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Stop Saying 'Fat Pants'. Don't Risk Triggering A Restrictive Eating Disorder.

A holiday dinner with mashed potatoes, turkey and pie is shown with an empty plate.

Have you experienced this before? It’s the end of a holiday dinner and you lean back in your seat, pat your stomach, and let out a sigh of gratitude. You feel your decision to wear stretchy pants was the right one and you remark to the person next to you, “I’m glad I wore my fat pants today!”

If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone but we need you to do one thing.

Ban the phrase “fat pants” from your vocabulary forever or run the risk of triggering restrictive eating.

Imagine the damage that phrase could do in a society consumed by a fear of gaining weight. It promotes a dangerous message about eating habits and negative body image, especially to our kids who soak up our words like little sponges. It could be tempting to brush this off by saying that the phrase "fat pants" is just a joke but let's dive a little deeper into the facts.

A young girl looks at herself sadly in the mirror


Parents, let that sink in. These are kids that haven't even reached their teenage years and already they're displaying the risk factors of eating disorders!

So, what do we do in the face of this sobering reality?


Let's start with rewriting the script about food restriction and weight loss.

This process begins with us. See, we've been programmed from an early age to see eating food in terms of good and bad. When we avoid eating "bad" foods and keep the number on the scale from creeping upward, we've been "good" and are allowed to feel happy about our bodies. In reality, this creates a list of feared foods and the risk of a restrictive eating disorder, which we can easily pass on to our kids, especially during the holidays.

As we prepare for holiday events, let's skip talking about our "fat pants" and guilt about enjoying food and do these things with our kids instead:

  • Avoid labeling foods as "good" or "bad". Instead, approach food with the mindset that this is a special occasion and everything is okay in moderation. Listen to your body's needs so you stop eating when you're full or shamelessly fill up on seconds if you're still hungry. Model this behavior and encourage your kids to practice it as well.

  • Encourage your kids to focus on connection with friends and family over a meal instead of their caloric intake. Sitting down for a meal together is a way to bond and develop special memories. If they're wrapped up in worry and shame about what they're eating, they could miss out on these precious moments.


Avoid comments about certain foods your kid is eating.

Now we get it. It's easy to look at your kid's plate, see it piled high with food, and lament the loss of your childhood ability to eat anything without weight gain. The comment "You're so lucky you can eat that and still stay thin!" might even slip out. Or, on the other hand, you might find yourself criticizing your kid's food choices, reminding them that eating certain foods will cause them to gain weight. Or maybe a relative makes these remarks to your kid. Whatever the situation, shut down these kinds of comments immediately.

The message these promote is loud and clear: "Your self-worth is tied to low body weight."

This idea is as damaging to your kids as it is to you. They'll start to internalize this message and measure their self-esteem against an imagined ideal body weight or shape.

To combat this, try these things.

  • Make a commitment as a family to create a judgment-free area surrounding body weight and shape.

  • Discourage making comments about weight loss or gain.

  • Focus on the unique gifts and abilities that each person brings to the family.

If you are concerned about your kid's weight, whether it's too low or too high, take them aside and lovingly explain your concerns in a way that helps them keep their self-worth separate from their body shape and food intake.


So during this holiday season, let's ban the phrase "fat pants" and focus on developing a healthy attitude towards food that doesn't promote eating disorders.

Beginning as early as you can, start to attack the labels that are traditionally assigned to food and train yourself and your kids to view it without judgment. Instead of spending time obsessing over how to restrict food intake, use holiday meals to connect with friends and family. At the same time, create a safe zone within your family that separates self-worth from weight gain or loss. By combining these two pieces together, you can create a positive environment for your kids that discourages negative body image and disordered eating.