Fat: A three-letter word that stings, slaps, and scars. Modifications of this word hurt just as much. Unjustified use is common.
Fat. Fatso. Fatty. I consider these “F’ words. Unspeakable and with rank and power as high as some of the dirtiest words in the common language of our nation.
What does “fat” mean? Too much adipose tissue? A size XL? Bigger than your peers?
Unfortunately, when it comes to kids, there is no clear-cut indicator for its use. The word can be used to describe just about anyone, whether its use is justified or not, scientifically proven or not, based on fact or just unrealistic perceptions.
But what “fat” (and the act of fat shaming) really means is “less than”, “not good enough”, “ugly”, “inadequate”…or at least that’s the message that kid’s internalize when they are labeled with this word.
“Just joking…” Even its use in joke form, turns a funny into a flub.
Amazingly, when the “F” word is used, children listen – and sometimes hear much more than intended. The “F” word is a serious one, calling into question self-value, attractiveness, peer acceptance, and one’s role in social circles.
A February 2009 study in Social Development looked at the psychological impact of weight-related teasing in 7th graders who were enrolled in weight loss camp.
Through a self-reported questionnaire, researchers found that the adolescents demonstrated decreased psychological functioning, lowered self-esteem, increased depressive symptoms and reduced social involvement. These results appeared regardless of how frequently these teens had been teased.
Bottom line: A child doesn’t have to hear it often to feel the sting.
The use of the “F” word can result in lasting damage—a broken self-esteem, a poor body image, more weight gain, or disordered eating.
And it can set the stage for a lifetime of battles and wars against food and eating.
So, what can we do? Parents–outlaw the “F” word in your home, just as you do other 4-letter words.
The “F” word may be far more dangerous to your child. Set an example and don’t use the “F” word…it’s a put-down, a pejorative, and a bummer to hear a grown adult use it.
Focus your efforts on instilling self-worth, passions, and an appreciation for differences in people!
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: November 5, 2009
Updated on: August 25, 2019