Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"Do I Look Fat?"



“Do I look fat?” 


I was five years old and remember looking at my gorgeous, size 6 mother like she was crazy for asking me that. I was too young at the time to understand that her mind was playing tricks on her, so all I can recall was being totally confused and thinking to myself, “How in the world could she possibly think that?” 


My mom was drop-dead beautiful. I’m not saying that with a biased opinion, or because I think it’s something I'm obligated to say as her daughter. Seriously. She was a show stopper with the most beautiful figure a woman could have. I used to hate going to the grocery store or the mall with her, because men would stop dead in their tracks to stare at her. As a protective daughter, it always irked me and I'd s
hoot her admirers the snarkiest looks that I could possibly produce in hopes of scaring them off. 


On top of mom's incredible body, waist-length dark hair, and 1000 kilowatt smile, she had a killer personality and needless to say, she was a big hit around town. She did runway shows for a few local clothing boutiques and everybody always went out of their way to tell me, “Your mom is so pretty!”  Men adored her and all of the women wanted to be friends with her.

Everything was groovy on the outside, but the problem was that she truly believed in her heart that she was never good enough. She didn’t need to tell me that; it showed in her actions. She was always self-consciously fiddling with her clothes, hair and make-up, and queried me over and over again on how I thought she looked; not out of vanity, but in a way that was genuinely worried and unconvinced. 
“Beautiful” was always my very truthful response to her, but I knew she never believed me. 

For as long as I can remember, my mother has always been (unnecessarily) concerned about her body and constantly talked about “needing” to lose a few pounds and/or has been on a diet, even though her athletic body held steady somewhere between a size 6 - 8. I remember her consistently skipping meals and when she did eat I would watch her pick at her food, taking only a few bites before forcing herself to shove it aside. For as long as I can remember, she has under-ate. 

Not Just Mom

It was no wonder my mom was so self-conscious. Weight was always a hot topic in our family. The men all preferred their women to be extremely slender (and were very vocal about it), and my dad, uncles, aunts, and grandma frequently spoke about the body size of themselves or other people... not in a derogatory way, but good, bad, or otherwise, it was a popular topic of conversation. 

Pulling out a camera on holidays would cause mass chaos and send all of the women running for the hills because nobody wanted their photo taken for fear of what they'd look like on camera. Because of this, the number of photos I have of some very important women to me are extremely limited, and the majority of my memories have had to be stored in my head. Again, it wasn't because everybody was vain - on the contrary! It was because everybody was so damn self-conscious

My family was always wonderful to me; they frequently told me how smart and beautiful I was, but, unbeknownst to me at the time, my subconscious was furiously taking some very dark notes about what they were saying about themselves. 

"Do I Have a Nice Figure?"

On the first day of Kindergarten, at the ripe age of five years old, I asked my aunt and my grandma, Do I have a nice figure?”

That marked the beginning of a long, torrid relationship between myself and my body image. For the next, oh, twenty-some-odd-years, I have found myself struggling with self-esteem when it comes to my body. 

I'm confident that my family never had any intention to compromise my self-confidence, but it's amazing what our mind slurps up without us even noticing. Hearing frequent talk about diets and how one's body looks will inevitably creep inside our mind and plant some ugly seeds which - I  guarantee - will sprout up down the road.

They Are Listening

Our gorgeous niece who is like a parrot right now to her mama.
Absorbs and repeats EVERYTHING!

Always be careful what you say, but especially in the presence of young, impressionable little minds. Five years old, 16 years old, 20 years old... they are absorbing it all. There is so much pressure from the media to look a certain way, the last thing that we want to do it add fuel to that already messy fire. It's important for us, as role models for the next generation, to put emphasis on health and having a strong, adaptable body. After all, isn't that what really matters?

Reframe It

It's fine to talk about your training and nutrition around the kiddos - matter of fact, I encourage it because I think it's important - but lets reframe it. Instead of talking about how you need to lose weight and diet, point out the importance of good health.

"I choose to eat delicious vegetables because they make me feel great!" 

"I lift weights because they keep me strong!" 

"I love to workout because it keeps me healthy and being healthy makes me happy!" 

"I make sure to get plenty of sleep so I feel my best everyday!" 


Remember to be cautious of what you say, especially around children. Their developing brains are like little sponges and they absorb everything, whether you think they understand or not.  Lets be wonderful role models to the next generation and emphasize the importance of health rather than passing them the heavy burden of body image issues. 

How about you? Did you hear anything growing up that has contributed to the way you see yourself today, good or bad? If you're a parent, how do you fuel your child's healthy self-image? Drop me a comment below and lets discuss! 

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18 comments:

  1. My mom never said the word, "fat," but would always make comments about her imperfect stomach, hips, etc. She's a small lady (about 115lbs), but when she went through her "change," she saw a lot of weight fluctuation. My sister and I encouraged her to join a gym and she did...she even started a weight-lifting program! However, once her membership was over, she didn't renew. I don't live near her (and haven't for years), but I still try to encourage healthy habits to her over the phone. I bought her a Blueprint Cleanse because she wanted to try it, but I knew it was something she'd never purchase for herself. Sometimes, the loved ones in our lives need little nudges!

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    1. I agree that loved ones can need a little nudge, and that topic deserves it's own article entirely - one that I plan to attempt to tackle over the next few months because there are a couple people that I care about that need more than a nudge; more like a violent shove ;)

      My point with this article was that my mom was always in amazing shape and insanely beautiful, but suffered from severe body dysmorphia and low self esteem. She definitely didn't need to lose weight.

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  2. i love this! so many people don't realize that what they say to someone young will trigger something horrible in them later. for me, it wasn't any family member. it was a kid in 4th grade. all it took was for him to call me fat. and now 10 yrs later, i'm just now recovering. more people, whether young or old, need to watch what and how they say something about anyone.

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    1. Ahhh Chelsea! So sorry to hear that a comment like that has haunted you. I'm right there with you, sister. I had a boyfriend that told me I was fat when I was 15 years old and I still remember it like it was yesterday. Our words are so powerful!

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  3. Wow, this post made me sad! It's amazing how children can be influenced so easily. I always worry about negatively affecting my future kids when it comes to body image. My husband and I are both very into health and fitness, but I don't want to force my kids to be the same.

    I used to be a dance teacher and it would absolutely break my heart when I heard the girls talking about how fat they were. They were beautiful, tiny little 6-7 year olds! They had obviously been influenced by their mothers or other family members, and I didn't know whether it was my place to say something to the parents. The dance world is a dangerous place for young girls, but I did not expect children to be comparing their body fat levels!

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    1. Hey Tara!
      It is a bit of a sad topic, isn't it? But I feel like it really needs some light shed onto it so that we can prevent making the same mistakes.

      6-7 year olds talking about weight! Ahhhh! That makes me cringe! A good friend of mine has a 10 year old daughter that refuses to eat because the girls at school call her fat. This little girl is FAR from fat. It's heartbreaking!

      I've always wondered how I would handle our kids (if my husband and I have any) with regards to our strong devotion to diet and exercise. That'd be tricky!

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  4. Yep...my self esteem has always been low. I had an uncle in my family who would line me and my sister up with his daughters, back to back, and compare "sizes"...who was taller, bigger, etc. (of course I was always bigger than my cousin) He loved that, the fact that a younger cousin was bigger than his own daughters.

    My mother I don't recall ever calling herself fat, but she was always focused on her weight. She only weighed about 115, but tended to have larger hips, so she was conscious of that, wearing girdles and shapewear. She wouldn't buy clothes bigger than a 10, and I wouldn't dare buy her anything that had a tag that had a bigger number on it even now.

    So, growing up I self consciously absorbed that... 115 was the perfect weight, and don't dare go over size 10.

    She also made comments to me and my sister about our clothing...if our pants were "snug" or "drawing up." I was also told by my family in the 10th grade while running track that they felt "bad" for me because I was the biggest girl on my team.

    All unintentional blows to my self-esteem by people who love me.

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    1. Oh my goodness. First, thanks for sharing some of your story. I can see how all of those things would feed into some body image issues!

      My goodness - 115 pounds! I don't think I've weighed 115 since I was in 4th grade! I'd have to chop off a few limbs! ;)

      You said the key words, though: "Unintentional blows to my self-esteem". I really think most of the problem lies in the fact that most people don't even realize the harm their words are causing! Hopefully it taught you and I a lesson and we will be much more careful with our words!

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  5. Gah! This is such a great post. You are not kidding that kids are listening. My son says EVERYTHING we say all the time now at just 18 months. I have seen my mother under eat a ton too and it totally rubs off on you. Well that and the fact that we used to have frozen yogurt for dessert every night. I thought that was normal and fine and it took me a long time to get used to only having dessert once in awhile.

    My mom is actually doing my nutrition group starting next week and I'm excited that hopefully she'll see that eating low fat carbs as the majority of your food is not healthy despite what America has led us to believe.

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    1. Ah, your little cutie is in the parrot stage, too, eh? I think it's hilarious, but I can see how you'd have to be SO careful with what you say!

      That is awesome that your mom is going to participate in your nutrition group! I hope her eyes are opened and I'm sure she'll learn a ton! Keep me posted on that! I have a few people in my family that I really wish would hop in on my nutrition coaching. Hopefully one day! :)

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  6. I know exactly how your mom felt. Reading it was somewhat like reading my own story. I'm now over 50, and for the first time in my life I actually think I'm pretty, though I still run away when the cameras come out. I still feel I need to lose a little weight/fat, but now I'm trying to through clean eating and weight lifting.

    Thanks for this post!

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    1. I think it's important to remind you of what a friend had to remind me of a couple weeks ago:

      Great abs and a hot ass are cool, but nothing is more attractive than radiant health and happiness, both of which will shine through beautifully on camera ;)

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  7. Jen i completely agree!! in fact as soon as i finished reading this i wrote an encouragement card to my 13 year old cousin telling her how beautiful she is!! Our family is similar to yours in that there is a huge emphasis on looks, and no one is ever satisfied. i grew up watching my mom go from diet to diet and measure her food on a little scale. They were complimentary of me for the most part, but i dont think anyone wouldve walked away from that completely un-damaged (ive had my days of being overly restrictive, and its still a struggle at times). Thats why i am determined i will be the healthy role model to my cousin that i wish i had growing up! Thanks so much for this reminder- hope you have a great week :) -Lindsey

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  8. Thanks so much for this article. I loved and related to every word! I was always the one in the family with the "big lower body". I was always told "don't wear that it shows off your big legs, and you don't want that", or "that dress doesn't suit you because you have a big butt"... and their positive comments were "you look better in this dress because you have such a tiny waist, you need to show it off"... yeah, but cover anything below the waist, right?! I became anorexic at age 17 because of this, and although I am now 36 and training like a demon to feel fit and strong, I still look at myself in the mirror, and all I see are big tree trunks for legs and a big bum (and now a flabby stomach after 2 pregnancies!). I'm a mother of 2 now, and I want my daughter to have a healthy self-image. It's actually one of the reasons I train. I figured if she saw a fit and healthy mom, who trains to be strong and who eats to be healthy, and not to lose weight, then maybe she'll be better off and won't be too affected by the media - or anyone else!

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  9. u r gorgeous and a motivator :)

    lots of respect and well wishes for u Jen.

    Ahmed usman
    Pakistan

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  10. So glad I found this space. I´m 32 and for as long as I can remember I have always seen my mom struggle with her weight. It started when I was 5, she was 40, gave birth to my brother and never lost the baby weight. When I hit 27 my body started changing and in the last 5 years I have put on more than 20 pounds. I now feel devastated, every time I look at myself in the mirror I see my mother´s reflection in all sadness wishing she were smaller, her hair was longer, her eyes bigger... It has now gotten to the point that I can´t stand being naked with my SO. I feel self conscious and just disappointed that I let myself go. I hope someday I can learn to love this body.

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  11. For me, the men in my family have always made comments to me about my weight. I was never "fat." I am short, and I have an hourglass shape. I was anorexic at one point in my life because I was teased about my thick thighs. Thinking about it makes me want to cry. Just recently, my grandpa told me that I need to lose 30 pounds. I just lost 30 pounds in 6 months after giving birth to my son. I was proud to show my family how well I bounced back so I just went to a room with my husband and cried after my grandpa said that to me. My dad made comments to me too a few Christmases ago about how I needed to lose weight. I try so hard to look good, but I feel I'm never good enough either.

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    1. Hey Crystal!
      Oh my goodness, so sorry to hear that!

      I have discovered, after many years of dealing with oddball comments from family members and random people online, that we will never please everybody. We need to find health, happiness, and peace within ourselves and let any comments roll right off of our back. Much easier said than done, of course, but it's something we need to work on.

      I guarantee that if you lost 30 pounds to make Grandpa happy, inevitably somebody else would think you are far too skinny!

      Bottom line: You ARE good enough for YOU, and that is all that matters. <3

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