Am I Raising a Sizist?

Sizist, Adele

According to the Urban Dictionary, Sizist ~

The belief that body weight, size or type accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular body weight, size or type is superior to others.

A couple of years ago my 2 year old told me, upon seeing a Victoria Secret Angel commercial, “Mommy, when I grow up I want to look like her.” I was a bit taken aback. But then I thought, she’s 2! 2?

Surely, she’s seeing pretty colors on a beautiful girl dressed like a fairy. Yeah, I can see why a 2 year old who spends her days playing dress up would want to be a real life grown up fairy. It’s an easy leap to make for a 2 year old.

I didn’t think about it again. Until now.

It was one of those pieces of Mommy guilt that you put in your back pocket and wait for it to hit you upside the head at a later date. How could I explain to a 2 year old that the girl on the commercial was not real. She was a product of youth, lighting, and airbrushing? It would have been completely above her head. I knew we’d be revisiting this subject again.

Am I unwittingly instilling a sizist attitude in my girls?

My goal; to raise healthy, intelligent, happy girls who were self-confident in the skin they are in. A concept completely lost on myself.

I try to avoid the pitfall of asking “Does this make me look fat?” of the Big Guy in front of the girls. I feed them healthy food, I keep them active and I make the focus health not weight. It’s not them it’s me.

It’s my responsibility, as their mother, to guide them into a healthy lifestyle without deprivation; to lead by example. Unfortunately, I’ve not been a consistent example. I’ve been pulling the “watch Mommy workout and eat healthy” then I get stressed and it becomes “Do what I say, not as I do!

Without saying anything about body size, they see me constantly struggling to be thinner and they are forming their own opinions. I’m afraid that my girls are perceiving that there is something fundamentally wrong with not being the girl in the commercial.

Yesterday, upon seeing an overweight woman on television, my 4 year old announced “Mommy, I don’t like that woman. She’s fat! I don’t want to be fat!” Then she grabbed the skin on her tiny stomach.

I fell off my chair. A thousand questions flooded my mind.

Am I raising a sizist?

Why is she thinking about this? What’s wrong with being overweight that makes her NOT like someone simply by their size? Is she worrying about her own weight? Has she heard me say something about my own weight when I thought she wasn’t paying attention? Are my body issues genetic? Can you inherit eating disorders? Am I raising a sizist?

My head was spinning. All I could hear is my blood rushing through my body.

She.thinks.I’m.fat.

More importantly, what does this mean for her? I don’t want her to be a sizist and I certainly don’t want her to grow up to be a self-loathing overweight person. I don’t want her to think someone is less than because of the size of their body. I spent the better part of 30 minutes trying to convince her that people are not to be judged by their size and shape but by who they are on the inside. How I wish people’s insides matched their outsides, life would be so much easier. Is she a sizist?

Do all kids go through a sizist phase?

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Comments (29)

I think this is something that happens with all kids at some point or other. If she says it again I would just say something like, “well that’s kind of a silly reason to not like someone. What if she’s a really nice person?” I tell my daughter it is not about the size of your body, but the size of your heart. It may take awhile to sink in, but I’m not going to give up.

You know, I did try to refocus and I told her that someone’s size is not a reason to not like someone. I asked her what she would do if her best friend got fat? Or what about Mommy ? She said, “You are fat but I love you anyways”. She doesn’t realize that she is discriminating against size. I am dedicated to changing this outlook. I want her love everyone for who they are, not what they look like. The thing is, she is not really a superficial person except for in this one area. I hope its a phase and she is going to grow out of it but meanwhile, I am reiterating the fact that its what’s inside that counts.

I don’t believe that all children go through this. My girls (who are now 6 and 8) have not. They understand that being overweight isn’t ideal from a health standpoint, but they don’t attach a person’s worth to that person’s size. We have had (and continue to have!) regular conversations about the importance of eating well and exercising for health reasons. Kids are very perceptive, and will often pick up on our beliefs and attitudes even if we don’t verbalize them out loud.

I agree 100% and that’s what I am afraid of. I don’t dislike people for their size but I’ve always had issues with my own body image ( my whole life). I obviously have to work harder to not only accept my own body but think before I react to it. I am going to continue to have regular conversations about eating well and exercising but more importantly I need to be the better example. I don’t want them to ever go through what I have went through where my body image is concerned. Any suggestions of children’s books that might be helpful in talking to children about nutrition, in their terms?

I think worse than ‘she thinks I’m fat’ would be ‘she thinks SHE’S fat’. I’m so much more afraid of my girls being anorexic or bulimic than being overweight. That’s what grips my heart with fear….that they’ll hate their bodies enough to starve to death 🙁

That is my fear.It starts with think you are fat or not good enough,and then in the pursuance of perfection and controlling the situation snowballs into starvation. I know this from first hand experience, 8 years of eating disorders and a lifetime of body dysmorphic disorder. My girls are ballet dancers since the age of 3 and they are surrounded by women who are thin and sinewy.My husband and I have already discussed that if weight ever becomes a focus, we would pull them out before it became a disorder.It’s frightening,the effect photoshop has on the self esteem of young girls these days.

first off, i love you, i love this post, and i love Adele & her quote.

My kids are definitely noticing and commenting on sizes of people lately, but not to the point of your daughter. Yet. I know it’s coming. We talk a lot about being healthy, they see us exercising, we don’t eat a lot of fast food, we have tons of fruits & veggies around, etc…but it’s so hard w/ the media. I’m working on a post for #MU right now about this (not about the kids part), along a similar vein.

KICK-ASS POST! xoxoxoxoxo

Thanks, my friend. I’m just so afraid that they will internalize all the images and start feeling sub par about themselves not because of their body but because of the manipulated perceived image of beauty in today’s society. I mean come on, who really looks like the VS models..except for the VS models? Yes, there are beautiful girls out there but they are not onscreen being Photoshopped and the exception…NOT THE RULE. That’s why I love Adele, she is all that gorgeous talent and spunk and it has nothing to do with the size of anything ( other than her lungs..go girl)

This is a brilliant and important post. I struggle with this, too, both internally about my own feelings about my size, and with my children’s comments about overweight people. I just keep trying to preach moderation, moderation, moderation. It is hard when our culture is so extreme on either side.

Thank you for making bringing this issue to light again–it can’t be explored enough!

Thank you. It is hard trying to lead by example, when you’ve spent your entire life hating your own body for not meeting your impossible standards. I’m trying to change my way of thinking and I know and recognize the issue.Believe me it’s been talked to death in therapy. BUt it’s hard to stop old habits but I am trying. I don’t want my daughter being a sizist ever. You are right, moderation is the key to healthy lifestyle and happiness.

I find it interesting that people assume someone who is heavier than the norm must automatically be unhealthy.I am “over” weight. I run every day, have healthy blood pressure, cholesterol etc, eat healthfully, compete in half marathons, and am am a kind hearted, funny, generous person who does not deserve disdain or judgement because I wear a size 14 instead of a 4. It’s a tough battle we fight as women to accept ourselves when every magazine cover shouts the latest diet next to a big slab of cake. We’re supposed to bake our cakes and wow him in bed! That we are educated, career minded, powerful beings need not matter if we are fat – fat trumps all and we are given societal permission to secretly or not so secretly judge a whole bunch of books by their beautifully ample covers.
Fabulous post – I rarely leave such am impassioned answer but this is so worth discussing.

I love your passion and you remind me of the beautiful Adele and her don’t give a shit what people think about me attitude. I am envious. I agree, it is awful the way the world ( The U.S> in particular) not only judges women by their size but brainwashes us into doing it to ourselves. Stay strong my friend and 14 is the average size of women. You are perfect and that you are healthy is even more the awesome. Honestly, I’ve been everything from a size 4-20 and I have never been happy with my body. It’s never been enough.But I try to make sure that my girls don’t repeat this cycle.Thanks fro your comment.

Raising two little girls, I think about this all the time. I recently wrote a post too about my attempt at making eating about “healthy living” and not weight. But then they are over hearing me talk about “getting in shape for my 40th” and they ask questions. Also, I think it’s inevitable to think about weight and size by just living in the country and being inundated by the unrealistic imagery of women every where. I wish us all luck!!! Also, I love that Adele quote!

Hey, I’m turning 40 this year too! ANd I am also feeling like I am on a deadline for getting into shape. I really want to rock my 80’s party in something neon sexy:)LOL But i agree with you on every single point…obviously:) Happy Early Birthday!

This is *such* an important post, Deb! I think about this all the time, too. We have to change so much of our thinking and talking before we can get to their’s – and that’s where I struggle. Ugh.

I adore that you wrote this, and how transparent and important it is.

It’s so hard to remember to not talk negatively.It’s such an ingrained, long standing habit. I hate it. I am trying every second of every day. One day NOT talking negatively will become the new habit:)

My grandmother gave me the best advice of all “Just be yourself Honey”. Trying to mimick the Photoshopped images we are bombarded with daily is a loser’s game.

Your grandma is a wise, wise woman!

My 5 year old has pointed out people and asked why they were big or little. She has a little person in her class and keeps asking me why he’s so little. I’ve explained it to her and now she’s worried she won’t grow.
Kids go through stages and I think as long as we’re talking with them and explaining that we don’t judge people by how they look, we’re on the right track. What they get or overhear from their peers is yet another story. One thing at a time.

Amen girl! I can only control what happens in my house. But I have to try and teach the how to react i the world and it’s exhausting!Parenting is hard work!

Well done Adele for saying these things.

I think the important thing is keeping an open dialogue.. There’s nothing wrong with striving to be fit… as long as we talk with our kids about being healthy, and wanting to be around a loooong time to be with them.
I don’t have girls, so i can only imagine the weight of this issue… omg no pun intended.
Your girls see your determination, your humor, and your kindness too. Don’t forget that. 🙂

You are so right. It’s just always easier to go to the negative. I have to remind myself to break these bad, self-defeating habits:) XO

A lot of the researchers are sizist as well so saying that obesity is unhealthy is possibly like saying being gay is a mental disorder many years ago or that hysteria is a mental disease as many sexist people believed till 1950.
I think it is near impossible not to raise a sizist child today. They teach it in school for goodness sake. The wife of the president is a black woman sizist!!

The most we can do is at least get them thinking about the term. Sizism is where homophobia was in the 60s.

So estimating this Young children(1-6) and young teenagers(10-16,17ish) its different for each child, but that time is the time your brain grows at a rapid pace, I was watching a tv show on “why most teenagers are reckless” or something like that and it is because tec.” there brains messed up”-my mom(love you mom :D) because of the rapid growing in the frontal lob of their brain and the learning. Monkey see monkey do, it is not a bad thing, it made us fast at learning new things so we can survive in this harsh world.Children as most people know are bluntly honest and…can i say have one perspective observation. The first thing they hear and see they grab on to. The problem is that what we see and hear everyday has to do about weight and size. We are shown by the outside world that we are not perfect and we need to be perfect on the outside, and outside only, and that is affecting how are society operates.
I have also notice that in children that “mom” has become less and less of first “informant” because of tec. advancement, So no your child is not sizist it is the the outside world she is observing everyday that is giving the ideas of right and wrong. So all you can do is to be a model and keep telling her what you value. She is still at the age of monkey see monkey do so, you are all good ;).
Thnk you by the way for bringing this up, it is a extremely present and hidden issue that should be thrown into the open more, for all people to see how our worlds society is taking outer appearance before inner, (even if we say we don’t) i greatly appreciate your post

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