It might be different when you have girls, but I’ve never really thought about the way I’ve described N. Or thought about the words I’ve used. If I had a girl I’d always be thinking about phrasing descriptions to avoid fuelling a girl’s worries about her looks or weight. But I’ve caught myself saying to N ‘ooh skinny thing’ or similar, and then stopped to think maybe I need to stop saying things like that.
When I was a child, I had similar comments. My mum always said she was trying to lose weight, and was quite open about how much slimmer she’d been before having children, and then being on various diets. I doubt my mum ever worried about what she said to me as a child.
I often had comments saying how I had hollow legs, and was skinny (I wasn’t skinny, I was just a slim child, but I did eat a lot). I’ve followed my family’s genes in hitting mid 30s and then struggling to keep weight off if I stop exercising and eat what I want.
If I’m dieting, even when I was on a very low calorie diet, I tried to talk about getting healthier rather than needing to lose lots of weight, even though it’s quite obvious. N’s aware but being a boy it’s hopefully harder to relate to how he might be in future, because he’s seeing less of himself in me as he’s a boy. I’m also hoping he takes after the OH’s family who all stay a more stable weight into middle age.
N is like me in certain ways. He’s a grazer when he’s at home or out and about. But at school he obviously manages with just meals, and if I send him in with a morning snack, he won’t eat it. So he doesn’t need to graze, it’s just habit. He’ll eat a lot at meals. But he’s very active (like I was as a child). So I do worry that if he ends up in an office job, he’ll struggle to stop eating the amount he does unless he sticks with being active.
The change from baby to boy
As a baby, N was sturdy. He was on the 95th centile for weight at birth, and rarely moved off that until he got to age 3 and started slimming down. Now at 8 years, he’s very slim without being scrawny. He looks fairly well fed, but has tiny arms and legs, and his ribs are visible sometimes when his top is off. His trousers needs to be pulled right in, and then have lots of spare fabric round the hips because he needs the length of the next size up. Slim fit school trousers are our friend – thanks M&S.
But I’ve realised he doesn’t want to be seen as skinny. He wants to be seen as strong, able to hit a ball a long way, able to swim or run fast. He wants to be fit and healthy.
And that’s a good way to be if it’s all kept in perspective.
I recently checked the children’s height weight charts to see where he now was on them. 25th centile. That’s a big change. But he doesn’t seem to go through huge growth spurts like other kids where they put on weight widthways, before shooting up in height. He just grows (very) slow and steady.
Sometimes he’ll come in and grab my little exercise weights and try and flex his little arms to make muscles. If he’s happy, I’m happy, and I don’t want to burst his bubble that he’s not going to be able to compete with bigger stronger children. He’ll have to work on technique, and gradually he’ll get more muscles. Especially if he helps on the farm as he’s growing up, moving animals or hay bales around.
So it’s my mission to stop mentioning he’s a skinny little thing. Even if I’m thinking it. He just looks like a slim healthy boy, in context with all his friends.
Although maybe I need to get him drinking full fat milk, or higher calorie meals without adding unhealthy food. Find a way to get out of the ‘skinny kids’ thinking.
Do you find it hard not to comment about weight around your children? How do you avoid it and encourage body positivity?