DEAR ABBY: I applaud you for encouraging those who make disparaging remarks about fat people to change their ways. Fat children in our society often receive no support from any source: peers, teachers or family. And, as "Heartbroken Mother" so eloquently stated, parents are often blamed for the child's weight, when "blame" (if any) should be placed on metabolic and genetic factors.
It's unfortunate that you did not take the opportunity to explain the dangers of the "yo-yo dieting syndrome." Children who start dieting at an early age will probably end up fatter as adults than fat children who do not diet. Additionally, severe calorie-restricted diets during the developmental years can damage the body's growth and maturing process. The negative effect that dieting has on a child's self-esteem (giving them the message that they are not acceptable) cannot be overstated.People come in all colors, shapes and sizes. If we would all be more accepting of the uniqueness of each person, instead of attempting to make everyone conform to a certain physical ideal, we would have a much healthier society, both physically and mentally.
Abby, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) can provide support to fat people, fat children and their parents. NAAFA's purpose is to try to improve the quality of life for fat people through public education, advocacy, research and member support. Please tell your readers who are harassed because of their weight, or their child's weight, to contact us: NAAFA Inc., P.O. Box 188620, Sacramento, Calif. 95818. (When writing, please enclose a long, stamped, self-addressed envelope.) We can help them in their struggle for acceptance. - SALLY E. SMITH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NAAFA
DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to your answer to "Heartbroken Mother." It appears this woman is really trying very hard to help her daughter, and that's great. But Abby, there are a lot of parents out there who just allow their children to become grossly overweight and deserve the condemning looks they get from passers-by.
These parents just don't seem to care what or how much their children eat, don't care if they get exercise and don't have the time even to teach them how to eat properly. And because of their neglect, the child withstands cruel teasing from his peers and rude stares from strangers, and often develops a low self-image.
These children grow up to be fat adults with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart problems, arterial blockage, etc. It used to be believed that chubby children were healthier than thinner ones. We now know this to be untrue. It's cruel and unfair for parents to doom their children through obesity to such a dim (and often short) future. - A CONCERNED OBSERVER
DEAR ABBY: You recently printed a letter from "Heartbroken Mother," who thought people were rude to stare at her seriously overweight daughter.
I don't "stare" at overweight children; whenever I see one, though, I say to myself, "That's child abuse!" A fat child is obviously eating too much of the wrong kinds of foods. And where is the child getting these foods? At home.
My 11-year-old daughter has a friend who is grossly overweight because her mother keeps their fridge and cupboards well-stocked with "goodies," which the children are constantly eating. This obese friend is so accustomed to eating sweets that when I gave her and my daughter each a bowl of strawberries, she said she couldn't eat hers without sugar!
Children are not responsible for the eating habits they learn at home, but, unfortunately, they suffer when those eating habits are not in their best interests. Abby, how can we stop this subtle form of child abuse? - ANTI-CHILD ABUSE
DEAR ANTI-CHILD ABUSE: We can stop rewarding children with cookies and candy.