We frequently think of teenagers as being the ones struggling with image issues, calling themselves “fat,” and starving themselves. But, body image issues can start much earlier.
Recently the mother of one of my daughter’s six-year-old classmates told me her daughter had stopped eating ice cream because she thinks she is the “fattest in the class.” Last year, my daughter had the same issue. She wouldn’t eat because she also believed she was the “fattest in the class” and kept repeating how she thought she was “fat.”
I approached the situation by reminding her that only a doctor can diagnose weight issues. We talked about the meaning of “diagnose” and I asked her to stop diagnosing herself. I also talked to her about science and data, showing her her growth chart. I showed her where she was at and what is considered overweight. The data showed that she was not overweight, confirming that she had no reason to think otherwise. In the end, I told her to stop comparing herself with other kids because we all come in different shapes, colors, and sizes. I encouraged her to let the growth chart speak for itself. Since that conversation, my daughter no longer calls herself “fat” and has resumed eating normally.
Whether you have a young child or a teen, it is important to deliver a similar message when talking to them about weight. You need to halt these thoughts before they lead to a lifelong self-image issue. As parents, we have the ability to correct these unhealthy thoughts. Rather than brushing them off and insisting that our children eat even when they are refusing for these reasons, present them with the data. Teach them how to think about things logically as a child and you will be setting them up to be a happier adult.