Last updated on July 20th, 2020
When your child wails, 'Am I fat?', 'Will you make me fat?', and grabs at their skin as though they want to tear off a slice of their tummy, what do you say?
It depends. Lots of possibilities, some helpful, some less so.
So much so that in my book in its current form, I devoted seven pages to it! As I was writing those pages I checked drafts with lots of lovely people, so I'm very happy with. Lots in Chapter 14 of my book. More on prevention, as you wonder about your other children, in Chapter 11.
And then, I produced a whole lot of short audios on the subject for my Bitesize collection. This is to give parents lots of options when at various stages of the recovery journey, their child wants to engage in fat talk.
Before that I had also discussed this in the podcast here.
Body image and how we talk about it with our children
This particular conversation is one of many in a series of podcasts I highly recommend: The Full Bloom Project. These podcasts are produced by two certified FBT therapists, Zoë Bisbing and Leslie Bloch. They work with adolescents with eating disorders 'to provide research-informed resources for parents who want to promote self-esteem and positive body image in their children at all ages'.
On the question of prevention
There's a bit that's missing in the podcast, where I question the prevention angle. I wouldn't like to create unrealistic expectations — that you can prevent anorexia by taking care of the way you talk about bodies and food. Plenty of us have raised our kids with a lot of care around that, and they still got anorexia. The Body Project, a well-validated body acceptance program in schools (which uses 'body dissonance' as mentioned in the podcast), has not shown a preventive effect on anorexia.
Still, there can only be benefits from us becoming even more aware of how we talk about body shape, given the toxic environment we live in.