Tubby kid? What’s the plan…

21 Jul

As a kid, I was a fattie.

My childhood was punctuated by visits to the dietician in Harley Street. He was a creepy dude with a big beard whose catch phrase was “super duper” and who told me never to eat Jaffa Cakes – or anything else much. He also put me on speed pills to control my appetite; it sort of worked, but my I felt peculiar.  In my late teens, I slimmed down but have always been what they call, politely, curvy. That’s ok.  I’ve never wanted to be a skinny, it’s not me. I have a very large bust, blonde curls and nice skin and I’ve never been short of male takers, so I never worried about it that much.

But then, post two babies, I got pretty large. Suddenly it was hard to wear jeans, or anything structured. With my fortieth birthday approaching I decided that either I carted the flab around, in stretchy clothes, till I hurtled towards an early grave. Or I did something about it. Cue, my personal trainer: Hitler in a blonde bob who forces me to run around my square at 7am two mornings a week, gets me boxing, doing sumo squats and other horrors and makes me unfeasibly sweaty. In essence I now take exercise in a way I have never done in my entire life. It’s been nearly two years now: I’m fitter than I’ve ever been and without dieting, (although I reckon I eat a bit less cake) , I am a great deal slimmer ( so much so that people who haven’t seen me for a while do a bit of a double take). In fact my old pal Giles Coren, came up to me at a party recently and said “I looked over and thought – is that Els? Nah, too skinny”.

But this is not a blog about my own weight, but about being a mum of two daughters – one of whom – poor duck – has inherited my body shape. If she was a pony, she would be described as a ‘good sort’: that means a horse that can basically live on air, or a bit of grass, and keep a belly and good condition. My little girl isn’t an excessive porker but she is on the tubby side and without turning her into an anorexic freak (perish the thought) I also don’t want her to be fat, unhealthy, or get teased at school. Of course, I encourage healthy eating (damn hard when you got to granny’s or parties and there are plates and plates of cake). And she is a manic ball of energy and takes loads of exercise (and I try to set her a good example). I know I’m not the only mother in this position, I recently had a long heart to heart with a friend who had just received a letter from the school saying her beloved daughter was in the 95th percentile for weight. She was mortified and wanted to do something about it. But as we talked I realised that tubby kids – fat kittens – open up a real can of worms in the mother’s psyche. We spent hours agonising about how to talk to a little one – her daughter is six – about not stuffing down too many fattening foods because it will make them a chubster, without giving them an eating complex around certain foods for life? How can you persuade a little girl who thinks most vegetables are the devil and loves white food, to eat more healthily without making her feel deprived? You don’t want to start lecturing a child about calories (perish the thought). As a kid, I grew to loathe a book my mother bought called: Cooking to Make Kids Slim (which featured a serious porker on the scales on the cover). But since we are glaring down the barrel of a national child obesity epidemic, I know there must be countless other parents struggling with this. So I want to use this blog as a forum for sharing solutions, dilemmas, what works, what doesn’t – and how you mums and dads out there feel about it all. So don’t be shy, plunge right in! Let’s see if we can help each other through this – curiously, it’s a bit of a taboo topic. It shouldn’t be!

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7 Responses to “Tubby kid? What’s the plan…”

  1. claire at crumbs July 21, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

    Hey Eleanor! Welcome to the blogosphere.
    This is a great idea for a blog, such a big topic and so difficult to get any proper advice on it. I’ve got friends who’ve had eating disorders and are very worried about what food messages they pass on to their kids – especially little girls, and particularly “fat kittens”.
    Claire, (ex-Body&Soul)

    • fattkittens September 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

      Hey Claire, nice to hear from you… I totally agree that the food messages are really crucial and really difficult. I’ve found myself saying: don’t eat that it will make you fat… and then hating myself for it… it’s not that I want them to be runner beans – they’re never going to be with me as a mum – but I’ve read all the research about how being fat yourself you are likely to have fat kids and it really freaks me out…

  2. Ruth Gledhill July 24, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    Great blog Eleanor, great to see another colleague here. I have the opposite problem. I have a child who just isn’t interested in food. He is quite skinny and small for his age. Getting him to eat anything is always such an issue. Yet he is not anorexic, he does not have an aversion to food. He’ld just rather do other things with his time. It is really weird. I look longingly at nice, curvy kids. I think as a society we worry too much about this, and we should just let kids be what their bodies want them to be. Kate Moss once said nothing tastes as good as slim, but I would rather be curvy than hungry. As a child I was skinny, but always hungry!

  3. Jennifer Howze July 28, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    Hi Eleanor, love the new blog!

    The food & kids thing is such a compelling topic. My daughter is very athletic and as a result is “bigger” than a lot of the girls in her class. She occasionally starts talking about looking “fat” in her clothes. I don’t really know how to talk about that kind of thing. She’s not fat but I don’t want the response to be “don’t worry, darling, you’re not fat” with the subtext of “if you were that would be bad and we’d do something about it”. At the same time I worry when I can’t fit into trousers from several years ago.

    Looking forward to the conversation here!

  4. Spinderella27 July 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    I am in a similar situation to you Eleanor. I have an older child, tall and slim and a younger child who whilst not what I would describe as fat, is certainly carrying more weight than he should be. I have cut down all food where I can without him noticing (i.e no juice box with his packed lunch just water, small portions etc) but he is still growing widthways. I have decided the only way forward is to up his exercise so have been encouraging him to try ANYTHING. Luckily he is a confident little chap so is happy to have a go. I know from past experience though that the summer hols is a dangerous time for him, the devil makes fat for idle hands….I appreciate you opening up a debate about this topic as any advice from others is most welcome!

  5. Kristy August 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    I am horried at my own level of concern about body shape as a mother, and my girl is only 2! She eats incredibly well – very healthy & balanced, good quantities, junk only on special occasions – but privately I am ashamed to say I worry because her stomach kind of sticks out (in an almost comical way). I wonder if she has inherited my sister’s frame, and I know has always struggled with her weight, which isn’t nice for her. I endure an ongoing internal struggle to keep perspective and focus on how lucky we are to have a happy and healthy girl and to forget her tummy!

  6. chris August 13, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    So many children seem to retain stories long into adulthood about the efforts their parents made to ‘cure’ them of being fat (like your mum’s Slim Food for Kids book)…i wonder if b doing that, their parents were somehow concretising the child’s feelings and ironically making it harder for the child to move out of that phase? C

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