How to explain a fat person to your kid (or, “they’re called tricky conversations for a reason”)

I appreciate and their take on many things, including her generous approach to feeding small humans who don’t necessarily ascribe to my aspirational values about kale chips being superior to mac n cheese, and who tend to make the hours of effort to soak cashew nuts to blend into a smoothie or meal pointless, given they don’t eat that, but will have two slices of toast with Nutella. Sigh.

Anyway, generosity towards the best-effort-I’m-making is always appreciated. As is her generous explanation on why some people’s bodies are larger than others. I also think it’s interesting to be able to share with kids that sometimes storing energy in this way might make a person feel safer in the world. And feeling safe is important.

Here’s to beautiful body science. All our coping mechanisms. And finding ways to move beyond the binaries of good and bad.

Fat cells are a part of our body. They cushion our organs, keep us warm, and store energy for us. Some people have more fat cells, some people have less fat cells…⁠

…but people with more fat cells are discriminated against and stigmatized in health care, jobs, and every other area of society. ⁠

If we want our kids to be healthy no matter what their size, and we want them to recognize weight stigma and work against it, we’ll have to change the way we talk about fat.⁠

Last summer we were on a hike. A person walked by and one of the kids asked, rather loudly, “Why is that person fat?” ⁠

“People come in all shapes and sizes” is what I blurted out, embarrassed, on the spot. And then we talked about how no one likes to have their body talked about by other people – whether it is small, large, fat, thin, tall, or short. ⁠

What I missed at the moment was explaining why that person was fat. They had more fat cells storing energy than whoever he was comparing them to. ⁠

Just like we share facts about different foods instead of calling them “good” or “bad”, we can share facts about our bodies without calling them “good” or “bad.”⁠

How have you handled tricky conversations about weight with your child?⁠

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