Should I say anything to my brother about my overweight nieces?

My brother and I have a pretty good relationship. He is 2 years older than me, and he has beautiful twin daughters (my only nieces, who I adore) who are 9 years old. They are getting “chunky.” One has always been a little heavy, and the other wasn’t. Now they both are. They are active (soccer, dance and other activities) and healthy. But they have bellies that are more than “baby fat.”

Backstory: I am, and have almost always been overweight. It sucks being a fat kid. My mother never really had a handle on the whole nutrition thing. Eating was a sign of health in our family. My brother’s weight fluctuated, but he was more of an athlete than I and kept it off better. I grew up dealing with the taunts and fat jokes. I dealt with it but it sucked, and if I can do anything to prevent them from growing up that way I think I should.

I have seen how my nieces eat at their home. They eat what they want, and are given donuts, and candy, etc. when they prefer it over healthier choices. But I don’t live there, and I don’t see what happens on a daily basis.

I know it’s not my place. I have 2 kids and I hope I would listen to someone I love if they had some advice, but I know how easy it is to become defensive.

So, do you think I should bring it up or let them raise their kids as they fit?

Not your business. Don’t say anything.

Absolutely. I am sure he is aware and your input will not be appreciated.

Another vote for not saying anything. Even if your brother doesn’t get defensive, it may make him feel like he’s a less-than-adequate parent. I had a minor meltdown over the weekend with my two (childless) sisters, whom I love dearly, but who are constantly giving me advice on dealing with my son’s “not up to his potential” performance in school. I felt overwhelmed, not supported. :frowning:

In my lay opinion, the fact that they are active and get regular exercise takes them off the endangered list. Children need more than a maintenance diet – they’re expected to grow, and even the underachievers never disappoint. The activity level is key. Fat people who do move are healthier than thin people who don’t eat, usually.

I applaud your concern, but I’d also approve your discretion. Your last question kind of gave it away: when should you not let other people raise their kids as they see fit? Certainly not when you think their nine-year-old daughters are carrying a few too many pounds around the waist: that’s what television and fashion magazines are for, and they’ll do their damage soon enough.

If, against the odds (and right now it is), they end up struggling in adolescence with weight issues, that’s when you might inadvertantly become a role model for them. Be a good one by living your life well, without judgment and guilt and the baggage of other people’s expectations. If you manage to reduce your weight, see if you can do it without proselytising – your example will be more effective that way.

I vote for voicing your concerns. I’m sure you can come up w/ a good way to bring up the subject. Start w/ “I was overweight and it sucked” and try to get him to bring up your nieces. I wouldn’t say anything starting w/ “You should…” but just “being fat isn’t good” comments. Make it (and keep it) about the kids.

I would vote for not saying anything just yet.
Lots of kids around that age tend to get a bit chunky just before growth spurts. It’s like their body is storing up it. They grow ‘out’ for a bit and then grow ‘up’ and it all evens out.

When you were a "fat kid’ would you want your uncle to point it out to your father? A

Anyone can make an observation. What’s your advice?

I know you mean well, but imho, the answer to you question is without a doubt is NO.

As you said. It’s not your place.

Body fat is such an emotional issue. In our heads, it’s not really a health issue, although that’s what we say. It really turns into life-style choices, family dynamics and social problems. The reasons for over-weight children are as numerous as the families they come from.
I work for HeadStart, Health division. I get to tell moms/dads/fosterparents that their adorable child is overweight and my approaches vary widely. I consider myself lucky that my personal emotions and family traditions don’t directly play into what I have to tell these people, although I try to incorporate their individual situations. And I always offer personalized nutrition plans, education and support. I am clear: this is not a criticism, this is a fact. This is not my personal opinion, this is a fact. Here is my criteria. Here are the measurements. And here is a plan.
This is a personal issue for you. Being a fat kid sucked for you. You don’t want that for your nieces. Love motivates you.
You also said they seem healthy and are active. Unless you have a plan that might work for that family, I don’t see what it is you have to offer…
Cyn, RN

Say something if they become extremely over weight, as in they can’t breath and have other health problems. Don’t confront your brother otherwise. You can try to control what they feed on, if you have them for a day, but that’s about it.

If they are active and they want to stay active, they’ll make the right choices as they go through life. If their weight affects their soccer skills, they’ll figure it out.

Sometimes when a parent lays down the law on something, the plan backfires and it leads to an over-abundance of partaking - whether it be food, video games, tv, drugs or cleaning up your room.

My sister’s kids are slightly overweight. But I would never say anything about it because 1) my sister has eyes and 2) it’s not going to do anything but create tension between us.

Actually, my eldest niece used to be a lot heavier than she is now. She recently hit a growth spurt and it’s all starting to spread out now. I’m betting when she gets into high school, she’ll be more curvaceous than fat. What you might be seeing is a temporary phase.

The most diplomatic solution is to model good behavior.

Here’s why I wouldn’t say anything: 9 year olds overwhelmingly get fat. She’s going to do it again at 11 and perhaps again at 14 or so. They get fat about a year before each growth spurt. I’ve watched dozens of kids do the same thing, and every single time it shocks me how they pork up before shooting up.

Telling a kid, especially a girl, that she’s getting fat just before puberty could be devastating. Wait until they’re done growing or they become medically at risk (asthma, shortness of breath, etc.). Anything else is very likely to grow out as they grow up, especially if they’re as active as you say.

But absolutely be a good model for them. When they’re over, have them help you cook healthy meals and get outside and be active with them. Let them see you consider an extra helping and decide not to, or choose fruit over pastries for breakfast. Let them see that you make active decisions to stay healthy, it isn’t something that just happens.

I want to thank everyone for their responses and good advice. I got some good education (especially about the growth spurts, etc.) and I will keep my mouth shut.

Thank you.

I disagree.

I said something in nearly the exact same situation (sister rather than brother and the nieces aren’t twins). I wasn’t a jerk about it. I didn’t chastise my family (my parents also help raise the girls. My brother in law is there too but he has a lot less to do with the day to day rearing of the girls.

You don’t have to say “You’re doing it wrong” just say you have some concerns.

I’ll echo what was said upthread. My niece was always a very strong looking girl. She wasn’t fat by any means, but was just…well…strong looking. Then at about age 9 or 10, she really started gaining weight. Her mother had been a fat kid and had all sorts of fears for her daughter. The kid is now on the swim team, is one of the best ones, is 13 and has grown about a foot. She’s absolutely fabulous…and back to her strong looking self.

I’m kind of pondering my description of her. It seems we don’t have much room between waif and obese. I was thinking of using “sturdy” but that isn’t quite it, it sounds too big. The phrase “powerfully built” doesn’t do it much either, cause she isn’t ripped with muscles. Anywho, she grew out of it.

Unfortunately, many, many kids don’t grow out of it, but they do seem active and that is a plus. If it is just growth spurty weight, they’ll grow and if it isn’t, they will sure get a lesson from the other kids, as you well know. Now, nutritionally, you may have a leg to stand on especially if there is excessive junk food consumption.

I came in here to mention this, but Whynot beat me too it.

Our son is 9 and husky. Husky in the sense that normal clothing from the stores don’t fit him, but he is not a shrimparoony, like his friends. Finding button pants for him is impossible that fit. He will be a barrel chested goof like his father. Think village blacksmith.

He is very active in football ( practice two hours a night, four-five nights a week.) and don’t eat sweets. He is, with his uniform on, 97-100 pounds.

All his puny little no-body fat friends are about 60 pounds and look like scarecrows next to him. They have muscle definition in their arms and bodies and run like the freakin’ wind while our precious little boy plods along at the speed of a draft horse.

It does bother my son that he looks different from the other boys, but the fact that he can pick up with each arm, one of his friends and haul them somewhere else or wrestle them to the ground with just his weight is starting to compenstate for their parents poor genetic choices of marrying puny weaklings.

He’ll be very hard to kidnap. besides the fact that he is showing sides of my DNA and becoming sarcastic.

His sister, OTOH, is about 45 pounds of no-fat, would live on sweets if she could and hasn’t found her sport yet.

When I was still living in the same city as my brother and his family, we occasionally had a few awkward moments when they came over for dinner.
All my nephew (chunky but not fat, plays soccer) really eats is carbohydrates, so he would eat nothing but bread and rolls. And of course, dessert.
If he asked for more bread,I made a comment or two about this, but mostly I tried to avoid confronting the kid or his parents about it. They know what the deal is.
My nephew is just like his dad: a picky eater who loves carbs. My brother learned to eat other foods, is stocky but not fat, and gets plenty of exercise.

One factor that I neglected to include in my OP is that the girls were preemies and spent the first weeks of their life in incubators. When they came home from the hospital they were teeny-tiny and wore monitors for some time (I forget what for.) I know this isn’t terribly uncommon, especially for twins, but I think in some way it is related to my brother and SIL’s attitude about their eating. It was very important that they were good eaters in order to put on necessary weight in their first years. Granted, this was a long time ago, but I think they kind of slid into a pattern of being happy that the girls were healthy and not being too concerned about what they ate.

Now that they’re older I fear they may still be in the mindset of “they’re healthy, let them eat what they want.” So in some way the idea that has been put forth in previous posts that they, as parents, obviously see what the girls look like, etc., may be slightly skewed in this case.

My mom was a (somewhat) typical Jewish mother who cooked for an army when there were only four of us, and encouraged us to clean our plates. I don’t recall anyone ever trying to put me on a diet or change my eating habits at that age, and in retrospect, I wish someone would have intervened.