You think you’re fat. You tell your friends you’re fat. You tell the mirror you’re fat. Instagram and Facebook have only seen your face since time. You aren’t happy.
At some point we have all either been that person, or the friend of that person. I have been both.
But do you know who doesn’t need to hear about your struggle? Your children. Your son. And especially your daughter. They most certainly do not need to know that you are consumed with whatever it is – face, breast, stomach, ass – that doesn’t make you feel 1000%.
You may not be explicitly telling them, “Mama needs to lose 10lbs” or “Mommy’s ass is too big”, or “Mom is on a diet, she can’t eat popcorn”, but you can bet they see, hear, feel your daily struggle, and now are looking at themselves.
They listen to you.
They see you suck in your gut in front of the mirror.
They see you struggle to get dressed when going out.
They hear you on the phone complaining to your friends.
They feel bad you don’t eat the same thing as the rest of the family at dinner.
They know you are unhappy.
This needs to stop.
I’ve been hearing a lot lately on this issue, and truthfully this topic has been ruminating in my head for the past few months. What sparked my urge to sit down and write about it was a recent post I saw about a new mom who was looking fabulous, and oh – happened to be thin.
Maybe it was just the ONE I needed to read. After all, it wasn’t a rare post. It wasn’t even a post about weight. Actually, it wasn’t even the post that had me interested, it was the accompanying comments. I looked through them all and while they seemed pretty innocuous at first glance, they sparked an interest in me on a deeper issue: our incessant need to compare people. To have markers for what mothers should look like – and when, and how. To ignore genetics. To spark the question of ‘why not me?’ in comments that are on one hand praising a woman, “you look so amazing, how did you just have a baby?” but on the other, include a bit self-loathing, “oh man, I look like shit compared to you.” My reflection on this is not an attack on anyone – I need to say – but rather, a reflection on why NO ONE can seem to win at any size. It’s a reflection on how we’ve created a system where we allow this to happen – to each other. And what I’ve come to see is just how much we shame ourselves and others, without even realizing it.
This is getting passed on to our children – and it is not okay.
Anyone who knows me knows I have a serious metabolic issue. I literally eat salads and gain weight. I have seen metabolic specialists, nutritionists, dieticians, endocrinologists, hematologists, acupuncturists, you name it, I’ve seen them – internationally. They tell me a “problem” that I may have, tell me to follow a plan. I do. For long periods of time. And. Nothing. Happens. Oh, wait, I gain more weight – that happens.
Despite this constant struggle and being aware that I am too damn smart to let it get to me, it does. Every day I fight to figure out what’s wrong with my body. But, what I fight even harder at, is not letting my daughters know I am struggling. The struggle I have is not going to be their fate. They will not have me be the catalyst to an unrealistic idea of what they should look like. And this is one of my most important jobs as their mother. I do not want to instill in them the idea that it is okay to look at someone else and feel inadequate because that person has something they don’t.
I grew up in an era when girls treated me like shit for having breasts that were too big, or an ass that was too wide or hair that was too short (yep, that was me); however, it was never broadcasted to the entire universe (read: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat). And unfortunately, as much as we train kids to be resilient and to be proactive, they will encounter this constant scrutiny. From everywhere. And by people they don’t even know.
So the LAST thing our daughters need to hear is US being hypocrites. We tell our daughters not to give a shit what other people say. To walk away from the negativity. To stand up to bullies. And yet, how are they ever supposed to believe us when they see us being insecure about the exact same things their peers are teasing each other about? Scrutinizing our selves…starving ourselves…being unhappy. We are contributing to this culture of saying we aren’t enough.
Do you see where I am going with this?
In that exact moment when you suck in your gut while looking in the mirror and say, “ugh” or “fuck” or “honestly”, they are sitting on your bed watching you struggling to feel good about your night out; in that millisecond that you don’t even consider being hypercritical of yourself, your child is watching you. Sucking it all in, alongside you. I think we are all guilty of doing this. I will be the first to raise my hand to admit it.
And please don’t get me wrong. It’s okay for you to be on the grind to be healthier, and fitter… for you. In fact, taking good care of yourself and working at being a healthy mom is EXACTLY what you should aspire towards. And being healthy is ENTIRELY the message you want to pass on to your kids. But let me tell you, that doesn’t mean punishing yourself for eating a burrito. It means eating it and enjoying it with your kids and going back to your salads and portioned food on the next meal.
It means being kinder to yourself. Your kid doesn’t care what you look like in a bathing suit. Your kid wants you to go with them to the beach. GO.
Stop being so hard on yourself. All. The. Time.
*I need to give myself this reminder too, for crying out loud.
You aren’t going to look like other people. You don’t have their genetics. And you certainly shouldn’t assume that a slender appearance means that someone is either healthy or happy. She may not be. Maybe she is. Who cares? You aren’t any less beautiful because of the appearance of others. Take all those lessons you give to your kids and apply them to yourself. This is not the time to say, ‘do as I as I say, not as I do’. This is the time that you do exactly what you say to them.
The best lesson I’ve learned as a parent is that everyone has their own pile of shit to deal with. There is absolutely no need to yearn for something you probably know very little about. Move on.
And while you are at it, tell your squad to quit it too. Your kids are listening to them just as intently.
Being around teenagers all day long provides me with the constant reminder of the insecurities we all felt in our teenage years (and I am so incredibly grateful that my mom wasn’t consumed with this shit). I can literally envision what it will be like when my girls get to high school, and it scares me.
As moms, we need to equip ourselves and our kids for those years of insecurity by instilling a really healthy body image from the get-go, and the only way to do that is to trim the most important fat in our lives: our insecurities.
Feeling like a hot hormonal mess? We got you: Dear Anxiety, Mom Guilt, How To Not Be A Judgemental Cow, How to Not Lose Your Shit on the Daily, Motherhood: You Can Say It Sucks, Postpartum Depression: The Journey Pt. 1, Postpartum Depression: The Journey Pt. 2, Brave New Girl, Regretting Your Kids.