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Reality Check: Overweight Obsession

Q. For some reason, my 3-year-old says she's fat. How do I get her to stop obsessing over her size?

Don't fret just yet -- your daughter may not even know what the word "fat" means, so she may be playing at an obsession she doesn't actually have. Start by finding out where on earth she got this idea. Perhaps she saw something on TV, or maybe her friend made a random comment. Whatever the reason, now you need to pull double duty to make sure this preschool parroting doesn't become a real issue.

This isn't an easy thing to do in our diet-obsessed culture. I admit that for a while Nick and I set such a tone in our home  -- we latched onto no-carb diets and weighed ourselves twice a day, cursing under our breath because the darn needle refused to move.

We didn't notice this was affecting our Mari, who runs on a track team and is the healthiest 7-year-old we know  -- until, that is, we saw her hop on the scale and lament that she'd gained two pounds. Nick and I gave ourselves a mental lashing and then got busy letting her know that she's just fine the way she is (and that when you're 7 years old, you're growing and therefore are supposed to gain weight!).

Keep the conversation with your daughter nice and simple. Tell her you love everything about her from her pretty hair to her cute toes. Show her pictures of other people and explain that they're all shaped differently and that none is better than the other. Then remind her  -- and the rest of the family  -- that you all eat right and exercise not to get thin but to be healthy. That, after all, is what we want for our children, no matter what their shape.