5 Things Worse Than Fat

The other day my five year old told me she never wants to have children.

I understand. I’m still not certain I want to have them either.

But instead of her mouthing off about how annoying kids are (she has inside knowledge about this), or how gross boys are, or other five year old logic she stated:

“I don’t want to ever have a baby because I don’t want to be fat.”

Five years old and her future is already being dictated by a scale.

I tried to talk to her about what it means to be fat, and why she is so scared of that. I listed off people we know of all different sizes and asked if she felt differently about them.

“None of them are fat,”  she replied immediately. I told her some people might think I am fat, but I am happy and healthy. “You are not fat mama! Don’t say that! You are skinny!” she cried, so angry at me for using that word, as if I’d just sliced open my own flesh.

I can’t fix this. I try every single day and it feels like I’m running on a treadmill moving faster than my legs can pace. I’m falling off. (And not because I’m fat!)

I can try to outlast it. With my own messages about her strength and power. With my own body acceptance and with a long, long list of things that I can assure her are far worse than being fat.

Here are the top five, one for each year of her life.

1) Being unfunny. 

Tonight my kid told us that she has spent years thinking my fiance was allergic to jackets that were yellow (vs. yellow jackets). She also thought all horses were girls because they all wear pony tails. She keeps us laughing endlessly and I would take a laugh like that over almost anything, every day of the week.

2) Being unkind. 

Fat, skinny, round, plump, slender, rail, curvy. These things aren’t you. They describe how you appear to people. But kindness is something deeper, something that people feel. If we stressed an exercise plan for our empathy in the same way we stress diet plans for our body than we would all be a little more grounded.

3) Being unhappy. 

Ultimately, the way we look can’t make us happy. We want it to, so desperately, because it is something we feel like must lead to a greater acceptance of ourselves. But really, we have to find our own happy that can withstand increasing waistlines, drooping body parts, and everything else that will ultimately fade. Unhappy is far uglier than any amount of pounds.

4) Spending your time worrying about being fat. 

I read a book recently called The Man Who Quit Money, a true account of Daniel Suelo’s journey to live without any money. A quote from him has stuck with me.

“Worrying about what could or should happen is a worse illness than what could or should happen.”

After many years of worrying about what could or should happen, I know this to be true.

5) Not having her. 

I also used to worry about the way my own body would someday morph from the weight of a child. I fixated on it far past my fives, and even sixes, up till my twenties and likely right till the day I gave birth to my first born. But then I saw this baby, filled with all the goodness in the world. A baby so amazing that I knew whatever my body had done to grow her had been worth it. Every mark etched into my skin was an extra inch of soft baby silk. Every jolting pain I’d endured was the expansion needed to house a being with a growing brain. Every pound of fat I put on fed life into the greatest gift I could ever have been given. It wasn’t fat I needed to fear. It was my own tremendous ability I needed to recognize.

I could list five hundred things for her that are worse than being fat. I don’t know that any of them will actually do any good.

We’ve convoluted the word fat from something that describes a body type to something that describes someone’s worth. And I can’t stand it. I can’t stand to watch my five year ask about calories. I can’t stand to watch her describe her concave tummy as big.

I can’t stand to watch her believe that fat is the worst fate that could wait for her, when her actual one will be full of far worse things.

Luckily, it will also be full of earth-shattering amazing things. It might involve having children of her own, and it might not. Regardless of what she decides, I hope she can see past the word.

8 comments

  • Wow, at 5 she is worried about this? So sad. I can’t remember that far back but have often wondered when those feelings began in my world. Love your list of “worse” things and hope those girls listen to what their smart mother tells them!

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  • Ev had nearly the same reaction when I said something about being fat last week. I know I’m fat. It’s not who I am, it’s just part of how I look. And I don’t shun the word because I think denying it gives it just as much power. (Maybe I’m taking “fat” back…) But the look of pure shock and horror on her little face when she yelled at me “You’re NOT fat! DON’T SAY THAT!” was so incredibly eye-opening. It really is the new swear word. The worst thing you can call a person. The most hurtful insult to throw. And it was so surreal to me because, truly, I don’t think of it the same way.

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  • Poignant, funny, and oh so true!

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  • Thank you for this! May I reblog it?

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  • My three year old is obsessed with “pretty” right now. I’m sure “fat” is right around the corner. Your list is perfect, and I will remember it as I deal with each stage of body image issues that arise.

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  • I am fat, and I made a very conscious effort to never talk about my weight in front of my daughter. And she didn’t even think about fatness for a long time, so I thought maybe I’d succeeded. But no –there are all those other people in her life I can’t protect her from. The 11 and 12 year old girls in her class who parade very skinny bodies and talk about how fat they are, in front of other kids who aren’t quite as skinny. My daughter isn’t fat, but she isn’t concave either, so she feels those comments strongly. I can only hope that the home influence will ultimately outweigh their influence.

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