Preschoolers Shun the Fat Girl

Mrs. - posted on 12/02/2010 ( 47 moms have responded )

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Interesting study done with preschool girls in which they used game pieces/drawings of different girls, who range from stick thin to obese. These girls, hands down chose the thinnest girl to be friends with or use as their game piece. The article also notes that they are more likely to do this if their mothers are obese.

http://www.calgaryherald.com/life/Thinne...

Is this something that is so entrenched in society now that it is unavoidable to even the youngest, unaware children? Do you think it is a good idea, as the article says, to educate young people that being overweight is okay? Any other thoughts?

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Isobel - posted on 12/02/2010

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Actually...if you look at all the Greek and Roman art, and others as well...thin as attractive is fairly new (maybe the last 50 years?). The softer, more maternal body was considered more beautiful by far for a long time.



Granted extreme obesity may never have been the ideal, but thin never used to be either.

Sara - posted on 12/03/2010

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"I know, obesity was once a sign of wealth and status. Now, poor choices and a lack of motivation usually lead to being overweight. I am talking about actual obesity, morbid obesity, etc.. Weighing two, three, four times your natural body weight doesn't happen by eating McDonald's once every few weeks. Something is causing these people to stay home, eat insane amounts of food and consciously destroy their health."



I find it hard to believe that people can argue, after seeing statements like this, that it isn't something ingrained in our culture to judge the obese or morbidly obese very harshly. I'm not trying to specifically call anyone out here, but the above statement only proves to me that people don't understand why people are obese in our culture or how poorly they are treated and why we feel the way we do about it. Chalking up the obesity epidemic to a character flaw only proves to me that it is the last socially accepted prejudice in our society.

Jenn - posted on 12/02/2010

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I think it has more to do with a natural tendency to be drawn to symmetry and things familiar than something that they've learned or been taught at that age. The little girl who lives next door to me is 6 and weighs about 90lbs, but is very outgoing and has tons of friends, so obviously the other little boys and girls don't seem to mind her bigger size.

Mrs. - posted on 12/02/2010

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Oh and I've been a vegetarian for 22 years. There is a lot of ways to get fat eating a veg diet. Cheese, dairy, sugar...french fries. Even if all you eat is veg and "healthy" foods, if you binge eat, you can get fat on almost anything.

On that note, you see talk shows and tv shows where someone who is anorexic and the audience always cheers when they finally get help and see a shrink. However, when someone is obese, no one ever seems to insist first that they get help in the head, it's always diet, exercise, lap band, gastric by pass...but God help anyone suggest a shrink.

Sharon - posted on 12/02/2010

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i don't really have an answer here, but i feel a little sad thinking about it. none of the girls in my daughters class are even pudgey, never mind fat so i can't test this out on her. heck not even any chubby/fat boys.

I refuse to tell my kids that being fat is ok. BUT I do try to teach them that it is UNFAIR and NOT NICE to judge because someone is fat.

Being overweight is NOT ok. its not healthy. Being skeletal is not healthy either.

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Petra - posted on 12/04/2010

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I totally agree, Emma - its instinctual to be attracted to people who appear to be healthy, i.e. thin or fit, not fat. Society, the media, etc. have placed further social values on being attractive, and this is getting into our kids' heads at a very young age, whether we like it or not. Teaching kids the value of health is far more important than encouraging shallow social values.

Stifler's - posted on 12/03/2010

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It's human nature if you ask me. I'd rather teach my kids to be healthy and exercise than say "being fat is okay! just eat that extra serve... you're a kid".

Jessica - posted on 12/03/2010

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Lol next it will be a debate about "is it ok to be ugly?" Seriously, if we were all meant to be the same, we would come off a production line. Life isn't cookie cutter and nor should it be. Yay for Greek and Roman bodies! I woulda been a hot momma back then! Granted, regardless of sociaites thoughts on curves, I think I'm hot mama now! lol

Isobel - posted on 12/03/2010

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My daughter (who is extremely fit) had a very skinny little friend that made fun of her for being chubby in grade 1. Another friend of hers (who is also runs track, plays soccer, etc) told her not to worry...all she had to do was suck in her stomach whenever a boy walked by. :( It starts early.

Isobel - posted on 12/03/2010

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Not to gloat...well...a little bit to gloat ;P I was in Italy for two weeks this past summer, and while some of the women in the art there looked like what you posted, many more were soft and squishy. I wouldn't say that they were obese (I think I said that in my original post) but they were certainly soft bellied and full bottomed... the men were alllll perfect though mmmmmmmmm.

Tah - posted on 12/03/2010

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my daughter's weight goes up and down..she has baby fat..she will start to lose it, get taller, we are active, and then she leaves for the summer to her dad's house, puts some weight on and we have to start all over again. It gets frustrating. she is beautiful, long hair, good personality, but i know that children can be cruel. I know she will grow out of it, since she already has done..alot...but i always ask her if anyone is teasing her or messing with her, and she says no. I always tell her she is beautiful and her teachers say she is very outgoing, I know children can say the worst things, so i can believe the study.

Amie - posted on 12/03/2010

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Yes it is. Once they are in grade 1 (sometimes K) you'll start hearing comments you never thought you'd hear come out of a child's mouth.



I know I was shocked and it took us a couple of years to work with our daughter. She's now 10, she's still stick thin, still careful with what she eats but now understands that if she gains weight... it does not mean she will end up fat. It means she is growing and healthy. She was frail for a long time but is putting on muscle mass (along with a tiny bit of pudge), finally. She's gained 12 lbs. in the last year. She's gone from 60lbs. to 72 lbs. Her height is slow going but she's always been one of the taller kids, right now she's 4'11". She's gained roughly an inch - inch and a half in the last year.



I realize there is one or two of you here who are the same height as my daughter. How would you guys feel if you weighed that little?



It's not a joke, it does need to be addressed. It does affect young girls. My daughter was one of them.



I don't think overweight and underweight need to be addressed, per say. I do think a healthy lifestyle (diet, enough activity in a day, etc.) do need to be stressed. Everyone comes in different shapes and sizes. There is no one perfect formula for everyone.

Caitlin - posted on 12/03/2010

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I scoff at this slightly, it seems a bit odd to me.

I always wonder about these weight things and what age it starts at really. My daughter has never had a problem with too much weight, right now I actually have to add weight gain protein powder to her milk because she's not putting on weight, and has only put on half a pound in a year.

To me she looks thin.. too thin.. size 18m pants are too large around her waist for the most part (unless the are elastic waist) but the length obviously isn't right. She looks liek she will be tall and thin, but that's a dietary restriction thing, and she may very well stop gaining height as quickly soon if her body can't keep up weight wise.. Either way, petite girl on the way, my hubby was a thin thing when he was younger, so it's probably form him. I've always been big boned, not fat..

I remember a study where the took college guys and asked them to rate women for attractiveness and it turned out it wasn't the thinner girls that they chose, it was the ones with good broad hips and a good hips to waist to chest ratio.. That's not always the thinnest ones.. I don't see how young kids could judge. My daughter seems to attract a lot of attention from kids around her age, but she's incredibly bubbly and outgoing and happy, and I think that has a lot to do with it.. She is a bit socially akward still though, but at 2 I don't think it really matters.

As for the cutouts, I don't really know how reliable that is as a test..

[deleted account]

I think very young children would choose the "skinnier" option because it is like there dollys and princesses in the books they read. its just more appealing. plus, its more common. there are alot more skinny - average sized people than grossly obese people around. At least in Australia anyway. They wouldnt be "shunning" the fat girl to be nasty or prejudice... its just more appealing to the eye to play with something that fits in the hand better and so on...i mean, would you want a seriously chunky awkward dolly? or a petite and flexible one?

Of course, as little ones get older, there is the media and wrongly opinionated people who step in to brainwash them into thinking that "fat" people are "ugly" and that being skinny gives you one-up on the social scale. This is terrible and needs to be dealt with.

Society looks on the outward appearance but we should be teaching our kids to look at the heart. Infact, I had a niece who was struggling with image and not sure if she should befriend a cetain girl because she was really large. She didnt want to be teased for being the "chunky girls friend". I told her to look at a person for who they are on the inside. Does the big girl call people names or tease people or act rude towards people? she said no.... i asked, "are the girls you hang out with now doing these things?" she paused and said YES! She decided to befriend the big girl. She lost all her friends because of it. they called her "*Stacey's dinner" (*name changed) and "fatty lover". But she was happy she ditched those girls. It taught her about picking friends for good reasons instead of popularity or looks.

In saying this, it goes the other way too. Girls who are THIN get discriminated against constantly also. I knew a girl who was REALLY tall and so thin you could see her ribs. I knew her well and lived with her for about 3 months at one stage and saw that she actually ate like a pig and lived a very healthy lifestyle, she just had a fast metabolism! and there were other girls calling her "anorexic" and "a stick" and saying things like "wow, eat a cheeseburger or something you sicko"... plus you get the "fat" girls who are jealous and call thin girls stupid etc

so to be honest...fat, skinny, tall, short, were all attacked at some stage in life. The big girls just get more sympathy.

not trying to undermine the issue of course. any kind of discrimination is awful! just making a note that it goes both ways.

Sara - posted on 12/03/2010

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Petra, I agree with you. But that's not what I took away from your first comment. My apologies that I misinterpreted it. I would argue, however, that our culture doesn't preach acceptance of morbid obesity or obesity. But I do really agree with everything else you stated above and think you're right on the money.

Tara - posted on 12/03/2010

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it really should read "preschoolers shun the cut out of the fat girl". I don't think this can be used as an accurate measure of how children treat other children who are overweight. It lacks all the other variables needed for an accurate result. Such as language skills, charismatic personality, outgoing and bubbly, level of kindness to others, approachability, etc.
I don't think that in real life kids would automatically shun the fat kid, perhaps as a result of others teasing, but based only on appearance? I would like to believe otherwise.

Sara - posted on 12/03/2010

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April, here you go:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/146139...



And it states in the "physical appearance" section that "before a baby's first birthday, he has a unique posture where his belly sticks out and his back sways forward" and "as the baby progresses into his toddler years, his posture will improve due to muscle development and his baby fat will slowly disappear".

Petra - posted on 12/03/2010

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@ Sarah B - I'm coming from a place of experience. As the only non-obese woman in my family, I've seen what's led to my family's propensity to over-indulge on a daily basis. It is not a character flaw. It is a psychological problem. I don't think you can argue that people can not help it when they overeat to the extent that they weigh three or four times what they should. There is something wrong when this happens. In any other instance, where someone is abusing something to the extent that it is life-threatening or leading to them becoming non-functional, we call for intervention of some sort (anorexia, alcohol, drugs, shopaholics, hoarders) but when it comes to morbid obesity, we're supposed to be tolerant and accepting. It is an addiction caused by an underlying problem of some sort. I am not referring to someone who is a bit rotund and likes to over-indulge from time to time - nothing wrong with that. I am referring to people who become huge and have the viewpoint that any problem can be treated with the judicious application of food. It does not warrant harsh treatment or judgment, but it does need to be viewed as a problem that requires professional help above and beyond dieticians and personal trainers.

Sara - posted on 12/03/2010

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Ok...when I'm talking about a pot-belly, I'm not picturing the African "we are the world" kind of belly. I'm talking about a stance a child has so that their belly sticks out more...I guess for me when I see a baby or toddler with a little belly that sticks out, I don't assume it's a nutrition or a fitness thing. Nor do I think it has a bearing on whether or not they'll be obese as adults. It's posture, I guess is what I'm trying to say.

April - posted on 12/03/2010

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@ Sara B. I couldn't find anything on the web about babies or children needing pot bellies to help them learn to walk. However, I did find information on why starving children in places like Africa have pot bellies and the article DID say it was because when they are no longer fed milk, their new diet is lacking in protein. The article does not say breastmilk and does not even imply that only breastmilk would help reduce the potbelly..BUT in Africa, children are PRIMARILY breastfed. Their water supply just isn't healthy enough to use formula. Thus, my argument that there wouldn't be as many potbellies if more babies would be breastfed is still valid.



AND....of course there are always exceptions. Clearly your daughter is an exception. Other children may be too, if you can find me an article that stresses the importance of potbellies.

Sara - posted on 12/03/2010

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April, aren't children supposed to have "pot bellies" due to the way they distribute their body weight when learning to walk? My daughter has a pot belly, but it's not because there's fat there, it's because of her posture. She's two.

Joanna - posted on 12/03/2010

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My daughters best friend in preschool is the biggest girl in the class. Of course my daughter is 3 and doesn't speak well and the teacher said most of her classmates don't want to play with her because they don't understand her, so I think bravo to the bigger girl for being friends with my girl.

[deleted account]

This is a site that sells reproduction Roman and Greek sculptures. I do not think the females depicted in these works are are "fat" at all, but that could be entirely personal perception. I thought it would be interesting to know if we have different perceptions of the same figures, or if we are thinking of entirely different figures altogether, so I am posting the link, with this question: Do you consider the females depicted in these sculptures are fat or healthy?
http://www.ancientsculpturegallery.com/f...

I do agree that they are not "stick thin" but I just don't consider that weight fat, to me they look "soft" and maternal, but still thin. I've always considered the extra softness the artist put into the sculptures a symbol of a woman's softer heart, fuller emotions, etc. rather than a depiction of physical beauty. Maybe that's where I'm off...
I also agree that as time has passed we have come to prefer thinner and thinner women, but I still assert that it was not a product of mass media, as that change began long before mass media was here.

(Of course, most of you know about me, so maybe I shouldn't even be debating this particular issue at all...but I am fascinated with finding root causes of eating disorders... )

April - posted on 12/03/2010

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@ Amanda...i just have to intervene. you are right that an awful lot of babies are "chunky monkeys". It is my opinion that the reason for this is because many are formula feed and forced to drink every last drop of a bottle. I am NOT in anyway, shape or form saying that's what happened with YOUR child. I am just saying there is a pretty good reason for your opinion that "all babies are chunky monkeys".





WE as a SOCIETY are so used to seeing small babies and infants with pot bellies that we think it is normal! The minute we notice we have a skinny child or someone else notices a child is skinny...immediately it is assumed that they are not getting enough to eat!



My friend once threw a pair of jeans at me to put on her 15 month old daughter. They were the right size, but I could not button them due to her belly. The mother laughed. Hello...that's NOT cute, that's SAD!

Doreen - posted on 12/03/2010

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Kelly those girls from the Greek and Roman art were fat dude... and just lying around. I saw no six pack - unless those were relaxed muscles? I am upset that "that" relaxed muscle look, lying naked in the forest & being served food is out! I would have been a happier woman!

Doreen - posted on 12/03/2010

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I tend to agree with Loureen weight shouldn't be the issue, health should be. The point is the everyone wants to be the "skinny girl", just won't escape your child, as it was nicely pointed out in the article. It is happening in every country and in all age groups... the best way to protect your child is to teach her to protect her health and how to identify good character traits rather than fuss over external appearances combined with how to best take care of herself.

[deleted account]

Laura, the men and women in Greek and Roman art were not fat, they were very muscular, which fits with a healthy image. Think of the Venus de Milo, David, or the Four Seasons.

At least I don't consider that "fat", to me they look healthy.



I do agree that the image of "healthy" has changed throughout time, and is usually associated with wealth, but I do not think it came with modern media--think of the corsets introduced in the 18th century to cinch the woman's waist.

EDIT: Actually, I think they were using corsets as far back as the 16th century...I don't really follow fashion history, but I know they've been around a while :) Sorry if the dates are off.

Isobel - posted on 12/02/2010

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But also, there is a beauty equation...all those famous statues match it...so did Marilyn Monroe...and Twiggy. It doesn't matter what size you are, but the ratio you have between your boobs, waist and hips.

Petra - posted on 12/02/2010

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I know, obesity was once a sign of wealth and status. Now, poor choices and a lack of motivation usually lead to being overweight. I am talking about actual obesity, morbid obesity, etc.. Weighing two, three, four times your natural body weight doesn't happen by eating McDonald's once every few weeks. Something is causing these people to stay home, eat insane amounts of food and consciously destroy their health. Sorry if I'm not expressing it too well, I'm one sick girl today and stuffed full of cold meds today :-(

Mrs. - posted on 12/02/2010

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Petra, Rubens and his contemporaries thought different



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rubens...



Society always idolizes what requires the most wealth and prosperity to sustain. Back when Rubens was painting most people didn't have the money to eat the rich food that make people put it on. Nowadays, in order to maintain the ideal (a sort of Hollywood standard) you really need, education about exercise/food, a trainer, access to healthy often expensive food. The cheapest food is the now the most fatty and addictive stuff. People always idealize that which is hardest to achieve. We as a society don't often focus on health at all.

Amanda - posted on 12/02/2010

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My son is a toothpick! My fathers side of the family is tall and thin as well. My mothers side isn't thin but not overweight or obese. They are bigger but I wouldn't say fat. My younger sister is like my mothers side of the family with lower metabolism. I on the other hand have my fathers side of the family and have a high metabolism. I can eat whatever I want and not excercise like crazy and I won't gain a pound. I'm not bragging. I don't like being thin. I have had 4 kids and you couldn't tell from just looking at me. I'm lucky to have a high metabolism but a lot of people hate me for it and that's wrong. My daughters who are 4, almost 3 and almost 2 are little chunky monkeys! But I think it's all babies! But yes I think that society today is pushing the thin look. I mean everywhere you look on tv shows and music videos for kids the artist or actor/ress is thin! My son says he never wants to get fat, and he's in 1st grade. They are mean to the kids who are overweight, and I have tried to instill good morals in him that it's not nice to talk about people. I don't think overweight people should be criticized, but I don't think skinny people should either. There is no perfect. And never will be.

[deleted account]

I am not surprised by the study at all, but I'm a little surprised at the reasons we all think it is ingrained into us.

Thin is more aesthetically pleasing, it always has been and it always will be. It is not because media make us think we all need to be thin to be beautiful--if that were true, we'd all be thin. I think that the reason the little girls prefer thinner girls is because we are hard wired to prefer the healthiest looking mate--"perpetuation of the species" or something like that?

Thinner may not ALWAYS be healthier, but the majority of the time, thinner is healthier than over weight.

That is just my opinion, I don't have any facts to back it up, but it seems to make sense to me.

Petra - posted on 12/02/2010

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I agree completely, Rebecca. You don't become obese by occasional overeating - there has got to be some underlying depression/anxiety/issue that causes you to compensate by binge eating.

Sara - posted on 12/02/2010

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In the last 8 months or so, I've lost about 80 pounds. I can tell you with absolute certainty that I am treated differently as a thinner person than I was as an obese person. People are nicer and more helpful to me in general than they were before. Thems are just the facts. No matter how we try to steer our children, they will be confronted with it from all angles. It's sad, but true. I think the best thing we can do as parents is just teach our children about being healthy and about treating others with repect no matter what.

Mrs. - posted on 12/02/2010

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Well, let's put it this way, there is a park next to my place. There are several schools near by and sometimes, when the weather is nice the kids come and play in the playground.

There is a girl who I had seen in the park with her family entering with her school group. When I had seen her earlier with her parents, I noticed that they were all extremely obese, I pegged the girl at maybe 10/11ish years old. She looked like she was developing already and struggling with her weight because of the changes.

I was shocked when I saw her entering in a line with her school mates. First, it became apparent that she was much younger than I thought. The other kids looked like first graders. Her obesity had given her a more mature look. Second, the teachers gave the signal for the kids to break their lines and they all began to run to the playground. The children all ran forward, sprinting while the obese girl tried to keep up. The saddest part was that, nipping her heals were two handicapped children in wheelchairs. Eventually, the two handicapped children sped past her. She ended up just walking to the swings.

I couldn't help but think that a child that might have had every advantage that any other able bodied child might have in another family was now most likely viewed as handicapped by her teachers and classmates.

This made me angry and sad.

I'm not completely sure this should be called healthy in any world. I wouldn't be unkind to her but I had to suppress the inclination to be unkind to her parents. I know it's not for me to judge but it sure does piss me off.

Nikkole - posted on 12/02/2010

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I actually know a girl who is obese and she is a vegetarian and she does yoga! But my husbadn was really over weight before i met him and he lost 60pounds in 4months by playing basketball all day everyday not to mention he looses weight easily if he tries, but i would have dated him no matter if he was over weight or not because i likes his personality and charm ;)

Jodi - posted on 12/02/2010

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I'm not surprised by this actually. Let's just take a look at Disney quick, are there ANY fat princesses or princes? Nope. In fact, the only fat character I can think of off hand is the scullery maid in Little Mermaid, although I'm sure there are more lower stationed fat characters in Disney...oh yeah..the evil witch, also from Little Mermaid. Look at Barbie...if she were an actual person she would have to crawl on all fours and wouldn't be able to fit all her internal organs inside of her body, that's how incredibly dissproprotionate she is! From the time they are cognizant of their surroundings, our babies are inundated with the "thin is in" concept of our society.

Unfortunately, no one is differentiating with these same little girls that thin isn't always healthy, and that being fat doesn't make you a bad person. We don't watch Disney in our house, we read lots of books and I always notice how the characters are always thin. There are so many things working against our children in this way, it's really saddening.

Isobel - posted on 12/02/2010

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They are also more likely to choose the blonde...and the one with the lightest skin...it's sad but true, we all want to be what we are not.

C. - posted on 12/02/2010

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Rebecca.. It's not going too far to say that. There are some obese people that really cannot help it. They eat healthy foods, exercise all the time and just cannot lose weight. Yet their blood pressure, cholesterol and everything else is perfectly fine. Generally that's if they have a thyroid disorder. Can't say it's impossible to develop that as early as preschool age, though. But it's more unlikely.

You have to think, though. At preschool age, the parents are still the ones that make the food choices for their kids. It's really not the child's fault until they start making their own food choices a couple years later (I mean, yeah a child that young can say 'I want this or I want that' but you generally give them a choice between a few items and anymore, those choices are not usually healthy ones).

That's nice, Sharon! I love seeing that people, while refusing to tell their kids being fat is Ok, make sure to tell them it's not nice to judge others just b/c they are fat.

[deleted account]

I think my kids know that being fat is unhealthy, but they know that people come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors and we are ALL people and deserve the same love and respect. They only 'judge' people on their behaviors like the little boy that throws rocks at them is NOT their friend.

Mrs. - posted on 12/02/2010

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Hmm. Whelp, I know ideally it would be nice if kids learned to be kind to everyone equally regardless of size but I think it might be unrealistic in the society we live in.

As well, I agree that while one size bigger person might be healthier than the size below. However sizes don't always coorelate with weight.

And then, what is healthy? One person's idea of healthy is different than another's.

There are people who live their live underweight who are just very small people in general with "healthy" lifestyles but can the same be said of an obese person?

I don't think you should be unkind to obese people but is it going to far to say an obese person could actually be healthy?

Sherri - posted on 12/02/2010

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I wish people didn't even look at weight but looked at the person these people are. I think we do need to educate our children to be kind to all people regardless of anyones different appearance.

Charlie - posted on 12/02/2010

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I don't think people should focus on weight at all , people should be focusing on health because being overweight and being underweight is not healthy and size does not necessarily determine health either a size 14 girl can be the epitome of health next to a size 10 or it can be reversed it's not to do with size but basic input / output .

I absolutely think it is entrenched in society especially through media and learned behavior from parents and siblings , I once had a 5 year old come up to another girl at our end of year school party and tell her once she finishes eating her food she should throw up in the bushes so she wouldn't get fat !!! What is wrong with society when a 5 year old is taking such drastic measures to stay thin , I can say I was shocked to hear those words come from her mouth .

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