size he is.

Wish me luck.


  • At 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've never shared this but my 14 year old son is significantly overweight. My ex-in-laws threatened to have me investigated for bad parenting and have him taken away from me (insane people mind you). Forget the fact that ex-MIL used to be in excess of 300 lbs and my ex died at over 240. It's in his genes. And I'm doing my damnedest to reverse the curse. I'm at a point where I say NO and put it back. Where I say WHAT ARE YOU THINKING and other things I never thought I'd say. But now it's about health and about being "normal" which is vital for a teen. In the past two years it's gotten worse (death makes some stop eating, in our family, we gorge) and while I never advocated a diet for a kid or teen, now I'm changing my tune. But I can't do it for him, nor can you dear. I am right there with you, well, a bit ahead...perhaps another thing we can tackle as friends.

  • At 2:05 PM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    Oh my God, how awful for you. What in the world could they have been thinking to threaten such a thing??? The death of his father wasn't traumatic enough?

    Your insight on this issue will be much appreciated. It's SO nice to know there are others fighting the same battle.

  • At 2:13 PM, Blogger OhTheJoys said…

    I was always a chubby kid. I really don't know the answer, but I totally resonate with the post.

  • At 3:12 PM, Blogger Amie Adams said…

    Oh, I understand your frustration/fear! It sounds like you are doing everything you can. Does your pediatrician or dentist have any advice? My middle guy has always been thicker than his brothers. One trip to the dentist and the discovery of cavities and he changed his ways. For some reason, what I couldn't achieve as a parent, a guy in a white coat could. You might want to consider buying a white coat. What is a mother to do?

  • At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi, I'm your avid reader from Mexico, you know, you hit a cord with me, my 9 year old daughter is overweight and I've come to a point I don't know what to do, I take her for long walks (I also have a 3 yr old so we can't go too far) and a 14 yr old who is constantly teasing her (he's stick thin)about her weight. I've talked to him about this but you know teens, it's soo hard and it breaks my heart every time I see her struggling to put on some clother that just don't fit anymore.

  • At 3:20 PM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    Well hello! I've "seen" you on my stat counter. Nice to "meet" you!

    Poor thing. I wish I could offer up something really wise, but I'm at a loss myself. I guess I just keep doing what I'm doing.

    Know the you and she are not alone.

  • At 4:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    BA, my heart breaks for you both (and your sister too). It's wonderful that he is so active - that is a significant pro. I wonder about the hoarding and hiding, as I did some of that myself as a child. I think I got a lot of mixed messages (fat vs. healthy, saw how my mother hid food but was skinny as a rail).

    I think the continued emphasis on healthy foods - serving them, eating them, reasonable quantities - and not having treats in the house is a good strategy. When you and your husband set a good example, it really does speak volumes.

  • At 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was a fat kid. Heck I was a fat adult up until two years ago. I got sick of being fat and finally made the decision to change my lifestyle.

    You son sounds like me. I can't have sugar in moderation. I will never have a healthy relationship with sugar. I eliminated 99% of it from my diet and the cravings went away. My suggestion is to eliminate as much sugar as you possibly can from his diet. Be mindful also of natural sugars in fruit.

  • At 9:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is such a hard topic. I also struggle to find the right way to handle my slightly chubby 8 year old. I never thought I would have a chubby child and I was one of those ignorant people who blamed the parent's for their child's weight problems. Well that bit me in the ass. It's not that my daughter eats a lot of crap because she doesn't have a sweet tooth. She does have a big appetite and eats out of boredom plus it's in her genes. My in-laws are big people, especially the women. I can already tell that she has their build. I also have a six year old who only weighs 38 pounds and chooses to eat healthy. Brought up in the same home, same parenting but two very different views about food. I truly believe that this is part of your personality that you are born with. How I handle my oldest is to keep her active. She competitively dances 4 times a week which has also been good for her self esteem. She also takes a tumbling class and plays softball during the summer. I encourage her to find other things to do when she's bored rather than eat and it has helped her identify the times she's eating when she's really not hungry. The sad thing is she knows she's the biggest girl in her class and will often grab her tummy and call herself fat. It breaks my heart. I tell her that she has an athletic build and to love the body she has because it's the only one she'll ever have. I'm working on accepting her for who she is so she will also accept herself. All I can do is encourage her to stay active, eat healthy, and to love herself. What's on the inside is so much more important than how she looks on the outside. Sorry to write a book but this is a topic that I think about often. Thanks for bringing out for discussion.

  • At 10:06 PM, Blogger BabyonBored said…

    Gosh that is tough. Of course it's not your fault. I had bulimia as a teen and into my 20's and when I got into therapy I realized I'd always had a problem with food since as long as I can remember. I hoarded candy and remember vividly sneaking into the Halloween candy reserved for the trick or treaters and getting into trouble. I can only say that it will make it worse to "police" the situation too much. He has to make his own choices. But I do agree that keeping sugar out of the house will greatly reduce the constant temptation. You may feel that it's unfair to the rest of the house but in time you won't miss it.

  • At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's a tough situation. In order to help him make the best possible choices, you have to address the problem but how do you address the problem without making the child feel like there is something wrong with them?

    I think this is something many parents grapple with and I think you are absolutely doing the right thing even when it's not the easiest thing.

    There must be some resources out there for parents that can help your family through this.

  • At 11:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi, I read your blog often and find your writing to be exceptional, as is this post. I haven't commented much, but just wanted to say something here. As a teen, I had the exact opposite problem. I wouldn't eat. But, to me, the situations seem so similar, so hopefully any insight I can offer might help. I remember feeling food was the one thing I had absolute control over in my life. It was the only "totally me" focus I could find and be in complete charge of. No one could force me to eat. At least that is how it started off. After a while though, the not eating started to control me, just like everything else. It wasn't until I was older and steering my own life course that I was able to break that unhealthy bind. It's not an easy thing to overcome, almost like an addiction. If your son feels anything like I did as a teen, then his "addiction" to food is secondary. Also, it has nothing to do with you as a parent! It is just a personality thing, totally internal. I saw life as always coming at me and I was just a victim in its wake. When I started to take control over stupid everyday things (like which way I would walk to school, when I would go to bed, etc.) I felt more in control. Life became more enjoyable because I was the one creating the things in it. The food issue no longer seemed something I couldn't handle anymore and it just went away.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong about your son, but thought it might give you some insight to what could possible be going on. Either way, I think your concern and love is a necessary key to his success!

  • At 4:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i was gooogling for some weird reason because im SO bored after mugging for my geography finals tmr!
    and i found this blog and im rly interested in it because im one sinful blogger too! i can be spending my time blogging instead of revising for my work and that rly explains why my results are so disastrous!
    haha :D
    but yup anyway good job and this and i would be reading your blog more often!
    ehehe and i'd probably recommend this to my friends too!

    boy how much we must repent on our blogging on stupid blogs eh?

  • At 7:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Teaching what is important and modeling behaviors... important stuff. VIP, moms are.

  • At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is a great post, BA. I have no advice, I've never had to deal with this, but I think with your attitude about the issues you are on the right track.

    All you can do is your best, and you are.

  • At 6:11 AM, Blogger Ruth Dynamite said…

    This is a tough one and there are many parents struggling along with you. Do what you can. Remove the junk from the house. Make lunches for school. Keep him busy. (All things it sounds like you're doing.) There are also great fitness/weight-loss summer camps that reinforce messages about healthy eating while conecting kids with similar issues. Best of luck!

  • At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am in the same boat. I have twin daughters who are 13. They are obese. Even though I try to keep any junk out of the house. We discuss health choices and that food is fuel for our bodies. Still no good. I am scared that becoming food nazi will set up a power struggle that will lead to no good. I also want them to feel good about themselves regardless of weight. But that's not the world we live in. I feel like a total failure as a parent.

    "Now that he is older, we constantly battle and I hate being the food Nazi. I hate that our dinner table, which I have always considered a really important part of staying connected as a family, has become a war zone. I hate that I have to constantly deny him the things he wants, to ensure that he gets the things he needs. I hate that he has become sneaky and manipulative with food."

    These words hit a cord with me. They sum up what I'm feeling but have been unable to express.

    I hate that I can't leave them alone with any food available whatsoever. They will eat whatever we have.

    We've been to the doctor and she says there's not really anything we can do as parents until they decide it's important to them.

  • At 10:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Unless you are very careful, I wouldn't recommend for you what I am recommending for myself--and that is, even though I have a pretty active lifestyle at the moment, I am seriously looking at calorie restriction. I lost a ton of weight about eight years ago (I'm 25 now), but there has always been this residual layer of fat around the most important areas. So screw it--I'm going old school and allowing my body to repair some of the damage that's been done by eating what is deemed healthy in today's society. There's a myth that eating a lot (or even the "recommended amount") can boost metabolisms, leading to weight loss. Hah! It's simple to lose weight: restrict calories and exercise (i.e. push ups; ab crunches; stretching and running). You keep your muscles active so they do not atrophy much, meaning that they will be there to aid in your weight loss effort. Also most people do NOT need 2,000 calories a day. Why is it we have so much health advice coming from our medical industry and yet Americans are getting FATTER? Look into alternatives.

    If all else fails, find a way to shock him into seeing the futility of following the food-based American culture. Belly fat, double-chins, fat cheeks and stretch marks.


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