You never think you’re one of those people. You know the kind. The ones that call people fat, are kind to them to their face, but behind their backs, you’re like, “Damn, woman! Eat a salad every once in a while!” It’s even worse when the person you are doing this to is YOURSELF.
I have always been a big girl. Even at my thinnest, I wouldn’t have called myself thin, and I was definitely bigger than the average girl at my age. At every age. Being big has always just been a part of who I was, and I often look past the fact that I am overweight. I have many medical issues, including three autoimmune diseases, that contribute to my difficulty in losing weight. Though that doesn’t stop me from trying, but the extreme effort I put in for the small results that I get, it can oftentimes be overwhelmingly emotional. And, while I would NEVER call another person fat, for some reason, it seemed okay for me to do to myself. Until one day, not too long ago….
I had already changed my daughter into her outfit for the day, and I was getting changed when she walked in, arms wide open for me to pick her up. I stood in just my jeans and a bra, but I picked that little girl up and hugged her tight, getting a kiss from her in return. Pure bliss. I set her down, and she looked up at my belly, and patted it with her tiny little hand. That’s when it happened.
“Is that Mommy’s fat?” I said, as I patted my belly. “Yep, that’s Mommy’s fat. Chubba, chubba, chubba.”
As she smiled and turned away, I almost fell over in tears when I realized what I had just done. I fat shamed me. And I just taught my daughter that that was okay. When it absolutely is not.
I tried not to cry as I continued to get dressed, but I’ll be honest, a few tears found their way down my cheeks. When did that become okay? When did I lose so much self worth that I thought that that was okay? And to laugh about it! Like it was all just fun in games! Or, I realized, like the kids used to do to me when I was little. Calling me fat, and other fat related names, pointing their fingers at me, and just laughing. I just became one of those people. One of THOSE people! And, no, I didn’t call anyone else names, and I didn’t point my finger at anyone else, and I didn’t laugh at anyone else. It was worse than all that. I did it to myself. In front of my daughter.
We live in a world where people are picked on for their differences everyday. Too tall, too short, too skinny, too big, she wears glasses, he has braces, the list goes on, and on, and on. And we tell ourselves that type of behavior isn’t okay. We teach our kids that type of behavior isn’t okay. We teach our kids to love, to be kind, to accept people for the differences that make them unique, and special.
All too often, though, we forget to teach them to be that way toward themselves, too. To embrace what makes them different. To know they are special, unique, little people. We forget, even the best of us, that we are showing them what is acceptable every minute they are around us. And how we treat ourselves, is most definitely how they will not only treat other people, but how they will begin to treat themselves. And what I did, my friends, is the last thing I ever want for my daughter.
That day opened my eyes to a whole new world. Even thinking back to that day, I get teary eyed, and feel ashamed for the way I treated myself while little eyes were watching. But today, when that same situation presented itself to me, I made a stand. When those little hands started to pat my belly, instead of fat shaming myself, I looked down to the most precious little person in my life and said, “Is that Mommy’s belly? See? Mommy has a belly, too!” And when that little girl smiled and ran off, I felt uplifted.
We overlook the tiniest things as parents sometimes. But I challenge you to be mindful. Be mindful of the words you use around your little one. Be mindful of the way you speak to little ears. They are listening, and they are watching. And one day, when they begin to do the things that you do, and they have seen you do, you will either feel very proud, or, like I did, like the world’s worst parent ever. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Always.