The Girls Scouts have created a guide for what to do when your daughter calls herself fat. I want to start with the good stuff because there’s a lot of it:
According to studies, a whopping 80 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. Why? Because they’re constantly surrounded by both subtle and direct messages that curvier or heavier girls aren’t as well liked, aren’t as likely to succeed in business, and in general, aren’t going to have as much fun or happiness in their lives. Think about it: many of the animated heroines they idolize have unrealistically thin bodies, gossip magazines and websites are quick to call scandal on even an ounce of celebrity cellulite, and so called, “fat jokes”—despite their inherent offensiveness—remain completely acceptable in many circles as well as in movies and TV shows. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs.
Thank you! There’s nothing wrong fat bodies, but there’s plenty wrong with a society that disparages fat bodies so much that 10 year olds have completely bought into it.
by telling her that she’s not fat, she’s pretty, you’re reinforcing the idea that fatter, rounder, curvier or heavier bodies aren’t beautiful—which simply isn’t true. There are endless ways to be beautiful, and your daughter will grow up with a much healthier relationship to her body if you teach her that in a genuine way from a young age.
Yes – the idea that fat and pretty/beautiful/attractive etc. are mutually exclusive is absolutely fat shaming, not to mention total crap.
If she says she thinks her legs are bigger or her tummy is rounder than those of her friends, those may actually be correct observations—and there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that. “Your daughter should never be ashamed of the realities of her own body,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald, “
Yup, yup, yup. Teach kids early and often to appreciate and respect the diversity of body sizes.
Make sure she has positive body-image role models. Both the red carpet and the boardroom are becoming more diverse in terms of body size and shape, but girls might not see that reflected in the magazine aisle or on her favorite websites—so go the extra mile to compensate for some of the less-healthy messages your daughter may be getting from other sources. For younger girls, it might be helpful to show her some beautiful images of a women with very different body types, and tell her all about what they’ve accomplished, and what they’re best known for—their brains, their talents, their speed, their sense of humor. She needs to know you don’t have to be a certain size or shape to make it big in life.
The importance of having role models who look like you cannot be overstated – whether it’s people of color, people of size, disabled people/people with disabilities, queer and trans folks, or those with other marginalized identities. It’s also important that kids who aren’t part of marginalized groups) have examples role models who DON’T look like them.
Another reason your girl might call herself fat is because she’s heard you do the same to yourself. Your daughter listens to everything you say—and if you’re picking yourself apart in front of the mirror or complaining about your weight, there’s a good chance that she’ll follow in your self-disparaging footsteps. So do everyone a favor and be a little kinder to yourself. Identify parts of your body that serve you well and make note of the things you really do love about the way you look. Healthy habits like eating right and exercise are good for everyone, and should be a daily part of your routine, but fixating on your body and how it could or should be different isn’t healthy for anyone.
This is how internalized fatphobia reproduces itself – adults who have been beaten down and have crap self esteem are trying to raise kids with high self-esteem and that’s difficult to do because kids believe what they overhear more than what they’re told. So if you’re constantly engaging in negative body talk, but then try to turn around and tell a kid (including, say, a kid who may look like you due to being your genetic off-spring) that their body is perfect, they are going to smell the BS from a mile away. This isn’t the fault of parents and other adults, it’s the fault of a culture where we are encouraged (often by those with a profit interest!) to hate our bodies early, often, and out loud. One of the ways that we can help kids break this cycle is by finding ways to break it within ourselves.
Sadly, there’s no instant fix to society’s fat-shaming problem and the limiting depictions of beauty that are held up as standards for girls and women. But there are things you can do at home with your daughter, and in your daily life in general, to help fight against this culture and create a better one where all are celebrated as wonderful and worthy.
This is the world that I want to live in.
So there’s a LOT of great stuff in this guide, unfortunately the first paragraph says:
“I’m fat.” Those are just two little words, five letters in total, but coming from your daughter, they’re enough to make your heart totally sink. How could a girl who’s typically so kind and accepting of others be so disparaging of herself?
Um…no. The idea that someone calling themselves “fat” is “disparaging” is the exact opposite of basically everything else this guide says which I felt I needed to mention, but only in the context of all the amazing things that they did. Overall I’m thrilled with the work that the Girl Scouts are doing to end fatphobia.
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9 thoughts on “Girl Scouts Lead In Size Acceptance”
I read the Girl Scout piece too and ran into the same “uh oh, that’s not right” spot that you did. I was wondering if you had suggestions for responses for parents to give their daughters (and sons) when they say, “I’m fat” – for both children in bigger bodies and those not in bigger bodies. Replying “no you aren’t” to those in smaller bodies doesn’t address the fat-phobic message and I’m a little stuck as to the best ways to support parents and promoting body diversity at the same time for children of all shapes and sizes.
Thanks for the help, Beth
Beth Rosen, MS, RD, CDN Goodness. Gracious. Living. Nutrition Consulting eat well, play well, live well http://www.goodnessgraciousliving.com firstname.lastname@example.org
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Thanks for asking! I think that this post might help. If it doesn’t answer your question (or doesn’t answer it completely) just let me know and I’ll take another swing at it! https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/shes-not-that-fat/
Thanks for this. I would love to go a bit deeper. Kids are already exposed to fat phobia and “fat” as an insult. I understand that we should address that fat shouldn’t be used as an insult, but what’s the response to a child that calls themselves fat as a way to show dissatisfaction with their body – whether or not they are in a small or big body? Thanks for the help!
Tell this it’s spelled P-H-A-T, and it means Awesome.
I wish I had something like this to point to as a kid when my GS leader pulled me aside to talk about my weight and, “oh, also, you should really do something about that acne.” Even though I was already mired in the self loathing of my adolescence, I knew immediately when she said it that it was none of her damned business!
I’ve been volunteering for the local GS office the last few weeks, folding and labeling t-shirts for their summer camp. In fact I spent a few hours yesterday, folding and labeling shirts, and packing them up to go to specific groups and programs at the camp – like the Equestrian groups and the Explorers groups. And when I’d be doing one set of shirts that were mostly Youth Smalls, but had a few Youth Larges or Adult Smalls in them, I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the girls getting those shirts were heavier than their same-age peers, and how the scout masters were handling that.
As such, I was so happy to see this in my inbox this morning! While thir guide isn’t perfect, it’s great to see that they are doing so much to make sure these girls all feel excepted, that they are encouraging this kind of body acceptance in their organization and they are doing what they can to help parents raise their children to not be self-shaming of their bodies. And considering the number of girls and women who are exposed to GC mentalities, this could go a long way to helping younger generations grow to become more body-accepting, both in how they treat themselves and how they treat others.
Thanks for sharing this. It was incredibly well timed in my case.
All in all I’m impressed. True, fat is not disparaging, but usually when a kid says it about themselves, they mean it that way, so I can kind of see where they were going. They should have addressed that, instead of just leaving it at “that’s disparaging” but the rest of the article sounds so good, so much better than what most kids and parents have available to them,
The Girl Scouts are definitely stepping up their game in being a proactive and accepting organization. I hope they keep it up and keep improving.
Improving is the key word. Not perfect, but definitely better, and they deserve cookies.
Thin Mints and Samoas, please!