It’s one thing to go to school, a troop meeting, or dance class and get bullied by the mean kids. When you’re the overweight girl, you learn to spot those villains early and navigate run-ins with them with surprising aplomb, even as their cutting insults and snide remarks are pelting you like shrapnel. You perfect a face that smiles through them, even laughs along, as the insides of you crumble over in pain.
It’s hard being the brunt of everybody’s joke, but you don’t want to make it worse by being a cry baby on top of a fatty. It’s page one, lesson one in the Misadventures of an Awkward Chubby Girl Chronicles. But when the bully with the cutting insults and snide remarks is one—or both—of your parents, it’s not the same as another kid. It’s worse.
Some moms and dads think they’re helping their children by taking jabs at their weight. It’s a sort of reverse psychology to motivate them to change their eating and exercise habits or toughen them against the ridicule they’re bound to experience from peers. But a study published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says that 42 percent of heavier kids are basically bullied by trusted adults in their lives, including coaches and gym teachers, and 37 percent have been harassed by their own parents.
According to the Eating Recovery Center, childhood stress is increasing—thanks to the standard woes of adolescence plus information age overload—and with that, an uptick in eating disorders. So kids don’t need anything to exacerbate that factor, much less the people they love driving the hammer down on their fragile self-esteem.
Sometimes parents have struggled with weight themselves, especially as a child, and don’t want their own sons and daughters to experience the teasing they endured. Although they mean well, they’re actually doing more damage to their kids than the hurt their trying to protect them from. And actually driving them to sneak their eating, which is unhealthy not only physically, but emotionally, too. When you have to start stashing Ho Hos in the pockets of your bathrobe and squirrel Twizzlers between your mattresses, something’s wrong.
Bottom line: kids want their parents’ approval and support, and they can’t hear that over snarky comments about their waistlines.
Did your mom or dad (or another beloved adult in your life) cut you down about your weight when you were a kid? How did you do it differently with your own children?
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