THREE WAYS I ACTIVELY WORK TO NORMALIZE BODIES AND HEALTH FOR MY DAUGHTER.
Having my daughter was the biggest motivator to change my relationship with my own health and fitness. I spent my childhood terrified of being called fat, mostly because kids bullied me hard. I was perpetually shamed for my size.
Looking back, I didn’t know that it was ok to be different. I didn’t know that being bigger was ok, that it didn’t make me a failure. I only knew that it made me “other.”
When I was pregnant, I remember a visit to the doctor right around 30 weeks. She told me at that point that they would probably induce me early because baby was pretty big. She talked about the risks of gestational diabetes (even though I passed all the tests so far).
I didn’t fully understand what was going on but my brain heard “big baby” and immediately I felt like I was passing on the “curse of obesity” to my child. She wasn’t even here yet, and already, her mama had failed her. Multiply that times pregnancy hormones and well, I was a mess.
Through tears and dessert (shamefully eaten in secret) I found myself at a realization.
The FAT=Failure narrative was a choice. I was choosing to decide that if she was a big girl, that her life was limited. Maybe there was another option for her. She deserves better… and maybe I do too. The only way to show her she deserves to be in charge of her own life is to model what that looks like. I had to teach her a healthy relationship with her body because I knew that at the end of the day, that was the BEST gift I could give her.
Now, as she’s getting older and she starts to notice differences between people, our sizes, shapes, colors and abilities, it’s such a joy to be a part of defining these things with her, of helping her create the lens that will move her through the world.
1. We seek it out so we can talk about it.
She goes to a public school that is very diverse, in race and socioeconomic class, but also a school that works with many kids with special needs. I love that every day she experiences kids who look different and live in different bodies.
For things that are outside of what we are able to actually experience (time, geographic or other issues) we turn to the internet. Following account like @specialbooksforspecialkids allows her to see people who don’t look like her. We can talk about love and acceptance, how to be a friend to people. The internet is a powerful tool!
2. We talk about our own bodies in a positive or neutral way.
We talk about how mommy is fat and has a soft belly and daddy is thin and has a hard belly. (The belly is her observation LOL). All bodies are good and there is no one right way to have one.
We focus on things that our bodies can do, and not on how it looks. I try to include her in my workouts (where practical. Everything has a limit!) so I can tell her how strong she is and marvel at her amazing squat form, how high she can jump and all her silly moves in between.
3. We talk about food in a normal way.
No options are demonized. Obsession is not part of our language. She’ll say something like,” I’m so hungry, I want fruit snacks.” I’ll reply that “fruit snacks are not what we eat when we are hungry. When we are hungry, we eat “working food”. But after we have our food, we can definitely have some fruit snacks for fun.” (Side story: she caught on to my game so now she says, “I’m sooo full, can I have fruit snacks HAHAHA! Kids!).
We never use the word fat as a negative outcome for over-consumption. Phrases like, “if you eat too much of that you’ll get fat” are banned!
My hope is that as she grows, she will look upon the world with more compassion. That her heart and foundation will be set on a stage of acceptance, of herself and others. It’s not instinctual. We are taught. I was taught by society to play small, to pull back, to worry first about how others value my appearance before how I value my soul.
Combating these messages is an active practice. I actively teach her and try to lead by example, a better way to live. I’m not a perfect mom by any stretch, but I’m trying to teach my daughter to be better than me. I think that’s what we all want for our kiddos =)