Tag Archives: Facebook

Kids, Bullying and Plastic Surgery

plasticsurgeryI was somewhat floored this weekend as I listened to a brief radio report on my local public radio station about kids and plastic surgery.  The story (which made reference in the intro to Renee Zellweger’s altered appearance at a recent awards show) talked about the number of kids having plastic surgery and the reasons behind it.  The report opens by talking about the number of teenagers who have had Botox (TM) in 2013.  According to the report, that number is 17,958.  Now the report was careful to state that most of these procedures were for medical reasons.  Botox is used to treat migraines, strabismus (cross eyed) and facial spasms.  Yet when all was said and done, over 1,000 of these Botox procedures were performed on kids in America for “purely cosmetic reasons”.

Now I’m not going to tell any parent or kid what they should do with their own bodies.  It’s their body and their choice.  I don’t think I would let me kid have Botox treatments (if I had one).  But you know what, I think it’s a lot easier to judge if you are not in the situation.  In fact the report went on to state that cosmetic procedures are on the rise among young people, and experts suggest that the reasons for that rise probably include social media culture and the rise of the “selfie” as well as a rise in bullying in our schools.

My knee jerk reaction at the time was, why aren’t they fixing the BULLYING?  Why are kids undergoing the risks and rigors of plastic surgery all because kids can’t stop being mean?  And then I remembered my own school days.  There was a period in my school life, after I had moved to a new school where I was bullied relentlessly.  I was verbally abused and physically abused.  I had my property repeatedly stolen or damaged.  It was so bad, that I often got physically sick from the stress of it all.  My parents were extremely worried, but I felt that their involvement would  only make it much, much worse.  There was no surgery that could have fixed my situation.  And even if there were, I doubt we could have afforded it.  But I wonder, if there were a medical fix, that we could afford if we would have used it.  I was miserable.  My parents were deeply concerned.  Would we have undergone a medical risk if it meant that the problem would go away?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that not all people who are bullied can have that problem fixed by surgery.  The reasons for the bullying are not always physical or may not be easily physically corrected.  And even for surgery that is readily available, a whole lot of people cannot afford it.  And this lack of access to procedures that can make our social media selfie red carpet ready is just another gaping chasm between the haves and the have nots in our world.  So on the one hand I sort of feel like the families that are “opting out” of bullying by changing their physical appearance are making things even harder for the families that do not have that privilege.

It’s easy to heap scorn on the families who seem to take the whole notion of cosmetic surgery very lightly.  The report stated that husband/wife cosmetic surgeries are followed only by mommy/daughter plastic surgeries in popularity.  It’s easy to heap scorn on the privileged families who hand out boob jobs as high school graduation presents.

But I’d like to suggest that not all cases of kids and families choosing plastic surgery over bullying are quite that simple.  If I could have had a surgery to make the bullying stop, might I have done that?  I honestly don’t know.  And if I had done it, how would my life have turned out differently?  Would I be as strong?  Maybe not?  Would I be less fearful now?  Would I take greater emotional risks at this point because I spent less time as a target–less time being wounded?  And if my parents had chosen that route would they be wrong for perpetuating the need for perfection just because they wanted me to live my best life, be less in pain?

I don’t really know all the answers here, and I think that’s a good thing.  In my mind this is not a simple or black and white thing.  I sincerely believe that we need to change the culture of perfectionism, social media shallowness and cruel bullying among young people.  And I think that erasing differences by changing whatever faults the bullies choose to target in their victims ultimately make things worse for all of us.  But I think it’s important to view this subject through the lens of compassion.  Because if back then, when I was a kid, I would have been able to undergo a brief medical procedure that would make the bullying stop, even for a minute, I don’t know that I wouldn’t have done just that.

Love,  Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to come to your school and talk about bullying?  BOOK ME!

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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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Roll Models

love_handlesIt’s hard to say whether kids today have an easier time or a harder time with the whole size acceptance thing.  On the one hand, kids have access to a much more diverse community now.  When many of us who are currently adults were children, our community was pretty small.  We were influenced by television and magazines and movies of course.  But most of our role models and experience came from a much smaller group comprised of our friends, the kids at school, our church or community group, the folks in the neighborhood and our families.  Via social media, kids nowadays have access to a much wider group of people.  There are social groups focused on size acceptance on the internet.  And some of their heroes like Adele and Lady Gaga have spoken out directly about the notion that kids can love their bodies just as they are.  Thus many kids are exposed at a much earlier age to the concept of size acceptance.

On the other hand, that social media is a double-edged sword.  Kids are constantly communicating and critiquing one another.  Mistakes can be immortalized via words, photos and videos and be part of an child’s online presence for life.  If a group of kids should decide to pick on another kid, they can do so relentlessly, 24 hours per day and 7 days per week.  They can find and follow their target even if they choose to move away.  Sometimes this cyber bullying can have disastrous consequences.

And there’s also the question of kids being sexualized at a much younger age.  Kids as young as 3 are paraded around in beauty contests.  Companies sell padded bikini tops to preteens.  Child actors and particularly singers are presented as sex objects well before the age of consent.  Kids are under more pressure than ever to conform to an extremely thin, sexually desirable, designer clad, hot number at younger and younger ages.  And yes, obesity and childhood type 2 diabetes have gone up in the past 20 years (although there is ample evidence that this is now leveling off or even decreasing).  But we also have a situation where hospitalizations for eating disorders for kids under the age of 12 is up 119%.  That’s kids UNDER 12 here folks.

So what are we to do?  How can we help?  Well one thing we can do is all go sign the petition created by Ragen Chastain and I to keep kids off the next season of The Biggest Loser.  The last thing kids need is to see other kids like themselves battered, bullied and abused on national television just because of the size of their bodies.  If you haven’t signed the petition, hop on over there and do it.  I’ll wait…

But the other thing I think we grownups can do, especially when we are grownups of size is to be good roll models for our kids.  Sure we can also be good role models.  We can choose not to disparage other people for their size and we can speak out when we see it happening.  But I’m also talking about rolls of flesh–our bumps, and love handles and folds of skin.  We can wear those body “imperfections” with pride.  We can wear tank tops.  We can choose not to speak negatively about our bodies, especially in front of kids.  By walking around, comfortable in our own skin, we send kids the message that bodies are wonderful and beautiful and diverse–and that there are lots and lots of other things we can choose to be neurotic about other than how we look in our skinny jeans.  I’m not talking about lecturing to kids.  We all know how well that goes.  I’m talking about simply modeling a level of casual comfort over the whole body thing.  Because so often while kids are busy not doing what we tell them, they are watching intently to see what we do.

So what about you?  Are there ways that you can be a roll model for today’s youth?  I’d love to hear what YOU think!

 

Love,

The Fat Chick

All New From Concentrate: Fat Chick Quips

Keep an eye out for “Fat Chick Quips”!

Reduction does mean to make smaller.  But sometimes, like when you’re cooking an AMAZING sauce, reduction means to distill or to concentrate.  You take 2 cups of wine, and “cook it down” until it’s one cup of concentrated wine-flavored yummyness.

So in honor of our discussion on reduction this week, I”m pleased to launch my “Fat Chick Quips”.  These are pithy little sayings that “boil down” ideas about loving and honoring our bodies into short, little quotes.  These are great to share (via your favorite social media spot) with your friends who might need a little pick-me-up.  And since I KNOW y’all are brilliant, if you have any sayings that you’d like me to put out in this format, I’d be honored to include them.  I’ll be happy to credit you.  Just send me an email at: jeanette at thefatchick dot com with your short quotes.

So my little chicklettes, keep an eye out on facebook and Pinterest and Tumblr for more Fat Chick Quips.  And don’t be shy!  Send me some of your pithy, super awesome sayings right away!

Love,

The Fat Chick