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Body shaming starts earlier than you realize

young girl body shaming
Photo: Pixabay

teen vogue logoBody shaming starts way younger than we may have realized.

A new study in the journal Child Development shows that weight-shaming starts as early as first grade, with researchers finding that kids who are overweight in the first grade are more likely in their classes to be shunned by their peers. The study included 1,164 kids across 29 schools in Oklahoma, and showed that obese children were neglected by peers, while severely obese children were outright rejected and were more likely to show early signs of depression.

“Children who are ostracized, as occurred with the severely overweight children in our study, suffer great harm, with feelings of loneliness, depression, and aggression, and these children are more likely to skip school and drop out later,” study researcher Amanda W. Harrist, a professor of child development at Oklahoma State University, said in a statement.

While the findings are definitely sad, they aren’t all that surprising. According to a Yahoo Health survey, girls are feeling self-conscious about their bodies at younger and younger ages. This is a really big problem because anxiety over weight can have serious consequences, with past research even showing it being linked with an increased risk of suicide (and it’s not just those who are actually overweight or obese with the increased risk — teens who merely think they are overweight are also at risk).

All of this just goes to show how much we need to change our thinking around weight. While we should certainly aim to be healthy, your BMI is a flawed way of analyzing your overall health (it doesn’t take into account muscle, for instance!), and it has absolutely nothing to do with how pretty you are. This is exactly why we should all take a cue from this girl, who shut down a body-shaming homework assignment. She knows that your body image shouldn’t be defined by a number.

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By Brittney McNamara for Teen Vogue
This post originally appeared on Teen Vogue