Experts are warning against the use of “baby fat” as a term to explain health and weight to kids. According to medical professionals, distinguishing fat from when we’re kids and the fat that we gain in adulthood is not an accurate at all. Instead, it fosters a false sense of security that without any effort, someone can easily lose weight.
Baby fat is a real thing, but it isn’t what we’ve been told it truly is. As infants, we do have high levels of “brown fat” that help keep us warm. The fat that happens to us as babies is good for us, but this doesn’t simply go away or transform into something else. Baby fat is still fat, just like the fat we acquire as teens and adults. Therefore, losing baby fat will take the same effort one would need to lose fat acquired later in life; it’s not a special type.
This distinction we make is actually harmful to kids. At its core, this belief we have stems from the fear of being a fat adult. Growing up, media demonizes the idea of being someone bigger. We can see this all around us: skinnier models, praise for being a certain slimmer shape, pudgy villains on television. Children’s media is no stranger to this phobia. Many animated villains are portrayed as fat, and characters joke about another’s size; take Peppa Pig’s dad, for example.
We believe in the idea that we can get slimmer when we hit puberty, and we assume that it doesn’t take too much effort to lose the baby fat. While it may be true that some kids will get slimmer as they grow older, it’s not the case for all kids. Those who are bigger in their teenage years believe something is wrong with them, and they begin to develop self-esteem issues due to their appearance.
When parents are in denial that their kids might be bigger than what is deemed normal, they default to the idea of baby fat to calm their anxieties. In reality, kids grow up to be of all shapes and sizes. Especially during adolescence, they need to gain more weight in order to grow up healthy. If they’re healthy, there’s no need to focus on the idea of getting slimmer.