Does your preschooler think she’s fat?

    Chubby. Fat. Thin.


    Are these the words of a four year old? It seems that more and more the answer to this question is yes.


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    A study conducted by the University of Florida found that nearly half of 3-6 year olds worry about being fat. Seriously.


    This makes my heart ache and anger soar at advertising and media images of thin. My sadness mounts as I think of young, young boys and girls so cute in their bodies not feeling good about them. Early childhood is time for the personality to present itself unabashedly, for playing and learning and discovery. It is not for workouts, calorie counting and the crushing blow of poor body image.


    The University of Florida study goes on to explain that “fat” is being associated with “mean” or “bad”, ie not desirable. From the point of view of a kid perceiving images from a fat-phobic adult society the association makes sense. Let me explain:


    There is something to be said for health, as in it is good that kids are health aware especially being there is such a growing propensity for obesity in this country. The Center for Disease Control reports, “among preschool children aged 2-5, obesity increased from 5% to 10% between 1976-1980 and 2007-2008 and from 7% to 20% among those aged 6-11.”


    To combat this programs like Philadelphia’s Food Trust are partnering where kids are – schools and stores to educate about and provide access about healthy food. Knowledge is power, and if kids know about the food –body-exercise relationship, then there is a chance they will be healthy kids that grow into healthy adults. This is good and maybe even progressive.


    But then kids have the Barbie-ization of its media images and those images being marketed to younger and younger audiences, we get thin as the ideal, not necessarily healthy. This is not good and may be detrimental.


    Here are some ideas of what we can do to help our kids understand the schism in message:


    Make health, food and exercise a family affair

    Keep it all positive – no slander about your, your kids’ or other people’s bodies

    Be active together – family activity is fun, bonding, and makes a lasting impression.

    Plan meals and shop together. Education happens in practice.

    Support their hobbies – confidence is everything in empowering our kids in being themselves.


    Our girls and boys are beautiful and they need to know that. All that matters is that they are healthy. The magnificent diversity of round, tall, short, and slender its what makes us all so appealing later on, right?


    Northwest Philly Parents is a partnership between Newsworks and Germantown Avenue Parents.  

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