Tag Archives: school

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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Weight (Stigma) Affects School Children’s Grades

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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)