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The 3-Letter Word That Should Be Outlawed

Jill Castle

Health, Wellness, & Safety

Fat. A three-letter word that stings, slaps, and scars.

Fat.  Fatso.  Fatty.  I consider these “F’ words.  Yes, there are other “F” words, but this one is used in our society too much. In fact, I think it’s one of the dirtiest words in our nation.

What does “fat” mean anyway? Too much adipose tissue? A size XL? Bigger than your peers? When it comes to kids, there is no clear-cut indicator for its use.

Fat is used, whether justified or not, a realistic assessment or a put-down. When it’s used to describe someone, its real intent is to mean “less than,” “not good enough,” “ugly,” or “inadequate.”

That’s the message kids hear when they are called this word.

Sadly, when the “F” word is used, children hear it loud and clear.

A February 2009 study in Social Development looked at the psychological impact of weight-related teasing in 7th graders who were enrolled in weight loss camp. Through a self-reported questionnaire, researchers found that these teens demonstrated lowered psychological functioning, less self-esteem, more depressive symptoms and reduced social involvement. The results appeared regardless of how frequently these teens had been teased, indicating that kids doesn’t have to hear weight-related teasing often to feel the sting.

When kids are teased for their weight, it can set the stage for a lifetime of battles with food, eating and body. Weight-related teasing and the use of the “F” word can lead to a broken self-esteem, a poor body image, weight gain or disordered eating.

So, what can we do?  Parents, outlaw the “F” word in your home, just as you do those other 4-letter words.  The “F” word may be far more dangerous to your child.  Focus your efforts on instilling self-worth, personal passions, and an appreciation for the unique qualities and differences in people!

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Jill Castle

Jill Castle is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with expertise in pediatric nutrition. She is the co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, and creator of Just the Right Byte, a childhood nutrition blog. Follow Jill on Twitter @pediRD and Facebook.