A mother sent me the attached “holiday song” stating the following:
“these are the lyrics of a song that (my grade 3 child) is learning to sing for their Christmas concert. It doesn’t sound right to me and I wanted your professional opinion.”
So I read the lyrics.
And then I read them again.
And then I read it yet again.
And I imagined a group of eight-year-old children learning this song, singing these lyrics
The mother wrote to me again and said “another class sang this song two years ago at the Christmas concert and it didn’t sit well with me then either…”
As I reflected on this song and my feelings about it, I tried to go about my afternoon cleaning the house, but was so distracted that I left a bottle of fabric softener INSIDE the washing machine (another example of the futility of multi-tasking, but that’s for another post)
So what IS my professional opinion?
Here is it:
I don’t know if you’ve heard this song yet (I really hope you haven’t) but if you have, I wanted you to know a few important things.
Please do not be bullied to believe (like so many of our kids) that you need to lose weight, eat clean, or change your body in ANY way in order to be successful, healthy, or loved. Please don’t ever count calories, label food as good and bad, or engage in excessive exercise. Please don’t lose weight “no matter the cost” or believe that the success of Christmas is dependent on your body size. Frankly, I am at a loss as to why people assume you are unwell or think you should change. I can’t imagine you eating less and doing more exercise! You are one of the most active men on the planet! Who else works all year to run a large toy corporation and then spends an entire day delivering those toys to children all around the world?! If you weren’t so well fueled and strong, you’d NEVER be able to manage such intense work decade after decade!
But you see, Santa, our culture is so sick.
We live during a very sad historical time in which body shaming is the norm and where no one is immune to the incessant pressure to lose weight “at any cost”. I am trying so hard to educate parents and teachers about the science of body weight and shape, about set-point theory, about the physically and psychologically damaging effects of dieting, and about the much needed zero-tolerance policies on bullying (yes, that includes weight and shape based teasing which is predictive of disordered eating, self-harm, suicide, and mood disorders).
Teaching children a song like this perpetuates diet culture, triggers eating disorders in those at risk, promotes shame and self-loathing in the children who live in larger bodies, and encourages teasing on the playground. To send a message that one should lose weight “no matter the cost” is appalling. I watch people die from this mentality. I treat patients every day whose organs, muscles, and brains have been ravaged by years of yo-yo dieting and excessive exercise. I take calls from parents every week asking me what to say to their 8 and 9 and 10 year old children who complain that they are fat and who are already afraid of gaining weight.
I am so sad that there are educators out there teaching this song to their young and impressionable students. I am so sad that they don’t see the damage this causes.
My heart hurts.
AND I believe that our educators may not know the impact…so I am writing to you for help.
Please help me stand up to such stigma. Please help people understand that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and that larger body types do not mean that anything negative is happening or that people are lazy, unlovable, or unhealthy. Maybe, Santa, we could stuff their stockings with research articles on eating disorders, the health at every size movement, and the latest research on helping children build self-worth and self-compassion? Call me! I have all the articles ready to go! I also give great workshops on these issues. Let’s work together!
More than anything, Santa, please continue to be a role model for all of us. Continue to lead by example, showing the world that joy, love, happiness, and success come in ALL shapes and body sizes.
Your favourite psychologist,
ps can you leave a lump of coal for the person who wrote this and thought it was okay to teach children?
okay, I am being judgmental.. just sayin…