Fat. Chubby. Overweight. Too big.
How do you feel when you read those words?
We know that many parents worry about their children’s weight. Our parents did. You see, we grew up in larger bodies. But sometimes, we felt misunderstood by those around us. We want to share a little bit about what it was like with you, as our experiences may resonate with those of your children.
We know that you always have the best intentions for your children.
But sometimes these good intentions have unintended consequences.
We know that you worry about our health, which is why you comment on our weight, diet, or exercise habits.
But telling us that we will get diabetes or heart disease does not encourage us to lose weight. In fact, we might cope with this fear by overeating.
We know that when you ask us if we’re still hungry, it’s because you’re concerned about our weight.
But there are many factors that affect weight beyond diet and exercise. Questioning our hunger teaches us to ignore our body’s cues, harming our relationship with food for years to come.
We know that you want to do everything in your power to shield us from bullying. Maybe you think that if we lose weight, other kids won’t bully us.
But telling us to lose weight lowers our self-esteem. Though we are now in our late teens and early twenties, we vividly remember things that people said to us when we were very young.
We know that you may feel ashamed when other adults, like relatives, comment on our body size in public.
But when you stay silent, it seems like you’re agreeing with them. We need you to stand up for us.
We know that you are not immune to society’s unattainable body image ideals.
But you are our role models. When you talk about how you hate your body and need to go on a diet, we learn to hate our bodies too.
We know you want us to be happy.
But telling us we will always be alone because of our size tells us that relationships are built on how we look, not who we are.
Reading and reflecting on this letter is a good starting point to support us. Please listen to and trust us. Give us space to talk and ask us how we feel. Every child is unique in terms of their needs and preferences.
Thank you for taking the time to listen,
The Youth Weight Bias Working Group at the University of Alberta