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Is it OK to put a fat baby on a diet, but not a lean one?

Posted by on Feb 28, 2011 in Blog Posts | 10 comments

Read The flip side of the obesity crisis: How some US parents are putting their babies on diets…

Not news to me.

A few things were missing in my quick reading (I am digging out from a few days of illness…)

1) If the daughter had indeed been larger than average, this mothers efforts would likely have been applauded, even though restricting a child who is lean or fat is damaging. Their seems to be the “tsk, tsk” reaction because the child is already skinny. If the little girl was “obese,” the article would have a different tone, “tsk, tsk! This mom needs to control her daughter’s portions, push fruits and vegetables, limit carbs, and not have the junk food in the house! (In other words, are these feeding behaviors OK for some kids and not others?)
2) The doctors come out smelling like roses, when in fact, many, many doctors are recommending that parents restrict infants and small children. Is it any better if the child is two, and a nutritionist is writing out calorie limits and portion control?
3) This mother’s efforts to spare her daughter from weight and esteem struggles are almost a guarantee that her daughter will have some kind of struggle with eating, weight, esteem. Moms who themselves struggle with food, weight, dieting, disinhibited eating are more likely to restrict their children, and our current hysteria about obesity reinforces this tendency.
4) There was no mention of optimal feeding, analysis of child growth/BMI, of not trying to feed to control weight, of the Division of Responsibility…

As adults, most of our efforts to control, maintain or lose weight-  if it means eating in a way that is designed to eat less than we might want is a diet and is nearly-universally a failure.Why should it be any different for our children?

I’m reading another book about binge eating in adults (review to come soon) and it backs up what I have read in other articles. paraphrase: the earlier someone begins to diet, the more disordered their eating is as an adult. Now we’re talking about 4, 5, 7 month old babies. Argh!


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  1. Kendra (Voice in Recovery)

    1) the blame game is dangerous and not proactive 2) the diet industry is the ONLY one to gain from this fear anti obesity campaign 3) We need to work to CHANGE the paradigm that weigh = health in a strict relationship 4) I fear for our children being raised in this hyper critical weight based ideal society 5) reactive campaigns on ineffective/ we need to focus on HEALTH. 6) All of these info is being weaved in the media in a dangerous way where myths/stigmas/stereotypes are being fed.

    And I am thankful for your posts. Always am mindful of being a critical media and research reader. I too am the same way and have to constantly remind people to really read what is going on and research if there is anything to back this up.

  2. Jennifer

    Why blame the system when we can blame the mom? It’s sooo much easier and it can make the blamers feel so wonderfully superior.

    It should not be a surprise that people are terrified of “producing” obese children and are doing unhealthy things to prevent obesity. The pressure on parents not to produce fat children is pretty extreme. And, I think it starts even before children are born. Pregnant mothers are now expected to prevent obesity in their unborn children.

  3. KellyK

    The thing I didn’t like about the article was that it was very mom-blaming. We blame the mother if the child gains an ounce, then turn around and frame putting babies on diets as *mothers* being over-anxious or unreasonable, rather than admitting that our whole culture is deeply messed up as far as weight and that moms pretty much can’t win no matter what choices they make.

    (Not to minimize how awful it is to starve a kid, just that the society that constantly tells mothers that they’re supposed to make sure their kids stay thin is partly responsible.)

    • katja

      I totally agree. This mom was getting big-time shamed. How dare she diet her baby!? Of course, I was trying to make the point that if the baby was fat, she would be shamed for not doing it enough! The moms can’t win. Almost universally, moms do what they do out of deep, deep love, concern for their child’s well-being. We just, as a society and as professionals need to help parents with real information and support.

  4. Samantha C

    the Childhood Obesity boogeyman is the thing that scares me the most about all of this. I was so lucky as a child, because although I was bullied and unpopular, and although my parents had me on diets and trying to lose weight, I don’t recall being bullied FOR my weight, and I’m old enough to have escaped the emphasis in schools on Healthy (Restricted) Eating and all the stuff that little kids are learning these days.

    I posted on my own blog but I’ll repeat it here – is doing some kind of contest for readers to submit their solutions to the Childhood Obesity Epidemic. I can’t even look at the poster without my stomach turning. I want to write in about stuff like this, I want to write in about the damage that the pressure to Solve Childhood Obesity is doing to real kids, thin and fat alike. I just don’t have the right words to really do so.

    • katja

      I’d love to, but I just can’t tackle that right now. It doesn’t seem like they want nuance, but a “solution” that readers vote on. How many readers will vote for the DOR, or family meals, or not restricting a kid? I don’t know. I just have to put my energies in a place that feels more productive right now. Does that make sense? (I’ve written too many letter, commentaries and comments, editorials that get no response…)

      • Samantha C

        oh absolutely, I didn’t mean to put any pressure on you specifically. I just feel so helpless about it, and I know you have readers who are better-educated than me =)

        • katja

          i WANT to do it, and want to scream all this from the mountain tops, but sometimes it feels like “whistling in a hurricane” as Ellyn says… Let’s all start whistling together… 🙂