What are 6 year olds talking about these days?

bodyshaming

Image Credit: I couldn’t find the photographer, but I still couldn’t resist using it, because of the powerful and unmistakable message it sends out.

On a recent phone call with my friend, I came to know that her daughter who is also my daughter’s friend and classmate, brings home her school tiffin untouched. When my friend probed her daughter, she came to know that a couple of girls in the class told her, “If you eat a lot, you will turn fat!”

That I was shocked beyond words wouldn’t even superficially touch what I felt on hearing that. Seriously, the ‘body shaming monster’ that plagues every girl right from her teenage to the day she dies, is rearing its ugly head and is not even sparing little girls.

6 year olds, what do they know about being fat? No, really, it couldn’t be their words. These words have been implanted in their mind. And by none other than the family and the society. So when they hear their mommy or daddy complaining for the umpteenth time about “how she needs to diet because she has put on weight” or “he needs to eat sparingly to cut down that flab”, they create their own perception without really understanding the whole picture. What they listen and understand is “eating makes one fat!”

Things like this are the reason little girls develop eating disorders and start hating their body.

Yes, India ranks third in child obesity in the world, and yes, we need to take extreme measures to rein it in. Yes, obesity leads to many lifestyle diseases like thyroid, diabetes, PCOS…but, that doesn’t mean, children should stop eating. When has dieting or fasting helped anyone, let alone children?

Eating a lot is not good; not for anyone, irrespective of their waste size. But, more important is the quality of food and its nutrition value. The sad part is when we feed our children processed cheese, we don’t think they are getting fat? When they gulp down an entire bottle of packaged juice or eat biscuits and chips, we don’t complain much. But, when it comes to dal, roti or subzi…we get stressed looking at the quantity.

Here are a few things as a parent you should take care of:

  • Do not perpetually talk about your weight gain or loss in front of kids. They don’t understand the context and more often than not interpret it the wrong way.
  • To an older child (once she turns 6-7 years), you can make them understand that being fat is not bad. But yes, one should eat right (junk should be limited to once a week) and exercise every day.
  • Teach them about the quality of food. Tell them eating 2 rotis are better and healthier than 1 bag of chips. Food is first about quality, and then quantity.
  • Pack tasty but nutritious home made food in your child’s dabba. Fortunately, we are in/come from a country that has hordes of regional nutritious recipes. Plus, Google is always there to expand our recipe repertoire.
  • Body shaming starts at an alarming early age nowadays. Monitor her influences (friends, social media, siblings, etc.). Teach your child to be confident about her body and the way she looks.
  • Don’t glorify thinness or slimness in your home. Instead of fat or thin, focus on being fit. A person can be thin, and yet not be fit.

Let’s not snatch away the innocence from these little kids. They should be talking about dolls, legos and stuff, and not worry about weight gain at their age. What do you think?

 

 

 

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Chubby kids look cute, but are they healthy?

My daughter was born 2.2 kgs. She was all bones and looked like an overgrown lizard or a frog. Believe me, the friends and the people in the relation who came to meet her clucked disappointedly and said, “She is very weak!” It broke my heart to listen to such disparaging comments day by day. It seemed like an insult to me as a mother. She was small, thin…unlike the pink squishy babies they showed in Johnson and Johnson Baby products ads. By the time she turned 4 months old, she was weighing a whopping 6.2 kgs, and quite difficult to lift. Yes, she had turned a beautiful chubby baby from the ads. Her pediatrician looked at me suspiciously every time he weighed her and though he never said it aloud, suspected me of feeding my daughter with weight-gaining formulae. Well, it was all breastmilk, I knew. By the time she turned 9 months, my daughter was weighing 9 kgs. I still remember her doctor’s comment, “Pray she starts walking soon, or she will break your back from all that lifting!”

Thankfully for me, she started crawling and walking quite early. However, the downside was that she lost all her puppy fat from all that mindless walking and following me around. At 4.5 years, she weighs 17 kgs, and is quite lean. No, the puppy fat didn’t come back. But, she is as strong as a stick and quite active. She drinks her milk (unsweetened and no milk-boosting powders for her), eats healthy food and sometimes has her share of processed and junk foods too. Well, my daughter’s days of chubbiness are long gone. However, I do enjoy looking at chubby babies and can’t resist pulling their soft round cheeks.

A few days ago when I read this, I was shocked, you would be too, Mexico is grappling with the issue of obesity in children. But, what really shook me was to learn India is the third most obese country after the US and China, and childhood obesity affects more than 15% of children. I mean, who would associate obesity with an underdeveloped country like India, where 270 million people live below the poverty line, and where emaciated kids and figures are not a rare sight. Doesn’t it appear some kind of a perverse joke? But, it’s true…sadly, true!

And this problem of overweight in children cannot be blamed on genetics alone. What about the poor lifestyle – relying on junk and processed food and a lack of physical activity? Parents like the idea of their infants being chubby or ‘golu molu’ as is the preferred phrase. So they feed them and feed them.

Don’t believe me? I will share with you a true incident that I have witnessed it myself with a very close relation of mine. So this lady gave birth to a baby who was above the average weight of an Indian baby. But, he was extremely cute. As is the Indian mentality, his mother wanted him to remain chubby all the time. So she started feeding him more than he required. At 9 months, I saw him eating a big bowl of porridge made of two large apples, wheat flour and sugar. I even passed a comment on his intake. And was at the receiving end of a scathing reply for all my genuine concern. You see, in India, it’s not considered appropriate to remark on a person’s diet, least of all a baby’s. So that was the end, I didn’t utter another word again.

Now, the baby is 4 years old. Equally cute and equally overweight. The mother is now running from pillar to post trying his son to shed his weight. But, the boy needs calories for his ample body, and you just can’t expect him to reduce his appetite overnight. The mother regrets her earlier actions, but too little, too late. Though she has cut down on his junk food, she still believes in giving him two large glasses of Bournvita and fresh juice of 2-3 oranges every day. And against his sugary intake, the boy’s physical activity is zero. How can you expect him to cut his flab? I could tell her that, but I am still smarting from the earlier insult. Thanks, but no thanks.

Indians love chubby kids, however, what we do not realize is there is a host of ailments and diseases which comes with obesity, the most prominent ones being diabetes and hypertension.

Feed your kids, but know their limit. Kids usually know when to stop, so do not push them beyond their point. If your kids ask for more food, ask them again if they are really hungry. Wait for a few minutes before giving them another roti or bread, usually you will see they will forget about their request after sometime unless they are really hungry, that’s your cue. Instead of giving them more food, concentrate on making their food nutrient-packed.

If you want to know more about the kind of foods that you offer to your kids, which are in fact bad for their health, read this post. It’s going to be an eye-opener for you.

Chubby kids look cute, but not if it costs them their health!