Fat talk: Influences on body image in childcare

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Health Promotion Journal of Australia


John Wiley and Sons Inc.


School of Medical and Health Sciences




Lombardi, K., Beatty, S., Devine, A., Wallace, R., & Costello, L. (2019). Fat talk: Influences on body image in childcare. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 31(2), 224-231. https://doi.org/10.1002/hpja.272


Issue addressed: This research explored the use of “fat talk” by early childhood educators and their awareness of their potential influence on the developing body image of young children. Methods: Mixed methods comprising focus groups, telephone interviews and demographic surveys with 44 early childhood educators Australia-wide. Results: Findings showed many educators in this research recognised that they had a role to play in the development of children's body image, though some were unsure when body image began to develop. Educators engaged widely in “fat talk,” in the vicinity of children or other educators, and accepted such talk as normal. Discussion: “Fat talk” features in the workplace and is commonly used by early childhood educators. Its influence on the development of body image on young children did not appear to be well understood by early years’ educators or of a concern to them. Conclusions: Since body image develops in children from around three years of age, the role of early childhood educators in its development should not be overlooked. So what? Relevance to Health Promotion: Body image is a misunderstood public health concern, with long-term impacts on weight, mental health and physical health. Promotion of positive body image and the early recognition of body image disturbance are crucial, as children who exhibit body dissatisfaction in their formative years have a greater risk of severe body image disturbance as they progress through childhood and adolescence. Since early childhood educators spend significant time with children, encouraging them to avoid engaging in “fat talk” and instead to promote positive body image is warranted. © 2019 Australian Health Promotion Association



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