Your 12 year old son comes home. “Mom,” he says, “Brad calls me ‘Fat Boy’ all day at school. I
hate it. I’m fat. How do I lose weight?”
“Oh, Honey,” you start, “You’re not fat...”
“Yes I AM!” he yells through tears.
And mom is stuck in that moment. What to do. What to say.
Or, you have seen weight creep up on your kid. What do you do and not do? What do you say
and not say?
I hold a hard stance on this, and it may be different from the one you have heard from
counselors or doctors. I am speaking as a former public educator (all level), a parent, and a
person growing up with constant fear of being labeled “Fat.”
I was a chunky kid. Not fat, but I had fluff. Until I turned 11. I hit puberty, shot up about 4 inches,
and was suddenly skinny. Really skinny.
But the label “Fat” did not go away. I had internalized deeply the idea that I was fat because I
had been called fat or “doughy” by my family. To me, NOT being fat became an obsession, and
I worried about every calorie and every pound.
Needless to say, that didn’t lead to a healthy teenaged life. I wasn’t anorexic. I wasn’t bulimic.
But I was obsessive, and I then became the kid who called other people “fat.” I’m not proud of
that, but it was a culture that I learned and had to unlearn.
You have to also understand that my mother called herself “fat” on a regular basis and lamented
over not looking good in the mirror. This is a Vital part of my story. This is where the seed was
planted. When I watched this day after day, the narrative became “there is nothing worse than
being fat,” and “your happiness depends on being thin.”
Let’s back up. As soon as humanly possible (if this isn’t your home culture yet, start making it
your home culture), start speaking to and about your SELF with love and positivity. Not only will
that help you as a parent, but the ripple effect on your children is immense. Children do not do
what you say. They absorb what you Do.
Secondly, you banish judgey words. “Fat” and “skinny” are no longer a thing. The focus is on
“healthy” and “strong.” Don’t accept judgement on yourself, any member of your household, or
anyone else. If the person isn’t healthy or strong yet, it’s time to get creative and find something
positive to say.
Now, when your son is being picked on at school or your daughter becomes self conscious
about her weight, and you have created a culture of “healthy” and “strong,” you have healthy
and strong courses of action.
You will not go on a “diet” together. You will cook and prepare healthy choices, and get the kids
involved in preparing healthy choice meals, as well.
You do not go to a “fat camp” or a judgemental “boot camp” together. You choose an activity to
do as a family, or each person chooses their activity, and you make exercise part of a normal
routine. A family walk, game of basketball, dance class, or a trip to the pool. Whatever it is, it is
normal, fun, and healthy.
In the end, what do we really want? We want to raise strong, active, confident kids. Using
household cultural tools is the way to keep kids on the positive path. Together, you can get
healthy and create lifelong healthy habits that are fun.