I’m that daughter, yeah the FAT one. The one that you may view as lazy, upsetting, or not worthy. I am the child that I’ve seen myself in countless times as I stroll through this world and want to give a hug to when I see her parent’s pick at her in public.
I see this little girl wanting to scream HELP ME, LOVE ME! What’s worse it’s not just some random stranger, it’s coming from the people who claim love you the most. The people you look up to, the people who help to sculpt you and prepare you for life.
As a child I was very thin and doctors often wondered if I had eating issues. I don’t remember having an issue with my body back then, it wasn’t until I got my tonsils out and started puberty that weight suddenly showed up at an alarming rate. I was still active and vibrant, I still loved myself despite what I was going through. That all changed one day with a single comment from my mother. I knew she meant well, but it still stung none the less.
I had no control over my body and didn’t understand why this was happening, no one could help me; not even doctors.
She was talking about a “fat” friend she had in high school and how embarrassed she was for her friend who had to go to plus size stores. She lauded herself like a hero for going to these stores like she was truly being a friend. The problem is when you say “my large friend” or “my fat friend” you are defining them by their weight, not who they are. The message was clear, I was unacceptable and should be embarrassed. I had no control over my body and didn’t understand why this was happening, no one could help me; not even doctors.
My mother thought she knew all the answers, this started years of torture and ate away at my self esteem. First it was aerobics classes — I was forced to go several times a week despite hating it and being in a class with old ladies. The music was awful and I had to stare at myself in a mirror, I spent the whole time hating myself, several times a week. I tried not to cry in public when she criticized every roll, jiggle and ripple. No matter how loud I screamed or how much I cried I was told “it’s for your own good”.
Whenever my parents spoke about my sister and I, I was always referred to as the smart one and my sister was always the pretty one. I heard my parents gloat over how stunning she was. I just had a great personality and smarts. She was given the cuter clothes, I was given what fit and was affordable.
After that, and for the rest of my life, I had trouble eating in public
Then one night while enjoying a spaghetti dinner, my mother freaked out because I was “eating like a pig” and I was dragged up to my room where there was a mirror against the wall. She sat me down with the plate on the floor and told me to watch myself eat. This happened several times and impacted me greatly. After that, and for the rest of my life, I had trouble eating in public, and didn’t eat in the cafeteria at school. I’d hide with some friends and eat where I knew people wouldn’t stare or be disgusted by me. The message was constantly there. I’m not acceptable and should be ashamed. Even to this day, I still struggle with eating in public.
Next was modelling school. I was the fattest, most tomboy girl in the class. What was I doing there? I hated makeup and doing my hair, I just wanted to be me. I was the tallest there and had issues with walking (my knees knocked). They talked to us about diet and reducing intake (keep in mind I was a teenager at this point). It’s like they were encouraging me to starve myself; they’d always look my way when talking about proper eating. A giant spotlight cast on me as the example of how not to be a girl. The message was clear “you could be much prettier if you tried”. This went on for weeks, each week something new to feel bad about. Again my mother seemingly meant well, but didn’t hear my pleas as I cried in the back seat begging not to go. The final hit to my self-esteem was the shopping trip we took to the mall to find the right clothes for your shape. We glided around the mall, me tailing behind and feeling embarrassed as we went from store to store where they didn’t have my size. I was ignored when I asked “what about me?” and it was then I realized I guess I don’t deserve to have nice things. I don’t deserve to be treated properly and I’m not acceptable. My vibrancy was dying as the stiff reality hit me. I am not deserving.
The other girls were mean and the boys snickered amongst themselves.
I was thankful when that was over, until that next summer when I was informed I was going to another summer modeling school. I died inside a little more — I had to go through this again?? I expressed that I was ok with it, as I knew I had no choice. My parents just wanted “the best for me” they said over and over while giving me a sympathetic smile and pretending to hear me. This experience wasn’t as bad — I had an instructor who encouraged me and showed me how to sketch and design clothing. Clothing for myself! I could be creative and there was no judgement. But then came picture day. We had to dress nicely and do our makeup and hair, which I still hadn’t mastered, but tried. I felt uncomfortable and like I needed to perform but did it anyways. The other girls were mean and the boys snickered amongst themselves. I felt like a clown in the circus and a little more of my light burned out.
Men will never marry fat women, they settle for them.
In high school I was a tomboy and knew it. I didn’t have a huge interest in boys and was teased all the time. People mooed at me, kicked me, threw stuff at me, pushed me, and even spit at me. I tried to tell my parents how depressed and stressed I was, how much I hurt inside and I didn’t know how to fix it. I began to cut and pick at myself in order to stop my head from repeating all the horrible things I’ve been told and seen. They just laughed and told me “you don’t know what stress is, you’re a child”. I remember crying a lot to myself and escaping to my room to read novel after novel just to feel relief from reality.
Like most young women, I turned to my mom for dating advice. Her main piece of wisdom was this: “Men will never marry fat women, they settle for them”. The message was clear; no one will love me as long as I look this way.
I got to a point where I wondered why I even bothered trying anymore. No matter what I did, I was judged and laughed at. People poked fun, even my own family. I was a joke and started accepting that. I became angry, depressed, anxious, and constantly felt I needed to be on my guard. I kept growing up and out, and honestly I stopped caring about myself. I stopped caring what I ate, what I did, who I hung with, and clung to any attention I could get. Someone tell me I’m PRETTY, LOVE me, hold me…I didn’t care that they wanted to just touch my boobs, or make out because we were drunk. It was attention, even though I knew the guys laughed at me later. Some even called me a “fat mistake” to my face, others cheated on me, and some dumped me because their friends said I was too fat. I couldn’t win, so why fight? I was wrong, undeserving, bad, hated, disgusting, etc….This was set on repeat in my head.
Years later when I started losing weight and embracing myself I still sought some sort of approval, even just a hug or thumbs up from my mother. Instead I got “you look fatter than when I last saw you”, that was when for the first time in my life I was down 13lbs. I was so proud of myself and working hard to be healthy without dieting or internally torturing myself. That statement brought me right back to when I was a child and stung more than she could ever imagine.
I was the representation of everything she disliked about herself
That was the point I realized that her comments she thought were helping, instead just made me feel worthless. The weight issue was not my problem, it was hers. She felt terribly about herself and therefore took it out on me. I was the representation of everything she disliked about herself and my father.
If you’re a parent reading this, hopefully at this point, I’ve convinced what not to do. Never make your child feel worthless, and be careful what you say to them and in front of them. You don’t know how they will translate what you say, or how a single sentence could impact them for LIFE. I’m 35 and still fight that voice in my head. I have good days and bad, though over the past years it’s been more good day by day. I get stronger and realize the boogie man was just a sad woman who had self esteem issues as a mother and didn’t know how to be strong when she didn’t know what I was going through. It’s still not an excuse, what she did to me was cruel and humiliating. It was abusive and very dysfunctional.
For any parent out there today with a child who may be gaining weight and you’re concerned, please think twice about your approach. You could save your child decades of pain. As parents you’re there to build your child up, enrich them and make them a great human being. You mould their self image, and influence how they see and express themselves. It’s a huge responsibility, but you set the tone for their internal talk and how they treat themselves.
The world won’t come to an end if your daughter grows up to be fat. A woman’s worth is not measured by her looks. Truth be told, obesity is a complex problem with complex causes. You aren’t going to stop it by making your child feel bad about it.
If you want to help your child, support them. Don’t just put them on a diet and send them to aerobics. Do it together and show support for everyone changing their lifestyle. Be active together and eat well together. It’s the only way to make sure they feel supported and studies have shown it’s certainly a better approach1,2. No one is singled out and it doesn’t become about losing pounds. It becomes about being a better FAMILY.
Every day children are bombarded by messages: you’re too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too this, too that. It disturbs me that I see parents online saying “my daughter is fat what do I do?”, or comments on young girl’s photos “that’s disgusting you should kill yourself”. They don’t need that at home. Make home a sanctuary away from that and make sure they understand everyone doesn’t feel that way.
You could save them from years of struggle and pain. You could save their life. In the end, maybe your daughter will still be fat, maybe she won’t. But hopefully she’ll still be happy, and isn’t that all you really want for her anyway?