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There’s a new F-word in town, and mums are banning it

We all know the traditional f-word, which many of us try not to slip out around our children, or any young children. It’s a word that can be seen as offensive, vulgar and usually used during times of frustration.
But there’s a new f-word on the block that many parents are banning in their homes. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, I’m talking about that dreaded three-letter word – fat. The word ‘fat’ is often used in a derogatory manner, rather than being merely descriptive of someone’s appearance. I recently spoke with The Young Mummy Sophie Cachia, who said the f-word and other words such as ugly have been banned in their house, as they can be damaging.


“Being a woman and having three older sisters, being called 'fat' can absolutely destroy you and now that I have a gorgeous baby girl, I don't want her growing up EVER referring to herself like that, nor anybody else, regardless of what they look like.


“We believe that no matter who you are or what you look like, these words have a really gut wrenching effect and these words will absolutely never be acceptable to come out of our children's mouths,” she said.


The f-word can have a negative consequence

The f-word not only causes people to feel bad about themselves, it can have negative consequences for people’s body image. It can cause people to focus on the way they look far too much.


The word can stick with people and they may associate themselves with being undesirable in appearance, which isn’t the case at all. You never know how vulnerable someone might be if you let the f-word slip, or where their headspace currently is at. Rather than focus on weight, we should all be placing an emphasis on being healthy so that we can promote a healthy body image for ourselves and others around us. Sophie admits she is more relaxed about swearing than using this f-word as saying it can have worse consequences than swear words.


“We believe a word such as ‘fat’ has a much more damaging effect on someone than a petty swear word,” she said.


Fat talk in general should be avoided

The f-word in itself is not entirely bad as it is could be appropriate when not referring to appearance, but what should be avoided with your children is ‘fat talk’.


The Butterfly Foundation has placed a great emphasis on being ‘Fat Talk Free’ as the conversation surrounding this can be toxic. According to the foundation, Fat Talk is a form of body shaming and contributes to body dissatisfaction.


As Fat Talk uses the word ‘Fat’ in a negative and derogative way it further intensifies weight and fat stigma. Some examples of Fat Talk that the Butterfly Foundation suggest to avoid include:
– I’m so fat, I need to lose weight
– She really doesn’t have the legs to wear those pants
– You look great! Have you lost weight?
– If I lost some weight, I’d be happier
– I really shouldn’t have eaten that
– I wish I had your body, you’re so thin

Fat talk is used as a way for people to discuss and express any insecurity that they may have about their appearance in a seemingly ‘safe’ way.

But body shaming and bullying our own or others appearance or shape can truly impact a person’s wellbeing. Shutting down fat talk will promote a healthier body image for everyone as being shamed for something like this is unnecessary, irrelevant and destructive.


It’s bad for young girls

With the many other influences girls have on them, from friends, to celebrities to social media, it’s important that parents aren’t adding any fuel to a fire that may already be burning.


It is best if young girls aren’t hearing or using the f-word so that they can think of their bodies in a positive way rather than just about how it looks. Parents should attempt to avoid the word around their young daughters, especially as this is an age where body image concerns can initiate.


Sophie said that as a child growing up, teasing and name calling became quite prominent. “We’ve all been there, and you’d struggle to find someone who hasn’t been on both ends of this name calling. As a parent I feel my job is to not act like I was ever perfect in my actions, but to help make small changes for my children’s upbringing and to instil correct behaviors in them from a really young age,” she said.


Life is better when we don’t use one f-word, so let’s make it two.


If you’re unsure of the language to use around your daughter or how to approach certain topics and scenarios, you can download Pretty Foundation’s free Body Image Parents Guide.


– Merissa Forsyth is the Founder of Pretty Foundation, a not-for-profit designed to promote positive body image for girls aged 2-6.