An article due out this month in the International Journal of Eating Disorders shows a disturbing trend. Half of all “preferred children’s shows” contained at least one weight-stigmatizing event. The result, of course, is that from a very early age children normalize the message that those who are not thin, or perhaps are too thin, are to be ashamed of themselves and it’s okay to ridicule them.
This is not a shocker. As I watched my son’s favorite Nickelodian shows like Big Time Rush, i-Carly, and Victorious, I counted several weight-shaming events per episode. And the main characters were all exceptionally thin looking. I’ve since seen these actors and actresses grow up and am quite worried about at least one of them for becoming even more emaciated. This is who our children are idolizing while still in elementary school! And as they develop into puberty and see their own bodies change and develop, they may feel even more awkward than we did growing up. That’s a scary thought.
As this is “Weight Stigma Awareness Week,” I wanted to bring this to your attention. As a parent, I spend a great deal of time talking with my son about body image, media messages, and loving his body just as it is. I praise him daily for his accomplishments and skills, his kindness and humor, and all the things that make him special and unique. That’s the best thing we can do for our children besides monitor what they watch on TV, YouTube, and social media.
Be involved parents. Note what they see, take the humor out of weight stigma and shaming in cultural influences, and help them learn to find beauty in all shapes and sizes.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C - Founder, Executive Director, Psychotherapist at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 443-602-6515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.