I’m sure that all of us think back on being a kid as if it was the easiest thing in the world. But I can personally say one thing: I am happy to never have to experience the realization that I have fat and that fat is “bad” ever again. I don’t remember the exact moment; it’s got to be one of those things I blocked out from my childhood. But I wouldn’t be shocked if it was a time my grandmother was complaining about putting on a few pounds, or when my mom cried about baby weight—both scenarios definitely happened more than once.
Want to change this obsession with weight amongst youth? Here are three actions any adults can take.
1. Associating Eating with Weight
The idea that food is “bad” is the exact opposite of what a growing young person needs. Not only that, but there are so many scenarios where weight and appearance are totally unrelated to what a person consumes. So let’s not assume that the skinny girl at your family gym is anorexic or the “fat kid” is sitting on the couch all day.
2. Discussing Weight Loss Practices
Remember that time your toddler said a cuss word and you just knew you had messed up? How about some idea they mentioned that horrified you, like a girl thinking she had to have straight hair to be pretty because her mom straightened her own hair daily? The same applies to dieting. When you restrict your diet for weight loss purposes and make a fuss about it, your kid learns to think they might also need this. Monkey see, monkey do. No one wants the preteen using the expensive juicer for her “juice cleanse.”
3. Critiquing People Based on Weight
This goes for everyone, from yourself to that woman on the street in a crop–why does weight even matter, and why is it something to be ashamed about? This DEFINITELY goes for commenting on your kids’ weight gain or loss. Leading by example is one thing, but to comment on a child’s changing body to them can lead to some scare thoughts. Bodies have to change, especially at such a pivotal spot in life.
Let’s make being a kid a little easier on the coming generations and let them be carefree for a little bit longer—we know what they’re up against in the world. Maybe if children and young people aren’t introduced to body image restrictions on both the public and home fronts, they’ll grow up with less fear and shame about their weight.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.