A little girl worrying about being fat isn’t such a terrible thing – especially if she is clearly headed in that direction.
The concept of young girls worrying about being fat has been around for years and years, yet only recently is there a growing concern over this – perhaps due in part to the easy accessibility to news all over the nation via the Internet.
I’m not so sure that little girls today are more worried about their weight than they were a generation or two ago. Weren’t fat little girls (and boys) often teased 50 years ago? This is nothing new.
If a young girl worries about her weight, I, as a former personal trainer, see nothing wrong with this if it’s within context of the situation.
In other words, if she’s a stick, hardly eats, and is obsessed with getting fat, then there is clearly a problem with body image and a high risk for developing anorexia nervosa.
But what if a young girl already is overweight?
Research is mounting that obesity in young children has an impact on future health—and even current health!
In fact, the correlation between childhood obesity and adult disease is overwhelming (e.g., research by Moriarty-Kelsey et al, Lawlor et al, Koebnick et al, Schmidt et al, and reams of others).
Future heart disease is one of the conditions that is strongly correlated to childhood obesity, but another associated disease is that of reflux.
Of course, a young girl isn’t going to be thinking, “I don’t want to get fat because I don’t want to get gastroesophageal reflux disease.”
The little girl instead thinks, “If I get fat I won’t be pretty,” or, “If I get fat I’ll never get married.” If young girls think like this, whose fault is it? Don’t blame fashion magazines or movie stars.
This kind of thinking can easily originate from classic fairy tales about “beautiful” princesses finding their knights in shining armor – books complete with vivid illustrations of princesses with tiny waists and stick arms.
Ever see a husky Cinderella, a hefty Little Red Riding Hood or a stocky Rapunzel? Girls are introduced to these waif-like heroines at very young ages in story books! Moms buy skinny dolls for their daughters, further reinforcing the requirement to be small.
Another driving factor towards the disdain of becoming, or being, overweight, is what kids hear their mothers saying.
How many moms say with disgust, within ear shot of their young daughters, “Gee, I look so fat in this outfit,” or, “Holy Toledo, why are my thighs so big?”
Even if mom is on the thin side, her innocent comments will be absorbed by her impressionable daughter: “I am skipping lunch for a whole week because my pants are getting tight lately.”
Little girls don’t want to be ridiculed for being fat, so they worry about it. They want to run fast and keep up with the other kids. So when they grow concerned about weight gain for these reasons, this is normal.
Adults have the same concerns! If more young children “worried” about being “fat,” then there wouldn’t be so much childhood obesity waddling rampant in America.
Should young children starve themselves to lose weight? No. Should they obsess? No. Should they strive to be stick thin? No.
Should they be health-conscious? Yes! Being conscious of body health and fitness should be ingrained at an early age, just like good oral hygiene is.
• Does this mean that parents should make their 5-year-old kids do 50 sit-ups every morning before kindergarten? No.
• Does this mean that TV and computer time should be limited, and physical activity mandated? Yes.
• Does this mean tell your friend not to serve your child cake at the friend’s kid’s birthday party? No.
• Does it mean never use junk food to reward your kids or quiet them down? Yes!
If a little girl worries about being fat, this may mistakenly be seen as a gateway to anorexia nervosa.
However, the true gateways to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are corrupt family dynamics, including sexual abuse and emotional abuse (e.g., Dunkley et al).
Childhood obesity strips a little girl (and boy) of the chance to excel in most sports; move energetically and keep up with other kids; and let’s face it: Being fat is a magnet for ridicule – it always has been, and it always will be.