To lose weight. I was horrified.
For a few weeks now he has been talking about the fact that he has become “fat”. Now this is the boy who used to be on the skinny side. He had the usual stages of childhood, growing taller, then broader, then taller, and lately quite a bit broader. Add to it his fondness of sweets, and tendency to spend all his time in front of screens or books, well, yes, he has grown a little protruding tummy, but nothing major in my eyes.
After talking for a while we found that it was my mother-in-law who kept telling him he had been growing fat, and needed losing weight. Now, even if he were obese, which he isn’t I wouldn’t want him to start dieting.
The only thing a diet is pretty certain to make you is fat in the long run. Especially with people like my son and me. We are contrary. If anyone tells us what we’re allowed to eat or not, even if it is ourselves we’re bound to become all stubborn, and eat even more of the things we shouldn’t.
Now, you have to know that my mother-in-law is a person who still thought I was as slim as the day we met even after I had gained 20 kilos in the meantime. (That’s 44 pounds for those of you who don’t use metric.) She didn’t even realized that I had grown quite a bit bigger.
Now this woman is telling my son that he is fat. Why’s that?
With a bit of detective work we finally got it. There were two factors to it:
First, my son these days often has these massive eating binges at mealtimes. You know how sometimes even little children eat more than you? He sometimes does that. It doesn’t bother me because he doesn’t do it all the time, and for every time he eats like a starving teenager there’s another time when he doesn’t eat much at all. To me that’s a sign that he is in touch with his body’s need. Now my mother-in-law is of a generation that believes in portion control. She fixes dinner (with ridiculously small portions for a growing boy), and if he says he’s still hungry she thinks he can’t really be because there’s no dinner left.
Second, my son has this belly. His jeans have grown a bit too tight, and so his belly is sticking out. There are several things to this. Yes, he has become a bit stockier than before, and second he doesn’t really have the abs to have a firm belly. Which isn’t unsurprising in a boy his age.
I hope that the thing I’m telling him makes a difference. The thing is, I have seen this many times before with students. Once they are approaching their tenth birthday, some a little earlier, some a little later, all of a sudden children come up to me saying, “I need to lose weight, I’m fat.” And then they tell me that they are already weighing [insert some number between 35 and 40 kilos here], and that their friends are weighing less than that.
And then I tell them the things I always tell: Children grow in spurts. After every time they’re getting taller there is usually a time when they get stockier, and maybe even a bit chubby. Especially at this time when their bodies are almost getting ready for puberty. Just look at children between 9 and 12 and you can see it. A lot of them are becoming rounder, and heavier, and almost denser at that age. And then, a few years later they transform in front of your eyes, going from a child to a teenager.
If they start dieting at an age that young it won’t make them better looking, healthier, or even slimmer. Chances are they probably end up fatter, unhealthier, and screwed up.
I really hate it that this world is tending to a beauty standard that is unobtainable for most of us. I hate it that being a certain body size, and shape has been become the one indicator for being attractive, happy, and healthy. And I really, really hate it that my beautiful son, this charming, intelligent, witty, and funny 9 1/2 year-old thinks he’s ugly and fat.
Yes, I wish I were slimmer too. I have become pretty fat myself in the past few years. I would like to fit into size 10 pants, really. But I can also tell you that there are many, many things in the world worse than being fat. And that being fat does not equal being stupid, or a loser, or unlovable, or even unattractive. Yes, advertising and magazines are telling us so. But every single one of them wants us to feel bad so they can better sell us things, and ideas. They don’t want us to be happy the way we are because happy people don’t buy as much.
So I myself have been concentrating on becoming as strong, and fit, and healthy, and happy as I possibly can. And to find clothes that fit the body I have instead of pining for the size 10 jeans.
For my son we have talked, and keep talking. And I will have a stern talk with my mother-in-law later. And we are trying to help him lose the “have to have sweets after every meal”-habit that my mother-in-law installed, and help him to go outside and run around a little more. Because those are good things regardless of how big or small someone is.
I’m really, really pissed, I don’t know if you can tell. And I’m also sending you to the “Dances with Fat“-blog again, and to the concept of health at every size because obviously it needs repeating.