Hallelujah Highway

Celebrating the Journey

“Mommy, am I fat?” ~ Rae

on November 6, 2013

mommy am I fat

“Mommy, am I fat?”
My 9-year old daughter, Little K, asked me this question and it broke my heart. I don’t know how to respond. How I handle this concern could result in a healthy or horrible body image.
In reality, she is not FAT, but she does have a belly. Recently, family members have taken it upon themselves to make comments about her weight or to tell her what she can and cannot eat. She is young, but not dumb. She has started to take these comments very, very personally.

There are several complexities to address:

First, my oldest daughter is 14 and has never had to think about her weight. She was a preemie and has always been on the petite side. Now at 14, Miss Rose is tall, blonde, blue-eyed, leggy, and thin. She gets comments from family members about how pretty she is, including calling her “Barbie.” She can eat whatever she wants without issue—a disastrous recipe for sibling jealousy.
Secondly, Little K has always been in the higher size range for her age group. I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with Little K and she was born a healthy 8 pounds. She has always been bigger than Miss Rose. So when she looks at pictures of her sister at the same age, she can see there is a difference. I try to counter by pointing out to her that there are kids both bigger and smaller than her in her classes and that people come in all shapes and sizes.

Furthermore, weight has always been one of my own issues. I struggled with bulimia in high school and have fluctuated from super thin to 180-pounds in adulthood. Currently, I am at a healthy weight, but I know Little K hears me complain about my body and sees me weigh myself every day. Also, I have convinced my parents and brother to start counting calories as I do. They have all lost a significant amount of weight and have become hyper focused on food and calories. Both my daughters spend time at their grandparents’ house every day. So Little K hears all the adults around her obsessing about food, calories, and weight.

Little K is very active. She attends Tae Kwon Do twice a week (she is a black belt!) and takes a dance class. At school, she participates in every recess sport offered. Although at home, she loves to play on the computer and we have had to limit her time.

Likewise, she LOVES sweets (she is my child after all). If not reined in, she would eat sweets all day long. Her father and I have told her no more than one sweet a day. Her sister has no such rule, which probably seems unfair. But, Miss Rose doesn’t eat many sweets. So, we haven’t needed to make that rule for her. Little K sees this as an injustice because her sister can indulge in whenever she wants.

Considering all these factors, I am worried we are on the verge of creating a lifelong issue for her. With all this pressure put on her, in addition to the normal anxiety of puberty, she could be on the path to teenage weight issues like anorexia and/or bulimia. However, I do not want to be one of those oblivious parents with a 300-pound child. I know obesity is an issue in our country. I know healthy habits need to be instilled during childhood. I know it is my parental responsibility to ensure she has these habits.

When my little girl asks me “Am I fat?” I want to strangle the world that bombards women with images of super skinny models and actors. Every magazine page and every TV show glorifies the thin woman. Her own family members seem to adore her thin sister, yet pick at her flaws.

I don’t know what to do. Part of me wants to slap anyone who makes comments about her size. More productively, I have tried to help her understand that she is smart, kind, talented, and beautiful inside and out. I have shown her pictures of various family members and discussed how their bodies have all changed over time. Some who were super thin in childhood are now big; some who were chunky as children are now drop dead gorgeous; and others have gone up and down in size continuously. I tell her to worry about being healthy, not thin. I remind her that God made her and loves her. I know I should be the role model and be more active and healthy at home. I know that her father and I have a responsibility to give her the tools to deal with life. I know I have work to do to help both of my daughters love themselves and each other.

My solution for now: I will tell Miss Rose and Little K they are both perfect and hug them to me.

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