Written by Doctor G

Weight Conscious Boy

Tonight, my 7 yo son read a container of milk: “1% fat, mommy. Is that okay? I am trying not to eat anything with fat, to be healthy.” And I died. Now, let me make it clear that he wasn’t parroting this from me. Yes,my partner and I are being very careful with what we eat, only whole proteins and vegetables, no dairy, no gluten, no processed foods, no sugar. It’s been about four weeks now and we feel GREAT. We don’t talk about it overtly, we just cook all the time and add grains and dairy to our son’s dinner but otherwise we all eat the same thing. But enough about us…

How do I deal with my little BOY already articulating things about his diet that could lead to unhealthy behaviors in the future? You hear so
much about little girls and body image, but what about boys? He plays ice hockey and is getting more and more into ballet, and especially in
the second environment I want to instill in him healthy views on food, exercise and body that will grow with him without overreacting to what
could have been just an innocent comment he made.

Allison, in Atlanta, GA

A: Allison, don’t die! You haven’t done anything wrong, and, handled well, this could lead to great conversation with your son.

I hear that you are worried he has internalized already some weight worry. You don’t mention his size so I’m guessing he is not overweight. You and your partner are trying to eat in a healthier way, and that is great.

What should you do when he talks about food content? Answer his questions. Give him facts, as much without good or bad connotations as you can.

It sounds like your bigger concern was when he asked, “Is that OK, Mommy?” You can answer that also. If he is on the thin side, teach him how his body needs fat to grow and build his nerves and brain. If you are worried about his fat content, teach him about the three different kinds of food – fat, protein and carbohydrates – and what our bodies do with each. The USDA just re-created their “food pyramid” (now it is a plate) and have a bunch of kid-friendly information and activities on their website.

If your son showed an interest in dinosaurs, you would encourage his exploration. If – for whatever reason – he has developed an interest in nutrition, nurture that! Teaching him the skills to responsible eating will not give him an eating disorder. In fact, open conversation can help prevent one!

Now, how to avoid eating disorders? Many parents write to me about this concern in the early and middle elementary years, and it is a very important concern. There is no foolproof way. You’re correct to be worried about the environment of the ballet world, just as children in modeling, acting, skating, gymnastics and wrestling have higher incidences of bulimia and anorexia, some at startlingly young ages. But just as kids in these environments may develop critical views of their own bodies, any child may as well.

Parents can’t and shouldn’t be blamed for their children’s disordered body images. That doesn’t mean we can’t be vigilant and responsive to this issue. Research shows that parental vigilance does make a difference. So here are some practical suggestions.

1. Keep your own body image words as neutral as you can. When talking about him, yourself or anyone else, don’t pretend overweight doesn’t exist (then kids will see right through us), but talk about being more fit, exercising more, increasing stamina, playing longer instead of losing weight. And try to avoid body talk about anyone when you can.

2. Talk about what you are eating, not what you aren’t. This helps kids focus on the importance of deciding which foods to eat. Also it helps kids learn about health without focus on avoidance. Any sentence that starts with “I’m NOT eating…” leads to the idea that healthy eating is less eating.

3. Follow the suggestions I lay out here, in my answer to a mom worried about her overweight 7 yo. Even if your child isn’t overweight, these are evidence-based guidelines that will help you prevent overweight and obesity issues in the future.

Allison, I think your instincts are right on target. You want to separate the adult experience of weight and diet from your son’s body image. If you are really worried about his body image, you can ask. “Do you think you are too thin, too fat, or just about right?” His answer will give you great information about what he believes. If his self-image and reality are not in sync, talk to him about it, and talk to his doctor about it too. When you ask such a question you let him know that he can talk to you about anything, and you understand better how to guide him.

Stress to Resilience for Youth, Free Download Cover Mockup

Learn to Help Your Teen Build Resilience​

Help the teen in your life walk through adversity with strength. Download this free PDF to learn the three steps to go from stress to resilience for youth!

2 thoughts on “Weight Conscious Boy”

  1. Thanks for the advice, Doc. I’m battling a 2-front war with weight with my boys. The oldest is a husky, but his middle brother can’t keep any weight on whatsoever. I’m struggling with sneaking one extra calories and feeding the other one low-carb bread. No matter how sly I think I’m being, they’re starting to notice. I don’t want to make a bid deal of their obvious differences, but I’m not sure how to handle.

  2. This is a hard situation for sure. I bet you’re right, though – I bet they both know what is going on. Since that is probably true you can probably show them respect by taking it out of the shadows and talking to each of them (my advice would be alone with each, not together) about their body type and what it needs. This is a good way to teach them responsibility without shame. Keep up the good work!

Comments are closed.


How Can I Help?

A Little Bit About Dr. G

A widely recognized media personality, Dr. G is your go-to expert on resilience. Countless broadcast outlets rely on her contagious humor and illuminating stories to tackle tough topics. She is regularly seen on TV, as well as interviewed for print and digital outlets. Here, she’s answering your questions. Search for the answers you need, or ask her your question now!
Scroll to Top

A Newsletter All About Resilience

Sign up below to join Dr. G’s newsletter and discover how to ‘Do Stress Better’ and tap into the resilience that already exists inside of you.

Ask Dr. G Your Question

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Book Dr. G

Let Dr. G know you’re interested in having her speak. If you’d like to send her a message click here.

  • MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

After pressing submit your forms will be sent to Dr. G and her team. You can expect a response within 1 business day.

Media Inquiry Form

  • MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Insights to Transform Your Stress Into Your Resilience​

Please let us know where to send the Stress to Resilience guide and we’ll send it quick!