The conversation started at dinner time when my 9 year old said “I don’t want to eat anymore, I feel fat“.
I looked at my husband and we both said “I think you mean ‘full’, you feel full right?”; and she said “No I mean fat, I don’t want to get fat“.
Just out of nowhere came this statement.
Instantly my mind says “WHAT HAVE I DONE TO MAKE HER THINK THIS?!”. I’m a big believer that these things don’t come out of nowhere, and often its because of what’s happening at home that they come about.
Instantly I start critiquing myself. I am very very careful what I say and do around my children when it comes to my own insecurites, so naturally I worry that perhaps I’ve slipped up and she’s picked up on something I’ve done.
But I am also aware things could be happening outside of the house to make her think this. What’s happening at school? Is someone saying something to her? Where has this thought come from?
Naturally I want to ask her all of these questions straight away but I know I need to tread lightly because I don’t want to make it seem like an issue, if it’s not really an issue.
Golly this parenthing thing is hard.
All of the above goes through my head in the space of 10 seconds, just after she’s made this statement about being fat.
Initially I said “why would you think you’re fat” and she couldn’t answer me.
So I said “why do you think being fat is a bad thing?”, and she said “I’m reading this book at school called Holes and there’s a fat boy in it and I don’t want to be like him and get made fun of”.
And there it is (well part of it for sure).
This is actually a big thing to unpack and one that’s kind of hard to have spur of the moment at dinner time.
Again, a lot of things are going through my head.
I understand this fear, fatphobia is what it is. Scared of being fat. In reality there’s nothing to be scared of. We all have fat – it’s what keeps us warm. Some have more fat than others, but it doesn’t make them any less of a person because of it.
I have a lot of my own internal shit to unpack around this, because for a long time I was fatphobic. Diet culture has ruined me because of this fear. I’m slowly but surely unraveling this, and clearly have a lot to help my daughter with too.
Sadly it doesn’t help that others continue to be fatphobic – they criticise people who have more fat than they perceive normal. They put people down, bully them, make fun of them and so much more.
I can understand completely that a child would be scared of this.
So I am highly aware that my casual conversation with my girl could have a big impact on her.
How do I convey to her that:
- She has fat, she is not fat
- Having fat is normal
- This is not something she needs to worry about
- People make fun of others to make themselves feel better and that it is not a reflection on her and how she looks because she is beautiful the way she is
- She is still young and is still growing – food is sustenance and needs to be treated that way
Obviously I’ve had 24 hours to mull this over and can form a proper thought, but last night I was really thrown in the deep end.
During dinner I reassured her that she was ok to eat, and that if she was full then she should honor that feeling and stop eating. But don’t stop if she’s still hungry – that’s not fair on her body.
Then after dinner, I called her into my bedroom to have a bit of a more personal chat.
I asked if anyone was saying anything to her at school, and she was adament they weren’t.
I explained about fat being a necessity of our body. I showed her my stomach and said “look at my beautiful stomach, it has fat on it to keep me warm and I needed it to have babies and keep you safe”.
I asked her if she thought there was anything wrong with me for having it and she said NO.
I explained that this was not something she needed to worry about and that fat was normal – but I also explained that she was not overweight. She was perfect as she is and if I was worried then I would do something about it.
I don’t know if what I’m saying is right or wrong, so try not to blast me too much. I’m a Mum just wanting to help my daughter navigate through this rough world.
There’s so many things to unpack and to cover – I don’t want her growing up having an eating disorder, or body dismorphia, or anthing negative about herself.
But I also realise I’m battling society at the same time – and society and everyone in it, can be incredibly loud. Kids can be cruel and sadly not all parents are aware that fatphobia is a thing and this can severly impact a child.
I will do my best with her (and my son of course), and read as much as I can so that I can guide her.
This topic, and the potential consequences, absolutely terrifies me and I just don’t want to screw my child up by saying the wrong thing.
Streuth! Give me strength!