Mom Asks For Advice After Overhearing Her Grandma Comment On A Child's Weight — 'She Did This To Me All The Time & It Hurt My Self-Esteem'

Experts are clear that making an issue of a child's weight does far more harm than good.

young girl worried about her weight Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock

Thankfully, perceptions of weight and obesity are slowly changing for the better, even in medical circles. But that doesn't mean these forward-thinking perspectives are the majority — far from it. Particularly among older generations, when it comes to weight issues in children, attitudes are still very much stuck in the past.

A mom on Reddit recently experienced this with her elderly grandmother, and it's left her wondering how to handle it while simultaneously reliving her own trauma about weight.


The mom is unsure how of what to do after overhearing her grandma comment on a child's weight.

Experts have been clear for decades now: Making an issue of a child's weight does real and lasting harm. Even when it is well-intentioned and rooted in genuine concern about health and well-being, comments can spark lasting shame and body-image issues. 

Suffice it to say, this mom's grandma missed that memo. "I heard her saying something about my little cousin [whom] I absolutely adore," she wrote in her Reddit post. "Something like 'X is a little big for her age, isn't she?'"


"I ignored her comment," she went on to say but added that she "actually felt a bit of a protective rage" rise up within her. "I am not sure what to do about it."

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Her grandma used to comment on her weight as a kid, and she's worried about children in her family suffering the same trauma.

"My grandma commented on my weight all the time to my parents," the mom wrote. But though her intentions were pure, it has done lasting damage. "I know it was out of concern and love, but it really hurt me and my self-esteem."

She went on to explain that her little cousin is only "a little overweight," and she doesn't even see it as a problem. "It's not a matter … of what the parents are feeding her because her older siblings are all a normal weight," she wrote, "and I do not think her eating habits are of concern."


In any case, she believes her grandma is wrong for making the comments — even if the girl's weight was "dangerous." 

Now pregnant with her first child, the incident has the woman considering how to protect her child from this kind of hurt in the future.

Experts say commenting on a child's weight doesn't help and can do lasting and dangerous psychological harm.

Mental health and even many medical experts are clear: Making an issue of a child's weight is not only unkind and hurtful but downright dangerous. It can inspire damaging issues of shame that can cause lifelong mental health issues, as well as life-threatening eating disorders.

A 2017 study found that comments about weight from parents — including positive ones — result in a negative body image as an adult, even if the person is thin.


More importantly, it puts kids at a much higher risk of developing unhealthy dieting, binge eating, and other eating disorders, which have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.

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Adding to the danger is the somewhat absurd fact that comments on weight actually have the opposite impact than what is intended: That same study found that comments about weight resulted in a higher body mass down the road. In short, commenting on your child's fatness is likely to make them fatter.


These dangers should be reason enough to keep mum about a child's size, but even more is the fact that the supposed link between fatness and poor health has been found to be shaky at best.

For instance, a 2012 study of more than 40,000 people found that what actually indicated poor health was not their weight but their fitness levels — obese people with a high level of fitness had better metabolic health than "normal" weight people with poor fitness levels. Other studies found similar conclusions even when controlling for things like smoking and alcohol consumption.

Redditors urged the mom to calmly explain to her grandmother why it's important not to comment on a child's weight.

For these and myriad other reasons, the mom's fellow Redditors urged her to talk to her grandma — especially those who, like her, had suffered from comments about their own weight as children, too.

"You say, 'I appreciate your concern, but her doctor isn't concerned, so we aren't either.'" one commenter suggested. Nobody owes anybody else a justification for their body.

@yourtango When a man's family had some not-so-nice things to say about his girlfriend, he shut that noise down and stood up for his partner #couplegoals #hesakeeper #family #reddit #aita ♬ original sound - YourTango

Others urged her to set firm boundaries if her grandma refused to listen and refrain from making comments. One mom wrote that her mother-in-law is so obsessed with her kids' weights that she "weighs them every time they're over" and records their weight in a notebook. "Now she's not allowed alone with the kids because she didn't understand how harmful it is."

It may seem drastic, but the science is clear: Weight isn't always correlated with health, and even when it is, the comments do far more harm than good. It isn't worth the risk, and no child deserves the hurt it causes.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.