The musings of a final year medical student

Monday, 10 February 2014

Weekly Ethical Dilemma: Should fat children be told they're fat?

Starting this week I am starting a weekly post: the Weekly Ethical Dilemma.

Childhood obesity is a growing problem right across the globe. But does that mean we should tell children who, perhaps unbeknown to them, that they are overweight?

In my opinion, the way to overcome obesity is not by labelling it, but really by making proactive steps to increase the amount of physical activities whilst moving towards more nutritious foods. For children it is very important to make sure the meals and nutritionally balanced and have enough calories for vigorous exercise and body development, therefore even if a child is overweight they must not have their calories slashed or be forced to count calories. It's more about establishing healthy habits that will stay with them for the rest of their lives and will maintain a healthy weight.

The problem here lies in the word itself 'fat'. Being fat is not widely accepted in today's society as an attractive trait, quite the opposite. Therefore, for a child to be told that they're fat, I worry over the way that they interpret that information. Will they come to the conclusion that their body size is more important than their personality? Will they lose a feeling of self-worth by knowing that their bodies are not 'adequate'. It's your body, you can't help but take it personally. I worry that children will believe that  they don't deserve love, that they're sub-standard, that there is something wrong that they have brought upon themselves. Then, this may lead to them blaming and punishing themselves, possibly leading to mental disorders.

I feel very strongly about this topic because its something particularly close to my heart. At primary school I was teased a lot for being overweight, and it was an experience that has stayed on with me now, 10 years later, and has manifested itself in terrible ways. As previously mentioned, I later developed an eating disorder, self-harmed and suffer from depression. Through counselling, I feel convinced that by being judged due to my body size this then lead onto further health problems.

I would NEVER wish anyone to have gone through the lows that I have experienced, not even those who began my obsession with my weight and my looks.

You don't have to tell a child they're fat to make them lose weight. If you go out and exercise WITH them, make them healthy meals, snacks and drinks, then the child can develop a healthy body as well as a healthy mind.

This debate was brought to my attention when the dreadful Katie Hopkins appeared on ITV This Morning with her arch enemy, Sonia Poulton, where they argued over the merits of informing ones child that they are fat. The link is here:


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