Body Acceptance Starts at Home

Please be aware that this post may be triggering for some people.

When I was a kid, say from ages 10 to about 16, I was subjected to regular dining room table discussions about my weight.

These were conversations of Real Concern. The person initiating them felt that I needed to be told, repeatedly, that while I was not yet fat, I might be in the future. Like my mom.

I choose to believe that the adult who gave me this advice did not realize how damaging it could be. How damaging it was. She is a naturally thin person who possibly didn’t understand how horrifying this kind of thing could be to a person as young as I was. Or to any person of any age.

I’m quite sure that she didn’t ever know that afterward I would look at my body in the mirror and hate on whatever parts I didn’t think were perfect. (That was a lot of parts.) Or that afterward I would horde food and eat it in private so that she didn’t see me eating like a regular girl at meal times.

My mother was about 5’8″ and at her heaviest weighed maybe 200 pounds. She was a dead ringer for Marilyn Monroe and the most beautiful woman I’ve ever personally known. I don’t look like her at all, but I shouldn’t have been made to believe a comparison to her was a negative thing.

My mother is the blonde holding my two-week-old baby. I’m sitting next to her. I’m not-quite 21 in this photograph. My mom and I both weigh about 200 pounds. (Looking at this picture, when our faces are turned, I can see our bodies were actually very similar. Look at those legs!)

We are gorgeous.

That baby is 18 years old now. And I weigh about 140 pounds more than my mother ever did.

What if I’d been given permission to love my body when I was my daughter’s age?

What if we counteract the war on fat kids with a grassroots revolution aimed at building ALL kids up and making exercise safe and fun even for the skinny ones.

I propose we call it: Hey, Kid! Wanna play?

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Body Acceptance Starts at Home

  1. Jill Kelley

    You sure do look like mom. Everyone always said so. You are beautiful from the inside out, just like she was.

  2. Elizabeth

    Hey–I’m really sorry this happened to you, and I I’m certain you didn’t mean to, but please be very careful not to imply that this kind thing is one iota less damaging (or “silly”) when it’s done to actual fat people or people with actual fat relatives. Not being fat may make the situation more surreal, but fat people don’t deserve to be treated like this either, not even really, really fat people.

    I think there is a tendency, when people get body sanity to look back and say,”Hey! I wasn’t as fat as I thought I was! Wow!” and that’s absolutely great–one of the things fat hate does is creep like toxic sludge to contaminate everyone’s body image.

    The problem is when people go a step further and say (or imply), “All that self-hate was for nothing!” Which implies (almost ALWAYS unintentionally) that the self-hate actually WAS for something for those of us who really were fat.

    As I say, in the FA community, this kind of thing is almost always unintentional, but I have seen it done quite intentionally in the wild. I remember quite vividly as teenager watching a man be interviewed on a daytime talk show about the death of his young wife from a diet drug. What he said was, “The REAL tragedy was that she wasn’t even fat!” Everyone nodded, agreed and commiserated over the photo of the slender young woman.

    As a self-hating fat teenager, I experienced this as a punch in the face. I felt in it an absolute confirmation of my worthlessness, and also a mandate to do anything, no matter how dangerous, to become thin. Because it wouldn’t be a REAL tragedy if I died trying.

    So please remember that, when talking about this kind of damaging nonsense, even coming from a FA perspective, it can be really hurtful to former (or current) young fats to imply, intentionally or not, that that’s worse –or somehow less “necessary”– to be hit with the fat-hate stick if you’re NOT fat than if you ARE.

    • Elizabeth,

      I’m truly sorry if anything in my post triggered negative stuff for you (or anyone.)

      I’ve tweaked my post slightly, taking the part out about my not being a fat kid, because you’re right, it doesn’t matter. I also added a trigger warning.

      • Elizabeth

        Thanks, I really appreciate your responsiveness. As I said, I was certain you didn’t mean any such implications. I’m to the point now where I can see what people mean in these kinds of posts, and it doesn’t bother me. There was a time, though, when that wasn’t the case at all, so I try to say something when it comes up.

        I, too, wish I’d been given permission to love my body as a young person–I can’t imagine, truly, what my life would have been like. I spent a good 25 years of my life (literally SPENT, used up, burned through) fighting my fat body. All kids should be given this permission–should not be denied this right.

        Thanks again.

    • I’ve been guilty of the “I wasn’t even fat!” thing, too. For me it’s not that it was so much more wrong for my parents to treat my weight as a serious problem. It’s that their behavior (and how they responded to my behavior, and my teenage angst, and the culture at large, etc.) created this strange, completely inaccurate version of reality. Figuring that out–that I was not fat and unattractive as I had assumed–creates a sort of whip lash effect. Like a family secret finally revealed. Except that it was never a secret in the first place.

      Kim Brittingham’s essay “Read My Hips” resonates with my personal experience, and helped me go back to some of those high school photos to reevaluate. (Warning: it’s a tearjerker.)

  3. “What if I’d been given permission to love my body when I was my daughter’s age?”

    This is a question that I often ask myself. (Suffice it to say that my experience was much like yours.) I don’t believe in spending too much time with regret, but I mourn the lost, self-loathing years often.

    Thanks for this post.

    • I do, too, Schmemily. I have two daughters and a son and I am so protective of their self esteems. It makes me angry when I think about how difficult it was for me to like myself as a kid. And it shouldn’t have been. It shouldn’t be for ANY kid. Period. I mean, there should be some things that we can agree shouldn’t be done, ever. Saying something to a kid that is almost certainly going to lead to self hatred is one of them.

  4. blessed

    My MIL started talking with judgement and concern about my second daughter’s weight–when she was less than a year old. My sweet baby was born 5 lbs and 10 oz, and has always been in the 5th percentile for weight. But as a baby she had enourmous chubby thighs and plump cheeks (on her face, I mean ; ). So my MIL looked at those two precious baby body parts and told me over and over how I would have to watch her weight, and specifically not to fatten her up so much with breastfeeding.

    In other words, some people are just CRAZY.

    My children have grown up thin, like my husband and I are (in a flaccid middle age kind of way!) , but I wonder what will happen when they hit puberty and are no longer skinny, petite things. I am already preparing to help my children close their ears to such talk–they will be fine in whatever shape their bodies are meant to become, as long as they care about being fit and strong (I LOVE your focus on that–and moving because it feels good, not because I have to) I am already soaking up truth, and trying to liberate my spirit from my own body issues so that I will be a healthy example for them.

    You are sharing such great ideas–please keep it up!

    • My Ruby was born 9 lbs and 9 oz. She is well above the 95th percentile for both height and weight for her age. She is just a very tall girl. Very tall. In her kindergarten class she is not only a full head taller than the next tallest kid, she’s taller than all of the second graders and some of the third graders. I make a habit of telling her pretty much daily how beautiful it is that she’s so tall. My sister is 6’1″ tall. Ruby’s dad is only 5’8″. so it’s likely that Ruby will be taller than him. She LOVES that. Loves it.

      I literally had to train my husband to stop worrying out loud that she might someday be fat. He was a fat kid and was bullied as a kid by other kids, and by his father for it. His dad, I’m not kidding, used to grab his ‘spare tire’ and pretend to drive him around the house. How awful is that? Every time he’d worry about Ruby’s weight, I’d tell him that people come in all shapes and sizes–her, too. That it’s up to us to teach her that her body is perfectly miraculous, just like all bodies are.

  5. blessed

    Ugh–driving the spare tire! so, so painful.
    : (

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