Updated: Dec 14, 2019
Beach ball. Hefty. Big eater. Never missed a meal. Fat. We have all heard these words (or even *cringe* said these words) about someone’s child. Children come in all shapes and sizes. Some children are tall and some are short. Some are thin and some are fat. For some reason, society feels the need to comment on children’s weight as if parents are solely responsible for the size of their kids. I’m here to tell you that is simply not true.
Some children will be in the 2nd percentile for growth (see the growth charts here) and some will be in the 99th percentile. Genetics plays a large role in body shape and size. Larger people (height or weight) tend to have larger kids. We would never go to a parent and say “wow your child is very tall, maybe you should feed him less sweets” but for some reason, this is the same response parents with larger children will get. Being in a larger body is not an issue for children, especially if they are consistently following their individual growth curve.
As a dietitian, I have heard from clients living in larger bodies who are worried their kids will grow up to endure the same difficulties they experienced growing up. They restrict their meal portions, they don’t allow them sweets, and they try to coerce them to eat their fruits and veggies. Guess what? These kids know what’s up and they’re not buying it. These strategies often backfire. Restriction is the number one cause of overeating/binge behaviors . Hiding food, sneaking food, and eating very fast to ensure they get their fill. These are all classic behaviors of kids who have been restricted. Your job isn’t to be the food police or to determine what body type your child will end up with.
Children are born with an innate sense of intuition with regards to how much or how little they need to grow and thrive. I am always amazed to see my 4 year old stop dead in the middle of an ice cream, and say, “I’m done”.
Ever noticed the difference in behaviours at birthday parties? Some kids are stuffing themselves sick and others are eating moderately. The “Birthday Party Test” is something I ask my clients about to see if they have noticed any differences. Kids with restricted diets are often gorging themselves.
“Did you know that kids are 242 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than diabetes?”
Ellen Satter, renowned feeding expert, and fellow Registered Dietitian, has developed the “Division of Responsibility”. Parents are responsible for the WHAT, WHEN and WHERE and the child is responsible for HOW MUCH and WHETHER or not to eat.
Fundamental to parents’ jobs is trusting children to determine how much and whether to eat from what the parents provide. When parents do their jobs with feeding, children do their jobs with eating. Your job is done when you provide a variety of food from all the food groups on the table in a peaceful and calm environment. Looking for tips to break the cycle of meal time battles read more here. So next time your little asks you for seconds of that bread with butter, go ahead and give them an extra serving.