The kids and I were driving home from Karate one night last week talking about how I wasn’t going to let them graduate to their next belt this time because they hadn’t shown black belt behavior at home and/or school. There was silence for a little bit while it sunk in, especially for my daughter who hasn’t missed a belt yet. After some time, we started talking about the 5K we are prepping for and how we needed to work hard to be able to complete the 3.1 miles. Shortly after that, my daughter asked if I would buy her another blue belt since she wouldn’t be graduating because the current belt is starting to get hard to tie. I told her that after working hard training for the 5K, she might see that her tummy slims down a bit and she won’t need a smaller belt after all.
That’s when it happened.
“Mommy, are you saying I’m fat?”
We live in a society where “Fat” is a bad three letter word. It’s used to criticize, bully and hurt people, rather than being the descriptive word that it is actually meant to be. I should know; I’m fat. I’ve been fat my entire life. My mom tried to tell me that I was a tiny baby, but I saw my three-month-old pictures in the adorable satin yellow onesie and rolls upon rolls of the wonderful baby fat, and approximately four chins under my pinchable cheeks. I remember growing up, always being the big kid in class. The dance costumes were hard to find in my size, gym uniforms were always too small and the clothing choices for a kid my size in middle school were less than flattering. I was called fat, ugly, and accused of being pregnant all through school. And when I had my first crush in middle school, his also fat best friend told me that he might be interested in me if I wasn’t so fat. If I joined Jenny Craig and lost some of that weight, he might consider going out with me.
I felt less than. Fat was bad. And so when my sweet adorable 11-year-old asked me if I was calling her fat, I was stopped in my tracks. I didn’t know how to respond.
When my daughter was born, she was actually tiny and I was relieved. It wasn’t until she was in elementary school that I started to worry. She began to fill out and I had flashbacks to growing up as the fat kid. Today, I worry. About her health, about her socially and I feel like I’ve wronged her by allowing her to grow in any way but taller. The thing is, she is not me. She is strong and healthy and confident and kind and loving and she doesn’t care that she’s a big girl. I envy that about her; I was in my 30’s when I finally became okay with the way I was made. She found great joy in the fact that her asking if I was calling her fat rendered me speechless. The kids and I ended up laughing. She said, “it’s okay mommy, I’m fat!” And I told her she was right. Fat isn’t a bad word. It’s a word that describes size. I told her I was fat, and we had a good laugh about daddy’s growing belly.
Once we got our sillies out, we were able to discuss what is healthy and what is not. And how it is important to make healthy food choices and exercise regularly. And if after all of that, we’re still fat…. well, it’s how God made us.
I am thankful that my fears and insecurities were not passed on like my genetics to my daughter. I will continue to teach her to love herself and what that means; to take good care of her body, what she puts in it and what she does with it. I will provide her opportunities to be active and not let her growing body get in the way of her being the wonderful happy girl she is.