Forcing children to diet is child abuse

I realize that there are some well-intentioned people who are very worried about fat people in general and about our health. I understand how this happens- we live in a world where the proposition that fat = unhealthy = bad is taken as the gospel truth. It’s so ingrained that people don’t even think to question it.

But I am immediately disqualifying all arguments about ‘health’. Please read this article by Kate Harding about fat and health, and read every single one of the links, if you are sincerely concerned about health and fatness.

I would like to propose two ideas to blow your minds (in addition to the linked article) —

-Mental health is just as important as physical health. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the position to have someone (everyone) tell you that your body and your very existence is unwanted and bad and wrong, but it does a number on the mind.

-Other people’s health is not your problem to worry about. Back off and mind your own business.

If you want to encourage kids to eat a variety of foods and to enjoy exercise, what we are doing as a culture- this ain’t fucking it, y’all. It’s not working, because what this breaks out to in actual practice is that there is a group of kids who are singled out and tormented- simply for what they look like.

Michelle Obama proposes reforms to have kids eat ‘healthy’ lunches and exercise more, and all of that I could agree to with a smile, but she has to hang it on this rhetoric of the danger of fat kids.

Oh, so many fat kids. Got to get rid of the fat kids.

If it’s good for kids to exercise- why can’t we just have them all do it? Are we really proposing that thin kids could eat nothing but candy bars all day long, as long as they stay thin?

We truly live in an eating disordered culture.

Here’s what we’re actually doing- increasing the number of eating disorders. Per Regan Chastain-

“The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that hospitalizations of children younger than 12 years for eating disorders rose by 119% from 1999 to 2006.”

There is a lot of floofy, junk science around fatness causing disease (inevitably conflating correlation and causation), but goddammit! Eating disorders are the MOST DEADLY form of mental illness. In our pursuit of the eradication of fat people as a group- to solve what are almost certainly imaginary links to disease, we are causing a substantial increase in deadly illness in children UNDER 12.

Please excuse me while I bang my head into this desk for a bit and scream-cry a little.

HOW CAN THIS BE ALLOWED???

Not to mention that fat kids are more likely to commit suicide. People mostly don’t seem to care, but yeah. There you go.

But what I most want to talk about is how so many fat kids aren’t even safe in their own homes. Because their parents are in on the shaming and abuse.

If you were to take away anything else from a child that they needed to live, you could be prosecuted for abuse. Take food away from a fat child- everyone applauds. You would never get in trouble for sending your chubby kid to bed hungry.

Eliminate that fat kid! Have the thin kid you REALLY want.

Break all bonds of trust with your child. Make sure they know that you are not on their side. Tell them that no one will love them unless they can get that weight off.

No one will stop you. Abuse away.

When I was eight years old, I came home from the new school I had just started (in the middle of a school year because we kept moving), and I was crying. “No one likes me at school,” I told my parents.

“Well that’s because you’re fat,” my father answered. And he monitored every piece of food I would put in my mouth until the day I left that house, as best as he could.

He made sure I knew that I was shameful. That he didn’t want a disobedient, fat daughter. Who could ever love a fat child? Who could care for something so worthless as a fat girl?

When you force your children to diet, you teach them that they can’t trust you. You teach them to hate themselves. You make them furious and resentful.

You break the bonds of love, because forcing a child to diet is a betrayal.

Don’t do it.

(Originally published as a blog post on 11/14/14.)