Mummy am I fat? | Here Come the Girls

Mummy am I fat?

Sometimes you are left feeling completely inadequate as a parent. Sometimes you are faced with something unexpected which leaves you reeling. It is quite often a question which leaves you groping around for an adequate response. I have to admit that this weekend I was floored by my daughter suddenly asking why she has a fat face.

I knew this question would come up – I knew exactly what to say in response all about media creating a false ideal and how we should never compare ourselves to photo shop enhanced images. The only problem with that answer is that I was expecting to discuss it with a teenager – or at least a pre teen.

My child is five. FIVE.

We were in the car at the weekend – which is where she always poses one or two particularly challenging questions. I hate driving and having to explain how rain is formed or how the first baby was born when there weren’t any people yet – adds a whole extra dimension of stress. I guess it’s where she had the least amount to do so just sits there and ponders lives unanswerable questions. This time it was more a statement. “I have a fat face.” My reaction to this wasn’t the best. No of course you don’t. Don’t be silly.”This was just a gut reaction and I didn’t want to dismiss her worries lightly.

“My face is round.Why is my face round, when everyone else in my class isn’t? Am I fat?”

Now of course I explained that she was perfect and a healthy weight and she does lots of exercise and the only important thing is that you are healthy and she is. Then I told her she is beautiful and everyone is always telling me what lovely blue eyes she has and went on to list all the other things about her which are beautiful.

It wasn’t enough.

So this is what I’ve done to tackle her self esteem and try to instil a positive body image.

5 Ways to give children a healthy body image

1. Look at myself.

Children look and learn from us first. We are their first teacher. I make a point of never talking about diets or weight loss in front of my girls. I don’t ever make derogatory comments about myself either – even if I think them. However, I am struggling with my weight at the moment. Well it’s a constant battle and my self esteem is at an all time low. Although I desperately hope she hasn’t picked up on this – really how can she not. I have to sort out my own issues and quickly before they rub off.

2. Teach her that people come in different shapes and sizes

I know this comes mainly from another child telling her she has a round face. I think it was just a description but for some reason she has taken it to heart. I want to teach her that everyone comes in different shapes and sizes – and that is ok. We have looked at lots of pictures of different people old and young and looked at their shape of their face and how they all are different and find something beautiful in all of them.

3. Teach her that it’s what’s on the inside that counts

Of course alongside this is my overwhelming feeling that we should teach children that looks are secondary to how a person behaves. This evening we read the story of Goldilocks. It’s at the right age level for a five year old. Goldilocks is always drawn as a very pretty little girl but we discussed how it didn’t matter how pretty she was as she was so naughty.

4. Positive Self Image

She has this negative statement about herself and it’s hard to get rid of that. Instead I’m focusing on the positives. We recently drew around all the children and wrote the things they like. We have added to this lots of positive statements about them both inside and out and got her to write about the things which are good about herself. I have started to leave her little notes with these statements on just to remind her (and of course to get a bit of sneaky reading practice in too – I can’t help myself sometimes).

sisters

We will read a couple of books which I have put on order: What I Like About Me by Allia Zobel-Nolan and I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont

5. Focus on having a healthy lifestyle

I am focussing this week on tweaking our lifestyle to make it healthier and encourage healthy choices. I need to make sure we get out and have lots of exercise together as a family, and have lots of healthy food choices available.

 

So have you been in this situation? Is there anything else I could do to raise a child with a healthy body image?

 


Author: Rebecca

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8 Comments

  1. Oh Rebecca, as you say how young to be even thinking this way. I think you have handled it really well. It is difficult to not project our own feelings onto little ones. I know that I grew up fascinated by diets because I had watched my poor mum struggle with every one going. Sty positive yourself & best of luck, Kierna
    Kierna Corr (@CiarnaC) recently posted..Perfect Outdoor Weather! Country KidsMy Profile

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    • It’s so hard isn’t it? We can’t shield them from everything anyway and weight is such a big issue. Thanks for your comment.

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  2. I’ve answered this question a different way – I have no idea how successful it was. My daughter was 6 when she asked the am I getting fat question. I said “YES! Isn’t it wonderful? You’re body’s storing up some fat so you can grow again!” Of course, my daughter is a natural string bean, so when she gets “plump,” I know she’s getting ready to grow again, and wasn’t lying.

    I like your approach to different kinds of faces. Oval, heart, triangle, round, rectangle – we’ve got ‘em all!

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    • Oh that’s interesting. I suppose it’s a good time to discuss what “fat” actually is and why we have it.

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  3. wow, 5 is a young age isn’t it. I haven’t even thought about it – I guess having a boy I’ve been kidding myself it might not come up, but I think these days its as much an issue for boys as girls. Maybe I should start considering how I’d handle it. I like your idea of teaching about different body shapes – I love the Dove soap adverts with all the different shaped women in their undies. I think its a great way to celebrate beauty in its many forms.
    Also Like Martine (above)’s suggestion about responding with a yes. It would take them by surprise and certainly make them think about what is fat and whether its necessarily a negative.
    I’m sharing this on the Sunday Parenting Party pinterest board. Thanks
    The Monko recently posted..A Wonderful week in WalesMy Profile

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  4. Hi Rebecca just stumbled across your amazing blog! This question comes up a lot in our house because my in laws are obsessed with body image, calorie counting and diet but only on week days – at weekends they binge and then its all back to calorie counting on weekdays. They also speak their minds as though they have no filter – if they see someone over weight they will mention it and wonder aloud how anyone could let themselves go like that etc etc. If someone they know is pregnant, their priority concern is will they lose the weight again after or how they walk or carry the bump etc etc. They also talk about how revolting breast feeding is (even behind closed doors!) – a belief they have infected my husband with to the point that our marriage suffered because I insisted on breast feeding our two children. They look back at old photos of my daughter as a toddler and wonder how they never noticed how chubby she was. Unbelievable. They don’t think they say anything directly to her but she might be just behind the door and ask me about it later. She is now nearly 11. I had to answer this question when she was 5 too. And also “why am I so little?” The other children treated her as a sort of pet or always made her play the baby when they played “families” or “house” even teachers who should have known better would point out how she was the smallest in the class and have low expectations as though that meant she was younger. So adults have a lot to do with how are children see themselves and how they see other children.

    My answer is this: as they get older children change alot. They don’t stay baby shape and just get bigger. Babies are very cuddly and that is healthy for them but as they grow they get more muscular and their bones get longer so they look slimmer. That can be healthy too. Sometimes growth happens fast, sometimes it is slow and steady sometimes it is somewhere in between. Face shape changes too – babies have very round faces and as you get older face shape changes too. At age five your face shape is quite round, when you are grown up it will be longer like Mummy’s. How you look on the outside doesn’t tell you anything about what a person is like on the inside. A beautiful person who is mean is ugly on the inside. Someone might have a scarred or disfigured face but If they are kind and caring, that is really beautiful. And sometimes you can’t see the truth about someone – they may have a special talent or skill or be a wonderful friend you have to get to know them to find out. That’s why we make friends with other children even when sometimes we are not sure at first. But we also know not all adults are kind, so while we are friendly and polite when with the grown ups we know we hold back from making friends with strangers or being alone with them. They may seem pretty or kind but are not always. If ever you are not sure about someone it is always ok to ask your mum or dad about them or say you are unsure but perhaps quietly and not just out loud in front of that person or it might hurt their feelings. Sometimes someone might not be too sure about you – but we know you are kind!
    Mary Cook recently posted..The Karvol incidentMy Profile

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    • Thanks for taking the time to write a comment. Your answer is brilliant – I love the part about face changing as they get older. I will definitely use that if she asks again. It’s so hard when people say things you wouldn’t say in front of the kids. Just shows you can’t shield them from everything. Sounds like you are giving her all the right messages though and that’s the most important thing.

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