Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Different Bodies

One day a few months ago, Paige came home and said, "So-and-so said I was fat." She said it in a way that indicated she took it as an observation, rather than a criticism. Still, I could tell she was wondering if this was a bad thing or an insult. Of course, in our distorted culture, it's both. 

But I had researched and rehearsed for this moment. I did not say, "No, you're not," because to say that is to deny the obvious, reject her body, endorse body-image based bigotry, and insult her intelligence all at once. So all I said was that people have different bodies, just like they have different skin and eye colors, and that there is nothing inherently "good" or "bad" about any of these traits. 

Because although there is a lucrative and (arguably) well-meaning and (less arguably) effective industry dedicated to "fighting childhood obesity," all reliable research indicates that beyond the scope of decent modeling around diet and exercise, trying to control a child's weight is like trying to control their height; that children have finely-tuned self-regulating mechanisms of hunger carefully calibrated to their own unique genetic blueprint; that interfering with those mechanisms creates psychologically and physically disordered outcomes; and that children experience criticism of their weight as criticism of their entire being. 

I can't control what kids say to Paige about her body or the uneducated judgments adults might cast on my parenting because of it, any more than I can control her weight itself. But I do plan to let her know both in words and actions that she is loved; that her body is just one of a million traits that makes her who she is; and that especially as a girl, she should own her body, love it, and never let society make her its prisoner.

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