Last week an article went around about a nine year old girl who was being bullied about her weight at school. Her peers would yell “how do you fit into pants?” and other charming things. The solution? She would post her before photos on a website and start dieting and working out to become worthy of their praise.
Another article reports an overweight high school student becoming the school’s “healthy project.” How? Everyone in the school is “encouraging” him to eat better and to exercise. Some think that the original bullying he suffered was a good thing because it has motivated him.
Stop right there.
Every single fat person you talk to who was fat as a child was bullied. We all suffered similar taunts as we walked the halls of our schools, played on the playground, and lived with our families. For me, it was walking through my high school every single day with the boys yelling, “Sue-ey” every damn time. I learned at an early age that complaining accomplished nothing because…well, I dared to be fat. No one should have to live like that.
Listen, Mom, the problem isn’t with your fat child. The problem isn’t with your parenting.
As a mother, I know how guilt-wracking parenting is. We stress 24-hours a day about doing it right, doing it as good as the lady down the street, and creating children who will amount to something. Every single thing our children do reflects on us. Unfortunately, in our modern times, being fat is the worst thing you can be. And some of you are feeling the guilt of having a fat child.
Stop right there.
I’m not going to repeat the research here. Go research Health At Every Size, and see the statistics on dieting, weight loss, and regaining. See how overweight people can still be healthy when they eat healthy and get exercise. Learn about eating disorders and how girls and boys are being treated for them at earlier ages than ever before. Learn about the $65 billion diet industry in our country.
But please understand that the problem is not you. The mean kids are the real problem here, the bullies themselves. They are the ones who need to change.
Who in the hell gave these little monsters the right to terrorize your kids at school or on the streets? Who made them better than your kid? Who made them decide to make your child’s life miserable because of they way they look?
I say their own bad parenting did it…and that’s what you have to remember.
Honestly, no one knows why your child is fat. There are so many reasons up for grabs. You can only control some of them. You can–up to a certain point–provide healthy food and encourage exercise. The rest is genetics, environment, economics…lots of things many of us don’t have as much control over as we would like.
What can be changed are the children who are bullying your child. They can learn to control their behavior and learn that bullying is not allowed. Ever. For anything. Their parents can feel the guilt of having raised children who are mean and ill-spirited.
Schools need to intervene for weight bullying as much as they do for other forms. However, from my experience, the bullying interventions at my sons’ schools has been hit and miss. I don’t have a lot of faith that there are consistent policies in place for any of our kids. That’s why parents need to be involved and in the school’s face. Also, the schools need to face their own stigmas against the overweight.
I know it’s difficult because of the stigma on being fat in America. If you take away nothing from the weight discussion, at least consider the research on yo-yo dieting that shows that while people might initially lose weight on a diet, the majority (around 95%!) inevitably gain it all back, plus some more! This happens every time you diet. Don’t let your child start dieting and stop the cycle in the beginning.
Ask yourself: Would you let your child be bullied for a lisp? For wearing glasses? For being handicapped? Of course not!
So be your child’s hero and step in. Fight the fight for them. Understand that letting kids be bullied–and putting the responsibility for this wrong on their shoulders–is misplaced. Your child has one body. Don’t make her hate it. Make her love it as much as you love her.
Give the bullies hell.