Should the Word "Fat" Be Taboo?

Cynthia Dermody

the word fatA friend of mine once got mad when I used the word "fat" in front of her toddler daughter. I forget the exact context. I might have said, "I think I'm getting fat," or "I don't want to eat that because I'll get fat," or "Do you think I'm fat?"

But she told me that word in reference to weight was off-limits around her daughter. To her, "fat" runs a straight line to "negative body image," and she wants her daughter to love herself whether she ended up big or small.

My friend isn't the only one who feels that way. Responding to a post from a mom describing her 4 year old's comment, "Mommy, you're fat!", one CafeMom wrote:

"It's sad that a 4 year old even knows the term "fat." I spell certain words in front of my 5 year old and that would be one of them."

I'm all for creating a positive body image and for teaching my children not to judge people who look different than you. I detest the way the media degrades all women who don't have the body of a fence post ... but am I missing something here?

I have kids now, and I still use the word "fat" in front of them.

Not "fat" to make fun, judge or criticize someone else, but to point out that "fat" more times than not also means "unhealthy." It's a proven fact. Not "fat" as in "an extra 30 extra pounds" or "can't get into my size 6 jeans anymore" or "just had a baby and can't lose the weight" or "overweight because of a thyroid, endocrine, or other medical disorder."

"Overweight" is the better word here. Those things are not "fat."

I use the word "fat" with my kids when they complain they want more ice cream and candy, when the refuse to eat their vegetables, when they want to be lazy and watch TV all day. When they are older I will tell them that "fat" is developing type 2 diabetes at 20, going blind from retinopathy at 40, and losing a limb from severe insulin intolerance at 60. Fat is when you don't even try to be healthy.

Words and their underlying meanings can be powerful tools with kids. I don't think "fat" is a bad word. I think it's a proactive and honest word when used the right way.

Do you use the word "fat" around your kids or is this a banned word? What other words to you spell out in front of your toddlers?

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