How My Daughter's Question About My Size Inspired Me To Take Back My Health

by Cole Nemeth
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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been heavier.

It’s not that I was ever unhealthy, I was just built bigger. I always tried my best not to care, but it bothered me immensely. And then my daughter was born.

I weighed over 200 pounds and wore a size 16. The idea of being plus-sized scared me. I imagined a life of not being able to keep up with my daughter once she was on the move. I imagined having to wear unfashionable clothes from plus-sized stores (I now know plus-sized stores sell very fashionable clothing). I imagined my husband thinking I was gross and society shunning me.

So I worked out, and I ate healthy. Before I knew it, I was down to 165 pounds on a 5-foot-6-inch frame. I was stronger than all of my friends, I was more flexible, and I could outrun them. I loved being fit, and I loved eating healthy.

So what happened?

Over the past three years, I’ve slowly gained weight again. My muscles are weak. My body is stiff. I feel sluggish and tired. Worst of all, I can’t keep up with my daughter, who’s now 7 years old.

And she notices. She questions it. She wants to know why I’m so much bigger than Dad. She wants to know why my stomach is so squishy. She’s curious about the dimples on my thighs. She asks about my stretch marks. And the truth is my stomach has always been soft, I’ve always had cellulite and stretch marks, and I’ve never cared. But now that I’m heavier than I’ve ever been, even after my daughter was born, these things bother me, and I don’t know how to explain them to my daughter when she asks.

How do I explain that over the years, the stress of work, college, and raising a family has caused me to neglect myself? How do I explain that I’m too tired to work out in the evenings? That I don’t have the time to eat healthier? That those are really all just excuses?

And what about the worst question of all: “Why are you fat, Mommy?”

A question she asks without meaning to sound hurtful. The word “fat” isn’t a bad word in our house; we don’t judge or criticize people about their bodies, and I refuse to put myself down in front of her. But I’m sure, at some point, she must have heard me refer to myself as fat because I believe I am. I am a person who has fat on their body and quite a bit of it.

But the question remains: Why am I fat?

Do I tell her this is what happens when you eat too much junk food? When you choose to binge-watch TV instead of going for a jog? That when you’re stressed out or depressed, all you can do is eat and watch movies? Do I tell her my genetics are simply against me in the weight department?

Well, no, because these are my problems — problems that a 7-year-old shouldn’t have to deal with. And I wouldn’t want her to believe that all overweight people are simply unhealthy like I’ve been.

However, her 7-year-old curiosity has lead me to think about these questions myself. I know why I’ve gained weight. I know that I’m not happy with being out of shape. It’s no longer about physical appearance but about the way I feel, and let’s face it: I feel like crap.

Her questions have also inspired questions of my own: How do I get back in shape? What needs to change? What do I need to do?

And the thing is, I know the answers. Now it’s just time to implement them so I can set a good example for my daughter, so I can live a healthy life, so I can keep up with her on the playground and finally feel good again.

I know it sounds like I’m being hard on myself, but the reality is I don’t care about my size and physical appearance nearly as much as my health. With a family history of diabetes, cancer, heart attacks, and brain aneurisms, I know it’s important that I take care of myself so that I can carry those good habits with me as I get older and become at higher risk for these genetic health problems.

And also that I teach my daughter to care for herself too.

As I set out on my journey toward better health, I’m grateful for all of the people in my life — friends, family, my daughter, and so many others — who help motivate and inspire me to take care of myself and remind me of my worth no matter what size I am.