On Friday, President Donald Trump met with children of the White House press corps so they could trick or treat in the Oval Office.
However, some of the statements he made were not a treat.
While handing out candy to the children, Trump said, “You have no weight problems ― that’s the good news, right?”
Commenting on a child’s weight (or anyone’s weight, for that matter), whether it’s intended as a compliment or as an insult, is never appropriate. Researchers have found that comments on a child’s weight can stick with them through adulthood and impact weight and body dissatisfaction.
When I was a child, I often received comments about my weight. These comments caused me to obsess over my appearance, and it made me feel like the only way I could gain approval was by changing my body. I started dieting at 10 years old. The words of adults who commented on my weight carried with me through my teenage years, and this led to a five-year battle with an eating disorder, which I am still recovering from.
Imagine being a little girl or boy and hearing the most powerful man in your country ― a man who you are supposed to look up to ― make a comment about your weight. It’s likely that a 5- or 6-year-old has never even thought about their weight. This situation could be the instance that leads them to obsess over their body and weight for the rest of their life, especially because our society is already focused on the thin ideal.
An estimated 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. Anorexia nervosa has an estimated mortality rate of nearly 10 percent, which shows that this is not a trivial matter. Comments made on a child’s weight can potentially be deadly.
Thinness is not an indicator of health, and health can be found at every size. It is completely natural for a child’s weight to fluctuate. Focusing on a single quality like weight ignores true health, because you can’t tell if a child is healthy just by looking at them or seeing a single number on a scale.
President Trump, commenting on children’s bodies is unnecessary and damaging. Trick-or-treaters should be focused on the fun of the holiday and the joy of eating their favorite candies, not on their body or weight.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.