Last week I ran an article about whose responsibility childhood obesity is. It threw out some very interesting thoughts and debate, and one thing that really stood out for me was one mum who came forward with her experience of being obese as a child.
Today, I am honoured to have her speak candidly on the subject of what it was like growing up as an obese child, and how that in turn will impact her own parenting in relation to our collective struggle with childhood obesity. And so now, here is Mum Times Two to tell her story.
As a child I was obese, not morbidly, but enough for it to be a problem. it was a vicious cycle. Being told I wasn’t trying to lose weight enough, feeling bad about myself, being bullied, feeling bad about myself and so on.
When you start school you are subjected to a NHS regulated health and development checks. So at 5/6 years old, a very small child who was just finding her feet was branded obese and sent to a clinic for over weight children.
Now at this clinic, which I attended regularly, I was weighed, and measured, tutted at and told that I wasn’t doing very well. BUT never offered help or medical intervention. I was just sent away, told to do more exercise and eat less. Nobody every checked to see if I had a condition. Or if my eating was caused by anything. I was very sporty, a tomboy who had limited female friends, only interested in playing football with the boys. I played football at a high level, so it wasn’t my fitness. I was also quite mature and always fully engaged in all school activities. This was not favourable and therefore I became victim to quite harsh bullying. This continued through school despite slimming out a bit when I got to secondary school.
This didn’t last though. I had been scarred by this clinic. How very unhealthy eating was in general. I had such a bad relationship with food, and I blame it solely on the way I was treated. It is hard to get these things out of your head when you have had them drummed into your head weekly for 12 years.
Here are some photos – one of me at around 8 years old, one of me at 12, one at 15 and one of me now.
As you can see my weight has fluctuated dramatically from childhood to now. But it is only now that I know that my weight, even as a 5 year old child was caused by an underlying health condition. Not bad diet, not laziness but had this of been discovered by the clinic which made me depressed, even now, then maybe I wouldn’t be so hard on myself when the diets failed. No matter how hard I tried through my life, up until this point, I have been unable to shift a single pound when dieting. No fad diet, no doctor or dietitian led eating program.
I feel that there is a lot of harm in childhood obesity, and those who are really obese and not sick really do have an issue. However parents who encourage children to be fat, or maintain an unhealthy weight in my opinion, are inflicting that child to unnecessary harm. In my opinion it is the same as forcing a child to smoke, or to take drugs. BUT as a child who struggled with weight, and seeing that my parents couldn’t do anything, it was different. Don’t be so quick to judge when you see a fat child, it really isn’t their fault. If you blame anyone in any case, take a look at the parents.
My children aren’t perfect by any means, but if they had a problem the first person I would look at to correct it would be myself. The worst thing you can do to a child’s body image is tell them they aren’t doing enough to correct it when the factors are out of their control.