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Rihanna’s dad called her “fat” - Talk to your children about weight loss without hurting their feelings

Lesley S Smith
9 March 2012
Rihanna’s dad called her “fat” - Talk to your children about weight loss without hurting their feelings
Beach Exercise

Incensed at the news which saw Rihanna's dad, Ronald Fenty, say that the last time he saw her he thought she was a little fat, I stamped my feet, and had a mini grown up tantrum at the damage someone so close to a young woman could have caused.

There is no reason for anyone in this world to describe Rihanna as "fat." She might be worth a fortune and have legions of fans, but underneath it all, she is being belittled by the very person who should have her best interests at heart. A grown up can't realistically call someone fat and then pretend they joke about it.

Airing dirty laundry in public is never going to be pleasant, and yes, there are always going to be fat police telling people they are too fat, but how much damage are they doing?

Childhood obesity is on the rise. Respected Dietitian Juliette Kellow reported on statistics from a recent UK survey, which showed that as much as 25 percent of boys and 33 percent of girls between the ages of 2 and 19 are overweight or obese.

As a parent, it can be really difficult if we have a child who has gained a few pounds, but how do we approach it?

Writing for The Telegraph, Rebecca Smith discussed child obesity in 2010 as a result of a study by the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth.

She said: "A controversial study has found for the first time that children who are obese do less exercise because they are already overweight."

The results suggest that types of foods and portion sizes our children are eating could play a bigger part in the weight loss mix than exercise to achieve a healthier weight.

Do your homework

Don't go blustering in like Ronald Fenty and declare your kids fat to the listening world. If you want to give your kids a complex about their weight, announcing their failures to the world is the way to do it.

On parenting website, Babycenter, Betsy Shaw discusses the contentious issue of stigma attached to calling children fat, which implies laziness and un-attractiveness. She also indicates that using negative words to intentionally stigmatise or embarrass an obese person into doing something about it is not going to work.

What to talk about

Talking about healthy living, good foods and benefits of exercise is a much more gentle way of bringing up the subject with overweight children. Approaching it from the family angle, means that a child doesn't feel belittled and in danger of losing their self-esteem.

Lead by example

As parents, we need to lead by example. If we have a poor diet and take little exercise, how are we going to persuade our children to live well. I'm not perfect and I have struggled with my weight all my life, but I do what I can to teach my children to eat junk in moderation and healthy foods in abundance.


NHS Choices explains what a balanced diet is by outlining the different food groups, and what they do for our bodies, as well as encouraging us to eat balanced meals from the 5 main groups:

-fruit and vegetables

-starchy foods, such as rice, pasta, bread and potatoes

-meat, fish, eggs and beans

-milk and dairy foods

-foods containing fat and sugar

We often buy grapes instead of chocolate, or bananas instead of crisps. My argument is that if the unhealthy foods are not always in the house, then my children can't eat so much junk food. I try to keep treats as special treats, and don't keep boxes of them at home.


Looking at what our children are involved in might help. Is there room to increase the amount of exercise they do without actually making an issue of it? We could cut down on watching TV, playing computer games, and take our kids to the park to play football. Why not go to the beach in winter, play basketball, or even simply have a game of catch.

Too many of us spend our time telling our kids what to do, but never doing it ourselves. Being aware of our eating habits and getting exercise with our children is a good start for all our future health.

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