Would you believe kids as young as 3 are afraid of getting fat? In fact, experts say that most 5-year-olds would tell you that “skinny” is good, and “fat” is bad. And the putdown in elementary school is no longer, “You’re ugly,” it’s “You’re fat.”
Child development expert Dr. Robyn Silverman says that fat and thin are no longer descriptions of weight or size, but of character. In the world of TV, movies, and toys, thin characters are usually good and smart, and fat characters are stupid or evil. And today’s kids have learned to associate the word fat with ugly, lazy and unpopular, and that it’s the opposite of being happy, popular, well-liked, and good.
So, why are kids so obsessed with weight? Because we are. We say things like, “I’m going to be bad and eat cake.” Or, “I feel fat today.” And whether you’re overweight or not, the more you’re concerned with your weight, the more likely your kid will worry about theirs, and the earlier they’ll start obsessing about food, the more likely they are to try dangerous diets.
But growing children need healthy, well-balanced meals in order to grow into healthy adults.
And drastic diets hurt their grades.
Because when kids obsess about food, they often can’t focus on things like homework. And studies show that when people severely limit their food intake for long periods, their brain actually shrinks.
So, how can you help your kids?
• First, don’t criticize yourself, or others, for your body type. Instead, reinforce the idea that everyone deserves to be treated well, no matter what size they are.
• And instead of talking about food or dieting, simply eat healthy food, and focus on exercise. Studies show that kids are more likely to eat healthy and exercise if their parents do.