Weight Stigma Awareness Week – Complimenting Thinness

     I’ll get back to talking about “Overeating” in the next post, but I just wanted to add a quick post about Weight Stigma Awareness Week (which was this week, Sept. 23-27). The following is from the BEDA (Binge Eating Disorder Association) website:

Some common beliefs fueled by weight stigma include: larger-bodied people are lazy, lack self-discipline, have poor willpower, lack intelligence, are diseased, and have the ability to become and remain thin. Thin individuals are also stigmatized by commonly held beliefs that they diet and/or exercise excessively, are healthy, self-absorbed, more attractive, and take better care of their bodies, thus have the ability to exert great will-power.

     I think it’s highly beneficial to spread the message that we should not judge others based on their body size/shape. I wanted to add one quick note to the discussion about weight stigma, regarding how we speak to our children…just something that’s been on my mind lately.

     I think there is a lot of awareness now about not criticizing children who are overweight, and that’s a great thing. In my 7 years of being a mother, I have yet to hear a parent say a harsh word to an overweight child about his/her size/shape (that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening in private). But, what I have heard from time to time is women complimenting young girls for being thin. I notice because my 5 year old girl is skinny, and she’s had women tell her that she is “so beautiful and thin;” she’s had someone tell her that she’s “lucky” for being thin, and sadly even my mother-in-law told my daughter once that she wishes she could be “thin like her again.” Needless to say, I was very upset about that and had a long talk with my mother-in-law afterward.

     I can remember hearing some of the same comments as a young girl. I can vividly remember being about 9 years old, sitting in a beautician’s chair getting my hair cut, and her telling me that she used to look just like me until she was in her 30’s and then she got “fat.”  I remember people telling me something along the lines of …”enjoy being thin because it won’t last.”  Because I had a lot of weight stigma in my family, the comments probably influenced and affected me more than I hope they will affect my daughter. I’m confident that I can minimize comments from my friends and family, but I can’t always control random comments from people we don’t know well.  

     So, my plea in this post is: when we talk about weight stigma, let’s become aware that complimenting thinness is a form of stigma as well, and can be very harmful to young children.

8 thoughts on “Weight Stigma Awareness Week – Complimenting Thinness

  1. I’m glad you wrote about this issue.
    When I was 8 or 9 I was at a restaurant with a family member. I remember her saying to me, “You know, someday you won’t be able to eat like that. There are a lot of calories in that meal.” It was as if she was speaking a different language. I had no idea what she was talking about. What is a calorie? Why won’t I be able to eat what I am eating? How many is a lot? 50-75-100? I just tried to make sense of all of this and how it related to the great lunch I was eating and when all of this would happen. Unfortunatley, not too many years later I developed an eating disorder that I have fought my entire life. This event alone was not the reason I developed the eating disorder, but I thnk it did play a role in the process.

    1. That’s so sad. I definitely remember getting that message too – that one day my carefree eating days would be over and I’d have to look out for ‘calories’ and ‘fat.’ Why in the world would someone say that to a child? At least we now know better and won’t make the same mistake.

  2. I thoroughly agree. Weight in this day and age doesn’t seem an appropriate topic unless it’s in the context of very close friends or family having a heart to heart or teaching your children about healthy eating. I have heard for most of my life either praise for being thin or being told I’m too thin and it’s not appreciated when it’s just something that came naturally.

    1. I completely agree. My family was interesting in that one side of it was obsessed with dieting and being thin, and the other side often made those “you need to put some meat on your bones” comments to the kids in our family who were naturally skinny. It created some odd, mixed messages; all of which were completely unnecessary and harmful.

  3. Dear Kathryn,
    I actually would have liked to write you an email, but i didnt find it on your blog and thats why i am writing here on this comment.
    Two weeks ago i bought your book and read it straight in the next couple of days. while i read it i thought so many times “oh thats just like me” i am struggling with my BED since 3 years and after i read your book i felt so much hope. and now i am binge free since then. i know its only two weeks now, but that is great for me. and i just wanted to thank you so much. i can’t say how greatful i am that you wrote this book and helped me finding the right path. i am still focused about my weight and what to eat and being activ, but as your wrote this Obsession might getting less and less and i really hope i am going to lose those 15-20 Pounds just like you did. but anyway, i am so thankful for your work and your help! i read almost every post on this blog too and i think it is soo super nice of your that your are taking the time to answer all those comments, because i am sure you are super busy being a mom and that makes it even more Special. So again, thank you so much for being such a supportiv and nice Person! there should be more People like you on this planet!!
    Thank you Kathryn!

    I wish you and your Family all the best!

    P.S I am Sorry for my bad english and the big letters (my Computer makes them big even if they are supposed to be small letters), because i am swiss 🙂

    1. That’s very sweet of you. I truly appreciate your kind message. I’m glad my book was helpful to you, and I hope you are doing well. Sorry my email address isn’t on my blog; it is listed on my website (brainoverbinge.com). Feel free to email me anytime at kathryn@brainoverbinge.com. My response time is often slow due to my busy family life, but I always appreciate any mail I receive and respond as soon as I can.
      Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience. I wish you all the best as well.

  4. Oh my goodness. When I was young physically fit normal weight and brunette my sister who was skinny and blonde got all the attention. I can remember very young wishing I was blonde and thin. I wanted the love and attention she got. She eventually developed anorexia/bulimia and I developed bulimia. Our parents were well intentioned but constantly dieting and weight focused. 42 years later your book is helping me so much to feel hope. I almost never binge anymore and feel hope that I will be completely free soon.

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