At the end of the day, being overweight isn’t the worst thing in the world. But fat shaming is horrible. You can lose weight, get healthy and live a happy lifestyle – and that’s exceptionally simple in comparison to changing an ugly heart or being that mom who takes the only double cart at the supermarket so that you have extra space for your groceries and no children even though I have twins that need that cart. Listen, we all know that being overweight or fat or obese is terrible for our health. We know this; we get it. Some people work really hard to stay as healthy as possible and others don’t. Some can’t get to an ideal weight no matter how hard they try, and to some it comes quite naturally.
But there’s a problem with being fat; it’s no one’s business but your own. If you’re fat, fine; it’s not my business. I have no place to tell you that you’re fat or any place to offer you healthy advice so that you can live a healthier life. It’s not my business – and I’m not a medical professional. I don’t know your health history. I don’t know your story. I don’t; and frankly, I don’t care. I care about me and my own health because that’s my business. I also care about the health of my kids, because they are my business. My kids are my business, and there is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. It’s called fat-shaming.
I don’t pay much attention to fat-shaming because, quite frankly, it doesn’t affect me. I’m not fat. And I’m also not going to apologize for saying that. I’m not bragging. I’m stating a fact. I’m a 5’3 woman turning 32 in a week and I currently weight 115 lbs. I’ve had four kids, including twins, and I work my behind off to eat a healthy diet and stay fit. That’s my business. It’s a fact. So, fat-shaming gets very little of my attention. That is; until recently.
As I enjoyed a lovely day out with my husband and our four kids, a woman stopped me and said, “Are they yours?” and pointed to the kids. I responded, “Yes, they are,” and smiled. She then gave me the strangest look and said, “I just feel like you’re lying. You’re too skinny to have four kids. Especially twins so young,” and proceeded to question me about the kids in an effort to verify that they are, in fact, my own. It got to the point that I offered to show her photos from the delivery room since it was so hard for her to comprehend, and then brushed her off as irritating and went about my day.
It wasn’t until we got into the car and my 7-year-old spoke.
“Mommy? What does skinny mean and why was that lady so mean to you? Is skinny bad?” that I realized that while we try to promote positive body image in our home (instead of, “I hate my thighs,” I’ll say, “I love my arms and how strong they are from carrying the twins around,” instead), not everyone feels the same. I wasn’t fat-shamed, per say, but I was stereotyped and spoken down to about being fit and having kids – as if it’s not permitted. We then explained to our daughter, the best we know how, that all people are made differently and that we come in all shapes and sizes. We told her healthy is a good goal, and that it’s not anyone else’s business what anyone but themselves look like. She seemed pacified with our answer.
Fat-shaming is the worst thing imaginable you can do to a child. It’s awful, no matter what form it happens to be presented. You can tell a child she’s fat, she’s too thin, she’s going to get fat, she’s not going to be able to wear ‘cute’ clothes or that she doesn’t “Look like a cheerleader or dancer,” and it might seem like you’re just doing your job. But you’re not; you’re ruining your kids. Telling a child she is too anything is a slippery slope. Categorizing and labeling children feeds their minds and begins to stick with them. Telling a child, for instance, she is too shy might lead her to become shy because she thinks, “Well, my mommy says I’m shy, so I must be shy,” and then she will become shy.
As far as fat-shaming is concerned, I don’t want anyone telling my own kids that they are too thin, too tall, too short, too fat, too whatever. I want people to keep their opinions to themselves and only speak positives.
Fat-shaming leads to eating disorders. It leads to a lack of self-confidence.
I remember one thing very vividly from my high school days. I wore a dress without sleeves one day to the store running some errands for my mom. I was 17. The woman behind me at the checkout counter said to me, “Darling, no offense but that dress is not very flattering. Your shoulders are a little too wide for you to wear a strapless dress,” and I have never, ever worn a strapless top again. I’ll be 32 next week. Her words, even though she phrased them and disguised them as “Helpful,” hurt me. They hurt me to the point that I do wonder if I have broad shoulders. I avoid halters and strapless tops. I stare long and hard at my shoulders when I’m in the mirror and I remember that.
I was 17, and I still remember that like it was yesterday. One comment from one stranger changed the way I viewed that part of my body for the rest of my life – and the way that I dress. Now imagine how your child feels when you tell her she’s gained a few pounds over summer vacation or that she might want to put down the cookie since she already had so much fattening food today. Imagine what happens when you look at her and say, “Oh, honey, you won’t be wearing those shorts again. They’re a little snug after all that eating you did on vacation.”
Body image is very touchy. Instead of fat-shaming kids, let’s point out their amazing features. Their beautiful smiles, their gorgeous hair, their amazing kindness and giving spirit, their generosity and their quick wit; point out her strong legs and how she should be proud of them because they show that she works out and is active. Point out the good things, ignore the bad things and leave people alone.
If you want to worry about someone’s body, worry about your own. Until you are absolutely flawless in every way, shape or form, don’t shame anyone else about their body whether it is big or small. And for the love of God, stop fat-shaming your kids. You’re breaking them.
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