Fit vs. Fiction's Blog

Why FEAR is more dangerous than FAT

Last week, I got a phone call from the mother of a 14 year old girl who said,”My daughter admitted to me that she’s been hiding, sneaking and eating food in the bathroom at school, what do I do?” Normally, I would ask WHY she thought her daughter felt the need to be sneaky with her food, but the why became clear as soon as I heard the When. The sneaky behavior had started at the very same time her school had implemented their new “Healthy Food Program”. In an effort to get kids to eat healthier, the school was inadvertently sending some very dangerous messages that were resulting in very dangerous behaviors. This girl was not alone, I began to hear from several parents who were noticing changes in how their kids were behaving around food and how stressful mealtimes were becoming. Where dinner used to be a time for families to catch up on events of the day, they were now sources of stress and fear over every calorie and fat gram being ingested.

It’s not the school’s fault. The teachers involved at this school and all the other schools taking part in the Healthy Schools Initiative being handed down by the school boards, had every intention of helping their students and had no reason to question its safety. I do, however, question the research that went into the programs in the first place.

We have become a “Fat Phobic” society and I firmly believe that it’s this irrational fear of fat that is making some kids overweight, even more than fast food and video games. When did the words THIN and FIT become synonymous? When did we start living in a one size fits all kind of world?

For every child in Canada that is obese, there are even more who AREN’T but think they are. We live in a visual society where looking fit has become more imprtant than actually BEING fit and this is a message that is hurting our kids.

I understand that childhood obesity is an issue and I agree that most kids would benefit from cutting down on the sugar and increasing their exercise,but we need to be VERY careful with how we get this message across. Whether the government wants to believe it or not, all the focus being put on trying to erase the problem of childhood obesity will most likely result in an even more dangerous one. Boys and girls as young as 7 years old are scrutinizing their bodies and hating themselves over every perceived flaw they can find, all in an effort to look the way they’re being told they’re supposed to look. They need to be taught how to listen, trust and work WITH their bodies, not against them.

Parents are being criticized over every minute of TV their kids watch and every piece of candy they eat and this judgement is resulting in feelings of shame and guilt where there need not be. Sadly,the stress they feel is being filtered down to their children and that stress is causing more damage than a bag of potato chips ever could!

Truly healthy children understand the importance of BALANCE not restriction. Well adjusted kids don’t hate themsleves because they wear bigger jeans than their best friend. We have to stop demonizing certain foods and glamorizing others. The last thing we want for our kids is for them to attach EMOTION around food. Food is food. We should be teaching that some foods are full of nutrients and make us feel good and strong while some other foods don’t have too many health benefits but taste really good and that’s ok too. It’s knowing how to find the balance between all types of food that’s the key. Shaming or scaring kids way from “bad” food will only make those foods that much LOUDER and give them much more power.

We, as adults, need to make sure that we are not letting our own body image issues and weight biases negatively influence our children. While we have a responsibility to ensure that our children eat properly and get enough physical activity, we don’t need to micromanage every bite they take or step they make. Kids have amazing natural instincts and by trying to control those instincts, we might instead impair them, setting our kids up for lives full of perpetual dieting and low self-esteem. Let’s take FEAR out of the kitchen once and for all.


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