"Why Are You Fat, Mommy?"

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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 had to wear 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 5’6″ 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 seven 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 whenever 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 talk down about myself 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.

But her questions have 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 truth 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 towards 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.

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