Fat is Okay

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD

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The comedian Nicole Arbour has it wrong—as do many people. Fat shaming is not helpful. It makes people feel worse about themselves, not better! Smart people recognize that putting people down is counterproductive to self-care, which ultimately leads to wellness. Our culture needs to refocus and promote positives specifically around food and body. Moms, dads, and friends—we need to get it right. As adults who influence children and their health, it is in our hands to prevent fat shaming and, just as important, to redefine the word “FAT” and the word “DIET.”


Using the Word “FAT”

When my children were born, I avoided the word “fat,” making a rule—it was not to be used in my house and guests could not call my kids fat. I even skipped the “fat caterpillar” part in Eric Carle’s book The Hungry Caterpillar. Fat was and is demonized in the public. Most who are/were called fat internalize the word, leading to poor body image, eating disorders, and low self-esteem.


Neutralize the Word

Things are changing. I have learned with my clients that focusing on wellness instead of weight loss are without a doubt a better way to achieve health—and even weight loss if needed. The Health at Every Size (HAES) movement has introduced the concept of neutralizing the word “fat.” This means, as parents and especially as health professionals, we should be redefining “fat.” The word should connate neither a good nor bad vibe. HAES recognizes that people may be overweight but that it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Rather, size acceptance and body acceptance is most important when trying to pursue health.

With this, I have in my practice and even at home begun to change the use of this word. I use the word “fat,” and along with the HAES’s influence, I encourage others to do so as well. Let’s face it, we all eat foods with fat, all have fat on our bodies, and all need both dietary and body fat.


The Science on FAT

Body size and fat are different. Body size and body fat are partly determined by genetics—actually about 50 percent. Body fat, stress, and even the way in which we eat affect how we gain, lose, and maintain weight. Excessive body fat is part of the cause and the result of metabolic snafus. Basically, think of it like this: your car is filled with gas, but your gas tank erroneously reads it as empty. You continue to pump gas into the tank and it spills out causing a mess. This can happen to expensive cars and used cars. There is no discrimination. Rather, miscommunication between bodily systems can happen in both thin people with a high fat mass as well as larger people with a high fat mass. That’s right, even thin people can have a high fat ratio and put themselves at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and more. (1) In other words, thinner as well as larger people can hold greater amounts of fat. It is not an appearance thing, so please stop judging the book by its cover. It can be quite deceiving.

Recognize that health is not determined by the number on the scale, the size of your pants, or someone calling you fat. Health is much more complex. Fat is not bad or good. Fat is fat. Like anything else, too much of one thing can become unhealthy. And while we are on the topic of redefining “fat,” let’s also redefine the word “diet” and practice the All Foods Fit philosophy!


To support this message, start using the hashtags #HAES, #AllFoodsFit, #AllBodiesFit, #redefinediet #BodyLove…


To help create awareness, I have also created tanks and totes that voice this message:

  • for totes with the All Foods Fit and All Bodies Fit, click HERE
  • for tanks with the All Foods Fit message, “Eat Kale and Cupcakes,” and more, click HERE

10 percent of all proceeds will be donated to Project Heal NYC!



International Journal of Obesity (2006) 30, S23–S35. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803516

The thrifty ‘catch-up fat’ phenotype: its impact on insulin sensitivity during growth trajectories to obesity and metabolic syndrome

A G Dulloo1, J Jacquet2, J Seydoux2 and J-P Montani1

What's the Dirt on Clean Eating?

What’s the Dirt on Clean Eating?

Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

The mechanics of nutrition are based on science, yet at every turn we hear new headlines and buzzwords that make it hard to distinguish the difference between true, research-based science and the latest fad. One such catchy concept is that of “clean eating’” heard regularly in gyms, on magazine covers and throughout social media. But what is it? And how do we navigate it when it’s aimed at our children?


The truth is, there is not a legal, objective, research-backed or even consistent definition to the term “clean eating”.   To some, it means avoiding processed foods. To others, it’s interpreted as low carb, no meat, no dairy, non-GMO or a combination of various nutritional bends.


There are, however, many unintended implications attached to using the word clean, leading us to feel a sense of purity, superiority, a kind of “you are what you eat” mentality that takes on a moralistic emphasis.


Photo Credit: Arya Ziai via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Arya Ziai via Compfight cc

There is a belief that if I eat this way:

  • I’ll be healthy, prevent diseases and have an ideal weight.
  • I’ll be okay, in fact because I’m eating ‘good’, I’m actually a good person.

And on the flip side, if I don’t eat this way:

  • I’m probably going to become ill, gain unsolicited weight, and be unhealthy.
  • I’m making ‘bad’ decisions, which means I’m probably bad.


For many, the path of clean eating is one that started from a positive place, where they wanted to improve their life, health or energy. This is truly an admirable thing, yet as we shift toward rigid ways of eating or behavior change, we begin a mindset and patterns that are anything but balanced. We give up experiences and social opportunities because of the need to comply with limiting eating rules.  We cut out


So as a nutritionist, I have had opportunities to work with individuals in the throws of self-proclaimed clean eating.  And while it’s painful to see the side effects of rigid eating rules in adults, it’s most saddening when children and teens become entrenched in it. Whether it’s through social media, friends, a coach or a parent, I’ve begun to see more young people following this good/bad food mentality and the results aren’t pretty.


Some of the considerations of ‘clean eating’ for kids (and adults, too!):

  1. Look at what’s missing: are certain food groups limited or completely avoided? While fruits and vegetables give us some carbohydrates, they in no way to can replace the vast benefits of grains. Kids in particular are growing and using energy and at a speedy pace, and they absolutely require regular replenishment of carbs to their body and brain.
  2. Too much of a good thing…isn’t. Focus on high fiber, for example, can be problematic for children, leading to digestive discomfort, diarrhea or potential constipation, but also interfering with the absorption of protein, fats and certain vitamins and minerals, such as iron.
  3. Limited eating patterns can not only disrupt brain function and overall energy, but also decrease our children’s ability to create hormones and progress on their normal path toward and throughout puberty.
  4. As we teach kids to eat based on rules of good / bad, they become further disconnected from their own bodies, the signals of hunger and fullness, and the awareness of their own individual preferences.   This also disengages them from the process of being an adventurous eater, and can create an overall sense of deprivation.
  5. The limited variety and over-focus on food can either set the stage for or activate a full-blown eating disorder.


There is certainly no perfect way of eating, much as there is no perfect body, career or person. When we label food as clean or good, unclean or bad, we’ve moralized it, and that’s a message that permeates deeply within our children’s impressionable young brains. Instead, let’s get back to food being simply food, providing a variety of enjoyable, nutrient-filled options and guiding our kid’s to trust their bodies, not a “foods allowed” list.

The Truth About Eating Disorders: Common Myths Debunked

The Truth About Eating Disorders: Common Myths Debunked

by Julie Holland, MHS, CEDS


Because most eating disorders (approximately 95 percent) surface between the ages of 12 and 25, parents are often a first line of defense against the development of these illnesses in their children.* Despite increased prevalence of eating disorders in the United States, widespread misconceptions about eating disorders remain that challenge identification, diagnosis and early intervention. To truly protect and advocate for their children, it is important that parents understand the truth behind common eating disorder myths.

Myth: Eating disorders aren’t serious illnesses.

Truth: Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) are very real and very serious mental illnesses. Each disorder has clear diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the go-to diagnostic reference for mental healthcare professionals. Another reason to take eating disorders seriously is that they can be deadly. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. In fact, women ages 15 to 24 years of age who suffer from anorexia nervosa are 12 times more likely to die from the illness than any other cause of death.**

Myth: Eating disorders are just about food.

Truth: While eating disorders generally involve obsession with calories, weight or shape, these illnesses are rooted in biological, psychological and sociocultural aspects. Restriction, bingeing, purging or over-exercise behaviors usually signify an attempt to control something of substance in the individual’s life. Because friends and family mistakenly believe that eating disorders are just about food, they will often encourage their loved ones to “just eat more,” “just eat less,” or “just eat healthier” to be “cured” of this illness. In reality, eating disorders often require some combination of medical, psychiatric, therapeutic and dietary intervention to achieve full recovery.

Myth: Eating disorders are a women’s illness.

Truth: While research shows that eating disorders affect significantly more women than men, these illnesses occur in men and boys as well. While males used to represent about 10 percent of individuals with eating disorders, a recent Harvard study found that closer to 25 percent of individuals presenting for eating disorder treatment are male. The widespread belief that eating disorders only affect women and girls can prevent accurate diagnosis of an eating disorder in a man or boy, even among healthcare experts.

Myth: Eating disorders don’t develop until the teenage years.

Truth: Consider this—research found that up to 60 percent of girls between the ages of 6 and 12 are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat, and that this concern endures through life.*** Not surprisingly, the incidence of eating disorders in children is on the rise. Between 1999 and 2006, hospitalizations for eating disorders in children 12 and younger rose 119 percent, according to a 2010 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Myth: Only very thin people have an eating disorder.

Truth: While anorexia is characterized by extreme low weight, many individuals struggling with bulimia, binge eating disorder and EDNOS are normal-weighted. The misconception that an eating disorder can only occur if someone is very thin contributes to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis in many cases, even among those patients seeking support from medical and mental healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, many healthcare experts lack eating disorder exposure and training, which highlights the important role of eating disorder specialists to ensure effective diagnosis and early intervention.

Photo Credit: churl via Compfight cc


In addition to educating themselves about basic eating disorder information and understanding myth from fact, parents should also trust their instincts when it comes to eating disorders in their children. Eating disorders can thrive in secrecy, but parents often intuitively know if something is wrong with their children. While parents may feel terrified of saying the wrong thing, but also not want to stay silent, they are an important champion for diagnosis and effective treatment. If concern arises, consult with an eating disorder specialist sooner rather than later—early intervention is critical to lasting eating disorder recovery.


*Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), The Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), offices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

**American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.

***T.F. Cash & L. Smolak (Eds.), Body Image: A Handbook of Science, Practice, and Prevention. New York: Guilford Press. 2011.

Gluten-Free: Diet Trend or Medical Necessity?

Gluten-Free: Diet Trend or Medical Necessity?
By Julie Holland Faylor, MHS, CEDS


Open a magazine, visit a restaurant or shop for groceries and you’re likely to observe the gluten-free diet craze. Books, magazines and blogs claim various health and weight loss benefits from eliminating gluten from our diets, restaurants tout separate gluten-free menus, and grocery stores have added whole aisles dedicated to gluten-free foods. In fact, the gluten-free eating trend has become so pervasive that there’s even a gluten-free Girl Scout cookie!

For many people, gluten-free eating is the latest fad. However, for people like me with celiac disease, it’s a necessity. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, only 1 in 133 Americans have celiac disease, a genetic autoimmune illness that damages the small intestine and restricts the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. People who have this disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. If any gluten is ingested, even a small amount, uncomfortable medical symptoms develop shortly afterwards, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and constipation. In addition to those with celiac disease, there is a portion of the population who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. These people also cannot tolerate gluten, and while they may experience similar symptoms, they don’t experience the same damage to their small intestine.

As an eating disorder specialist, two things are concerning to me about the swift rise in gluten-free diets—the connection between dietary restriction and eating disorders, and the impact of the growing popularity of elective gluten-free eating on people without medically-verified gluten intolerance or celiac disease.

Eating disorders often begin with a seemingly innocent diet—medically indicated or otherwise—and many diets call for the elimination of entire food groups like gluten, dairy or meat. Sometimes, dietary restriction can lead to disordered eating behaviors like “orthorexia,” a condition characterized by an unhealthy preoccupation with healthy eating. In other cases, dietary restriction can lead to a full-syndrome eating disorder (the dieting behavior activates the latent genetic predisposition toward developing an eating disorder—remember, eating disorders are hereditary! Link to first post) For individuals without a medically diagnosed gluten intolerance that elect to stop eating gluten, I encourage them to think about why they are making this significant change to their diet. In general, whole grains are an important part of a balanced pattern of eating, and labeling foods as “good” and “bad” can stigmatize eating and reinforce the cycle of dieting and dietary restriction. A simple best practice following any significant change in food intake is to consult with a registered dietitian to establish an optimal nutrition plan. While doing so, it is important to specify that the gluten-free change is a dietary preference rather than a medical necessity. Regardless of our diet choices or mandates, it is important to keep wellness and balance in mind.

Photo Credit: Whatsername? via Compfight cc

Additionally, the gluten-free diet fad creates a misperception that gluten-free is merely a preference, not a medical necessity. As a result, gluten-free standards have relaxed to the point where many products and menus claiming to be free of gluten actually contain some measure of wheat, rye or barley. This makes it more challenging to practice a medically-indicated gluten-free diet. While food products must list their ingredients, gluten-free menus at restaurants can be blatant offenders, not taking the time to truly understand what gluten is and in what products it is used. In my personal experience at many restaurants, I have ordered meals from these special menus that actually contained gluten ingredients like soy sauce, and I felt terribly sick shortly after. In a sense, it seems as though elective gluten-free eating has trivialized a celiac disease diagnosis. I encourage those with gluten intolerance to be hyper-vigilant about their product choices and restaurant visits—in light of the gluten-free trend, we have to listen to our bodies even if a label or menu item claims to be gluten-free.

In today’s culture, dieting is pervasive. Gluten-free eating is all the rage this year, the latest in a long line of fads and gimmicks like low/no-carb, high protein, raw, fat-free, sugar-free—the list goes on and on. While the majority of diets are elective in nature, some diets—including the dietary restrictions of individuals with celiac disease—are medically indicated. Regardless of the motivation for the diet or the diet’s underlying philosophy, it is important to understand the connection between dieting and eating disorders. In fact, research has found that 35 percent of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting, and of those, 20-25 percent progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.* With this statistic in mind, caution must be exercised when any sort of dietary restriction is taking place.


* Shisslak, C.M., Crago, M., & Estes, L.S. (1995). The Spectrum of Eating Disturbances. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18 (3): 209-219.

You must read this interview with the one and only, Dr. Linda Bacon!

Health at Every Size and Body Respect—a Discussion with Dr. Linda Bacon
By Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CDN, CEDRD
Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian
Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor


Photo Credit: Michael Newton via Compfight cc

With the ever-present discussion of the “childhood obesity epidemic,” I asked Dr. Linda Bacon[i], an internationally recognized authority on topics related to nutrition, weight, and health metabolism, to describe exactly how best to approach weight concerns among parents and practitioners alike. Dr. Bacon proposes a major paradigm shift from conventional weight management practices to what is now referred to as “Health at Every Size.”


Body Respect

According to Dr. Bacon, the Health at Every Size message starts from respect.

She summarized it by saying, “This respect is for our own personal lived experiences as well as those of our children, as there is no objective truth to what we are ‘supposed’ to eat or ‘how’ to eat it. What is going to work best for our bodies can be learned by developing a critical awareness of our own bodily sensations [emphasis added].”

She offered the following examples of this concept: “‘Eat your fruits and vegetables because they are ‘good for you,’ and stay away from junk foods’ is a parenting message that takes the child’s inner body trust and awareness away from him/her. Instead, allow your child to discover the positive benefits of added fiber (from fruits and veggies) such as easier digestion.”


Another common example of body respect that she discussed with me is insisting that your child or teen eat breakfast. “With body respect,” Bacon says, “we allow our children to discover on their own what the consequences of missed breakfasts are. They may notice difficulty concentrating in school and have low energy. Rather than nagging, we can allow our children to keep checking in with their bodies and connect eating with improved energy.”

Photo Credit: John-Morgan via Compfight cc

What Does “Healthy Weight” Actually Mean?

“‘Healthy weight’ means different things to different people,” according to Bacon. “There is natural weight diversity across the spectrum.” According to Dr. Bacon’s most recent book, Body Respect, research shows that trying to control or manage weight (through caloric restriction or dieting), may work in the short term but more often results in rebound weight gain. Our bodies can undermine efforts at weight control because the body is enormously successful at regulating its weight. It’s not something we need to “work at”—in fact, this “control” approach ends up being counterproductive.

She explained that diets affect self-esteem as we eventually blame ourselves for not being able to maintain a restrictive diet or not losing weight. Her “Health at Every Size” philosophy is based on the idea that a better way to reach a good state of health is to manage behaviors that favor health, for example, good self-care, meaning learning to eat according to hunger and fullness cues, as well as satisfaction, choosing physical activities that are pleasurable, managing our levels of stress, and getting enough sleep. With better self-care, our bodies are more likely to stabilize at their own natural healthy weight. Bacon stated, “often the parents with the best of intentions blame themselves when things go wrong. This helps no one.  Recognize that you can’t control your kids—you can only practice and model good self-care for yourself, so you can in turn support your child.”


Help for Big Kids

When asked how best to help bigger kids, Dr. Bacon explained that “weight tells us little about kids’ health or health habits, but it does tell us a lot about how that kid will get treated in the world. The best way to help kids is provide support: let them know that the problem is in society, not their bodies. The perpetual stereotyping of fatness affects children of all sizes with fat children as the direct targets. When fatter kids are bullied, and many of them are, there may be nobody in their lives telling them that the bully is wrong and that everyone everywhere is loveable just as they are. It takes a strong sense of self-worth to feel safe in your skin in a world where some bodies are dubbed ‘good and acceptable’ and others are dubbed ‘bad and unacceptable’.”


She summarized her overall philosophy: “We need to make this a world where all bodies are good bodies, where children can feel good about themselves in their own unique and precious bodies in all of their glorious diversity. We have the opportunity to stop this self/body hatred and to help kids learn to respect and celebrate body diversity.”


[i] Dr. Linda Bacon, author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight and Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, or Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, is changing lives through her teaching, research, writing, public speaking, and the transformative “Passing the Message On” multi-day Health at Every Size® (HAES) workshops. Dr. Bacon combines academic expertise and compassionate clinical experience to bring together scientific research and practical application. She shifts the focus from weight to well-being, giving doctors, dietitians, therapists, and people of all shapes the tools for achieving better fitness, health, and even happiness—all without dieting.

Self Care For Your Teen and Tween

6 Strategies To Prevent Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse in Youth
By Laura Cipullo RD CDE CEDRD CDN and Mom

Photo Credit: pcfishhk via Compfight cc

Start the New Year, with self care! Moms and Dads, here are 6 tips to help your tweens and teens create a healthy self-care regimen that will decrease the likelihood of developing eating disorders and substance abuse.

  • Focus on overall self care, not weight.
    • Ask your children: “How does your food choice make your body feel? Energized or tired? stable or shaky?”
  • De-emphasize dieting.
    • Health is achieving mental and physical wellness through lifestyle changes.
Photo Credit: churl via Compfight cc
  • Encourage expressing negative feelings via words, art, and music.
    • Gift journals or crafts for your teen to use to express their feelings when upset.
  • Help your child expect and accept body changes during adolescence.
    • Educate them on hormones, body changes and social changes in a neutral tone. Honor each individual’s body shape and help buy clothes to suit their individual shape.
  • Educate your children on feelings and coping skills during puberty.
    • Encourage your children to sit with feelings even if they are uncomfortable doing so – this helps to teach resilience.
  • Involve the family.
    • Allow family members to lend a listening ear or give a hug when needed. Parents do not need to have all of the answers.

“Fat Talk,” Body Image and Eating Disorders

“Fat Talk,” Body Image and Eating Disorders
By Julie Holland Faylor, MHS, CEDS


After consuming a high-calorie food, have you ever said “I need to hit the gym now!” or “I know that went straight to my thighs!”

Do you call your comfortable jeans “fat pants”?

When asked how you’re doing, have you ever responded with a quip like, “I’d be better if I didn’t have to squeeze into a bathing suit this weekend!”?


At one time or another, we have all been guilty of using disparaging self-talk related to weight, size, or shape. This tendency is so commonplace in today’s culture that there is actually a term for negative body commentary, used by the general public and clinical circles alike: “Fat talk.”

Photo Credit: Clover_1 via Compfight cc

Whether we say these comments aloud or just in our heads, “fat talk” can have a significant impact on the way we feel about our bodies and ourselves. For most people, disparaging self-talk just makes us feel inadequate or depressed. However, negative body image plays a significant role in the development and maintenance of eating disorders. For individuals that are predisposed to developing an eating disorder (in other words, if eating disorders run in their families), seemingly harmless comments about themselves—or unsolicited comments from others—can contribute to the development of anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, or trigger a relapse for those in recovery from these serious illnesses.


Because “fat talk” is pervasive in our society and has the potential to impact our—and our young loved ones’—body image and self-worth, it is important that parents understand this phenomenon. Below are five considerations to help combat “fat talk” and cultivate positive body image in our lives and homes:

Be aware. “Fat talk” is everywhere; if you pay attention, you will find that fat jokes and “fat talk” are speckled throughout movies, sitcoms and books, even those geared towards adolescents and young adults. It is the fodder of seemingly every comedian in the world, and it underscores countless ad campaigns touting products and services promising to make us thinner, prettier and more desirable. For women and girls in particular, “fat talk” has become a bonding ritual of sorts—we often connect with others over mutual dissatisfaction with our weight, shape and size. Awareness is the first step in any meaningful behavioral change, so consciously try to identify the ways you and those around you use “fat talk” in your daily lives.

Be kind—to yourself, and to others. Our body weight and shape have nothing to do with who we are as individuals, mothers, daughters, friends, and employees. When you feel the urge to insult yourself related to your body size, shape or weight, instead think about the value you bring to your family, friendships, workplace or community. Also, avoid drawing attention to others’ body and weight insecurities. Our comments may come from a good place—we may think we’re supporting or motivating others with these messages—but we can never know the true impact of our words on others. Err on the side of kindness and make it a practice to not talk about others’ bodies.

Model healthy attitudes and behaviors. The most important thing parents can do to help their children develop a healthy body image is model healthy attitudes and behaviors toward body weight, size and shape. Kids are behavioral sponges—they watch what their parents do, they listen to what they say and they develop their worldview accordingly. Rather than toning down the “fat talk” around your children, try to remove it from your vocabulary altogether. Adults in your life may benefit from this change as well—family members and friends may notice the absence of “fat talk” from your conversations and follow your lead.

Photo Credit: 27147 via Compfight cc

Normalize eating in your home. Our thoughts and behaviors around food and eating are often closely linked to how we feel about our bodies. With that in mind, don’t allow or encourage dieting in your home. Don’t stigmatize foods as “good” or “bad”—all foods are okay in moderation, and the goal should be to consume a diverse, balanced diet with as much real, unprocessed, natural foods as possible. Do help to cultivate the social aspect of meals by turning off the television, putting down cell phones and making conversation with loved ones at the table. Additionally, talk to your children about their meals outside the home—who did they eat with, what did they eat, what did they talk about—to help them think critically about their patterns.

Frame exercise as fun and healthy. “Fat talk” often paints exercise as a punishment for eating too much or the wrong kinds of foods, or as a means to “fix” a perceived body flaw. Be sure to position regular physical activity as a fun and healthy habit for children and adults alike—in fact, it can be even more fun when families get active together. Exercise doesn’t have to involve a treadmill or weights—it can be walking the dog, building a snowman or playing softball with friends, family or colleagues.


Let me be clear—“fat talk” can adversely impact body image and self-esteem, which is a contributing factor in the development of eating disorders, but it doesn’t cause an eating disorder. Eating disorders result from a complex interplay of biological, psychological and sociocultural factors. However, it is important to understand the connection between “fat talk,” body image and eating disorders, particularly as it pertains to helping our children develop healthy body image and attitudes toward food, eating and exercise.

One Size Fits All?

One Size Fits All?
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD

Photo Credit: sporkist via Compfight cc

Bodies come in all shapes and sizes; therefore, don’t you think clothes should too? This may seem logical to us, yet many clothing companies cater to one size only. Parents and friends, please beware; there is a new line of clothing by Brandy Melville. Her clothing line carries mostly “one size fits all,” but this one size is equivalent to a small. So while MDIO loves the idea of clothes to fit everybody’s bodies, this smaller size may not be appropriate for all tweens and teens.


Brandy Melville’s clothing line is a cheaper alternative for younger girls to find the cool clothes that all their friends are wearing. These less costly items do come at a price, however, because they do not run large enough to fit the average American teenage girl who wants to shop there. Jeans at Brandy Melville run mainly in size 00, yet I believe this is vanity- sized and thus equal to a size 2, which fits a girl with a 26” waist.  However, the average 16-year-old girl has a 31” waist and therefore, would have a much harder time finding clothing at this trendy store. With a desire to be cool and wear these more easily affordable clothes, many young girls may go to extremes to fit into these extra small sizes!
Ultimately, size should not matter when it comes to clothes, but as a woman, a mother and a professional in the world of eating disorders, I know that the size of clothes can be connected to superficial self-worth. As parents, we need to think about whether we want our children to shop and support these stores/brands and also how we should talk to our daughters and sons about such numbers.


When talking to your teens and tweens about clothing sizes, please remember:

  • Numbers are just information.
  • Sizes vary from store to store and brand to brand for each article of clothing. (See our chart below.)
  • Size does not reflect health.
  • Size does not reflect self-worth.
  • Find clothing and brands to accentuate your body type.
  • Wear sizes that fit your body properly—and expect that the sizes will vary from item to item.
  • Wear clothes that represent the “real” you.
  • Think about how a particular article of clothing makes you feel when you’re wearing it rather than the size designation on the tag.
Disclaimer: These sizes are estimated.

Many stores vary so greatly in their sizes that a shopper can buy a size 4 at one place and a size 6 or 8 at another with all items fitting well. There is little standardization for clothing sizes in the United States and retailers often change clothing sizes without any one of us even realizing it. As parents, please keep in mind that a healthy shopping environment for young girls and boys is a necessity. Many stores and brands bombard youngsters with toxic images as it is. Fostering size expectations is not good for the shoppers nor the companies creating these clothes; nobody wins. Unfortunately, there are no standards or government regulations concerning clothing sizes. So, parents must think about the store’s overall image and message before deciding if the store is a place they want their children to shop.


Kudos to people like Cali Linstrom and Daryl Roberts for taking a stand against Abercrombie and Fitch!


Have you taken a stand? If you have, Mom Dishes It Out wants your story. Tell us about a brand you think fits well and sends a positive message to kids, teens and/or adults.


More reading:



Are Your Words the Cause of Your Child’s Eating Disorder?

What Do Your Children Hear When You Say…?
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom

Photo Credit: Mateus Lunardi Dutra via Compfight cc

As I surf the net, I read so many blogs that also say all foods fit. Yet they go on to say certain foods are treats, certain foods are bad, and certain foods should only be allowed if the child doesn’t have a weight problem. So how do parents handle this delicate issue?


First we must address our own food issues. If we have them—and we probably do (as I don’t know too many people without food confusion)—we need not verbalize them as black and white statements to our children.

For example:

You can eat ice cream because you are young and thin, but Mommy needs to be good because Mommy’s belly is too big.

That is clearly a mother’s issue being verbalized to the child. Mom is implying ice cream is bad, but the child can have bad food because they are thin—and Mom cannot.


Next, we must be careful not to place a moral or value judgment on foods. This means avoiding good and bad food labeling. This backfires because a child typically feels bad when he/she eats something bad. This can even be true of using words such as “healthy” versus “unhealthy,” but perhaps that takes it to extremes. Some children’s programs use the colors of a stoplight to signify how much of something to eat. I’ve always found myself telling clients to listen to their bodies. However, I also know I would tell them to focus on the nutrient-dense foods the majority of the time and that the remainder of the time it doesn’t matter. We began calling these foods “everyday foods” versus “some of the time” foods. This is a perfect solution, no? It really categorizes foods with higher nutrition versus lower nutrition.  This is the way I typically explain foods to my children. The sure thing we know is that the good and bad connotations lead to negative relationships with food. So steer clear of using words implying judgment and move towards words that are science-based, such as “high in vitamin C” and “low in vitamins.”


Another catch-22 is saying that our children need to lose weight and thus should only eat healthy food. This is quite far from the truth. If you, a child, or me needs to lose weight, we must explore the why. Moms and Dads, especially dietitian moms/dads or parents working in health and wellness, need to be so careful of this. Instead, explore behaviors and emotions surrounding the foods.

Photo Credit: 藍川芥 aikawake via Compfight cc

Questions to ask are:

  1. Is the individual eating beyond his/her physical cues?
  2. Are you or your child stressed and eating to numb yourself?
  3. Is your child not in tune with his/her internal regulation because you have restricted him/her and forbade all processed foods?
  4. Is your child skipping meals at school or is unable to feel full off of the school lunch?
  5. Is this weight healthy for me even though the doctor says differently?


Again, this is not about eating nutrient-dense foods. That is merely just one piece in the food puzzle.


The “beware of’s” can go on and on, but the most important concept to truly be cautioned against is that of “perfect eating.” There is no perfect eating. If you eat too healthy, it can be significant of anorexia or orthorexia. If you eat chaotically with no boundaries whatsoever, this too can be very unhealthy. Instead promote balance, listening to your internal physical needs, eating for fuel and for pleasure and health too! Eat real food when you can, but don’t go crazy over avoiding processed foods. Enjoy apples just as much as your cookies.


Below is a handout from the book Healthy Habits, which you can download.