Growing up, hearing the word 'fat' automatically meant someone was being mean or nasty. But it's 2016 and the fat-positive movement is alive and strong. Whether you have a child who is heavier than their peers or not, it's still incredibly important to find ways to raise a fat-positive kid.
If you're struggling to understand why this is something you should focus on in parenting, then maybe you need more help understanding the fat-positive movement. Like being body-positive, being fat-positive means being accepting of all types of bodies and sizes. But it's a little more than that; fat positivity is about teaching your children that your health is not always determined by your size. It's about teaching them that being fat doesn't describe who they are as a person, it doesn't change their character, and it doesn't make them any easier or harder to love. It's about teaching them that just because someone is fat doesn't mean they are lazy, it doesn't mean they sit around all day eating, and it doesn't mean they are any less of a person.
In fact, being fat-positive actually does more for helping people lose weight, should that be something they want to do, than shaming them does. The University College London found in a study that people who experienced fat discrimination actually gained weight while those who didn't experience any lost weight.
People can preach all day about loving yourself, but when it comes to being fat, society still has a long way to go in fully embracing it. You want your child, no matter their size, to understand that they are worthy and so are others of respect, love, and of not being judged by their body. And with these 11 ways to raise a fat-positive kid, you're putting them on the right track.
1. Remind Them That 'Fat' Isn't A Bad Word Or Insult
Fat isn't a bad word. It's OK to use it as a description. If you don't think it's a big deal for your child to say that their body is skinny, then why would you tell them it's not appropriate to say the word fat? Huffington Post boted that by putting a negative burden on the word fat, you're telling your child that it's shameful, wrong, and shouldn't be discussed. Not OK. How can they be positive about something if you're viewing the word as an insult?
2. Don't Label Food As Bad Or Good
It's food. It's all just food. Chocolate is food, peaches are food, chicken is food, popcorn is food, pudding is food, vegetables are food — that's it. By labeling food as good or bad, you're already setting them up to think that if they eat food that isn't a super healthy choice, they're also bad. According to The New York Times, some experts believe that this kind of categorizing of food could potentially set your child up for future eating disorders. If you want to be fat-positive, you have to have a positive outlook on food. You can still encourage healthy eating habits and moderation, but never count certain food groups as bad or good.
3. Talk About Being Healthy
Look at any Facebook post about a plus-sized model and you'll see tons of people commenting things like, "I just hope she's healthy" and "Being fat is OK, but being unhealthy isn't." Talk to your kids about how society has absolutely no idea what someone's health is like just by looking at them. Skinny people aren't automatically healthy, so fat people aren't automatically unhealthy. It's not about being skinny, it's about being strong, healthy, and happy. But furthermore, try to remind your child that whether a person is clinically healthy or unhealthy should have no burden on how accepted they are by others
4. Talk Positively About Your Own Body
Monkey see, monkey do, right? Your kids don't know how to be fat-positive if you aren't. Talk positively about your own body at home, even if you're feeling less than excited about it that day. CNN suggests that instead of saying things like, "Oh I feel so fat today", say something like "I'm happy I ate food that kept me nourished and energized all day today." It spreads positive body image and reminds your children that food is necessary to be healthy, not just to change your body shape.
5. Teach Them To Love Their Whole Self, Not Just Their Body
Being fat-positive is important, but so is being positive about your character and personality. Let your children know that no one should be defined as "fat." Not because it's a bad word, but because it makes no difference in who they are as a person. They are so much more than fat.
6. Stand Up For Those Being Ridiculed About Their Weight
Especially if you see it out in public. Stories like people being ridiculed for the clothes they're wearing, simply because they are fat, drive me absolutely crazy. If you hear someone judging a fat person for their clothes or making assumptions about them because of their body type, make sure your kid hears you standing up for the person being judged.
7. Teach Them How To Respond To Negative Remarks
There is nothing worse than your kid feeling ridiculed or criticized, so teach them how to respond and stand up for themselves. Even family members have been known to say things like "Oh look at your little fat legs," or "You can't eat all that food, you'll get fat." According to Psychology Today, children as young as kindergartners have experienced fat discrimination. Your kids need to be ready to respond to those types of comments and teaching them how to speak up, while still remaining polite, is huge. Phrases like, "I think my legs are just fine," or "I'm eating because I'm hungry and my body needs this fuel to keep me healthy," will do the trick.
8. Avoid Negative Conversations About Eating Habits & Hunger
I refuse to let my daughter have a negative outlook on her eating habits or hunger, so when she asks me for more food or another snack, I listen. I know that some people think their kids may be playing them for a snack, and I get that. ut don't ever tell them that it's not OK to be hungry or that having more than one serving of food will make them fat. On the flip-side, if your child says they are full, don't force them to eat an entire meal. One study found that a child's healthy eating habits are directly impacted by their parents' behavior, so you also want to look at their relationship with food and make sure it's not driven by other areas of life, like low self-esteem or a need for comfort.
9. Look For Fat-Positive Toys & Characters
Barbie recently launched curvy dolls, and that's a great place to start. Surround your children with all body types in their toys, books, and entertainment so they can be positive to everyone.
10. Teach Them That It's OK To Want To Change Your Body
Being fat-positive is awesome, but it doesn't mean you have to keep a fat body or remain fat. You can be fat-positive and still want to make a change in your body type. It's human and nobody has any right to judge. On the flip side, being fat-positive should also mean that wanting to make a change by gaining weight or remaining fat is just as socially accepted as losing some lbs. would be.
11. Remind Them Of What Their Body Is Capable Of
Instead of talking about the size of their body, talk about all they can do with it. "Your strong legs climb trees so well. Your arms carried all of those groceries into the house. When you were playing outside, you were running so fast because of those awesome muscles." Parents notes that by focusing on health and behavior rather than weight or size, your children will learn that some bodies can be a different shape, but still just as capable of physical activity as anybody else.