I have had body image issues for my entire life. When I was young, athletic, and on sports teams, I was certain that I was fat. And I would kill to be that “fat” now that I am in my mid-thirties and have birthed three babies.
I am hyper-aware of my issues, their lack of rationality, and where they come from — primarily my parents. My parents, who never once said anything bad about my body, made it very clear as I grew up that being beautiful meant being thin, and that being overweight meant you were lazy. When that’s woven into your upbringing, it is incredibly difficult to shake even when you know it isn’t true. So when I began putting on some weight in my adult years, I dabbled in disordered eating. It never got full-blown, but it is a part of my life that I still battle today.
I have two daughters, and it is my mission in life that they grow up loving and accepting their bodies, however they may turn out. My husband is fully aware of my issues, and he is sensitive to the subject, so we have a solid plan in place. We never discuss bodies in front of our children, positive or negative. Our bodies are for function, not for beauty. We compliment our daughters’ eyes, smile, and hair… things that will never change as weight fluctuates. Anything body-related, we keep our mouths shut. And this applies to strangers and celebrities as well.
The word “fat” is not allowed in our house, and when the girls use that word, we correct them. I don’t diet in front of my kids, and I don’t weigh myself in front of them. I do everything right… so why are they now suddenly body shaming me? Why is my disordered eating trying to rear its ugly head in response to their offhand comments?
My daughters are 8 and 6 years old, and they seem to be tag-teaming me. Never said with maliciousness (thank God), their comments are more observational than anything else, but they have been relentless. Here are some of the comments I’ve received in the past few months:
- “Is your butt going to fit in that chair? Because it’s big.”
- “Are you going to break that pool floatie? Because you’re heavy.”
- “Your legs look weird and big in that.”
- “You look like you are pregnant.”
- “Why is your tummy so big?”
This is merely a sampling. There have been many more. And every single time, my eyes sting with tears and I feel my entire body tighten. It makes me want to run to the bathroom and purge. I calmly remind them that they are not to comment on other people’s bodies. That it is impolite and can make people feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. What I haven’t done is share how deeply it upsets me. And there’s a very specific reason why:
If I admit that their comments about me being “big” or “heavy” makes me feel bad about myself, I am telling them that being big or heavy is a bad thing.
It is a tightrope that I am so weary from walking.
Yesterday was my 10-year wedding anniversary. I recently lost some weight through healthy life choices, and as I sat down to have my salad at lunch, Juliana said those words to me. “Not to be mean, but your legs are really big.” I looked at my salad and suddenly felt like even those calories were too many, and I considered not eating it. I was so excited to wear a fancy cocktail dress and go out with my husband that night, and instead, I spent the evening feeling self-conscious and forcing myself to eat a normal meal at dinnertime.
I know this is my battle, and my kids are not to blame. I am doing my best to train them out of this behavior without causing them to have issues of their own.
Right now, though, I have no idea how.
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