ORLANDO, Fla. -
It is a three letter word some experts say you should never say in front of your kids – the word is “fat.”
The statistics are shocking. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat, and 41 percent of 6-year-olds say they want to be thinner.
Dr. Shaista Safder, a pediatric gastroenterologist joins Good Day Orlando to talk about the issue.
Safder said young kids are very impressionable.
“Young kids, what they hear and what they see, they’re going to imbibe and take that in,” Safder said.
Unfortunately, the fat talk is a very unfortunate way of describing body image issues.
Children, when they hear their moms, their sisters and other relatives speak negatively about weight, see an effect on self esteem and start to develop body-image issues.
But are those 10-year-olds and 6-year-olds only hearing it from us?
Dr. Safder says not so.
“It’s everywhere. It’s the media. [Children] have so much screen time: on their iPad, their iPhone, their computer, on TV shows; and it’s “OK.” It seems like it’s harmless banter going back and forth and it’s “funny” and sometimes the butt of jokes, but it’s not OK,” Safder said.
Just like how we don’t want our children seeing violence or hearing bad words, curbing fat talk is in the same context, Safder said.
Safder said people are surprised at how young these children are who are engaging in negative self-talk.
Even if it’s not being said directly to the child, just talking among other adults can be overheard by children and they’re taking it in – they’re like sponges.
So how do you make sure kids are healthy without being insensitive?
Safder said childhood obesity is a real issue but the word “fat” causes a very visceral response and should be avoided.
Issues should be brought up with the child’s pediatrician. Instead of focusing on shape and size, focus on health and fitness -- Eating well and a healthy lifestyle, knowing that a child’s body changes.
If there are issues, address it not in a negative bantering way but a positive constructive way.