Abercrombie & Fitch CEO, Mike Jeffries, very un- Abercrombie & Fitch like himself, has gone on record saying that he does not want to market his product to the fat kids or the unattractive masses. He wants the thin, cool, popular kids. He’s kind of a bully. There should be a sign out front: Send me your thin, cool, waif-like huddled masses. Keep your fat, unpopular and poor. We fat shame. Welcome!
Like most of you, when I look at my children I am in awe that I have been a part of bringing such marvelous creatures into the world. I remember getting ready to leave the hospital with my oldest and having a slight panic attack. They come into the world these little tiny, wiggly, apple smelling beings of the nearest thing to perfection that I have ever seen. That’s why I believe they are sent from heaven..directly. It’s only once they get here and we get hold of them and start fucking them up that hell starts breaking lose. I jest but there is some truth to it. Don’t you agree?
One thing that I know that I worry about and I know weighs heavily on many Moms minds is nutrition. We try to keep our kids healthy; feed them the right foods, get them involved in some recreational sports for exercise, monitor what they eat but despite our best efforts the incidence of childhood obesity is on the rise. This is of particular concern to me because I have battled with my own eating issues/disorders in the past. I am hyper aware of body issues and the toll they take on a little girls mind and body. I am fully aware that this affliction is an equal opportunity destroyer of boys and girls alike, but I think girls are just more susceptible because of the natural expectation of beauty put onto women.
I’ve said since before my girls were born that I would do whatever it took to save them from that fate. The first best step, in my mind, is to not make weight a focus of attention in their life. I have a dear friend who has a 16 year old daughter who has always been weighed backwards and has no knowledge of what she weighs. How amazing is that? A scale is just a number, its like scoring your importance in the world by how many lbs. you are and the lower the better. How asinine is that? I have been inspired to not let my girls be aware of their number on the scale.
I remember, as a child, my father who is very athletic and an avid runner taking us running with him. He would take us bike riding, to play soccer, swimming, to play basketball and tennis, and walking and it was a blast. I particularly remember a time, around the time puberty hitting, (you know that lovely time of our lives when our whole body is mutinying on us?) my dad started making me run harder and faster. I distinctly remember him telling me, “Mija, you should run some more”. I could hear the disappointment in his voice. I’m pretty positive that was the moment that it all went down hill for me. From that point on, I was painfully aware of what I ate , how much I exercised and it made me feel that in some tiny way my worth to my dad was directly tied to my weight. As an adult and a parent now, I am sure it was not. But actions speak louder than words and the added, ” you should run more” certainly didn’t help. I can understand trying to get your child healthy and prevent them from being unhealthy but maybe a better approach would have been to not say anything and just take me running and him speed up the pace. Then, I would have had to speed up to keep up but there would have been no connotation attached to the words; no disappointment. Maybe we could have bypassed the body dysmorphia/bulimia/anorexia episode entirely.
I’ve also tried my damnest to not focus on my own weight in front of my girls. I try to avoid the “Does this make me look fat” question at all cost within their earshot. I’m not always successful but I try to let them know that people come in all shapes and sizes and to just be the best them they can be.
I try to feed them nutritiously and get them to play outside. They are both involved in dance. But it seems that at certain times of the year, my daughter will put on a little weight and then slim right back down.I don’t know what it is but that’s how it happens every year. At these times of the year, I start going over my menu with a fine tooth comb and trying to make sure to eliminate the bad foods and focus on the healthier fare. I know it sounds slightly crazy to be so aware of this but I just don’t want her to ever start being aware of her weight to the point where it could be an issue in her mind. To look at her, obviously she is no where near overweight but I feel like , as her Mother, it is my duty to keep her healthy and happy and not to be the catalyst of an unhealthy lifestyle or allowing bad habits to start. Sounds familiar, right? Probably something very similar to what my own father was feeling/thinking.This is a major contributor to the Mommy guilt that I feel. It’s so hard when you have picky eaters and some times its all you can do just to get them to eat anything but I think this is a stand where we, as parents, need to hold vigilant. The thought of my little girl one day feeling less than adequate in her life because of the number on a scale or the size of her ass makes me cringe. Of course, we want to protect our children from any unnecessary unhappiness in their life but their nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices are something that we can put into place in their formative years. I don’t want to second guess myself and wonder if the food choices I am making for my children are bad for them. The work lies in the execution of the plan. How do you make sure your children are healthy without emphasizing weight or the negative effects of bad food? I don’t ever want my words to be the source of my children feeling anything less than fantastically comfortable in their own skin.
Let me preface this by saying, I am so paranoid about my girls developing body issues that if you ask them ,”What are you?” Their standard answer, with absolutely no conceit, is, “Perfection!” Or as Bella likes to say ,”Perfectional!” I am trying to raise them to know that they are perfect as is; to know that people come in all shapes, sizes,and colors and we are all of the same worth. We are all the perfect us that we are suppose to be.I stress this point to them. Though, of course, being that I am human, I am uber critical of myself but I am conscientious not to exhibit that behavior in front of them, or so I thought. It’s a 24 hour a day job, just trying not to be a bad example :)I thought that I was succeeding at this job.I guess I thought wrong.
The other day, out of the blue, my 4 year old, Bella looks at me and whispers, “Mom, I want you to be tall and straight like Daddy.” With that, she smiled a little sheepish smile. So between the whisper and the (please don’t hurt me, on the brink of a flinch smile) I concluded, she was trying to say something very diplomatically that was in fact an insult. But I wasn’t sure what. My husband is 6’5″, so I understand that he is taller than me but what did she mean by “straight”? I’m married to a man and she has to idea of the implications of the words “straight or gay” ,so this left me wondering, what in the hell exactly she meant. So, I said,”Bella, Mommy is a girl and sometimes they are shorter than boys.I can’t do anything about that.” She said,(in her whispering/defensive stance/hands actually up to her mouth to signify a secret) “But you can get straight!” I look at her, and again, that same impish smile. I’m curious and I’m confused. “Honey, what do you mean that you want me to be “straight like Daddy”? Bella, looks me up and down and says, “You know, straight,with none of this!” By this, I inferred by her hand gestures and the fact that she was rubbing my love handles, she meant my lovely chunkiness. OMG, this is the moment I hoped would never come. I’m not obese, but I’m no size 5 anymore.I am certainly a well established resident in double digit land. I took a mental note and decided that it was in fact time to get back into shape. I want to be a good role model, and all that:)She wasn’t trying to mean, but she obviously knew, at her young age of 4, that Mommy’s weight was a sensitive subject. We’ve had the occasional,”Mom you’ve got a big butt!”, which of course, compared to hers, I do. Let’s face it, I got a big butt. I have always responded, “Well Bella, Mommy would look crazy with a little butt like yours.I’m too big for a bootie that size, but its perfect for your little girl body:)” Which, indeed, I would and it is. Her response is always, “It’s OK Mom, I love your big butt!” So, overall, its all good. My ego gets a little bruised, but I bounce back. That was then.
Today,at dinner, Bella is engaged in a full on monologue with herself, as four year olds are known to do from time to time. Then she leaps into her,I’m pretending I’m somebody else mode.OK, I’m used to this. I hear her having a conversation with herself about her Mom being “straight”. I turn slowly, and my ears perk up, like a nosey dog.I can’t resist,”Bella, you still love me even if I’m not “straight”,right? Families love each other no matter what.” To which she responds, “Yeah, Mom! But some people are like ‘Hey look at that fat girl!’ ( Imagine my aghast face and sheer horror) and she continues ,”But I’m like ,’Hey don’t say that, she’s my Mom and she’s perfect!” And then she looks me dead in the eye, serious as I’ve ever seen her, and says,”I still love you anyways,Mommy!” At this point, I am in shock and mortified that this is the conversation that her and her ‘imaginary friends are having’:) Continuing, as an equal opportunity child that she apparently is, she looks at me and (again with that smile and whisper, since Daddy’s out of earshot) says ,”It’s OK Mom, they say it about Daddy and Saffaron (the dog) too. They’re like ‘Hey, look at that stupid guy walking that dog!’ OMG, all I want to know is who are these horribly evil little imaginary people that live in my daughter’s head and what do I have to do to shut them up? LOL I laughed so hard that I did in fact cry, part, laughing my butt off at her imagination and her keen sense of decorum to know that she needed to be delicate with her Mommy’s feelings, and part at the sad fact that my daughter has, in fact, noticed my imperfections and thinks I’m perfect anyways…or at least that is what she has chosen to let me believe , in spite of the facts.I love my daughter, she is ‘perfectional’ to me, and I am starting a diet tomorrow! I’ve also realized that I have to fight the urge and be more conscious of the “does my butt look big? Does this make me look fat?” comments that slip out of my mouth undetected. But like they say, ” I can lose weight, but poor Daddy..well, what do you do for being stupid?