For the record I got my first bra at age 8 or 9. It was kinda cool but quickly went to kinda embarrassing. Along with being the attention of a few of the boys, I started to gain weight. I went from the skinny tomboy to a round tomboy. Of course I wasn't fat, but I felt like it. Especially compared to the girls in my class who hadn't been smacked by puberty.
Thus when I read and hear all the talk about girls being fat as the number one cause for early puberty, I am skeptical. I'm mostly skeptical because the impact of all the chemicals in our environment and hormones in our food chain are pretty much blown off. BPA? We jumped all over that baby. Why can't we do the same with all the other crap we're been ingesting since we were in our mom's wombs?
I'm not saying that we don't have an obesity issue with our kids. They are eating too much, staying inside too much and not getting enough exercise. But for many of our kids, that's a systemic problem (violent neighborhoods, environmentally toxic neighborhoods), not so much a personal failure. So why must we blame girls and their families for something that just might be out of their control?
I also fear the trickle down effect of blaming the girls for early puberty. Does that mean we can blame them when older boys and men glare at them? When they dress 'age-appropriately' in a hypersexualized society but still look slutty? And what if they do develop breast cancer later on?
Puberty is tough for everyone, much less for an 8-year-old who just might have it in her genes not her fat that her boobs start budding, but will nevertheless be examined by her pediatrician and society to see if she's too fat and caused it all.
As Dr. Walker on NPR noted yesterday, girls "know" that their weight can lead to onset of puberty and try to restrict their diet in an effort to keep puberty from happening. I fear that this news will only cause an increase in eating disorders that are self-inflicted as well as inflicted by parents fearing their daughters' growing breasts.
What to do? Talk to our girls about their bodies and the changes that are pending. Talk to our boys about respecting those changes and the ones that they will soon be going through. And get to studying the impacts of all the crap in our ecosystem!