Tag Archives: kids

P.A.D.S. Saturday–Dance to your own beat

Hey kids!  My birthday falls on a Saturday this year so here we go.  A special birthday edition P.A.D.S. Saturday submission.

What is P.A.D.S. Saturday you ask?

It’s Public Acts of Dancing Spontaneously.  I know this isn’t entirely spontaneous.  This kid has done a bunch of these Apple store dance recordings.  He’s famous for them.  But I posted it because, check it.  Kid’s wearing aqua blue glasses and is rocking in a public place.  Those girls behind him look all weirded out by it.  But honestly I think they are jealous.  I’m jealous.  Kid’s clearly FEARLESS!  This is my wish for the new year.  I was like that once.  I was fearless.  Here’s to a year of finding my way back to it again.

Hoping you have a week that’s both FEARLESS and FULL OF DANCING!

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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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.

PADS Saturday–Kid Rocks Out to Cuba Pete at Local Swimming Pool

Not gonna lie, it’s been a tough week.  So I think it’s time for a PADS Saturday?  What’s a PADS Saturday you ask?  It’s a blog featuring a

Public

Act of

Dancing

Spontaneously

Frankly, I love this kid.  I love him even more than this guy (and that’s sayin’ something)

He is clearly talented and having a blast.  And a big thumbs up to the people in this kid’s life who allows him to feel supported and loved.  And that’s my message to you today–who do you know who needs to be supported and loved?  How can you help somebody out there to live their purpose, be their full and true selves and shake their groove thing?  What can we all do to help make the world a little better?  Because, I’m telling you, this week I’m feeling the need to make a better world.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to bring my speaking and bust a move with you at your school or business or school?  Click HERE to learn more and to BOOK ME!

Weight (Stigma) Affects School Children’s Grades

chalkboard.001

My dear friend and colleague Angela Meadows recently penned this important article for The Conversation discussing the issues surrounding weight, school children and academic performance.  There have been  a number of studies over the years linking higher weights with lower performance in school–particularly among female pre-teens and teenagers.  Many of these studies have sought and eliminated co-variables in other health issues, potential depression and the onset of menses in women.  However, many of these early studies seemed to avoid what would seem the most obvious connection between school performance and weight–the impact of weight stigma on school children of all ages (especially girls).

Angela then shared with us the results of a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health specifically documenting the results of weight stigma on kids  in school.  For the most part, the study which followed over 3,000 kids for over 10 years found no significant difference in test scores for the kids who became fatter.  However, the study indicated that as the students weights went up, the teacher’s evaluation of the kids abilities went down.  (Primarily for reading in girls and math in boys).   And to a certain extent, as weights went up, the students evaluations of their own abilities went down.  Although, the studies didn’t specifically measure attitudes of weight bias in teachers, Angela pointed to other studies that do just that.

Angela goes on to discuss important research linking weight stigma to bullying by other children as well as studies that indicate that much of the lag in academic achievement by fatter kids can be explained by bullying from both fellow students and educators.

I have not been shy in the past in saying and saying and SAYING that stigma does not make people healthier, happier or thinner.  In fact weight stigma makes people less likely to seek medical treatment, leads to disordered eating and risky behaviors, leads to more stress, anxiety and illness and yes, leads to lower academic performance.  And since there is literally no scientifically proven way to help most people lose a lot of weight and keep it off, perhaps telling people to lose weight to avoid this stigma is ill advised.

We know that weight-based stigma is harmful for people of all ages, yet we continue to march in the war on obesity for the fatties’ own good.  We continue to fight body fat and ignore the plain fact that it is our societal attitude towards fat people that is causing much of the damage.  We continue to wring our hands and shout “What about the children?” as an excuse for maintaining this war on big bodies, without addressing the simple fact that the number one casualty of the “war on obesity” seems to be from “friendly fire” on the folks we are purporting to help.  At what point will we finally realize that stigmatizing children into a fruitless attempt to change their body size so that they can avoid weight stigma is at best, seriously messed up?

I hope that moment is coming and I hope it is coming soon.  Our kids have enough to deal with just trying to grow up in this world without being victimized by the very people who we engage to help them.  I hope that we can start some efforts to seriously help our educators and child caretakers recognize weight bias in themselves and work to push past it.  I hope that we can stop allowing our kids to be collateral damage from a war that it is nearly impossible for them to win.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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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Hey! Don’t “Shop” My Kid!

The girls of South Park learn about Photoshop.

Mahli had always been told that the birthmark on the side of her neck was a “beauty mark”.  So when the photos came back with the birthmark erased, Mahli was very upset.  As if an important part of her were taken away.  Unfortunately just like learning about Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Stork, at some point in our lives we need to learn about Photoshop.  But Mahli had a good excuse for not understanding.  Because Mahli was only six years old.

Mahli and her family learned the harsh realities of the alternate Photoshop universe when her school pictures came in.  Mahli’s picture was digitally retouched by the school photo company to remove the young girl’s birthmark.  They also digitally changed the color of her bow and removed a little snot off her face.  All of this was done without the parents’ permission.

“I don’t want a perfect photo,” said Mahli’s mum, “I want a photo of my perfect child.  It’s her first school photo from primary school, and that’s kindergarten gone.”

Now some of you might be thinking, “Big deal!  Photos are altered all the time.  My 10-year-old nephew is brilliant at it!”

But it is a big deal.  Mahli’s parents had spent time carefully teaching her daughter that her birthmark was part of her.  That it was part of what made her special and beautiful.  Mahli had learned that this was a part of her that she need not be ashamed of or hide.  And then the photos come back with that part of her erased.  What message does that send to a little kid?  Suddenly, that part of her has been digitally removed as if it was too terrible to be seen by the public.  Suddenly she learns that the wider world has different standards than her parents taught her.  And that from now on, any images of Mahli that are for public consumption, must be changed to present an acceptably homogenized view free from “blemishes”, “uninspired fashion choices” or even the “odd accidental booger”.  Because it’s not important who you are, it is only important how you appear in the yearbook, or daddy’s wallet or grandma’s social media feed.

Mahli’s mother is not having it.

“We’re very concerned about what that’s doing to her body image. When she’s 18 how is she going to feel when she looks at that photo and she still has the birthmark but the photo doesn’t?

“Why instill in a six-year-old that she needs to have a complex about what she looks like?

“She’s not doing a fashion shoot for Cosmopolitan magazine, she’s having her photo taken for the family album.”

These are very good questions indeed.  I’ve seen a  lot of commentary online blaming the school and the photo company.  Some have even noted that while Mahli has been honored for respecting others and their things, the school and the photo company didn’t afford her the same courtesy.   But the company that altered these photos without permission (Academy School Photography and Production) surely didn’t just digitally alter this one photo.  Undoubtedly they have retouched many, many school photos, probably for years.  And nobody seemed to complain.  In fact, they probably found that when the photos were retouched, the parents BOUGHT MORE PICTURES.  Academy School Photography and Production is a business.  They would not engage in a time consuming and expensive process unless the net result were more sales.

It’s pretty easy to see how it happens.  Any schoolteacher can tell you that no matter how carefully you prep your little darlings for school photo day, by the time the kids arrive in line to be immortalized on photo day, things have probably gone seriously awry.  Hair is mussed.  Shirts are stained.  Faces are smudged.  A little hair straightening here, a little teeth cleaning there, a little spot removal and voila!  The kid in the photo looks the angel that walked out the door in the morning.  And thus sales go up.  Ah and if a little extra alterations, a few pounds shaved, a few freckles removed, eyes brightened and all that jazz help the parents maintain an illusion that their kid is “perfect” and “media ready” so much the better.  Sales go up and up.  And that comes down to the parents.  Unless parents insist on raw, unaltered photos.  Unless they refuse to buy pictures that have their kids prettied up in post, this process will continue.  Parents need to make a stink about this process.  Not just one parent who tried extra hard to instill body love in her little girl–all parents need to say something.

Because what is at stake here is not just a school photo or a beauty mark.  What is at stake here is how kids learn to perceive themselves and their bodies.  This is part of the process that makes six-year old kids worried about getting fat.  This is part of the process that makes kids under 12 one of the fastest growing groups of eating disordered people.  This is part of the process that makes grade school kids torture each other both online and in person about differences until their very young victims consider suicide.  It’s all part of the thing.  Part of the thing that causes us to find skilled graphic designers to “fix” our dating site profile pictures–the thing that robs us of our humanity and makes us present ourselves as perfect pictures of ourselves rather than our authentic selves.

It reminds me of a surprisingly touching moment in the television show, “South Park” (of all places).  Wendy sticks up for a girl on the cheerleading squad who is less conventionally attractive than the other girls.  All of this changes, when the girl’s newly (and dramatically) retouched photo appears on social networking.  Suddenly all the boys want to date her.  The girl’s boyfriend can’t wait to flip out his phone and show off pictures of his “hot, new girlfriend” to his friends. Soon all the girls at school are doing it…

…except for Wendy.  When Wendy protests that these images aren’t real, when she speaks up at school and even the local news about the process of retouching these photos, she is accused of being “jelly” (jealous) and is told if she doesn’t shape up she’ll be sent to “Jelly School”.  The final scene of the episode as Wendy ultimately caves to the peer pressure is surprisingly poignant and marks the first time ever an episode of South Park made me cry:

So what’s the upshot here?  Who’s to blame?  The school?  Yes.  The photo company?  Of course.  But we, as a society are all complicit in this problem.  And as a group, we will need to buy the photos with the funky hair part and the freckles.  And we will need to speak up when our imperfections are erased for public consumption.  Because a world where a tough, independent minded, intelligent girl like Wendy’s character on South Park, still feels the need to learn Photoshop so she can create a social media acceptable image of herself makes me so, so sad.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to hire me to speak to your school about bullying, online media and the dangers of Photoshop?  Click here!

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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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