I remember the first time I felt self-conscious about my appearance. I was four, and my cousin Thomas proceeded to make fun of the birthmark on my butt cheek, which is shaped like a man’s face. It was then that I felt shame, realizing that my body was something others could use to make fun of.
A few years later, I binged to deal with sexual and physical abuse by my mother and a male figure. Looking back, I realize how much I was bullied within my own family; harmful words were used to describe my maturing body and face.
In turn, I developed body dysmorphic disorder, bulimia, and suicidal tendencies.
Negative Body Talk in the Home
Children are vulnerable, sensitive to their environments. If parents and caretakers are not careful, poor choices in words can have damaging effects on their children’s mental health.
Dr. Nihara Krause, a clinical psychologist, agrees, saying that parents should refrain from commenting on or joking about their child’s weight . Also, Krause warns that parents should abstain from using “fat talk,” both about themselves and others.
“This is particularly relevant if there isn’t a balance between other comments about the person and weight/shape comments,” explains Dr. Krause. “The reason is that weight then becomes a negative focus or takes on a meaning that’s to do with the value of the person.”
This can be a contributing factor to the development of eating disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions. However, eating disorders typically develop as a result of combined biological, psychological, and environmental triggers.
Instilling Body Confidence in Children
It’s important that we create a home full of love and confidence. Children often imitate what they hear and see when they go out into the world.
If children hear negative comments being made about their body or someone else’s, then they can internalize those words and begin to look at themselves in a harmful, negative way.
On the opposite end, when we build up our children and family with positive words, they are more likely to think highly of themselves and others.
About the Author: Nikki DuBose is a former model turned author, advocate, and ambassador. Her debut memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light, details her recovery from trauma, severe mental illnesses and the dark side of the modeling industry.
Nikki has been featured on television shows and networks such as The Doctors, The TD Jakes Show, CBS Los Angeles, and the Oprah Winfrey Network, and profiled in publications such as People, LA Times, Vogue UK, Esquire, India Times, and Inquisitr. To find out more about Nikki, visit http://nikkidubose.com/.
References: Gladwell, H. (April 4, 2017). Being called fat aged six by my father led to eating disorders and hospital visits. Retrieved from http://metro.co.uk/2017/04/04/making-comments-to-a-child-about-their-weight-can-lead-to-eating-disorders-and-body-dysmorphia-6545258/
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 13, 2017
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com