Maybe Telling Your Daughter She’s Fat Isn’t The Worst Thing You Can Do

shutterstock_65587285Growing up, I had a mom who loved me with food. When we were happy we would celebrate with food, when we were sad we would comfort ourselves with food, when it was Christmas she would bake cookies. I was never fat as a kid, I ran around like a banshee and climbed the tallest trees. I never understood how to diet because dieting was never something that was discussed in my house. When I was older I started dancing and decided the best way to lose weight was by existing on Saltine crackers and Diet Coke. When I was older than that, I decided the best way to lose weight was not to lose weight and to totally not give a fuck anymore. I’m not saying that my method now is good or healthy or right, but it’s where I am at present. I wonder if I had been taught how to deal with my weight like Charlotte Alter‘s mother taught her if my years and years of starvation and weight gain and weight loss and disordered eating and binging and vomiting wouldn’t have defined me for the majority of my life.

When she was 12, Charlotte writes on that:

“I don’t want you to freak out,” my mother told me one morning when I was 12, “but I think you may have put on a little bit of weight.”

“It’s only 3 or 4 pounds, and it’s not the end of the world,” she said. “It happens to everyone. I’ll help you figure it out.”

Her mom’s solution was that she cut out desserts for two weeks and run a few laps around the park every night. Charlotte claims that this gave her the tools she needed to deal with gaining a few pounds here and there throughout her life, and that it’s vastly different than the advice of Leslie Sim of the Mayo Clinic who told USA Today that she recommends “zero talk about dieting, zero talk about weight.”

Her mom felt that Charlotte was sad about her weight gain, and gave her practical solutions to deal with it. I see nothing wrong with that, and it may be a better solution than how I have always addressed weight issues with my own kids, by telling them they are perfect no matter what. The same things my own mother told me no matter what I weighed.

One day my nine-year-old daughter asked me if she had “fat thighs.” She doesn’t, she skews on the underweight side as far as her growth percentile chart at the pediatrician’s office is concerned. She isn’t alarmingly underweight, but she takes after her father who has the metabolism of a hummingbird and has always been skinny. It upset me that she was worried about this already at such a young age, but I know it isn’t uncommon. 

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  • Andrea

    I think the problem here is that we have equated weight with beauty. So if my (hypothetical) daughter is over weight, then she is ugly. And if she is ugly, she’s a bad person. It doesn’t have to be that way. It can be dealt with care like that mom did. Having to lose a couple of pounds does not mean you are a bad person. It just means that there is a health concern that we have to deal with. Period.

    I don’t have a daughter, but my oldest son does have pudgy tendencies. We have talked about it and his eating and exercise habits and he’s doing very well now. He also has more zits than he likes. We talked about this and we determined that while zits on his face do not make him a bad person, there are a million treatments in the market to help him deal with it. So we bought him some and it’s getting better. As long as you don’t equate beauty with worth, there is nothing wrong with helping your children deal with minor health concerns.We don’t have to ignore them.

  • Alicia Kiner

    My view of my body was never based on anything my mom said. She never said anything. My dad on the other hand, could be BRUTAL. He’d say stuff like… are you sure you should be eating that? It’s easier to put it on than take it off. Or he’d tell this story about how my mom had to drink two gallons of milk to make weight to join the Air Force every time I’d look at a candy bar. At 18, she was 95 lbs. At 15, I was 130. The difference was, I was active. I played field hockey, and was in marching band, which actually is pretty active. I’d walk or ride my bike to school for practices too. And still, I thought I was morbidly obese because every day, I’d get these stupid comments from my dad. It didn’t help that sometime around 12-ish, I watched the documentary about Karen Carpenter’s life story, and while I knew what she did was wrong, I could see where she was coming from. The absolute worst part about my dad making these comments is I take mainly after his side in the genetic lottery. And he’s not beanpole. The whole time he’s telling me not to eat stuff, he’s eating the same damn thing, drinking a beer. Or he’ll say something about eating sweets, but he’ll want my mom to make fried pork chops and gravy for dinner. So yeah.

    I’m teaching my kids to eat healthy, treat themselves occasionally, and be active. And I never belittle them. Even with my recent lifestyle change, I emphasize I’m trying to get healthy to feel better for me, not my appearance.

    I do me, you do you. Let’s leave it at that, shall we ;)

    • Whatwhatque

      It’s sad, my dad had a fixation with my weight, too. It’s weird though because he would often try to bribe me when I was a tween into working out more going on a diet with like CD’s, so I really liked actually going shopping with him, it was a nice bonding time! But then there was always the weight stuff, which he also laid on my mom. I finally, well into adulthood. had to nicely shut my dad down and be like “I am how I am, if I decide I want to put the work into changing it, that’s up to me, love ya!” and now he rarely brings it up. He always felt he approached it from a place of love, he wanted me to be happy and happy for him (and my mom) was being thin. But of course, I don’t forget for a second that while he may not realize it, men trying to “control” their wive’s and daughter’s bodies is not simply out of kindness and has some patriarchal, ownershippy elements, you don’t want your ladies making you look bad.

  • Valerie

    I was always very athletic as a kid/teen and part of it was figure skating and soccer. My thighs were truly solid muscle and of course, that made them a bit big (even though I was well within a healthy weight range). It started to upset me so much by middle school that I quit figure skating and drastically altered my diet. My mom must have noticed the diet stuff and let me start going to the gym with her and letting me help plan meals and taught me about how to eat healthy and cook healthy but she never brought up the idea of dieting or even mentioned out loud that she knew what I had been doing. She basically gave me the tools and supported my efforts to be healthy but never mentioned weight at all. I really think she “saved” me from going down a very bad road- I think I would have ended up with a nice little eating disorder had she not intervened and I love how she handled it- she didn’t invalidate my concerns about my body. She just gave me the info and tools I needed to feel and look my best and let the rest take care of itself. Now as an adult, I can say that I have a healthy relationship with food and exercise. I have been going to the gym since the age of 12 and it just became a part of my regular life. When I moved out of my mother’s house I wasn’t living on junk food and microwave dinners, I knew how to shop and cook in a healthy way. My mom basically kicked ass in this area. :-)

    • Natasha B

      I think your mother did an excellent job, that was a good way to handle it.

    • Alicia Kiner

      You’re mom totally kicked ass in this area.
      And because she did, I wonder how many of your friends she saved as well.

  • Frannie

    When I was 13 my dad told me I looked like I was pregnant. I was heartbroken, and it has haunted my self esteem ever since. My grandmother, not to be outdone, would see us every 6 months or so and blurt out “You’ve gotten so FAT.” Problem was, at 5″ tall and a size 20, she wasn’t really one to talk (at 5’6″, I hovered at around a 12 for most of my adolescence). Now, being the mom of a 5 year old who wears a size 5t but still has a little bit of baby chub on her, I am in the same boat as you. I don’t think it’s time to worry about her weight, but if I ever needed to, I don’t know how I’d bring it up without destroying her. I always just figured I’d start implementing changes for the whole family, and hope that it helped. I want her to know that her self worth should not rely on her weight, but I also am realistic- body image is a HUGE deal.

    • airbones

      I’m sorry for what your family did to you, and I don’t mean to diminish your experience, but I am laughing hard at your 5″ size 20 grandmother.

    • Frannie

      LOL we laugh at her too :P

  • Natasha B

    I agree, it is hard. And scary. We want more than anything in this world not to f*ck our kids up. We try to focus in health and feeling good in your skin/comfortable with what your body can do when you take care of it properly, more than weight. Yeah, your tummy hurts and you prob get a sugar headache when you have two bowls of ice cream instead of one, so maybe next time we’ll just have one? Our oldest is turning ten this summer, and she has filled out a little, but we don’t say ‘hey! You’re getting chubby!’ It’s more hey, let’s move a little more, to stay strong, because strong is awesome. She has some friends who already obsess about their weight, and it kinda scares me. A lot. I don’t want her absorbing that, because so far, she’s pretty carefree and confident.

  • sarahbregel

    i have so much to say on this topic from personal experience. i think the BIGGEST thing parents can do is to feel good in their own skin. easier said than done, i know. but if kids see us respecting our bodies, dealing with weight gain appropriately, not body-shaming and calling ourselves fat, they will hopefully follow suit. if they see a parent who is weight obsessed, it will likely give them reasons to be overly concerned about their own weight. i think most teenage girls who put on weight likely already KNOW they put on weight before someone mentions it to them and it can be really hard to hear, like the whole world is noticing and if the kid doesn’t have the best self-esteem it can be really detrimental. i think modeling appropriate ways to deal with it might work better here, but it probably really depends on the kid and their level of confidence, as well. some teenage girls are just more fragile than others.

  • Kelly

    Yes. I think open and honest dialogue is a good thing. My mom always pretended like she had a perfect relationship with food. Never talked of dieting, basically presented herself as “naturally thin” and never worried about food. Meanwhile, I would watch her never eat breakfast, skip lunch most days, never snack or eat dessert and instead smoke cigarettes and drink coffee all day long. Very confusing for a kid. I found myself putting on weight in middle/high school and had no idea what to do. Mom was telling me nothing about dieting or weight management and insisting I was “fine” the way I was, while other girls at school were looking slimmer than me. So I took matters into my own hands – started restricting, exercising too much. I probably never met criteria for an eating disorder and was never dangerously underweight, but I did drop 20 lbs in a couple months and have always had an unhealthy relationship with food. I look at my adorable daughter who has my genes for “meaty thighs” and think of these issues. She is so little yet that I have plenty of time to come up with a plan, but I think mine will be similar to yours. I don’t want her having this false belief that her mom is just magically slim (that is, if I ever lose the pregnancy weight after her brother is born!). I want her to understand how bodies work, calories/exercise…. everything. It is INFORMATION. It will never be presented with judgment and she will always get the message that what is on the inside matters most. But a healthy body is important too. And I know all too well that feeling of “limbo” and confusion by mixed messages in the world. I won’t do that to her! Thanks for writing about this very important topic!

  • EX

    My plan is to set a good example – eat healthy, make healthy meals, incorporate exercise into our daily lives without making a big deal about it and avoid any discussion of weight or dieting. If either of my daughters expresses a founded concern about their weight or if I noticed a weight gain I was concerned about, I would evaluate the whole family’s eating and exercise habits and tweak things. I think the danger comes in singling out one individual in the family as needing to lose weight. That’s my plan at least. I guess we’ll see how I do. With 2 girls and some pretty serious body image and emotional eating issues of my own, this is definitely an area of concern for me.

  • Justme

    When I was in middle school (and in the process of going through rounds of testing for my hyperactive thyroid), my mother told me that if I kept eating the way I was, I would grow up, my metabolism would slow down and I would blow up and be fat. To this day, she swears she NEVER said anything of the sort, but that comment is seared permanently into my brain. I can remember what we had for dinner, the feel of the table under my fingertips and how my heart stopped when she criticized me so harshly for something (my raging appetite) that I couldn’t control.

  • Kendra

    My main goal in teaching my daughter is for her to half self-confidence. I realize in order to do this, I need to exhibit my own self-confidence, and teach her that being soft and fluffy in some spots isn’t a bad thing. It’s hard for me to get to that place, but I’m trying. All in all, I don’t want her to grow up the way I did, never feeling good enough, and never feeling pretty. I want her to appreciate her appearance as it is, and love all of herself. So, with all of that being said, I would never, ever tell her she gained weight. My mom said things to me like “Do you really need to eat that WHOLE candy bar?” and it crushed me and filled me with self doubt. I refuse to be a mom that crushes whatever little self esteem my growing teen has.

    • Kendra

      have* my brain is all sorts of jumbled this morning :)

  • Savannah

    It isn’t just over weight kids you have to worry about. I’ve always been under weight. As I’ve gotten older, we’ve realized it’s due to some pretty serious and contradicting medical issues. But my mom and sister’s comments about not filling out a pair of jeans properly and still shopping in the kids section stuck with me. I would binge eat junk food in the middle of the night to try and gain weight, only to get sick by morning. I still obsess over my weight (I’ve never weighed over 100lbs) to the point that my mom keeps the scale in her bathroom so I have limited access.
    I hate swimsuit season cause all I see when I look in the mirror is baggy butt in the bottoms and pointy hips and empty cups. I’ve tried every trick to try and hide my lack of curves. Before you say I have it easy and need to quit bitching, skinny shaming is just as bad as fat shaming. Any body shaming is crap. As long as your kids are happy and healthy and comfortable with who they are, it doesn’t matter what they actually look like. Give your kids the tools, not a comment.

    • freemane

      Good line, “Any body shaming is crap.”

    • Kelly

      I’m so sorry. I have a friend with a similar issue to yours and she gets so much crap from people. Plus, they seem to think it’s ok to make comments because she’s thin, not fat. It’s awful. I hope your medical issues are under control or improving.

    • Savannah

      They’re getting there. :) With most of my docs I’m at “maintenance visits”.But I’m still ballooning around 92-98 lbs.
      Some examples of “ok weight comments”. My sister has always been kind of chunky and when she had her awkward middle school puberty mess, my mom had a talk with me about being sensitive when during a fight I called her a fat cow (not nice I know). In the same fight though, she called me an ugly anorexic skeleton. She got no such talk.
      In a fitting room with junior prom dresses. To my healthy but curvy friend “Let’s try something A line? It’s so classic!” To me “Honey, you’ll never fill that out. Maybe something from the kids formal section?” (I did have to go to the kids section, and I found something not dedazzled with bunnies, but still. Sensitivity.)
      Theres more, but it’s basically along those lines… No one would say something so weight centered to a big girl, so you shouldn’t say it to any one. Period. My weight is not your prerogative.

  • June

    It seems weight is immediatly equated with health but I think most people would be surprised to find out that the person who is 20lbs overweight is healthier often than the person who is at “ideal” weight or lower. In honest moments, many “skinny” women I know will admit to skipping meals, or as they always try to claim “I forget to eat. Hahaha!” I know a woman who was SO fixated on being skinny that she did not have a single dessert for 40 years. Sure, there are some slender women who are naturally that way, but come on ladies. You know how hard you have to work for that body and how many hours a day, week, month, year etc you spend on your appearance. That last ten pounds isn’t about health, it’s about vanity.

    I know that I feel healthier and stronger with a little weight and I feel much more “myself” than I do when I am at my thinnest. It’s sad that even though my body is telling me I am healthier with the extra weight, society pressures me into starving myself to fit their idea of the “norm”.

    I have stopped putting so much focus on my weight lately and instead focus on being active and eating healthy (not small portions, not calorie counting but good, clean, healthy foods cooked at home). I hope my son will grow up one day and not be like the majority of people who equate any extra weight with being lazy and over indulgent.

    Also to end my perspective, that woman who did not eat dessert for 40 years; her doctor told her to put on some weight or else when she did get sick, she would have less strength to fight off illness. Women in particular who carry a little bit of extra weight actually live longer. Look it up. Maybe spend some time learning about health instead of trying to look perfect. Your brain and body will thank you.

    • pixie

      My boyfriend’s mom will often go all day without eating because she “is just too busy”, complain all day that she’s starving, and then practically brag about how she finally ate a burger at 9pm. She’s not a thin woman, either, and doesn’t work out at all. My boyfriend thinks she does it for attention and to lose weight, but it doesn’t really work when her body goes into starvation mode and keeps everything. Starving yourself isn’t healthy regardless of weight.

    • kathryn

      I’m totally with you on the last 10 pounds thing. I’m currently about 10 pounds down on my ‘normal’ weight. I don’t care much what the scales say or what size clothes I buy but my sister has always been really fixated on her size. She’s always telling me how good I look now I’ve lost that little bit of weight, which I know she means as a compliment but it just leaves me wondering at what size do I stop looking good in her eyes? There’s such a fixation that skinny = attractive that I almost want to put the weight back on.

    • JLH1986

      Right? I went through a really rough spell a few years ago, I lost close family memberships, a relationship, financial stress. So basically I ate maybe once a day and that was like cheese and crackers. Suddenly despite the fact I was only sleeping 3 hours a night and not remotely caring for myself I kept getting “You look soo good now! I’m jealous!”. I never knew I looked so bad before…and they should have been jealous I was miserable! I’m a bit heavier now, but much happier (I still suck at sleep though) and I’ll take the weight over being heartbroken any day.

    • Kelly

      I got that when I was dying of pernicious anemia. I hadn’t yet been diagnosed so I didn’t know why I was so sick but it really hurt to hear people tell me that I looked good because I was so sick that I felt like I was dying. It made me feel like other people thought my appearance was more important than my life.

    • Aimee Ogden

      Yeah, I was probably at my healthiest when I was doing martial arts 3-4 times a week, and I was DEFINITELY not at my thinnest then. I had thighs like ham hocks and I could have snapped someone’s neck between them like a toothpick (but sadly never got the opportunity). On the other hand, I was at my thinnest in college, when I ate Easy Mac three times a week and binge drank about as often as I went for a run. Hmm.

      Re: calorie fixation; I knew a woman once who, as a reward for eating well during the day (which often meant salads for at least one and often two meals) would allow herself a single peanut M&M each night. More than one M&M would have been too many “junk” calories in a day to her. I cannot imagine living that way.

    • Valerie

      I box now and I know I could literally kill someone in a few different ways. Love that feeling.

    • Kelly

      Yeah, that is very true. That’s one of the reasons I encourage women to weight train if they really want to be slim. That way they can build enough muscle to actually eat a realistic and healthy diet and still look the way they want. Plus, they’ll be stronger and I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t enjoy being strong and able to do things for themselves.

      I’m petite so without exercise, it’s crazy how little I would have to eat to keep my stomach flat. I wouldn’t do it. It’s just not worth it. And my weight directly affects my income and I still wouldn’t do it. Health is way too important to sacrifice for vanity.

    • Kelly

      Also, I feel bad not putting this in my original comment but I’m on meds recovering from surgery so I’m a bit loopy.

      But, good for you for finding a spot where you like your body and don’t give a crap what other people think. I genuinely respect you for that and I wish more people could do it.

      I was muscular in my youth which resulted in larger than normal upper arms, thighs and a butt (before big butts were cool) and a “manly” torso and back. I ended up anorexic because of the things people said and the saddest part is that I loved my body that way. It took me a long time to get back to it but even though being a little more muscular than normal is not the preferred body type of our society, it’s my preferred body type. And I’ll never let societies preferences trump mine when it comes to my body again. I hope every person can eventually come to that same conclusion.

  • pixie

    My mom is actually one of those women you don’t know, with the ability to eat healthy, kale and quinoa and rarely eats dessert and goes for a run every day. But she’s been like that since she was a teen and just likes to eat healthier things. She also turns into a bit of a raging crazy lady if she doesn’t get to at least work out once during the day (not so bad, but she becomes a wee bit irritable). My mom served us kale before it was cool. #hipster

    My parents never called me fat or made comments about my weight (except when I lost a fair bit of weight recently, but that was concern). They encouraged me to be active by signing me up for martial arts when I was six and we walked, biked, or roller bladed nearly everywhere. Both my parents were active, and my dad was pretty athletic growing up, so they wanted to encourage me to be active. I was a small, thin kid, taking after my dad in body type and my metabolism, but I wasn’t overly active. I liked to ride my bike and climb trees and do martial arts, but I didn’t like to run. I despised running. As a teen they didn’t tell me not to avoid foods, but my mom would offer to cut me up some fruit if I was hungry a couple hours after dinner or between lunch and dinner. Any comment they made that I should probably watch what I eat had more to do with reducing the risk for health concerns that run in my family. I never felt criticized and even the times I’ve felt fat and like I need to lose weight has nothing to do with anything my parents said. The only time I’ve had any sort of disordered eating was over the summer and again when I was home for winter break because I was having issues with my allergies. I really wanted to eat but I was terrified (I’m still in the process of getting the problem solved, but there doesn’t seem to be an issue when I’m away at university) and as a result, lost about 20-25 pounds in a couple months. I had the weight to lose, but I didn’t want to lose it like that, and my parents made sure I wasn’t purposely starving myself. They supported me, and still do, in trying to find out what my possible issue is, and I really am glad they didn’t do what so many others did and give me a lot of positive attention for losing all that weight. The only thing they said was, “try to be careful to not lose too much too fast, we know you’re not doing it on purpose, but please be careful”.

    I have no idea how I’d approach it with my own hypothetical kid. I’d probably do something similar as my own parents. Tell them they’re beautiful/handsome, but also give them the tools to eat healthy and encourage being active. I wouldn’t comment on weight, but make sure they knew the types of health problems that run in the family and what they can do to reduce the risk as they get older.

    • Whatwhatque

      It is interesting how some people just naturally like those things. I have a half sister like that, prefers fruit to desserts and likes to work out while also always being naturally thin. I am just about the exact opposite of that which just a constant desire for junk food and laziness. I try to curtail some of those habits because health but also realize any regimen that’s too restrictive sets me off eventually on a binge of whatever it is I want partially because that groove has been carved into me by too many bad diets but also YOLO.

  • Megan Zander

    I think Eve hit it on the head when she said that she doesn’t know any woman who has a healthy relationship with food. I watched ( and still watch) my moms own struggles, and adopted much of her habits myself. I don’t think she set out to have that happen, but I think for all woman who struggle with eating and body image, it’s hard to parent without your own issues bleeding through. I work really hard to tell myself I don’t need to “earn” every “bad” thing I put in my mouth, but I’m going on vacation with my mom next week, and I know that while the trip will be fun, it will be tainted by how successful I feel in terms of what I put in my mouth and that I will strive to impress my mom with my willpower. Is that healthy? Nope. But at least it’s honest.

  • G.E. Phillips

    All three of my parents–my mother, my father and my stepmother–failed miserably in this area, and continue to judge me based upon my weight/looks/body to this day. My stepmother was an alcoholic and, unbeknownst to me at the time, anorexic, all throughout my childhood and early teen years. When I started going through puberty at 11, she started to monitor everything I put in my mouth, would weigh me and then herself, and compare our weights. “I’m 5’7 and weigh 102 lbs. You’re 5’2 and weigh 112 lbs. You should weigh less than I do. You’re getting fat.” My dad has told me that, if I’m ever going to get a man to marry me, I need to “lose at least 10 pounds” and then “stay that way.” My mother is 62 and a size 6, and is constantly, constantly, constantly talking about diet and exercise. This year for Christmas, after I finally told her about my 20+ years of strugging with bulimia, she bought me a food journal. Thanks, Ma.
    I have an otherwise great relationship with my parents, but when it comes to this….I’m 37 and still hear their voices in my head every time I eat a yogurt or a slice of pizza or a cookie, every time I put on my size 8 pants, every time I have done all of the unhealthy things I have done to my body in an effort to lose those “10 pounds.” Do not do this to your children. Don’t.

    • pixie

      I knew two girls who were roommates of my boyfriend and one of them was in constant competition with the other to be thinner, lighter, and more flexible. The only problem was was that she was the taller girl and was already very, very thin. The shorter girl had a variety of food allergies so had very few things she could eat, but had a healthier relationship with food and exercise. The taller girl would not eat all day, exercise a LOT, and get upset when she still weighed a couple pounds more than her friend. I can’t imagine throwing a child into that equation.

  • Angela

    My mom has always been overweight and once I got to be in my teens and 20′s she would tell me that I needed to watch what I ate or I would get fat like her. It worried me but I didn’t make any changes. In fact I’ve found that stress is one of my biggest factors in overeating. I’m not sure if I have all the answers but here is how I plan to approach things with my own kids.

    1. Right now I’m trying to teach them about healthy eating habits. I try to serve healthy meals and for snacks I keep bins in my pantry and fridge stocked with healthy snacks they can choose from when they’re hungry. I do ask them to select some type of fruit or vegetable to eat with each snack and also encourage them to listen to their bodies to decide when to eat and how much. I don’t typically by soda or junk foods and tell them that it’s okay to enjoy treats occasionally but that they aren’t everyday types of foods.
    2. I also try to help them be active. We walk to school when the weather allows and I make sure that they are always enrolled in one active class or sport as soon as they are old enough. I allow them to choose the activity (tumbling, swimming, soccer, ice skating, etc) but I explain that being active is an important part of developing strong bodies and staying healthy. I try to practice whatever activity they’re involved in with them for at least 15 minutes each day.
    3. If, like your daughter, they are worried about weight needlessly I will explain that our society sends some really confusing and unrealistic messages about what people should look but that doctors have developed charts we can use to let us know whether we are a healthy weight. I would pull up a chart on the computer and let her enter her information and see for herself that she is right where she should be.
    4. If I had a child who was overweight then before I talked to him about it I’d probably try and look at his lifestyle first for any glaring problems. If he seems overly sedentary or is binging on junk food then I would approach him that way. “I’m worried that you are eating a lot of junk food lately and that it’s affecting your health. We’re really not supposed to eat more than X amount per day. Can we make a plan to help you cut back?” If my child had seemingly healthy habits and was still overweight then I would take him to our pediatrician to make sure there’s no underlying problems and get advice.

  • Aimee Ogden

    Luckily my kids are still very small and I have time to figure out – and PRACTICE – ways to talk about my body and food that aren’t weird and messed up. When I was a kid it was always both SO IMPORTANT to have a clean plate (don’t care if you are full, don’t waste what you’ve been served) and also to not be fat … although no one ever encouraged me to exercise, either. Even now, my mom gave me a bunch of cookies and candy for Christmas, as well as two shirts that were a size medium, and told me that she bought the shirts a size too small so that I’d “have some motivation to take off that baby weight”. Ooookay, thanks for those mixed messages.

    What I hope will save me is that when I got out of the house I grew up in, I found out that I like exercise and I like food that is good for me as well as food that is just plain good. I can’t wait to be able to play ultimate frisbee this summer after missing last year due to being the size of a house, and I’m spending these last few weeks of winter mooning over CSA forms and seed catalogs. I want honest discussions of how to be healthy to be on the table, but I hope I can leave weight out of it, because that doesn’t have nearly as much to do with “healthy” as people think. Now I’ve just got to work on shaking those negative self-assessments out of my vocabulary before my kids know what words mean. And to stop using food as a reward for myself, and to never start using it as a reward for them.

    The other thing that I think will, on a social level, make a huge difference to how we perceive ourselves and our bodies, is to make the word “fat” a value neutral descriptor and not a condemnation. Right now the word comes loaded with baggage: if you say “fat” about yourself or someone else it’s implied what you really mean is “gross, sloppy, ugly”, etc. Like, okay, fat people KNOW that they are fat, and friends and family often say to them, “Noooo, YOU’RE not fat!” And when you’re fat, what that kind of sounds like is “We’re friends, so you don’t gross me out like those other fatties do.” But you know you’ll always be “that other fatty” to someone else, so, no, that rhetoric just don’t fly. How about instead, “Yeah, and gurrrrl, your fat ass is ROCKING that pencil skirt.” Fat is just a body type, and one that’s not any worse off health-wise than underweight bodies are. Get over my hip rolls, yo, they’re not going anywhere and neither am I.

    • TwentiSomething Mom

      Growing up we heard so much talk about body image, who had the best shape, blah blah blah. I see how the women in my family are messed up and insecure as a result and I would never want the same for my own children. I have don’t have a daughter, but I teach my son the importance of eating well and I make sure he gets plenty of exercise. The problem I had with my own family was as much as they promoted being skinny, they fed us nothing but junk.

    • Linzon

      When I was pregnant and eating pretty much the same as I normally do my mom was constantly telling me “Remember, any weight you put on now has to come off later!” That kind of thing was pretty much my childhood.

      I hear you on figuring out and practicing health, I’m there right now too. I’m so worried about giving them the kinds of health issues that I grew up with and still have. When I heard my 3-year old recently talking about how his stomach is ‘too fat’ I realized I still have a ways to go..

  • evilstepmom

    I have been a range of sizes and have always liked the way I looked. Body image, thankfully, was never a problem for me. However, I did get to a point where my weight was affecting my health. I changed by eating habits (I was already active), and slowly lost weight. I did it for health.

    I am surrounded by people daily who complain about birthday cake, or snacks, or anything fun, weigh 50 pounds less than I do, and constantly call themselves fat. I have been told (as a complement) how much “better” I look when I lost weight (due to medication). I feel bad for them that they can’t just enjoy food and their own bodies.

    In our house, we are big on moderation. It’s your birthday, have some cake. Just don’t eat the whole thing! It works for us.

    • Harriet Meadow

      I’ve been a range of sizes all through my life, too. I’ve been between 120 and 185 (and back again). I didn’t like the way I looked at 185, but I also have no desire to be back at 120. I’m 165 right now, which is “overweight,” but I’m healthy. I run, I dance, I ride my bike. I’m rarely sick. I love food and good beer, and I’d rather have some extra pounds on me and enjoy those things than be thin. My mom always had a very healthy outlook about food – she’s always struggled with her weight, but when she wants to lose pounds she just cuts her portion size, starts eating more fruits and veggies, and starts being more active. No crazy diets or “food is evil” outlook. Thank goodness. I read an interview with Jada Pinkett Smith once where they asked her what her secret to her great body is, and she said that she doesn’t eat food for enjoyment. Good for her, but the thought of not enjoying food makes ME really sad.

    • evilstepmom

      Yay, Food!
      I just seriously enjoyed a shrimp and pasta salad, and a scoop of cinnamon ice cream for dessert. I love cinnamon ice cream!

  • Angela

    I just wanted to add that I think it’s very dangerous to caution a 12 year old about putting on a few pounds because as they go through adolescence then they will absolutely need to be gaining weight. If you are going to have a discussion about weight with a child definitely go by BMI rather than pounds.

    • Aimee Ogden

      I agree with the pounds issue, but I’d say don’t go by BMI either. BMI is a population-level tool that doesn’t work well for individuals (even though a lot of doctors still use it as a measurement, unfortunately). Since it doesn’t make any accommodations for different body types, going by BMI may show that a very broad-shouldered or muscular child is “overweight” or that a naturally tall and lithe child is “underweight”. Probably best to go by how the child feels; if they become overtaxed quickly by activity, or their blood pressure or heart rate are wacky, then they may be under/overweight (or have an underlying medical condition).

    • Kelly

      BMI calls me fat and I have a flat stomach. BMI can be very dangerous to young people. It was one of the major triggers of my anorexia as a teenager because according to science, I was fat.

    • Angela

      Excellent point! I should have clarified that this would not be the solution for everyone. For someone who is very muscular, has large bone structure, etc you would need to do something else.

  • Jo

    While on a vacation at Disneyworld the summer before 9th grade, my mom told me she had signed me up for weight watchers. I did lose 15 pounds, but I didn’t change a single behavior. Do you know what did change? My parents stopped always bringing fast food/pizza home or eating on the road, and started having regular homecooked family meals. It was similar with several of my friends. From personal observation, what usually has the most impact on a child’s weight is their family’s behaviors – and most of the time parents can make those changes without even talking about the child’s weight and instead talking about the health benefits of those changes.

  • Paul White

    as someone with life long weight problems, I don’t facing it honestly and giving them constructive ideas is a bad thing; I certainly feel that’s preferable to pretending a 100 lb first grader is normal.

    That doesn’t mean you sit there and chew out said first grader for being Fatty McFattypants either of course, but yeah, obesity is BAD. It’s got real health implications; this isn’t like ragging on someone for the color of their eyes or whatever.

  • Guest

    My mom works as a nurse so I think her concern has always been for us to be healthy. She did once tell me as a teen that I was getting a little chubby. It hurt, but I honestly hadn’t really realized it, but I really wish she would have said lets go do this to help that problem. She did always take us to the gym for swimming, rock climbing, and working out so I think she felt like she needed to be direct but not TOO direct about it.
    After living with my husband (a freak of nature about working out/trying new diets and is a certified personal trainer) I feel like I don’t want it to be a taboo subject in our household. He has told me plenty of times when I’ve gained weight and that his main goal is that I’m healthy. He also offers solutions which I appreciate and is honest about when he needs to lose a few too. I know some of my friends are agast that I wouldn’t divorce him for telling me I’m fat. It isn’t a personal attack, he still loves me and that is WHY he is bringing it up. We’ve also discussed that if one of us becomes insanely obese and refuses to work on it that means divorce. I always know where I stand and I’ve learned to be more comfortable with myself because someone telling me I’m fat means I should go to the gym not that I’m a bad person.

  • Alex

    I would add that having the “metabolism of a hummingbird” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either because it can actually be difficult to keep weight on, especially if you’re active and athletic. You don’t exactly get fat/skinny-shamed, but you can run into problems getting enough calories and nutrients.

    And you’re still constantly hungry (and broke since you’re buying much more food, and what you can afford really doesn’t agree too well with your intestines), but that can create other social problems because you don’t want to be the party guest who hoarded all the chicken skewers or an entire pizza for yourself because you haven’t eaten since lunch. Your other option is to essentially become a sloth, which can be even more unhealthy/expensive in the long run.

  • K.

    The energy spent on this is ridiculous. It truly is. Body image is not an isolated issue and it cannot be resolved simply by focusing on the “right way” to talk about girls’ bodies. We have to address the problem holistically, by addressing a million of things
    outside of exercise and eating habits.

    Before you deal with however your kid feels about his/her body, how do you feel about YOURS, Mom? Because anyone who is clearly ashamed or discomforted by her own body is going to have zero credibility when it comes to “inner-beauty.” The message isn’t the problem–inner-beauty is a GREAT message–it’s the horn. Deal with your own insecurities first.

    Stop talking about yourself like you are lesser than Heidi Klum because you don’t have flat abs and you do sport cellulite. Stop moaning about your thighs. Or your hair. Or your teeth. Your child sees herself in you, so whenever you feel the urge to do that, think of saying whatever it is to your own child. If you wouldn’t say it to her, don’t say it to yourself. You want your child to find joy in who she is and what she looks like? Do that for yourself first. That is the single best advice I can give.

    Stop talking about other women’s bodies and looks–definitely stop putting other women down, but stop commenting on women’s appearance as well. A compliment on a great haircut or a jaunty scarf is fine, but who the fuck cares if Kim Kardashian is “pretty”?? Really–WHO THE FUCK CARES?! Talk about Adele’s singing. Tina Fey’s writing. Maya Angelou’s poetry. Hillary Clinton’s leadership. Not weight, glasses, skin color, or pantsuits. None of that matters, and when you talk about that shit, it tells your daughter that it does, in spite of the marvelous ACTUAL accomplishments of such remarkable women.

    Until we do these things, then there’s no “right way” to talk about dieting, weight gain/loss, or body shape. You have to walk the walk of truly accepting the fact that people come in all shapes and sizes–including yourself–before you can talk any talk.

    • Rachel Sea

      If people waited until they felt secure and assured to talk to their kids, no one would ever say anything. The best we can try to do is give our kids fewer, and less severe hang-ups than we have.

      There is no one right way to do anything, because everyone’s kids are different, and need to hear and see different things. So we might as well all just try our best with the resources we have, even if some of those resources come from a place of brokenness and insecurity.

    • K.

      My point wasn’t that someone should wait until they felt completely at peace with themselves–which of course takes most people a whole lifetime to do–my point was that parents should work on their own awareness of the messages they transmit to their children by nurturing self-destructive practices. If Mom decides that her own body deserves ridicule or criticism, then why would her daughter feel any differently? If Mom is obsessed with food, then her daughter probably will be too. If Mom judges other women by their appearance, then why wouldn’t her daughter grow up believing that that’s the yardstick by which she too should be judged?

      All the talk in the world about “inner beauty” and “good body image” will not hold a candle to a Mom who actually lives according to those values and takes pride in herself, no matter what her shape or size. So my money’s still on parents cultivating and practicing that kind of awareness of their own behavior before we even get to discussions about diets and body image.

  • TwentiSomething Mom

    A healthy diet and exercise should be a priority regardless if your child is thin or not. As a parent, if you see your child is putting on pounds, stop and think about the healthy lifestyle choices you can implement to help your kids. Are they watching too much TV and on the computer? Are they eating fattening desserts every night?

    Parents should not shame their kids about their bodies or make them feel uncomfortable. If you do it at a young age, they will carry those insecurities through their teens and adult years. They learn their eating habits from home and have access to bad food at home. If they learn from young how to appreciate healthy food, they will have the tools they need to make better eating choices when they are out with their friends and have their own money to spend.

  • Katherine Handcock

    I think there is a difference between saying what Charlotte’s mother did and saying your daughter is fat. What Charlotte’s mom said was, “I’ve noticed a change, and if you’re concerned about it, here’s how you’d address it.” That’s a positive way to address things. I am genuinely in need of losing some weight and addressing some unhealthy habits, and there are ways I can discuss it around my kids that are equally positive, by emphasizing health and feeling physically better.

    But it’s pretty rare for someone to say, “You’re getting fat” and mean it in any positive way or provide any strategies. And even if they did, the word can be hurtful enough to make the person hearing it push back against any help. I’d compare it to telling a person whose drinking you’re concerned about, “You’re turning into an alcoholic” rather than saying something like, “You’ve been drinking much more recently; is something wrong?” One implies concern and the other implies judgement.

    I also think we have to be VERY careful talking about weight gain at all when kids are going through puberty, because a weight spurt is a part of the growth process (and often precedes the height spurt, making kids appear overweight.) I think what I plan to watch for is how my kids are eating: if my son or daughter is eating like a horse, but it’s almost all healthy food and they’re still active, I’ll just make sure they know that weight gain is part of growing up. If either of them is packing away junk food like there’s no tomorrow, and gaining weight from that, then we’ll start the conversation about healthy eating habits and exercise.

  • Momma425

    Telling your daughter that you’ve noticed that she seems a little bit unhappy because of a few pounds, and offering to work with her to find solutions if she wants to is a good way to teach your daughter about healthy weight management, and weight loss. The key being “if she wants to.” If she is not interested, reinforce that you love her, and her body is beautiful at any size, and you are proud of her for loving herself.

  • lucie uk

    My son started to get porky at about 12. I knew this was down to my failing relationship with his stepfather. Con just shut himself in his bedroom sneaking junk and comfort eating because my ex made his life a misery. I did bring it up with him and acknowledged WHY he was doing it, but told him he needed to stop or it would escalate into a mountain impossible to tackle. Then I found a flat for just us and kicked that sad act out of our lives. I can’t say it hasn’t been a struggle on my own. But my son is happier and the weight dropped off. He has grown into a lovely, handsome, caring young man, and realises the evil of junk food to excess, and especially how being miserable affects our relationship with food

  • Magrat

    “I don’t know a single adult woman who has a truthfully healthy relationship with food, who eats mindfully and joyfully, who can exist on kale and skinless chicken breasts and quinoa and then skip desserts for a few weeks and run around the park in order to lose weight.”

    This just made me sad. This is such a warped picture of what a “healthy relationship with food” is. I like kale and quinoa, and I like chicken breasts if they’re cooked well, but I also like ice cream and In’N'Out and cheese, and my relationship with food is (I believe) healthy, because I make an effort to eat nutritious food most of the time, and I don’t treat junk food like a sin. I don’t apologize for what I eat, I don’t engage in the ritual “God, this is sooooo bad for me” food justification. THAT’S eating mindfully and joyfully.

    How can telling your daughter she’s gained a few pounds not be harmful, when that’s what everyone else is telling her, too, and they don’t mean it nicely? How is she supposed to parse that you’re speaking a different language? In 10 years she’s not going to remember how much her mom cared about her health. She’s going to remember the time her mom called her fat.

    I think a better tactic would be to instill healthy eating habits without lecturing about them. Treat food like fuel AND like something that can be enjoyed, and teach her that there’s no such thing as guilt when it comes to food, and that moderation is valuable in all things.

  • Lindsey Conklin

    Such a great post, Eve. And while I’m not a mom, I have a mom like Charlotte’s and I appreciated it. While I haven’t always had the greatest relationship with food, I think discussing weight while you’re growing up is a crucial conversation.

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    LOL I have a father who has no problem telling me I’m getting a little “jowly” as he calls it and I’m glad he does. I have my mother’s build, nice and slim during the teens but getting big hips and a little podgy in the twenties!

    just makes me cut out the chocs for a while!

  • Elisianna

    I never was really aware of weight until I was about 14 and my mom told me my grandma had said I had a “secretary’s spread” and explained what it was. I was 5’4″ and 105 pounds (and quite bothered by her comment). Despite this I was generally okay with how I looked. My mom was not critical of me, but as I got older I noticed how insanely critical she was of herself, and also how critical she was of other women and women in the media. We might be watching a tv program and a girl who looks similar to me in body size might come in and she would say she was fat. (I am now 5’4″ and about 125 lbs).

    I think helping your young daughter lose a few pounds is a much better idea than constantly criticizing yourself and everyone else. I think watching your weight but never being obsessed about it might be okay too. Like “oh! We got back from vacation and now my pants are a little tight! This is how I slim down.” Might be okay, and a good way to teach her. You aren’t saying “I am fat” and you wouldn’t talk about it much, but it is entirely practical to want your pants to fit.

  • AlbinoWino

    I don’t generally think it’s a good idea to rely on anecdotal evidence but I have to say overwhelmingly that over the years the friends I had whose mothers got on them about their weight making side comments and such by far suffer the most with all sorts of disordered eating. I had one friend growing up who was always chubby and her parents would just guilt trip her about it. She tried everything, even to the point of smoking crack to lose weight and swallowing ipecac to make herself vomit. Another friend of mine had a stick skinny mother and when she wasn’t stick skinny anymore herself like her mother she had to hear about it all of the time. And she wasn’t even large, she was very average sized. So she became anorexic for a while and it was heartbreaking to watch. As much as we get frustrated with the media and their portrayal of the “perfect body” I am still a firm believer that the way your family behaves around these issues is the biggest influence of all. Health is important of course but I don’t think it’s a good idea to center health entirely around a number on a scale.

    I have always been skinny and my own mother was always trying to fatten me up so I grew up eating way more sugar and other bad foods than I should have. I’m still skinny but it’s taken me a while to really examine what I eat and how that might affect me regardless of my smaller size. I think it’s a subject we should tread lightly on with children because it can have lifelong impacts. I still vividly remember the first time I saw my mom look at herself in the mirror and proclaim that she was too fat and unattractive. I remember my mom telling me as a young adult over the course of a month that I looked to be a healthy size, that I looked too skinny, and that I should try exercising more. I also believe that there are just forces beyond our control when it comes to weight as well. I know more people than I can count who eat healthier and exercise far more than me and still weigh more than I do. I for one would feel a bit like a failure if my child ended up with very disordered eating after I told them what size they needed to be.

  • ChelseaBFH

    When I was growing up my mom would occasionally announce that we were going on a “health kick,” and we’d spend a few weeks eating healthier and getting outside more. Especially as I got older I saw this as code for “someone in the house is putting on weight,” so I won’t pretend that it was all sunshine and rainbows. However, the focus on health rather than weight loss saved me some crash diet attempts as I got older, and since the whole house would be affected by the “kick” it did instill the idea that physical health was something we were all working towards together rather than singling any one person out. I think it worked – now we’re the kind of family that runs races together and then celebrates with Five Guys, so I guess healthy but not extreme about it?

  • CMP414

    I think the mother in the article did a great job of showing concern and giving her daughter healthy solutions. I was always a skinny kid but I felt I was fat because my mother was obsessed with weight, dieting, and exercise. She used to go on that Kate Moss (off all friggin people!) had fat thighs. As you can imagine, this led to a host of issues for me. The rest of my family is verbally and emotionally abusive about people’s looks whether they are fat, thin, or inbetween. My 2 year old is alittle chunky for height but she is just a baby. I keep her active and we took juice out the house because it was necessary for nutrition (and not cheap). My goal is to keep her active, healthy, and proud of herself the way I am proud of her.


    My youngest brother is morbidly obese. He has been since he was like 5-6 my parents don’t encourage him to exercise, and they feed him whatever junk he wants. Now he is an adult, and everyone skirts around his weight issue. It is 100% because he is lazy, refuses to eat healthy and has been enabled his whole life. I don’t know If I would tell my kid they are “fat” but I wouldn’t ignore the problem either like my family has.

  • Kelly

    I’m one of those women who can just diet when I’ve gained some weight and it’s no big deal. It took me a long time to get to that point though. I was anorexic in my youth and I used to hate myself for gaining even a pound.

    I like the tone of this article. We talk about weight very matter of factly in my house, without emotion or judgments. If I’m dieting and my son asks, “Why are you dieting, you aren’t fat.” I just tell him honestly that my pants are tight and there’s no real reason for me to just go up a pant size and buy all new pants so I’m going to lose the extra weight I’ve gained recently so I can be comfortable in my pants again. No big deal. It doesn’t make me a bad person for gaining weight, or stupid or lazy, it’s just something that happens to normal people.

    He went through a phase a few years ago where he was getting a little chunky and we talked to him about how when you gain weight like that, it’s just a signal to maybe slow down on the junk food and exercise a little more. It sure didn’t seem to traumatize him like some of the experts claim. In fact, that was the year he really got into riding his bike and skateboarding. He doesn’t seem to have any food issues either. He’s a normal teenager, he’d eat candy and pizza all day every day if I let him.

  • Anonymous

    I have a message for parents. Tread carefully.

    When my parents first brought up weight and dieting and exercise, they too believed that they were doing so in a sensible way. Just saying, “Well, we don’t eat dessert because we don’t want to be big.” Or saying, “Hey, why don’t we go on a bike-ride! It’s good exercise!” Or saying, “When your pants start to get snug like that, it’s time to cut back.” They never called me fat. They never forced me to diet. They talked about it in
    rational ways.

    Here is the legacy of their sensible, rational approach:

    - I categorize and remember my pivotal life events by what weight and size I was when I accomplished them

    - I am shy and subordinate at work because I am convinced my size doesn’t give me the right to speak

    - I married (and divorced) the first guy who came along because I didn’t think I was worthy of anyone else

    - I played tennis, soccer, baseball and swimming as a kid; I do none of these activities
    now because they require me to run around in the presence of others and/or be
    in revealing clothes

    - I’ve passed up professional opportunities because the PR involved me being in pictures

    That’s pretty screwed up. I know it’s screwed up. What makes me angriest of all is when I realize that I learned to believe that in order to contribute to society, I had to achieve a certain standard of beauty.

    I am also in my mid-thirties and about 40 pounds overweight and on a perpetual diet. So you tell me—did their “rational approach” in any way work?

    I am one person. This is not everyone’s experience. But for my .02, I would say that parents don’t need to talk about health in the context of physical appearance at all. Even if you think your approach is rational (sure, it makes sense to YOU that if your pants get snug, you should go on a diet…You sure you want to say that to a teenage
    girl who’s pants are likely to get snug just because she’s growing and developing?). Even if you think you’re talking about health.

    The average girl gets about 3 HOURS of media exposure each day, and pretty much all of it is comprised of images that have been manipulated into standards that cannot be achieved by anything other than Photoshop. Most girls have enough information about how they should look from simply being in the world.

    They do not get enough information and encouragement about how much they should be valued.

    I encourage parents, please–focus on fostering your girls’ sense of self-worth beyond the physical.

  • Rachel Sea

    I was raised eating the ’80s equivalent of kale and quinoa and skinless chicken breasts (spinach, brown rice, and tofu), and I have an enormously unhealthy relationship with food, because I never learned moderation. We often didn’t have quite enough to eat, so when we did, we had to clean our plates. If I wanted to eat anything that wasn’t Health Food, I had to do it in secret.

    I now need to work hard to control my portions before they hit my plate, including having restaurants box half my meal before they even serve it to me, and I have to forbid myself from buying a lot of foods I like because I have no self-control with them. I can’t just get a bag of chips, unless I’m prepared to go home and divvy reasonable portions into baggies. I wish I had learned moderation with food young, so that it wasn’t something I had to plan so hard for now.

  • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

    Thanks Eve for this article! Perfectly timed! I’ve been wanting to bring up weight/self esteem with my ten year old for a while and didn’t know if I should, but we just had a really good talk.

  • Benwhoski

    Personally, I favor discussions specifically of nutrition and exercise over discussions about weight. That way the answer to “Why?” is not “So we don’t get fat!”, it’s “So we can be as healthy and happy as we can be!” Good nutrition and exercise is good for you at any size, whether you’re overweight or already thin.

    And there are some of us who, even if we do all of the “right” things, will never be what the rest of the world calls “thin”. As a teenager, I was active, muscular, and very lean (when we had our body-fat percentages tested, I came up with about 18% body-fat which is kind of ridiculously low for a teen girl). I was fit and healthy, but I always had wide hips, thick arms, and thighs that touched each other no matter how much weight I lost. I was still consistently 15-20lbs heavier than what the BMI charts said I should weigh and regularly “warned” about it by the school nurse. I was regularly called “fat” by other teens because even at my most fit I never dropped below a size 14 waist.

    This was a huge de-motivator for me as a teenager. Cue many years of misguided dieting and then gaining it all back, then dieting again.

    Now, in my 30′s I’m far from the lean teenager I once was, and it took me a very long time to realize for myself that focusing so much on my size and the numbers on the scale were detrimental to my physical and emotional health. I know that many people look at me and immediately think “unhealthy”, but my blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol are consistently good. I eat balanced meals, and get what exercise I can. There are times when my eating habits aren’t the greatest, and times when I don’t make it to the gym as much as I should, but in the end my guide for whether I’m eating healthily enough or exercising enough is how I feel.

    I also learned that my size was not nearly as important when it came to making friends and finding romantic relationships as I’d always assumed it was.

    Though significantly less “fit” than I was back in high school, I have better self-esteem and body image than I ever had in my life. I wish I had figured this all out many years before I did, because I wasted entirely too many years fighting with the scale.

  • Nezuminora

    The body acceptance/vs. wanting to change it dichotomy is, for me, one of the toughest parts about losing weight. This is without throwing the complication of children into the mix. I grew up on a steady diet of body acceptance, in the 90s when eating disorders, not obesity, was the terrifying epidemic du jour. I really struggle now to couple that idea of body acceptance I have always known to be “right” and “healthy” thinking, with a desire to lose weight. How can I simultaneously love and accept the body I have right now, while also taking steps to actively reduce it? My weight loss has everything do with vanity, not health, and I find vanity to be an unreliable motivator in the long term.

  • Moony

    There was some slight teasing about my weight when I was in primary school but the real
    trouble came when I entered secondary school. I had few friends and was singled
    out for being unpopular and chubby – as puberty and puppy-fat had set in early.
    So I started comfort eating, and I got bigger.

    I started having to deal with severe confidence issues and feelings of inadequacy and self-disgust, which led me to shave every part of my anatomy (including my face, neck and all the way down my arms to the backs of my hands), because I was deadly afraid of having “hairy and mannish” being added to the slew of insults people already hurled at me.

    My mother’s response was along the lines of; “They’re being absolutely ridiculous! Just
    ignore them! And, NO, you are NOT going on a diet! You’re perfect and beautiful
    just the way you are and don’t ever let them tell you otherwise!”

    As wonderful as those words were, they didn’t help. I did not benefit in any way,
    shape or form from her willful ignorance and, as a result, still suffer to this
    day. I can understand that she wanted me to feel good about myself, but I don’t
    understand why she didn’t think to do that through the act of teaching me exercise and healthy eating habits…

    The moral of the story: If your kid is having issues about his or her weight, don’t just pretend that everything is OK or that everyone else is wrong. It is your job as a parent to DO SOMETHING about it.