According to a 2009 study, half of little girls 3-to-6 think they're fat. Oy vey.
What does it even mean when a 3-year-old thinks she's "fat?" It may not have anything to do with BMI or conscious societal expectations, but children know it's "bad." As Dr. Robyn Silverman summarized, the studies basically showed a few things: "Thin means I want to play with you and fat means I don't want you as a friend"; "Thin means you're nice and fat means you're mean"; "Thin means we prefer you." Irrational? Yes — but not that far a cry from the fat-phobia adults express less-directly on a daily basis. What's alarming is that it's internalized so young.
But how could it not be? As Tanith Carey writes in a (surprisingly even-keeled) piece in the Daily Mail (itself no stranger to weight-shame!),
When I counted all the images of women in advertisements that my daughter Lily saw on a half-hour bus journey home, it added up to more than 20. Almost all were size 6 to 10 - partially dressed or presented in underwear. Of course, some were images repeated several times over, but on average the females wore about 20 to 50 per cent less clothing than men.
What's also alarming is that "fat" has lost its meaning so entirely that it's a stand in for all things "bad." That, as much as the numbers, should be a wake-up call.
Fat Talking Tots: Body Image & Fat Hatred In Preschoolers & Young Children [Dr. Robyn Silverman]
The Children Who Hate Their Bodies [Daily Mail]
Is Your Daughter A Self-Loathing ‘Body Bully'? [MSNBC]