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Mommy, am I fat? What to do if your child is overweight

12 Mar 2015 – 02:25 PM EDT

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We all know childhood obesity is a problem in the United States. Michelle Obama has made overweight children her mission with the “Let’s Move” program designed to encourage physical activity and healthy nutrition choices. Mrs. Obama isn’t the only one working to keep kids healthy – even Cookie Monster is trying to set a better example. The classic “Sesame Street” character no longer fests on “cookies, cookies, cookies” all day long. He now sticks with healthier options like baby carrots and enjoys cookies as a treat – a “sometimes food.”

Knowing childhood obesity is a problem and accepting that your own child is overweight are two very different things, though. So what do you do if your child comes to you and asks, “Mommy, am I fat?”

Ponder “What makes you ask?”

Did they see something on TV? Are they learning about healthy bodies at school? Did a friend make a harsh comment? Knowing where the question is coming from is important in answering it. It also gives you time to think.

Is your child overweight?

Don’t automatically answer, “Of course not!” Take time to consider their question and listen to their concerns. If your child is overweight or in danger of putting on excess pounds, sweeping it under the rug won’t make the problem go away. If your child is clearly in a healthy weight range, it’s important to try to figure out why they are worried and make sure they know you hear those concerns. Glossing over the question could lead to excessive weight gain, self-esteem issues or eating disorders down the line.

Bring in a professional opinion.

If you aren’t sure where your child is on the healthy weight chart for their age and height, schedule an appointment with the pediatrician. Tweens and teens are more likely to listen to a professional than their parent anyway. The doctor will tell you and your child the truth and offer advice on maintaining or losing weight if needed.

I’ve been asked the very uncomfortable question myself. I knew my daughter felt “fat” and was suffering from poor body image. She finally asked me if I thought she was overweight. I realized she needed me to stop brushing it off and take action. We made an appointment with her pediatrician who made healthier nutrition and exercise suggestions. We’ve been eating better and working out together. She’s slimming down and her confidence is going up.