We don't watch any adult oriented TV while the kids are awake. I don't bring magazines into the house that promote unhealthy stereotypes. Of course, that pretty much limits us to Ranger Rick and Highlights, but admit it, we all secretly like solving the kids' puzzles! We plan healthy menus together. We go grocery shopping together. We cook together. We exercise together everyday. We do not describe people by their bodily attributes - ever- and diet might as well be listed with the other four letter words.
Every single night, I tell them they are beautiful inside and outside. That while they are very blessed to be extremely beautiful on the outside, the inside is more important. I remind them to never forget that it's their actions and choices that define who they really are. Always choose the good and the do the right thing, no matter how hard. I tell them that Mommy loves them and nothing they ever do could change that. Their daddy reiterates the same sentiments every chance he gets and shows them, through his own actions towards me, how they should expect to be treated by a man.
We are not perfect parents. We fail, spectacularly, at other parenting type things. (Need proof? Look at just about any other article on this blog - lol. ) But this? This we do right because it matters so much to us. We believe you write on your child's soul with your words, and that you should choose them very carefully.
So what happens when the fat shaming phenomenon is brought to your kids?
My own self esteem and ego has taken a beating lately and Monday was particularly brutal. I'm used to being categorically dismissed by doctors, regardless what I've been in for, because of my weight. I have even been to a doctor with bronchitis like symptoms and was offered a prescription for an appetite suppressant, instead of an antibiotic. Don't even get me started on being overweight and pregnant. I'd just about given up on the medical profession.
Until recently, when I started seeing new doctor and he diagnosed me with hypothyroidism. He said I'd probably had it for several years, if not longer. I felt so vindicated and validated. Finally, someone understood. I started on new medicines, though he said it would take time to dose adjustments to get to the right spot, and felt like a new person. Rather than gain weight, I lost it. For the first time in years, I felt great and hopeful this albatross of weight around my waist would be gone forever. The euphoria was short lived, however, and all the old symptoms came rushing back, but I wasn't too worried, since he said it would need time and adjustment. When I followed up, instead of a dose adjustment, I was offered a large, strong dose of phentermine. I was flabbergasted to be handed this, with my strong family history of heart attack, and previous experiences with this drug.
Because, apparently, a skinny corpse has more value than a fat one.
I needed some levity after all that disappointment, so I decided we would go to the fair. Only to be told, loudly and publicly, that I was too fat to fit on the kiddie Ferris wheel ride with my child. And to have to listen to my kid loudly repeat every word to my husband. If that wasn't shaming enough, to then have my 5 year old stare at me, accusingly, and ask, "Why are you too fat, Mommy?"
In one careless phrase, I was suddenly insufficient in her eyes. Though it was only momentary, it was crushing just the same.
I recovered as best I could. I explained that I had an issue that made it so my fat didn't go away, easily, no matter how little I ate or how much I worked out, but that it didn't make me any less important than anyone else. It just meant that that ride wasn't meant for me. My jiggly belly that got in the way of that belt, had grown her and her sisters. My wide hips had been there home 9 months each, and I didn't regret any of that. I wasn't ashamed of it, and she shouldn't be either.
The topic has come up a couple of times in that last two days when she has seen other overweight people. We have discussed it, focusing on health, hoping it will sink in, in the way I mean for it to.
But this whole experience has been very thought provoking. I'm not the type of fat that requires special belts on planes, or can't fit in a booth at a restaurant. I wouldn't stand out to you in a crowd. I can run with a stroller, jump on the trampoline, and play with my kids without issue. Yet, still I experience fat shaming regularly.
Fat shaming is neither helpful to the individual or society. A person who is fat, doesn't need to be told they are, like they haven't noticed, or like it's something they could forget. Fat shaming can be dismissed as rudeness but I believe it's more than that. In fact, I believe it's undermining the fabric of society. Why is a person's value so tied up in what they look like? Why is being fat the worst thing a person could be? What happens when a child has "fat" parents and is constantly bombarded with ads, celebrities, opinions and "facts" telling them that their parents aren't enough. They aren't worthy of their child's respect. How does this affect the child in their own self esteem? How does this belief, in the unworthiness of overweight people, undermine parental authority? Look around. I believe we are seeing the results of this attitude everywhere.
In the US, we have the mentality that if you don't succeed, you simply didn't try hard enough or want it bad enough and it's all your fault. We give no credit, at all, to how a little bit of luck, plays into things. In this particular case, we are talking the genetic luck of not having thyroid disease or in having the good genetics to help you avoid it.
How about instead of shaming the person, we get to the root cause of why 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease and more than 12 million of them are undiagnosed. Could the cause be in our food supply? Why are processed food so much cheaper than fresh? Could all the hormones, preservatives and food colorings have something to do with it? There must be more of reason for so many people to be affected.
Most importantly, though, lets change the focus of our society from looks to actions. What we do, matters so much more than what we look like. Very few people go down in history for their looks. The real legends are made by actions.
Be legendary, my friends!