Sad, Sad, Sad: Nearly Half of 3- to 6-Year-Old Girls Think Theyre Fat

It's hard to imagine a girl this young worrying about her weight

I was talking to a friend yesterday who was telling me how her 4-year-old daughter recently shed 4 pounds following a tonsillectomy, which was a lot to lose on a body that had previously weighed 35 pounds soaking wet.

“You’re too skinny,” she said to her daughter.

“I like being skinny,” her daughter replied.

My friend explained that she was probably saying that because her older daughter, 8, and her friends, often talk about being the virtues of being thin.

And it’s something to which I can relate, because I can remember being as young as 3 or 4 and being self-conscious about having a little pot belly. So I’m not entirely surprised to read of a study in which nearly half of 3- to 6-year-olds say they think they’re fat. So while I’m not surprised, I’m certainly sad.

In 2009, the University of Central Florida surveyed young girls about their weight and the results show that far too many of them said they worried about being fat.

The National Eating Disorder Association said the number of kids under the age of 12 who were hospitalized for eating disorders more than doubled in a 6-year period starting in 2000.

I don’t even know where to start with this one, but it’s a topic about which I’m hyper-vigilant as the mom of a little girl and another one on the way. Between the hype generated by Hollywood, the fashion industry and our own families, it’s no wonder more girls aren’t suffering from low self-esteem and eating disorders. There’s a such an emphasis on being skinny — not just healthy, but skinny — in our culture that a girl of a normal weight can’t be blamed for feeling obese.

Sure, there are plenty of kids who are actually and seriously overweight, but I’m sure most women and girls know what I’m talking about with the pressure to be rail thin like the women we see plastered on billboards and in commercials, movies and on television.

New diet trends pop up left and right, which are ostensibly for adults, but kids are sponges who soak up what their parents do, for better or worse. The habits of kids come from their parents and peers, whose own self-inflicted pressures are influenced by everyone and everything  else around them. It’s a bad cycle, and it’s a bad sign when there’s proof that it’s permeated kids at such a young age.

I couldn’t begin to offer a solution. But I can weep silently a little bit that girls as young as 3 think they’re fat. Feeling self-conscious at that age about anything seems like the start of a long life of misery.

How do we begin to go about fixing this problem that hurts so many little girls, and eventually, women?

Image: Creative Commons

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