Child’s health more important than size

By Anita Tedaldi: FNM columnist

A few days ago, my eight year old daughter Luisa burst into tears at the mall and told me that she’s too big.

Luisa knows that she’s overweight, and when she tried on some outfits at the store, none of them flattered her figure.

She was crushed and through tears asked me to help her lose weight, something that I’ve been trying to do for quite some time. I tried to make her feel better and told her that the while the clothes she picked weren’t flattering, we would find something that would look good on her.

For some people, children and adults, losing weight isn’t simply a matter of will, it’s a struggle despite best efforts.

My daughter loves food. Her eyes lit up when she sees or hears about anything that has to do with eating, she’s enthusiastic about broccoli, pasta, fresh bread and sugar free gum.

I often tell her that she’ll become a great chef, that she’s a nurturer, and that she loves to feed people the way we do in Italy. It’s part of her heritage, Italian is practically synonymous with food.

But her food passion doesn’t take away the fact that she’s overweight.

She tends to eat bigger portions than she should, and when I encourage her to eat less, it comes off as a punishment because she sees it as me trying to take something away from her.

And it’s not just the actual eating, there are many factors that play into her being bigger than she should be. There’s a large genetic component with my husband’s family, who have struggled with obesity for years, the constant bombardment of food products and commercials, and her not being naturally active.

I try to be positive, to not make the food and the weight loss a bigger deal than what it is.

I tell Luisa that it’s just a little weight, that it’s something we’re going to do together and remind her that she’s beautiful, that the weight isn’t who she is. It doesn’t define the wonderful girl she’s becoming.

But it’s a struggle.

The afternoon we got home from the mall, (we ended up buying a cute blue shirt and skirt that she liked), Luisa went to get the mail and pointed to the cover of my Shape magazine.

“Mommy, if weight doesn’t matter, why do they all look like her in the magazines?”

To answer her question I tried to separate being healthy and eating well from the image that society perpetuates and that she sees in magazines. I told her that they’re two very different things.

Being healthy, developing her unique qualities and growing into a good and solid person matters, not the size of her shirt and pants.

I’m with my lovely daughter every step of the way as she fights her own battle. I think we’ll take on our healthy diet and society’s stereotypes one at a time.

Maybe we have a chance to win, to do it together and to help her be healthy because it’s good for her not because she needs to look like the cover of a magazine.