Although weight in childhood is not really a good predictor of adult weight, there are a few easy steps you can take to ensure that your chubby child grows into an even chubbier adult. Now, I know what you’re going to say: Don’t each of us have a natural set-point that our bodies are programmed to achieve? Might my child be fat even if I don’t do anything to encourage it? And yes, that’s true, but through modern science, and dietary and parenting methods, we’ve discovered how to make biology work for us in our quest to fatten our kids up for the long haul. Here are some tips and tricks.
Tell your child when they are hungry, when they are not hungry, and just how hungry they are
The nice thing about this trick is that you can begin practically from birth! It’s important from the outset to control when and how much they eat. If your baby turns away from the spoonful of carrots, use the choo-choo or airplane method to shovel in a few more bites. If you have a picky preschooler, be sure to punish them for not cleaning their plate. And when your child whines that they are hungry after dinner, make it clear to them that you know they aren’t—they just ate! The goal here is to disconnect the child from their inner hunger/satiety signals so that they eat almost entirely in response to external cues-a true see-food diet!
Tip: This can be used on thin children as well! Spend the first few years making them eat more than they think they want, then switch to restricting their food once you’ve fattened them up a bit.
*Bonus points for encouraging grandparents, uncles, and aunties to comment on food choices.
Make the tastiest foods super-duper special
Here again, control is important. Have treats often enough that the child gains a taste for them, and make a big deal out of them when they are served. It’s good if the kid has to earn the treat by eating plenty of vegetables first, or by having good table manners, or perhaps even by performing physical exercise (We want them to do this as an adult, right? Why not start now?). Be sure not to serve them too often, though, because if they lose that special feeling, kids just don’t have the same desire to stuff as many cupcakes as they can into their faces when they are available. Make sure they have time to forget the tummyache between servings, too, or else they might start eating fewer treats to avoid another one.
Tip: Hide treats. The children always find out, and then they know that they can’t be trusted around such foods, and they may even start hoarding/hiding treats themselves to eat in secret!
*Bonus points for punishing one sibling by giving their treat to another.
Talk about weight as much as possible
I know this may seem counter-intuitive, but if you really want your child to grow up fat, it’s important to make comments about your weight, the weight of strangers and celebrities, and eventually the weight of the child. Just a light ‘Boy, she’s put on a few pounds’ here and there, a few complaints that you can’t fit into your cheerleading outfit/wedding dress/last year’s swimsuit, that sort of thing. Be sure you have a scale in the house, preferably displayed prominently in the most-used bathroom. Again, I know this seems like it’s opposite what we want, but the goal is to make the child afraid to grow bigger.
Tip: For a particularly stubborn case, don’t be afraid to sign up for mommy-child Weight Watchers meetings. This will provide more weight obsession than you could manage on your own. The support really helps!
*Bonus points for laughing at fat jokes in front of your kiddos. Studies show this kind of shame can cause weight gain, exercise avoidance, and even lead to binge-eating!
Make the most of clothes shopping
Whether back to school shopping, summer shopping, or just a random trip to Target, clothes shopping provides a multitude of opportunities that you just don’t want to pass up. I recommend always starting with clothes that are a bit smaller than you think will really fit the child, then you can make a big deal out of getting the larger size for them. Word things carefully, too. It’s not ‘Goodness, these pants are cut narrow,’ it should be, ‘Well, your round bum just isn’t made for these pants.’ If you start this early enough, then even through adulthood your son or daughter will remember that their body is the problem, not the clothes (see previous tip for why we’re using this kind of reverse-psychology).
Tip: Take Grandma with you—she’s bound to be full of helpful advice!
*Bonus points for trying on your own clothes using the same methods.
Encourage the diet attempts
Girls are beginning to diet earlier and earlier, and that’s working for us here, not against us! We now know that the more diets you try, the fatter you ultimately become. If they wait until they’re in their teens, or even adulthood, to start dieting, they’ve wasted years of prime metabolism-killing time! This is where the last two tricks really come into play.
Tip: If your kiddo hasn’t voluntarily started dieting by age 9 or so, it might be time to take things into your own hands. This summer, make dieting a game with fun charts and stickers—it could even be a whole-family project!
*Bonus points for keeping diet food in the pantry. Make dieting convenient for your child!
Compare, Compare, Compare
Comparison is a great way to pile on shame. And if you have more than one kiddo, then you are in possession of the Easy Button, my friend. Every meal is an opportunity to point out who ate more, and then there are clothing sizes to compare, school pictures, and so on. Make it a competition, but also keep them guessing by switching up which kid you’re implying is better. If you only have one child, use cousins or playmates for comparison purposes.
Tip: Use yourself for comparison purposes, too! ‘When I was your age…’ is always a crowd pleaser.
*Bonus points for comparing kids in your conversations with other adults, while the kids might overhear.
Obviously I can’t cover every possible method here in this blog, but I hope the above has encouraged you to make the most of everyday opportunities. We don’t get to choose our DNA, but doing these things are virtually guaranteed to raise the weight set-point of any child. Good luck!