Children As Young as 3 Years Old Worry They Are Fat

Apparently the University of Central Florida did a study in 2009 with girls aged 3-6 years old and over half of the respondents said they worried about their weight and about becoming fat.

According to NEDA hospitalizations for children under the age of 12 years old doubled between 2000 and 2006.

And last week ABC talked to a 6-year-old little girl in Texas who said she gets called fat by her peers, worries about her weight, and wants to lose weight, despite the fact that her doctor says that her BMI is normal and she is not at risk for being overweight.

I can’t even begin to describe how saddened and deeply concerned this news makes me. As someone who is a recovering anorexic I can see how these sorts of comments and the pressure that society puts on people (especially women) to be skinny could lead to children developing eating disorders. I also can’t imagine being that little girl’s mother and hearing her ask these questions about her weight and being obsessed with it at a young age. That would be so heart-breaking.

Something has to change. Society has to change. Weight should not be such a big issue. Everyone is beautiful, no matter their weight and people need to stop encouraging weight discrimination, especially to the point that young children are getting the message that being skinny is the OMG BEST THING EVER and start obsessing about their weight.

Here’s the article:


10 thoughts on “Children As Young as 3 Years Old Worry They Are Fat

  1. Unfortunately, weight needs to be a big issue right now due to the high obesity rate in the US, including for some children that young. Don’t get me wrong, it’s heartbreaking that this needs to be an issue, and parents need to be educated as far as their children’s health. It bothers me most when parents force their children to finish what’s on their plates.

    I agree with you though, in that people, especially young kids should not be nearly as obsessed with their appearances. It’s depressing that most models are severely underweight, and yet that’s what most people aspire to look like. “Thinspiration” has clearly gone too far.

    • I think that the obesity problem is something that often is over-simplified by the media. It’s not just about weight; it’s about general health and the fact that healthy food is more expensive than cheap, processed foods, and the fact that our lifestyle as a society doesn’t leave a lot of extra time to hit the gym and still take care of our families. My fiance and I are trying to eat healthier and we often can’t afford to and end up falling back in processed foods or foods with high fructose corn syrup in them (it’s in nearly everything). I think that there needs to be change to the food industry and things like HFCS need to be limited and regulated better and it should be easier to access food stamps so healthy food is more affordable. Also, I think there’s a fine line between encouraging kids to eat what you made (which, hopefully, is healthy) and forcing them to eat until they’re over-full.

      The model industry concerns me a lot because of how unhealthy eating habits are promoted (ex-models have come out and talked about being forced to eat extremely low calories every day or to take weight loss drugs or even just ‘regular’ drugs to encourage weight loss) to the point that models have died from it. I wish that models of healthy weights were idolized and looked up to as much as the ones who are encouraged to starve themselves to death. It’s very sad, indeed.

      • I absolutely agree that healthier food needs to be more accessible, and as people become more aware of healthier foods, demand for it will increase, and it will be more accessible. People need to be more educated, rather than have the foods be regulated by the FDA and USDA. Unfortunately, most of the people that run those organizations run the companies producing the processed foods and meat filled with hormones. We can do a lot more as consumers by purchasing healthier foods to let these companies know that we want foods with better and fewer ingredients.

      • I think I understand what you are trying to say, however, I think that a lot of what you said comes from a privileged place of being able to afford foods with fewer ingredients and less processed products. Obesity is a bigger problem in low-income, minority groups; so people who often can’t afford to spend even two dollars more on each item they buy at the store, who also can’t afford gym memberships and probably work more than one job to support their families so it’s likely that even if they could afford to, they would not have the energy/time to do so.

        Also, I found some statistics on the CDC about obesity and it’s further led me to believe that the media blows the obesity rates in our country out of proportion. According to the CDC:
        “After a quarter century of increases, obesity prevalence has not measurably increased in the past few years but levels are still high — at 34 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 and over.” (for the years 2004-2006)
        5.9% of adults over 20 years old are “extremely obese”
        16.9% of children and adolescents are “obese”
        To listen to the media report on obesity, you would think that the majority of the population is obese or “extremely obese.”
        And here is an article with graphs that talks about how low-income, minority children are more likely to be obese than their white counterparts:

        Where I got the statistics:

  2. You’re correct in that I’ve always been able to afford healthier foods, but that’s because I prioritize my health much higher than anything else. I’ve never paid for a gym membership because I believe one can become fit with a pair of cross trainers and some old clothes.

    As far as the obesity rate, the CDC said that “obesity prevalence has not measurably increased in the past few years.” This does not mean that the obesity rate isn’t obnoxiously high. 34% of people being obese is ridiculous. That means that only 66% of adults over 20 are either underweight, normal weight, or overweight. That said, the formula for BMI has shifted in the last 30 years to make ‘normal’ a higher weight/height than before. So, based on the BMI calculations of 30 years ago, the obesity rate is probably closer to 40%, which is astronomically high.

    • Tecrogue says:

      I know all too many people who cannot afford to ‘prioritize their health’ as high due to the cost of things such as rent so they have a roof over their heads.

      On to the second bit, BMI has always been a problematic indicator of obesity, even after the more recent ‘shifts’ in the formula.

      First, the formula is still the same, the only difference is that in the 90s the WHO decided the current range for overweight and obese arbitrarily.

      Second, since it is purely a measure of height vs weight, the formula doesn’t take into account that muscle weighs more than fat, and thus most athletes are well within the overweight, or even obese range.

    • Jessica says:

      Good for you. You have disposable income and free-time.

      What’s interesting to me about this “epidemic” is that it’s really one of the few ways that the public actually apparently cares about the health and safety of others, which makes me suspicious. One clue that this is more about what people find “gross” than a genuine concern for others is the fact that it is unhealthier for men to be overweight or obese, and it’s a much bigger problem for men, and yet the bulk of the pressure to “eat right,” “learn self-control” and of course “prioritize” is placed on women (where the problem is actually less wide-spread and less dangerous to their health).

  3. Jessica says:

    When I was a kid my mother was obsessed with fresh/healthy foods. I ate nothing processed or sugary until I was a teenager really. Everything I ate was fresh. I was on about 4 sports teams at a time and had practices nightly. I was super active. I was also still “fat” through most of my childhood. It would have been annoying growing up that way NOW. What was I really supposed to do as a child? I was privileged to have access to healthy foods and lots of exercise, and I was still a fat child (and also very tall and muscular, which was equally unappealing for a young girl). Obviously I was a horrible public hazard.

    • Tecrogue, you’re correct about the BMI change, and that it doesn’t apply to athletes, but there are outliers for every formula. If one were to base obesity on body fat percentage, many people who are considered underweight would be ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ simply because they have very little muscle.

      Jessica, there really isn’t anything a child can do to improve their health. That’s the job of their parents. If you ate healthy foods and were active, you probably were very healthy, and it’s sad that societal norms caused you to appear ‘unappealing’. The pressure for women to prioritize comes from the societal norm that a woman is more highly valued based on her appearance, which is upsetting. We don’t live in a society where gender roles don’t exist – we live in a patriarchal society, and although women have equal rights, they are still more highly valued based on appearance, whereas men are more highly valued based on what’s in the bank. Therefore, there is more pressure for men to have a career, which causes them to have less time to exercise. Also, the media really doesn’t care about anybody’s health. The media cares about making money and that’s it. However, organizations like the CDC and the American Heart Association do care about people’s health, rather than what is considered by society to be ‘gross’.

      • Honestly, I think that you need to knock it off and stop beating the bush; it’s not amusing and had really NOTHING to do with anything I posted and I find it insulting that you keep going on about it. It’s obvious that we don’t agree and you need to let it go and go back to your ivory tower where everyone magically can afford to “prioritize [their] health” by buying food that apparently everyone can magically afford.

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