Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture
by Virginia Sole-Smith
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Pub Date 25 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 26 May 2023
Henry Holt & Company, Henry Holt and Co.
In this illuminating narrative on the daily onslaught of body shame that kids face from peers, school, diet culture, and parents themselves, journalist Virginia Sole-Smith offers a compelling reported look at how families can change the conversation around weight, health, and self-worth.
By the time they reach kindergarten, most kids have learned that “fat” is bad. As they get older, kids learn to pursue thinness in order to survive in a world that ties our body size to our value. Multibillion-dollar industries thrive on consumers believing that we don’t want to be fat. Our weight-centric medical system pushes “weight loss” as a prescription, while ignoring social determinants of health and reinforcing negative stereotypes about the motives and morals of people in larger bodies. And parents today, having themselves grown up in the confusion of modern diet culture, worry equally about the risks of our kids caring too much about being “thin” and about what happens if our kids are fat. Sole-Smith shows how the reverberations of this messaging and social pressures on young bodies continue well into adulthood—and what we can do to fight them.
Fat Talk argues for a reclaiming of “fat,” which is not synonymous with “unhealthy,” “inactive,” or “lazy.” Talking to researchers and activists, as well as parents and kids across a broad swath of the country, Sole-Smith lays bare how America’s focus on solving the “childhood obesity epidemic” has perpetuated a second crisis of disordered eating and body hatred for kids of all sizes. She exposes our society’s internalized fatphobia and elucidates how and why we need to stop “preventing obesity” and start supporting kids in the bodies they have.
Continuing conversations started by works like Girls & Sex, Under Pressure, and Essential Labor, Fat Talk is a stirring, deeply researched, and groundbreaking book that will help parents learn to reckon with their own body biases, identify diet culture messaging, and ultimately empower their kids to navigate this challenging landscape. Sole-Smith offers an alternative framework for parenting around food and bodies, and a way for us all to work toward a more weight-inclusive world—because it’s not our kids, or their bodies, who need fixing.
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