Pediatricians discuss in New York Times this week how best to address weight with their patients. I’ve heard health and physical education staff debate without resolution how to communicate with students and parents about BMI measurements. Who knows how to do this effectively, supporting students’ health and well-being without spawning lifelong obsessions and insecurities? In her memoir Moose, Stephanie Klein recalls her childhood experience seeing weight management specialists and attending fat camps. She also poignantly illustrates how the cycle of weight loss and gain continued through college and adulthood to hurt her self-esteem, her relationships, and her family.
I believe that the values of transformative sex ed can inform how we address weight with children. I also believe that we have a lot of work to do before we can meet this challenge head-on. Furthermore, we will best cope with this epidemic of disordered eating if we can in turn allow our dealing with it to transform our thinking about bodies and relationships.
Teenagers must access positive feelings about their body in order to achieve a strong sense of sexual health and agency. As long as teens face an onslaught of messages criticizing their bodies and making them feel physically bad or unworthy, they will lack a basic motivation for taking care of their bodies and for choosing respect and safety over degradation in danger.
Distorted body image also grossly distorts the ways in which we relate to each other. Klein details how body hatred so painfully alienated her from her romantic partners. We need a new way of thinking about bodies that can serve as a basis for stronger, healthier, and safer relationships.
I don’t have the answers on this one, but searching for answers is essential. Any ideas?