I have made a very diligent effort NEVER to talk about my weight in front of my daughter (who will be 9 in a couple of weeks). I am adamant about “fat talk” – it is never allowed in our home. So when we were standing in the kitchen last week after dinner and she said “I feel fat”, I heard the record scratch. As a matter of fact, you could have heard it too. It was that loud. I thought: “That’s it. I have failed as a mother.”
WHAT. THE. ????!
She has 2 moms and a father who are physically active, and we only talk about bodies using words like “healthy” and “strong”. We also don’t categorize foods as “good” or “bad”, but rather more healthy or less healthy. Our house is filled with food choices, and she is allowed to have a couple of treats every day.
When she said she felt fat I asked “What?”, and unfortunately she could tell by the tone of my voice that she has said something that had upset me, so I didn’t get a lot of very straight answers from my follow-up questions. Why do you feel fat? Who talks about being fat? Do your friends talk about being fat?
After cleaning up we sat down and talked. I asked her if she knew the difference between feeling full and feeling fat. She explained that she did. I asked her if maybe she wasn’t just feeling full? “I’m not sure” was her answer. I assured her that she is not fat and that she has a very healthy body.
She’s on spring break this week and I needed to go for a run on Wednesday, so she came with me on her bike. We were talking while I was running and I made a point of asking her if she knew why I exercised. “So you stay healthy?” Yes. “So you feel better?” Yes. I also explained that is makes my head feel better – I’m more patient and can handle stress more effectively. I said nothing of how it makes me look – all about how it makes me feel.
I struggled with body image and eating issues during high school and college, and made a vow that I would do everything in my power to protect my daughter from what I went through. I know she will eventually become more aware of her body and her looks, and what person at some time or another hasn’t complained about some aspect of their body? It’s just going to be hard for me to hear those things coming out of my daughter’s mouth. She’s growing in to a wonderful person that I really enjoy spending time with. She’s smart, funny, and kind. I want her to hold on to her confidence for as long as possible.
I guess it’s part the process of becoming who you are and I know I can’t protect her from everything, but that won’t stop a mother from trying.