Image Credit: I couldn’t find the photographer, but I still couldn’t resist using it, because of the powerful and unmistakable message it sends out.
On a recent phone call with my friend, I came to know that her daughter who is also my daughter’s friend and classmate, brings home her school tiffin untouched. When my friend probed her daughter, she came to know that a couple of girls in the class told her, “If you eat a lot, you will turn fat!”
That I was shocked beyond words wouldn’t even superficially touch what I felt on hearing that. Seriously, the ‘body shaming monster’ that plagues every girl right from her teenage to the day she dies, is rearing its ugly head and is not even sparing little girls.
6 year olds, what do they know about being fat? No, really, it couldn’t be their words. These words have been implanted in their mind. And by none other than the family and the society. So when they hear their mommy or daddy complaining for the umpteenth time about “how she needs to diet because she has put on weight” or “he needs to eat sparingly to cut down that flab”, they create their own perception without really understanding the whole picture. What they listen and understand is “eating makes one fat!”
Things like this are the reason little girls develop eating disorders and start hating their body.
Yes, India ranks third in child obesity in the world, and yes, we need to take extreme measures to rein it in. Yes, obesity leads to many lifestyle diseases like thyroid, diabetes, PCOS…but, that doesn’t mean, children should stop eating. When has dieting or fasting helped anyone, let alone children?
Eating a lot is not good; not for anyone, irrespective of their waste size. But, more important is the quality of food and its nutrition value. The sad part is when we feed our children processed cheese, we don’t think they are getting fat? When they gulp down an entire bottle of packaged juice or eat biscuits and chips, we don’t complain much. But, when it comes to dal, roti or subzi…we get stressed looking at the quantity.
Here are a few things as a parent you should take care of:
- Do not perpetually talk about your weight gain or loss in front of kids. They don’t understand the context and more often than not interpret it the wrong way.
- To an older child (once she turns 6-7 years), you can make them understand that being fat is not bad. But yes, one should eat right (junk should be limited to once a week) and exercise every day.
- Teach them about the quality of food. Tell them eating 2 rotis are better and healthier than 1 bag of chips. Food is first about quality, and then quantity.
- Pack tasty but nutritious home made food in your child’s dabba. Fortunately, we are in/come from a country that has hordes of regional nutritious recipes. Plus, Google is always there to expand our recipe repertoire.
- Body shaming starts at an alarming early age nowadays. Monitor her influences (friends, social media, siblings, etc.). Teach your child to be confident about her body and the way she looks.
- Don’t glorify thinness or slimness in your home. Instead of fat or thin, focus on being fit. A person can be thin, and yet not be fit.
Let’s not snatch away the innocence from these little kids. They should be talking about dolls, legos and stuff, and not worry about weight gain at their age. What do you think?