In the April 2015 issue of Parents on page 47, there is a lovely picture of a happy young boy riding his skateboard on a ramp. He’s even got his red helmet on protecting his shaggy blonde locks. Scroll to the bottom of the picture of this lad you read the following:
Weighty matters. Even if your preschooler is slim and active, it’s wise to pay attention to his weight. As children get older, genes appear to play an increasing role in whether some kids become heavier than their peers, found a new study from University College London.
They’re right! Genes play a HUGE role in how kids develop in terms of size. They may be athletic, happy, eat balanced meals, are healthy as a horse, and still become larger than their peers. They’re made to be that way! Why is this bad?
The short piece is a scare tactic, telling parents to watch out or their child will become obese. Parents must monitor their kid’s pace and quantity of eating or something bad will happen. The boogie man may get them and make them fat! This type of helicopter parenting around food and body size is exactly what drives normal eaters to diet focus, fat shaming, weight bias, and eating disorder behaviors.
We wonder why boys are diagnosed nearly as frequently as girls now with an eating disorder, but really it’s this type of nonsense that drives the rise in behaviors. And it drives me nuts. Boys are meant to gain weight prior to the development of puberty. During that time, boys will bully and tease the larger kid due to this weight-difference because that’s what our society has defined as normal and acceptable. Then off we go with body image disturbance, dieting, compulsive exercise, and social anxiety. And when it gets really bad, then the eating disorder kicks in. For some, restriction leads to full-blown anorexia. For others the restriction will lead to binge eating as a form of overcompensation, and for others the inclusion of purging to eliminate the binge.
When will we learn to make health about something other than size and weight? These are weighty matters indeed, but not in the way this magazine portrays. Keep your kids happy and healthy by talking about health as a combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual/social connection. You can have that in any size your genes dictate.
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.