cover image Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture

Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture

Virginia Sole-Smith. Holt, $29.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-83121-7

This compassionate manual by journalist Sole-Smith (The Eating Instinct) suggests ways parents can help their children “recognize and reject” anti-fat bias. She explores how messaging that devalues fat bodies damages children’s health, self-esteem, and sense of bodily autonomy through accounts of parents and their kids. “We need to separate weight and health,” she contends, telling the story of an eight-year-old girl who received compliments from strangers about the weight she lost due to undiagnosed type 1 diabetes while her heavier and healthier younger sister received only disapproving comments. Critiquing the overlooked environmental factors that contribute to fatness, Sole-Smith reports on research that found childhood asthma to be associated with adolescent weight gain and calls for public health strategies to focus on alleviating poverty, which leaves many families unable to afford healthy food. She urges parents to talk with teachers, doctors, and their kids about pushing back on anti-fat stigma and encourages parents to tell their children that their value isn’t tied to their weight: “Your body is never the problem.” The eye-opening research upends conventional assumptions about what a healthy body looks like, and readers will appreciate the affirming tone. The result is a striking challenge to fatphobia. (Apr.)