Skinny vs. Healthy

I’m opting for a very serious topic today. My daughter has come home from school several days saying that people have called her “fat.” She didn’t seem too upset about it, but she did say that she wanted to start walking in the afternoons and eating more fruits and vegetables for snacks. All good things, right? Especially since this gives me a reason to get up off my butt and walk with her. You would think this is a win-win, but then she said something else that made me stop in my tracks.

She said she was doing it because she really wants to be skinny.

She is only eight years old.

I have dealt with body image issues for my entire life. I remember back in high school buying jeans in a size 8 or 10 and feeling rotten about myself because I couldn’t fit into a 4 or 6. I look back at pictures of myself and wonder what the hell was wrong with me – compared to what I am now, I was tiny! But I remember feeling so insecure about it and nothing and no one was going to change my mind.

When I was sixteen, I wanted to be thinner so badly that I tried to eat as little as possible. I never actually had an eating disorder, I don’t think, but I would go for days not eating all that much. I was never able to keep it up for long – because my body was still growing and needed nourishment!  And it made me feel bad about myself because I wasn’t disciplined enough to keep up with my “diet.”

It scares me to think that my daughter could possibly go through the same thing. For the record, I personally don’t think she’s fat at all. She’s got a little bit of a tummy, but that’s it. She’s just going through the slightly pudgy stage that all kids go through at this age when their gearing up for their next growth spurt. Besides that, she’s going to be tall. Her legs are almost as long as mine are already.

I’ve been hesitant to bring up the weight issue because I don’t want her focusing on it. Since both of her parents (and most of their families) have had weight issues, it’s likely that my daughter will too. If I push her to exercise, will it make her feel bad if she doesn’t do it? If I try to get her to eat less crap, will she think I’m trying to get her to diet at this young age? I don’t want her to be overweight, but I also don’t want her to feel bad about herself if she ends up that way.

So how to handle this situation? I’ve been trying to not emphasize the word “skinny.” Or “thin.” Or “fat.” When we talk about exercising or eating more fruits and veggies, I tell her we’re doing it to be “healthy.” Her body will change a lot as she grows up and as long as she is healthy, I’m fine with however she looks. But I want her to be fine with how she looks as well. I don’t want her worrying about dieting in middle school, or binging and purging in high school. I want her to have a healthy body image, but in today’s world, that is so hard, especially for little girls.

For any other parents out there reading this, what do you think?

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9 thoughts on “Skinny vs. Healthy

  1. I’m not a parent, but when i was younger, I appreciated my parents encouraging me to take part in sport, even if it was playing football in the back garden. They always made sure I ate healthy and, even though they both had and have problems with their weight, they strived to make sure I felt comfortable with myself. Young kids go through a lot of stages, so sometimes it is just a case of re-assurance and a few trips to the park (and an extra cool skipping rope – how old school!)

    • That’s true. And our walks in the park have been great so far – gives me a chance to talk to her about her day at school.

      Jump ropes are fun. We need to get another one. The last one we had met a tragic end (don’t ask . . .)

      Thanks for commenting!

    • It’s such a balancing act – trying to encourage the healthy behavior without making it seem all about being skinny. She may never be “skinny” depending on her body type. I just want her to be confident and happy, regardless of what she looks like.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Ask any of the raving beauties today how they viewed their looks or bodies in their earlier years, you’ll invariably get to hear about all the angst they suffered through too.
    Abdomen that aren’t as flat as desired aren’t any big deal either. Sit ups and/or pull ups work wonders on tightening those muscles. Or try the trick of hanging a piece of string in a busy doorway to remind her (or anyone else interested) to tighten up those tummy muscles. Those muscles are what it’s all about!
    Ummm . . . if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find my ball of string. I wonder if packing tape would work as well? It would certainly grab my attention. [Sorry, bad puns and Krispy Kreme donuts are just to good to resist.]

    • That is funny about the piece of string to remind you to hold those tummy muscles in. Brings back memories of my dad always telling me to stand up straight & to hold that stomach in (sounds like military training, doesn’t it?). To this day I still catch myself standing a little taller & “sucking it in” when I think about it. Posture really makes a difference, too.

    • Just found this article and thought to share:
      http://www.postchronicle.com/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi?archive=270&num=380194#at_pco=cfd-1.0
      Tittle-Tattle Too™

      Published: Aug 15, 2011

      Kate Winslet Bullied: Her Weight – Nicknamed “Blubber” In School
      by Ann Warren

      ‘Titanic’ actress Kate Winslet was teased and bullied by kids at school because of her weight. She was called fat and was given the nickname “blubber” by her classmates.

      She told Parade Magazine, “Other girls teased me terribly. I was bullied. I’d just put my head down and get on with it. That was my means of survival.

  3. The walks together are a great idea – for both of you & for many reasons. Great bonding time & also getting in that exercise & vitamin D. It is a balancing act but it sounds like you have a good game plan. Keeping her involved in choosing her “healthy” food & snacks and keeping her active is good!

  4. Why does this all sound so familiar? Uggh! However, I like the walking together and perhaps even a few situps – Ouch! Don’t throw things at me! Now to take my own advice after an indulgent Mexican food diet in Gallup! Looking at a good diet plan and picking out foods together might be good also!

    Now I must go and do what I’ve just said.

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