When my daughter was 6, she had a friend over for a playdate. I didn’t know her mother very well, but she stayed and we were having a comfortable conversation in my kitchen as I threw grapes in a bowl for the kids. “So,” she said, “how did you lose your baby weight? Did you starve yourself or what?” I felt her eyes burning through me. There was an anger brewing inside my body that I couldn’t control.
Her question didn’t feel like a question. It felt like an accusation. I felt like she was telling me I looked unhealthy, and that the only way I would have been capable of losing the weight was to go to great lengths because there is no other way to do it. Clearly, to her, if you worked hard to lose the weight or if you lost it because you enjoyed exercise and clean eating, you were unhealthy. She had no idea it took me five years. She had no idea I did it in a way that felt right to me because I had been a girl who starved myself in high school and was all set with that. She had no idea I loved my body before, during, and after all of my pregnancies. I loved it so much that starving it was not an option.
How dare she say that to me in front of our young, innocent daughters. Wasn’t all this ugliness going to show its face soon enough? Why start now? And most of all, why let them see the women in their lives whom they love and trust the most give such negative attention to it?
That night I kept thinking about it. I was so angry. Her comment was full of malice and nastiness. Her tone and the way she had looked at me grated on my nerves all day. I felt defensive — for myself, for our daughters, and for every woman who has struggled with the insecurities that come with our changing bodies.
As women, our bodies go through so much, yes, but we put our minds through more by overthinking and creating bigger problems. We cannot win. If we lose the baby weight (how dare we lose it!), we are criticized for being unhealthy, starving ourselves, or having too much time on our hands.
If we don’t lose it (what is our problem if we can’t lose it?), we get beaten up for that too. We are made to feel lazy and unmotivated. We tear ourselves down every single day. And look where it has gotten us: to a place where we equate losing baby weight to our self-worth.
Of course it is important for women to feel their best. And yes, we talk about losing baby weight and how hard that can be, because we care about how we look. But when we start to ask people if they starve themselves or when they are going to lose the weight, we have taken something that should be insignificant in the grand scheme of things and made it the star of the show. It needs to stop. I wanted to yell at her, right there in my kitchen. I wanted to tell her all of these things, but I didn’t. I wish I had.
I felt protective over these two beautiful girls sitting in front of us, eyes wide, eating grapes. They were listening. They were watching. And I am afraid they are going to remember.
I want all of my kids to know they are so much more than their size, shape, and body type. It is something we all think about to a certain degree, but it is not everything. I encourage healthy eating, exercise, and balance in our home. I believe I would be a different person if I didn’t practice these things myself. It makes me a feel better, but I never want my kids to think starving yourself is even an option.
I don’t have the answers I want to have on this subject. I wish it was a moot point, but it is hard, complicated, and very real. My kids are going to be subjected to it all. Fat shaming, skinny shaming, it comes in so many forms, and I know I can’t keep it from them. It will follow them around their whole lives. All I can do is try to teach them to be strong and really know who they are. To be compassionate to themselves and others. To be so involved in doing things that make them feel good and healthy that they have zero time to notice what someone else is or isn’t doing. I want to teach them it is never acceptable to comment on someone’s body, ever. If they want to give a compliment, fine, but nothing about another person’s body is their business.
Most of all, I want them to see what people are beyond their appearance, and that includes themselves.