Don’t Fat Shame Kids.
(I can’t believe I have to write this.)
My entire family, except for my sister who counts her calories and goes to the gym 3–4 times a week, is overweight.
Yes, even my thirteen-year-old daughter is overweight for her height and age and I take on almost all of the responsibility for that, for not making sure she’s always eating the healthiest foods or getting enough exercise.
It is my job as her parent to make sure she grows up healthy, and besides our family’s thunder thigh fat genes, I often look at her and think that it’s my fault she’s overweight, and that’s totally fine with me…
Because she’s not old enough to believe that it’s her own fault.
And maybe at this age fault shouldn’t be an issue at all.
Maybe at this age weight shouldn’t be an issue that she has to deal with at all, because, despite her weight, she’s still a healthy child with a lot of growing left to do, and no one knows when or if a growth spurt will come or her baby fat will melt away as her body and all its hormones and functions change as she goes through puberty.
Nevertheless, she worries about her weight now.
Recently, her grandmother (not my mom) started talking about signing her up for gymnastics again — but only if she lost five pounds by “eating healthily and stretching a lot every day.”
The instruction to “eat healthily” has really gotten to Elise.
She’s refusing to have dessert when it used to be her favorite thing to have, the treat she looked forward to at the end of the day.
She’s refusing to eat sandwiches at lunch and now will only eat fruit and vegetables.
These are good changes to make, I know, but I hate that they came from a bad place.
They came from her own grandmother shaming her about her weight, making her think that she wasn’t perfect just the way she is… a disabled child of 13 years old.
As if she doesn’t have enough to worry about, now she’s worried about her weight when she should be enjoying the last of her childhood before life really starts to come for her.
The thing that gets to me most is that Elise doesn’t seem to think that her eating habits were wrong.
She thinks that her body is wrong, that she should be a certain size and weight to be able to do an activity with other kids.
She thinks she isn’t good enough the way she is, and I find that unacceptable.
All fat shaming is unacceptable.
Whether you are a child or an adult, you shouldn’t be subject to other people commenting on your body or weight as if they get to have a say in how you live in your own skin.
And yet it happens, because fat people wear their shame on the outside of their bodies where it’s easy for others to poke at and be privy to.
We can’t hide our fat just like some people can’t hide their meanness towards fat people, but why is okay for people to comment on?
Why is it so hard for fat people to navigate the world and live in their own space without being somehow persecuted for it whether it be through rude comments or ‘helpful suggestions’ on how to lose the weight, whether losing weight is something we want to do or not.
Because, frankly, as big as I am now, I don’t want to go through the effort I know is necessary right now to lose the weight.
I know what it takes to diet and exercise away over fifty pounds, though at this point I could stand to lose almost a hundred, and I don’t have the time and space in my life right now for that kind of commitment.
Should I be shamed for that?
Should my thirteen-year-old daughter?
No one should be shamed for the size or shape or color of their body, for any reason at all, and I am shocked that this is happening to my own child by her own grandmother right now.
I know that being overweight isn’t good for your health, but let’s consider for a moment what being shamed does to your mental health.
The last thing I want is my daughter to grow up thinking she’s not good enough or somehow less than even though she’s a little bigger.
I worry a lot more right now about what this is doing to her mental health than what exercising and eating right will do for her bodily health.
Not to mention wanting to bodily harm her grandmother for putting us in this position in the first place.
Shaming people is straight up evil.
Look, this world is bad enough as it is right now, we don’t have to go around shaming each other or making other people feel bad for things on top of getting Trumped.
But shaming a child for their weight, when it isn’t even their fault that they got that way — that is straight up evil in my book.
So, please, consider your words before you use them.
Reconsider giving people ‘helpful advice’ about weight loss.
We know what we are, and there’s only a very short time in childhood when we don’t know that being what we are is looked upon as something bad by the thin people of the world.
If your child is overweight, help them make better choices, but for fuck’s sake, don’t shame them into losing weight that they don’t even realize they’ve gained.
Don’t tell your child they can’t do something until they lose a few pounds — you might as well tell them “you’re not good enough for this yet” and you have no idea what the ramifications of those words will have on children throughout their lives.
I’ve done my best to downplay the damage that I think Elise’s grandmother is doing.
I’ve encouraged Elise to have her dessert anyway, and enjoy it, too.
I’ve told her she’s beautiful and perfect every day.
I’ve told her that I’ll love her no matter what.
And now I can only hope that my words of encouragement outweigh her grandmother’s words of shame, and that she comes through this time in her life intact.