Those are words no one wants to hear. But when you are a mom who was teased at a very young age about her extra weight, went through an anorexia/binging phase in high school, gained more than the freshman 15 in college, and your daughter tells you these words were directed her way your heart splits open.
Having experienced body shaming for most of my life I have tried to be very cognizant of the words I use around my daughters. My mother used to say “If we could cut off part of your backside, we would have a really good steak”. I can’t imagine ever saying these words to anyone.
It’s no wonder I had issues.
Since becoming a mother over 21 years ago I have tried to model healthy body image. Both Mike and I have shown them healthy eating habits eating most of our meals at home. The only times we eat at fast foods restaurants is when we are traveling and our choices are very limited. We have shown them, through action, how exercise has helped us maintain a healthy lifestyle as well.
None of the 3 misses are natural athletes, they take after me in this area, but we have enrolled them in soccer, softball, dance, cross country, swimming, and martial arts classes. They don’t seem to enjoy exercise and we sometimes have to really push Middle Miss to do something but we have given them the tools. I am always secretly jumping for joy when Big Miss mentions attending a yoga class, one of my favorite exercise choices.
So, when little Miss came home from school and told me the boy who has been harassing her all year said she was fat my heart broke. It took me back to the school playground when kids would taunt me with, “Kelly her belly is so full of jelly” or “You have such a pretty face but…”.
I had noticed that in the past year she had been gaining weight, especially in the tummy area. Middle Miss had always been a bit heavier than her peers but she had been like that since she was born so I figured it was her body build.
Little Miss, on the other hand, was petite for most of her life. At her, one year check up the pediatrician told me to keep breastfeeding her since she hadn’t gained enough weight. Her feet have always been much smaller than her peers, she was a little peanut compared to her sisters.
During her checkup last year I asked the pediatrician about her weight after asking Little Miss to leave the room since I didn’t want her to hear the conversation. The doctor did some bloodwork after I expressed some concern about a thyroid condition which I have. The tests were negative and the doctor said she wasn’t concerned about her weight. She commented that a lot of girls this age put on a little weight due to the hormonal changes that are occurring.
We have tried to get her more exercise but it’s been hard since she has so many anxieties. She doesn’t want to play any sports having played soccer for a number of seasons and leaving once her age group transitioned to the larger field. She still refuses to put her head underwater or get her face wet even though we have tried various swimming programs. She has refused to ride a bike, ice skate, or roller skate fearing a fall. The only activity she has continued is dance and that is precarious at the moment.
I have done some research about the best way to talk to your daughter about her weight and I am at a loss. All the experts recommend emphasizing healthy eating and exercise and not using the word diet. We have done this all her life.
I recently read a study that was conducted in England which encourages parents to speak about a child’s weight up front. The researchers believe the reason the United States has an obesity epidemic is the lack of conversations about weight. This could be the case but I am cautious with that due to my experience.
I did read another article that suggested speaking to a child about this issue by asking her how the comment made her feel. I get this. I can envision asking her, “so how did the Boy’s comment make you feel?” The only thing that worries me is that whenever I ask her these questions she will usually respond with, “I don’t know”. How do I follow up after that comment? I don’t know where I can go from there.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of this talk? I have but it wasn’t handled correctly. Any advice to share with this Mom?