October 18, 2011

Fat (Talk) Tuesday

There's irony in the fact that I came across this video just after examining a "pregnancy weight gain chart" online*. We'll get into that another time...

Right now, I'm beginning to process the full (figurative) weight of our future daughter - the blessing she is already and the high bar I need to set as we raise her. Especially for myself.

I'm going to be a girl mom. It will be my responsibility to help shape and shepherd the heart of a sensitive, sweet being who may always, as I do, worry about how she looks. I'm terrified.

Take a look at this video and think about the many casual phrases we toss about in daily conversation. The "jokes" we laugh off about our looks and bodies.

Notice our constant references to backsides, stomachs, hips, "cankles" and "thunder thighs." I could give you a list of the (genuinely funny!) things I've said about myself, but you'd probably just roll your eyes - and rightfully so.

Pick up on each thoughtless comment about ourselves at mealtimes, after dessert, while trying on clothes or when we catch our reflection in a mirror. How aware we should be of these when little ears are picking up on them!

I don't mean to dismiss the value of healthy living or the effects genuine obesity can have on a woman. That's another issue entirely. I do, however, intend to clean up my fat talking act - and fast.

If I've learned anything from my two years of parenthood, it's that children absorb far more than we realize they do. Mac spits things back out that I don't even remember saying - but I know I have. (No toddler says "oh my word" and "oh no!" this often. Or corrects the dog with a, "No, sir. We do not do that." Mind like a steel trap, I tell ya.)

Just as damaging as any four-letter word can be the subversive, easily overlooked insults to ourselves. Our children, who for a time feel like extensions of us, can only absorb those same ideas - and oh how I'd like to save this little girl from every ounce of heartache fat talk has caused me.

The truth? (It's difficult even to type this, fighting the urge to qualify or deprecate or joke.) I've never been obese, or even overweight. But I have spent the bulk of my years feeling large, misshapen, puffy, odd, awkward, out of the ordinary, "curvier," bigger than other girls, too tall, disproportionate and just plain unpretty.

Scripture tells me I'm created in God's image, that I'm fearfully and wonderfully made. For a lot of years, and in a million moments since I've "grown out" of those feelings, I would have disagreed. How I wish I could tell you I've just switched off those instincts.

My prayer now, not just for Fat Talk-Free Week but for all of my girl-raising days to come, is that I talk about what matters. My heart, my hopes, the world around me, the lives of others, what I'm doing and who I can help - notsomuch about how I look while I'm doing it.

I'm grateful for a healthy body that has carried a beautiful boy and is growing another baby as I type. I'm thankful for a life easy enough that my mind can even wander to such superficial thoughts as the size of my thighs.

I'm glad to be able to get around, to care for our family and myself without assistance. And I'm grateful for the people in my life who make me laugh so hard I feel beautiful - while forgetting about looks altogether.

For those of you who are raising daughters, or who are daughters yourselves, how do you combat the urge to 'fat talk'? How can we fight the subtle 'you're not good enough' messages we unintentionally send to girls without putting too much of a focus on looks in general?

This week, I'm going to talk about things that matter. And cellulite, my friends, does not.

*More irony? Wanting to take down pics from yesterday's post because they are "unflattering." And being afraid that they're not unflattering, just accurate. And looking at pictures of oneself long enough to have such opinions. Oh, I have work to do.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."-Psalm 139:14


Maggie said...

This post hits the nail on the head for me... it's an issue I think about a lot, and talk about quite often with my friends who have daughters. I'd never tell my mom this now because I'd hate to hurt her feelings, but I grew up knowing that my mom thought she was fat, and it made a huge difference in how I saw myself from a very young age. I heard her put herself down, saw her yo-yo diet, and watched her try every weight loss trend in the book... and her body image only worsened as a result.

It's easy to imagine how this sort of thing transferred to me, her oldest daughter, who had to wear a bra at age 10 and was every kind of self-conscious about my body. That my mother is an extremely successful woman who everyone looks up to made it all the more poignant at the time - I think I began to understand at an early age that our ability to be content with ourselves lies not in how full our exterior lives are, but in how degrading our secret inner critic is.

On the flip side, I have three teenage cousins are the fiercest, strongest, most confident girls I know. They live at the beach and think nothing of running around in bikinis, despite the fact that their bodies aren't lifted from Seventeen magazine. When I was a teen my inner critic would have precluded me from standing proud... but not them. One is pale and petite, one is very tall and athletic, fit for the Olympics, and one is strong and curvy (she has my boobs, I'm afraid, which is fair since I got mine from her mom!). None is less confident than the other. Sometimes I think this is generational. But then I think about their moms, my fabulous aunts who raised them from the start to understand how powerful their bodies were, and how the best thing we can do for ourselves is to be kind to them.

This is a *very* long comment, way more than you bargained for I'm sure, but I just want to say that I hear you, and that so many women out there are trying to figure this issue out too.

Samma said...

I think about this so much- especially when I am at my family's beach house in Watercolor. I stare at moms who are the size of the straw in my iced tea with envy. Then I see their toddler daughters and become fearful for what is to come. . .it will be such a difficult line to teach our children about nutrition and fitness without devolving into obsession and shame spirals. Sigh. Excellent and thoughtful post, good to read as I freak out about this pregnancy weight.

Anne said...

Great post, Anne. I've been thinking about this a lot since we found out we were having a little girl...it really makes you think about how hard we are on ourselves, doesn't it? It's hard to stop with the "fat talk", but I am hoping to do a better job of it with those little ears in mind.

Perfectly Imperfect said...

This terrifies me more than I think I'm even willing to admit. I read Maggie's comment and had a similar upbringing but a bit different. I grew up thinking that my Mom didn't "try" hard enough. Does that make sense?I have always battled my weight and since most of the women in my family were overweight, I was obsessed with it. At times, unhealthily so.

I pray that E never has my food issues. I catch myself way too often pinching my stomach in the mirror which is completely innocent to me (seriously it finally is) but I'll look down and she's right there. I NEVER want her to think there is anything wrong with not being a size zero.

As a teen I was awful on myself. Only now at 29 am I sort of comfortable. I pray that she never has to deal with the inner neurosis I always did.

The Gaymons said...

Your concerns are completely ligitimate, and they are definitely an everyday reality for us. But, there is hope in the fact that we have a lifeline to our Lord who can give us the words to speak....not only about the our inner and outer beauty (which you, my friend, most definitely possess), but also the beauty of our daughters. Praying for you!

Courtney said...

Great post, Anne! Thanks for this! I'm pretty sure we have all become accustomed to daily "fat talk". Thanks to Tri-Delt for putting together such a great campaign as well...We are definitely out of touch with real matters of the heart.

brittneyb86 said...

Thank you for this post, Anne!! Such a great thing for me to hear as we have a baby girl on the way, as well! So encouraging! :)


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