I have a confession to make. My two year old is in the first percentile for her weight. She’s barely over twenty pounds. She’s healthy, and thriving, and she’s been tiny since birth, so her doctor isn’t concerned, but even as I worry that she’s not eating enough, not gaining enough, some part of me is happy for her. Like she’s a step ahead because she’s starting out smaller.
It’s sick. I know it’s sick. It makes me feel like a horrible person that the thought even crosses my mind, but weight is such an issue in our culture. Whether you’re talking about the obesity epidemic, or the unrealistic expectations of beauty that the media has poisoned our minds with, our culture is obsessed with weight. I know I’m obsessed. I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life, or at least I think I have. I wasn’t overweight through most of high school. Looking back at pictures and the numbers, I was exactly where I needed to be, but the girls I was friends with were taller, and thinner, and super models in the making so I didn’t feel like I measured up to them. Now that I’m actually overweight, I regret not enjoying that time and being proud of my body. In fact I often wonder if maybe my defeatist attitude contributed to my weight gain. I was already fat, why not enjoy the food? Looking back, I kick myself because now I’m dieting, and running, and trying to get (back) to what I thought was “so fat” when I was seventeen.
So when Romi sent me this blog, in which Janell Hoffman’s seven year old daughter tells her mother that her friends told her she was “kind of fat,” and that she agrees that their assertion is “mostly true,” and “my stomach jiggles when I run. I want to be skinny. I want my stomach to go flat down,” I wasn’t surprised.
I remember first grade, when the school nurse weighed us all for some reason I can’t recall. My classmates compared notes immediately and the prettiest girl in my class complained/bragged that she was underweight.
Suddenly we were all explaining we misread the scale, and changing our numbers. Even as first graders we knew having the lowest number was desirable.
I could question what that says about our culture, but we already know. We’re obsessed. Obsessed with being thinner, prettier, more popular. We aren’t satisfied with the way we look. We think something is wrong with the way we look, and our children are listening to this message. Just look at how we handle it on truu. We have an entire channel devoted to the body, but type the word “fat,” “overweight,” or “obese” in our search box and in each channel you’ll find confessions from talented and articulate women confessing that they feel worthless because of their weight. You’ll also find confessions from users that say hurtful things like fat people are a waste of space, and snide comments like “how could they let themselves get like that.” We’ve clearly all got issues.
In the blog, Janell struggles with how to explain to her daughter that she’s perfect, just the way she is. She tells her daughter she’s beautiful, but she doesn’t believe her. She tells her daughter that she looked the same when she was her age, but that doesn’t reassure her. She points out all the amazing talents her daughter has, but it doesn’t matter. Her daughter has already begun the negative self talk that could last a lifetime. In a beautiful moment, Janell finds a way to reach her daughter, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t tear up a little. Reading the blog left me with a smile on my face, and a chill in my blood. It was beautiful, and Janell handled it perfectly, but I can’t help wonder if I’m capable of handling that situation. What am I going to tell my daughter in a few years when she compares herself to someone else? What do you tell your daughters? What can we do to break this cycle of self-loathing?
Have you found yourself in a similar situation? How did you handle it? Share your advice and concerns in the comments below.