De-stigmatizing obesity for kids may be the newest frontier of the fat acceptance movement.
At least, that’s the goal of author Virginia Sole-Smith. Her new book “Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture” advocates for parents learning to embrace their overweight children just the way they are. She also believes in letting kids eat whatever they want, including candy and sweets, without forcing them to try vegetables or enjoy balanced meals of traditionally healthy foods.
The author, who describes herself as an “anti-diet journalist,” spoke with The Cut about some of her thoughts on kids and diet. In the article titled “What If You Weren’t Scared of Your Kid Being Fat?” Sole-Smith said that one of the most common questions parents ask is how often their kids should be able to eat certain foods. Using the example of ice cream, she gave her usual response.
“There are seven days in a week. Your child can have ice cream seven days a week. There is no law against this,” she said, while insisting that if a parent inquired over their teenager asking for an entire box of Oreo cookies, her response would be, “Pour a glass of milk — so they can dunk them?”
The 41-year-old mother of two makes the argument that limiting certain foods just makes them more appealing to kids. Her approach assumes that children learn self-control by not having any rules at all, thereby making sugary treats less exciting.
“Vegetables are the least important part of it to me,” she told the publication. “They have their whole lives to decide if they want to eat kale.” Sole-Smith also described some of the dinner rules at her house, which include, “No pressure/Listen to your body” and “You don’t have to earn dessert.”
Sole-Smith attempts to “debunk” the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States by arguing that society’s fear of fatness could be more detrimental than minors being overweight. “The real danger to a child in a larger body is how we treat them for having that body,” she writes in “Fat Talk.”
The fat acceptance activist’s arguments are similar to those made by individuals promoting “transgender rights” for children. They say that kids should be able to tell us who they are, no matter how young they are. But these adults seem to ignore the fact that they are meant to be the ones in charge.
Children learn eating habits from their parents. Parents and other trusted adults have traditionally served as guides to show children how to exist in the world. Minors literally don’t have the mental capacity to understand the long-term effects of eating cookies for dinner every night. That’s why there are age restrictions on certain activities, such as getting tattoos and purchasing alcohol. It’s also why up until now, most everyone agreed that parents should promote good eating habits for their children.
Sole-Smith thinks kids should be running the show and that everyone should be more accepting of overweight people because ultimately, their mental health trumps the physical risks of being obese.
Meanwhile, the CDC called childhood obesity a “serious problem” which leads to problems including “high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems such as asthma and sleep apnea, and joint problems.” They reported that 19.7% of children aged 2 to 19 were classified as obese according to BMI charts. That’s 14.7 million children and adolescents who could face health problems due to their weight.
This week, Sole-Smith went on NPR’s “Fresh Air” podcast to promote her new book and further explain her pro-obesity stance. She said that the pursuit of weight loss is rooted in white supremacy.
“The thin ideal is definitely a white ideal. When we trace the history of modern diet culture, we really trace it back in the United States to the end of slavery,” Sole-Smith told host Tonya Mosley.
“Obviously, white supremacy is trying to maintain the power structure. So celebrating a thin white body as the ideal body is a way to ‘other’ and demonize black and brown bodies, bigger bodies, anyone who doesn’t fit into that norm. So this is really about maintaining systems of white supremacy and patriarchy.”
“If you can understand that, actually, by continuing to pursue thinness you are on some level, maintaining your complicity with white supremacy and patriarchy,” she continued.
Sole-Smith said that fat people are discriminated against in the same way that other minority groups experience “racism or other forms of bias.”
“We as a culture have really zeroed in on weight, because we think that’s the piece that we should be able to control. But not only do we not have very much control over weight, it also won’t fix anything else,” the author told NPR. “All it really ends up doing is pathologizing kids’ bodies and giving parents extra pressure and extra guilt and these sort of unrealistic standards we can’t get to.”
The author used to write weight loss stories for women’s magazines such as Glamour. Her perspective on childhood diets changed after her one-month-old daughter experienced medical trauma and had to be put on a feeding tube.
Sole-Smith told The Cut that the ordeal led her to decide that “obsessing over it doesn’t fix it — it makes it worse.” Following that experience, the author decided to let her two children make their own nutrition choices. “It’s the power to say no, to be curious and try new things, and to decide when and how much they want to eat,” she explained of her approach.
As more and more people advocate for fat acceptance, it’s only a matter of time before activists decide that overweight kids existing on a diet of candy and soda should just be left to live as they please. Who are we to judge?