Do you use the ‘F’ word?

by admin on December 17, 2012

In a world where magazine pages are still full of anorexic looking models, despite continuous public pressure; where UK size 10 is classed as curvy; and where the majority of female celebrities seem to be covering up an eating disorder, the word ‘FAT’ has become a dirty word. It’s a word that has been banned in many families I know of, especially the ones with girls in them. Mine is one of them.

The theory, backed up by professionals, is that if you continuously talk about dieting or being fat in front of your kids, or you talk about your kids being fat (even if you’re only joking), even the skinniest kids will pick up on it and start worrying about their weight too. The best thing to do is not to talk about it at all, unless you want a ticking time bomb on your hands, an eating disorder waiting to happen. In our family we never mention the words ‘fat’ or ‘dieting’.

To me it makes sense as kids pick up on things so easily. An example of this would be when Miss C suddenly stopped eating cheese after hearing me saying it gives you nightmares. Another example is that of a friend who told me that when she was about 5 or 6, she and her friend were teased by their mums for having the biggest bottoms in their village. They were only joking but it stuck with her and made her paranoid for the rest of her life.

We had a visitor recently who often mentions she thinks she is fat, that she needs to go on a diet or to lose weight. So when I heard her telling Miss C (who is pretty skinny) she must have got fat because she couldn’t fit into her shorts (she’d insisted on wearing some that were two sizes too small), I was horrified. I knew she was  joking, much in the same way my friend’s mother has been, but I felt I had to say something. After a very bad attempt at explaining why ‘fat’ was a banned word in our family, our visitor, possibly a little offended, looked at me as if I was completely mad. I guess the older generations didn’t worry about that kind of thing, but we are a generation of over-protective, paranoid parents.

I’ve actually discovered that paranoia about the word ‘fat’ is also a cultural thing. I’ve notice that Filipinos, for example, think nothing of telling someone (child or adult) they’ve got fat if they’ve put on a couple of pounds or telling a mother they have a fat baby. But to them it’s not a bad thing. It’s no big deal.

As someone who was always on some kind of diet in my 20’s and 30’s and in fact went through a phase of hardly eating anything for a while, I want to do as much as possible to make sure my children don’t get obsessed with their weight.

Am I doing the right thing? Or do you think I’m just being an overprotective, paranoid parent?



Fernando December 18, 2012 at 2:57 pm

As a parent, I’ll admit to being a little lost on how to approach this with my daughter. I do worry about the body image obsession in “western” cultures and the casual way the word “fat” is thrown around.

But, if our kids are growing up here, they are in a third culture situation and for some Asian cultures, the word “fat” just doesn’t carry the same connotations. I know when I lived in Hong Kong it was disarmning the way Chinese friends and work colleuages would comment on one’s weight and so on.

admin January 3, 2013 at 10:51 am

I agree with completely. Hard to know how to approach it especially with a mix of Asian and Western cultures here.

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