Training the world – on little girls and body image.

I maintain something of a bi-cameral approach with regard to writing about my children: I write about them, but I don’t use their names (their last name is different to mine, which helps); I write about them, but I write only happy things, or uplifting things, or things that are far in the past. Nothing that would embarrass them, nothing that is truly personal and private. I owe them that, I think. They didn’t ask to be born to me.

Today I’m going to break down that wall, though, because I believe my own daughter’s well-being actually, in a very broad way, depends on it. If you know my girl, or if you ever meet her, I’m asking you here and now: Please don’t discuss the following with her. It would, genuinely, make her sad.

The girl.

The girl.

But how am I to remain silent, when she sits in the back of my car, tears streaming down her face and wondering, in a tiny and strangled voice, if anyone will ever love her?

The girl is tall, and broad, and strong, and round. She is 10, and as she has throughout her young life, she has a belly. It’s not small – it’s a real belly. The kind of belly that many young girls have until they reach puberty, and which is usually eclipsed by the appearance of breasts. As girls grow into women, our shapes change — but they don’t usually change entirely. Mine didn’t. If you were born big and soft (9 lbs 3 oz, and she was four weeks early), you’re never going to become anything much different, unless you literally do physical damage to yourself in the effort.

“Do you think I’ll ever be skinny?” she asked in that same car ride.

No, honey, no. I do not think you will ever be skinny. “Skinny” (like “fat”) has no real value, it tells us nothing about the worth or even the health of the person, it’s a descriptor. It’s like “tall” or “blue” or “left handed” – it describes something, it doesn’t tell you that thing’s worth. Or, worse yet, we’ve made “skinny” (and “fat”) into a weapon, a weapon we use to wound people.

These are almost exactly the words I used with her in the car, words very similar to words she’s heard her whole life — or, at least, since the first time she was called “fat” and understood it to be intended as a cruelty, when she was 4. When she was 9, she could already use the phrase “objectification of women” correctly.

And the other day, in that car, tears streaming down her face, she finally said “I know, but you’re training me. You’re not training the whole world.”

My daughter is exactly as God and her genes intended her to be: She is funny and lights up a room and won’t take no for an answer. She is very smart and loves being very smart and can sit in a corner and read for two hours at a stretch. She will spontaneously dance to just about anything, and will run around the playground with her friends all afternoon if time and homework allow. She is a person of healthy appetites, in all senses: She would like a bigger bite of the world, please, and also some more ice cream, while you’re up. She thoroughly enjoys her food, except when she doesn’t, at which point she can’t be bothered to have another bite. She knows that too much ice cream isn’t always good for her body, and she is learning that sometimes “no” is the best answer — but she’s always heard “no” from time to time, and always had that “no” acted upon. Her diet is healthy, and she knows that, too, and likes it. She is also, if I may, beautiful. Gorgeous, in fact, with milky-peachy skin and deep brown eyes and hair that falls in waves all around her beautiful smile.

But the girl lives in the world that her father and I cannot reach, she doesn’t live within our arms. She lives in a world where 10 year old girls are already so bone-deep aware of how we treat women who do not fit a certain, very narrow, paradigm that they worry they will never be loved. She worries — a lot — what strangers think of her when they see her from a distance; she worries that the people who know her are kind only because they know her.

She is 10. She is healthy. She is strong. She is wicked smart. And she sat in my car, weeping about her body.

There is only so much her father and I can do, only so much real science we can bring to bear on the lies and misapprehensions peddled by the diet industry and swallowed whole by those around us. There is only so much we can do about the fact that every adult woman she comes in contact with is steeped in the same lies and misapprehensions, the vast majority of them openly bemoaning their sacred bodies and bonding over self-loathing. “I’m getting fat!” one of the girl’s friends said at school the other day, a friend who is so slight she might blow away on the next strong wing.

There’s only so much I can do. It’s already in her. And even though I never say it out loud, it’s in me too. I hate it, but there it is, telling me how little I’m worth because I refuse to punish my only body for being something other than that which I am told it should be. I cannot tell you how much it hurts me, how furious it makes me, to know that this is what she feels and what she faces. I’m weeping as I type. And there’s almost nothing I can do. I cannot train the world.

But maybe, maybe – if we all work together, maybe if we’re kinder to ourselves and each other, more loving toward these fabulous machines that move us through our lives, less willing to accept shaming that cloaks itself as wisdom – maybe together, we adults can make the world in which our little girls are growing into wonderful women a better place. Maybe.

Please help me. We’re the adults. My daughter, and probably yours, needs our help.  They need our love.

***************************************************

UPDATE: My Twitter friend Kris Lindbeck sent me the lovliest essay I may have ever read about human bodies — all of them. Please click through to read. “I’ll tell you what people look like, really: they look like flames. Or like the stars, on a clear night in the wilderness.”

*************

UPDATE 10/6/13: All of a sudden this post is getting a ton of love from Facebook, and I’m very grateful — and Facebook is not the easiest thing to search, so I honestly don’t have any idea why today, or what the source(s) is (are). If it’s you – thank you!

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110 Comments

  1. What you said to your daughter was perfect, you said what you could, and I totally agree with it all. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Sometimes it’s hard our there, but you are doing what you can to prepare your daughter for everything she is going to face.

    • Thank you. You know, it’s such a cliche to say, but I just wish my kids didn’t have to face anything painful (…). We can raise them strong – I just wish we didn’t have to, you know?

      • Of course, we all wish for a better world. I just like to surround myself with good people. She will find those people and learn to not let the bad people get the best of her.

  2. Cassandra/Eredien

     /  September 12, 2013

    This was heartbreaking to read.

    After I read and thought about this, I feel like I can say only one thing, and I don’t even know if it will help you or your daughter. But I saw it, and wanted to say how proud I am of your daughter, from one person fighting against the internalization of our culture’s beauty standards to another. Because, based on your recounted conversation, I feel like that’s what your daughter is doing–she is fighting back against those standards, and is articulating them to herself and others, even when the act of merely articulating those standards is itself a painful thing. I am amazed that she can see and fight against all this at 10. Please let her know she’s not alone in fighting against this, and that she is an inspiration to me to keep fighting too.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, and you know what – you’re right. She may be struggling, but she’s struggling with the truth and she’s getting it out, and she’s doing it about two decades earlier than most of us. She’s quite a force of nature. Thank you.

  3. Bridge Builder

     /  September 12, 2013

    Wow yes we need help. I am crying as I read this. I am 37 and round and soft and so sure I can only be all I can be when I get skinny- which is impossible…

    • That’s the lie, isn’t it, the lie we discover we are so convinced it’s truth that we don’t even hear it anymore — the notion that we can only be who we want to be when we achieve something that’s patently impossible and shouldn’t have been made a goal in the first place. It’s very hard to dislodge those thoughts, because they really do go bone-deep at a certain point. I hear you, and I hope you give yourself permission to be who you are right now.

  4. Oh, Emily, I so hear you.

    (I struggle with this too. All the time. I don’t know a woman who doesn’t.)

    You are raising your girl up right. I wish you *could* train the whole world. We’d all be better for it.

    • Or, at the very least, we’d all have more cookies.

      And isn’t that the amazing/horrifying thing? I always say “nearly every woman I know struggles with this issue or has in the past” because I don’t want to presume about someone who maybe doesn’t – but I honestly can’t think of anyone.

  5. Bridge Builder

     /  September 12, 2013

    Your daughter is SO right. You aren’t teaching the world… Even I, at 37, cried just today over my round and soft shape… Guys like Bradley Cooper wouldn’t look twice. I was more respected professionaly when I was skinny. But trauma and the likes do that- u gain weight. What can we do. Exercise? Eat celery? Man, that sucks. Using the face to express a lot of kindness makes people like you, but mmh … They won’t ever say “sexy”… I wish we could be young again.

  6. Captain Button

     /  September 12, 2013

    Stuff like this really brings out my inner Omnicidal Maniac.

    8~~-({

  7. My BFF’s daughter inherited her father’s stocky Italian build and has heard about it ever since she was little. At seven, she voiced concerns about her weight because her friends teased her about her being ‘big’. It broke my heart as her mom is one of the most loving and accepting women I know. She tells her daughter the same thing you tell yours, ee, that she’s perfect and beautiful the way she is (and she is), but as your daughter said, the world isn’t being trained in the same way these young girls are. At aged forty-two and as someone who has struggled with EDs and body dysmorphia all my life, I mourn that we haven’t made it much better for the next generation.

    • Oh, Minna, you know I hear you. I wonder – I hope? – if just the fact that we are more open about the struggle, more honest about what the struggle means in terms of its sheer destructive power, I wonder if that isn’t at least moving us all in the right direction. I so often feel like we don’t even have the shared language to talk about it intelligently – we use words like “healthy” and mean so many, many different things, some of them absolutely destructive.

      • On the health thing – I have low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and pretty much low everything else important. Yet, since I’m fat, my doctor focuses on that to exclusion of other things. I lost twelve pounds in a month recently due to depression, and knowing my ED history, she said to me, “It doesn’t matter how you lost it as long as you did.”

        I had to change from my last doctor who suddenly started using the BMI as her sole means of judging health (for health insurers), and now I’ll have to change again. Even when I was anorexic/bulimic, I never talked about food, diet, the way I looked, or exercise because I knew it wasn’t healthy what I was doing, no matter how much reinforcement I received for it.

        Now, i want to lose weight, but I don’t know how to do it safely. Yes, I want to be fitter than I am, but the weight loss itself is purely for cosmetic reasons. That makes me even warier about attempting to lose weight because I know how easily I can go overboard.

        I still don’t participate in conversations about diets or body-shaming or exercise regimes because I know these conversations are part of the problem. Even though I haven’t escaped from my EDs/body dysmorphia, I’ll be damned if I help pass it along to the next generation. I don’t know what else to do except love the young girls in my life and make sure they know they are beautiful just the way they are.

        Here’s a really good article about some of these issues (ignore the title). #5 specifically addresses how “strong” is the new word for skinny, and I would argue that healthy is used in a similar way.

        http://reembody.me/2013/09/10/the-6-most-shockingly-irresponsible-fitspiration-photos/

        • I’m glad you’re going to a new doctor. WTeverlovingF is that about? That’s malpractice, is what that is, telling a patient w/ a history of ED “it doesn’t matter how you lost it” – particularly since the reason was, in fact, depression. Holy hell. We’d prefer our patients to be depressed and willowy rather than content and solid? I despair sometimes, I honestly do.

          The business of not knowing how to even talk about these things, or deal with our own flesh and blood safely, is such a hugely important outcome of this issue. Huge.

          Big hugs and kisses to you, grrl. Your struggle is a noble one, and it’s shared by many, many of us.

  8. Katherine

     /  September 12, 2013

    If you see this, know that there are so many people out there who feel exactly as you do. This isn’t good enough – we need a world where our girls can grow up happy, safe, strong. Where my sister is proud to be taller than most of the boys she knows. Where your daughter is happy in her own skin, regardless of not being as skinny as the photoshopped images in magazines. Hell, where the magazines show a range of body types! In the meantime, there are online communities who can provide support. I’m part of the Everyday Sexism Project on facebook, where people talk about these issues and receive support. As she’s young, I would suggest you look through the page with her – as well as body image, it discusses street harassment, domestic violence, laws, court cases etc. There are often critical analyses of particularly sexist advertisements, newspaper articles and so on. And there are also wonderful stories of how people are fighting those messages in their own lives – teaching their children that women are not merely objects to be looked at, teaching their children to respect themselves and others. https://www.facebook.com/groups/391256930892127/

    • Oh, I love Everyday Sexism! I know you from Twitter, & I was active in the FBRape campaign. Thank you so much for stopping by – & yes, I will absolutely share appropriate things from your resources with her (and with her 14 year old brother, too). Thank you.

  9. This spoke to me on such a visceral level. I never comment on anything, but I have to tell you how much I identify with your daughter, and how I am trying to model the kind of behaviour you are exemplifying, with my friends’ children as they grow – female AND male. I try not to use negative body talk, I do what I love, I never attach value to food. If only I could always be so kind and accepting of MYSELF. That’s the true test, isn’t it.a

  10. This is awesome, ELH. Thank you. Going to keep this in mind both in how I treat girls and women and for parenting my young daughters.

  11. I’m going to teach my boys (I have 3, aged 4, 2, and 8 months) not to objectify ANYONE, and to correct the misconceptions when they occur: not to just sit by and let silence show tacit approval of outdated ideas of beauty.

    • I think this is really crucial – we’re have 14 year old boy as well, and we have similar conversations with him.

      • My own body image isn’t great either – especially after having my 3rd baby less than a year ago – and I remember exactly how it felt to be bullied over my appearance and size (solid and 5′ 8″ by the time I was 14, with a long face and large features), It was not nice at all, and when you are told the same thing day after day, it takes a will of iron not to believe any of it.

        I even remember my mother criticising me for not being picture perfect at 16 (I still had teenage puppy fat) while encouraging my dad (tall and naturally slim) and my brother (tall and built like a tank) to eat away. She had turned into my gran, who had done exactly the same thing to my mum for not fitting the 1950s fashionable body image (She’s 63 now) who is actually taller and more solid than me: I spent a long time kicking myself before I realised the only person I had to ‘look nice for’ was me, that it is my view of me that matters and that I don’t have to apologise for not being what other people think I should be.

        The hypocrisy of the whole ‘perfect body image’ (Thin and toned with perfect skin, teeth, and hair) often manages to drive me into a frothing rage, because the images posited as the ideal (male or female), are not real or in any sense representative of real people, yet we are meant to punish ourselves for not being these perfect people. I have more just than ‘my looks’ to offer the world (I plan to teach history, and am in the middle of a degree), which brings me to the other reason it really winds me up: the shallowness of it all. It entirely discounts the value of a person as anything other than window dressing for benefit of others. To be judged and discarded on the slightest ‘flaw’. There, I feel better now

        • “There, I feel better now.” : )

          Really, I recommend that you read the essay I linked to in the update. It’s just lovely and I think speaks to much of what you said here.

  12. My husband forwarded this to me, and tears run down my face as I respond. We have a 3 year old daughter, with another girl due in the next few weeks. It horrifies me that I worry constantly about this very issue. Women have so much pressure to look perfect, and only a small percentage are born with genes to comply with society’s typecast “perfect body”. It sickens us that we worry about how our daughters will look almost as much as their intellect, personality etc., knowing they will be judged first by appearance. I am terrified of tears, which will 100% happen due to an outward “imperfection”. Please know, our hearts hurt for your little girl, and every other daughter struggling with poor body image. Young girls should be reading books, giggling with their friends, and getting excited for their next adventure, not worrying about who will love their physical imperfections.
    The only way change can take place is if mothers like you continue to teach your daughter, and her friends self worth. Thank you for writing!

    • Thank you, & good luck with your beautiful girls. We’re all of us fighting such similar battles – hopefully we’ll find ways to get past them together.

  13. My youngest brother is 11 and has been “dating” (so, you know, hanging out at lunch and exchanging small gifts on holidays, essentially!) a girl for the past year who sounds a lot like your daughter – super smart and funny, but taller and broader and plumper than her peers. She’s always been teased in school, and doesn’t have many friends. And my brother (who is quirky but apparently well liked by his peers) thinks she is beautiful and amazing, and has said as much to anyone who has dared to say anything negative about her. I know that doesn’t help your daughter in any way whatsoever, but it gives me hope that there are people out there who will speak up and embrace the kind of training you’ve given your daughter. They may be few and far between, but hopefully the kind people in the world will find other kindred spirits who will think they are beautiful, even if they’re not “skinny”.

    • I <3 your youngest brother very much! And I think that on a different level, people like him are, in fact, part of the solution for everyone. Each individual who sheds old ideas effects many people around him/her and that changes things. As my sister once said "When we heal ourselves, we help heal the world."

  14. My daughter just turned 6.. She’s always been well above average in height and weight. She started getting teased and called ‘fat’ last year. She couldn’t understand why her “friends” were making fun of her. At least bullying gets treated more seriously these days, so we were able to work with the school and daycare to notify the other parents and address this incident. But it has already begun.

    • Part of what makes me so sad is how much we’ve put on the word “fat” – it’s just a word. It describes things. If I call a pumpkin “fat,” no one thinks I’m passing judgement on it. I wish we could reclaim “skinny” and “fat” and strip them of all the implications we’ve invested in each of them.

  15. I know exactly where your little girl is. I was in that place well into my twenties because I didn’t fit in. In the fullness of time, not fitting in has proved to be a blessing, and yes, sometimes still a burden. But it’s no use trying to tell a 10-year-old that. She will have to find it out for herself.

    In my experience, there is no worse suffering than to watch our loved ones suffer, particularly when the suffering is needless, and we are powerless to change it. I am in that position now with my mother who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

    Life is really shitty sometimes, no matter how young or old we are. The only solace is to find joy and happiness in the moments of beauty and strength. Your little girl will find her way. So will you.

    http://amazingwomenrock.com/fitting-in-is-vastly-overrated-its-proven

    • The best thing about my girl is that she really is a force of nature. The swirling powerhouse of energy and intellect that I describe above is exactly her – she’s find a way, and if she doesn’t, she’ll make it. I just wish it didn’t have to be so hard.

      And I remember reading that post you linked! It’s a good one! ;)

  16. socioprof

     /  September 12, 2013

    Oh, E. My heart breaks for the girl. And for you. And for my nieces, and for myself and for every little girl–and the woman she grows into–who has faced this. I wish that the girl and the boys and my boys and all of us had a better world, a just world, a trained world in which to live. We know that we are the change. We hope that we will see the change. We pray our children will live the change.

    • What is forever startling me is how deepdeepdeep this goes for so many of us, and how hard it is to uproot — I suppose because it’s forever being reinforced, whereas we really have to fight to get the other messages out. I really hope that the fact that we are the generation being more honest and open about the destruction all this creates means that our children will live in a better, more life-giving world.

      • Deepdeepdeep indeed. I’ve been going through a huge transformation since having read Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon. Since becoming aware of how fat I was in 1st grade, it’s gnawed away at my self worth. The funny thing is, when I look back at my pictures, I only see a healthy kid. I’m round and soft to be sure, but now at 48, I wonder who I’d have been had I not internalized these horrible messages pounded into my head day-after-day.

        On a completely different topic, my husband is looking forward to hearing you speak at the J Street conference. I wish I was going as well.

        • I love Linda Bacon and the entire notion of HAES. The “who would I have been” is such a huge question – what do we lose in these battles, as individuals and as a society? What could we achieve if we didn’t put so much energy into this?

          And thank you (and your husband) so much! I’m actually moderating a panel, which is a little different, but I’m looking forward to being there, myself! : )

  17. Yeaaah, I’m small and trim and relatively athletic—and I look at my body and sigh because even with my workouts my body’s not where I want it to be. It never will be. Still, outside of people who think they can pat my head or even pick me up (grrrr) and otherwise pronounce with much surprise “You’re so short!” I don’t really have it that bad.

    (Long pause.) I’m sitting here wondering what I’d say to your kid if I knew her. I’d probably go the humor route (as we aunty-types are wont to do), and maybe toss out that 4th graders are possessed of unreliable judgment and that there’s a reason we don’t let them cut hair or own restaurants. Then maybe we’d talk about all of the dumb things kids say and all of the dumb things adults say and after we were done laughing we’d both sigh and say, Yeah, but it still stinks and it still hurts. And then I’d give her a big kiss on the top of her head (or, y’know, if she’s taller than me, I’d bend her face down and kiss her forehead) and tell her she’s beautiful and if people can’t see that they’re just being stupid dumbheads.

    Okay, so maybe not the most enlightened approach, but when you’re trying to buck up a 10 year old, I’m guessing a little trash-talking could go a long way. And then I’d say, Yep, people are going to say mean things and they’re going to hurt and you’re going to wonder if they’re true, and when that happens, you need to talk to someone who really knows you (and who isn’t a s.d.h) and listen when she tells you that you’re beautiful and strong, that and if other people can’t see that, because they think there’s only one way to be beautiful and strong, well, that’s their loss.

    And maybe she’d believe me and maybe she wouldn’t, but I think she’d still want to hear it. She’ll need to know that someone believes it, even if she can’t quite believe it herself.

    • First of all: Hi absurdbeats! /waves happily

      Second of: We’ve do humor now and then, but sometimes she kind of won’t allow it because what she’s feeling is too serious, and then I have to just go along with her in the direction she needs me to. Someone pointed out above that she’s able to name it and discuss it and that’s a huge thing, and they’re right. I’m hoping it’ll continue to serve her.

      And .sometimes I say that I need to tell her something because I need for her to have it in her head, even if she doesn’t believe it yet….

  18. So many thoughts, so many emotions,

    Please hug your girl and tell her she will be loved — by someone who sees all of her, not just her dress size. Someone who only cares about that is to be pitied, not desired.

    I will be sharing this essay, if that’s okay.

    • Thank you, Ros, thank you, and please do share it. I honestly felt like what Auden said: “All I have is a voice/ to undo the folded lie” – this is the only tool I have with which to try to heal her world, and so I have to try.

  19. Thank you for this Emily. I have similar heartbreaking moments with my 7 yr old. It is up to us to model and inform — pretty much constantly. Thanks again. Reblogging.

    • Thank you very much – the modeling & informing is really endless. My hope is that some of it will also rub off on me.

  20. I just wanted to recommend Ragen Chastain’s blog Dances With Fat, and the videos of her dancing. Thoughtful, often funny, inspiring role modelling for young (and old!) fat people.

  21. Other Becky

     /  September 13, 2013

    This breaks my heart. I have lived this story for so much of my life.

    As a big woman who was a big girl and loves to dance, Ragen Chastain’s performance videos on YouTube often help me feel better when I’m really down on myself. (YMMV, obviously. I love her blog, too.)

    • Thank you. You and Jennifer seem to have mind-melded – which just enforces my sense that I want to go watch some clips! And so I shall – thanks for the recommendation.

  22. 9/13/13 PLEASE NOTE: Yom Kippur starts tonight and I will be entirely away from the blog for all of it, meaning that if a comment goes into moderation, it will stay there awaiting my return on Saturday night. But I’ll be back, I promise!

  23. ladykittra

     /  September 13, 2013

    From what I understand, your daughter isn’t “fat”. She’s fabulous. And happy. Usually. Why should she agonize over other people’s perceptions? She shouldn’t wallow in misery over the stuff of smoke and razor blades. She rocks, and you tell her I told you so.

  24. red hot mama

     /  September 13, 2013

    find a bellydance show/class in your area. beautiful women and the larger ones shimmys flow so much better.

  25. I love this post! I blogged about this very same subject just today in fact. I’ve struggled with my own body image my entire life, and I worry about passing that self-loathing on to my daughters. Let’s turn it around one woman at a time!

  26. Chris W.

     /  September 17, 2013

    I have a 13 year old daughter, and I agonize for her in this obscene, body-obsessed culture. Your daughter may be a bit young for this, But I first saw it on Humans of New York on Facebook. This is one young woman’s tribute to her own body and her refusal to be shamed into hating herself: http://thebodyloveblog.tumblr.com/post/32881501880/warning-picture-might-be-considered-obscene. I’ll show it to my own daughter should the need arise. I tell her every day that she is hilarious, she is smart, she is tenderhearted. I do NOT mention her shape, her little belly (she is tall and pretty thin, but she’s a good eater). I am also very tall, so she takes after me in this regard. I NEVER diet, and I never mention “dieting” and I never, EVER speak about my own body insecurities or refer to my appearance in a negative way, no matter how I feel. I refuse to poison her with that stuff. I know nothing I can do will protect her from what greets her in the world, at school, from boys, and from other girls. I can only hope that I’ve helped her be so confident that she is unfazed by it all. Which I doubt, but I can hope. Hug your beautiful girl for me. Tell her someone will be crazy in love with her one day. And show her this woman’s blog post if you think she is mature enough for it. Good luck. <3

  27. Megan

     /  September 20, 2013

    WOW what a magnificent article. As the mom of a 95th percentile 4 year old girl, this has been something I worry about. Isn’t that sad that we have to worry about it? You voiced all the things I couldn’t clearly articulate. The article gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

  28. Its heart breaking that our children have to deal with such issues and it seems to start younger and younger with each generation. My daughter just started preschool and im already apprehensive some one is going to hurt her with an image related issue. We can only give our children the tools to be strong, have a healthy self image, have goals and to love themselves and hope they learn how to apply them. The world gets tougher every day but we have to faith that our children will survive through these challenges. Your daughter sounds wonderful . She will come out of this a warrior. All the best.
    Drivingmsdesi.com

  29. So true. My friend is going through the same with her little girl and it is entirely heartbreaking. I am going to send her the link. Thanks for sharing.

  30. Shelley

     /  October 6, 2013

    Thank you for this article. It is beautifully written and I could feel the love and intention you had while writing it. Strong is beautiful!

  31. HELLO HELLO!

    All of a sudden this post is getting a ton of love from Facebook, and I’m very grateful! But Facebook is not the easiest thing to search, so I honestly don’t have any idea why today, or what the source(s) is (are). If it’s you – thank you!

    • I think that you have A Mighty Girl to thank (https://www.facebook.com/amightygirl) – they’re who linked to your amazing piece. And they’re also a wonderful organization, that if you don’t know about, I think you would enjoy.

      Thank you for sharing this incredibly personal story. Your daughter has an incredible role model for how to handle this constant battle with passion and grace.

      • Thank you so much for letting me know! In the meantime, it’s gotten somewhere in the vicinity of 800 FB links today, & received more hits in the last four hours than in the entire day that it was posted, when I was actively promoting it and having others help me to do so. The internet (and Facebook!) is a wonderful and mysterious thing.

        And thank you for the tip about A Mighty Girl, and mostly thank you for your kind words. All we can do is continue to try to fight for all our kids.

        • Dianna

           /  October 17, 2013

          Someone just posted this on Maria Kang’s FB page. That’s where I found it. You have written a wonderful piece. I just love it, everything about it. I think the words I was looking for when I heard about Maria is “self-loathing” and I couldn’t find them until I found your piece. She came across as such with her ad and with her apology, and well, with her page about her workouts and her body. Thank you again for your writing.

          • I posted this on Maria Kang’s fb page. I’m so glad that it got to someone who appreciates it — that was my intention.

  32. Devon

     /  October 6, 2013

    Thought I would let you know that you were put on A Mighty Girl’s Facebook page. :) This may be the reason for all the love. I’m happy I clicked on this blog. My daughter is due any day now and this is one of things that she may have to deal with, albeit in the opposite direction. Just as harmful as it is to let a little girl think she weighs too much, is to tell a girl constantly that she weighs too little. Many times I will be judged as being anorexic or bulimic and told that I ‘need to eat a sandwich.’ Even doctors have brought it up as a concern, although I had no other health issues other than a seeming inability to get to the weight that they wanted me at. I have always been underweight and also have a medical condition that manifested in my teenage years complicates the issue. Always hearing about how I was too thin would make me wonder if anyone would ever see me as pretty enough, even though I am perfect just the way I am, as are the other’s in my family that are thin like I am. I only now am in the weight range that they want me to be in, at 38 weeks pregnant and I can say that I found someone that is good to me and found me to be pretty enough regardless of how society views me and I hope that her father and I can do an excellent job of teaching her that and, in turn, doing our part to make society that much less judgmental.

    • First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy, and may it all go well in the weeks to come…! : )

      Second of all, yes, this is also very true. The policing of women’s bodies is constant, and the “eat a sandwich” line can be and often is as damaging as the line “are you sure you want that?”

  33. Let your daughter know there are indeed some beautiful men (inside and out) who don’t like skinny women because “I’ll break them in two!” They are attracted to, and love, strong women.

    Likewise, peers feed off of and admire confidence . Once she can love herself, unconditionally, others will follow.

  34. Elexis J. Humphrey

     /  October 6, 2013

    This was an incredibly emotional read. I don’t know you, I don’t know your daughter-but you are both incredibly beautiful! God bless you, as a parent, as a person and as a complete and total stranger for realizing how important it is that we are teaching our children how to love themselves, how to respect themselves! That we make sure they know that they are worthy and deserving and entitled of that love-both from themselves and from all others. And, though I myself have never had to know what it’s like to struggle with weight, specifically, I have known what is like to struggle with self-image and insecurities. I was incredibly negative about myself growing up, though looking back now, I do not know why. Maybe it was television, the males in my life, or society as a whole. I was 25 when insecurity would finally leave me, though the story leading up to that point is long and much to lengthy for this post. I now know how important it is (how necessary it is) for ALL women to know and love themselves. No matter how big, or small, or short or tall… or whatever the case may be… the most empowering, most wonderous, most deserving thing we can do-is learn to love ourselves. Embrace your sexuality, your greatness, your beauty-each flaw, each imperfection and every single curve… it is the single most powerful, life-changing gift you can give to yourself. The gift of confidence is incredibly freeing. Your daughter, I hope, will come to know this one day. One day, she will look in the mirror and not take note if her weight or how “round” she is, but will instead see herself, in her body, which is lovely and beautiful and unique-and made up of incredibly perfect “imperfection” that help shape the beautiful, confident, intelligent girl looking back. She is lucky to have you as her mother to help open her eyes (and the eyes of others ) to the beauty you already know that exists in ALL parts of her. Thank you. ..

  35. Deirdre bergeron

     /  October 6, 2013

    I have been teaching first grade for twenty years, and find it heartbreaking that some of my six year olds will ask me if they are fat. Here is a wonderful essay about “whales versus Mermaids” that you have probably already seen. But in case you haven’t, there might be some thoughts in it for your daughter: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150993328315817&set=a.394072360816.168012.300478260816&type=1

    My best to you and your family.

  36. healthforlife89

     /  October 6, 2013

    Reblogged this on Lifelong health, today. and commented:
    This is so much of what I was talking about in my last two posts. Excellent read, I hope I can be a mother than supports her children like this.

  37. Terra

     /  October 6, 2013

    I saw your post on Facebook because the “A Mighty Girl” page posted it. You might like that page too I think.

  38. As a woman with upper body “issues” since 7th grade, I feel your daughter’s pain. And lots of the posts were well meaning and kind. But there is something you and your daughter _can_ do that will be good for her and her body: encourage her to use it. Being big doesn’t have to mean being fat. Let her learn how to be physically strong because when she’s older, this will matter to her good health. Not everyone is built to be a cheerleader; there other other sports which she might enjoy and will give her a sense of accomplishment at seeing her own body change to stronger. You can celebrate her natural shape while encouraging her to be as physically fit as possible

    Hindsight is great. If, 40 years ago, someone had told be to develop my abs, core and back to prepare for the weight of my breasts as an older woman, I might not be interviewing surgeons now. We know so much more now than we did then…..

    This kid sounds smart; she can learn to manage, celebrate, and be a terrific role model for her friends. She’s lucky to have a mom who notices.

    • It sounds like she is a very active girl. But being active doesn’t always ensure that one won’t be fat. As Emily writes, fat is a descriptor. Let’s work together on destigmatizing fat.

  39. smoph

     /  October 6, 2013

    I am sorry that your lovely girl is going through this cruelty. I don’t know where it comes from, probably the messages from media and from adults around them, but kids are inordinately cruel. Much of what you describe of your daughter is what could have been said about me too.

    I don’t have the answer to how to approach it. I hope she finds good friends, who support her all the way, which is how I survived. I survived by a mum and dad that loved me. I survived knowing that I was smart and it helped in high school that people sought me out for help so I developed friendships that way.

    I have some of the most loyal, kindest and most amazing friends in my life. I have love, lots of it, even with relationships that didn’t work out. So long as she respects herself, looks after herself, her life will be happy and full of love.

  40. Carla Gill

     /  October 6, 2013

    It truly applies to our son’s as well.

  41. A note to commenter The WP, whose comment I just deleted: There are more than enough places on the internet to support the stigmatization of particular body types. That’s not what this post is here to do, and so I removed your comment. I’ll similarly remove any other comments that conflate “healthy” with a particular body type; we don’t need more such lectures about what “healthy” demands. We need fewer.

    • I am sorry you were offended.

      • With respect, and I say this carefully: I wasn’t offended. I was angered. There is something very fundamental to what I wrote that you entirely missed, and tried to correct me on. I don’t need to hear that correction, and neither does any woman in America. We have all heard it. We hear it all day, every day. There are many places to share those thoughts. This is not one of them.

      • WP,
        I’d like to recommend a book to you. It’s called “Health at Every Size” by Linda Bacon. It’s one of the most informative books on the topic of weight that I’ve ever read.

  42. Katherine

     /  October 6, 2013

    ” She lives in a world where 10 year old girls are already so bone-deep aware of how we treat women who do not fit a certain, very narrow, paradigm that they worry they will never be loved.”

    This line…the entire piece is so important and well-written,,,but this line had serious emotional impact for me. I was suddenly a young teen, again, refusing to allow my body to be documented in family vacation photos, bracing myself for a life where no one would love ME. Oh, I would have lots of Friends, sure, but not likely Loves…that was the essence of my fear. I had completely forgotten that fear until reading this. Thank You for bringing it to my awareness. I am raising a 6 year old daughter, and I will file away your words, practice them in my mind, and have them ready for when she & I need them.

    And I am training myself to turn away from the “fat talk”…I do not want to bond with my friends in self-loathing! We have more important things to talk about. Here’s to changing everything!

    P.S. I got here via A Mighty Girl, too.

    • Early in the summer I posted something for me is about “fat talk” bonding (which I also refuse to participate in… why do we damage ourselves in this way?) – The social implications of a cookie. I would like, now and then, to just have a cookie, and not have it meaaaannnn anything (if you see what I mean!).

  43. This is a great blog and well said. One hundred years ago women looked much different. Men liked how they looked. Curves were admired and also was a sign that the family was prosperous. Now we need to find a happy medium. Hugs, Barbara

    • Dianna Sierra

       /  October 17, 2013

      Wonderful words IdealisticRebel! It is said Marilyn Monroe was a size 16. I am raising a daughter who is self conscious about her “belly” and it really concerns me the way the girls talk at school.

  44. Liz Herdson

     /  October 7, 2013

    I’m in! Let’s do it… Love to you and your daughter… She is blessed to have such a wise courageous mother… x

  45. As a woman who was once a girl who was also too big, too broad, always with a belly, I can tell you that your strong foundation will get her through. I’m pretty sure that my mother suffered the same pain,watching me struggle to love myself despite all that the media and society told me about my body. At one point in my adolescence she even helped me research and plan a diet (T-Factor) not because she wanted me any different but because, she confessed to me, by that point she would have done anything to not see me in so much pain anymore. I made it through. I learned to love my strong, broad, swimmer’s shoulders. I learned that my belly wasn’t going to go away unless I starved myself and spent endless hours in the gym (and maybe not even then), and since my mother also had instilled a love of good food and a strong mind I decided that I had many better things to be doing with my time. I learned that i loved heels and society can just go suck on it if I happen to be taller than everyone else in the room when I wear them. I traveled and learned that there are places where “soft and round” is gorgeous. I found strong partners who loved me not despite my, strong imposing presence but because of it. I learned to be comfortable in my body and find its beauty and in turn I slowly became beautiful in the world’s eyes. It wasn’t overnight. It wasn’t easy. I made it. She will too because she has you.

    • “I had many better things to be doing with my time” – this is often what I feel like saying: “Don’t we have anything better to do with our time?”

      Imagine the kind of creativity we’d release if we didn’t spend so much time engaged in these struggles.

  46. maurinsky

     /  October 7, 2013

    I am not only fat, but also disabled, I walk with a lurching limp, and I am loved – very loved. The thing about not fitting the narrow paradigm of beauty is that it opens you up to people who love you for who you are, not what you look like or what you move like.

  47. Anne-Marie Ainger

     /  October 7, 2013

    I was a “fat” child that just didn’t look like all the other slender girls in my class. I also struggled to make friends because I was a bit geeky and had an old head of my shoulders. So I didn’t really come in to my own until I went to university and stumbled across the rock/ metal/ goth music community. Contrary to popular media stereotypes in the UK these folks were easy going, welcoming and they just loved women! In this community, “Real”, powerful, curvy women were celebrated and truly appreciated in all their voluptuous gorgeousness. This made me look at myself in a very different light, realising that I was exactly the way I was supposed to be.
    Of course, I’m not saying that you have to like rock music to be happy! But rather, that even in a predominantly crazy and ridiculous world, your daughter may find little pockets of people who have different ideas, different values, and see her for the amazing and glorious creature that she is. I agree that we all have an immense responsibility to change the prevailing discourse so that no 10 year old is brought to tears in this way. But I also find comfort in that there will always be people who come to the rescue with their sanity and kindness who help us to distinguish up from down, real from illusion, and help us to recognise our own unique human splendour and grace.
    I have no doubt that your daughter, with her energy, intelligence and joy for living, will make her mark on the world, and make it a better place for everyone. Whatever challenges she finds on the way, I’m sure that with your love and support and faith in her, she will overcome them and be all the stronger for it, all the more committed and compassionate, helping others overcome the struggles they have to face. In my faith it tells us that “We are all children of the half-light” but that “Every child is potentially the light of the world”. From what you have said, I am certain that your daughter will be, and already is, radiant!

  48. My daughter is a beautiful and curvy young lady. At 5 years old, she was already showing the signs of being “fat.” I had taken her to a doctor over a cold and the first thing the doctor said as she walked in the room was, “My god your fat.” The look of horror on my daughters face, let alone mine was to be expected. I had to deal with months of my beautiful child saying, “Mommy, am I fat?” and pushing away food. I finally sat her down and told her in no nonsense terms that the woman was very wrong in what she had said. I have spent the last 7 years instilling into my daughter that she is a beautiful, intelligent and wonderful young lady, NO MATTER what anyone says.
    And now, at the age of 12 it is all happening again. Her pediatrician is saying that even if she has a cold, sprained her wrist playing kick ball, it is all because she is “FAT.”
    I commend you dear lady for being outspoken about your daughter. I know that she is just as beautiful as my gorgeous child is. And I am PROUD of them both. You make sure when you put her to bed tonight that you give her an extra big hug from this mom too, and tell her that she is PERFECT just the way she is. ALL OF US think so. :)

  49. I am crying with you. And for my 9 year old who weighed in at 9 lbs 13 oz at birth. I love her more than anything. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and here’s hoping the world reads this and learns a thing or two!

  50. Hi, first off i absolutely congratulate you on the support you have given the ideas, and will continue to as i whole heartily hate anyone suffering from this sort of emotional bullying. To be so young and to deal with something so pathetic yet so hurtful. You are both strong people and i encourage you both to brace the storm.
    However i would like to bring up that it is vice versa as well. I have lived both sidesof this spectrum. As a child i was over weight and suffered emotionally bullying from kids and my own family about my weight. I remember my sister holding my arm up and slapping my ‘wings’ in front of my nieces and nephews. Se told me to remember that moment so that maybe one day i would stop eating so much.
    Luckily for me when i turned 14 i grew a foot and my puppy fat disappeared. I was suddenly tall and thin-what i had been told my whole life was ‘beautiful’…however..
    Since then i have been hated by most woman through jealousy, been called everything from anorexic, not tits, no ass, pre-pubescent.. Been told my men and woman to eat more, that no one will ever like me. Had countless conversations with ‘concerned’ people about my weight. – then the whole ‘beautiful is big’ campaign set in. And i fully support this, however.. When it starts making people believe that skinny is un natural and disgusting it just becomes another way of putting women down. When will we realise all sizes are beautiful and natural? Everyone is born different and unique?!
    Now i am 22 with a child of my own, straight up i get judged for being young and..bunbumbunnn…thin. I now commonly get questions from these woman asking if i am a crack head or some heroine junkie. Obviously these words tear me apart after all those years of taking crap about my weight and then to become an adult and everyone is still so judgemental and horrible. I assumed at some point we are supposed to grow up and understand these things. These words will always be hurtful and sometimes it will still make me cry.. I am only who i am.Its in my genes.
    I just hope eventually we can instil in everyone, all generations that our bodies are beautiful no matter what size or shape.

  51. As the mother of one of those 10-year-old girls who is so skinny she looks like she could blow away, and yet she thinks her thighs are fat because they jiggle, reading this made me cry. I have had a weight problem since I was 12 and I’ll be 50 this year. I feel so blessed that my daughter didn’t get my fat gene, and yet she thinks her thighs are fat. That’s probably my fault. God forgive me. Forget about training the world, or even our children. If we could just train ourselves, the world and our children would take care of themselves.

  52. Hi Emily, just read your post and it made me teary. I have a son but I feel so strongly about everything you say here. As a result I have just started working with a magazine and team intent on trying to change the way women are represented in the media. Hopefully we are just the tip of a large iceberg. You should have a sticky beak, there’s lots of science and tech, we care about women on the inside, not the outside. I find it inspiring!!! http://www.interestedwomen.com/

  53. Ybh

     /  October 7, 2013

    My son gained weight after he had to give up sport for 4 months post operation on his old stoma site… When I say gained weight… We’re talking over 2 stone…. He hated himself. I, of course, loved, love him, whatever his size. He used to cry himself to sleep each night… He started hating to go out, if he did go out, he’d wear 3 or 4 layers as in his mind, that ‘covered’ his fat!!! After 2 years of cuddles, love and reassurance I eventually, on his request, took him to the doctors… 10 minutes changed his life… She was awesome… At 15 years of age, I finally saw him smile and like himself once more… What did she say? Simple… She told him he was amazing, that he may be overweight in medical terms.. But he was 6 foot, not yet gone through puberty… And he would be fine! Once his hormones kicked in… He is now over 6 foot, slim and even more handsome… Not because he has lost well over 2 stone since those hormones kicked in, but because once he had confidence… He smiled! His smile is delightful! Stay strong! You’re love will help her love herself! X

  54. Kasi

     /  October 7, 2013

    If you haven’t read the books by Kim Chernin, you might try those, and then share some of the ideas with your daughter. I read her when I struggled with bulimia 20 years ago. One of her major themes is that it is the femininity, the womanliness, of bodies that we object to, because of the patriarchal society we live in in which being a woman is devalued. I feel if I had read her when I was 11 and began to hate my womanly thighs, my life might have been very different. In the beginning my hatred of my own body was very much tied into my ambivalence and discomfort with becoming a young woman. I could have used some strong role models who loved their own bodies.

    It doesn’t help you now, but I will share with you what we did at my house. Because I was in recovery, I limited my kids’ exposure to fat shaming commercials and diet talk from the beginning. They are 6 and 7 and I have yet to hear them say a word about fat. They do recognize that people’s bodies are different and sometimes ask me about it, but we talk about that in the same way we talk about all kinds of diversity. We are also in a private school where they are not being deluged with well-meant diet advice and interference from the state. My kids are adopted and don’t have my genes. They are both on the thin side. But they don’t see their mama as an ugly fat lady. They think I’m beautiful, and I hope I’m raising them to rise above that automatic “fat” talk that so many people in our culture flagellate themselves with daily, to see beauty in themselves and in everyone.

  55. Shana

     /  October 7, 2013

    Thank you, Emily, for taking the time to write your (obviously well resonated with!) thoughts on this subject. I’d like to offer a perspective from the other side of many replies here. I WAS that woman – one of the 3% with the genes that were skinny. At 22, when my husband and I got pregnant with our first child I was 5’9 and 125lbs. Curvy and lovely. Dabbled in modeling. Men were always super nice to me. Most women were, too. I got by more than I realized on my looks. After more than a decade and several more children, however, my 5’9 frame carried 180lbs. The difference in the way people treated me has given me a lot to think about. Also – due to my social status at the time I got married I overlooked a slightly pudgy, somewhat balding young man who was probably ideal husband material in just about every way that matters: strong Christian, great provider, kind, loyal, intelligent and wonderful with kids. And I chose instead to marry a handsome, irresponsible and vain surfer type who found it easy to charm me into thinking he was prince charming. Thankfully, with God mercies are new every morning. I would not trade my husband or marriage (to the same man!) now for anything, and God has taken two very broken and selfish image bearers and worked mightily in us through years of refining (and still refining!) But the first decade of our marriage was an absolute nightmare. He really married me primarily for my looks. When the extra pounds increased his respect for me decreased. At 145lbs he told me he was uncomfortable with my weight. Then he starting turning to porn, or actually had been into it all along, even before we married, and kept it totally hidden from me. And that is a whole other can of painful worms, but needless to say it was devastating. As I worked through my 30’s, motherhood, marriage counselor after marriage counselor and constantly crying out to my Savior for wisdom in how to orient myself to the devastating rejection I felt from my husband, and to a lesser extent, society over my appearance, God began to grow me mercifully in some areas. That journey is profound and bears the stamp of the great hope we have in Christ, but is not for this already long response. My intention in writing is to simply say “don’t envy the skinny!” More often than not the stress, worry and sin that comes to those who have been dubbed by this crazy messed up world as “the ones” is horrible, and far worse than the (unrighteous) rejection those who are not stick thin experience. Not all that glitters in gold,to put it tritely. I have fully lived both worlds. I am healthy and happy now at 165lbs. Still what this vanity fair would call ‘cosmetically overweight’ but totally content in the knowledge that I am just beautiful. Inside and out, because of who Christ has made me and what He has invested in me. You, too – sisters in the Lord. You are HIS workmanship and He has invested a LOT in you because you are infinitely more beautiful than words can say. Truly. Flowers are created with diversity in shape, color and design and we delight in this. Let’s let our Maker do the same with our beautiful female bodies. The skinny, chunky, tall, short, colored, pale are all part part of his creative design. And He calls it “good.” Who are we to argue? Love to all of you beautiful ladies. Hug your daughters and teach them truth.

  56. I’ve been fat all my life. It sucks to have judgments and assumptions made about oneself. I spent a lot of my life being upset about it. I’m still upset about it, but now more from a standpoint of being angry on behalf of other people. Like, hey jerk, leave my friend alone!

    It helped me immensely to find the size-positivity community on the internet, to know that there are others like me, as well as allies. It helped me to have people around me who love my body (my husband and children <3 <3 <3). It helped to look at size-positive pictures (especially fashion-related,) lots and lots and lots of them, and to take photo after photo after photo of myself until I got ones that I liked, until my own perception shifted and my attitude toward those with different opinions became one of puzzlement (and maybe a little snobbery, how unenlightened they are!) rather than distress. It helped to nurture a little narcissism, honestly.

  57. I know it’s very difficult, and getting increasingly difficult to raise girls to care about what their minds and bodies can do, more than they care about what their bodies look like. As our culture is evolving away from the male-centric paradigm, we are suffering from tidal waves of backlash. HOWEVER, maybe it is just time to have THE TALK with your daughter, and explain to her that some people are just mean, some people simply enjoy making other people miserable, and that she just needs to live her own life and ignore what they say or do (unless they hit, in which case, she should tattle and/or hit back. Hard). True friends will love her no matter what she looks like. Everybody else doesn’t matter.

  58. I’m so glad this post is getting a lot of love – that in itself will help train the world :) There are so many preconceptions, and I don’t have a daughter so can’t directly relate – but I think we could do with a break on body-issues, not just within ourselves but in the judging of others. ~Catherine

  59. Becki B.

     /  October 17, 2013

    Your baby girl sounds *interesting* and that will carry her to so many more amazing experiences and relationships. Watch her mid to late twenties be AWESOME. #livingthedream ;)

  60. Dianna Sierra

     /  October 17, 2013

    I LOVE THIS! Thank you so much.

  61. Dena

     /  October 18, 2013

    Thank you for this article, its comforting to know of others in the same situation. I’m pregnant and will javelin to deliver 3 weeks early bc my baby girl is already 8 lbs. I was an overweight baby/child turned adult from an average and slim family that tried to change and help me with my weight over the years as it was a constant struggle and I got made fun of all the time even though I was smart funny and confide. I’m worrying that the same thing I went through will happen to my daughter as she seemed to inherit my “fat gene”. I worry what I will tell her to comfort her and how I will have to focus extra on eating and exercise habits and health factors. Ihope society will change and stop using the term “fat” as disgusting or a curse word. Sometimes people hide behind the “health factors” as an excuse to talk about or make fun of fat people but only a Dr can tell if that person is healthy and active even if a little overweight.

  62. Jenny

     /  October 18, 2013

    Emily… I was touched by your story that was shared on facebook by one of my friends. I want you to know that I have 3 kids… 2 boys and 1 girl. They are all 3 in high school now. My boys particularly my oldest one were stalky and stout boys from preschool forward. I like to say they were “healthy” (just as your beautiful daughter is…”healthy”) they both endured their entire elementary and middle school years being called fat by their classmates… ! It broke my heart many times over but I would turn those kids hateful words into opportunities to point out high school classmates and how they had changed from their youth to adulthood both in appearance and stature… I would point out their cousins who went from the same stout build to well built strong and muscular men. To further complicate things for my oldest son… he has had a learning disability (dyslexia) he is incredibly bright (straight A’s and advanced placements) … but because of his disability very slow in his work and that’s all his peers used to see. He endured both the “fat” and the “stupid” comments from classmates. Over the years I have watched and listened to the names of these insensitive and “mean” children… shockingly many who’s parents were supposedly friends of ours. I have never fully forgiven these “mean” and cruel gestures by these kids and I remain skeptical of those kids as a result. However, here is the good news for your beautiful daughter… SHE WILL… not only grow into a BEAUTIFUL YOUNG LADY on the outside… but she will also be a stronger, kinder, more forgiving and loving person than any of her peers around her. Both of my boys have grown into handsome, good looking, kind hearted young men, with strong and lean muscular builds… they are football players and well respected on and off the field. And… while they have not forgotten the kids who have been mean over the years… they are quicker to forgive and appreciate others than even I am myself. Compliment and lift up everything beautiful about your daughter and let her hear your voice of praise about everything, louder than any of the little voices around her… and know that the confident, self assured, and beautiful young woman that she will become is growing and learning inside her… there will come a time where she surpasses these small minded, ignorant people. Finally, I want you to know… my youngest child is a girl … she is ordinary in her looks, build and demeanor but extraordinary in what she has learned from her brothers experiences. She… unlike many teenage girls … will cut a friend loose from her circle of friends if they are “mean” or insensitive to others no matter how or why. (I wish she knew your sweet daughter !) Hang in there and know that there is a greater majority that stands behind you … and that those who have been bullied in this life are a greater majority than the bullies themselves.

  63. Allison

     /  October 18, 2013

    Thank you for writing this. I’m totally with you!

  64. Ana

     /  October 18, 2013

    Hi, I totally understand what your daughter is going through. I was just like her. I ate considerably healthy growing up since my mom would cook most of the meals and even though I ate candy, cookies and ice cream it was not in excess. However, I was chubby, and although I was not obese, I never felt happy with my body. I cannot fully blame outside factors like Hollywood actresses or Barbie or what other people might thought of me. I was truly unhappy and it came from within. So when I was able to understand things and find solutions (college), I started exercising regularly, drinking no sugary drinks (soda or juices), drinking more water, less milk (I was drinking lots of it) and being more conscious of the calories that I put in my body. Thankfully, I realized early on that dieting was not the solution and that losing weight and being fit will require a life style change. And I lost the weight! Did/do I look like a supermodel? No, but I am happy with my body and I felt much better physically than I used too. And I don’t miss not drinking sodas or juices or eating processed food. I feel the trade was/is totally worthy. Going through life is so much easier when you are happy with your body and how you look.
    I am a mother of two now, close to becoming 40, and I still have the same size that I did when after I lost the weight in college, since the lessons that I learnt from changing my lifestyle have stick with me for life. One side not, in my case it turns out that I was not digesting gluten or dairy very well and that sugar was making me retain a lot of water, so when I stop eating those the weight came off easier. Literally, milk and sugar were making fat.
    So I guess, the reason that I am sharing my story is not to say that one can lose the weight if one tries harder or goes on a diet, but to say that if your daughter is truly unhappy about her body maybe is worth helping her be more fit, not to fit any Hollywood fake standard but to make her feel more comfortable in her own body. It truly has made me happier and more confident.
    I long realized that life is like a poker game and you have to play with the hand that you were dealt. The only thing that we could do is be the most beautiful and healthy us that we could be. Additionally, that confidence is the best accessory that will help your beauty, at least in the eyes of other. I hope this comment is not taken the wrong way. I wish the best for your daughter, and it breaks my heart that she is sad. But I truly believe, that is something is making us truly unhappy we don’t have to go through life suffering and if there is something that can be done it should be tried.
    Having said all that, my experiences as a child made me the person that I am today. Thank to that, I look at by body and I am still grateful, and try to play my assets rather than focusing on my faults.

  65. Sarah

     /  October 18, 2013

    I can’t agree with you more! I have a daughter, just shy of 10. To listen when she is in a group of peers breaks my soul to pieces! My daughter is half Puerto Rican and we live in a very monochromatic area–at three on her first day of preschool she was the only dark haired, dark eyed child. One of the mothers said my daughter was “exotic.” She also has aspergers. I try to explain that a persons worth is not in how they look. But to her, how could it be any other way? Her little brother and sister are lighter toned. And she has asked me what color skin she has because the kids in school want to know. She has asked me why her hips are big and why she can’t dye her hair lighter. It makes me want to scream in the face of society for causing such self doubt in such a young girl. Your post speaks volumes!

  66. What a great mum you are!

  67. Julia

     /  May 5, 2014

    As a happy plump woman, and an all grown up chubby kid, I was very touched by your essay. Nearly brought to tears, which is beyond rare for me, because I remember crying to my own mother about being the fat girl, pigeon toed too!. And my mother, as well as my father, would remind me that those other kids didn’t know what they were talking about. That I was awesome, hysterical , beautiful and just the best! It sounds like you do the same for your daughter and that is really the most important thing any parent can do for their kid. Keep telling her how awesome she is, and one day she will be so confident in her awesomeness and so proud of her beautiful body!

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