Junkfood Science: Tiny tots not tiny enough?

October 13, 2007

Tiny tots not tiny enough?

Dr. Robyn Silverman has written tips for parents to help their children who feel fat in today’s thin-obsessed environment. As a child and adolescent development specialist and expert on body image, Dr. Silverman says she has heard it all as children struggle to fit in in a world that focuses on an idealized outside appearance, rather than what’s inside. What may be startling is how young extreme weight concerns begin and how quickly little girls are hit with ridicule from their friends for being even the tiniest bit heavier.

Her article from Bay State Parent magazine has been reprinted online here:

6 Tips to Help your Child Cope with Feeling Fat in a “Thin is In” World

You probably wouldn’t believe it if you had heard it yourself. MaryBeth, a mother of three, came to me in a panic. Her daughter, Madeline, who had recently turned six years old, had been standing outside by the pool with her 3 friends, Hallie and Rachel, when the snubbing began. Marybeth witnessed Madeline’s 2 friends slapping their bellies and whispering to each other. Hallie spoke first. “You can’t be our friend anymore, Maddie, ‘cause you’re 55 pounds and we’re only 45 and 47 1/2 pounds.” Rachel continued, “Yeah, 6 year olds like us shouldn’t weigh more than 50 pounds. If you are, it means you’re fat… and fat people are ugly.” At that, Madeline ran to her Mom...

[U]nfortunately, those parents who thought that they didn’t have to worry about body image issues until their children became teens are being sideswiped in the head by a large dose of reality. No child should ever feel that s/he is “worth less” because of how s/he looks. When it comes to society’s messages that “thin is in” and “fat is faulty” what can we do to help our children remember that it’s what’s inside that counts?

Tip 1. Show children that everyone comes in different sizes...

Be sure to read the comments, especially about the initiative among medical and child development professionals to stop efforts by the CDC to change the labeling of children at the 95th percentile on growth curves to call them “obese.” Contact information for the government officials leading this move is provided.

For more background on BMI and weight labels in children, JFS has talked a lot about this issue, for example, here, here and here.

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