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Hope and Despair

March 13, 2013

Weighty Wednesday

Trigger warning: Dieting and weight loss talk.

Two different stories crossed my path recently: one was sent by my sister who knows exactly how to get my back up, and the other I discovered at Offbeat Families. The first I couldn’t bear to read until I’d given myself some space from the title, and the second I dove into right away.

The first is an article by Emma Waverman, who wrote at Embrace the Chaos about a seven-year-old on a self-imposed diet. Seven. years. old. And she thinks that doing push ups and star jumps and running up and down the driveway is important enough that she should make a list and check it off to make sure she does it every day. The mother of this little girl has what looks like a good self-image and a handle on weight and body issues; her daughter just picked up the diet thing from a friend. (Please, stay out of the comments if you don’t have the Sanity Watchers points.) We know that kids as young as three and four are worried about their self-image, and that it leads to higher incidences of eating disorders. So there’s despair.

Thankfully, the second article brought me hope. Offbeat Families most often has excellent articles, and this one really hit home for me. In it, Kelli describes how being the nanny to a three-year-old girl brought her down the road to self-acceptance. It’s a wonderful read and I hope you’ll go over there and enjoy it all. She writes: If we don’t love ourselves, who will? Indeed.

Every time I read about a little boy or girl who thinks they’re not absolutely wonderful just the way they are, my heart breaks a little more. Every time I hear my own son talk about how he’s afraid to become fat, or look at my daughter’s incredibly chubby baby body, I fear for them. The talk about body image and weight shouldn’t start when a parent notices that something is already wrong. Like Kelli, it should begin much earlier, and be a continuous reinforcement both through words and actions.

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It’s not often that I get shown in one day, in moments so close together, exactly why I’m doing what I do (blogging, fat activism, feminism) and how to do it best. Leading by example, walking the walk as well as talking the talk, is the best defense I can give my kids, the best resource I can offer to other parents. By not having a scale in the house, by talking positively about my body, by constantly reinforcing the idea that ALL bodies are beautiful in their own way, that fat and thin are neutral things, I’m building a strong foundation for the both of them to lean on as the years go by and the pressure they face about their looks increases. I just hope it’s enough.

Fat and Not Afraid Sig

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    March 13, 2013 11:18 am

    Great article Jen.
    When an 8-year old anorexic’s mom cite’s TBL as the influence on her daughter to start dieting, you know this world is fucked up. TBL never thought they’d be influencing kids until they had kids on the show this season, but they were wrong about that, as well as wrong about so many other things (that it’s about health, that the weight loss is permanent, that the diet and exercise they have fat people do on the show are safe, that’s it’s fine to exercise through injuries, that exercising till you puke is a good thing). How many other kids that young have watched this show with their parents, started dieting, and become anorexic as a result? This is unconscionable and TBL needs to be taken off the air – for the health and well-being of our children, and for the health and well-being of everyone who watches it and thinks it’s a good example of how to get “healthy”.

    • JeninCanada permalink
      March 13, 2013 12:24 pm

      If there aren’t rules or regulations against these kinds of shows that are obviously exploitive and harmful, there should be. Unfortunately TBL has a large following and good ratings so it’s not going anywhere, not unless someone sues I guess.

    • Kirsten permalink
      March 13, 2013 3:26 pm

      Vesta,I agree with everything you say, but I’ve always wondered: how many kids watch TBL, start dieting and end up not only anorexic, but fat (if they weren’t already) or fatter than when they started? As anorexia is a mental disorder, even very fat people can be anorexic, just as very thin people can have a serious binge eating disorder Most people don’t believe this. They think anorexia is looking skeletal, instead of realizing that looking skeletal can be an indication of having anorexia, and that thin people who binge eat just have a very high metabolism or “burn off” the extra with extreme exercise.

    • violetyoshi permalink
      March 13, 2013 7:34 pm

      I also realized the documentary was from England about that 8 year old girl. Seems in England they care if a child dies no matter what from. In the US, if a child starves themselves trying to not become fat, it’s an acceptable casualty in the war on fat.

  2. March 13, 2013 2:21 pm

    It\s a daily fight, isn’t it? The things we say and do around our kids are so important if we stand a chance of diluting society’s messages about bodies.
    My girl hears it from me so much, she plugs her ears and sings over top of me -lalalalal-but then I overhear her talking with her friends, and it’s MY positive HAES message coming out of her mouth. Hopefully, it stays with her…

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