Tag Archives: childhood obesity awareness month

The Childhood Obesity Challenge

Uuuuugh!  Well we’re halfway through “Harass Kids About Their Weight Month” otherwise known as “Let’s Build Eating Disorders As Young As Possible Month” or “Childhood Obesity Awareness Month”.  I’ve mentioned before how I feel about this.  I can’t think of any adult or child in this country who is not aware that the dominant culture likes little kids to be thin.  I don’t know of any kids who aren’t aware, by age five or six, that thinner is better.  And this whole month seems designed to amp up the shame felt by larger kids and parents of larger kids to “11”.

This was brought home to me in a very visceral way today as I read a facebook post by a parent who had a negative reaction to being nominated for “The Childhood Obesity Challenge” on facebook.  I have no idea how widespread this “challenge” is.  Apparently a “friend” in this woman’s feed posted an apres workout “sweaty” (that’s a selfie where the folks are sweatin’ y’all) with the following text:

“Another sweaty for (fb friend)’s call to action for childhood obesity. Children learn from example. I will challenge some amazing parents I know to do the same. You all inspire me and make me better.”

Only problem, the parent with the negative reaction had been a fat kid.  She understood the real challenges of being an obese kid in a fat-hating world.  And her kid was also not as thin as some in society deemed acceptable.  And her kid was facing health challenges that made exercise difficult.  Yet there she was, nominated to post a picture of her sweating after a workout to prove to kids they shouldn’t be fat.

Seriously.

Yes, kids do learn by example.  And if we want our kids to be healthy, here are a few options of things we could model:

1.  Let’s choose not to judge by appearances.  You don’t know what is happening in another person’s life by looking at them.  You don’t know if they are healthy by looking at them.  Let’s not make snap decisions about a person’s health or moral worth because of how they look.

2.  Exercise can be fun!  Let’s not ruin exercise by making it about arbitrarily changing our body size.  Let’s make it about getting together and having a great time!  Because sometimes moving our bodies feels awesome!

3.  Exercise can be fun, but it’s not a moral obligation.  And exercise is a whole lot easier for some people than for others.  Let’s decide not to worry about how much exercise other people are doing.  And let’s decide on exercise for ourselves based on our own bodies and how we feel.

4.  Let’s not panic about our body size!  People come in all shapes and sizes.  There are greyhounds in this world and there are pit bulls.  Everybody looks a little different than everybody else and that’s okay.

5.  Let’s not boil down a very complex issue like childhood obesity into some silly facebook game, okay?  Let’s choose to accept that body size is influenced by a wide variety of factors–both inside and outside of our control–and learn to love our bodies as they are.  That way we won’t feel quite so much need to judge other people’s bodies, okay?  (See point #1).

And if modeling points 1 through 5 doesn’t work, we could always model how to fake a sweaty. (A little blush, a little water spritzed on the face and hair and TA DAAAA instant sweaty!)

Or if you want to be more professional about it:

I can’t help but be frustrated by the whole notion of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month as it currently stands.  It’s time for a Childhood Weight Stigma Awareness Month.  During this month we could talk about how to help kids avoid eating disorders, we could talk about how bullying based on size is at record levels, and we could talk about how social media is pressuring kids and parents more than ever to have “perfect bodies” at all times.  That’s a movement I could get behind.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S.  Want to hear me speak with YOUR group about how to teach fitness to kids in a way that isn’t damaging to them?  Book me to speak!

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Talking to Kids About their Bodies

I am sad to say that September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  I cannot see the need for this particular marker.  I don’t know a single adult who isn’t aware that there are fat children in the world.  And the vast majority of them are wringing their hands and worrying about what we should do about it.  Schools are still sending kids home with BMI report cards despite significant evidence that this practice is not only not helpful but is often actively harmful.  And most doctors still tell parents to put kids on a diet when kids vary even slightly from the statistical norms.

Infographic.034-001

And it’s not as if kids are unaware of “the childhood obesity crisis”.  Hospitalizations for eating disorders are up 119 percent among children under 12 years of age.  80 percent of all 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat and 42 percent of all 1st through third grade girls want to be thinner.  Just who is it that remains unaware of a societal desire for kids to be thin?  The whole thing is so deeply depressing I didn’t know how I was going to write about it.  That is until I came across an article somebody posted to Fit Fatties yesterday about a dance teacher working to change the language she uses to talk to kids about their bodies.

Worried about how her words as a dance teacher were affecting the body image of the girls taking ballet lessons, dance teacher Amanda Trusty took several weeks off to work on the language she used in her classes.  Trusty noted that many of the traditional commands from dance class like “tuck in” or “suck in your belly” or “pull in the butt” were not only imprecise, but tended to confirm a societal notion that kids bodies should be smaller and tummies and tushes should disappear.

In her article Amanda says,

I realize now where all my insecurities started. They started in first position at age seven at the barre.

 

And now here I am, 20 years later, catching myself doing the same things to my own seven year old students.

 

Oh, but I refuse. Nuh-uh. No way. I’m a body love advocate. How can I tell my ballerinas to suck it in and tuck it under, knowing how much that shaped my childhood?

So Amanda consciously and thoughtfully worked to change the language with her students.  The new language was not only more imaginative and precise, but also managed to remove body judgement from the equation.  Now rather than telling them to tuck the butt under, she asks the students to imagine they have beautiful tail feathers.  And she asks the students to send their tail feathers down rather than out.  Instead of asking kids to lift their chins, she tells them to imagine they are wearing a beautiful necklace and she asks them to display the necklace to everyone else.

Kids are perfectly well aware that many, many grownups are freaked out beyond all reason that their bodies are not thin enough.  We don’t need a month dedicated to getting adults more freaked out about childhood obesity.  And we don’t need a month dedicated to convincing fat kids that they should not exist, that there is a worldwide movement to eradicate them from the planet.  What we need is a month dedicated to thinking about how we talk to kids about their bodies.  We all need to take a time out like Amanda did, to figure out ways to communicate health and wellness to kids in a way that isn’t damaging to their body image and doesn’t send them charging down the road towards a life of eating disorders.  Now that’s a month I could get behind.

 

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S.  Want to hear me speak with YOUR group about how to teach fitness to kids in a way that isn’t damaging to them?  Book me to speak!

P.S.S. Want to get free stuff?  Join my list!