To be honest I am not quite sure what "fat shaming" is anymore. I used to think it was people outright making fun of those who were overweight, but recent articles makes me thing it encompasses saying anything at all about being overweight. That makes me a tad nervous to be honest, as a parent as well as a professional who at times needs to discuss weight issues with my patients. Will I be perceived as partaking in "fat shaming" myself if I bring this up in clinic? Many of you will say no, this is part of your job so as long as it is brought up respectfully and in context of health there is no problem.Well I can tell you that I have gotten some looks when I bring it up, and I assure you that I do it respectfully. But for this blog I would like to tackle the parenting side of this.
I started thinking about it way back when Michelle Obama took heat for talking about her daughter being overweight.For the record, I was in the camp of thinking maybe she should not have brought it up in wide public but surely talking about it with her daughter was appropriate. Many people did not think so, and the blogosphere blew up about how right or wrong it was for a parent to talk about weight with their child at that age. Perhaps for me this is in part a cultural thing because in the Caribbean the stress on being thin is not at all present like it is in the United States. There is no shortage of attention to appearance, just not a focus on being thin as an ideal. But beyond that I am still stymied why a parent could not, respectfully and appropriately, discuss a health issue such as weight if their child is becoming overweight.Talking about weight does not immediately make someone prone to eating disorders, which ultimately is the greatest fear I gather and not something to take lightly.
I once read about a father who used a magic marker to draw circles around "fat" on his daughter's torso. All of us with a functioning brain and heart will know immediately this is scarring, abusive in fact and obviously not the way to address a concern about your daughter being overweight. I can see how that kind of behavior would destroy a child's trust in their parent and self esteem. On the other hand, ignoring your child's weight and consequent health problems can be argued as being negligent parenting. Childhood obesity is a problem in this country, and various health consequences will follow.Obviously there are approaches in between these extremes.
The hope all of us dedicated parents have is that every day we infuse our kids with healthy self esteem, and also are thus able to talk to them. Really TALK to them, with respect but as parents who are older and wiser than they are, and who love them. I need to be able to talk to my kids about weight concerns if and when they develop, because I think it is important, and because I love my children. Hopefully they will understand that, and not have this fall under yet another version of "fat shaming," no more than my discussions about avoiding early sex, smoking or drug use, risky driving etc imply anything about their personality or worth. Because in the end that is really what counts, a healthy life. Being able to talk about it openly with my kids helps us get there.