If you want to incite a civil discussion on the internet, it's best to avoid the topic of fatness altogether. It may very well be more divisive than the subjects of money, religion, and politics combined. And when you throw the idea of fat children into the mix: hoo boy. It's likely going to get nasty and opinionated in a hurry. However, there are myths about fat kids, that everyone needs to stop perpetuating, because some of these beliefs can do more harm than good.
Whether you're a believer in the fat acceptance movement or someone on the opposite side of the spectrum, there is one thing to keep in mind: kids, regardless of their size, are still human. There can be an appalling lack of empathy for fat people in general, and such nasty attitudes can affect children as well. Even adults who are well-meaning may make cruel comments about the kid or his or her parents that ultimately benefit no one.
Because fatness is such a hot-button conversation topic, it's helpful to investigate the actual research on the way fatness really affects children in life. Sure, most everyone has an opinion about the topic one way or another, but larger studies can shed light on false beliefs about what life is really like for kids who are fat. Read on to see whether any of these myths sound familiar.
Myth #1: There Is One 'Perfect' Weight For All Kids
Kids, like all humans, come in many shapes and sizes. As noted by Kids Health, even children who are the same age and height may have very different body shapes, because kids develop and grow at their own pace. Therefore, it's a good idea to focus on your own kid's development, and not worry about keeping up with others.
Myth #2: The Child & His Or Her Parents Are Weak-Willed
Most parents are doing their best to raise healthy, happy kids. And, as noted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, no one person is responsible for a child's weight, as it is often a combination of many factors including genetics, portion sizes, and available food choices. Moralizing is probably not going to benefit anyone.
Myth #3: They Should Be Compared To Others
Comparing a kid's body type unfavorably to siblings, classmates, or friends is almost guaranteed to backfire. In fact, it will probably just make the kid feel insecure, not inspired. Again, kids grow and develop at different rates, and that is OK.
Myth #4: Fat Is Genetic And Inescapable
The exact genetic components behind weight gain are still being studied and debated. But as noted by the Harvard School of Public Health, food and lifestyle choices can still have a major impact. In other words, all kids can lead active, healthy lives.
Myth #5: Fat Kids Are Just Lazy
Shaming kids of any size is unnecessary and detrimental. As noted in Science Nordic, there is no real correlation between persons of any size and laziness. You can't just look at a kid and decide whether she is lazy or determined, and setting up a person for fat discrimination at such a young age is unfair.
Myth #6: Fat Kids Need To Be Told They're Fat
Again, some empathy for your fellow humans, especially the younger ones, is called for here. According to a 2016 study in Eating and Weight Disorders, parental comments about a child's weight were correlated to adult issues with weight and body dissatisfaction later on. Even if you truly mean well, making harsh comments about a kid's weight can seriously cause damage.
Myth #7: A Child's Weight Is Caused By TV/Fast Food/Etc.
Sure, it's easy to worry about screen time or sugary drinks. But as noted by MoreLife, no one factor is entirely responsible for a kid's size. It's more helpful to consider a kid's entire lifestyle as a whole.
Myth #8: Stigmas Will Helps Kids Lose Weight
If you think shaming others, even kids, about weight will help motivate them to make changes, think again. As noted by Rudd Roots Parents, reinforcing the stigma about fat will likely only hamper a kid's overall sense of well-being. (And whether your kid even needs to lose weight is an issue for your doctor, not busybodies, to decide.) Seriously: bullying is not the way to inspire positive change.
Myth #9: Some Kids Are Born To Eat Junk Food
Sure, it may seem like some kids are hard-wired to go for soda and chicken nuggets. But as explained by the World Health Organization, children's dietary choices and physical activity habits are shaped by their surrounding environment. Even if your kid has a strong preference for junk foods (and plenty do), you can still work toward helping them make healthier choices.