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"My daughter will be bombarded with the message that being stick thin is the only way to be beautiful for her entire life, it's up to the adults around her to actively challenge that message, not reinforce it."

By Zara Hanawalt
March 25, 2021
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An image of a mother holding her daughter's hand.
Credit: Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

We've said it once and we'll continue to say it over and over and over: All bodies are good bodies. We also get it: Those societal beauty standards can be hard to escape from underneath—and if they're this heavy for grown adults, they obviously don't belong anywhere near children. That's why, as parents, we have a responsibility to shield our kids from this undue pressure to look a certain way.

Unfortunately, that's a lot harder to do when someone else makes unsolicited (and incredibly inappropriate) comments to our kids. See: A recent Reddit post from a mom who is (understandably) furious after her ex's fiancée body-shamed her daughter—and undermined the mom's body-positive stance while doing so.

"I have been so careful about not having weight-talk in my house. I don't equate weight with beauty, and I've made sure she sees beauty in people of all shapes and sizes," the mom writes. "So when my daughter came home from her dad's place and only ate half her dinner because she didn't want to eat too much, I was suspicious. As it turns out, my ex's fiancée told her she was getting pudgy and should eat less so she doesn't look fat in front of everyone when she's a flower girl at their upcoming wedding. She even asked her 'don't you want to look beautiful in your dress?'"

Wow. Just, no. This is clear body-shaming, not to mention something you have no business telling someone else's child.

"I'm concerned about how irresponsible she is, to try and instill body insecurity in such a young child and to encourage her to eat less when her body needs that food to grow," the original poster writes. "My daughter will be bombarded with the message that being stick thin is the only way to be beautiful for her entire life, it's up to the adults around her to actively challenge that message, not reinforce it." Bingo.

This story is even more problematic when you consider the mom in question's very personal history with body-image issues. "I was an overweight child who got lots of comments about my weight and comparisons between me and my thin sister," the poster writes as a response to one comment. "Led me to be an obese teenager, and then a thin young adult with an eating disorder. I am only recently in full remission after more than a decade, and only because I got pregnant and had my son. But these types of comments can, and often do, lead to a lifetime of mental health struggles."

She's right. Body-shaming a child can have serious ripple effects, and commenters are echoing these sentiments. "It's an awful thing to do to put the responsibility of weight onto a 7-year-old. It just makes her responsible and if she isn't thinner by the wedding then she failed," one writes.

Of course, some commenters are not exactly helping this mom's frustration (she actually had to edit her post to add that she'll no longer be responding to comments asking if her daughter is "fat", which is just beyond wrong).

"Am I in crazy town? What's with everyone asking "but IS she overweight?," one user writes. "There's so many [more] things wrong happening in this situation than if the child is ACTUALLY overweight."

And research backs this mom up. "If kids don't learn to feel confident in their bodies and are not taught that all bodies are acceptable, they are at a higher risk of developing eating disorders, mood, and anxiety disorders," Kerry Heath, LPC-S, NCC, CEDS-S, a Phoenix-based licensed professional counselor and certified eating disorder specialist, previously told Parents.com.

"Teach children that all bodies are good bodies so that they do not learn to judge themselves when they fall short of the unattainable societal beauty standards, which can lead to poor self-esteem, depression, and eating disorders," Heath suggests.

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