What to Say and Do If Your Child Thinks They’re Fat

Article originally published by Elaine K. Howley on U.S. News. Article preview below.

The first time it happens, you may be caught off-guard, but it’s a common situation for many parents: Your child expresses concern about their body size. If this has happened to you, you’re certainly not alone.

“According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of becoming fat,” says Nicole Siegfried, a licensed clinical psychologist, certified eating disorder specialist and chief clinical officer at Lightfully Behavioral Health based in Thousand Oaks, California.

They’re not coming by this fear in a vacuum either, she notes. “According to the most recent Gallup Poll, 55% of Americans want to lose weight.”

Dr. James Greenblatt, a functional psychiatrist, chief medical officer at Walden Behavioral Care in Waltham, Massachusetts, and founder of Psychiatry Redefined, an educational platform dedicated to the transformation of psychiatry, says that it’s a cultural issue. “Unfortunately, ours is a society wherein prevailing cultural aesthetics and aesthetic preferences place ‘thin’ near the very tops of the list of idealize physical attributes.”

Fear of being fat outstrips fear of other medical concerns. Greenblatt points to a 2014 study that surveyed more than 7,000 adolescents about their beliefs and attitudes toward health and wellness. It found that 63% of girls reported being afraid of gaining weight or “getting fat,” while just 26% of girls reported a fear of having or eventually developing breast cancer.

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