A Rude Awakening – Kids and Body Image

I babysat today. The girl I babysat for is awesome! She is ten years old, and she likes a lot of things I used to enjoy or play with when I was her age. We went up into her playroom that is essentially an attic that has been transformed into a “tweens” dream. The room is huge. She showed me all her fun toys such as a light-up lightsaber, TONS of American Girl dolls, beds, a gymnastics set, a lot of furniture and a motorcycle for her American Girl dolls, a million stuffed animals, and so many other amazing things. I have to admit…the ten year old in me was extremely jealous of all of her American Girl doll things.

She has a large horse toy, and it has hair that can be easily styled. She asked me how we should style the horses’ mane. I am terrible at doing my own hair (thank goodness it is short now hah), but I am fairly decent at doing others, particularly dolls and…apparently horses(?). I french braided the horse’s hair, and she was duly impressed. I am glad I was able to make a good impression on a child with my horse braiding skills, haha 🙂 We also played with her Build-a-Bear bunny. The girl did not like that the bunny was wearing a sparkly pink fairy/princess looking dress. She is not into super girly things. We found clothes and decided what would look best on the bunny. It made me smile to watch her have fun picking out the clothes and try to make the bunny look stylish.

And…and then there was a moment that made my heart sink. I feel almost sick to my stomach thinking about it now because it makes me feel so sad and discouraged. As she put the jeans on her bunny, she said, “These pants make you [the bunny] look fat. No offense but they make you look really fat.” She is only freaking TEN YEARS OLD!!! She is ten years old and already thinks about fat vs. thin. The idea that being “fat” is a bad thing is already ingrained in her young mind. My mind was spinning when I heard her say this. The way she said it in such a negative way proves that young children are already being influenced by diet culture and fat shaming. I know that to some people it does not seem like a big deal for her to say this. To some, it probably does not make sense as to why I am so upset about this.

Here is the thing – according to statistics 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. EIGHTY. ONE. PERCENT. Now, I am not saying that this girl, in particular, has those feelings. Of course, I do not know if she does or not and that is not my point. The statistics are just so terrifying when you learn that 1 in 10 students will develop an eating disorder by the time they reach high school. I want to cry thinking about how younger and younger children are developing eating disorders. Obviously, I have been through this, and I have met people of all ages who have struggled with an eating disorder. It hurts just as much in any individual of any age. However, it is so sad to think about a younger person losing their childhood and innocence to this horrible monster of a disease.

Things have got to change! This is a f***ing epidemic, and it is awful. That is it. It is just plain awful. Tomorrow is the NEDA walk and today was a reminder of why I am walking. I am walking because I will never stop talking about eating disorders until no one has to suffer anymore. I am walking to show myself that I also deserve to be free from the clutches of this disorder. I am walking because I will advocate for eating disorder awareness until the day I die. I am walking because I can while others who lost their battle cannot.

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