Here’s the thing with being a fat mom raising a daughter, there is always the proverbial elephant in the room. What is going to cause the least amount of damage? What can I do to allow for her to live a life where her weight isn’t a preoccupation, a part-time fucking job?
I know that my daughter sees it. She came home crying in kindergarten because another kid called me ‘fat’; she watches me undress with curiosity, and she’s recently started asking me about calories and if that is something I should be watching. She’s seven years old and all ears.
I try to answer her questions and concerns with facts and a positive message. In the case with the kindergartener calling me fat, I asked the kiddo what she said back –
“Mama, I told her that no, you aren’t – you aren’t fat.”
“But I am, sweetie.”
“No, you aren’t. Don’t say that”. I could see the horror on my daughter’s face. The shame. The confusion. Here she was, trapped between trying to honour me and understanding that there was truth in the other kid’s words.
“I am fat sweetie, but I’m also fun, loveable, beautiful and kind. My jiggly belly doesn’t change those things. Your friend just decided to focus on the wrong things about me.”
I went on to address her upset and explain to her that being fat is not who I am, but that yes, I had fat on my body. We do not need to give the word that kind of power. I think I said most of the right things. She said she felt OK with it, but I could tell it had made an imprint on her. My heart broke. Not for my feelings, but for hers.
Social Media body acceptance and self-love movements aside, let’s just live in the real world for a few minutes. It sucks for her. I am a fat mom, and I’d be delirious to think that kids aren’t going to notice and aren’t going to say anything to her. The fact is that I’m not living my best healthy life and that shit always rolls downhill.
This mama business is hard.
Even the University of Florida reinforced my concerns with an article that they published on this issue. It states:
“It is clear that mothers play an important role in the development of body image in their daughters. Unfortunately, mothers’ attitudes often contribute to the development of negative body image and encourage poor eating habits. Family relationships, particularly the mother-child relationship, are crucial to the development of self in children, especially girls. Therefore, we must pay close attention to the messages mothers send their daughters about body image and eating. Mothers must be aware of how their own attitudes and comments affect their daughters. Mothers can help themselves and their daughters develop a more positive body image and begin to reduce risky eating and dieting behaviors. “
No pressure at all, right?
I have tried to be as positive and honest with my daughter as possible, and I do my best to model body-acceptance and be my best self “as-is”. I do not apologize for who I am in front of her. I compliment other women on how funny they are, how smart they seem. I dance, I celebrate, I live – there are no pity parties here. However, I am currently adding another dimension to this picture; I have now dedicated myself to actively losing weight, getting fit and being a much healthier version of me.
When considering the impact on the kiddo, I keep having flashbacks to the 20-minute-work out and the cabbage soup diet. I bet most of my friends who grew up in the 80’s can also remember the diet culture of that time. It was intense, harsh, expensive and just plain weird. Diet Coke and fiber cookie meal replacements anyone? At a very young age, I understood that success and praise came through the achievement of a thin body and Christie Brinkley looks. It was all a bit fucked up, and I don’t want that for my kiddo.
So, how do I model self-love and body acceptance, while working to lose weight and ensure that the kiddo doesn’t get mixed messages?
I think I just keep doing what I’m doing. Food wise I’ve decided to make healthier food choices slowly without much fanfare. I am trying my very best not to discuss the elimination of food groups in our home. I am talking about adding in more fruits, veggies & protein as opposed to taking away foods. Fitness wise I’ve been upfront and honest with her and told her that I’m making a more conscious effort to sweat and get fitter and stronger. She’s excited about this and is excited to participate in my activities. I use the words healthy, active and fit. I’ve made it my personal constitution not to use the words skinny & diet – even though they still taunt me like a bad 80’s hangover.
At a very young age, I understood that success and praise came through the achievement of a thin body and Christie Brinkley looks. It was all a bit fucked up, and I don’t want that for my kiddo.
Is it working? I’m not sure. But she did look at me the other day while I was drying the dishes and ask me the dreaded question:
“Mama, how would you look in a bikini?”
My internal alarm bells went off. I knew that this was important.
“Well kiddo,” I stopped and took a deep breath. “I think I’d be fabulous in a bikini. The sunshine would bounce off my belly, and my skin would be so happy to see the sun! I think everyone should wear try to wear a bikini from time to time, maybe I will!” I did a dance, smacked her bum with my tea towel and did a bum wiggle.
With that, she giggled, wiggled back, grabbed an apple and ran outside to join her friends in some cartwheels and front yard acrobatics.
I sighed. Relieved. Another battle scar of motherhood. But, funny enough, after she left and I took a good look around. I didn’t see the elephant in the room or feel much weight from its shadows. I looked out of the window at the kiddos playing, and there just was simply too much sunshine coming through.