parent opinion

LIBBY TRICKETT: 'The words no 8-year-old should ever have to hear.'

Last week, I spent a day working on an incredible project with The Embrace Collective, the organisation set up by 2023 Australian of the Year Taryn Brumfitt and international body image expert Dr Zali Yager. It was a day of filming, all about how to make sport more welcoming and inclusive for all bodies, and I left that shoot feeling pumped. Like we were changing the world.

And then I stepped back into the reality of 2024.

While catching up with some family friends, I overheard the following being said to my eldest daughter, Poppy, who is eight years old...

"Wow, you look like you've lost weight! Have you lost weight? You look great."

It was like someone had just dumped a bucket of ice-cold water over my head. I was completely shocked and reeling from what I'd heard. In that split-second moment, I decided to not draw attention to the comment. Which was an essential choice, as I literally had no words.

But I had every intention of following up that conversation with everyone involved. And here's why.

In Australia today, 77 per cent of adolescents report body image distress, and 33 per cent of adolescent girls meet the criteria for an eating disorder. Body dissatisfaction leads to negative mental health outcomes, a negative impact on physical health behaviours and increased risky behaviours. And we know that body commentary and a focus on appearance can contribute to body image issues.

Watch: Taryn Brumfitt's five tips to embrace you. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

Comments like the one my daughter received aren't just happening in family homes. I know from firsthand experience that it's something we still see in sport and the arts, where body commentary continues to seep into coaching and sideline conversations. It's part of the reason kids are dropping out of sport — kids coming back for another season and being told that they've "been in a good paddock". Dancers coming into a studio in the afternoon, being poked in the tummy and asked how much afternoon tea they've had. Coaches discussing weight with their teenage athletes.

You might think, "Come on, Libby, maybe back in your day, but surely this isn't still happening."

I wish I could tell you I'm making this stuff up. I wish I could tell you this is from 15, 20 years ago. 

It's not. It's still happening in pockets and my goodness, it needs to stop. 

It's something that Taryn, Dr Yager and the team at Embrace are so passionate about that they've just released a free resource for community clubs, to help them upskill their organisations and better support kids around body commentary, uniforms, body representative and fuelling foods.

"Sport can be so good for young people, but it's also a place where a lot of young people often end up feeling judged about their appearance, and this makes them more likely to avoid being active," Dr Yager explains.

Listen to Libby Trickett speak further on this issue on Mamamia's This Glorious Mess. Post continues after audio.

"Parents should absolutely say something when they hear these sorts of comments. Often, the person saying them doesn't realise the harm their words could cause, so it's about approaching with curiosity and gently suggesting that this might not be the best way forward. Then you can provide some resources that explain what not to do, and why."


Back in my home, where all I want is for my kids to know that they are loved for exactly who they are, I sat with my amazing, funny, focused little eight-year-old and talked to her about what she might have heard, how she felt about it, how amazing bodies are and what they let us do. (Climb trees! Make cubbies! Dive for sinkies! Give amazing hugs!)

In the days that followed, my husband, Luke, and I sat down with the family friend and had an honest conversation about how we think and talk about bodies in our house. They're from another generation, where value was very much defined by how you looked and how thin you were. They had no idea that what they'd said could be taken on board in a negative way.

And I know that these are the sorts of conversations that we need to have to stop body commentary altogether. We need to do better, as a society, in the way we speak to our young kids about bodies. We need to be better, as a society, in how we speak to ourselves about the most incredible vehicle we have.

Let's celebrate humour, celebrate intelligence, celebrate kindness. Our bodies shouldn't be a part of that list. Let's confront the comments we know shouldn't be spoken, and foster conversations with those who don't realise it's not okay to comment on kids' bodies.

We need to do better.

Statistics sourced from The Embrace Collective. The Embrace Sport playbook is free to download here.

Feature image: Instagram/@libby_trickett

Do you have kids aged 1-4 years? We want to hear from you - take our short survey to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher!