What Do You Do When Your 10-Year-Old Girl Says She’s Fat?

According to MissRepresentation, 80% of 10-year-old girls say they have been on a diet, and “the number one magic wish for girls 11-17 is to be thinner.” Now, personally, I’m pretty sure I didn’t figure out that I was fat and unlovable until I was around 15. And then I didn’t figure out that all of that was complete bullshit until I was 25. That was ten years of disappointment, dieting, crushing loneliness, and the gloomy certainty that I’d be alone forever (to be fair, it was also fun times, travel, hilarious friends, a great education, gin & tonics, and unfettered focus on making my life awesome). But today’s girls get 15 years of that shit, to my ten—presuming they clamber out of the pit by 25, if they manage to do it at all. NO THANKS. This is clearly an emergency.

I know one of these girls. She lives in my house. My 10-year-old stepdaughter (her dad and I aren’t married, but you know what I mean, Archbishop of Pedantrybury) recently announced that the entire family would be required to “work out” together every morning. She made little workout checklists for herself and her 8-year-old sister, with a specificity that would be hilarious if it wasn’t so troubling (“do 36 push-ups,” “jog for 17 minutes”). I notice her grasping for little excuses not to eat. She casually mentions that certain relatives and classmates have called her fat. She claims she just “likes” turkey bacon better than regular bacon (BLATANT LIE). Even kids (especially kids, maybe) know that the best way to insult a woman is to call her fat. They know that thin > fat, even if they don’t really understand what that means. So her stupid 14-year-old cousin knows that the best way to needle my 10-year-old beanpole stepkid is to call her fat. And he does. Stupid cousin.

Now, this could all be coming from a totally healthy impulse—she’s also terrifically athletic and currently obsessed with martial arts and acquiring a machete (her “Weapons to Get” list is twice as long as the workout list)—but it sure doesn’t feel like that.