A child sitting at a pool with a shirt on

Family Health

My Son’s Pandemic Weight Gain Has Made Him Self-Conscious About His Body

Nov 17, 2021

Growing up in a Black household while living in a white neighbourhood came with a variety of challenges. Whether it was "weird" foods like canned corned beef and rice for lunch, or hair that didn’t move in the wind — there were ways to remind me of my differences at every turn.

Physically I knew I was different from my peers — and not just in skin tone, but in body type. I had a buxom chest and baby-making hips by the time I reached puberty. None of the girls in my class looked like me. So while they got to wear the crop tops and short shorts, I was relegated to oversized T-shirts and clothes that never quite fit.

It didn’t help that my mom generally blamed me for the state of my body, like I was the one doing the grocery shopping and cooking. So when I became a parent, I swore I would do everything in my power not to give them a complex about their body. I didn’t realize how hard that was going to be.

This mom was worried certain comments could be giving her child body image issues, so she changed how they discussed health.

A Growing Palate

My son is a ball of energy. If he could be outside playing all day, he probably would. At least that was before the pandemic and the magnetic field that is screens.

Like many parents, I swore up and down that my child would never eat junk food, never watch TV and never have access to tablets. While I was able to introduce him to a wide variety of foods from South Asia to the Caribbean as a toddler, once he hit a certain age — and became able to voice his displeasure succinctly — his palate changed from worldly to food chain kids' menus.

I knew I was to blame for this. Sometimes you go with what you know will result in the least amount of fighting and the most amount of food ingested. But I always balanced it out with healthy foods and snacks, so I thought it was OK. He also had recess and outdoor spaces to play.

Effects of Lockdown

Summer 2020, I took a snapshot of him walking ahead of me. Carrying his ball in one hand, he was skins while I was shirts on the basketball court. He was growing in height, and it was still early in the pandemic.

A year later, we went to a splash pad, and he didn’t want to take off his shirt. He was self conscious of the weight he had put on over the year of no outside time, sports and physical activity. Once again, I felt pretty guilty. Had I not done enough to balance the screen time and constant parade in and out of the kitchen? Clearly not.

Encouraging Pre-Pandemic Habits

How do you have a conversation about ballooning weight knowing what awaits kids who have meat on their bones? I was careful not to blame him or call him names — I watched my words. Our landlord installed a basketball net, so he had easy access to his favorite sport and some physical activity — the difference in his energy level and mobility was stark.

I believe a consequence of two years of educational disruption is that kids are seeking something to control. If nothing else, he could dictate what he eats for snacks while I’m on Zooms, and trying to catch up on sleep. With so much upheaval, is it any wonder some kids would seek comfort in food? It's not much different from how some adults cope.

This dietitian and mom advises against putting kids on diet, she suggests these five things instead.

In the end, this issue — like life — is about balance. And mirroring the behaviours we wish for them to emulate. It can be as simple as finding something we like to do together, going for a walk and purchasing a smart watch that tracks steps and movements (they make low-priced kid versions). It can be like a family challenge for each day. And of course, finding ways to incorporate more fruits and veggies into both our lives.

But most importantly, I need to be kind. Their little minds, bodies and spirits have been through a roller-coaster in the last two years and there’s a lot of catching up to do. it's time to strive for healthy kids both inside and out.

Article Author Tanya Hayles
Tanya Hayles

Read more from Tanya here.

Tanya Hayles is an award-winning event planner and creative storyteller, using various mediums to evoke emotions, create change and magnify moments. She spends most of her days turning ideas into reality through rsvp + co. where event planning is not just what she does, it’s who she is. By night, she is the founder of Black Moms Connection, an online global village of 14,000 and non-profit providing culturally relevant programs and resources to educate and empower the Black mother and her family. Tanya is also a contributing writer at ByBlacks.com.

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