Categories
Bodies

Is There Hope For Fat Kids?

Every once in a while, I meet someone in their 20s who’s been part of the fat positive community since his/her young teens. Often, they found fat pride as a result of a late-night Google search that led them to a blog or two. They often tell me they never(!) dieted and focused on approving of their body from a young age. Sometimes, they even influenced their friends and spread body positivity in school, college, etc.

Marilyn Wann Stand4Kids
Fat Kid All Grown Up! Activist Marilyn Wann Parodies The Strong4Life Campaign

I get so excited when I hear these stories. If fat positivity was reaching kids ten years ago, imagine who it’s reaching now! We could be supporting a whole new generation of kids to practice Health At Every Size ®, to know that dieting is not the answer, to know that their bodies are perfect just as they are!

I think this is definitely happening (and if you’re a young’un who reads this blog, please feel free to comment and say, “hi!”), but at the same time, I feel like there is even more pressure on fat kids nowadays to change their bodies. This is nearly unfathomable to me, because as a kid growing up mostly in the ’80s, I felt so much shame and pressure around my fatness, and it’s hard to imagine it being worse. But according to people who ignore statistics, childhood obesity is on the rise. And rather than look at the real issues, like child poverty, food deserts, and the fact that our fat-shaming society is actually bad for kids and their health, groups like Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta decide to put the onus on fat kids, shaming them for, well, eating, and eating at places that actually donate money to the campaign. (By the way, fat activists have been doing some amazing work to take down the so-called “Strong4Life” campaign. If you’re interested in getting involved, check out this site and this Facebook group. For a quick action you can take, sign the petition.)

As I wrote last week, I would really like to live in a society where fat shaming and discrimination are a thing of the past. I hope to meet more and more young folks (and eventually, older folks) who found body acceptance and HAES® early, felt supported in approving of their bodies, and went on to do great things because body image was never an issue.

One way to support this Body Love Revolution is to support the adults in fat children’s lives. So I’d like to share some tips for the parents/guardians/grandparents/aunts/uncles, etc. out there. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already aware of body positivity and want to instill it in the kids in your life. If you have fat kids, you probably get pressure all the time to do something about their “weight problem.” I can only imagine the pressure you feel. And of course, you only have a limited amount of impact on your kids, since they live in this messed up, fat shaming society too. But here are a few tips just to support you:

1) Demonstrate The Beauty Of Body Diversity – From the beauty industry to the medical industry, we’re bombarded with messages about the kind of bodies that are “good,” “healthy,” and “beautiful.” These categories are often applied to only a tiny segment of the population, and the rest of us are expected to strive to achieve bodies that are more like this ideal. As much as possible, try to show your children that a diversity of bodies is really beautiful. Marilyn Wann’s Fat!So? book is particularly great for this – each chapter features a diversity of arms, bellies, legs etc. to show this beauty in diversity. Whether you’re 7 or 70, it can feel great to have these reminders.

2) Bring Resources With You When You Deal With Authority Figures – There are probably people in your life and your kid’s life who pressure you to get your kid to diet. Diets don’t work for kids or adults, but that doesn’t stop doctors, teachers, etc. from pressuring you to put your kid on one. Having a bit of research in front of you so that you can better advocate for your child can be really helpful. Check out Linda Bacon’s incredibly helpful letters that you can bring with you to help explain why you’re using HAES® with your kids (and yourself).

3) Make Your Home A Body-Positive Space – Think of your home as an oasis from fat shame. What might need to change? Maybe there are a few magazines that idealize thin bodies that you don’t want to buy anymore? Maybe you want to tell your friends that you’re going to change the conversation if they start talking about how “bad” they are for eating something. Maybe your bathroom scale needs to be replaced with something snazzier. Getting intentional about creating a body-positive home environment can be great for you and your kids.

4) Don’t Make Weight Loss The Answer – Despite the fact that fatness makes kids a target for bullying, protecting fat kids from bullying seems to be a low priority. Since you hate to see your kids get picked on, you may think that dieting and weight loss are the answer. But they aren’t the answer. They just set your child up for more physical and mental health issues, including low self esteem and negative body image. I’m no expert on bullying, but the more your remind your child that the bully is wrong and that his/her body is perfect the way it is, the better.

5) Get Body Positive Support For Yourself – I think it’s the rare person who escapes childhood and adolescence without body image issues, whether they’re fat or thin. Fat positive community tends to be welcoming to lots of body types, because people understand that fat pride is about acknowledging that body shaming hurts all of us. So look for blogs and groups (whether online or local) that feel supportive. Also consider talking to a HAES® therapist or coach (like me!) to support you in feeling great about your body.

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. Go to http://www.bodylovewellness.com/free to get your free download – Golda’s Top Ten Tips For Divine Dining! And, please join her and twenty of the biggest names in HAES® and Fat Acceptance at the Body Love Revolutionaries Telesummit (including Marilyn Wann and Linda Bacon, mentioned above)!

3 replies on “Is There Hope For Fat Kids?”

I didn’t have body issues/wasn’t overweight as a child, so I’m just stating that immediately so people know where I’m coming from.
I think it’s incredibly hurtful and counterproductive to shame kids about their weight, when they don’t have a clear understanding of healthy foods/what these foods do/are good for etc, and when they completely lack the ability to make their own food choices. I know I ate what my mom gave us, and it’s not like she provided us with super healthy food either. There was a lot of refined sugar in the house growing up; there still is. And though my mom did provide vegetables, it’s not like they were a huge staple of our diet. And now I’m 27 and I’m still learning about what kinds of foods are good to eat versus what kinds I only THOUGHT were good for me, but not really. It’s very complicated and, I think, dependent on a person’s body and life style.

What also bothers me is that I don’t think there are any parents out there who deliberately try to fatten their kid up. When people talk about obesity, they make it sound like it’s someone’s choice. I think a lot of it might be people who are misinformed about food, but I think people also don’t realize that poverty is a huge issue. If you can’t afford a car, you’re stuck with places like corner stores that don’t provide fresh food. And you’re limited to how much you can buy at a time/how heavy the food is if you’re on the bus, etc. If I didn’t live within walking distance of several grocery stores, it would be a lot harder for me to eat healthy.

I really liked this post. I’m 24 and have only really just started accepting myself as who I am. I really need to do some more reading about HAES to really get it sorted in my mind that my body is not defective or wrong for being the way that it.

#4 is an especially salient point, Golda; that when we tell kids who have been bullied due to the way they look that the way to cope with that bullying is to acknowledge it and change THEMSELVES, rather than take action against the bullies? That’s just wrong! I mean, really. If a girl was being teased for her red hair, would her mom in good conscience dye her hair? What if she had a large nose; would her parents opt for a nose job? What if she was tall; would they tell her to slouch and stay seated more often? Only the most perverse parents would bow to bullying in such a way. The rest would tell their kid that they’re beautiful and should be proud of what makes them different. So, too, with body size.

Leave a Reply