“Am I too fat, Mommy?” Kindergarteners with low body image

Tots Stress about Body Image

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Yet another study reveals that we’re messing up our children when it comes to body image even when children are as young as age 4.  Go us.

An Australian study performed with 53 children across 4 kindergarten classes revealed that parents and teachers are inadvertently sending messages about the “perfect body” to these youngsters.

“They do this by their attitude to their own bodies, and by suggesting to their daughter that they need to exercise more (to lose weight) and to their sons that they need to eat more (to increase their muscles),” said Marita McCabe, the lead researcher on the project.

Are we ever going to get this right?

One reader states:

Having had my then 7 year old come home from school last year saying repeatedly that she wanted to be ‘skinny’ (when she already is), I can relate to this. We turned it around by talking to her about how dangerous being too skinny can be – she had no idea that it could be bad for you but somehow knew that being fat was ‘really bad’ and that ‘exercise makes you skinny’. Advocates of the campaign against child obesity need to be very careful in targeting the PARENTS of obese children rather than issue blanket policies and directives across all children including those in the healthy weight range. Eating disorder admissions in the past six years – since the onset of this campaign have doubled and the average age of onset for eating disorders has come down from 16 to about 12. Anyone else seeing the writing on the wall?

–ab of melbourne

What are your thoughts on the topic?

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5 Responses

  1. The first thought that comes to my mind is an old Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul story I read four or five years ago…

    A teen was battling anorexia (at that phase where she denied it) and one of the things in the story that she said made her come around was seeing her little (very skinny) five year old sister examining herself in the mirror and saying that she was too fat.

    It’s the same with boys too…A little boy I used to babysit was one of the skinniest boys I’ve ever met, but he was very interested in weight lifting because he thought he didn’t have the right body type. Too skinny in the wrong ways. At least he realized that skinny wasn’t exactly always healthy…but in his case he wanted muscles to ‘get the babes’ (exact quote from him…and that’s another problem that we seriously need to adress).

  2. Hello Miss Carni-

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I always love it when people speak their mind!

    Children are constantly riddled with not feeling good enough. Our society tends to value thinness over healthiness– such that we equate fat with everything bad and thinness with everything good. Of course, there are fat people who are healthy and thin people who are not. That isn’t what concerns me the most though– what frustrates me, and what I feel is the most dangerous, is that because people (children included) equate fat with everything bad, girls are afraid of gaining any weight at all.

    You are right– boys go through it too, in their own way. It’s called the Adonis Complex. I wrote this article on it.

    Come by again!
    Dr. Robyn

  3. […] lowest levels of body satisfaction than any other girls in the United States (Robinson). Even the youngest children are […]

  4. […] right– age 5.  Kindergartners are wondering if they’re too fat. Other studies I’ve read in preparation for my book have suggest that even preschool children […]

  5. […] right– age 5.  Kindergartners are wondering if they’re too fat. Other studies I’ve read in preparation for my book have suggest that even preschool children […]

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