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Does Fat-Shaming Make Kids Gain Weight?

Does Fat-Shaming Make Kids Gain Weight?

Kids who are fat-shamed may gain more weight annually than their overweight peers who aren’t bullied.

In the 2018 film Dumplin’, Rosie (Jennifer Aniston) is a former beauty queen and mother of a teen nicknamed Dumplin’ (Danielle Macdonald), a toxic label Mom gave her as a child because she was heavyset. As she gets older, the only thing anyone seems to notice about Willowdean (her real name)—at school and at home—is the extra pounds she still carries. Then, in an act of courage, Willowdean shocks her world by enrolling in the local beauty pageant. All of the bullies (including her mother) are left stunned by her talent.

Unfortunately, such a tale of fierce victory isn’t often the case for young people dealing with fat-shaming. A study in Pediatric Obesity followed over 100 kids around age 12 for more than eight years. The researchers found overweight kids who are ridiculed/teased end up packing on more pounds—a 33 percent greater gain in BMI and a 91 percent greater gain in fat mass annually—than overweight peers who reported no fat-shaming.

If your child is overweight, do not criticize them for how they look or what they eat. And let your child know bullying by peers in never okay—report it! Consider finding a mental health professional to help your child (and you) deal with the issues that may be fueling the overweight. And lead by example: Make buying and cooking healthful foods a family fun-time; do physical activities together daily. Build healthy habits over time and your child will find strength and happiness in discovering new skills and interests.

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