15 Tips for Raising Kids With a Positive Body Image

[box type="bio"] Don’t forget to check out the follow-up post Big Fat Myths About Fat.  Comments are closed on this post since I will be responding via the follow-up posts.  Please comment on the new posts.[/box] I wish I could say the above images were designed by me to make a point about fat-phobia and how poorly kids are treated when they don’t fit society’s ideal of size.  Maybe I threw them together because I thought the SHOCK of seeing kids would help people understand how fat-shaming in adults can feel.

Alas, a group in Georgia actually produced these billboards in an attempt to end childhood obesity. Apparently they thought that shame was a good way to motivate kids to eat healthier and exercise.  Clearly, they also are working under the delusion that size can somehow magically tell you about a person’s health.

I just want to vomit when, in a time where anti-bullying campaigns are making headway, some kids, skinny or fat, had to see this hateful and erroneous message in their towns.  There are plenty of other bloggers that have written about how wrong these ads are (I love this one: What’s Wrong with Fat Shaming?).

Instead, I wanted to revisit a previous post of mine where I talked about how fat-shaming and the fallacy of size=health hurts everyone: skinny and fat.  These billboards didn’t just do a bang up job of making fat kids the target of hate but they also put “being fat” in the minds of kids as being the absolute worst thing that could happen.  Where do we think eating disorders come from?  A self-hatred and fear so strong that young people starve, vomit, over-exercise, take dangerous pills, and otherwise slowly kill themselves is the root of eating disorders.

When we say “fat is bad” we instill that fear.  And it works. Remember the study that showed 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat?  How do you think this billboard effected those numbers?

It is not too late.  As parents we have a powerful influence in how our kids grow up feeling about their bodies and their relationship to food.  Many of them are things we can say (or not say) that have a huge impact.

15 Tips for Raising Kids With a Positive Body Image

    1. Never use the word fat in a derogatory way.  Avoid media that does.
    2. Never imply that you can’t do something or wear something because of your size (“oh, not with these thighs!”)
    3. Never compliment others based on size (how many times is “you look so thin!” the ultimate compliment?)
    4. Point out the beauty of diversity in people and nature – nurture the idea that beauty is diversity.  I love to say “what would the word be if all the flowers looked the same?”
    5. Avoid making physical activity about size or based on what you ate (“I have to jog off that cake”).  Physical activity should be joyful.
    6. Do not label foods as “good” and “bad”
    7. Offer a variety of foods and model moderate indulgence and a wide consumption of foods. Eating should be joyful.
    8. Don’t make your kids eat if they say they aren’t hungry[1. Unless you suspect an eating disorder in which case contact your doctor].  The refrain “finish your dinner!” should be stricken from the mommy lexicon.  Better to let them trust their bodies than feel guilt about wasting food.
    9. Don’t deny your kids food if they say they are hungry.  Another area where we often ignore our kids opinions and feelings.  Try to make your pantry a “yes” pantry with a variety of healthy options that your kids can eat when they want.
    10. Never comment on the amount (too little or too much) that your kids eat.
    11. NEVER use food as a reward, incentive, or punishment!  (this is SO abused among parents!!)
    12. Guard your children against negative body-image media – stop your subscriptions to women’s mags, don’t watch Biggest Loser, Toddler and Tiaras (focusing on appearance), and any variety of shows promoting appearance as a route to happiness.
    13. Avoid talking about a nutrionalist approach to food – disassembling “food” into fat, carbs, calories, and other things that need to be obsessed about and counted (difficult since it is explicitly taught in many schools).
    14. Encourage alternative means of self-esteem besides appearance – spirituality, values, empathy, effort, etc.
    15. Volunteer!  It is much harder to think of something so superficial as size in the face of true plight.

70 thoughts on “15 Tips for Raising Kids With a Positive Body Image

  1. The first bit of your article reminds me of "Fat Politics" by J. Eric Oliver. It's a bit of a dry read, but the author explores how there is actually little evidence to conclude "fat=unhealthy". He especially delves into the myth of BMI: people can be perfectly healthy, but their BMI says that they're morbidly obese. I recommend it.

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    • Sounds interesting. That reminds me of a book called "Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss—And the Myths and Realities of Dieting" by Gina Kolata. She talks about society's obsession with weight loss, history of dieting, the diet industry, and some of the science behind weight and weight loss that contradicts the common held beliefs that fat is unhealthy and that people who are fat just need more will power/food education to be thin. It had it's dry moments as well, but I enjoyed it.

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    • I agree that shaming as a means of motivating children to do, or not do anything is wrong, no matter what.

      However, the fact that you refute fat=unhealthy is completely off base. This is not just some beauty myth. Being overweight truly is unhealthy. It taxes our joints, our organs and every part of our body. Children are developing clogged arteries at an alarming rate, type 2 diabetes is showing up in kids, this used to be an old person's disease. Kids who are overweight do have a better chance of being overweight adults and as such being unhealthy adults.

      We do not need to teach the kids is OK to be fat in order to bolster their self confidence. Rather, the focus should be on health, not appearance. Teach children that food is their fuel. Good food makes them stronger and smarter. Junk food (ie: too much sugar, too many empty calories) slows them down and makes it harder to focus and learn.

      The flip side to this, is that it is equally unhealthy to be too skinny, because you need fuel to be healthy, and that means eating enough good food that will provide fuel for your daily activities.

      At 5 and 6 years old, my kids understand that too much sugar is bad, and you will crash because it doesn't give you enough energy. They can read food labels and identify unhealthy food. Not because they are calorie counting, but if something has more than 10 or 12 g of sugar, its a treat not a snack or a meal. If there is minimal fiber and protein – its not a snack or a meal, its a treat.

      They see me reading labels in the grocery store and they see me put a lot of stuff back on the self because of what's on the label. They can have treats sometimes, after they fill up with a healthy snack and I work hard to keep the sugary empty processed food out of my pantry.

      As it turns out my kids eat like horses. My friends often comment on how much my kids eat, and laugh that they are always getting a snack from the pantry. They are allowed to eat when they're hungry, but I get to decide if its a suitable snack or not. Most meals they also clean their plates – not because I make them, but because they're hungry, and for the most part they eat what my husband and I eat. Despite my kids ravenous appetites, they are lean kids, leaner than most of their picky eater friends, who probably do not consume as much food as my kids but consume processed, sugary, salty empty calories.

      The message to the parents and kids should be to provide the right fuel for your kids. Do read the labels, set some household rules on what's ok and what's not with regards to sugar content, or even calories allowed in one sitting – and the parents need to consider the quality of the calories not the number.

      It is OK to point out unhealthy habits and lifestyles to your kids. You don't have to "let" them be overweight for diversity. Parents you are in charge you can say no to sugar and junk without damaging your child's self esteem. You wouldn't let them smoke a cigarette, chug coffee or alcohol – because these are known to be unhealthy for children. Draw the same line with unhealthy eating, its that simple.

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  3. I disagree with numbers 6 and 13. It is important to understand the composition of foods and what makes some food nutritional and other food less nutritional.

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    • Do you have some basis for this opinion? Did our ancestors know anything about nutrient make up? How did humans survive before the carbohydrate was defined and analyzed?

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    • Our ancestors didn't have the processed foods filled with a whole bunch of junk that we have now! We do need to teach kids to read labels and choose foods wisely. I'm not saying obsess, just make informed decisions. If we allowed kids to only listen to their body, they might listen to their body saying that it wants pop tarts, ice cream, soda, and chips.
      I took my daughter to a nutritionist who taught us both about making healthy decisions and limiting foods with lots of sugar and fat. It has really helped our family. We're not obsessing, but we are being careful about what we eat.

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    • In reply to both Erin and Kelly. I agree that processed foods are a land mine that our ancestors did not have to worry about. However, I think kids develop their tastes based on foods they are exposed to. My kids have never had processed foods and they naturally reach for apples, bananas, grapes – geesh I can't keep grapes in the house! They like chocolate, of course, and I buy good chocolate (no HFCS or other nasties). I don't think reading labels is the answer. EAT REAL FOOD is the answer. You don't have to read the label of a carrot, steak, or glass of milk (raw preferably) to know it is good eats. If you have to read the label it probably isn't real food. Now, I read labels like on chocolate and I have no problem teaching my kids about it if and when they ask but they are developing taste for delicious, wholesome food. I'm sure a glass of industrial skim milk would make them gag!

      I second the recommendation for The Intuitive Eater.

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    • I completely agree. My kids usually eat real food, but are definitely allowed to eat chocolate and sweets when appropriate. What happens? The natural mechanism in their bodies tells them when they've had enough sugar, and they stop when they feel it. They don't go on binges, because they don't feel they have to. Think back to being a little kid. When food (or anything) is labeled "bad", and seems desirable, kids naturally want to try it, and will often over-indulge to get their fill. Kids who are allowed to eat sugar in moderation don't feel this need. I grew up in the circumstances where I was not allowed to eat certain foods because I was fat (and 7 years old, I might add), and sugar "made" me fat. I binged on these foods when I thought nobody was looking. The real problem was, was that there were never good choices of food in the home. People keep treating food like it's the enemy, as if it's equal to troublesome activities, but in reality, it's people's minds that create the real problems.

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    • Before we had any nutrient makeup we weren't eating highly processed food. Most jobs were extremely physical and often you grew your own food. Things are very different now, we aren't out tilling land, most kids spend much more time being sedentary…. Also people with diabetes, high blood sugar, gluten allergies went undiagnosed.

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    • I also disagree with number 6 and 13. Knowledge should never be feared. the more they know the better choices they'll make when you are not around.

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    • You assumption is that there a "good' and "bad" foods and I wish to hide this information from my kids. On the contrary, there are no good or bad foods. (When I say food I mean Real Food not "food-like products")

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  4. I agree with the majority of this list. However, I also think that parents should encourage physical activity in their children. While not all kids will want to be amazing athletes, getting them involved in enjoyable activities that promote movement and exercise is also important.

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    • I agree with you. I think modeling an active life is so important. However I would never frame it as "physical activity" or something they needed to do for health. As with food, humans are adapted to maximize their health naturally. Look at any child – activity is the norm until it becomes something they have to do.

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  5. While I agree that body image among children is a problem, I think you're swinging a little bit too far the other way. We have major problems on both ends– obesity and eating disorders. I think that it is, in fact, beneficial to teach adolescents about nutrition and all of the different aspects of nutrition. That way they can make their own healthy, informed decisions and feel good about it, a skill that will be beneficial for the rest of their lives. As a pediatric RN, I have seen so many kids come in with extreme health problems due to obesity. If you never talk about nutrition and health bluntly, many of these problems result. You are doing your children and teens a huge disservice by pretending like these problems don't exist. I think the correct approach is to talk to them about optimum HEALTH, not optimum SIZE.

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    • I agree with the focus on health not size and perhaps in public school settings teaching nutrition might be important if it is the only time they hear about it and it isn't modeled at home (I can add this to the reasons I homeschool). However, I do not think that humans need to know ANYTHING about nutrients. We are uniquely adapted to choose the right foods for optimum health regardless of environment and the over analysis of what is instinctual just robs us of that instinct. Lastly, I think self-hate is 1,000,000x more insidious than the health effects of obesity. I mean how much obesity is BECAUSE OF severe body hate coupled with seeing the body and food as the enemy? I think having a healthy body image is infinitely more valuable to children than a disassociated view of food as something that needs to be managed.

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  6. LDS.org has an amazing talk about this. It talks about how GOD see us. It is quite amazing and goes right along with what you have said. It is by Jeffrey R. Holland entitiled "To the Young Women."

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  7. Thank you!!! I posted about this as soon as those ads came out. I was horrified. I know exactly why I'm fat and it's because of all the reasons you listed, except I did not know what healthy food was and was never encouraged to exercise. Thankfully I grew up in the time where it was still relatively safe to play outside (on military bases) and was relatively thin in my childhood (bigger than most kids). My mother was her worst critic and was so tiny compared to me. I'm the classic example of how all that shaming works…always thought I was fat and there was nothing I could do about it. Now I have a daughter that is even bigger than I was and it is such a struggle to protect her from CRAP like this campaign. I am seriously worried about taking her to her next doctor's appointment because they've started some kind of get thin club for children 6 and up and if they mention this crap in front of my daughter I will have to kill them. Ok, well just get mad. I do think, though, that children do need to be educated about healthy and non-healthy foods and what nutrients our bodies get from foods, as well as that not only is play fun but as a bonus it is also exercise and is incredibly healthy for our bodies. My daughter loves this and likes to show us her muscles :-)

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  8. Looks like my article was shared on a nutrition based forum? That's great. I'm happy if it sparks debate. I wanted to add two things:
    1. I'm a un/homeschooler so I can't really comment on whether nutrition should be taught in school. I mean obviously I don't think it should exist let alone be taught but I understand that in homes where children think soda pop and doritos are dinner that school may be the only place they learn about health. However, as with many other examples, I do not plan to educated my children to the lowest common denominator which frankly, and rightly so, has to be considered in public schools.

    2. Many people disagreed with #13 but it is quite central. I think Geneen Roth's books are a great start to intuitive eating for those of us raised on nutrionalism.

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  9. THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE.

    I love my mom, she was a wonderful mom and always tried to show me she loved me, but, like every mom, she fell short. I still remember to this day being 6 years old and told I needed to lose weight. I remember my parents eating a lot, and yet would tell me I needed to lose weight and not eat as much.

    I completely disagree with the comments about encouraging children to be physically active. People don't have to encourage their children to love them or encourage them to play, it comes naturally because they do it with them. If we don't go for walks or run around and play sports with our kids, then good luck with the "Do as I say, not as I do" parenting, because if you're doing this with your kids, they will want to do it and there won't be any encouraging.

    And I also completely agree with #13. If everyone read The Intuitive Eater by dietician and nutritional therapists Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, they would finally understand the fallacy of worrying over nutrition.

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  10. It’s absurd to think being overweight is as healthy as being ideal or average weight. Sure, there are overweight people that are healthier than average weight people, but it’s not the norm. You have overweight football players drop dead every year, Also, if your child is too big for you to carry in an emergency, there might be a problem. I used to want a huge dog, but after lifting my 85 lb. rottweiler & my 95 lb. pitt-mastiff mixes, I realized, I don’t want a dog I can’t rescue, if needed. The problem is many parents aren’t teaching an participating, their just allowing, entertaining & enduring their kids. McDonalds & buffet hell are the idols of American existence. More, more, more….. then leave me on the couch.

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    • You don't think people should own pets or have children if they can't carry them?? What if they are quadrapalegic? Or just 95 lbs? I don't understand your logic at all. Also your logic is missing regarding weight = health. Plenty of average weight people drop dead every year as well. You can't know based on size if they eat well and exercise.

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  11. I think this is ignorant regarding food options. It is highly important to educate your children about proper food intake & nutrition. You don’t need to make it a weight reference or educate them about fats or carbs but you absolutely need to limit junk food & educate your children as to what a healthy food item does for you. Many of us grew up in uneducated families that provided unhealthy meals unknowingly, we know now & it is vital to a child’s health & development that they are educated as well. Depriving your child the right to know what foods are good or bad, healthy or harmful, is not saving them from an image in the media, it’s setting them up for an unhealthy lifestyle.

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    • You assume that there are "good" and "bad" foods. I do not. Like I responded elsewhere – I understand that learning about nutrition might be necessary for uneducated or unhealthy families as that might be the only place they see normal eating. However the demographics that read my blog are normally highly educated people with an eye for eating real food and modeling a healthy relationship with food.

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    • I've been reading through many of these comments and I see you often have the same rebuttal for comments like Teresa's. You present your family only with good foods, so you think, "why would they need to be educated on nutrition? Everything IS nutritious!" I think that this is a very beneficial blog post, but I agree with Teresa in that depriving children from nutritional knowledge is setting them up for possibly learning about nutrition the hard and very unhealthy way. Unless you plan on having your children live with you for the rest of your life (which is a WHOLE other issue completely), who do you think will be doing the grocery shopping when they are on their own? Grocery stores are NOT set up like your pantry. Do you think they will NEVER be exposed to processed food? There ARE bad foods out there. They may not be exposed to them yet. One day they will. Knowledge is power.

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  12. Our kids are not overweight, but both my husband an I are obese. We have made a point of discussing food in terms of quality and portion size in order to help break the cycle. Fortunately, both of our kids fell in love with swimming and are self-driven athletes. Not sure where that gene came from, but we are doing our best to support them in pursuing it. This makes it even more important for us to discuss carbs, protein and fat because they need to understand how to properly fuel their bodies for their chosen sports. (9 year old: swims 2500 yards a day in a year round swim club, runs cross country for school. 12 year old: swims 5000 yards a day in same year round swim club, runs cross country, plays volleyball and soccer for school.) Educating our children about whole foods versus processed foods, portion control (which sometimes means they need to eat more) is just part of teaching them to care for their bodies and change a generational problem in our family. The thing is to keep it positive, kind and honest. Words must build up, not tear down. They don't need to be rail thin or have six pack abs to be healthy, but diabetes does run on both sides and while research shows that it is really more of an autoimmune issue than an obesity issue, increased belly fat is still related to higher blood sugar. We've talked about all of these things with the kids. They get desserts, pizza, etc. but they also understand the importance of fueling their bodies for maximum performance and daily health. What we have had to undo is the media impact on our kids. No more satellite to leak images of airbrushed, surgically altered starved women and six pack abs men.

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  13. Ok, so "We are uniquely adapted to choose the right foods for optimum health regardless of environment and the over analysis of what is instinctual just robs us of that instinct. " is totally wrong. We are adapted to survive in a calorically deficient environment. If you choose to eat real food with sensible breakdowns then your hunger is a good guide to control food volume (though not optimal from a health standpoint, just very good). Understanding how food works is immensely helpful in making good choices about what you eat. Some people can get way too caught up in it and a healthy sensible relationship with food is far more important than nutritional knowledge, but both can be had…

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  14. we can lie to ourselves as much as we want but in most cases an overweight person is not as healthy as a person of a healthy weight. We must stress clean, healthy eating with our children in addition to physical activity. And we must model these behavoirs for our kids, we must take them on hikes and ride bikes with them and eat a balanced healthy meal together as a family. I would never call my child fat and I don't make them "clean their plate" but we do teach them where their food comes from and that some food (natural) food is more healthy than others. We have to use common sense and stop pretending that fast food is healthy for us and that it's ok for our kids to eat.

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    • Your first sentence is completely unfounded and has zero fact behind it. Actually there is plenty of research to the contrary.

      Your next part: " we must model these behavoirs for our kids, we must take them on hikes and ride bikes with them and eat a balanced healthy meal together as a family." I couldn't agree with more. Once again – don't stress nutritionism but model a healthy lifestyle.

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  15. Coming from the other side: skinny and too skinny,I have two points. Skinny definitely does not equal healthy. In shape equals healthy. Most of my friends who weigh more than I do are healthier than I am.
    I too agree with the earlier post that #6 and #13 should be talked about. I've had to educate my kid as to what foods to eat first to get the most calories in his system before he feels full.

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  16. The bad thing about this is that most likely the people reading this, already do these things. The problem is Grandmas who like in my family either talk about how fat they themselves are to my daughters or constantly tell my daughters how thin they are. Even Aunts, my husbands Aunts and Grandpas…..I can't police everybody. Can I keep my children far from these people? Yes, I can and in fact I do limit their time with them for many reasons. But banning them from all the people in society isn't the answer either. Instead, I educate my children. Hopefully because of my actions my daughters will have self-respect but only time will tell.

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    • This is so true Jenny. I think at that point you have to talk to your kids about the epidemic of nutritionism. Like "some people are afraid of food and so they spend a lot of time thinking about what they eat." Or "some people are really worried about their bodies but we know bodies come in all shapes and sizes."

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  17. #13 is dangerous — my daughter is Type 1 Diabetic. If we didn't read nutritional facts it would be detrimental to her health. A person should learn to understand how carbs, protein, and fiber work in our bodies and to maintain the proper balance with this information.

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    • I agree that if you have a non-functioning digestive system then the situation is different. I imagine if you had zero pancreatic function in the stone age you died.

      Also, you mention "understand how … work in our bodies" and I do agree with this to the extent that I want my kids to learn about the biology of the digestive system. #13, for functional digestive systems, is about not breaking foods down and counting instead of listening to your body while eating real food.

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  18. I think creating a good body image is very important and very necessary. I'm not sure that is necessarily the same issue that the advertisements are dealing with. I will also admit that while those ads lack tact, they are real. Putting on sunshades to pretend that someone is not obese is not helpful either. There is a big difference from a little girl poking at her thigh because she doesn't match the latest glamour magazine and a child being morbidly obese. It's not an attack on the child, it's a cry to help them before it's too late. Parents that don't teach their children how to be healthy are failing them and laying a foundation for a life of health problems. And it happens far to often in our society. We can find a happy medium between self-image issues and nutritional obsession.

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    • " Parents that don't teach their children how to be healthy are failing them and laying a foundation for a life of health problems."
      YES. And this is true REGARDLESS OF THE CHILD"S SIZE.

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  19. Put the cookies down and teach your kids to be healthy! U can’t be fat and healthy no matter how you try to justify that.

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    • Thanks! I was trying to think of an answer to the question; "In one or two sentences explain how to be a fat-shaming asshat." You've done it wonderfully! Well, back to my cookies.

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  20. I agree with most of the items on your list, but I think there has to be some balance. When we think about protecting our children from eating disorders, we can't forget about compulsive overeating and emotional eating. And isn't it likely that these disordered eating habits are what lead some people to obesity and overweight?

    I think that the way our country grows and markets food plays a huge part in our current crisis of obesity, where it has become normal to overeat and the standard american diet hardly resembles real food. So while I agree that I want to protect my children's self-image, I also feel that I have to be proactive in teaching them what real food is and trying to help them listen to their bodies' hunger/full signals.

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  23. I dont see why people think they should not discuss weight issues with children who are obese. What is wrong with a honest conversation about calories, portions and exercise? Kids are not stupid and yet everyone makes this a taboo no no subject. I feel so sorry for all the fat kids out there being teased, wearing adult sized clothes that are too long, not able to enjoy their physical bodies with ease and joy.. Why not give them the facts and enable them to learn to make choices? Pretending it is not a problem is clearly not helping anything. Weight control is pretty simple – eat less and exercise more if you want to lose weight. Maybe they would do it if told/shown how. My daughter knows that if she overfeeds her pony and doesnt exercise her, she will get fat and that being fat is unhealthy and could cause her health problems that could kill her. So she takes care of her. Many times we have discussed food and food choices and exercise choices for herself and she understands them and acts accordingly without being anorexic, a binge eater or a fanatic exerciser. She does pass on the second piece of cake and eats a cookie or two not twelve. It just simple cause and effect. If I had an overweight child I would help them lose weight and it WOULD happen… Quite frankly I think it is borderline child abise to allow a child to be morbidly obese and unhealthy, and pretend like its ok and nothing is wrong.. Parents need to help their kids not enable them because they are afraid to hurt their feelings. Flame away. Those 15 things made me cringe,,

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    • In reply to " Weight control is pretty simple – eat less and exercise more if you want to lose weight. Maybe they would do it if told/shown how…If I had an overweight child I would help them lose weight and it WOULD happen."

      That is amazing and you should contact all of these nutritionists and food scientists immediately to let them know that you have found the answer to why diets don't work:

      A qualitative investigation of dieting, weight loss, and physical exercise, in obese individuals – Nutr J, 2008
      Adolescent beverage habits and changes in weight over time – Am J Clin Nutr, 2009
      Bariatric Surgery May Just Mask Diabetes, Am Assoc of Clinical Endocrinologists, 2010
      Behavior modification in the treatment of obesity: the problem of maintaining weight loss – Arch Gen Psychiatry, 1979
      Benefits and adverse effects of weight loss – Ann Intern Med, 1993
      Biomedical rationale for a wellness approach to obesity – J Soc Issues, 1999
      BMI and all-cause mortality among Japanese older adults – Obesity, 2010
      BMI and mortality: results from a national longitudinal study of Canadian adults – Obesity, 2010
      Body energy homeostasis – Appetite, 2008
      Body image of chronic dieters – J Am Diet Assoc, 2004
      Body weight dynamics and their association with physical function and mortality in older adults – J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 2010
      Cardiorespiratory fitness and metabolic risk factors in obesity – Curr Opin Lipidol, 2009
      Changes in Energy Expenditure Resulting from Altered Body Weight – NEJM, 1995
      Confronting the failure of behavioral and dietary treatments for obesity – Clinical Psychology Review, 1994
      Considerations regarding the genetics of obesity – Obesity, 2008
      Decreased energy levels can cause and sustain obesity – J Theor Biol, 2003
      Diet composition and energy balance in humans – Am J Clin Nutr, 1998
      Dieting Does Not Work, UCLA Researchers Report – Newsweek, 2007
      Does Perceived Weight Discrimination Affect Identity and Physical Health – Soc Psych Quarterly, 2011
      Does physical activity ameliorate the health hazards of obesity? – Br J Sports Med, 2009
      Excess deaths associated with underweight, overweight, and obesity – JAMA, 2005
      Fat Factors – New York Times, 2006
      Genes Take Charge, and Diets Fall by the Wayside – New York Times, 2007
      High body mass index does not predict mortality in older people – J Am Geriatr Soc, 2001
      High body mass index for age among US children and adolescents, 2003-2006 – JAMA, 2008
      How effective are traditional dietary and exercise interventions for weight loss? – Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1999
      Identification and characterization of metabolically benign obesity in humans – Arch Intern Med, 2008
      Internalization of weight bias: Implications for binge eating and emotional well-being – Obesity, 2007
      Is the energy homeostatis system inherently biased toward weight gain? – Diabetes, 2003
      Men's preferences in romantic partners: obesity vs addiction – Psychol Rep, 1995
      Modern Science Versus the Stigma of Obesity – Nature Medicine, 2004

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    • Myths about Diabetes, American Diabetes Association
      New NHLBI clinical guidelines for obesity and overweight: will they promote health? – Am J Public Health, 2000
      NIH Consensus Conference on Obesity: by Whom and for What? – J Nutr, 1987
      Normal Body Mass Index Rather than Obesity Predicts Greater Mortality in Elderly People – J Am Geriatr Soc, 2009
      Obesity, disordered eating, and eating disorders in a longitudinal study of adolescents – J Am Diet Assoc, 2006
      Obesity: An Overblown Epidemic? – Scientific American, 2005
      Obesity: still highly heritable after all these years – Am J Clin Nutr, 2008
      Physical activity energy expenditure has not declined since the 1980s and matches energy expenditures of wild mammals – Int J Obesity, 2008
      Portrayals of Overweight and Obese Individuals on Commercial Television – Am J Pub Health, 2003
      Position of the American Dietetic Association: total diet approach to communicating food and nutrition information – J Am Diet Assoc, 2007
      Presentation of Restrictive Eating Disorders in Children – Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 2011
      Reflections on Fat Acceptance: Lessons Learned from Privilege – Linda Bacon, NAAFA Keynote, 2009
      Retention rates and weight loss in a commercial weight loss program – Int J Obese (Lond), 2007
      Science of HAES
      Size Acceptance and Intuitive Eating Improve Health for Obese, Female Chronic Dieters – J Am Diet Assoc, 2005
      The body politic: the relationship between stigma and obesity-related disease – BMC, 2008
      The Determinants of Health – World Health Organization, 2009
      The Epidemiology of Overweight and Obesity: Public Health Crisis or Moral Panic? – Int J Epidemiol, 2005
      The health at any size paradigm for obesity treatment: the scientific evidence – Obes Rev, 2001
      The influence of the stigma of obesity on overweight individuals – Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord, 2004
      The National Weight Control Registry: A Critique – J Nutr Educ Behav, 2005
      The Obese Without Cardiometabolic Risk Factor Clustering – Arch Intern Med, 2008
      The relationship between media exposure and anti-fat attitudes: the role of dysfunctional appearance beliefs – Body Image, 2009
      The relationship between weight loss and all-cause mortality – J Am Geriatr Soc, 2002
      The stigma of obesity: a review and update – Obesity, 2009
      The Stigma of Obesity: Does Perceived Weight Discrimination Affect Identity and Physical Health? – Soc Psychol Quart, 2011
      The war on obesity: a social determinant of health – Health Promot J Austr, 2006
      They Starved That Others Be Better Fed – The Journal of Nutrition, 2005
      Weight bias among dietetics students: implications for treatment practices – J Am Diet Assoc, 2009
      Weight change and mortality among older Mexican Americans – Aging Clin Exp Res, 2006
      Weight change, initial BMI, and mortality among middle- and older-aged adults – Epidemiology, 2009
      Weight change, weight cycling and mortality – Eur J Epidemiol, 2007
      Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift – Nutrition Journal, 2011
      Cochrane Reviews
      Advice to reduce dietary salt for prevention of cardiovascular disease, 2004
      Dietary advice for the prevention of type 2 diabetes, 2008
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      Dietary treatment for familial hypercholesterolaemia, 2001
      Effects of low sodium diet versus high sodium diet, 2004
      Exercise for Overweight or Obesity, 2006
      Exercise for type 2 diabetes, 2006
      Interventions for preventing eating disorders in children and adolescents, 2002
      Long-term non-pharmacological weight loss interventions for adults

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  24. I also Disagree with 6 and 13. Just so you know our ancestors did know the difference!Do you think they ate something if it was poisonous? They might have tried it once but clearly from experience in finding it was harmful they didn't again. You should never (refuse knowledge to a child!) To understand nutrition knowledge is a good thing weather or not you are using it derogatory is what will make the difference. You don't not refuse children knowledge about math because your afraid they will think that maybe they are stupid from low grades! Your opinion on knowing the difference between vegetables and McDonalds is pretty much saying just that. Maybe you should rephrase or say teach them the food pyramid but do not force an eating habit on them.

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    • I have a whole post on the absurdity of the food pyramid. If I ever teach it to my children it will be about the hypocritical nature of it.

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  25. Great post! I just wrote a similar one where I said: "I don’t want my daughter growing up believing that her body has to be perfect. There is no single definition of perfect and it certainly isn’t what is perceived to be idealistic according to media and Photoshopped standards. I want her to be comfortable in her own skin and not spend countless wasted hours obsessing about whether or not she is too fat or too skinny or pretty enough. I want her to live free of the labels and stigmatisms. I want her to remain true to who she is, not try to fit in."
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  27. 13 isnt right. In fact I have issues with a fair amount of this from top to bottom, but 13 is the most glaring.

    In your defense you asked: “how did out ancestors…”. Implying they had no health code. This just isn’t true. Sure, their balance may not have been as scientifically founded, but there has been codes of health in many/most cultures ranging back thousands of years. Things that dictated/suggested which foods were positive and which we’re negative. The foods that gave energy and the foods that did not. In a day so fortunate as to have some better understanding of the chemistry of why certain foods do what, why on earth should be deprive ourselves/our children from the understanding that our bodies need fuels and there are good fuels and bad fuels. Why shouldn’t we tell our children that slim Jim’s an Ho Hos are “bad” when they have nearly no nutritional value?

    Why would I not explain to my daughters that vegetables and fruits have good sugars and fibers that help our bodies while Hi-C fruit punch and potato chips do not?

    Our bodies are biological machines, and food is a fuel. Different foods interact with our systems differently. Our ancestors DID know that. But they also almost entirely had jobs that kept them active. The sedentary culture of our generation is barely 50 years old with the computerization/automation of everything.

    There ARE good foods and bad foods. We (as parents) DO need to monitor that are children aren’t eating too much/not enough. Of course we could be sensitive to their bodies, and understand how they feel, but not attempting to encourage my 3 yr old who sometimes just won’t eat is not healthy an is BAD PARENTING.

    Being overweight is just as much an eating disorder as being bulimic, food addictions are a real thing. Food triggers the same bio -informatic responses as many drugs and monitoring and controlling input/output is absolutely essential and makin sure our children know that is a part of parenting.

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  28. Ignoring the problem doesn't make it go away. That is what the campaign is all about. The models in the billboards knew full well what they were getting themselves into and they chose to do it to help other kids.

    Sure if you not rail thin it doesn't mean you are "unhealthy" but there is plenty of proof that being obese or especially morbidly obese has a direct negative impact on your health.

    This campaign is there mainly for the parents who already have obese kids and just ignore it thinking it will go away.

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  29. As someone with a daughter on the complete opposite end of this spectrum, I found this to be intriguing. My daughter was diagnosed with a Pediatric Feeding Disorder (so as not to get into the nitty gritty, I will simplify this by saying that thanks to horrid reflux, my daughter was essentially born anorexic). Without 8, 10, 11, and 13, we would not have a daughter to speak of. It was using food as a reward that added calories to her diet when she didn't register hunger. I needed to know what the break down in food was (though I am ashamed to say that I have lost that focus since she has been eating more frequently recently), and I absolutely had to make her eat when she was not hungry because she didn't know what "feeling hungry" was because "feeling hungry" was how she felt all the time. And we had to do 11 because she had nutritional needs to be met and not wanting to eat any more was just not cutting it. She has not had the most pleasant upbringing in regards to food as you know, and having a little one with this problem is a very lonely island of existence.

    I try SO hard to focus on 1, 3, 4, 5, 12, and 14. Those are the basis for how I counter everything she's dealt with. I really like this post as it shows the other side of what I have dealt with with my little one. Now that I am a mom of two girls – essentially Jack Sprat and his Wife, lol – I am taking note of all of these things. And how I parent one with regards to food is not how I have to parent the other. Parents need to also pay attention to the needs of their children and remember each child is different and unique. Thank you for this post, and for the conversation above. I continue to be amazed at your input into the issues that matter to me and my family.
    My recent post Dear Students at My Daughter’s School…

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    • I do think the list applies to healthy children. As with diabetes or other disorders you need a whole new set of rules! You have to do what works for each child and I think focusing on 1,3,4,5,12 and 14 is a great plan to develop healthy food and size attitudes regardless of how you have to actually treat food.

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  30. First, I just want to say that I agree that fat shaming is not a positive way to fix the problems we have in this country with overweight and obese children (or adults). It's never worked with smoking and won't work with this either. Yes, I think our culture definitely needs to change and we need to see food and exercize in a different light. However, I find it hard to take an article serious when there are glaring grammatical errors. In this context, it's "affected" not "effected".

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    • Sorry, I just had to laugh at the fact that you followed two full comments of intelligent discussion on the topic with "but i can't take you seriously because I'm better at grammar than you"? Kinda weird. Unless there are two Caitlin's with the same email commenting here. Or you're bipolar? IDK, thought it was funny.

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  31. Also, I would recommend that you do some public health research. Being overweight, especially obese, will most likely lead to serious health problems. Being skinny doesn't mean you're necessarily healthy, but it is true that younger generations are likely to live shorter lives than their parents and much of the reason is due to the way we as a culture eat. Childhood obesity (and obesity in general) is a serious epidemic in this country and we shouldn't deny that. However ,eating disorders are a serious problem too. That's why we should stop OBSESSING about food and start addressing the serious problems with our culture and policies that affect that culture. First of all, live by a policy to eat REAL foods. Not processed foods that claim they are "healthy" on their packaging.

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  32. I disagree with some of your points, but overall I think it is important to teach kids to not judge themselves so harshly when it comes to appearance and body image. I don't see any problem with talking to kids about what's in foods. I also feel that rewarding your children with food is not a bad thing. Who hasn't rewarded themselves with ice cream after a big accomplishment? The trick is to learn how and when to do it.

    Obesity is a serious threat to this country and denying that would be a disservice to ourselves and our children. The fact that it is normal to be overweight or obese in this nation (with 2/3 of adults being that way) just shows that there is so much more involved than personal will or good parenting.

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  33. "Where do we think eating disorders come from? A self-hatred and fear so strong that young people starve, vomit, over-exercise, take dangerous pills, and otherwise slowly kill themselves is the root of eating disorders."

    Many eating disorders do not stem from self-hatred or fear. Eating disorders can result from other things, like sadness or feeling out of control. Self-hatred is often not the problem. As a recovering anorexic, I've met many teenagers who have restricted, purged or binged because they feel out of control. However, assuming that disordered eating ONLY comes from poor body image only exacerbates the problem.

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    • You are right that eating disorders do stem from other issues, some not even related to body image at all. This article was specifically about body image so I focused on those cases. I certainly don't assume that all anorexics hate themselves but I do think that anyone who hates themselves (related to size) is at high risk of an eating disorder.

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