[personal profile] beanmom
"Mommy, why are you so fat?"

Thus my adorable six-year-old piped up last night, apropos of nothing, as we were getting ready for bed. Felt like a right cross to the side of my head, and it's still hurting like hell this morning.

I'm sure I'm not alone here in saying that I have issues around food. My mother, child and sister of morbidly obese women, spent every day of her adult life obsessing about food. She was beautiful and strong and healthy (except for that pesky cancer), but not a bite went into her mouth that was unexamined and free from guilt. She would dream about delicious food and wake herself before tasting it, for fear that it was real and she would gain weight. I don't want to be like that. I struggle daily with finding the balance between the pleasure of eating well and the harm that can come to me from eating the wrong things*.

* I'm not just talking about calories here -- I have a family history of diabetes and insulin resistance and problems with carbs, and it is always a challenge for me to eat in a way that doesn't make my blood sugar wobble uncomfortably.

I don't want to be miserable like my mom, but I don't like the way I look. I have a 5-months-pregnant-looking pot belly, and cellulite on my thighs and ass. I could stand to lose 15-20 pounds. Problem is, my body is remarkably similar in shape to my mother's body. If she looked like this while subsisting on 1000 calories a day and 40-mile bike rides and 2-hour tennis games, how much hope do I have for ever looking like a supermodel?

I exercise (usually by playing DDR), but not with the goal of weight loss; I exercise so that I will feel strong and sleep better and make a good example for my kids. I watch what I eat, but not with the goal of weight loss; I try to treat myself well, because food is a prime pleasure for me, while also taking care of myself by not eating stuff that is going to make me feel worse later. I would probably lose some of this belly if I went more strictly low-carb, but the last time I did that, I got so depressed from self-deprivation and frustrated from food boredom that I was worried about my mental state.

I want to pass on a healthy sense of self-acceptance and balance to my kids. I want them to learn to eat well, and move their bodies, because they know that's what makes them feel strong and healthy. Why do they think it's so interesting or funny or okay to tell me how fat I am all the damn time? And what the hell do I say to them when they do??

None of this is helped by the fact that I am going to the beach in two weeks. I hate walking around in a swimsuit. Bleh.

Date: 2008-08-24 03:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anna-lise-a.livejournal.com
Ikwym about having the weight creep up on you. I am in the same boat and I don't like the way my body looks or feels right now. But I eat very healthily and I exercise a lot so I am not sure what to do about it...

re what to say to the girls - how about a version of what you wrote above? It's the truth, and that is generally the best way to go... I know it's more complicated than just saying "I love my body the way it is" but it's also more authentic... I don't know whether you'd feel comfortable with that though...

On a sort of related note, a couple of days ago I a tv show here that everyone's been raving about for ages (I am def. behind the times on this one) - Gok's How to Look Good Naked. Do you get that over there? I think he's fabulous and def. knows how to make a girl feel good about her body; the opposite of those bitches Trinny and Susannah...

Date: 2008-08-24 08:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wendykh.livejournal.com
How about just flat out telling them it's rude as hell to tell people they are fat or comment on other people's body types. Including mommy's.

Date: 2008-08-24 09:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moominmama.livejournal.com
My kids so far have only said this to me lovingly or with genuine curiosity. I tell them that's the way my body is. Only recently have I told Noah that sometimes I'm not happy being heavy but it was in the context of talking about media and how sometimes we have to fight the messages it hands us. (I said, "I get tired of never seeing women who look like me or when I do they're making fun of them. It makes me angry. Sometimes it makes me feel bad and then I need to remember that television wants us to feel bad about ourselves so we'll spend money on trying to feel good.")

And I hate walking around in a swimsuit, too. In fact I haven't in about five years.

Date: 2008-08-25 10:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dreamalynn.livejournal.com
I can say without hesitation that I am much, much fatter than you are. And he message that I give my children is that we all have to live in our own skin, and no one else's and so it's not our business to be concerned with someone else's body unless they're using it to hurt/bother us.

We talk about this in terms of the things that people might say about them, that they have short legs or round tummies, that their hair isn't straight enough or their skin isn't the right color. We talk about this in terms of their mom who is fat, their father who is unusually tall, a cousin who has only one arm, a family friend who was a "mister" and is now a "miss," their uncles who are two men who love one another, their uncle who uses a wheelchair. We reinforce, over and over, the acceptability and importance of diversity of body size and shape, of ability, of gender, of sexuality, and so on.

And do it again, and again, and again.

That's all you can do.

Date: 2008-08-25 04:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] han-n-ah.livejournal.com
first of all *ouch* and {{{{{{{{{{{beanmom}}}}}}}}}}}}

My kids have, as kids will, said things that sting.
I took it as a teaching opportunity. . . every time they said, or will say, anything about anyone's body. Theirs. Mine. Any one else.
The lesson usually:
We do not say hurtful things. Period.
That all bodies are in fact different, and that is really actually pretty great. (like flowers in the garden. such variety!) I explain that we are all born different shapes and colors, and some people are born with missing body parts, or body parts that never work the way ours might (blind eyes for instance). And that all people deserve to feel happy in their own skin, and good about the place they live in this world-- Their Body.

I never let them get away with saying something cruel or hurtful. Most of the time I don' think kids initially realise how it cuts, so our response is very important.

It is painfully difficult to teach body acceptance to our daughters when we struggle with it. . . I've not worn a swimsuit in over a decade. Haven't owned one in just as long.
My heart goes out to you there. Kids do say things that can cut, but it's really a chance for us to impart some lessons, wisdom, and teachings.

Date: 2008-08-25 04:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] han-n-ah.livejournal.com
another thought. . .
I like to look at a variety of people through photos, and talk positively about their bodies, differences. We've also looked at classic nude art and I've pointed out that the ideal of beauty at that time was in fact more like their mom is built at the moment ;) (hee! I'm such a babe! ;)
So I then discuss with my daughter (because she's older and we're not yet there with the 3 yo. . .) the media's image of women.
And, that what the world says a woman should be isn't really a thing to worry about. It changes through time, is a bit transient. . . and that women are supposed to have more body fat because we're simply made that way. (We talk about whys. Potential pregnancies and making milk are a couple of ideas).
In Africa the ideals among the natives of beauty and adorning womanhood is not what we in our land think of as beautiful for example. . .
The hope is that my kids will become used to differences, have an open mind about body differences. And look on all people with a more kind eye. Starting at home.
Good luck. I hope the sting has stopped *hugs*
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