5-year-olds on a Diet

Sometimes people ask me why I do this.  I work in Hollywood.  Writing a blog doesn’t really pay all that well.  And it can be a solitary process at times without a lot of feedback.

But sometimes I come across something that reminds me why.  Like this study which talks about “dietary restraint” (the cognitive restriction of food intake for the purpose of controlling weight) among 5-year-old girls. Five. Years. Old.

At five kids should be coloring and tormenting their older siblings and screaming and playing and dressing up.  They should not be worrying about the size of their thighs.  They should not be counting carbs.  They should not be worrying about fitting into their skinny jeans.

But according to the study, nearly 35 percent of the 5-yr-old girls were displaying “dietary restraint”.  The study points out not only is dieting at age 5 distressing, it is also an important precursor or marker for eating disorders in the future.  And that future might not be very far away for a number of these girls.  The study states:

Despite eating disorders typically emerging during adolescence, cases have been reported in early elementary school children.

The study reviewed the influences that caused these girls to restrict their food intake.  While most of the girls were pretty happy with their body at the moment, over 50 percent showed some evidence that they had taken the “thin ideal” to heart.  And the girls who had clearly taken the thin ideal to heart, that had experienced more media that represented the thin ideal and had more discussions about appearance with their peers, were the girls more likely to be restricting their food intake.

Which leads me to ask some questions.  If we know that BMI report cards are ineffective, and we know that kids are learning behaviors that lead to eating disorders as early as age 5, why don’t we work harder to include body image education into the curriculum–the earlier the better?  Anorexia is deadly and notoriously difficult to treat.  Why don’t we put some real, sensible, research-based curriculum in place at the earliest possible age to help these kids not develop this problem?  And since adults who hate their bodies are fairly likely to project these feelings onto impressionable children, why don’t we require training for teachers and strongly encourage training for all adults who deal with kids?

We have an opportunity to make a world where girls don’t grow up hating their bodies and hating themselves.  That’s why I write this blog.  That’s what I do what I do.  I add my tiny voice to the growing chorus singing the song stating that we are beautiful, we are worthy of love, we are okay just the way we are.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to hear me talk about body positive at your school?  Click HERE.

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One thought on “5-year-olds on a Diet

  1. twirlybunny

    There’s a similar situation in the UK. If you’re very overweight you can get exercise on prescription. I contacted my local nhs to say I wanted to be registered as a provider ( I’m opening a dancing school and I think dance is a great form of exercise, it focuses on using the muscles of the body, on co-ordination, flexibility and agility – not on calorie counting!) but I was told the children exercise on prescription was run by a local gym. I think this is not only wrong but dangerous. I don’t care how overweight the child is, teaching them to count calories at such a young age is going to lead to serious trouble! Teaching them they can only have a biscuit if they’ve burnt the calories on the treadmill! That’s wrong. I think exercise on prescription for children should be things like dance or martial arts or swimming or gymnastics! Something that concentrates on how you use your body and what it can achieve, not just how many calories you can burn in hour. Don’t suck the fun out of exercise at such a young age! Let them find something they enjoy doing!! Sorry rant over! 🙈

    Reply

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