Many fat acceptance influencers proclaim that no child should ever be put on a diet.
Some even call this abuse. They believe kids should be allowed to eat whatever and how much they want.
And certainly, there are parents who do just that: Permit their children free range when it comes to food, even if it means they’re morbidly obese.
In some cases, despite the permissive junk food eating, there are kids who don’t become overweight.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s smart to allow them to eat whatever they please in any quantity.
Even thin kids should still be taught to eat responsibly and healthfully.
After all, a diet of excessive sugary or processed foods can come back to haunt that skinny child years later in adulthood – in the form of coronary artery disease and other afflictions.
It can also result in future obesity, when that once-thin child is now a less active adult with a slower metabolism.
When It’s Wrong to Put an Overweight Child on a Diet
Actually, it’s not wrong, immoral or abusive.
The issue is HOW a parent goes about in trimming down an obese child.
When fat acceptance influencers preach that kids should not be put on diets to lose weight, they’re probably drawing from personal childhood experiences in which their parents went about it the wrong way.
For instance, an obese body positive influencer may have painful childhood memories of her mother repeatedly cutting her down over her weight.
Sometimes, parents can be quite verbally abusive, telling their plump young daughter that no man will ever want to marry her because she’s “fat and ugly.”
When she was caught with her hand in the cookie jar, she was harshly punished and/or given a tongue-lashing that reduced her to tears.
But these aren’t examples of a DIET. They are examples of harmful parenting. This would explain why the fat activists – who vilify the concept of putting big children on diets – label it as abusive.
It’s not wrong to put an overweight child on a diet. What’s wrong is when parents are psychologically abusive in the process or bully their child about his or her weight.
Another ineffective way to get oversized kids to lose weight is to take them to all sorts of doctors to find out “what’s wrong,” when the root of the problem is the parents keeping the kitchen well-stocked with junk food and creating an environment that drives that child to binge eat.
• Is the child bored?
• Is the child stressed?
• Is she learning to comfort-eat by example?
• Does the TV babysit her?
• Is she given bowls of ice cream to pacify her?
• Is he rewarded with soda and a jumbo bag of chips for keeping still in the car?
• Are physical activity and sports participation mandatory or are they allowed to watch as much TV as they please?
• Do your overweight children own any balls, bats, catching mitts, tennis rackets, skates, jump ropes, etc.?
• Do you take them on bike rides or hikes?
It’s Okay to Put Your Overweight Child on a Diet When…
• You focus on eating healthfully and provide plenty of healthy snacks.
• You limit junk food consumption.
• You discourage overeating. For example, if you’re cooking for three kids and two adults, you make just enough spaghetti and meatballs for three kids and two adults. If there’s apple pie for dessert, each child gets one slice.
Your rule of “no seconds” has been instituted early on; they are used to it; it’s their normal.
• You don’t use food as a reward.
• Your kids participate in age-appropriate preparation of healthy foods.
• You never insult them about their weight.
• Sports are encouraged for the excitement and other benefits such as setting goals, rather than, “You MUST play sports to lose weight!”
• You don’t make excess junk food consumption easy.
• You’re not afraid to say, “This is all you get; excess sugar is not good for the human body.” If the child is too young to understand this, you’re not afraid to simply say, “No more; that’s all for now.”
• You work out and encourage your children to join you when possible.
Children should not be kept overweight any more than their teeth should be kept decayed.
It’s not a matter of body positivity. It’s a matter of good fitness and health in childhood, and good fitness and health throughout their adulthood.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.