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Should I be honest with my daughter?

My 9 yo daughter has the exact same body type I did when I was little. It kills me to see her ask if something she wants will make her fat. (apparently I talk about myself being fat too often) I don't want her to be so focused on her body at such a young age, but if I don't tell her the truth, there is a good chance she will end up overweight like myself, which didn't happen until I was in my 20's. Until then, I was one of those super skinny people who ate whatever I wanted and never gained a pound. Karma! Aside from keeping my mouth shut about my own weight, should I say anything to her? BTW, it's not like I keep a bunch of unhealthy snacks at home. I do keep pretzels and those fruit chew things. She asks about everything she eats.

Fri. Jun 1, 12:16pm

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how about getting some books from the library? books about metabolism, digestion, nutrition? then you can read and learn together.

Friday, June 01, 2007, 12:22 PM

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The only way for her to learn is by you making good choices. They truly do as they see. My 3 and a 1/2 year old asked for a salad the other day because he watches us eat salads all the time.

Friday, June 01, 2007, 12:24 PM

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Maybe let her know that it is not always what she eats, but how much of it. Learning that life is all about moderation, is a great lesson to learn while young. It would also be great to encourage sports & other activities to keep her spirits & confidence up. Doing active things keeps us thinking about all the amazing things our bodies are capable of not just they look.

Friday, June 01, 2007, 12:29 PM

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If she's 9, and skinny, the answer to "will this make me fat?" should probably just about always be "no," or, "not if you only eat a little" - but that response only if it's something really unhealthy. She's still growing, and about to go through puberty in not too long. She needs some fat, etc., to get her through it.

Friday, June 01, 2007, 12:32 PM

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I have a 10 year old daughter and she also has the same body I did at her age....a little chunky! By 12, I had hit a major growth spurt, started my period and was wearing a C cup bra. By 8th grade, I had a total woman's body, I shared clothes and shoes with my mom and was constantly cat-called while out in the yard in my bikini. (I actually found that confusing and I didn't like it one bit.)

I have overheard her friends talking about being on diets (asking about fat free girl scout cookies, etc.) and it both angered and frightened me. My daughter has never said a word. One night, while I was washing her hair in the tub, I said something like "I hope you know that your friends talking about dieting is just plain SILLY! You guys haven't even started growing yet and your bodies are going to completely change!" She said that she knew and it hasn't really come up again.

I should add that for a while, she was eating out of boredom and eating large portions. I stopped buying goldfish, pretzels and fruit snacks and I stock up on a variety of yogurt, fruits, veggies and cheese and healthy crackers. They love fruit smoothies in the blender for dessert. I NEVER talk about diets, calories, being fat, weight loss, etc. in front of her anymore. I leave it at "We are ALL simply eating healthy foods to keep our bodies HEALTHY". We all like to watch healthy cooking shows together and that helps, too. We sometimes buy garbage snacks (organic, baked potato chips) and they do get McDonalds occasionally but nothing like we used to.

My niece is in an in-patient program for anorexia right now, (she's 12), and she almost died from not eating. My daughter has seen how grossly skinny and overall unhealthy looking her cousin is and knows that she got that way from not eating. I pray that she never travels down that road herself.

If my daughter were to ask me if something would make her fat, I would probably answer with a "sure, if you eat the whole box!" Try to keep things focused on health and not weight. A little bit of 'bad things' are fine, everything in moderation.

Friday, June 01, 2007, 12:48 PM

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I think you'll have to tailor your approach to your daughter's personality. Honesty is good, and should be at the core of it. If you seem to be super-cautious talking about something, she will probably pick up on it, and that's just a different way of "making too much of it".
I suggest trying to re-frame those questions when you respond, so your answer advocates doing something that's both good in itself, and something she can personally succeed at now, all things considered. So you might say things like, "That has a lot of calories so it's not something we should have a lot of." But also, try to work it into the context of everyone needing to give some thought to their nutrition and exercise needs as a whole.
I also think it's both valid and helpful to teach that it's normal for people to have to make plans for those things. It's really true for most people at some point in their lives, and it helps steer away from the troublesome idea that dieting or exercising is something you have to do because there's something wrong with you, or as punishment for a moral failing.
As for your own faults - if it's something your child notices and you aren't really likely to be able to turn it off, with a 9 year old I'd think it's about time for you to start acknowledging it openly. I'm not saying you should obsessively self-criticize either, just occasionally and in a moderate way.

Friday, June 01, 2007, 1:44 PM

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No don't say anything, just lead her to make good choices in life by making them yourself and please stop calling yourself fat in front of her, it will likely rub off and she will be on a diet before you know it. She is just a kid!

Friday, June 01, 2007, 1:55 PM

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Support her growth and health

Having lost over 100 pounds myself, I struggle with how to approach food-related issues with my own daughter. What we talk about is if something she's looking at eating will support her growth, help her stay strong and healthy, improve her immune system, help her brain work at school etc. We also follow that up with discussions about how phsyical and mental activity are important habits to develop. There aren't any foods that are off limits, although we do try to limit frequency and quantity of processed foods in particular. I also encourage her to help me plan meals, come up with her own modifications and suggestions for what would help her body feel good today.

Friday, June 01, 2007, 1:58 PM

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maybe you can focus more on how eating certain foods might make her feel, physically, rather than if she'll get fat. you know how certain foods make you more hungry, or bloated, or gassy, or tired, or hyper? instead of paying so much attention to the way she looks, pay attention to how she feels. by the way, my mom constantly spoke about herself and other heavy people with such hatred and disgust. she always commented that she did not want her picture taken, ever. i developed eating disorders very early in my teens and still struggle with my body image and my overall appearance. while i heard a lot that "it's what inside that really counts", i did not get the feeling that anyone really thought that and i did not see that theory put into practice in real life. it's a tough scale to balance, but the fact that you are asking for advice is definitely a sign that you care enough to tackle the issue lovingly!

Friday, June 01, 2007, 2:09 PM

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She's not too young to learn to read labels. I think this is a teachable moment -- you and she can figure out (or ask the doctor for) nutritional requirements of a growing girl, and she can learn to budget and make good choices. Those are life skills!

Friday, June 01, 2007, 2:13 PM

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