Trigger Warning: This post talks about eating disorder behavior.
I saw an article online today titled “Children as Young as Ten Vomit to Lose Weight”
According to the article:
Thirteen per cent of the 8,673 girls and 7,043 boys who took part in the research admitted they made themselves sick to lose weight. But the figures were much higher in younger children, with 16% of 10-12 year-olds and 15% of 13-15 year-olds vomiting. The figures fell to 8% in 16-18 year-olds.
This blog post isn’t about the study. I haven’t analyzed it and I’ve no idea how well done it is. It’s about this quote from the researchers:
“Our study found that children as young as ten were aware of the importance of weight control, but used vomiting to control their weight” concludes Dr Liou. “This reinforces the need for public health campaigns that stress the negative impact that vomiting can have on their health and encourage them to tackle any weight issues in a healthy and responsible way.”
Let me get this straight: You find out that an absolutely shocking percentage of very young children are so obsessed with weight control that they are forcing themselves to vomit to lose weight, and your suggestion is to “encourage them to tackle any weight issues in a healthy and responsible way”? What does that say about the message you’re giving them now? And if they were NOT made so very “aware of the importance of weight control” I wonder if they would be making themselves vomit?
Here is what I think:
It’s not about how much vomiting is encouraged or discouraged for weight control. It’s how much weight control is encouraged or discouraged. The study was done in Thailand but I’ve seen statistics about eating disorders on the rise for America’s youth as well. And I don’t think it’s because there are signs in elementary schools that say “Got a couple pounds to lose? Try vomiting!”
I think that when we barrage kids with the message that weight is the only measure of health and that if they aren’t able to get thin then they deserve to have war waged on them by the First Lady of the United States, we set them up for disordered eating. We already know that 95% of diets fail. As children start trying to control their weight from earlier and earlier ages (in the womb for example), we set them up to fail at dieting multiple times before age 10. Labeled lazy, unhealthy, lying, failures – and finding themselves on the losing side of the First Lady’s war – I’m saddened but not surprised that they turn to any means necessary to lose weight.
I’m pretty sure that kids don’t think that vomiting is a good idea. I think that we’ve created a world where kids actually think that making themselves vomit is somehow healthier than being fat because they’ve been convinced that unhealthy behaviors will lead to health if they make you thin. (If that’s true then we should be passing out cocaine with school lunches.) Or they no longer care about being healthy, they just want to look like Mrs. Obama says they should so she’ll stop trying to convince everyone to bully them. And that’s a problem. A huge problem. But luckily, an easily correctable one.
The solution that I propose is to be for healthy children, not against obese ones. It’s easy to do: Be for access to affordable healthy food, for access to movement that they enjoy (maybe different PE classes for kids who are athletic, kids who just want to who would rather play Dance Dance Revolution), be for the mental health that is only possible when kids are not constantly stigmatized by society because of their size, or terrified of being stigmatized by society if their size changes.
There is absolutely nothing that can be accomplished by having a war on childhood obesity that cannot be accomplished by being for healthy children. And being for healthy children means that we aren’t ignoring kids who practice unhealthy habits but remain thin. We all knew those kids in school who ate nothing but junk food and never gained any weight. Just as there are healthy and unhealthy adults of every shape and size, there are healthy and healthy kids of all sizes and a war on childhood obesity tells thin kids that it doesn’t matter how unhealthy their habits are, as long as they are thin.
The bottom line is that we probably shouldn’t be surprised that adults in power waging war against kids causes them to do some pretty messed up stuff. And there is no reason to wage war against kids when we could support them instead.
I’ve heard and read from the people who say that we can’t worry about kid’s feelings when we have so much childhood obesity. The argument apparently being that the only way to deal with childhood obesity is to keep talking about it and keep waging war on obese kids until they hate themselves healthy. Well I think that anyone who says that is nothing more than a bully, and is contributing to a dangerous culture of hate for no other reason than to feel superior and bask in the won’t-somebody-please-think-of-the-children drama. Don’t kid yourself: These are ten year old children. They are not making themselves vomit, you are making them vomit with your message of bullying, body hate, and thinness at any cost. Sleep well.
If we truly want to help children be healthy then it’s time to strike the words “childhood obesity” from our vocabularies and start having a real discussion about childhood health.
51 thoughts on “Killing Kids Thin”
Ragen, will you marry me?
Seriously though, it pains me to think of the types of messages our children, and if we don’t personally have children those of others that we know, are getting. A message that they can’t be good enough as they are, that the only way they can possibly be good enough is to hurt themselves in unimaginable ways.
I took these messages to heart for so long. I figured if someone else could hate me without knowing me, then why shouldn’t I hate myself?
We have to stop waging war on things that don’t deserve a war on them. War is such a destructive thing. It’s so final. Even the winners never win. It hurts so much to think about this.
Yes I will, but you should know that it’s not all upside. I have a weird habit of never closing cupboards and I insist that toilet paper go under, not over. If you can live with that then “I do” 🙂
Seriously, I’m really sorry that you were not supported by the adults whose job it was to help you love yourself and find your own path to health. I think that you are awesome for having undertaken the journey on your own, without the support you deserved, and congratulations for becoming the rockstar you are. You could not be more right about the nature of war and those are just a couple of reasons why I’ll totally be your blog wife.
Thanks, Ragen. I’m starting to believe that those adults simply didn’t know any better. I don’t think that most of them ever intended to messages that they sent me. I do, however, believe that it has given me the ability to send a better message to my son.
Last night I was watching an episode of Celebrity Rehab on Netflix instant watch, and Dr. Drew was discussing a 120 pound weight-loss with one of his patients. When he asked the patient how he managed to lose so much weight, the patient said “Heroin,” to which Dr. Drew said, “Well, I’m not pleased to hear of your drug use, but I’m glad you got that weight off.” Thinness at any price, indeed. It’s bad enough we treat adults like this, but attacking children because of their body size is beyond appalling.
Karen, my heart goes out to you. I hope you’re able to heal that hurt.
Ragen, thank you for all your amazing insights. You make the world a nicer place to be.
Holy hell Dr. Drew, what were you thinking?
Thank you for the kind words Kimberly, they mean a lot to me.
Thank you, Kimberly. The pain has been healing slowly. I carry scars (both physical and mental) that will always be with me because of it, but I’m getting to the point where I can look back and realize that my worth is so much more than a number. I realize now what a lucky woman I am to be able to discover myself, even if it took me all this time to do so, and there are icy patches in the road, but I will continue to travel it, because it is soooooooooooo worth it.
This exactly proves my point. I told my husband once that it’s being thin that matters, no matter how it’s done. I could take cocaine and that would be fine, so long as I was thin.
Reminds me of a Jim Carrey skit where he loses a massive amount of weight by “riding the snake,” aka using crystal meth. So, may we surmise that Dr. Drew would also like us to “ride the snake?” I used to like Dr. Drew but jeez, what an idiot!
It would probably be helpful if people would take off their blinders once in a while and actually believe that this stuff is happening. Parents of my peers always reacted to stories of kids dying from eating disorders and unhealthy weight loss regimens with an attitude of “But not OUR kids…” — even though everyone (the kids I mean) could have given you chapter and verse on which kids were stealing their parents diet drugs, which were using cocaine or meth for the same purpose, which were suffering an eating disorder, and which were “vegetarian” and “vegan” only as an excuse to refuse to eat.
Really, this isn’t news to me… probably the only reason the numbers are as low as they are (and decline in older children) is because kids aren’t as stupid as a lot of adults like to think. They know that when an adult tells them “promise, we won’t tell anyone” about something they KNOW would get them in trouble, they’ll lie.
Honestly, I’m more surprised they managed to get ANY kids to talk to them than by the percentage.
Drive-by comment here, from a newish lurker/reader.
I just ran across an article today that was talking about *pre-school obesity*. Seriously? *Pre-school*?!
I admit I’m trying to lose weight because I’ve got back, knee, and ankle problems that are aggravated by the extra pounds, but I’m trying to do it more by healthy eating habits and getting in shape than ‘being on a diet’. In this case, ‘healthy eating habits’ primarily consist of ‘re-learning to listen to my body’s hunger/ satiation signals’.
I’m still refining my understanding of HAES, but I do think we should be teaching HAES-style philosphy in schools, rather than just stuffing ‘fat is bad, thin is good!’ down the kids’ throats.
Karen, I feel for you.
I can definitely say that any disordered relationship I have with food(working on it as best I can) came from always being reminded by my father that I wasn’t the “right” weight for my age. I have one distinct memory of a day my dad picked me up from school. I had been to the doctor in the morning and on that ocassion I had lost a few pounds. I remember being so excited to tell my dad that I ran to him when he came to pick me up. I knew this was going to be met with pretty much the only positive feedback I could get from him at the time. This is at 7 years old, okay. Think about that. Think about how much my self-worth was wrapped up in this idea of being the right size. It wasn’t just him either, but his entire side of the family. I am not close with my grandparents, or uncle because of that attitude. As soon as my parents divorced and it was left up to me who I wanted to see, I never saw these people. I didn’t bother to see them, because they didn’t bother to acknowledge me beyond how heavy or not heavy I was. The first comment that came out of anyone’s mouth was ALWAYS about my weight. “You need to lose some weight, girl.” “You look good, you’ve lost a bit of weight.” “Have you gained weight?? What’s wrong?”. So at 8 years old, I basically said, “Fuck you guys!”
No one wants to get constant negative reinforcement for something they may not be able to control. Being bullied for being the fat kid(my mother actually enrolled me in an alternative school in grade 3 because I was so unhappy) is bad enough when it is just happening at school, but when you are going home to it too…well, it’s a horrible situation to be in.
I am very disappointed in Michelle Obama for declaring this “war”. I don’t understand why every crazy politician wants to wage a war or fight the good fight. It’s children we are talking about here, not terrorists.
Your story reminds me very much of my own. My parents had a bad marriage from the start and they never really lived together. When I was born, my dad was at the hospital…visiting a sick friend, not by his wife’s bedside.
I only saw my dad every few years. For many years, he lived outside the country and when he moved back, it wasn’t to the place where mom and I lived.
And on those rare occasions when I saw my dad, his most common comment was that I was too fat. That’s something you never forget.
I’m curious about the 95% figure. As far as I’ve read, that is based on some outdated and likely not valid research. I hope you understand I’m not attacking you, but it’s a statistic I see that you use often here and one that many of the nutritionists that I work with dispute. And I know I shouldn’t rely on anecdotal evidence, but I know several people personally (including myself) who have lost weight and kept it off. Now, the people who have kept it off have done it sensibly with healthy food and exercise. Others I’ve known who relied on more gimmicky approaches have regained. Here’s an article I’ve read.
Thanks for the question Marie. My answer is today’s blog: https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/do-95-of-dieters-really-fail/
“Be for … access to movement that they enjoy (maybe different PE classes for kids who are athletic, kids who just want to who would rather play Dance Dance Revolution),”
YES YES YES. My high school gave us options for gym class pretty often. We had to take all the “learning phase” classes for a given sport (ex, how to dribble and shoot baskets), but we were allowed to opt out of some of the “play the game” classes and go work out on the exercise equipment instead. (You couldn’t opt out every week, but it gave you some choice.) We also had a much wider variety of activities: in addition to sports, we did some line dancing, step aerobics, “how to use gym equipment safely” lessons, and, when the weather was nice, went for a nice brisk walk outside*.
I think just having a choice made me feel more positive about movement in general.
We also had a dance class (mostly ballet, some jazz), which didn’t get you out of PE, but was a fun option for those of us who wanted to dance.
* We lucky that it was a very small, moderately-well-funded private school in a nice neighborhood, so we had the luxury of a safe neighborhood to walk in, and awesome gym teachers with enough time to plan and offer more interesting movement choices.
A larger school, one with funding/staffing issues, or one without safe outdoor space would have a lot of challenges to overcome, but we could make a lot of progress in that direction if we devoted even a fraction of what we spend trying to get kids to lose weight.
As a mommy with two small children, I battle on a daily basis internally to watch what I say to them about food and weight. I’ve been fat since I was about 10 and grew up tortured and mocked and even abused by other people over it. After a nasty divorce, I’ve moved back in with my parents and my father continues to make comments about me eating the occasional cookie or fast food meal. That said, as an adult, I’ve come to peace about it and want to ensure my kids don’t have the same battles I do. Part of me wants to make sure they don’t grow up fat so they don’t have to battle the same BS I did and the other part knows THAT’s the BS part. I have learned now to encourage (without pressuring) my kids to make choices that help their bodies work effectively and that it’s ok to eat McDonalds nuggets once in a while. They are active happy loved kids and that’s the best I, as a mommy, can really hope to accomplish. My 4 year old asked me if I was fat because he heard his preschool classmate say that I was fat. I told him that yes, mommy is fat. And he is small. We come in all shapes and sizes just like dogs, horses, and trees too! God creates diversity and loves it all. (I know not everyone believes the same as me, but that’s what we believe, each to his own). I also said that it might hurt some people’s feelings to be called fat, so he can talk about it with mommy, but usually we want to try not to hurt people’s feelings so we don’t make comments on people’s size, whether they are tall, short, fat or thin. We are all the same on the inside.
Love your parenting philosophy!!
It sounds to me like you’re doing a great job!
My daughter’s school sent home a report on her BMI recently. She’s 6. A list of 4 “helpful hints” on how to keep my kid healthy was provided: (1)limit TV/video game/computer to <2 hours/day; (2) minimize/eliminate fast food; (3)more fruts & vegetables, less processed snack foods; (4) exercise together as a family. It irked me on several fronts. I had no idea that they were measuring my kid at school (is that something schools should be doing?). I sensed a "bad parent" message in the letter (OK, maybe I'm too sensitive). And it concerned me because I don't want my kid to put more value on her weight & BMI than on her overall health. That's a conversation that I want to be part of and I'm worried that schools are now mandated with beating kids up because of their weight. I suspect it's a direct result of Michelle Obama's "war" but, really WTF??!!
Giving kids a choice about what physical activity they do in PE is good, they did that at my daughter’s school.
Regarding the study. I cant help wondering how many kids who hadnt thought of making themselves vomit in order to lose weight are now thinking this might be worth a try.
Perfect post, once again, Ragen! I’ve been having discussions with my 12yo because he thinks he’s fat. I’ve made a real effort not to discuss weight at all with any of my kids. But I am guilty of telling my husband he’s too thin or noticing when my twins trade muscles for non-muscles.
Our latest conversation was trying to get him to identify “fat.” We went through everyone in the family–including me–and he said none of us were fat. I told him, “I am fat! You aren’t!”
It scares me because I’m not sure where these messages are coming from. It has to be peers and school and the media. I just have to work extra hard to make sure he hears good messages!
You are so right how scary it is, Susie. I wonder where the 4 year olds at my son’s preschool even learn about fat. No doubt from their parents. I know the younger the kids are, the more innocent the observation about what’s different in their eyes, i.e. size, skin color, disabilites, etc., but man alive, what kind of world are we living in when it’s ok to put a 6 year old in a shirt that says “Flirt” and we have to militantly prescribe body hate to all children that FAT IS EVIL. It’s so sad….
I’m sorry that you are having to deal with this with your son. Thanks for being a stellar mom and working to keep your kids from being sucked in by all of the crazy body-hate that our culture throws at them.
Hi Ragen! Just read your blog for the first time today. I was interested in your comments about The War On Childhood Obesity. That whole “Fat is EVIL” attitude has always rubbed me the wrong way, especially when applied to children, and it is getting worse. I like how you pointed out this can be essentially a war on the chidren themselves, which no one wants. As a monther of FOUR daughters (and one son) I try to be very mindful of what I say about food and fat, stressing healthy eating only, not calorie numbers, etc. The older my children get, the harder it is, particularly for my 11 and 14 year old girls, who already hear nothing but diet-diet-diet everywhere they turn. (None of my girls is fat, but that is of course beside the point with teenagers.) This is the way of society, unfortunately, and we can’t control all influences on our children. However I have a serious problem with how the Academy of Pedatrics is handling the whole obesity thing. At my three-year-old twins’ last check-up I received a Xeroxed form with their BMI calculated, with a text informing me of what BMI guidelines meant and ways to keep my child from getting too fat and/or help them to lose weight. Incidentally the twins’ BMI’s are in the low normal range, but the same information is given to everyone, needed or not. This is what they’re giving me instead of the handouts with guidelines for healthy toddler food I got with my older children. Did I mention this is for a THREE YEAR OLD? We as a society are setting kids up for eating disorders in toddlerhood now, it seems. It breaks my heart. Thanks for letting people know that health is not about size.
I’m glad that your kids have you to help them navigate through these crazy, diet-obsessed waters! What your doctor is doing is just gross and I’m sorry that you are having to deal with it. Thanks for your kind words and for fighting the good fight 🙂
[This might be a little triggering for some people – eating disorders, lower weight spectrum, and just plain long and tangential ;)]
Diet culture really is a strange beast, and I don’t think most people realize how pervasive it is. I guarantee you that a good number of these kids are using disordered eating just to prevent weight gain, because the message is that thinness takes vigilance and anyone who isn’t vigilant will become fat (which of course is the horror of all horrors). Theirs is an extreme, but anyone who’s been exposed to this culture long enough knows exactly how they got there. First, the demonization of the calorie, then the promotion of low and non-fat, then the encouragement of restriction, then the glorification of the scale. We’ve created a perfect vacuum for any child with the underlying psychological conditions that breed eating disorders. They have no perspective, and everything they do seems perfectly rational based on the messages they’ve absorbed.
I went through a phase (and I might mention that I often use understated vocabulary) where I accepted the idea that consuming fewer calories was healthier. I very rapidly progressed through the other three stages listed above. I was at my peak weight at the time, just under 100 lbs. I didn’t go overboard, so my weight stayed the same, but I’m still baffled by the things I did and thought. I then went through a second, very brief but intense “phase” a few months later. I dropped down to 80 lbs. I still haven’t gained all of the weight back, and I often have to overstock my pantry to fight the less-is-better mentality that sometimes creeps back into my brain (and is reinforced by my broke college student lifestyle).
The thing that drives me crazy about this, though, is that I’ve dealt with nasty ED comments since middle school, long before this happened. I’ve heard many angry insinuations or outright accusations that I have an eating disorder, but not once, not one single time, has anyone genuinely shown any type of concern for me. And they’ve had reason to on many occasions, even when I’ve been fine, just because I do eat in small portions and I don’t often eat in public. I was actually kind of ticked when I realized that no one in my life would step in to help me if I needed it. They’d all either ignore the issue or deny it. You can accept the way someone looks and still express concerns about their habits/mindsets. Just have actual evidence besides “Your body makes me uncomfortable.”
I really just don’t understand how hating someone who is literally damaging their own body is benefiting either party. What kind of a person looks at someone, makes the judgment that this person is harming themselves beyond their own comprehension, and then concludes that the appropriate response to this person is wrath? I feel terrible for anyone who gets sucked into an ED in this environment, because it’s going to be entirely up to them to pull themselves out.
(((HUGS))) I think our world is one in which it is easier for people to stay back. They make comments but don’t really go beyond that, don’t really show any caring towards others. We are becoming more desensitized and less empathetic. And the online world doesn’t make that any better.
My husband has a friend and I don’t like him very much because of things he has said. He’s fat phobic to a horrendous degree. His wife (and I think this started before she married him but as far as choosing a husband, she really didn’t do herself any favors choosing him) is bulimic or has been in the past and I know she still has struggles with her weight because I did hear that she went on a diet for her daughter’s wedding even though she was pregnant and she’s not at all overweight. Her oldest daughter, they all realized had an eating disorder after she moved out (actually ran away from home) because they found stuff she had been hoarding and they came to find out that she was throwing up too. I’m not surprised because from some of what I heard from the guy (and this was his step daughter, not his bio daughter), he was pretty hard on her about the weight. Later on, he actually mentioned that he couldn’t believe how fat she had gotten (I saw pictures, she wasn’t fat at all and she did have a kid not all that long ago) and made comments about her daughter too who was only four months old.
He’s been absolutely horrendous to me because of my weight and almost gleefully finds any reason to bring it up. I think about the fact that he has four other little girls at home and I can’t help but wonder how many of them are going to have eating disorders because of him. The father is a HUGE determination of that according to some articles I’ve read in the past. I know one of them, when someone mentioned how skinny she looked in a bathing suit, completely denied it and she is skinny and I wonder if the reason she’s saying that is because she’s getting told stuff by her dad who has some severe issues when it comes to the body. It’s why I have no desire to be around him and I do not want my daughter’s around him because I do not want him saying anything to them that would have them start thinking negatively about themselves. My older daughter takes after me, she’s as stocky as I was at her age and it worries me that she’ll have weight issues and that because of them she’ll be treated like garbage especially when it’s looking like her sister won’t be quite as solid (her little sister at 11 months is quite petite and takes after her father more). I’m doing the best I can as far as food and stuff but I do worry and I worry about it a lot.
I’m so sorry that you are having to go through this. It sounds like you maybe have the opportunity to teach your girls that, just like everything in nature, people’s bodies come in a variety of different shapes and sizes and that people of every shape and size are beautiful.and can be healthy. I also would respectfully disagree that she’ll be treated like garbage. Of course I deal with the odd troll or idiot doctor but the vast majority of the time I’m treated well and with respect and I think that your daughters can demand that for themselves regardless of size. Just my completely unsolicited advice, feel free to ignore it 🙂
I agree with what you are saying Ragen but when even my own husband told me that I shouldn’t gain any weight while I was pregnant with the our second baby (I’m more than twice his weight and he definitely believes that thin=healthy especially since he’s skinny), it’s a concern. And granted, the majority of people don’t say anything but the ones who have are the ones who are the closest and that’s where most of the damage comes from. I was compared to my younger sister unfavorably a lot because she was the thin one and I wasn’t. Even though I was doing better in school and had talents my sister didn’t have, what mattered were her looks and the fact that she was thin and I wasn’t. And that stung quite a bit while I was growing up. So I guess that is why I especially worry when the two girls already are different as far as size. I hope they do find their voice and demand respect no matter what size they are at but it’s taken me a long time to even learn that I had the right to be treated with respect REGARDLESS of my size.
I teach my children to love food. I teach them to love being outside and active (harder for me as I am not that active myself). I teach them that they are beautiful and strong and perfect the way they are. I don’t talk about how I wish I looked different, and I try not to talk about how other people look except in a positive way. I am learning to love my own body and I hope they can see that. (I am wearing a camisole today, exposing the flabby gramma upper arms that I have always hated. It’s a step.)
I hope that these efforts of mine are sinking in more than any peer pressure they might get. We don’t watch TV, or read magazines that talk about physical beauty, so I don’t think they are getting any messages other than mine.
I think that you are a completely rock star parent both for working on your own issues and trying to help your kids navigate the world without dealing with them!
And you’re also a rockstar for exposing your “flabby” arms. I get so many messages every day telling me that only “perfect” bodies should be seen and that we should cover up, and it’s hard not to internalize that. When I see other people exposing their “flabby” arms, I feel much safer exposing my own “flabby” arms.
You don’t owe anything to anyone else, but know that just by being seen in your camisole, you may be helping someone.
Nadira, I used to look at pictures of older women, usually from Russia or elsewhere in Europe, at the beach showing all their lumps and bumps without a seeming care in the world. I always envied them their “bravery”. I’m not so much of an older woman, but I have the arms of one!
I remember the days when anorexia and bulimia awareness began. I was so horrified that those girls were so unhappy and felt so powerless that they harmed themselves like that. I guess seeing that has helped me be more conscious of how complicated one’s feelings about food and body and self can be, and has made me more conscious of the messages I need to send my children.
I am wearing a maxi dress right now, with little straps, and splits in the skirt part up to my knees. I wore it to church this morning with a little jacket, because i was more comfortable from a modesty point of view – but it was MY CHOICE to wear the jacket. When I go out this evening, I wont wear the jacket. Although when I put my strapless bra back on, I will put it on the right way, I managed to put it on inside out this morning!
I got asked at bellydancing last night, in a class that does not go in for fat-(or skinny-)shaming, by an incredulous-sounding other dancer if I was ‘really going to perform with armpit hair??!”
I said no, I was going to wear a choli with sleeves, but then felt slightly ashamed of my conciliatory tone and said, ‘And anyway, they are my freakin’ armpits and I’ll leave them hairy if I WANT TO.”
There are So. Many. Ways for people to do their best to try to make us ashamed of ourselves.
Well done you for wearing the camisole because YOU wanted to wear it, I hope this summer to be bold enough to show my upper arms and armpit hair at places other than the beach.
It’s interesting to see how many ways people feel the need to try to make their experiences and preferences EVERYONE’s experiences and preferences. You both are awesome and inspiring!
Ohhh don’t get me started on body hair. After years of swinging between shame at having lots of body hair and rebelling by remaining aggressively (for our culture) hairy, I finally realized recently — it’s my body, my hair, I can decide. Just like any other body modification. Waxing etc. is not showing dislike for my natural state, it’s owning my body and deciding to do something different. Having hairy legs, pits, etc. is not being a crazy hippie, either. So I got a Brazilian wax, lol.
Oh yes… do epilate my legs because after years of not, I prefer the look of them in shorts, BUT part of it because I don’t like hearing people talk about them! But my underarms few people see anyway. I waxed them but hate the feel of the hair growing back SO much, so I don’t bother.
I HATE anti-obesity campaigns, especially the ones talking about making CHILDREN DIET. They remind me so much of the “don’t get yourself raped” campaigns that completely fail to focus on the problem (in this case, fat hatred and body policing) and, instead, blame the victim.
Instead of making sure all kids have access to good, whole foods (and not just nutritionless, mass-produced junk), this crap puts the onus on them to “learn to take care of themselves” (i.e., starve down to thinness). Is it any wonder they’re learning eating disorders earlier and earlier?
Kids don’t need a proportional amount of calories to adults. They need what they need, when they need it. With all the growing and cell building and whatnot, I’m pretty sure they need MORE.
I have a nearly-three kiddo, who some days will eat very little, then do nothing but eat all day. During a growth spurt, there will be lots of eating followed by no-time-to-eat-gotta-run, and what we have is a very healthy, very active kid.
That active kid probably weighs 40 lbs. Any time I *think* that, I feel like I have to apologize, to explain it, to laugh it off. This is a lean, *solid* kid. I’m fighting my fears every day, but by not making a big deal about how much (or whether!) my kid eats, I hope I’m cultivating a “trust your body” attitude. I’m certainly working that hard to cultivate it in myself!
I started at thirteen. This was back in the 1970’s. These messages have been around for a long time. That’s an awful lot of people doing an awful lot of suffering over the years. Isn’t it time for the madness to stop?
OMG… Wow that article makes me sad.
Reminds me of the time my stepmother told me to give my 2 year old skim milk so she didn’t get fat. Ugh…. Let me worry about my daughter’s weight please. She eats her veggies and not a lot of junk as well as plays actively for at least an hour.
Seriously…. What the hell happened to just kicking your kids off the video games to go play for an hour or two?? Get them in that habit long enough and they will be fine, regardless of weight (It’s also something they should be doing regardless of weight). If they’re that desperate to lose weight then additional physical activity will be welcome. It at least has some body benefits that vomiting doesn’t…
Something that I find completely absurd with the ideas that people have instilled is that people will choose ‘diet’ milk, ‘lite’ milk or whatever because is has only 2% FAT! YAY! When full-cream milk (in Australia anyway) is a WHOPPING 3.6% FAT!!! Horrors!
And then after they buy ‘lite’ milk, will go and seek out foods that are advertised at 96% FAT FREEEEEEEEE!
Any other food that had only 3.6% fat would be heavily marketed as a low-fat food, but I suppose buying full-cream milk is a natural human instinct so they don’t have to market it as heavily, and anyway, there is a much bigger mark-up on the more processed milks.
(It is my understanding that the human body cannot absorb calcium from milk without the milk fat ANYWAY.)
Also, thanks for this blog, I have just started reading this one and Fat Heffalump as well, largely to help me feel good at myself, be more aware of my potential judgementalism, and to help me bring my children up with as few nasty hang-ups and bullying behaviours as possible. Also thanks for all the helpful comments from other readers as well.
Welcome to the blog! I love Fat Heffalump’s work as well, she is great. Thank you for your kind words and thank you for the point about the milk – you are so very right. I look forward to “seeing” you around.
or terrified of being stigmatized by society if their size changes.
Very, very important point, this, because their size will change anyway, for the simple reason that kids grow. It’s what they do. And they know they’re growing; some parents will mark off their height on a chart, they’ll mention when the kid needs new clothes, stuff like that – even in families that aren’t overly weight-aware. But as kids grow in other dimensions, they’re also going to gain weight, and if they equate getting bigger with becoming a worse person, that could have devastating effects. And, of course, kids need to know that weight gain and a changing shape in puberty is normal – still remember the flak I got at home for how ‘big and fat’ I was getting at 12-13, when all I’d done was develop hips and boobs. Puberty is happening earlier, too, and kids and parents need to be ready for that.
Also, gym/PE/dance for varying abilities? Yes please. I was listening to a radio discussion on streaming in British schools last week, and not once did anyone mention that as kids have different abilities in academic subjects like math and reading skills, they also have different abilities in physical activity – yet nobody thinks of streaming for that. Being in a smaller group with more attention for math helped me through exams I might not have otherwise passed; being lumped in with the athletes for PE (and with teachers who clearly despised less athletic kids) put me off PE for decades. Sure, it might cost money for extra staff, but if they really cared about health, schools would set aside budget for this and scrap the weighing schemes.
I’ve got two points here:
1. I’ve been reading your blog for a little while now, and it’s really made me challenge my assumptions and prejudices. It’s made me evaluate how often I use fat as an insult, or turn it on myself in shame. It’s made me ashamed of bigotry I didn’t even know I had, and as a proponent of transgendered rights, I should have been one of the last people in the world to have to take a look at my bigotry. It’s made me question myself, and I came out knowing that I definitely have to change my tune. So congrats! I’m not fat myself, but I’m definitely a lot unhealthier than you, (You’re super healthy, I’m jealous) and you’ve got a convert in me.
2. I’ve spent a lot of time hating on myself. I’ve always felt like I had to make sure I stayed super thin, and I thought I was too fat even though I’m definitely on the thin side of mid-range. I’ve had really poor self-esteem for a really long time because of it, so I’m jealous of you there, too. And I agree. I’m insanely unhealthy, because I was never taught the value of health. I was taught to be thin at all costs, and even now, I struggle with anorexia (Not that you would guess, since at 5’4″ and 145 pounds I’m apparently a bit above average). I was taught that as long as I stayed thin, it didn’t matter what I ate, and my mom has constantly badgered me to lose weight, even though I’m not overweight, simply because I’m above-average. I know I’m unhealthy. I live a sedentary lifestyle, and I don’t like my body. I starve myself, and I binge. And yet I’ve never hit the magic number that made people look at me and say I was thin, because I’m not, I’m only average. I envy you. I wish I could have even a fraction of your self-esteem, and I wish I could care about my body enough to be even a little bit as healthy and beautiful as you obviously are.
tl;dr: THANK YOU
This comment made me really emotional and really grateful for everyone who supported me on my journey. First of all, thank you for being so honest about your journey- there are so many people who are exactly where you are and who think that they are alone. I could have written almost this same comment about myself not that many years ago. I hope that you find a path to health and peace that works beautifully for you and if there is anything that I can do to support you, seriously, please let me know.
…Do you have any websites or books that can teach me about eating healthy? Not eating to lose weight, but eating healthy. Or about proper fitness, and exercise? I’m probably not going to follow through, because I’m scared, but at least knowing where I can go would be helpful to me.
Thank you. Thank you. I don’t even know how to thank you properly. You’re so amazing. I don’t know anybody who’s always as happy with themselves as you seem to be. It’s crazy. I know I keep repeating myself, but I always felt like I was alone, and that others could shake off their issues a lot easier, or that others somehow were better than me because they were actively attempting to kill themselves skinny. I’m really glad I’m not all alone. Thank you.
I just wanted to let you know that you are by no means alone. You are taking HUGE steps and we may not know each other, but I’m proud of you! It’s perfectly ok to be scared. It’s normal. I’m so proud that are willing to admit that perhaps the way you viewed things isn’t productive. You rock on!
Thank you! Haha, yeah, I’m kind of disgusted with myself when I think about all the fat-shaming I’ve done. I never stopped to wonder, or thought there was anything wrong with it. I never sat back and looked at my own behavior. I know now that I definitely need to stop, especially since I can’t really claim to be anything approaching healthy. Ragen’s definitely got me beat by a long, long shot. So I need to change. And I’m okay with that.
Thanks, Karen. Thanks so much. 😀
Thank you for sharing. We’re all on our own journeys, and I hope we can help each other along the way.
You could try this website, Theodore: http://www.ellynsatter.com/ . I’ve found it very helpful in putting eating into perspective. Also you could look at this post: http://www.fatnutritionist.com/?p=2509
I found an article that I think you might find interesting, Ragen. I wasn’t sure if I should comment here or on the post about giving moms metformin to prevent their babies from being obese. But I picked here.
Here’s the article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jul/10/children-under-five-exercise-guidance