Kathy Kater, LICSW, author of Healthy Bodies: Teaching Kids What They Need To Know joined us for a thorough and informative interview about her curriculum.
For whom did you write Healthy Bodies: Teaching Kids What They Need To Know?
Healthy Bodies contains the lessons that I found myself teaching over and over again to every adult and adolescent patient I worked with, as part of the necessary foundation for their eating disorder recovery. Many times I heard people say, “My life would have been different if I had learned this as a child.” When my daughter was 9 and came home one day asking, “Why would Lauren say she is fat?” I felt dread. I knew too well that this is when and where body comparing and dissatisfaction often starts! Then it came to me: The very same lessons I was providing to my clients in order to correct their destructive thinking were simple enough for a 4th grader to understand. I knew I wanted my daughter to learn them before problems began for her and her friends. I also didn’t want her to hear these lessons just from her mother, but in a regular classroom setting, side by side with her peers—like Lauren!
So I wrote this evidence-based curriculum for the next generation, but also for their teachers and parents, and everyone, really. I want these lessons to be part of the universal education for all. I believe if it were culturally normative for kids to get support for maintaining their body esteem through the critical developmental years and into adulthood, it could frankly put a lot of people like me who treat disordered eating problems out of business, and eventually make concerns about obesity a thing of the past. Both would be a very good thing!
To be clear, I am not suggesting Healthy Bodies or any single curriculum could magically prevent all body image, eating and weight concerns given all of today’s harmful pressures. But without lessons teaching kids to care for instead of compare their bodies, most of them will not experience any cognitive dissonance at all in the face of the pervasive “right size/wrong size” mentality that is so harmful. And so it is that most kids at ever younger ages today unquestioningly feel they, like adults, should judge themselves by standards that are unrealistic for most—whether this be the “thin ideal” for appearance, a “normal BMI” for health, or the “perfect size” for athletic performance—and that they should do “whatever it takes” to try to achieve those standards. Naturally most feel bad when they fail. Sadly this is the status quo, and it needs to be changed.
In the Healthy Bodies closing lesson the kids discuss this question: What if the swan had stayed with the ducks? I wanted boys and girls together to consider this, and how perhaps they, like the “ugly duckling,” could turn their backs on cultural pressures that make them feel “ugly,” turning instead to a more realistic, happier way.
To read the entire exclusive interview, click here.