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Weight Bias Hurts Us All

But judgment can especially hurt children.

Key points

  • Many mothers and fathers think they are worse parents because of how much their child weighs.
  • A child’s healthiest weight and shape is present when they meet five criteria.
  • The more we understand how our mind and body are connected, the better our bodies will take care of us.

Weight bias hurts us all. And it especially hurts our children. Have you ever thought you were less of a good parent because of how much you or your child weighed? Don't judge yourself as a parent. Just introduce the idea of how the culture of thinness has affected you and your child. There are a host of reasons why some children gain too much weight too fast, and not all of them are under our control. This leads us to the idea of worthiness. You and your child are both worthy of love, kindness, and compassion. Read that sentence as many times as you need to feel the words. When we connect our minds and bodies, we can genuinely build hope, resilience, and the deep love and security we all need to thrive.


Have you ever stopped thinking about how lucky you are to have your body? Think about it: Your body is fantastic. It is a complex organism that can withstand a snowstorm. And yet, exposure to one little cold germ can put us in bed for a week. Our bodies can eat hundreds of different foods, breathe in millions of different particles, move in and out of positions without much thought, and run virtually every major internal organ without even thinking about it. We may do a lot of things to abuse our bodies, like drinking alcohol, taking drugs, overeating, working out too long, not dealing with stress, or staying up late bingeing on TV. Despite our lack of care, our body keeps on working for us. When was the last time you thanked your legs for bringing you home, your arms for carrying groceries, your lungs for taking in oxygen, or your heart for pumping 2,000 gallons of blood on any given day? Our bodies work hard and are worthy of love, gratitude, and kindness.

The more we learn how to take better care of our bodies and understand how the mind and body are connected, the better our bodies will care for us. Our bodies and our children's bodies are worthy of good, healthy foods that help us grow and perform at our best. We deserve foods that nourish us and help us feel good about ourselves, making our thoughts feel welcome about what we ate, not guilt or shame.

Our hearts beat over 100,000 times per day but they need us to help them by learning how to deal with stress and threats in our lives. Our hearts are critical to understanding how to best care for ourselves and our children in the obesity epidemic.

We must tend to our hearts with compassion. The obesity epidemic has created many places that leave our children and us feeling unwelcome, unloved, like outsiders. We need to reclaim our loving tenderness towards ourselves and our children and set firm boundaries around the kind of words we use about our bodies or our children's. Loneliness, isolation, and hopelessness can damage or weaken our hearts and make them work harder to pump blood. Love, kindness, compassion, and tenderness provide the best fuel to help our hearts do their job.

How do we care for our hearts and our children's? By committing ourselves to set boundaries that protect ourselves and our children from harmful environments, people, and events. We care by speaking kindly to ourselves and our children about our bodies and shifting how others talk about our size and our children's. Our hearts, though, do need us and our children to be our healthiest selves and weight. What do I mean by your child’s healthiest weight and shape? It's when they meet these 5 criteria:

  1. Have a best friend.
  2. Sleep well.
  3. Move the way they want, when they want.
  4. Feel comfortable and safe at home, going to school, and at the doctor’s office.
  5. Choose to eat healthy foods 80% of the time.

When we create environments that support these five things, whatever that number is on the scale, and whatever our child’s body size or shape is, that is who they are. And that child is worthy of loving-kindness, compassion, and a joyful life.

More from JoAnn Stevelos, MS, MPH
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