Telling a Child to Lose Weight to Avoid Getting Teased is the Same as Saying “You Deserve What You Get!”

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 11.09.40 AMYour child doesn’t need to lose weight to stop the teasing! Your child is fine, it’s the kids who tease who have a problem!

8 Ways to Help Your Overweight Child by Instilling Healthy Family Habits
1. Help the child recognize his skills or special talents.
2. Feed the overweight child exactly the same way you feed the rest of the family. No special meals, no holding back snacks and desserts if that’s what the family is having.
3. Involve the whole family in regular, fun, family activities that are physically active.
4. Assign all family members household chores.
5. Serve more fruits and vegetables as snacks and with meals.
6. Let family members serve themselves from the counter, but do not place the serving bowls on the table.
7. No clean plate rule Encourage children to start with a smaller serving and if they’re still hungry they may have a little more.
8. No different “screen time” rules for the overweight child. Enforce rules evenly to all family members. What’s good for one is good for all!

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 11.15.01 AM“Fatty in a farmer suit! “That’s what the mean kids yelled at me when I wore my cute, little overall skirt to school! My wonderful, new outfit that delighted me only the night before when my mom bought it for me was now a most hated garment. I vowed never to wear it again. Thank goodness my mother didn’t side with the bullies by telling me if I lost weight I wouldn’t get teased. She told me my outfit was cute and I looked cute in it!

I’m not sure I’d call the insensitive kids in my class bullies. In my day, bullies were the big meanies who slammed smaller kids up against the wall to take their lunch money. Bullies actually inflicted some form of physical pain on their victims. Meanies were the kids who said mean things to hurt feelings or just to get a laugh out of their friends. Teachers and parents didn’t do much to stop the mean behavior of these kids beyond warning them that their “words weren’t nice,” or telling them to apologize to their victims.

When I was a kid we worried less about changing the behavior of others. We learned to recite, “sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me.” It was good advice. It actually helped me shrug off mean comments by thinking that I was okay and mean kids weren’t. Now it seems like a lot of attention is placed on trying to stop mean kids from being mean. That’s good, but it also seems like the targets of mean kids aren’t getting much help building a strong identity that’s impervious to the bullying. That’s too bad.

What really bothers me is some parents are actually aiding and abetting the bullies. Some parents unwittingly reinforce the bully’s actions by telling their child, “you need to lose weight so the teasing will stop!” Yes, they’re saying to their kids that it’s their fault they’re getting teased because they’re fat. They tell their kids that unless they lose weight they deserve to be teased. They’re not using those exact words but by parents agreeing (with bullies) that the child is fat, that’s what the child hears!

Some parents hope that teasing will help an overweight child get motivated to lose weight. Parents of overweight children are worried about their children’s future health. It’s a legitimate concern, although thinking that ridicule and cruel comments will help is a mistake. Adults rarely make good choices when they feel unworthy. It’s why diets fail. Success doesn’t happen when weight loss is motivated for the wrong reasons. When somebody hates herself because she’s fat, her negative attitude gets in the way of positive actions. That’s true for adults and children. I think that’s one of the reasons that so many overweight children become obese adults. I think they start to hate themselves at a young age because instead of having a healthy identity they let their value be determined by their weight. Eating is a coping mechanism and it is a poor one because it exacerbates the problem.

A destructive cycle of self hate – eating to comfort – causing more self hate – leading to more eating and more weight gain.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 11.09.40 AMIf you have a child who’s getting teased because he’s overweight; don’t aid the bullies by saying, “Let’s put you on a diet so they stop!” Tell that child to “pity the suckah who has to tries to make himself feel better by making somebody feel bad!

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is the general manager of Weight Watchers of Maine. She is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. Her experience with her own weight management journey and raising girls has given her insight into the struggles families face with weight, healthy body image, food and physical activity. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news for more than ten years and appears monthly as a guest on FOX network morning program Good Day Maine.