Mom, I'm fat.
We are an active family. We love hiking on the weekends, basketball, soccer, and impromptu dance parties in the living room. We are active with the girls’ Girl Scout troops. We walk the dog, and go for jogs. My girls love to make obstacle courses and time themselves, getting faster and faster with each pass. All of these things are commonplace around our home.
The word ‘fat’ has never been a taboo word in our home, but we certainly don't use it to describe people. We use it to describe cuts of meat, the fatty parts on the bacon, etc. I've always tried to instill in the girls that God made each of us exactly how He wants us and that we have to take care of ourselves by eating foods that are healthy and getting exercise. I’ve tried to show them that each of these things go hand in hand to create a lifestyle that is both fun and healthy.
So, imagine my absolute horror when a little one came to me crying in the night sobbing, “Mom, I’m fat!” It's not the first time that this particular tear filled conversation has come up, but, I thought erroneously, that we'd moved past it. I showed my precious little examples of different body styles. We talked about athleticism; we talked about all of the athletic things that she can do that perhaps her peers cannot. We talked about the fact that her pediatrician predicts that she will be much taller than me.
I’ve taught her about BMI and showed her the growth chart in her baby book that shows that she is safely within her growth curve. Those things don't matter when one gets it into their head that they are fat.
These days, after a hard won movement, there is more emphasis on living a healthy lifestyle than there is on the number on a scale, but I'll also be the first to admit that I see curves on myself that I did not have 10 years ago. I shy from bikinis, not because of other people's judgment, but because of my own. I used to be svelte size four. That was 15 years and 2 babies ago! My body gets me everywhere I want to go. I can do the things that I enjoy. Not to say I wish I couldn't shave a few pounds off, but I've learned to embrace and accept the body that I have.
But how do I teach my little to see herself the way I see her?
I don’t know the answer to this question yet, but I’m not giving up. For now, I am going to exercise with her in the evenings after school and teach her about balancing her meals. I am going to emphasize characteristics that are not physical but that reflect her intellect, kindness, and bravery. And, I’m going to pray!