I was once told that I had an obligation to become thin (as if I could just choose to be and, voila!) because my kid will grow up looking at me and thinking that fat is a way to be. As if, somehow, she would catch my fat, no matter how our family lives and eats and moves and no matter what her genetic predispositions. (This person assumed, as many do, that thin is objectively healthier and ‘better’ than fat.) Some people think children should be kept from the terrible knowledge that contented fat people existbecause that would, by some sorcery, mean that the notion of fatness would never occur to them and they would always remain thin. Some people just don’t believe fat parents can possibly provide a healthy home. Some people think parents of fat children are by definition lazy or incompetent or unloving. Some people are ignorant. Some people are arseholes.
Some of those people have been in the media this past week talking about a study which, it has been widely reported, recommends that very fat children be removed from their parents and put into foster care. One of the problems with this is that the study has been widely misrepresented…Unfortunately, what could have been an opportunity for some serious discussions about systemic barriers to good health and the ethical problems with performing gastric banding surgery on minors, became a great big festival of fat hate with a large helping of mother blaming. Especially poor mothers, cause they’re really easy to hate on, apparently.
Opportunities for bonus misogyny aside, childhood obesity is a juicy story, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to conveniently forget the facts. In Australia at least, rates of ‘childhood obesity’ have plateaued and we’ve known that for a few years now. On the other hand, rates of body dissatisfaction and unhealthy behaviours like yo-yo dieting are increasing in young people. But it’s far easier to scapegoat parents — most often mothers who are more typically charged with cooking and shopping — than to consider some of the nuance here.