Don’t Call Her Chubby

Don't Call Her Chubby | Houston Moms Blog

I dread swimsuit season. However, I am completely fine with my appearance. It’s my daughter I worry about.

Every summer without fail, someone comments about her body. And she’s only five.

The first time this happened, we were at a resort when another mom said rather loudly to her husband, “It’s such a shame to see little kids who are so chubby.” Her child and mine were the only ones on the splash pad, and by the way she examined my daughter as she jumped by, I knew who she was referring to.

But chubby? Sure, my daughter – who at the time was only two years old – topped the growth chart in weight, but she was at least on the growth chart, and after the resort incident, her pediatrician reassured me she was not obese. I still insisted on a thyroid test, and her levels came back fine.

I did, however, leave the doctor’s office with a healthy-eating guide, which to be honest, annoyed me. Why? Because my family already eats healthy. After I was diagnosed with thyroid disease seven years ago, our household committed to eating whole and organic foods before our children were born. We rarely buy anything pre-packaged and always have fresh fruits and vegetables available for snacks.

Yet despite our best eating habits, my daughter always has tended toward the higher percentiles on weight. Meanwhile, our son eats the same foods but usually weighs average or slightly below average. Both of our children have healthy appetites, and neither would be considered picky eaters.

So perhaps my daughter is just supposed to look the way she does; not all children are built thin. Maybe she takes after me. I started life on the higher end of the scale, and my height and weight eventually evened out about the time of junior high school.

I don’t think her weight is a result of anything my husband and I are doing as parents, but for some reason, the topic comes up as regularly as potty training or sleep training in parenting conversations. I understand when moms are asking for feeding or nursing advice, but more often than not, they bring up weight solely for the purpose of comparison’s sake.

Every summer, some mom will undoubtedly ask how much my daughter weighs, and then make a remark like, “Oh, my daughter just can’t keep the weight on. All of her clothes practically fall off,” or on the other extreme, “My daughter has always been a little chubby too.”

Really? I’m sure that same mom would be flabbergasted if I outright asked how much she herself tipped the scale.

But the weight of children, for some reason, is regarded differently. Our society’s emphasis on weight begins at birth. Nearly every birth announcement includes length and weight statistics, but it’s not like those numbers vary much nor will likely have any bearing on a child’s life aside from comments like, “22 inches? You’ve got yourself a basketball player,” or, “Ten pounds? A linebacker for sure.”

As the years go on, pediatricians continue to track weight, and for good reason – to ensure healthy development. Not for parental comparison.

To avoid such comparisons and comments, I have admittedly found myself choosing swimsuits and outfits to flatter my daughter’s figure. But I shouldn’t have to. She’s a kid. I shouldn’t have to be concerned about what some mother might say in front of her.

Thanks to such comments made by peers, friends, and even family, I spent a good chunk of my teenage and early college years dieting and teetering along the line of what some might consider anorexic. I don’t want my daughter to go through that kind of body-image scrutiny. As her mom, I’m trying to do everything I can to instill confidence in her appearance so when she becomes a teenager or young adult, she can focus on more than just her weight.

At 34 years old, I finally feel comfortable in my own skin, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask to help my five-year-old daughter feel the same way.

9 Responses to Don’t Call Her Chubby

  1. Cinnamon Bender April 17, 2016 at 10:08 am #

    Our sons suffer the same, only more silently. This isn’t a gender-specific issue.

  2. Melinda April 23, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    I hear you, my girls were both very tall for their age. My eldest was taller and looked bigger than her peers, she was actually perfectly healthy but her school friends all just happened to be very small petite girls, so naturally my daughter looked overweight but she wasn’t. Her body shape suited classic style clothing and layers as she wasn’t straight up and down and a string bean.. Unfortunately my eldest heard all the snide remarks and took it on board and so did her peers and they started bullying her, she believed them and lost confidence and did put on weight, so now at 15 she is overweight and struggling to get it off. My kids ate healthy and actually were also teased for never having junk food in their school lunches and because their lunchboxes were packed with healthy choices and fruit… Unfortunately society likes to set our kids up to fail and its the adults that teach the bad habits that encourage bullying and bringing down of others… I hope you find away to shield your daughter from the negativity and encourage her to believe in herself despite what others say. xx

  3. Yasamin April 25, 2016 at 2:05 pm #

    I agree. As a mother, I don’t think it’s right to have to justify your child’s weight, over or under. You wouldn’t want me to ask your weight and then say you’re big or too skinny? So why say that about a child?

    My daughter is 10 months old and I always get comments, how much does she weigh, what percentile is she, oh she’s so big, what are you feeding her, and on and on. It’s frustrating for me because I don’t think it’s anyone’s business but my family’s. Yes, she’s bigger, but she’s also taller 90% percentile, but it doesn’t matter because she is healthy and happy and I would hate it if she actually understood the comments.

    So I get it and agree 100%, children shouldn’t be subjected to other mom’s judgement.

  4. maggie April 28, 2016 at 11:41 pm #

    I so understand.. however, my daughters weight or lack there of was a constant pain in the ass for her and me to defend.. Yes she is very thin, Yes she is eating.. No she does not need to go see another Dr. For crying out loud.. She was healthy, energetic, and happy, Until they were .. you must be anorexic.. NO she just had a liver imbalance that made it hard for her to put weight on and keep it on.. Those who are on the other side of the scale.. the 10% percentile get it just as bad as those who are on the 90th.. It is a battle. We just need to tell our daughters and yes our sons.. that if your healthy, happy, and energetic.. That is where it should be left.

  5. caroline April 29, 2016 at 2:26 am #

    my little girl is 5 and has went to a new centile when she got checked at school. so they put her on the overweight simply because her weight went up but not her height. she does suffer with a slightly larger tummy but always has. she is stocky just like me but we eat healthy she gets 1 treat in the genius and gets outside as much as the weather permits. so much pressure put on parents and children these days

  6. Agnieszka Freda April 29, 2016 at 3:08 am #

    If you ever have any doubts about you doing the right things please read ‘Why do we get fat’ book. It is eye opening and completely changes the conception of why some people look the way they do. We as a society are so judgmental… and for decades we have been blaming the obese people for their lack of self control, because of the calories it/calories out theory, which is so wrong! We are all very different and our genetic do decide a great deal what type of metabolism we have and how we look like.On the other hand we have been cheated into believing that fat is bad, while sugar is the hidden devil (I do write my own popular science blog myself, here is the link if you wanted to have a look http://www.desciencethescience.com). Not saying that you are feeding your kids sugar 🙂 After doing some of my own research, being 35, I felt as if someone had just told me that Earth is going around Sun 🙂

    I have a 5 year old girl, and now I even cringe at the fact that people keep on telling her how beautiful she is or looks like. No one says that to my 1,5 year old boy, he is ‘clever’, ‘bright’, ‘happy’, ‘cute’… As a society we have got so much to learn

  7. Chere April 29, 2016 at 6:42 am #

    Adults can be incredibly rude towards children. My eldest has always been much shorter than other children her age. Her feelings were often hurt by adults exclaiming how small she is or guessing her age at 3years younger than her actual age. Now at 10, she just proudly tells them that she is not small, just fun sized. 🙂

  8. writer April 30, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

    I am so glad I am not the only mom going through this. Thank you so much for your encouraging words. As a society, I do think we need to be conscious of how our comments affect children presently and later in life. We aren’t all made to look alike, so we shouldn’t expect all children to fall into some sort of norm, and this does go for boys as well as smaller kids or thinner kids or taller kids too. It is my wish we could just move past this and embrace children for who they are. It is one thing for a kid to eat unhealthy and deal with weight issues because of that, but it is another thing to judge a mom and her child just because the child falls slightly outside of the norm.

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