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Weight a Minute!

Black Health Matters / Mind & Body  / Weight a Minute!

Weight a Minute!

How innocent statements about weight impact your child’s body image

The other day I was sitting on the porch and my daughter said, “Mom, I am getting fat.”

Immediately, I was outraged. I thought, “What do you mean you are getting fat? And, by the way, who has been putting ideas in the mind of an impressionable ten year old?” At 10, my daughter’s only concern should be how long she has to wait until the school year starts, not how much weight she has to lose before going back to school.

I reflected on her statement and thought about who the culprit could be. Was it her dance teacher? How about her drama teacher? Could it have been the cheerleading coach?

As I began to ponder the realm of possibilities, it slowly dawned on me that I was the culprit. I—the overprotective and always present mother—had unwittingly put the thought in my daughter’s mind that body weight (and the desire to be thin) was extremely important.
I started thinking about how many mothers have innocently impacted their daughter’s thoughts with their comments about weight and its importance to their overall life. Like many moms, I was teaching my daughter—albeit innocently—that weight and body size is a critical factor in one’s self esteem.

According to an article in the Journal of American Dietetic Association, girls whose moms dieted were twice as likely to have their ideas about body image influenced by weight control. The desire for thinness is already prevalent in girls between the ages of seven and nine. In fact, 40 percent of seven-year-old girls have already tried dieting!
More often than not, girls begin learning about body image, weight and dieting from their mothers. While it is true that daughters are influenced by images they see outside of the home, it is what they see inside the home that leaves an impression. How many times have you said or you heard someone say the following in front of their toddler or impressionable child:

“Oh, honey, do you think Mommy looks fat in this dress?”

“Mommy is so fat.”

“I am so fat.”

“I look fat in this dress.”

“I ate so much, no wonder I can’t fit into my clothes. “

“These jeans make me look fat.”

“My butt is too big.”
To add insult to injury, we have started characterizing clothing by adding a body type to the apparel—“I look fat in my skinny jeans.”

These statements and countless others, carelessly said, provide examples of how we influence our children’s beliefs about what should be important.

Although seemingly innocuous, these statements, when heard repeatedly by young and impressionable minds, influence the dieting craze in young girls in pursuit of a thin body image. And while your weight may be “weighing you down” for numerous reasons, be aware that your statements can deeply affect your children’s perceptions about their own bodies. Choose your words carefully because today’s innocent comment can impact the way your child feels about herself tomorrow.

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Wanda Baker-Joseph

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