We have the highest respect for Linda 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 More-Love.org
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?”
Response from Dr. Linda 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”
Dr. Linda 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