I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Novo Nordisk to write about the realities of obesity as a chronic disease. All opinions are my own. This is a sponsored post
This is not easy for me to share.
I believe that the following article directly relates my own toxic relationship with my body to my ability to be a good parent, specifically to my daughter, and it’s a really hard pill to swallow. It is my hope in sharing this that women who struggle with obesity and are raising daughters will find some thread of commonality here and will be inspired to change the narrative surrounding their bodies. It is my goal to inspire women who do not struggle with obesity to also change their language when speaking about their own bodies and the bodies of other women.
This is no longer about me, it’s about her.
For a movement that is supposed to be entirely positive, there are so many opinions on the body positive movement. From self-made fitness enthusiasts who swear fat people cannot be fit, to healthcare professionals who still push antiquated ideas of what it means to be healthy, to women whose bodies don’t look like society’s version of “perfect,” to a damaging media that hasn’t caught up to what a “plus sized model” actually looks like; there’s a lot of heat coming from all directions about what it actually means to be healthy.
And I get it, I really do.
Every generation alive today has been born into a world with completely different healthcare ideals. We each believe what we were brought up knowing as gospel, and every time a new thought is introduced, we buck it as though it’s a fairy tale rather than science proving scientific truths.
I was born into the fat-free generation.
I grew up eating a chemical maelstrom of Franken-foods full of hormone disruptors and chemicals. We had gotten away from eating foods in their natural forms because they were deemed too unhealthy. But I was raised by people who were born into a generation where they ate grass-fed cows and their food was made with butter. They ate eggs and meat and vegetables grown on local farms. This generation was born to smokers who had just discovered stress and diseases of the heart were on the rise.
So naturally, it was the food that was causing this phenomenon, and we turned to laboratories to create foods that would help my generation escape these diseases.
What I got left with was a complex about my body, raised by people who made me feel like my worth was tied directly to my weight, and an inability to love the body shape I was born with. It’s hard enough trying to find pants that fit when you’re an hourglass. Learning to love my body has always been completely out of the question. If the very people who made me can’t love the way their creation looks, how could I possibly love it?
There has never been a point in time where I actually loved the way I looked.
I’ve been all over the map: Bulimic and thinnish, athletic and losing periods, strong and fit, super fat and unhealthy, fat and fit. I’ve done it all. Except to be happy with my body as it is, in any stage. Sure, there have been times I’ve had more confidence in myself than others, but there was never any contentment there, only a burning desire to look “better.”
As soon as I found out I was having a daughter, I cried. I didn’t want to bring a girl into this world because I knew what I was bringing her into. Raising boys who love and appreciate the female form in all its many shapes and sizes I could do. But raise a girl who loves herself unapologetically? That I wasn’t sure I could do.
Last week, 10 years after finding out I was having a girl, I received confirmation that this was a valid fear. My 9-year-old daughter who is long and lean with great muscle mass told me she hasn’t been eating as much because she doesn’t want to be a fat person who gets made fun of. She doesn’t want to have trouble finding clothes that fit like her little brother and I do. She doesn’t want legs that jiggle when she walks or a big belly or a “Gerald” like me.
“Gerald” is what I have unlovingly named the lipoma on my left hip. He protrudes from my lower pelvic region and no matter how much weight I gain or lose, he just kinda hangs around like the stench of microwaved fish in a small break room. I talk about him far too often. He dictates the clothes I wear, the bathing suits I’ll put on my body, and when I’m nude, I can’t keep my hands off of him. I pull on him and push him and imagine how much happier I would be if he hadn’t taken up residence there after my second pregnancy.
And she notices.
No matter how much I try to be positive about my body in front of my daughter, I have clearly failed her. No matter how much I try to say kind things about all shapes and sizes of bodies, I have not done a good enough job.
It’s not just children who are unkind.
It’s adults at the beach making fun of “fat girls” in bathing suits. It’s parents at home watching TV or reading magazines or talking about needing to lose weight or tone up. It’s the TV shows we watch that only contain women who perpetuate this ideal that thin is the only body that is allowed to be beautiful. It’s doctors’ offices and elementary school gym coaches that shove the idea down children’s throats that they should be capable of running the mile without huffing and puffing. It’s in our own homes where we face discontentment with our own bodies because of the absolute dysfunction we were brought up with and just cannot shake in the face of our perfect children.
And here I am, a plus sized and beautiful woman raising a thin and healthy, gorgeous daughter who doesn’t want to look like me.
And I did that.
Whatever dysfunction I carried through my childhood now belongs to her, and I did that, but I didn’t do it alone.
As much as I would love to be able to take all the blame for this, I cannot. My own tall and thin husband talks about how fat he is every day in the mirror. He pulls his stomach in and grabs on fat that doesn’t exist. Then in the next breath grabs onto my fat that does exist and tells me how sexy he finds me. My mother takes pictures of people at the beach and posts them on social media ridiculing their bathing suit choices. My daughter watches shows that glorify thinness. She hears me talk about “eating well” and I try to educate her on the fact that we all have different bodies and our very different bodies all have very different health needs, but it isn’t enough.
We, as a society, absolutely have to embrace the body positive movement.
No matter what our personal beliefs are about obesity, we have to educate ourselves and one another about this chronic disease. We have to lift one another up and stop being so judgmental. You may not personally be attracted to a certain body type, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful or strong or healthy. You cannot know where every person you see is in their health journey. What you can assume is that they are on some sort of journey, and unless it affects you, your support would mean the world to them. Whether or not you realize it, our children are watching. They see and hear more than we know and they’re forming their own judgments, relationships with food, and connections with their bodies. While I cannot control what the media says about my body, I can control what I say about my body and about the bodies of others.
I absolutely refuse to be part of the problem anymore.
I fully reject anyone whose path I cross that adds to my perfect daughter’s body dysfunction. I cannot risk her physical or mental health anymore. It’s not enough to show my daughter that despite the fact that I have fat, I’m still fit. She knows that. I have to show her that beauty is everywhere.
I commit to being a woman in this movement who sheds light on the fact that we all have beauty to share with the world, no matter what our bodies look like. I want to share that with the world. Because we need not one more dissenting voice in this movement. What we need are voices and bodies that prove that beauty doesn’t look like one thing, it looks like us all.
When you understand that obesity isn’t a choice, that it is a chronic disease, you begin to have a different perspective on what people with this struggle might be going through. If you’re committed to helping the next generation understand this concept, arm yourself with knowledge about the subject by visiting the Obesity Action Community online. Show your support of others who have obesity by asking them what they need, supporting them in making small lifestyle changes, and truly being a loving support system for them, just like you would do for any other friend with any other chronic disease.
I chose to work with Med-IQ on this campaign because they are committed to spreading education and awareness around obesity and its status as a chronic disease. I believe that partnering with companies whose ideals align with mine is one of the most important things I can do. Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals.
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