(CW: triggering/biased statements given in examples of things parents hear.) In today’s world, where inclusivity and acceptance are becoming increasingly important, it’s disheartening to see that anti-fat bias still persists in many areas of society, including healthcare. This bias can be especially challenging for fat parents, who not only face discrimination themselves but also have to navigate judgment and unsolicited comments about their bodies and parenting skills in addition to their children’s bodies.

In this blog post, we will provide examples of comments fat parents may hear and offer suggestions on how to respond effectively to these comments.  Additionally, we will address what fat parents may hear from their children’s pediatricians and how they can respond or interpret these judgments.

Understanding Anti-Fat Bias

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Anti-fat bias, also known as weight bias or weight stigma, refers to the negative stereotypes and attitudes that people hold towards individuals who live in larger bodies.

This bias can manifest in various ways, including hurtful comments, discrimination, and biased judgments, all of which can be especially damaging in healthcare settings.

Examples of Hurtful Comments

Fat parents often encounter hurtful comments and unsolicited advice from friends, family members, and even strangers.

These comments can be particularly distressing when they feel connected to one’s parenting. Here are some examples of comments fat parents may hear:

  • Judgmental Remarks: “You really shouldn’t be eating that, especially in front of your child.”

  • Parenting Criticism: “Do you think it’s a good idea to baby-wear your child when you’re so heavy, won’t they get squished?”

  • Doubting Abilities: “Can you keep up with your child?”

  • Nutritional Advice: “You should put your child on a diet to prevent them from becoming fat like you.”

  • Body Shaming: “Your child is so cute; it’s a shame they got your genes.”

    Empowering Responses for Fat Parents

    Dealing with such comments can be emotionally draining. However, it’s essential to remember that you have the right to assert yourself and stand up against discrimination. Here are some empowering responses for fat parents when faced with unsolicited advice or comments:

    • Set Boundaries: Politely but firmly let the person know that their comment is unwelcome. For example, you can say, “I appreciate your concern, but I’d prefer not to discuss my body or parenting choices.”
    • Educate: If you feel comfortable, take the opportunity to educate the person about the harmful effects of weight stigma and stereotypes. You can share resources or personal experiences to help them understand better.
    • Redirect the Conversation: Shift the focus away from your body or parenting choices by steering the conversation in a different direction. For instance, say, “Let’s talk about something else.”
    • Empower Your Child: Teach your child how to respond to comments about your body. Encourage them to be proud of their body and remind them that love and support are more important than appearances.
    • Lean on Support: Seek support from friends, family, or support groups who understand your experiences and can provide emotional support during challenging times.

    The Pediatrician’s Office: Navigating Bias in Healthcare Towards Your Child

    Fat parents often face judgment and bias in healthcare settings, including pediatrician offices. It’s crucial to remember that healthcare professionals should prioritize your child’s health and well-being without discrimination.

    Here’s what fat parents might encounter at the pediatrician’s office and how to respond or interpret these situations:

    Weight-Centric Focus: Some pediatricians may place excessive emphasis on a child’s weight, leading to discussions about diets and weight loss.

    In response, you can say, “I want my child to have a positive relationship with food and their body. Can we focus on their overall health instead?”

    Body Mass Index (BMI) Concerns: If your pediatrician expresses concerns about your child’s BMI, ask for a more comprehensive evaluation that considers other factors like nourishment, physical activity, and overall health.

    Shaming Language: If you feel your pediatrician is using shaming language, such as “bad” or “unhealthy,” express your discomfort and ask for a more compassionate and constructive approach to discussions about health.

    Second Opinions: Don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion if you feel your concerns are not being addressed adequately or if you encounter persistent bias.

    Advocate for Your Child: Remember that you are your child’s advocate. Ensure their healthcare experience is positive and respectful.

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    Navigating anti-fat bias as a fat parent can be challenging, but it’s essential to remember that you and your child have the right to respectful and inclusive care.

    Stand up against hurtful comments and judgments, educate those around you, and seek support when needed. In healthcare settings, prioritize your child’s well-being and advocate for a size-inclusive approach that focuses on overall health and well-being.

    By advocating for size-inclusive care, you can empower yourself and create a more accepting environment for fat parents and their children. Together, we can work towards a world where everyone, regardless of their size, is treated with respect and dignity.

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