Sure you can tell your child they are fat. If you want them to live a lifetime of insecurity

If your child is overweight and it impacts their health there is action you should take. But that shouldn't involve inflicting the misery of body-awareness and calorie counting

Share
Related Topics

It’s no coincidence that the more we purport to ‘know’ about so-called ‘nutrition’ as a society, the more we become embroiled in the act of calorie and fat-content counting and the more obsessed we are with cutting out food groups according to carb content or colour...the fatter we are getting.

The most cutting edge research (and by that I mean the sort that I hear reported by global experts at meetings of the APPG at Parliament as opposed to mindlessly collated ‘statistics’ based on the hugely flawed ‘BMI’ and other such nonsense by organisations looking for column inches) is proving that we are born with an innate understanding of when we are hungry, when we are full, what our body needs to sustain itself and when. It’s the misguided advice of other equally confused people and melodramatic ‘health’ reporting in the media that interferes with this innate understanding and messes up our natural instincts. Yes, folks, it’s our obsession with thinness as a culture which is perversely making us pile on the pounds and as a result, there’s a whole demographic of UK adults caught in a never-ending, miserable and deeply unhealthy (both physically and mentally) cycle of yo-yo dieting.

And in the past week’s press, self-appointed obesity ‘experts’ (one of which was Katie Hopkins) encouraged us to pass that burden on to our children at an early age, recommending that we tell them, frankly and openly, that they are fat and need to lose weight.

I have been quick to air my opposing views on Twitter and then on BBC Breakfast. As a result, I was inundated not only with fellow-tweeters who had been told they were fat by their parents as a child and gone on to develop eating disorders, but also by venomous troll-types, who, amidst all the puerile and deeply personal insults, claimed that not telling overweight children they’re fat is a form of child abuse. The pioneers of what they branded the ‘tough love’ approach.

The latter appeared to be labouring under a misapprehension which could only be cultivated by the perpetually daft – namely that to suggest there are better ways of tackling spiralling childhood obesity than bullying your child behind closed doors, is to condone or even promote spiralling childhood obesity.

Let us be clear - IF your child is overweight to the extent that it is impacting their health then there IS action you can and should take. You might chose to make some changes to your family lifestyle, for example, as a result of a conversation with the adults in your household. None of this should involve inflicting the misery that is unnecessary body-awareness and calorie counting on people too young to fully grasp the complexities of the issue.

My concern of course is that this ‘technique’ - which is nothing new and has historically been used by a minority of parents who want their children to be as slim as possible, because they themselves have been brainwashed by a thin-worshipping culture and perversely see their children as an extension of them - will now have been legitimised.

There are some potentially devastating consequences. Before the age of seven we do not have what psychologists call ‘critical facility’. Simply put, critical facility is the ability to dissect, weigh up and analyse the things we see and hear. We soak up the world like a sponge, as children and use the information we receive to lay down the foundations of who we are and the way we think.

That’s why when someone has an insecurity, be it the size of their nose or thinking that they aren’t particularly bright, nine times out of ten it relates back to something someone said to them when they were a child. Once that belief has been programmed into a person’s mindset it’s incredibly difficult to ’unprogramme’ in later life, regardless of whether or not there’s any objective truth in that belief.

However you choose to approach it, telling your child that they are fat and therefore need to change is going to plant the seed of a sinister type of tree in their mind. If you tell a child they are fat and that by proxy there is something wrong with their body they will, to some extent, always believe it. You are sentencing them to at best a life of moderate insecurity and at worst a fully-fledged eating disorder.

You’re also encouraging your child to be judgmental – you are telling your child that thinness is superior to fatness and that therefore anyone thinner than them is better than them and anyone fatter is inferior. You are essentially training your child to be the next Katie Hopkins. And surely nobody would wilfully to do that.

A lot of the support for this ‘telling it like it is’ technique seems to have been generated around the idea that overweight children will inevitably be bullied in the playground and it’s better to hear you are fat at home than in front of a school audience. The idea that bullying is an inevitable consequence of physical difference is so deeply ingrained that we cannot see that the parent/child conversation needs to happen in the home of the bully, not the bullied.

Young people are subject to enough scrutiny in a world that judges them from every bus stop, billboard, website, television programme and magazine in a bid to induce the insecurity that will transform them into life-long slaves to mindless consumerism. Their homes should be the one place they feel unconditionally accepted and loved, regardless of their weight.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Recruitment Consultant

competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree: Did you know? 98% of our di...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

competitive: SThree: Did you know? 98% of our directors started with SThree as...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sa...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Sales Executive - OTE £28,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

No more big characters - London desperately needs a boring mayor

Rachel Holdsworth
Larry Fink, the boss of fund manager BlackRock , is among those sounding the alarm  

Discount rates: how money off today can be bad news in the future

Ben Chu
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen