This is Kara Waite. She's a community college professor and instructional designer at a music school.
She's also the aunt of three young girls. So when a friend told her that her 8-year-old daughter was being body-shamed at school, Waite was especially affected.
In response to her friend's story, she penned this beautiful missive, which is going viral on Facebook.
In it, she discusses what you should and shouldn't say to a kid who's dealing with weight issues — something Kara knows about firsthand.
The impact of body shaming can be felt for years. "I'll tell you what might happen because I know: years of yo-yo dieting, disordered eating, body dysmorphia, and, very likely, a metabolism fucked beyond all recognition."
Waite hopes that people reading her post remember that "all of the women in your life, are more than their bodies."
You can read her entire Facebook post here.
Today I had a long talk with a friend about her little girl. The child is overweight and, not only are children at school teasing her, but her doctor and teacher are making cruel comments about the girl in front of her. This makes me so sad that I can't even express it. I know that there are health risks that accompany being overweight. I understand that childhood obesity is a big problem. I get all of that.
But that doesn't change the strong possibility that, somewhere, there's a little girl being made to feel bad about her body, and that's bad. But what's worse is that, being female in this culture, that body isn't just her body, it's her self.
What the doctor says: you need to move more, you need to eat less, you're a smart girl, this is simple math. What that little girl hears: you are lazy, you aren't smart enough to make your body the way it should be, there is something wrong with your body. What the kids say: ew, you're so fat. What that little girl hears: we don't like you, being liked is for other people, not you. What the teacher says: you don't need another piece of candy. What that little girl hears: you are not allowed to have a thing that you enjoy, enjoying things is for other people, not for you.
And what will any of this accomplish? I'll tell you what might happen because I know: years of yo-yo dieting, disordered eating, body dysmorphia, and, very likely, a metabolism fucked beyond all recognition such that her body holds onto every calorie. A constant cycle of restricting and permitting. An obsession with food, thighs, cellulite, rolls, curves, lard, blah blah blah. Insecurity. Turmoil. A waste of time, money, energy, and happiness.
What it won't accomplish: making her skinny, making her fit a standard that is pervasive, that is at once systematic and completely arbitrary.
"I don't want to make her feel bad," my friend said. "What do I do?"
Take her outside. Plant a garden. Play in the snow. Play tag. Get a slip and slide and swing set and a hoolah hoop. Buy her a purple bike with bright yellow streamers. Teach her to play an instrument and dance like a crazy person. Buy her art supplies and show her all of the bodies that artists have celebrated throughout history. Feed her good stuff, but have conversations with her while she eats it. Say things that aren't about food. Read great books. Teach her to sew or sing or make balloon animals. Go back outside. Tell her she is beautiful, but say it half as much as you say that she is kind and generous and hysterically funny and at the top of your list of favorite people. Talk about anything but bodies. Turn off the fucking TV. Jump in the pool and don't talk about how big your splash is or how your thighs look in your swimsuit.
Tell her that the people who criticize her body have problems with their own bodies, or, worse, with their hearts and minds. If she needs a bigger size, buy it, but shut the hell up about it.
Love her exactly as she is. Accept her exactly as she is. Like her, too, and let her know it. Fill her up with love and like and acceptance so she doesn't learn to get it from cookies and Doritos and sundaes and pizza.
Love her exactly as she is. Accept her exactly as she is. Like her, too, and let her know it.