F*ck feeling fat:
My 5-year-old grabbed my hip the other day while we were in the kitchen cooking.
She kind of wrapped her tiny fingers around my hip bone and gave me a sort-of-gentle squeeze.
She said, "It's hard!" I asked, "What, my body is hard?" She said, "Yes, it's really hard."
Considering I had just done leg, glute and back day of my weight lifting regimen earlier that morning, one of my first reactions was to think, "Hmm, cool!" However, I did not respond this way out loud.
Instead, what I said was something like this: "Oh, my body feels hard. That's interesting." And then we had fun talking about "hard" versus "soft" things; I intentionally chose to make this a lesson on comparisons for a pre-school age child rather than a lesson on body shaming for a young girl.
What struck me later, as I relayed this experience to my husband, was the profound importance of not attaching any positive or negative connotations with either the words "hard" or "soft" in relation to a female's body, especially to a young female child.
We learn a lot about our bodies by how the world responds to them.
For women, what the people around us are saying about bodies -- both our own and those around us -- is imparted at an early age by the adults we are surrounded with, particularly parents. Fat shaming the world, through actual verbal words and even subtle gestures, is easily picked up by intuitive, sponge-like kids. This judgment and, conversely, praise for an arbitrary standard of beauty of fictitious perfection, are turned inward as girls grow into young women.
In short, how I choose to talk about my body, and the bodies of people in general, will later impact how my daughters perceive their own bodies.
I struggled with an eating disorder for most of my life. While my oldest daughter is only 5, I'm still hypersensitive to raising two girls; to what I should be saying, as well as to what I shouldn't.
I do not allow the word "fat" to be used in my house. More, I never "feel fat," or in any way associate the word fat with any form of negativity.
This isn't to say that I don't, on occasion, feel hormonally bloated, or even better all around after I exercise, as compared to when I'm sick and skipping days of working out. The difference is that when I internally "feel fat" I check back in with my emotions and my lifestyle and use rational thinking to assess where this "feeling" is coming from.
Further, I never, ever express "feeling fat" out loud, even without my kids present.
I would rather my girls use the word fuck than fat.
Curse words aren't the purpose for this article, but, still, I would find it less offensive and intensely less damaging if my girls thought the "f-word" was fat and not what it actually is.
Life is hard enough for women. It really is. And yet I love being a woman. I love how, in my case, I chose to be a mother, and I embrace female friendships and sisterhood.
Women are definitively a minority and we are, by default, everything that goes along with that label: belittlement, discrimination, treated with hostility covertly and overtly. However, women are beautiful. All women are beautiful.
Being a woman, for me, is something I'm thankful for, and I'm even more grateful for the opportunity to be raising two female children. I want them to know what a privilege and honor it is to be a woman, even if we also need to own and acknowledge the adversity we'll face too.
My daughter used a curse word the other day. I have no doubt she learned it from me.
We had a talk about why she shouldn't use this word yet and, also, I'll be honest, I told her that she shouldn't say it if she can't even use it in the right context. I suggested a temporary, supplemental phrase, more appropriate for her age: "Oh, sugar!"
I would have been much more upset if the word she started using was "fat," and it makes my normally-dry tear-ducts well up just considering her using this word as a derogatory descriptor for her body.
I can't tell if I'll be successful in my mission to raise girls with healthy body images. They are so young, and there are far too many factors outside of my control.
Things like peers, difficult to process emotions, and life experiences outside of our little home will help tip the invisible, but all-too-real scale, towards my daughters loving the bodies that they inhabit, or not.
I will try my damnedest to make sure they know that they're beautiful and, more, that they are loved, regardless of clothing size, body shape, curves, lack of curves, and any other fill-in-the-blank criterion they might be offered from society.
I would rather my daughters feel overwhelmed, scared, heart-broken, or a myriad of true, if unwelcome, emotions, as opposed to "feeling fat."
Feeling fat is ultimately a cover for these types of actual feelings anyways.
So fuck that.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.