Two years ago, I added the word “fat” to the list of banned words in my house. While it may seem strange to have fat in the list of “dirty words” along with mostly four-letter curse words and offensive words like “gay,” “retarded,” and potty words, I did it very intentionally.
I realized that I often use the word “fat” in conversations out loud or in my head when I really mean “bloated,” “out of shape,” “not toned,” “not cute” etc. Fat has become the catch-all word for almost any feeling I have about my body that is suboptimal.
As the mom of a now six-year-old girl, I worry about how she views her body. I worry that she may one day feel self-conscious or worried about her body. I worry that as she grows, and experiences normal growth spurts, that she may call herself fat. I worry that she will feel pressure to look a certain way from her friends, from people online or from herself.
I worry that she is often featured on my social media or here on my blog, and that people may call her names or point of her flaws. I worry that she may see these comments and internalize them. I worry that she may have a different body type than me and be critical or hard on herself because she isn’t as thin as her mom. But most of all, I worry that SHE will start to dislike her body and develop a negative self image that may be hard to shake.
As moms of girls, I think we all worry about how our girls will feel as they reach the critical middle and high school years. Kids can be cruel, call each other names and bully. And even though society is slowly becoming more open to seeing beauty in different shapes, sizes and colors, there is still so much pressure as a girl and women to be skinny.
While I can’t control most of these things, I CAN CONTROL my actions. I can control the example I set for her, and to me, that is the single most important factor for a positive self-image and self-confidence.
My mom grew up in a different era, a time when she was expected to finish her plate. My grandma was constantly on diet pills in the 60s and 70s like Fen-Phen, and my mom always felt pressure to be thin while at the same time being told to eat everything in front of her, despite being full. Her parents always had a freezer full of sweets.
I remember as a child visiting my grandparents, they always had dozens of donuts and other sweets waiting for us. In short, my grandparents equated food with love, and food with comfort. So my mom has always struggled with emotional eating and over-eating.
When she became a mom, she conciously chose to break this cycle. She told me about her childhood of being forced to eat all of the food on her plate, and told me to just eat until I was full. She was also very careful with her words choices in front of my sister and I to avoid the issues she experienced with negative self image.
As a result of these parenting decisions by my mom, I have never struggled with negative feelings about my body or weight. I have always loved and cherished my body (though I will confess that I have always been naturally thin, which also helped to boost my self-esteem).
Since I was a child, I have always received a lot of praise and attention about my body. Women love to focus on other women’s bodies, for good and for bad. So as a mom of a girl, I am trying hard to end this focus on her body to a focus on her personality, on her talents and on her smarts.
I do not want Harper to worry about how she looks, and therefore I decided to ban the word fat.
We all have days when we don’t feel as good. Days when we feel out of shape or bloated. So on those days, I am concious about my word choices and say things like, “mommy is feeling bloated today” instead of saying “mommy is so fat.” Bloated describes how I am actually feeling (before my period or eating the wrong things, etc) and signals something tangible to Harper if she overhears me saying those words instead of the word “fat.”
I try to be intentional with my words, but of course I am only human and make mistakes all of the time. But the best part about having kids is they LOVE to CORRECT YOU! If they hear me use the “f-word” as we call it, they point it out. “Oh mommy, you just used a bad word!”
In short, I’ve trained my kids to recognize the word fat as being one that is not used in our vocabulary.
Hopefully, as they get older, they will continue this trend and not use “fat” to describe how they feel or other people either. While it may seem insignificant, it is ONE STEP towards creating better self-esteem in our girls, and nicer, kinder friends who focus on things BESIDES how we look.
So I encourage YOU to also ban the word fat in your house as well!