You might have seen this story all over your Twitter feed this weekend, but it’s still worth talking about a couple of days later. Seventeen-year-old Briseyda Ponce was going on her daily run when her eight-year-old cousin, Allysson, decided to join her. Why? Because a her crush, a classmate named Hector, and girls in her class called her fat. Briseyda tweeted about the incident with a sense of humor, though, noting that in the middle of the run, Allysson did what pretty much all of us crave to do in the middle of a workout: She got her grub on.
The girls in her class & her crush Hector called her fat so she told me to take her on my run but mid run she pulls out a snack pic.twitter.com/S94Egx15jG
— Briseyda (@briseydahh) March 23, 2017
Twitter’s response, of course, was hilarious. I’ve never seen so many people ready to square up with an elementary school kid in my life:
@briseydahh You tell that lil one to keep on snackin if it makes her happy! Hector can rot!
— satu #BEAUTIFUL (@satuwilhelmiina) March 24, 2017
@briseydahh WHERE HECTOR AT I JUST WANNA TaLK
— liz (@elizabethyesong) March 24, 2017
@briseydahh the only thing she need to lose is hector
— Helen (@BeenToHeIenBack) March 24, 2017
? fuck hector and the clique he claim https://t.co/caCzTry3lQ
— shakira (@jodecicry) March 25, 2017
But as funny as the responses are, and as much as Briseyda insists that Allysson isn’t paying Hector too much mind (you go girl!), we’ve got to have room to talk very openly and very frankly about the fact that body image issues for young girls is increasingly common. This kind of name calling and body shaming isn’t rare, and it’s having a real impact. A study by Common Sense Media concluded that 80 percent of 10-year-old American girls have been on a diet. Yes, 80 percent; one in four of that number started dieting before turning seven-years-old. For some perspective, chew on this: In 1970, The Eating Disorder Foundation deduced that the average girl starts dieting at age fourteen. Additionally, a majority of American girls ages six to eight wish they were thinner.
Y’all, we’re dealing with a culture in which elementary school kids, kids who can barely do their times tables, are worrying about how many calories they’re eating in a day. Of course, this probably isn’t much of a shocker. Ideal bodies and eating standards have changed a lot over the past fifty years, anti-obesity campaigns (as well intentioned as they are) force kids to think about their bodies more critically than they otherwise would, and we have more avenues than ever to feel bad about ourselves. I love Instagram, but I can’t help but feel some kind of way when I stumble upon a photo of someone with an incredibly flat tummy; it’s easy to imagine how much harder it is for kids who aren’t critical thinkers yet and don’t even know the magic of photoshop…or the magic of sucking your stomach in in time to take a selfie.
I’m not just being a concern troll here. Little things like dieting at age nine and getting called fat on the playground by some bullies have serious consequences down the line. Young dieters have a higher chance of battling eating disorders and falling prey to alcohol abuse when they’re older, and there’s a study that concluded that a girl who is called fat have a higher chance of actually becoming obese as an adult.
Let’s all give props to Allysson and girls like her for brushing off her haters. But let’s also be aware of the countless kids out there for which ignoring bullies and snacking instead is a pipe dream.
Were you bullied for your weight as a kid? What form of media (apps, TV, magazines) has the worst impact on body image? Tell us in the comments!