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Worried about the kids? Fear of obesity is much more health-damaging than high weight itself

Worried about the kids? Fear of obesity is much more health-damaging than high weight itself

An interview with Dr. Lindo Bacon

We have the highest respect for Lindo Bacon, PhD, who is a leader and an inspiration in the body diversity and acceptance movement. In this interview, she addressed a question parents can’t avoid in today’s society: am I doing my child a disservice if I don’t worry about his or her weight?

Question from

Everywhere we go, we see and hear messages about the dangers of obesity and the idea that each individual must take action against (and has control over) it. How do you think that impacts our children? Do you have any advice for parents regarding how they should talk to their children about the “war on obesity?”

Non-Diet HAES Parenting Tips

Non-Diet/Health At Every Size® Fact Sheets, Guidelines, and Scripts

  • Fact Sheets About Weight Stigma, Diet Culture, Kids and Diets, and More
  • Non-Diet Parent Guidelines
  • Non-Diet Parent Scripts About Responding to Fat Talk, Diet Talk, and More
  • What to Say/Not Say When Talking About Bodies and Food

Response from Dr. Lindo Bacon

What we’ve really done is create a war against larger people, and our kids pick up on that messaging. It creates a harmful bias against larger people and causes people to feel bad about their own bodies, whether they are fat or fear becoming fat.

This anti-obesity culture also feeds us damaging misinformation about weight and health, and best practices around eating. Buy-in to conventional messaging causes us to disconnect from internal hunger cues that are perfectly attuned to what and how much our bodies need as well as the ways our bodies want to move naturally and joyfully in daily life. This makes us less able to care for their bodies.

I encourage parents to address this head on. Talk about the messages the kids hear. Help your kids critically deconstruct those messages. Help them navigate the misinformation they encounter, and to build their defenses. Help them see that their body is amazing because it houses them. Support them in learning to read their bodies, to trust themselves, to nourish themselves, body and soul.


I do realize that’s a big ask, and that I haven’t provided the usual short simple steps that people often look for in blog posts. My message can be distilled into very simple guidance: Recognize that you and your kids came pre-packaged with an inner guide that can help you to eat well and live well. You – and your kids – can exorcise those cultural messages and trust yourselves. This inner knowing can help you manage your weight much better than diet rules.

And, please, do show compassion for yourself and your kids along the journey. This isn’t a simple switch activated by intellectual awareness and you can’t just talk your kid into this awareness. Cultural messaging gets internalized and is powerful!

Rest assured, however, that extensive research – and many, many personal stories – confirm: regardless of whether this journey helps you or your kid to lose weight, it can definitely help you both to lose the burden of weight.

This video from Dr. Bacon’s Body Manifesto series delivers the science behind her plea for an end to the “War on Obesity”

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Dr. Lindo Bacon is a professor, researcher, co-author of Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, author of Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, and international speaker. Dr. Bacon is changing lives through her teaching, research, writing, and transformative workshops and seminars. Website

9 thoughts on “Worried about the kids? Fear of obesity is much more health-damaging than high weight itself

  1. When the guru talking about weight issue is NOT heavy, it’s a lot harder for women to give up on being thin. They think- oh, SHE lost weight- I have to…..
    Worrying about getting fat is one of the paths to actually become heavy! When you start dieting, you’re already stressed because you are unhappy with your body and feel like something is wrong with you. That leads to slowing down your metabolism because of restricting calories- and VIOLA- now you GET fat!
    Don’t do this to your kids- don’t focus on their body. Work on their self-esteem NOT related to their appearance. And start appreciating yourself for who you are as a person, not what you look like! Appearance will fade if you’re lucky enough to age. But who you are inside can grow more beautiful despite any outward appearance. Appreciate yourself as you are.

    1. Well said! Thank you! No need to judge the body size of any messenger who carries this important message.

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  5. Okay, I do have a question, and it’s something I haven’t dared ask anyone else. Our 11 year old niece is staying with us, and she is becoming very heavy indeed. She is already at over 125lbs and fast tracking to 130. With our own kids our struggle is getting them to put the weight on – they’re both string beans – so I’m not sure how to structure meals for 3 growing children with different goals. To clarify, my concern is not that my niece is heavy, but the effect this weight gain (which has taken place over the last 3 years) has had on her – once a super active, physical kid (not big boned), she now finds physical activity difficult and uncomfortable, and largely prefers to avoid it. She will still play active games like tag with our kids, but quickly taps out because she’s hot, sweaty and out of breath, so while she’s moving more than she would otherwise do (she’s pretty sedentary at home with her mom), I know that you can’t out-move/exercise a poor diet. She eats little or no veg, preferring heavy carbs and a lot of protein. I’m happy to give her the protein and healthy carbs, but her preference is for largely empty carbs. She will NOT eat fruit. She likes dairy, so her diet is very heavy and she is a BIG eater, out-eating me and often out-eating my husband, who works a very physical job. I understand that she’s fast approaching adolescence and no doubt her body is getting ready for that, but while she’s staying with us over the next couple of months, how can I help her make better choices and move more?

    1. Hi Naomi, thank you for asking this question! In our society, we typically think that our goal is to raise thin kids. But in fact, healthy kids are in touch with their bodies and respect their bodies as they are. You may want to learn more about Intuitive Eating, Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility, and Health at Every Size. Bodies are so smart, and most of the time parents and caregivers just need to focus on emotional caregiving and trust the body to follow its own healthiest path. This is a HUGE topic, so I’m providing some articles that may help:

      Daughter is Overweight:

      About Weight Stigma:

      About Overeating:

      How to Build Healthy Food Habits:

      How to Feed a Child:

      I know you are doing your very best, and I’m so glad you’re investigating this topic! xoxo

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