Open for Discussion: Fat Kids

In comments on the Fat People are Big Fat Liars post, an interesting side discussion has cropped up about how parents deal with advocating for their fat (or thin) kids. I wanted to move it up here, because I know there are a lot of Shapelings who are parents, or aspire to be parents, or stand by in all their nulliparous glory and secretly judge parents — yep, I think that covers everybody (oh wait! I forgot Shapelings who have or have had parents at some point!) — so I imagine we all have a lot to say about it.

As I said on that thread, one of the many reasons why I’m terrified of having kids is the knowledge that I will almost certainly have fat kids. I’m not terrified of the fat kids themselves — I’m terrified of having to advocate for them with doctors and schools, and of trying to bring up kids who don’t despise themselves in a world that despises fat. I’m terrified of having to say everything I say here in situations where the stakes — an innocent kid’s health and self-esteem — are much higher, and the resistance to what I’m saying is much greater. (Hell, I’m already terrified of what the non-existent kids on the non-existent playground will say when they find out my non-existent kid’s mom writes about how there’s nothing wrong with being fat!)

I’m also, as I mentioned there, terrified of having one thin kid and one fat kid. I’ve always naturally been the thinnest of the four Harding kids, and since we sorta came in two sets of two (with 10 years in between), I was “the thin one” while growing up with my sister M. I can hardly remember a time in my childhood that wasn’t dominated by concerns about my own weight, but I definitely can’t remember a time that wasn’t dominated by a whole lot of arm-flapping and tut-tutting and what-are-we-gonna-dooooooing about M.’s weight. I’m not even the one who had to live with that shit directed at me (sorry, M.), and the thought of having two kids constantly compared to each other like that, and a naturally fatter kid who’s told every time she turns around that she and/or her parents are obviously doing something very wrong, makes my goddamned blood run cold.

So, Shapelings who are parents of fat kids, how do you deal with it? What sort of obstacles have you faced? How have you overcome them — or have you?

Shapelings who were fat kids — what did your parents do right and wrong in terms of dealing with your fatness?

How do you stay sane and keep your kids sane in a world that’s constantly insisting fat children are some sort of preventable tragedy, not normal kids with bodies that are normal for them?

155 thoughts on “Open for Discussion: Fat Kids

  1. My cat has a serious over-eating problem. Not only that, but she lies about it, and I think she’s using cough drops to get her fix. What should I do. :(

  2. This is a great topic.

    I started to get chubby as I hit puberty (8th grade). I was living with my mom, whose family is generally on the thin side (the fat side is my dad’s), and at about the same time that I was filling out (to put it euphemistically) she lost around 30lbs that she’d packed on while working a high-stress job. Of course, she proceeded to make me abso-f-ing-lutely crazy. She incessantly compared me to other girls in my high school class, told me I was fat, harangued me about dieting, bought me ‘helpful’ books, etc. The summer before college, I had a bad knee injury, and after that my weight really started to skyrocket as I lost mobility.

    Of course i felt like a fat cow at a size fourteen, even though I had a boyfriend and friends who loved me. So as a senior in college, still facing knee problems and at least partially encouraged by my father who generally never brings up weight mentioned that losing weight might help my knee (not true, as it turned out), I went on the mother of all crash diets. I worked out twice a day, 120 minutes cardio plus either an hour of yoga or weights, and obsessively counted calories. And I lost. I weighed myself daily, and if the number on the scale wasn’t lower than it had been the day before I’d get back on the treadmill. By midway through my first year in grad school, I was down to 1200 calories a day, and my mom couldn’t have been more proud of me.

    But something weird happened. The summer after my first year of grad school, I started to get sick. I had stomach pains, acne, hair on my face, mood swings and, worst of all, uncontrollable cravings. I started binging and, naturally, purging to keep myself under that 1200 calorie mark. But I still gained. About this time, my mom realized that I was making myself puke, and she stopped encouraging me to stay thin and started encouraging me to go to the doctor.

    Three doctors, six months and forty pounds later, you guessed it, I got diagnosed with PCOS, probably brought on by my extreme weight loss. My endocrinologist never brings up losing weight, but she does talk about healthy diet and controlling my symptoms, which I am doing just fine at my current size-16 weight. My mom no longer talks about my weight, but I can’t help but think I could have been a lot better off if I’d been encouraged to be a healthy size 14 instead of praised for starving myself down to an 8.

  3. Zombie Z., hee hee.

    Actually, my fatter dog has been weirdly uninterested in food (other than Bacon Salt) lately. Doesn’t seem sick in any other way — I think he just doesn’t much like the food, and never has. (Here I confess that I do give my dogs “weight-reducing” food, because I can’t stand being the Bad Mother with Fat Dogs at the vet.) So for the last week or so, he’s only been eating about half of what I give him at every meal. Some mornings, he completely ignores the food, though he’s always more than ready to eat it by dinnertime (which goes to my “just doesn’t like it much” theory).

    If he doesn’t start eating, I’ll change the food and/or take him to the vet. But the point is, he’s been eating diet food for ages, and less of it than usual lately, and whaddayaknow, still fat.

    You can see in that video just how miserable he is about it, btw.

    And yes, dealing with people’s reactions to a chubby dog (who is also, as I’ve said before, not THAT chubby, but looks fatter than he is, b/c he’s all barrel chest and no legs) is a major source of my parenting fears.

  4. My mom did a decent job. She has never outwardly shamed me for being fat (like my father did). And she at least always tried to convince me not to listen to the kids at school who told me I was fat.

    But her response was, “I’ll tell you when you’re too fat.” What she meant by that is, don’t listen to the kids, if it gets to be a problem, trust me I’ll tell you.

    That, of course, always implied that it was a problem to be fat, I just wasn’t there yet. Self-fulling prophecy much?

    So even though she was probably just being supportive, the fact that I was allowed to go on Jenny Craig in 8th grade, pretty much told me that it was a problem. I was a size 12–before I started dieting.

    And even now, when she looks at me, I can feel her disappointment. Because now, I really am fat and she can’t understand why I don’t want to diet anymore. And she also doesn’t understand why I am not happy for her, every time she drops 5 lbs.

    She, by the way, is still on Jenny Craig. And in my eyes, she has never been fat.

  5. You know it’s days, like this one, that I am glad that I have such a wonderful son. In all his scary thin, super hyper, autistic glory the kid is just a huge ball of love. I don’t know if I’ll ever have to deal with him being a fat kid, he’s only 5 after all, and his life is just starting out. However, I know he will have to deal with having fat parents, and like I said, with his autism he may never understand (hell I don’t and I’m not) why people are so hateful to one another. It’s scary raising kids. It’s VERY scary at times, and even if I never have to deal with raising a fat kid, I’m trying to raise him in acceptance of everyone. I let him hear me “argue” points about fat acceptance, I let him hear my frustrations (albeit very censored for his little absorbent ears) with those who want to talk bad about anyone. I’m just hoping that somehow he will grow up to understand that we all have something about us that society deems unloveable, but that shouldn’t keep us from loving those in our lives, and not look down on those we meet simply because we aren’t “normal” in the eyes of society. Like I said, lucky for me, the kid is a big ball of love (which is why he just jumped into my lap and gave me a sudden hug), and I hope that will aid me in raising him to love others no matter the differences.

    I think I might be on the right path though, I swear the kid is the king of intuitive eating. Just the other day his digestive track was stopped up, and he seemed to know right away that 3 apples (yes 3) would help clear him out. The only food issue this kid has is not having everything all at once, LOL. I just hope I can keep it that way.

  6. From the time I was 6 or 7, my stepdad had me on diets. He constantly harassed me about my weight (slightly chubby, all the way through 8th grade). I was only allowed to eat at certain times, and wasn’t allowed to have any “bad” food. I was grounded from the pool for being too fat to swim one summer (I was 7). I have three brothers that I constantly played with and ran around the yard with, so they were eating more than me and getting the same excercise, yet I was still “fat’. I was lectured at for HOURS about how no one would ever find me attractive, how I didn’t deserve new clothes (so they stopped buying them for me: my mom would try to sneak stuff in). He once offered me 700 dollars for new clothes for my freshman year of H.S. if I would lose 30 pounds and weigh 120. I didn’t. And on and on and on. I hated him, and just in the past couple of years have begun to forgive him.

    I promised myself that if I ever have a kid, I will tell them every single fucking day how lovely and brilliant they are, so they at least have a fighting fucking chance for some self-esteem.

  7. I had an interesting conversation with my mother-in-law about this yesterday. My mother-in-law was a fat kid and is a fat adult, and has basically dieted in one form or another for the past 40 years. I talk to her a lot about my weight issues, because she is so… non-judgmental it’s not even funny. What breaks my heart, though, is that while she’s totally behind my resolution to never diet again, she can’t let go of her own feeling that because she has a thyroid problem, she has to work harder to be thin.

    And when she and I have these conversations, it almost inevitably gets around to her saying that she wished she had “done more” with my husband when he was a kid — more physical activities. My husband wasn’t a fat kid at all so far as I can tell, but he *is* a fat adult, and at first I thought this wish to “do more” had to do with her regret that he did grow up to be a fat adult. Yesterday I finally got up the courage to ask her about that (when the conversation again went in than direction), and she said she suffered from some pretty severe depression when my husband was a little boy — she was overweight, she and my father-in-law were having pretty bad financial difficulties, and their relationship was suffering as a result. What it was actually about was wishing she’d spent more time with my husband full stop. Doing anythign that could have been fun, not just “physical activities”.

    It seems like she’s being unnecessarily hard on herself in any case, but it struck me that her regret over a time of overall depression expressed itself in a retrospective fantasy of being thin. Like, if she’d just exercised more with her child, she would have been a better mother.

    And really, I think that’s something that worries me about having kids; I have a lot of emotional issues (fat-related and otherwise) that I need to work through… as things stand, if I had a fat child, and that child got teased at school (or worse, my dad’s sisters started clucking condescendingly about his/her weight), I woudl just lose it. And while I think it would be important for a fat child to see his/her parents standing up for him/her, seeing mom tear Aunt Memo a new one over a snide comment about “obese Americans” might send a warped message.

    I almost want to say that I can’t deal with potential weight issues in a child until I deal with my own… but how do you know when you’ve dealt with them enough?

  8. And really, I think that’s something that worries me about having kids; I have a lot of emotional issues (fat-related and otherwise) that I need to work through… as things stand, if I had a fat child, and that child got teased at school (or worse, my dad’s sisters started clucking condescendingly about his/her weight), I woudl just lose it.

    Honestly, that’s one of my big fears, too. That I’d just freak the fuck out instead of handling things well.

    Not to mention the whole OTHER fear of being a mother who’s prone to depression.

  9. I was never the fat kid…I was always skinny until I was an adult. I can’t say much on that side…but there IS a flip side to being the skinny one as well I wanted to share. My DH is tiny. He has no body fat whatsoever. If he gains one pound he goes up a pant size…that is how tiny he is. He is extremely active so he just doesn’t have the metabolism to put on weight.

    The issue is his mom. She has an eating disorder (we think it is a combo of anorexia and bulimia) and though SHE doesn’t want to eat and be “fat” she wants everyone else to be.

    One day my DH was without a shirt…and she gasped and said “What are those bumps on your stomach! You need to got to the dr!!”…The “bumps” she was referring to was his six pack. She is always talking about how he needs to eat more and he is too skinny etc.

    I really think that some people who talk about other weight maybe had issues themselves…and maybe it makes them feel better about themselves if they judge others. If they talk about other’s weight…then maybe it makes them feel better about their own.

  10. I was actually pretty thin growing up and my sister was the same. I remember going to the same babysitter as a girl who was fat though. I remember being pissed off about it when I was a kid, this girl was my best friend and she was always “on a diet.” Our babysitter would make us lunch, and my sister and I would get a treat afterwards, and this girl was never allowed to eat one because of her diet. I remember feeling guilty that I was allowed to eat something that she wasn’t. Looking back on it, I’m like, “why the hell didn’t she just give us all apples or something?” No discussion of weight or diets, no unhealthy snacks for the “thin” kids, healthy treats for everyone, yay.

    What my parents did completely wrong was instilling this fear of being fat into me. They were both obese, and when I was a kid I would always get comments, “Don’t eat that, you’ll end up fat like me.” I started making myself throw up when I was 11 because I felt if I had an eating disorder, no one could call me fat. Boo on that aspect of parental fear-mongering.

  11. This is something I think about regularly and I can’t wait to read other people’s responses!

    I think the best thing parents can do is to push themselves (if necessary) along the fat acceptance/HAES path, and work to believe that bodies will do what they need to do including automatic regulation of appetite, movement hunger and desire for rest. Or at the very least , to act as if they believe this to be true.

    Also, for parents to learn about children’s body development so they don’t freak out if a kid gets fatter (which often preceeds a growth spurt). Not for every kid of course, but sometimes I think the desire to protect kids from being fat (and the crap that comes with that by our often crappy society) results in creating body image sadness and weight preoccupation, and sets up the diet cycle from a very young age.

    If caregivers aren’t totally into body acceptance for themselves, at the very least they shouldn’t share that with kids in their life–not the type of modelling that helps!

    You’re completely right that the outside world is scary and judgemental, but I think that family and home acceptance (or judgement) is a million times more powerful than the outside world.

    I’m still suprised when I talk to friends who say that they “didn’t really think about that body image thing” when they were growing up, because it was such a constant thing for me that I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to not have been preoccupied. And that is my wish for any kids who come my way, that they can learn how fantastic they are simply for existing, and that they don’t mistake body size for a measure of how loveable they are.

  12. I learned the following from growing up with a weight-obsessed mom and a skinny sister:

    – Do not write articles about putting your fat kid on a diet when she’s four, with pictures of how thin she got by six.
    – Don’t write articles about how sedentary your fat kid is, especially if she spends most of her non-reading time playing outside.
    – In fact, don’t write articles about your kid. Somehow she managed this with the skinny one, although I do remember one or two glowing pieces about her soccer team.
    – The answer to “but she’s having ice cream, why can’t I” is not “because she’s not you.”
    – The answer to “by the way, I’ve been bulimic for the last several years” is not “you must mean you’re a compulsive eater.”
    – Also, and this isn’t necessarily a fat thing, sending your kid to a shrink is not actually a substitute for being loving and supportive. Also, that shrink was an asshole. So was the other one, and the other one, and the other one.

    My mom did a really shitty job navigating this, no lie. I spent a lot of my childhood being terrified that she might find out what a terrible person I was for buying chocolate milk at school lunch instead of skim.

    Oddly, it was forcing my mom to face up to my eating disorder (which, to be perfectly honest, I had kinda started to doubt the existence of… not exactly because of her indifference but because I wondered how bad it could have been if I’d eventually been able to mostly stop) and her part in creating it that really allowed us to be friends, I think. I kinda got this stuff off my chest, and she kinda apologized, and things were basically cool. Plus I think having some firsthand experience in how NOT to do things will help prepare me.

    When I was home for Thanksgiving I said “so… you know, my sister’s gotten pretty skinny” and was kind of expecting… well I don’t know what I was expecting. But what I got was “I know, but I talked to her about it and I’m pretty sure she’s okay.” Go mom.

  13. Oh dear. Well, I was a fat kid. I’m still a fat grownup. I was tortured in all the standard ways by doctors, parents, nurses, teachers, gym teachers, and the other kids. Been down the road of dieting over and over and over again, from speed to richard simmons to slimfast and back again, and now I’m somewhere in the vicinity of 300 pounds, though I’m not sure (nor do I care) exactly where. I’m sure I’ve screwed my metabolism. My husband, who is just a tad overweight, is amazed that I eat so much less than he does. I was too, but now I’m not, not so much. All the Size Acceptance blog reading that I’ve been doing is very enlightening.

    At any rate, I have two kids. Daughters. One is 23, the other is 21. The 23 year old is weight obsessed, workout obsessed, and very food-focused. No fat, ever. No meat other than chicken or turkey ever. She’s gotten a little better over the past year or so, and I feel very responsible for her obsession. VERY responsible. In fact, the guilt is effing killing me, because I know that watching all my dieting and exercising made her hyper-vigilant about her weight, too. She’s very fit and trim, and very strong. She also works as a cosmetologist so she’s got to be appearance-focused at work, which doesn’t help. I worry about her, a lot.
    My younger daughter just graduated from college. She’s much taller, and she’s heavy. She’s BIG, too, like I am, broad hipped and broad shouldered. She’s recently lost some weight, but not from dieting, from having bicycling as her primary form of transportation. She caught a lot of crap in grade school and middle school but by the time high school came around, she had more friends and was pretty okay. She also watched me diet and exercise excessively, but I think she also saw how consistently I failed and regained and had the good sense not to try to follow in my footsteps. I recently apologized to her for telling her I was worried about her weight and that I didn’t want her to “end up like me”. Now I’m more worried about the thin daughter ending up like me.

    I don’t know what the answer is, I feel like I’ve done damage to my daughters, who I love more than anything, that I can never undo by my crazy habits when they were growing up. All I can do is apologize to them and hope they’ll be okay, sooner than I will.

    I’m fairly new to this HAES stuff, and have a very long way to go until I’m actually healthy. But I’m hopeful.

  14. Christina- When I read your comment about the babysitter, I wondered if it was the babysitter making that decision, or the girl’s parents?

    I used to babysit for this 10 year old in So. Ill. I worked for her mom at a sandwich shop. She reminded me a lot of myself when I was a kid, totally active, chubby, and with a freak parent who was always on her about her weight. Seriously, the kid would take 10 mile bike rides with me, and her mom wouldn’t let up. So the mom tells me that the girl couldn’t have bread anymore, and, of course, no “bad” foods. My response was to tell the little girl that when on my watch, she could have whatever she wanted, instead of having to sneak food, and I would never tell. I don’t know if it was the right thing to do, but I am glad that she had at least one person who let her not be afraid to eat.

  15. I was a fat kid, and I have a four-year-old who is almost certainly going to be a fat kid. My parents–who are also fat (who’da thunk it?)–absolutely never shamed me or taunted me, but it was always an issue. My dad and I joined WW together for the first time when I was nine.

    In talking with my mom now, it seems that she was deflecting a lot of flack from doctors that I never knew about. Apparently, even in the 1970s, having a fat child was a reason for doctors to think that you must be a lying baby-eater, and she says that interventions were pushed from an early age. The first one I remember was self-imposed, when my New Year’s resolution at the age of seven was to go on a diet.

    My mom was very controlling about what I ate, I think trying to (1) save me from the pain of being a fat kid, as she had been and (2) conform to what the doctors were telling her I should be eating and not eating. I don’t remember dessert being a normal part of my life, and I was never allowed regular soda or sugared cereals. I was also only allowed two hours of TV a week and was required to be involved in some kind of organized physical activity.

    In other words, she did everything “right” and I still ended up fat.

    (Oh, and she tried the opposite tack with my much-younger brother, basically allowing him to eat as he wanted. He is also fat. Genetics much?)

    This is my constant battle with myself as I raise my son. He is currently at the 87th percentile for BMI, which makes him technically overweight. But for God’s sake, I can see his shoulderblades and ribs and he has a little preschooler six pack! He is solid and strong. And yet I find myself wanting to restrict what he eats–constantly. Even though I know it doesn’t work and could ultimately be counterproductive, I can’t seem to get past this idea that if I do everything “right”, he won’t move past “solid” to “fat”. (And if I do something “wrong”–like allow him to have desserts too often–he’ll be fat and it will be my fault.)

    I’m pregnant currently and would really like to have a girl, but that is even more scary. I don’t know what the best thing to do is. I guess if I did I’d be rich…

  16. A few years ago I was sitting at work with some friends/clients (I work in the music business) and when the subject came up, everyone in the room admitted to having been a fat kid at some point. It occurred to me that quite a few of my other friends who I consider to be amazing writers, artists and/or funny as hell smart creative people had been fat kids too. I had a momentary half-assed theory that maybe the painful outsider status that we’d all experienced drove us to think outside the box a little, and now years later, everyone’s reaping the benefits. Of course, that’s not to say that skinny people are not creative and talented, or that once you achieve success and notoriety that you are automatically well-adjusted and forget about childhood cruelty, but I’m definitely not afraid to have fat kids (We rule!). And reading this blog has definitely enforced that feeling.

  17. I wasn’t a fat kid. Neither were my siblings, although my sister was chubby. (Now that I think of it, if she was growing up today she’d probably be considered “overweight” but those were slightly saner times). My parents were pretty good about always telling us we looked good, and about refusing to let either my sister or myself go on a diet while we were teenagers because our bodies and brains were still developping. But I spent my whole life listening to my mom put herself down for her fat body and so I learned from her that fat is something horrible and ugly and disgusting. It’s taking a lot of unlearning. My advice for any fat parents is don’t ever put yourself down for being fat (or for any reason, for that matter) in front of your children. Because even if they’re not fat now, they might end up that way, and then how will they feel about their bodies?

    One of my Brownies is a thin girl with a fat sister, and her mom is great. She just tells everybody who asks: “I feed Grace and Skye the same foods and they eat the same amounts. Obviously this is just the size Skye is meant to be.” And when Skye (the younger one) wanted nice clothes like her sister, she found a way to buy her some that fit… the children’s size 6 pants didn’t fit so she bought her children’s 8 capri pants and Skye wears them as regular pants. Which I thought was wonderful, especially after I read about all the fat children who were told: “You can have nice clothes when you lose weight”.

  18. As a parent of a girl, this subject scares me to death. I was a chubby kid, didn’t really propel into fat until later (I did a lot of sports as a child and guess what happened when I stopped?). My mother was chubby and put me on my first diet when I was 11? I first joined WW at 14. And on and on and on. Did that cause me to get fat? Who knows. I have examined this issue from front to back so many times I can’t count. I have a problem with food and treating it as a reward. I overeat, and I use food to deal with messed up emotions. Do I do this because my mother put me on diets? Can’t tell.

    Now I have a soon-to-be 4 year old girl, and she’s always been on the skinny side. To the point doctors tried to push formula on me when I was nursing her, and freaking me out that “I wasn’t giving her enough”. It took a lot of willpower to convince myself that her weight was stable (constant percentile rank) and pushing food down her throat wasn’t going to solve anything. It’s just the way her body is. She’s super tall (95th percentile) and skinny (50th percentile). She’s not starving. The hardest thing for parents to deal with toddlers tends to be their relationship with food. Because food is something the toddler can control, and a lot of kids realize this and then refuse to eat. Thus throwing parents into a “my kid is going to starve!” frenzy and then anxiously fixing them any dish under the sun that they will eat. I knew a woman whose son ate only vanilla wafers and chef Boyardee ravioli for a year. Seriously. I’m so freaked out about food issues and constantly have to check myself with my husband. We decided early on that we were going to sit down with her for her meals, and she would eat what was served. If she wasn’t hungry, she didn’t need to eat it, but she needed to have one bite of everything to make sure she was trying new foods. Dessert happens, but is rare, and doesn’t have anything to do with how much she ate.

    Her body is going to change over time, and lord knows she’s going to have enough things to blame me for. The last thing I want is to add food issues to the list. I certainly need to settle my own issues, however, if I expect her to ever have a healthy relationship with food and her body.

  19. They were both obese, and when I was a kid I would always get comments, “Don’t eat that, you’ll end up fat like me.”

    Ugh, that was me. My mom get on me every time I wandered into the kitchen, because I was the family’s last hope (for real), and she just wanted to “save me from myself” so I wouldn’t end up like them.

    I know it was only because she didn’t want me to go through the pain of being a fat kid, which she knew all too well. (Adding insult to injury, her name was Pattie, which rhymes with…) But it was seriously fucked up. And probably a huge part of the reason why I’m so passionate about insisting that it’s society’s responsibility to quit making fat people feel like shit, not fat people’s responsibility to get unfat so they can be spared the misery.

  20. …it’s society’s responsibility to quit making fat people feel like shit, not fat people’s responsibility to get unfat so they can be spared the misery.

    I think that needs to be emblazoned on a sampler. Or a billboard. Or a billboard sized sampler. Or many of them.

  21. (Adding insult to injury, her name was Pattie, which rhymes with…)

    I wonder how many Baby Boomers were saddled with that particular burden. My mom had the same experience.

  22. It’s so, so scary.

    I’m having a baby in April, and I’m already feeling this issue. I’m little and thin, and my husband is big and tall and barrel-chested, and several people have already expressed the hope that if we have a girl, she’ll get my genes. It breaks my heart to think that a girl who resembles my gorgeous husband would be considered a disappointment.

    It’s going to take a lot of work and vigilance, basically. The main thing I will do differently from my parents is if my kid develops an eating disorder, I will not ignore it. My parents still refuse to acknowledge that I was ever sick.

  23. I’m also, as I mentioned there, terrified of having one thin kid and one fat kid.

    So, I’m the fat sister of my particular duo. My sister (at age 28) is 5′ 11″ and a size 8 on her “fat” days….and she was thinner when we were younger. I haven’t seen the far side of a 24 since I was about 14. (must be a helluva gene pool)

    We were raised mostly by my dad (with some help from my mom and various grandmothers), and I’m really not sure how it happened, but I wound up pretty damn comfy with my size and sporting obnoxious self esteem. My sister, who pretty much meets those crazy Hollywood beauty ideals (even now, while knocked up), has all kinds of food and body image neuroses and worries constantly about putting on weight. How that weird dichotomy happened when we were raised in the same environment (barring the two years longer she lived at home after I graduated and split)….I have no idea.

    My dad was never particularly supportive – he didn’t spend a lot of time telling either of us how beautiful we were or anything…..but he also never once suggested I go on a diet (most of our meals were eaten as a family, so it wasn’t like I was eating any differently than my sibs, and he knew that). He sometimes would get on my case for spending too much time with my nose in a book, and not enough time outside “getting the stink blowed off,” but I suspect that had more to do with his love of outdoorsy hunting/fishing/camping stuff than exercise. (His biggest beef was my penchant for dressing like a dude – he spent more time trying to convince me to wear a skirt than anything else.)

    As it happens, my parents and grandparents (and aunts & uncles, etc.) are all fat to varying degrees. I suspect that has a lot to do with how comfy I am in my skin. However it happened, I feel really damned lucky. Truth be told, though my sister is the more socially “acceptable” of the two of us….I feel sorry for her.

  24. Kymmi, my best friend is totally dedicated to early childhood education, and does a lot of reading about various issues. He told me that the worst thing a parent can do for toddlers is force them to eat/finish their plates because they WILL eat when they are hungry enough, and will stop when they are full. So it sounds like you are doing it exactly right :)

    I am glad that to feed my “kids” I just have to check the bowls on the floor a couple of times a day.

  25. My parents put me on my first diet when I was 4. I look at pictures of myself at that age and I just can’t see what they saw. Actually it was my pediatrician who told them to put me on a diet. That is what began decades of self loathing and body shame. The more I dieted – the more weight I gained. Sound familiar?

    My parents forbade me from eating and then alternatively I would be yelled at for not cleaning my plate and forced to eat whether I was hungry or not. I would starve and binge because my mom told me no one would like me if I was fat but then I was so hungry (for food and affection) that I would eat whatever was in the fridge in the middle of the night.

    Years of shaming me for being “unwilling” to lose weight did not turn me into a tall skinny super model.

  26. I was a “fat kid,” growing up, though, looking back at photos, I’d say I was never more than chubby until I was a teen. But my mom was fat and had zero self-esteem, and I grew up being bribed by my grandparents to lose weight (perhaps because they thought my mother was a lost cause?). One year, they offered me money to lose and my brother (who was a skinny boy) money to gain. It was ridiculous, especially as my fat grandmother lived to be 88. My father was also fat, though he wasn’t obsessed by it.

    I went on my first (and only) major diet when I was in my early teens and went down to a size 12 (I was a 16 at the time), but I thought about food constantly, non-stop. I remember it as a very disordered time. I was counting the calories in a can of green beans, and eating less than 1000 a day, and I started jogging, but I remember being too tired sometimes to get out of bed, and being light-headed, and thinking that was a *good* thing. I also remember that, while I was out jogging, a strange guy pinched me in the ass and ran by before I could even yelp, and I felt awful about it (and in later years, feminism helped me make the connection between my abuse of myself and his abuse of me.)

    I finally stopped all that when we my father took us on vacation to Niagara Falls while my mom recovered from an eye operation, and I remember just deciding I wanted the Boston cream pie at the restaurant, and I was tired of being unhappy, and tired. But I don’t think I realized how messed up I’d been, especially as all I got was praise for losing weight. Post-diet, I went up to a size 18 (not surprising, considering what I did to my metabolism through my summer of starvation).

    At any rate, I’m now 5’6″ a size 18/20 and pregnant with my third kid.

    I met my husband senior year of high school, and we’ve been together for 20 years now (and married for 9). He’s 6′ tall and about 150lbs. Back then, his shoulder-blades were like wings and his collarbones were like handles, and his hip bones were pointy, and he had really knobby knees and a long neck. I thought he was adorable, though he’d always had a tough time because he couldn’t gain weight or muscle mass. That was just the way he was made.

    Twenty years together (with him cooking for most of it) and he hasn’t gotten fat (he’s still a 30 waist/35 inseam), nor have I gotten thin (though we’re both vegetarians and have been since I was 16 and he was 19).

    Our son is 8 and seems to be taking after his father, being thin. Our daughter’s 4 and is a bit more rounded (then again, she’s 4) but not chubby. I don’t know whose metabolism she inherited, or how they’ll turn out.

    My son’s old enough to read cereal boxes and things, so he’s just discovered the labels and “calories.” He wanted to know what they were and my husband explained, and I pointed out that it was a useless piece of information, since two people can eat the same amount and use the energy up at different rates. I try to keep away from the idea of “good” and “bad” foods, though we do tend to enforce the “you don’t get dessert until you’ve eaten at least one green veg.” Our desserts, though, range from Halloween candy (which lasted through the beginning of December!) to stewed, unsweetened apple slices cooked with Grape Nuts with cinnamon (something the kids adore).

    Now that I’m pregnant again (6 months) and have a huge belly, my daughter, in particular, is fascinated with how “fat” I am. I’m not sure if she really thought of me as fat before. But at home, I regularly remind the kids that people come in all shapes and sizes and heights and colors, and that’s just how it is. I try to keep paintings and sculptures around of beautiful fat women. And I don’t buy fashion magazines or barbie dolls.

    In terms of books… there’s a really incredible, fat-friendly sex-ed/health book I recommend:
    It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie Harris with illustrations by Ed Emberley.
    The book shows a wider than usual variety of body types in its drawings (and right away, the kids picked out one of the women they thought looked like me). Harris also a younger kids’ version out there called: It’s So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families.

    Both books are good for stressing the point that we all look different, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

    As far as teasing goes, I just remind the kids that when someone says something mean, it’s usually because they feel bad about themselves. I’m not saying I’m without neurosis about it, but I feel like what I tell the kids about fat acceptance fits into the larger lessons about embracing diversity and fighting against racism and sexism and homophobia.

  27. Well, you probably already know these ones but…

    1. Don’t tell your 11-year-old daughter that she could live off her surplus fat all winter, especially if you live in a place where the winters are six months long.

    2. Don’t scream that you don’t want to bury your 13-year-old daughter because she’s so fat she’s obviously going to die any second. (I was 120 pounds at the time.)

    3. Don’t compare your slightly chubby daughter to her skinny, skinny brothers who eat all damned day and never gain weight.

    4. Don’t encourage any child to believe that not being conventionally attractive trumps everything else. Great grades in school? Too bad you’re so fat. Hard working and polite? You’d better be, fatty.

    Geez. And I had pretty good parents, really. I blame society for the crazy.

  28. I’ve been lurking around the Fatosphere for over a month now, and I have now finally decided to post something. I admire all of you at Shapely Prose very much!

    My family’s view of my body size has always been a varied issue. My extended family never really comments on my weight – they do tell me I look pretty.

    And my sisters’ only comments about weight are about their own – which, for the longest time, I considered to be absolute ridiculousness, as my older sister is and has always been a size 4-6 (even when she gains a bit of weight, all it serves to do is give her more curves), and my younger sister bounces between being a 10 and a 12 (which gives her more cause to be insecure, but not much – she may have a bodacious ass, but her waist is absolutely miniscule, and she only recently filled out to a C cup). More recently, I’ve come to understand that no matter what our size is, we all have body issues.

    But my parents are the ones who are probably mostly responsible (along with various asshole classmates growing up) for any weight, size, and body acceptance issues I have.

    Let me start off by saying that they were by no means the nightmare parents to a fat little girl – they never, ever tried to do anything like put me on a diet or make me low-fat angel food cake on my birthday or treat me any differently than my smaller sisters. They actually hold a number of Pro-HAES/FA beliefs:
    – They know how ridiculous and unhealthy our society’s standard of beauty is, from size to tanning to cosmetic surgery (my Dad has been rather fascinated by the statistics on the suicide rates of women who get plastic surgery).
    – They understand that different people have different body sizes/types and that is natural (Just look at me and my sisters – the oldest is a size 4-6, I’m usually a 14-16, and the youngest is a size 10-12.)
    – They also understand that genetics determine your natural weight range.
    – They don’t believe that you can be “too fat and/or ugly for love”, and they have never ever said or even implied anything of the kind.
    – They understand that, overall, the key to health is eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.

    And yet, they still have a number of Anti-HAES/FA beliefs:
    – They are so very into diets; they have been South Beach Diet fanatics for a few years now. It worked for them, I guess, as they have kept off almost all the weight they lost.
    – Any time I lose weight, they are ecstatic, and ask me what I’ve been doing differently.
    – They really only give me compliments on my appearance when I’m in the lower end of my weight range.
    – They flip out when I get above a size 16.
    – They say their concern is for my health.
    – And they say it’s for my well-being – my Mom once told me that I’m going to have a hard time finding clothes if I gain weight (gee, really, Mom? I never knew!). Wait, doesn’t that contradict the previous point – if you’re concerned for my health, why are you bringing up how easy it will be to go shopping?

    Like I said, not the nightmare parents for a fat girl – but they still make these disparaging comments, and have done ever since I was in middle school. The first one I can remember is from when I was 11 years old…we were going shopping and my Dad first asked what size my older sister was wearing, and she said 6, and then he rather pointedly asked me what size I was wearing, and I said 12, and he proceeded to say, very bitingly, “So you’re twice as big as your sister?” Aaaaargh. Fortunately, my Mom jumped in to defend me, saying that the size has nothing to do with measurements and 12 isn’t twice as big as 6…but I still remember being devastated by that comment. Especially since my Dad himself is fat.

    My Mom tended to always comment on my clothing size. I was a size 14-16 through most of high school, but I ranged up to an 18 at a couple points, and she would flip out and tell me to exercise more whenever I went up a size. I’m not sure why she drew such a line for me, 16 being okay and 18 not – maybe she was just concerned that I was getting “out of control” or something like that – but it was always a point which she emphasized.

    Which has basically instilled in me this idea that when I’m a size 14-16, I’m okay, but I feel like a huge lumbering beast at size 18. Which is utterly absurd. It’s a difference of one size, which is also dependent on the brand of clothing.

    Beyond their comments on my clothing size, my parents have also historically taken the tactic of always complimenting me when I’m thinner and have clearly lost weight, and never ever complimenting me on my appearance when I’m at the larger end of my weight spectrum. My Mom’s version of a compliment about my body is, “You’re looking smaller recently,” or, “That outfit makes you look slim.” And thus she reinforces the idea that I only look good when I look skinny or at least skinnier.

    And not only do they not compliment me when I’m at the higher end of my weight spectrum, my Mom (and on the very rare occasion, my Dad, too) will tell me I’ve been looking heavier recently and ask me if I’m planning on losing weight. Now, they always state that they are concerned for my health, but the words they use don’t have to do with health, but size. For instance, my Mom recently told me she was worried about my waistline. Not my physical activity – not the healthiness or lack thereof of the food I was eating – no, she said “waistline”. She told me I had gotten “heavier” in the past year and a half (which is entirely true). She then went on to talk about possible health problems, our unkind genetics playing a part in that, and how I should get in shape for my health – but some of the vernacular of her little speech was almost entirely focused on size instead of health. Oh, and she said if I lost weight I’d be able to shop at a greater number of stores.

    Bleh, I say. Bleh.

    Now, I didn’t argue with her (and I know most of you think I should have), though I had a good reason. While I eat perfectly healthily and have never had a problem with eating too much or eating junk all the time, I do have a problem with making myself get off my ass and work out. (I have just started swimming again, that being one of the only forms of exercise I actually enjoy, aside from dance, which is somewhat of a bitch, because you just can’t swim at home, unless you’re rich and have a pool.) And it’s funny, because if my body’s weight were simply dependent on my eating habits, while I wouldn’t be super skinny, I would be pretty trim. But for my body, my weight is largely dependent on my level of exercise. And I’ve been pretty damn lazy during the last couple years, rarely working out, and also I just recently started working at a desk job to boot, so I’m sitting all day. Which is why I didn’t fight with my Mom – I know that I need to get back in shape because my activity habits are not healthy. But some part of me still wanted to say something to the woman who thought 14-16 was just fine for me but 18 was awful.

    Plus, this whole size acceptance idea is new to me, and though I’ve carried around with me my own version of it for years, it is much more powerful and meaningful to hear others’ opinions and ideals in support of HAES-thinking. But I’m not at a point where I feel comfortable talking to my parents about it – I hope it’ll happen soon. But not quite yet. How have other people broached the subject?

  29. And yeah my sister was the skinny good daughter and that made me the fat one that made my mother cry because I “refused” to lose weight.

    I look at those pictures of myself when I was 4-8 and I just can’t see what that pediatrician saw. I look like a totally normal kid with chubby cheeks.

    And I told my husband while we were still dating that I would not be having children. Partly because I don’t want to wrap my life around the daily needs of a child. I honestly don’t want the job of parenting but I sometimes wonder if I feel that way because of how I felt as a child.

  30. I get worried because sometimes the exact same message is interpreted by kids in different ways. They may hear ‘eat in moderation’ and think that ‘moderation’ means ‘under 1200 calories a day’. Or ‘exercise because it’ll make you feel good’ turns into ‘exercise because being skinny feels good’. I’ve seen many cases in which two children were raised in the same house, same parents, same food, and one got healthy eating habits and not too many mental problems, and the other developed an eating disorder. (Yeah, I know — good chance that one had a brain programmed for it and the other didn’t. But still. You can have rotten issues with food and NOT be eating disordered.) And as much as I may try to make things correct in my own home, you never know what they’re getting told at school. Until they come home and say, “Mommy, the school nurse says my BMI is way too high and I have to lose 40 lbs.” (My mom, a school nurse, would have KILLED anyone who did that to me, and not just because I’m smallish.)

    I bet I’ll have skinny kids who put on weight once they hit adolescence, since that’s what I did, and my mother. (The boyfriend is still skinny, as is my brother, so the boys may luck out.) It’s kind of exciting to get into 7th grade gym and discover that your sense of balance is COMPLETELY screwed from having all of a sudden become bottom-heavy.

    I can handle advocating for fat kids, I think. I’m more worried about keeping my future daughter from having an eating disorder.

  31. Longtime lurker, first time commenter.

    I consider myself extremely lucky to have the mother I do. She’s always been tall and fat (as am I) and realized that dieting just wasn’t ever going to change those facts. Sometime after a high school career spent wishing she could be one of the “popular” kids like her sister, she realized she could either be miserable trying to loose weight (as she had attempted a number of times), or be happy with herself the way she was and live her life not worrying about what she “should and shouldn’t be doing” as a fat woman. Consequently she did everything she put her mind to: got into nursing school when other nursing schools demanded she loose 40 lbs before admission; worked in Brazil for a year caring for sickly poor children; road-tripping around the West for a summer; dating a pro football player who apparently liked his women tall and statuesque; got married (not to the football pro, thank God); had a kid; adopted more and raised all of them to know that body size shouldn’t limit your ambition.

    Thanks, Mom.

    I just hope I can be half as good raising kids to know that size doesn’t equal worth.

    (Re-reading my comment, I guess this turned into more of an early Mother’s Day card than a comment. Sorry :-)

  32. I was a not very fat kid who was treated like a fat kid. By the time I was 13 I took an entire package of Dexatrim, which landed me in the hospital. My family insisted it was a suicide attempt, despite my telling them over and over again that I was just trying to take the weight off faster. In retrospect, I believe that my family couldn’t acknowlege that I was getting crazy over my weight because it was so important to them that I be thin, they didn’t really care how I did it. In other words they were confortable with trying to “cure” my suicidal behavior because that was problematic. But they couldn’t begin to phantom the idea of fixing my eating disordered behavior because that was a good thing – the road to a socially acceptable body!

    One day, after having a giant Italian dinner at my grandmother’s house, I took off to the bathroom to throw up the food. When I was done, my grandmother confronted me with “I know what you’re doing in there!” and my response was “So you do. Tell me, would you rather I be thin or digest one of your big, fattening meals? I can’t do both.” When she just stared at me and didn’t answer I said “That’s what I thought.” and it was never spoken of again.

    My mother is now in her 20th year of being varying degrees of chubby, yet she works out at the gym about 3 hours every day, putting the bad knees at risk because she still dreams of the day she can get back to her old, skinny self that she hasn’t been since the 80s! Her claims that she’s doing this for her health ring bogus to me. I know her too well. She reveals how much weight and health mean to her every time she tells me how lucky I am to have a metabolic disorder that made me thin, and stresses that I should do whatever it takes to keep it off in the face of recovery.

    I don’t have children and I never will, but if I did, I think I’d spend every day telling them they’re wonderful and beautiful at any size. I would never do to a child what was done to me (and so many others, based on these heartbreaking stories).

  33. My hubby and I have been trying to have a baby for the last year (’08 is the year, dammit!), so I’ve been putting a lot of thought into parenting lately. I’ve come to 2 conclusions:

    1) HAES can apply to kids, too – focus on keeping kids healthy – whatever that means for the individual – and the rest will follow.

    2) No matter what you do, you’re going to screw up somehow. All you can do is your best. Love them like there is no tomorrow and make sure they know it.

  34. I have thought a lot about this subject, being a mother of 2 and struggling with weight issues most of my life. I used to think that if I would just have good self esteem for myself, my children would some how absorb it. But I have come to realize that it is simply not enough to love myself and hope they emulate.

    I sincerely think now that I have to be a vocal participant of anti-dieting groups and body acceptance groups. Our children(and specifically female children) are constantly barraged with unhealthy and unreal(thanks to photo shop) images of people. If I don’t talk about and talk to others about it, I can’t expect to be able to counteract our cultures prejudices.

    It is not a easy job but I do feel we have to be vocal advocates for our children and take on the powers that be.

  35. Whenever people ask why I don’t have kids, my answer is “because I don’t want the responsibility.” I get little tastes of it, like when two of my nieces stayed over this weekend.

    My sister’s daughter (11) left to her own devices eats mostly sugar and processed white flour products, with a little white rice thrown in. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those things … but a diet that contains that many processed carbs and almost no protein just doesn’t seem right. It got to the point where even I had to tell her “no more ice cream/waffles/rice until you eat some protein.” Don’t your muscles need protein? I suppose it would be OK if this was just a “weekend at Auntie’s house” thing, but this is how she eats all the time.

    Of course, the weekend wouldn’t have been complete without a call from her mother (my sister) complaining about how the child gained 5 pounds over Christmas vacation, how I let her each too much “crap” and how “fat” she is (the child is about 5’2″ and weighs 110 pounds). That my sister was bulimic from her early teens to mid-20s makes me worry about the messages she’s giving the kids about food.

    Like I said, the responsibility of dealing with these kinds of situations is more than I want. I worry enough over kitties with colds; I can’t imagine how I’d cope with trying to juggle the need to get kids to eat a reasonably heathly diet without making them obsess over food.

  36. Fat mom of a SKINNY child here.

    It doesn’t seem possible to make her fat. She gets junk food and it doesn’t seem to stick to her. Really makes you think that no amount of veggie-pushing on a fat kid can turn them thin.

    I’ve had people do drive-by shootings on me for something they saw me give my kid and say that something else would have been a healthier choice.

    This weekend I had my 5 year old walk up to me and tell me I was “jumbo” and just needed “to lose”. I don’t know yet where she got that, but the first thing I did was tell her that people come in lots of shapes and sizes don’t they. I hope nobody in her little universe is giving her crap over a fat mom, because NO WAY would I take somebody giving me crap if she was a fat kid.

  37. Well, the vast majority of fat hate actually directed at me was during school hours. My family was mostly not a problem (mostly ;-) ). And friends outside of school were ok. I don’t remember being teased at playgrounds by strange kids or anything, it was all the school yard, gym class, the lunchroom, walking the hallways or wherever else the adults were not paying attention. My kids don’t go to school so I don’t know, maybe they won’t have to deal with this. My dd is 9 and already chubby. At that age, I had years of fat teasing already behind me but as far as I know, dd has yet to have anyone make a comment to her.

    As for her family, they at least have a mother who doesn’t hate herself so that’s nice, LOL! Even before I found FA, I was nowhere near the level of self hatred my mom puts out. Sometimes I worry because so many people in this family are dieting but then I realize, it was like that when I was a kid too. I’m not saying it’s great, but in my family the fat hatred seems to be self hatred. At least it’s not directed at other people.

  38. Nice catch, Kate. Parenting your own children is an emotional mine-field when you had parents who were a constant source of body-negativity.

    I was a thin, muscular kid, and a married a man who was a thin, bony kid (two of his sibs were heavier, and two were thin). Even though I was whip thin, my parents would “tease” me about having a big butt or big hips. They now claim it was just a joke, and why was I so sensitive, GEEZ! Sigh.

    Now my partner and I are both fat adults, which came on since having kids. We thought it was just because we got much more sedentary and we have always had very poor eating habits that didn’t catch up with us till later. Now I know it’s some of that, but mainly the fact that our parents all gained as they aged, too, and that the women folk passed PCOS on to me. (Our parents were all thin until they had kids or hit “midlife”, too.) I’ve tried to diet umpteen times with diminshing success, until I’ve just now given up and embraced it, due mainly to this website. When I’m 92, like my formerly plump grandma, I’ll be thin again. Heh.

    Our three children are all bone thin and muscular. They get much more TV and video game time than I’m happy with and don’t play outside anywhere near what I did as a kid. They eat boatloads of (gasp) the evil peant butter, nutella and bread most days. People just assume that we must feed them the best diet and run them constantly, just as they assume fat kids get the opposite. (I’m ashamed that I was one of those people who would look at fat kids and cringe, thinking their parents must be doing something wrong – look how thin my kids are and we don’t do anything special. Gulp. Now I know better.)

    I fight with myself constantly because one of my three has a MAJOR sweet tooth and she’d eat a bowl of sugar for breakfast lunch and dinner if we’d let her. It’s hard to talk about eating healthy foods and not eating too much sugar without sounding like the food/body police. I guess we’re “lucky” she’s thin and she doesn’t think our food recommendations about beign fat. I talk to all my kids about making healthy food choices and moderation in all things, about nutrient rich foods, but they get TONS of Obesity Epidemic OMG! messages from the schools, trust me!

    AT my house, we NEVER point out anything negative or wrong with being fat. I heard non-stop how “gross, disgusting, horrible” my mom thought she looked, and I won’t ever do that. (When I have my own body insecurities, I keep them to my damn self!) When our kids jiggle my belly, I hug them close and tell them I love squishing them into my softness of what used to be their home. They have finally picked up from the media that “fat” is an insult, and what we say is that “It might hurt someone’s feelings, so we don’t need to talk about a persons size, fat or thin, but if you look around, we come in all sizes and shapes, don’t we? that’s nature.”

    Sorry, super long ramble there, but I think about this a lot, with my girls esp., and I worry a lot that my kids might some day might stop loving themselves if they follow the genetic trend and get heavy as adults.

    On the other hand, my husband, being a man, knows he looks HOTTT at any size because he’s still getting good lovin’ from his lady. :-) Mens! It would be nice to have that body confidence, no?

  39. When I heard your question I immediately thought: How is this any different than an African American thinking “should I have kids in a racist world?”

    I guess the big difference is that people mistakenly think body composition is a matter of choice and will, and skin color is innate.

    We have to raise racism-resistant kids, and fat-phobia-resistant kids, too.

  40. I was a skinny kid, apparently. According to my mother. One of my depression symptoms is a fuzzy memory of anything that happens during a depressive episode, and since most of my 25 years have been one long depressive episode…not much memory there, really.

    I didn’t start thinking I was fat until I hit puberty early. Having breasts and hips and weighing more than the other four girls in my grade (yeah, Catholic school!) convinced me I was a monstrous heifer. I still haven’t been disabused of that notion, despite never topping a size six through-out high school. Six! And I was convinced I would destroy my dance partner’s arm should he try to lift me up.

    I’m never having children myself, but I would say the last thing anyone should do is ever ever ever be supportive of your child’s desire to diet. Never. It’s validation that there’s a problem to be solved. My dad is a tall, sort of middling-sized man, but he was beanpole thin as a younger person and now sees himself as huge. He’s a Zone diet person and when I was still living at home would be sort of evangelical about it, and once in a while I’d join in and he’d be so pleased. That sucked. Especially since I lived for my dad’s approval.

    I don’t think he really knew (or knows, really) what to do with his children. My older brother is a sensitive artist type and I’m an athletic smart woman (although I haven’t played a sport in years nor graduated from college) and I think he finds us both a bit disappointing. I think I’m veering off-topic into my own wacky issues. Sorry about that.

  41. OK – I have three kids, all three of them healthy, strong (like in “can milk goats and clean the barn strong)..and oh yeah..not thin. I’m not thin. My husband is not thin.
    But let me get to the core of this: Fear of having to advocate for a (possibly) fat kid.
    If you are afraid of having to deal with “the man” (i.e., society, the doctor, the school district, the principal, the teacher, etc.), then I would not have kids at all. As a parent in today’s world, you have to not only be your kids’ greatest cheerleader, nurse, etc., you also need to be your kids’ lawyer, bully-boy, head-knocker and general tough-guy. Because no matter what the situation, there is some adult there who is saying, “I’m the expert and I’m going to tell you how it’s going to go with your kid.”
    Even when they are wrong, wrong, wrong. They are always going to take that position with regard to you as a parent.
    I learned this when my eldest was 6 – because she had not been in this particular school, they gave her this idiotic test called the Geselle Test and they said that because they did not like the way she performed the “complete the figure” part of the test, they were going to put her in pre-first grade. This was a kid who could already read.
    It was a disaster and luckily, attracted the attention of one of the first grade teachers, who frankly cooked a deal with the pre-first teacher and sneaked her into her first grade class and then presented it as a “fait accompli” to the principal, who then asked us if it were ok.
    I felt terrible. I knew it was wrong when they gave her the test and I knew it was wrong for the first four months when she’d come home from school and tell me the tales of what was going on. But I’d swallowed the tale that the people at the school were the experts.
    They might have been experts at something, but they were not experts about my kid. And that’s when the war began, the war to get my daughter into classes she wanted to take (and that they said she was not smart enough to take), the war to get her the help she needed. She was followed by her sister and brother and the wars were different but in the end, it’s the same thing: You as a parent must be prepared to fight and fight and fight and never give up…ever.
    Because if you do, then the “experts” will swallow you and your kid up. They win because you have allowed them to have control.
    Being a parent is the hardest thing in the world – I would not wish it on anyone on a voluntary basis — unless you are tough and ready to get tough and nasty and persistent – and to find out that people think you are an asshole and argumentative and manipulative and a PITA. If you don’t feel you have it in you to be that person, then it’s probably a good idea for you not to put yourself in a position that you have to be that person.
    Ah, but if you ARE — if you have it in you to be that way, when you WIN for your kid…it’s magic, Kate — it’s really magic.

  42. While being put on diets starting from the age of eight (WW) sucked, the part of being a fat child in a weigh-obsessed family that sucks the most is the myriad of food issues I had to work through.

    My mother hid food that she considered ‘bad’ and would act amazed and disgusted at what I would choose to eat when she did let me have treats. At the same time, all healthy food was basically boiled in the microwave until it had a paste like consistency. It took me years to be able to really enjoy sweets and desserts instead of feeling like I needed to shovel them in before I got caught and even longer to discover how good all food could be when prepared properly.

    The thing I worry about with my hypothetical children, and the tendency I have to curb with my little sister (11) is to not get too rigid with the nutrition stuff. To let kids have food phases and to encourage them to expand their palate without battling over food.

  43. One thing: for a kid, fat can be kinda fun. Let me explain. My grandma had THE BEST underarm fats ever. I grew up youngest in a family of 6 kids and it was extremely hard to get the coveted spot of sitting next to grandma. You sort of had to fight for it. Anyway, one time I won that spot, and towards the middle of the meal, I could hold back no longer. I had to play with those beautiful arms. Up went my little 5 year old hands. That fat was so soft and it went back and forth so pretty. I vaguely remember being told to stop and somehow learning later it was not something I was supposed to do. But Jeez, why the hell not?!? If I could kiss a cheek, why was loving an arm so wrong? So you know what? My 7 year old daughter LOVES my tummy fats. (She also loves the stretchmarks she made.) And if this little girl of mine feels the need -every so often – to give them a little squeeze or nuzzle, then she gets to, with no messages of shame from her mother.

  44. I was extremely lucky in that my parents never said anything negative towards me regarding my weight. I was never told I couldn’t do something because I was fat, and not too long ago, my dad said he always was happy that I marched to my own beat and went to dances etc. in my school days with nary a thought about the size of my ass, and that he admired how much I didn’t give a shit about what people thought.

    I (along with my two sisters and one brother) were raised to be self-reliant, independent, no-bullshit people. My brother was never fat, but my sisters and I were and still are–well, except for my middle sister, who had WLS in 2001 and (stunner) has gained back about 60 pounds of the initial 150 she lost.

    But, of course, it wasn’t because of her body rebelling against being forced to starve–it was because she’s somehow done something wrong. Thank the Maker she’s in therapy finally and with a therapist that’s a proponent of HAES and fat acceptance.

  45. Toby, will you be MY mom? :-)

    “Because no matter what the situation, there is some adult there who is saying, “I’m the expert and I’m going to tell you how it’s going to go with your kid.””

    Tell it! This is the Truth, big T. That is the hardest thing I have learned but did not know about being a parent. You almost have to go off the grid in order to do what you think is right AND preserve the emotional well-being of your kid, because often what you know to be right, society does NOT support.

  46. … I can’t stand being the Bad Mother with Fat Dogs at the vet.

    For twenty-odd years, up until recently, I had a Spendid Vet, and among the discussions we had was whether or not a bit of pudge should be an issue. He thought not, because while there IS evidence that leanness contributes to longer life in some animals (rats, mice and dogs), it was his experience that when something went wrong it was the pudgy yet otherwise reasonably fit critters who had the resources to survive and recover.

    Now, new town, new vet, and suddenly I’m getting grief about how pudgy my pets are. And while our little, long low doggy really is a bit, our cats aren’t — they’re just normalweight rather than lean. And I’m not about to put any cat on a diet — it’s just not safe to do so.

    In every other respect this new vet seems very good, but … gah. I’ve concluded that the obesity hysteria has penetrated veterinarian medicine, and damn, it just … makes me so, so very angry. And I feel so helpless, as there doesn’t seem to be anything I can say that won’t be interpreted as defensive, or denialism, especially since I’m fat and disabled myself. Not unlike the parents here, I would imagine, although at least I don’t need to worry about our dog and cats internalizing the message. Like they give a shit, so long as they’re loved!

    I think I’m going to go hug one right now.

  47. Debby B, I could have written your exact words. My 7 year old love my tummy fats, too, and calls my stretch marks my “tiger stripes”. She loves to massage my stomach, I imagine it feels like your grandma’s “bingo wings”, LOL! I love to rub my stomach too, and cradle my belly bulge in my hands when I lie on my side. It’s so comforting.

    How sad some of these stories have been (grounded from swimming? that one makes me cry, for being both hurtful and just being fucking stupidly counter-intuitive!)

    Kate, you may not have kids yet, but you’re doing something for us our mothers and fathers should have done years ago. Accepting us just the way we are. Thanks.

  48. Regarding this topic, I think one of the best things you can do as a parent is to NOT DIET or obsess about weight.

    All of my family was fat, practically. I had one thin uncle and one skinny aunt (who later became fat) out of my nine aunts and uncles (from both sides). Both my parents are fat. This has been great in many ways because I grew up around larger people and for me the geneticly fat bit makes perfect sense.

    However, this did mean a life where weight was always sort of a topic. My mom was constantly trying to lose weight. She had lost weight, and was rather thin until she remarried, which of course led to more intense dieting. My mom recently admitted to me that my (fat) grandma would always give her clothes that were intentionally too small, so she would starve and exhaust herself to fit into them “to show her.” I imagine that’s how my mom was thin for a short portion of her life. Although upon graduating high school she had been quite fat, by the time she had me at 27 she was thin. Recently I wonder how all that starvation affected me, but I digress.

    My mom went on every diet and had me go on them with her. She doted on my weight. And I definitely had at least a few of those “if you lose weight” wagers—some of them I probably came up with on my own “to motivate” myself. Meanwhile my step-grandparents, who babysat us and fed us most of the time, were strict about the “clean your plate” rule. They also encouraged me, pushed me even, to finish dishes that had a bit left in them. I was big, so I could finish it, right? They were both fat, although my stepfather and stepbrother were not.

    All that disordered eating and dieting set a president. Also, in some parts of my family, eating until you were chock full was an every day thing. My dad did this a lot. Suffice to say I have witnessed experienced a lot of disordered eating in my life.

    I think trying the best to personally pursue HAES and to raise your child with HAES principles is a good foundation. As several people have mentioned, outside influence is really very tricky, though. If you’re hearing body defaming comments from family, you’re probably hearing it elsewhere. If you have skinny kids, don’t reaffirm their thinness as some kind of accomplishment or status. Encourage them to judge people by their character.

    If you are a fat parent, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to arm your child with things to say if people confront them about your fat (or anyone’s) or make body disparaging comments. Not fighting words, but things like, “Yeah, isn’t it great that people come in all shapes and sizes?” Age-appropriate responses, of course. Doing your best to show them a good example is sometimes the best you can do.

  49. I was the fat kid when growing up, although looking at pictures of myself as a child through 6th grade, I see a healthy young girl. My parents NEVER made a single comment to me about my weight, or losing weight. It was my siblings and other family members as well as kids at school who called me names. As Kate mentioned about her mother, my name is Pattie, which rhymes with…. Every day from kindergarten through 8th grade I was called all kinds of names. My older brother would tease me when I got home (he was fat too, but apparently having someone else to pick on made him feel better.) Until one day I cried and ran into the bathroom slamming the door. I heard him say, “Ma, why is she so sensitive?” and my mom said, “do you like being teased at school all day because of your weight?” He said, “No.” “Then why do you think she’d like to be teased at school all day, then come home to you teasing her?” If it was at all possible to love my mother more at that moment, I did.

    My mom would always pick clothes that I felt were too big, (because skin tight jeans were the style then) and my mother would point out that they FIT me. Although she did buy me GIANT underwear, to which I thought, “how fat does she think I am?”

    My cousins, who came over often, would say to me, “you have such a pretty face, if only you weren’t so fat.” As if my fat negated the attactiveness of my face. Because we all know that there is no such thing as a pretty fat girl. My best friend’s mother would say the same thing to me.

    My teen years were spent as the frumpy fat girl who never went on any dates, who’s friends were all so much more attractive than her. But I was funny so they kept me around.

    Even as an adult my thin sister wanted to hook up my cute little blonde friend with some guy she worked with. Until my friend asked, “why isn’t your sister trying to set YOU up with him?” did I realize that my sister was too embarrassed by her fat sister to set me up on a date with people she knew. And my twisted view of myself as ugly for being fat, I didn’t even notice that something was wrong with this picture. It was the first of many insults I could expect from my sister. Once she had 3 kids and was unable to lose the weight, she would talk to me about dieting. And about how I should diet too because “I don’t want to lose you.”

    Both of my parents were incredibly loving and supportive of me. They never once lead me to belive there was nothing I could do. It was everyone else in the world around me that put the thoughts in my head.

  50. Wow. The comments in this thread have been interesting and heartbreaking all at the same time (grounded from swimming? what?!). So, I think I shall add in my two cents.

    I was raised by my grandparents and my mother. All three of them loved me no matter what size I was. While my grandmother worried about my weight gain (and I know it was from the doctors constantly getting on her case about her own ample figure), she never restricted my diet, or shamed me, or, thankfully, never let folks who would throw the “She’s so FAT!” comment around with out some swift justice (my Grandmama could CUSS, y’all. Colorful don’t even begin to describe it!)

    When me, mom, and the new addition of lil bro moved, even though my mother had issues with her weight, again, she never let me hear anything about it (at least in my formative years). She would buy me magazines with plus sized models and told me everyday that beauty came in ALL sizes, and anybody who said otherwise was a damn fool. I took it all to heart.

    Now, yes, I was teased and ridiculed from elementary until college for my weight, but watching my folks (the immediate family, natch) deal with the naysayers helped me gain a greater sense of self.

    Yeah, the rest of the family got me down (I had my beloved great-aunt offer me $50 if I could lose 50lbs by Christmas. I was all of 12, y’all. 12.) But I still had the reinforcement at home: nobody’s opinion of you counts. It’s what you think of yourself that’s important.

    And when I grew to a fat adult and the “tut-tuts” continued? I was able to let that shit roll right off me. Because I had the social life folks wanted to tell me I couldn’t have till I was thin. So I knew all that foolishness was just that: foolishness. This is what parents who have fat kids can do: keep telling their kids that no matter what, their worth isn’t measured by pounds. Even if you think it’s not gonna stick (especially when they have a REALLY bad day and come home in tears), they’ll remember that there was someone in their lives that accepted them.

    And that self esteem and acceptance is the best gift you can give to anyone.

  51. My mom got me on fen-phen when I was eight, in 1995. She took me off of it when it gave her a heart attack. Then, when I was 17, she suggested I think about WLS. Then she had it 2005, and I’ve not heard the end of it since (I’m 21 now). “So have you thought about getting the surgery I did?” Etc.!

    So yeah, I kind of grew up hating myself for being fat. She always told me not to worry about what other kids were saying about me, but then would turn right around and get me on any diet drug she could find, so saying I should love myself wasn’t really effective, since it was obvious she felt the same way about being fat as everyone else on the fucking planet did.

    I’m reasonably well-adjusted about my fatness now, since I’ve got friends and a boyfriend who aren’t embarrassed because of me being a fatty. Hooray!

  52. Eucritta, I recently took a Real Age test for my 15 year old cat, Trixie. Trixie scored well on this test and is very youthful for an old kitty. The results pointed out that the way I’ve fed her years is perfect. But I made the mistake of being honest when they asked her body type, and now I get spam from them on cat diets almost every day, complete with dire warnings about the obesity crisis for cats! It’s really ridiculous, but it gives me a laugh.

  53. Oh, this discussion is breaking my heart.

    I’m the fat mom of two beautiful girls (almost 4 and 2). The older one is strong and tall, but clinically “overweight”. I look at her form and see her abdominal muscles when she moves, and she’s tall enough to be wearing size 5T. I’ve been given the lecture once about her weight and to keep an eye on it. She runs and plays for hours on end, and she’s a good eater (she’ll eat meats and veggies alike, and desserts are a special treat). She craves apples and grapes.

    However, I still hear the echo of “she’s going to be fat!” in my heart. I’ve been working my entire life to undo the damage of being a chubby kid. I was always made aware of my weight, and I was put on diets throughout my youth. I remember going to a quack when I was 12 that gave me B-12 shots and daily amphetamine pills to “speed up my metabolism.” My parents praised how thin I became (130! Still HUGE in comparison to the twiggy teenagers I went to school with.)

    In college, I was at 165-175 while walking 4-5 miles a day and being very active. Once I left college, I maintained at 215-225. After two kids, I’m stuck at 250. I’m just not dieting anymore – it fails me. In the last couple of months, I have made a habit of working out 2-3 times a week. I love the energy I’m getting. I’m starting to feel really good about me.

    Here’s the jinx – I started seeing a counselor a year ago to deal with the issues of my mom dying slowly from cirrhosis. The counselor immediately wanted to steer me into overeating counseling, figuring that if I could manage my “eating habits”, the rest of my issues would fall in line.

    WTF.

    I stopped seeing that counselor. I’ll deal with the migraines from the stress rather than be put into that mindset of being back at war with myself.

    As for my daughters, I don’t talk about my weight or anyone else’s. We talk about being strong, smart, beautiful, funny, and kind. Beautiful is described as having many forms and ways.

    There is plenty of time for the world to teach them to hate themselves. Right now, I’m giving them a solid basis of love and acceptance. When the doctor started discussing my older daughter’s weight in front of her, I shut the doctor down immediately. I’m sure the doctor thought I was in denial. Maybe I am, according to her. However, my daughter is NOT going to be poisoned if I can help her.

  54. Katie, my co-workers seriously think I’m crazy right now, because when I read your experience of going on Fen-Phen at eight I audibly gasped and OMGodded.

    Kind of makes my first diet at seven look pretty benign, since at least there were no drugs involved. (Oh, and I did go on Fen-Phen, but I was a legal adult by then.)

    Anyway, yikes. And thanks for sharing.

  55. My goodness, I could write a book on the way my mom dealt with me being fat. My mom constantly harped on me about how i “had to lose weight now because it’s harder to do when you’re older”. The weight talk only got worse when our family doctor declared me obese at the age of 13 (I had just hit 200). On top of that I had to go to school everyday and deal with people harassing and bullying me because of the way I looked. I half-heartedly tried to lose weight in order to appease my mother, but somehow I knew that my health and weight were not directly correlated so I never went the full mile and consciously tried to lose weight (although I did toy with joining WW or Jenny Craig). When I turned 18 and went off to college, she told me that my weight was my business and she wouldn’t say anything about it anymore, but she still continued to do so, even going so far as to weigh me during one of my breaks from school. What made things worse is that my mom is a nurse, so I guess she felt compelled to make sure i was healthy.
    But the incident that really made an impression on me was a conversation my mother and I had when I was around 16. I had just seen Shrek for the first time, and I was commenting on Fiona’s lack of self esteem, and how I thought she was pretty even when she was an ogre. My mom went on to tell me that she was glad I was fat because that meant that boys wouldn’t approach me (at the time, my mom thought I was an out of control walking batch of hormones, which couldn’t have been further from the truth), and that guys only use fat girls for sex because they know that fat girls are so desperate for attention that they’ll automatically put out. I still kind of resent my mother for those comments, despite the fact that our relationship has improved greatly since then.

  56. Jesus. I’ve been lucky. I wasn’t a fat kid, I was only a chubby teenager until I was about 16 or so, and I only had to endure a little bit of teasing from my dad and a little bit of tutting from my mum. I wasn’t put on diets, or given diet pills, or punished.

    Mostly, I’ve learnt to hate myself because my mum hates herself. And because I was bullied relentlessly at school – but that was as much to do with being a nerdy redheaded loner as with being plump.

    This is why I thank any deity you can think of that I came across blogs like this one. I never thought I could be a fit mother. I thought I’d pass on too much crap. I couldn’t bear the thought of my baby starving hirself like I have, or wanting to die like I have. And now I don’t think it has to be that way. It might, and I’ll go to the ends of the earth to help them if it is. But it’s not an inevitable consequences of my sprogging. I can be a good mother, a good role model. And that makes me happy.

  57. Yeah, went on my first diet at 9 (because the pediatrician felt I was gaining weight too quickly – not because I was actually fat) and I piled on the pounds from there. Being mixed race in a white area, I’ve been called fat from third grade on just as a matter of course, it being more polite and all.

    There were many screaming arguments with my mother as a teen and pre-teen, none of which, conveniently enough, she remembers, In fact, she says we never fought about my weight. I daresay the neighbors could clue her in differently. She tried the bribing, too, of a gorgeous green dress that I wouldn’t have fit into, not even when I was in 6th grade. Even now she still harangues me about my weight, happy that I’m not ‘overeating’ during my pregnancy.

    Of course, the fact that I’m eating crap or eating only 2x a day , have gained a whopping 13lbs in 7.5 months, and have borderline GD, that doesn’t matter because at least I’m not overeating.

    I just hope that the boy takes his father’s genes in the weight regards rather than my own. Ah yes, my husband, whose own parents call his fat disgusting. He’s about 30lbs overweight.

    So, yeah, I definitely fear for my baby and he’s not even born yet. The more I read about gestational diabetes, which, for those women such as myself who showed little to no insulin resistance beforehand, the more i fear I’ll have to leave my otherwise supportive OB. There’s no way in hell I’m having a C-section because ‘they think’ the baby might be big. Luckily I live in a rural area and am poor, he won’t be going to see a doctor apart from vaccinations and illness, and the local school appears to be quite proactive in the department of common sense, so I think we’re good.

    I hope we’re good, anyway.

  58. My mom was on Weight Watchers from when she was pregnant with my younger brother (now 35) until…well, now. Still. Almost 40 years on a restrictive eating plan, and she’s probably lost and gained the same 100 pounds at least five times. Of course, she adds some each time, and of course she swears it’s the best thing to do for her body. I ache for her every time she brings up points and counts and however the diet is structured now.

    My humiliation was more at school than home. School was public weigh-ins and that goddamn Presidential Physical Fitness test and entire grades of children shorter and fatter than me. Home was my comforting fat mother who gave me M&Ms when I felt bad, and defended me when I binge-ate entire bags of Chips Ahoy when I felt lonely.

    I remember feeling so betrayed the first time she lost 100 pounds. She was so small, and so fragile, and so condescending about my weight in comparison to hers. Then she’d gain it all back and want to be M&M buddies again. What I learned from her: food is love, food substitutes for icky emotions my family refuses to acknowledge, and thin is morally superior.

    As for my dad, the one excruciating moment I remember was him bringing me a t-shirt from a business trip. It was about two sizes too small, and he made me wear it anyway. I had to model it to the family, and when I crossed my arms over my all-too-present breasts (I was 12, I think? Already a C cup, too), he said something like “Don’t bother hiding your body. We can all see it.”

    Yeeouch. Putting this thread aside until my heart isn’t racing anymore. If I can say anything to parents (and I’m not one!), it’s: don’t let food substitute for emotions. Emotions are okay things.

  59. I’ve noticed something strange. People think my big, pudgy kitty is adorable. He’s an outside cat and an avid birder. He spends his days in the tree tops raiding nests when hatchlings are cracking out of the shells.

    Oscar, said pudgy kitty, is a tremndous athlete. Climbs. Jumps. Runs. He is outside all day just mucking around and killing/eating birds. He lives to hunt. He doesn’t always consume his entire kill, but he loves the hunt.

    A child who was the same way (sans the killing and eating of birds, of course) would be the subject of handwringing and anxiety.

  60. When we were kids I was chubby and my brother was so skinny you could see his ribs. At some point around when I was 10 and he was 8 we started to change places.

    When I was younger I don’t remember anyone distinctly telling me my weight was bad. My mother had cans of Slimfast around the house and I often wondered why it was she didn’t eat with the rest of us. She’s about a 14 UK and still is, and yet seemed to insist to herself she was “too fat”, and I think we absorbed that even though she never said it.

    When I was around 8, I was on about the 80th percentile and my doctor told me I needed to go on a diet. However, he also seemed to ignore the fact that at 3’11” I was below the 30th height percentile and being tested for a growth hormone deficiency.

    Shortly after I started on growth hormone treatment I took up martial arts with my brother. I remember overhearing my mother talking to my instructor, commenting on how since starting I was “less flabby”. But I remember feeling ashamed, because I hadn’t lost any weight, I’d just gotten taller due to the growth hormone.

    Even once I became taller and looked skinnier I still always felt I should be trying to lose weight because I hadn’t, and compared to my skinny friends I always felt fat.

    When I was 13 my mother asked me for some pictures of myself after a new haircut so she could put them at her work desk. A few days after I printed them off she said everyone was “amazed at how slim I was”. Was that really all that mattered? Did it not matter that I was a straight A student or that I was polite or caring? Just that I was skinny?

    I can’t say I know much about parenting, I’m still in my second last year of school. But I still hear my dad in the next room telling my brother he’s fat and needs to go outside, handily ignoring the fact that he’s type one diabetic and needs to eat. But I wouldn’t say to worry about making mistakes, because most people here could say their parents weren’t perfect and we all still learned respect and kindness.

  61. I was overweight when I was six (and this ties into the idea that it’s genetic, because I was eating normal portions of what’s regularly considered “healthy” food back then), and have dealt with the bullcrap overweight people get fed their whole lives. Gah, memories of peer abuse rushin’ back…

    My mom dealt with my weight in a very negative way. She took it as a personal failure that I gained weight(especially when I got depressed and medicated myself that with food), but didn’t take responsibility enough to help me change my eating habits (At the time i’m thinking of, I was subsisting on a diet of Hot Pockets, Chips, Hummus, and Soda, with the occasional nutrient from awful school lunches), and when I made the effort to change, sabotaged me by getting the foods I was most susceptable to binging on.

    She also backed up the doctor assertions that all of my problems were caused by my weight, and in general made me feel uncomfortable to even eat in front of her, sure that there would be something wrong with my food choice. She handled it all very poorly, because she had her own weight struggles that she couldn’t cope with.

    Even a small anecdote; I had problems breathing a few years back. I was wheezing and feeling phlegm in my lungs, and looked up the symptoms. A lot of them pointed towards having Asthma, so I asked to see a doctor about it. My mom dismissively said, “You can’t have asthma, it’s probably just your weight crushing your lungs.” Well, maybe in PART, but when I went to the doctor, it turned out I DID have asthma and was put on an inhaler for it.

    (That was also the experience I had with a doctor telling me, “I can’t tell what’s wrong with your lungs because of all the fat in the way”, that at the time I crawled into my corner of shame and darkness and hid my resentment. Nowadays, of course, I wish my response had been, “Aren’t you a doctor? It sounds to me as though you’re having problems not because I’m fat, but because you’re incompetent”. That would’ve felt good. XD)

  62. My experience as a plumpish kid, a thin but athletic teenager, and an inbetweenie grownup has been kind of a mixed bag…no teasing from peers, even as a sturdy little gal, and my friends when I was older were quite varied in size, thus the anti-fat talk was kept to a minimum. It helped that I was a nerd who went to nice warm fuzzy liberal Catholic schools, I’m sure, and felt far more valued for my brain than my body. So far so good, right?

    And as far as I remember, my mom, who is fairly thin, never said anything negative about her weight in front of me, and actually has always been very vocally anti-diet and pro- intuitive eating. And also very pro-ass, which is the only part of her that’s not quite skinny, and which I definitely inherited! We do love our big ol’ butts. :)

    My dad is another story…he was never outright cruel, but he did start making comments about my weight when I was in high school, usually size 0-2 and never above a size 4. “You’re getting a little bit chubby” indeed! Later on, when I was in college and almost up to the size that I am now, he persisted to lecture me about how no one would want to hire me after I graduated due to higher insurance costs that OMG teh fatz! would surely cause. Yeah, thanks Dad. I now have pretty much exactly the job I want.

    All that having been said, I had a year of anorexia with a side order of purging when I was a college freshman. Not to mention on and off WW starvation for the past few years. I wonder how much of that is due to my dad’s influence, or whether it is just having been/being in a much less positive and supportive environment. One way or another, I now definitely know that I should have just listened to my mom; she’s a smart lady, and I’m working on it now. I guess the point of all my rambling is that parents can’t control everything, even other parents, but they can do what they can and it will help in one way or another, even if things don’t always go completely smoothly all of the time. :)

    And michele, I always hated the Presidential Physical Fitness Test too! I think the president has much more important things to worry about than that I’ve never been able to run or do pushups. :P

  63. I was never a fat kid, and my sisters were relatively slim. We’ve all always been very tall, however, so we were always “big” for our ages. We’ve grown up to be tall women ranging in size from 10 to 16.

    Our mother, however, was fat. And although she never overtly said anything to us about our weight or hers, she taught us that fat was something to be ashamed of. She was always halfheartedly dieting, and she constantly ate in secret. Whenever there was dessert in the house, we had to eat it immediately if we wanted any, because it would disappear within a day, along with all wrappers and any evidence that the dessert had ever existed. She hid mounds of empty candy wrappers in the bottoms of her dresser drawers.

    From her, I learned that eating sweets (or any other food that tasted good) was something shameful, something to be done clandestinely. My sisters and I learned to binge in secret. And that certainly didn’t help us to grow up healthy, either mentally or physically.

  64. I’ll third (or whateverth) hating the Presidential physical fitness tests. There was nothing more irritating or humiliating than going through this barrage of tests in front of everyone in your class.

    Also: I once got put in remedial gym because I refused to actually run when they took us all out to the track to see how quickly we could run a mile. I ambled the mile instead. They didn’t tell us it was a test for who got put in a special gym section till afterwards.

    Gym class taught me that physical activity was boring, irritating and generally something to avoid. I’m still in the process of unlearning that.

    On the other hand, my mother was pretty good about food issues, though there was plenty of that food=love equation in our house. Love also equaled love, though, so I don’t think it’s too bad.

    On the other hand, when I went to college, I started to put on some weight and then a lot of pressure started from my mom about my eating habits. She (like someone earlier in the thread) used the line about how it would be “so much easier” to lose weight while I was young.

    Through college and for years afterwards, I could never have a phone call with my mother in which she would not harass me about my weight. Her favorite thing to say was that she and I both needed to lose weight. I think she thought it couldn’t possibly be seen as denigrating if she included herself in the judgment as well. She bugged me, subscribed me to magazines I didn’t want, passed me recipes and articles, praised me when it looked like I lost weight and chastised me when I went up.

    This was years and years before I knew anything about fat acceptance. All I knew is that I hated the constant barrage of weight-loss talk. The worst part was, even when I did something like gave up chocolate for a week, or walked to work instead of taking the bus, mom would go on and on about how I had to do even more.

    At one point, I remember saying to her that if what I was doing wasn’t enough, I was going to give up trying. It didn’t provoke much of a change in her behavior, but I found it emotionally satisfying.

    What has provoked a change in her behavior, only recently, is talking about HAES and giving her copies of FAT!SO? and Campos’ book. She still gets down on herself, which is too bad. I try to help her. I evangelize how great it is to eat a well-rounded diet (which she isn’t so good at since we kids have moved out) and how much easier it is to stick to an exercise program when you’re doing it because it makes you feel great and not to hit a different number on a scale.

    -Ericka

  65. I have one chunky kid and one thinner one. The chunky one is younger and has long curly hair and the thinner one has long wavy hair. They are equally gorgeous. I feed them both as healthfully as I can, i.e. stuff with actual nutritional content but they are allowed other stuff if we’re out or there is a party or whatever. We took them to Hershey Park for New Years. I’m not worried that they think we believe sweets = evil, but they are aware that we don’t keep them in the house everyday. I’m trying not to make a big deal about food. Mainly, because it isn’t a big deal.

    Also, hmmm, no fashion mags in my house (I’m a feminist so this is easy) and when the older one says something that hints of body negativity I jump on it as an opportunity to talk honestly about the issues she’ll face.

    I exercise almost everyday, so the older one picks up on that and I’ve explained that I exercise because it makes mommy feel less tired. I’m careful not to mention anything regarding appearance or weight. I focus on how I feel – stronger, more energy, etc. It’s easy, because it’s true.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I want them both to know it’s okay to be fat, but I won’t apologize for trying to steer them in healthy directions like healthful food and regular exercise.

  66. Katie, holy crap on the fen-phen. Each time I think I’ve heard too much to be shocked by what kids go through, something else breaks my heart. I’m so sorry.

    I was a chubby kid with chubby parents and skinny brothers, and I remember my parents being on diets but my parents (the set that I loved with, anyway) never made me feel bad about my weight. However, I don’t think they had any idea how much shit I got at school for it, and how ashamed I was of myself. So my number-one request for current and future parents is to be really open and communicative with your kids. I know that’s soooo much easier said than done, but for my entire life, I’ve never been able to open up to my mom, and I could really have used the support when I was being teased all day every day at school. I also distinctly remember binging on junk food when I was a kid, and I’m sure my mom must have noticed it, but she never said anything. I don’t know what she should have said, exactly, but it’s clear to me in retrospect that I was having emotional fallout from my parents’ divorce and remarriages that I somehow tried to solve with food.

    The other thing that I think would be awesome is if Shapeling parents encouraged kids to find whatever physical activities they most like. I hated team sports, so all my brothers got to be on sports teams and I got no extramural sports. I was naturally bookish, but I would have loved dance lessons or martial arts or something that was less competitive and less team-oriented. Because I was fat and bookish and female, my family just assumed that there was no sport I’d ever be interested in, so it was never an option for me. Again, if there had been easier communication and a sense of openness in my family, I think that could have gone differently and it wouldn’t have taken me over 20 years to figure out that exercise doesn’t have to be like gym class torture.

  67. Oh! This is related to yesterthread, but if you have a daughter and she starts growing breasts, take her bra fitting/shopping instead of just dropping her off at the mall to do it for herself! :-)

  68. I was quite skinny when I was very young and my parents later told me they’d been relieved as they’d both been really fat as kids. Even when I started to chub up I was never in the same league as either of them at a similar age. Nonetheless I learned from them by example that fat was ugly, shameful and to be avoided at all costs. Thus, when I did start to get fat and my school recommended a diet, they meekly whipped me off to the doctor at the tender age of 11 instead of telling the school to piss off and mind their own business. (You did, of course, have the option of doing that back in those days without fear of your child being taken into care). It was for my own good, they insisted; they didn’t want me to have to go through the hell they went through in their teens, and so forth. It never even occurred to them to question this edict, despite the fact I ate a balanced diet and intuitively and had energy to spare.

    The wisdom of the time insisted that if you stuck to your diet, your stomach would shrink and be satisfied with smaller amounts of food, thus the weight would be banished forever. (Again never mind that despite having dieted many, many times, this had yet to be my parents’ experience). I have always had trouble with boundaries and I think that probably started when I discovered that having the wrong sort of body meant that people outside your immediate family had the right to punish you for it. And for me, dieting always felt like a punishment for being fat. I never did it with a good grace or the belief I was taking charge of my health.

    My parents loved food and cooking; the more exotic the better. And they were the first to teach me the language of the Catholic confessional in relation to what one ate. Phrases like “sinful cake” were commonplace in our house and, like most things verboten, enjoyed with gusto in between strenuous bouts of dieting. Whatever godawful fad diet was doing the rounds my parents went on it, and I would be forced to go on it with them for months at a time, at least for the meals I ate at home.

    Oddly enough I can’t ever remember being teased or slagged off by any of the kids at either of my schools. It was the teachers who gave me grief. Especially, (you guessed it), the resident sports nazi at my secondary school. She used to sit in on all the school medical examinations and, once I knew that, I knew she would be the one to blow the whistle and declare me Officially Fat. The diet letter duly arrived and I lost the ability to eat intuitively forever. The woman was, incidentally, far from sylphlike herself. On the rare occasions she was sitting at the head of the table at lunch, she would police my food intake. I was so terrified of her that I once hid on the floor of my parent’s car because she came into the car park while I was eating a (proper, pre-Macdonald’s) hamburger. This was on a Saturday and the hamburger was lunch.

    I bear no ill will towards my parents. They had my best interests at heart and fat acceptance wasn’t even a twinkle in anybody’s eye back then. But the PE teacher? I will hate her with the proverbial white hot heat of a thousand fiery suns till the day I die.

  69. This is one of the reasons I don’t want any kids either.

    When I was a kid, before puberty kicked in, I was at most about as chubby as the little girl in Little Miss Sunshine. Which is to say, not much. So when wheezing and coughing painfully after exercise the damn doctors in our town just said “oh, she’s just puffed and unfit” instead of actually bothering to check for asthma. (Which I am only just now, at 32, finally getting under control.) And despite the untreated asthma, I was still pretty bloody active – I rode my bike everywhere, played netball and tee-ball, swam every day in summer, played stick-in-the-mud with the other social outcasts of the school, went to Brownies, etc etc. I didn’t eat “junk” because there weren’t any fast food places in our little town except for one fish-chips-hamburger shop; our family was not well off and it was a real treat to get something from there once a month.

    But I’d get admonishments from my grandmother especially, who was very fat-phobic as she hated how she’d gotten fat as she got older, and she harangued my mother about my “weight problem”, as well as encouraging my mother to go on whatever latest diet fad there was. My brother would be allowed dessert, but I wouldn’t. Grandma told me, as I was riding off on my bike to go swimming, that I really should have a swimsuit with a skirt to “hide my fatness”. I got the “you have such a pretty face” thing constantly as well as “if you lose weight I’ll buy you nice clothes”.

    Then puberty hit and I put on ENTIRELY NORMAL weight, but this was a terrible, terrible thing and I got put on frikkin Herbalife at age 11. It was miserable and I was miserable. Things went down from there and I had a pretty fucked-up relationship with food by the time I got to university, something somewhere between anorexia and bulimia. I credit the existence of a lone Size Acceptance forum on a text BBS (before the web was invented! heh) for giving me a tiny spark of an idea that I might not actually be a worthless human being because of my body size.

    And this and all these comments are why I absolutely hate those bastards who think all fat kids need is a little bit more shame and humiliation to motivate them to lose weight. I reckon a lot of the childhood “obesity” hysteria is essentially a way for adults to justify bullying fat children. in the name of “health”. Hope it feels good, you fuckers.

  70. Man, I have issues about the fat kid/skinny kid thing till next Tuesday, let me tell you.

    I was the fat one. Sis was the skinny one. My mom was skinny. I was harassed about my weight by my mom since I was at least five, probably younger. My sister was allowed to eat whatever she wanted. If she didn’t like what was for dinner, she was allowed to eat something else. I was portion controlled, breakfast to dinner. My mom would buy gobs of junk food that was “for your SISTER and don’t you even look at it.” She would buy my sister twinkies and count them to make sure I wasn’t sneaking any. My god, it just pissed me off so bad. If the situation were reversed, I would have shared with her (my mom wasn’t around a lot, single parent you know, so my sister would “police” her junk food) but she never ever shared a thing with me..and she was always so smug about it. And god help me if we ate at a restaurant…my mom would sneer at me after I ordered and inform me that my “ass was spreading”. I remember her doing this when I was…eight? Nine? Yeah, charming.

    So yeah, needless to say, when I left home at eighteen, I proceeded to live on junk food for the next five years.

    Fortunately, my palate changed at about twenty five, and twinkies and doritos suddenly became super gross. I haven’t eaten a twinkie in years, and the thought makes me sick. I bet I wouldn’t have developed a taste for them in the first place if they weren’t forbidden, you know? I still love junk food, I just eat FAR less off it…cause I usually crave asparagus…and sushi..and I figured out that nobody is going to take it away from me, I guess. My mom used to say, “Fat people aren’t supposed to eat potato chips” and then give me a nasty look. She also used to tell me that boys don’t ever want to date fat girls. Sometimes fat me and my fat boyfriend bone and then eat potato chips afterwards. Good times.

    BTW, changing my eating habits didn’t cause me to lose one ounce. Neither did starting to walk at least a mile every day because I went back to school. Even that year when I went vegetarian…I was still fat. Hmmm.

  71. O, Sweetmachine, YES! to movement you love! I also hated team sports, so I just read and played the piano. To this day, there are so few physical activities I enjoy, and, lo and behold, my three sisters and my brother, who were very active in team sports, now no longer engage in any physical activity either because they aren’t in schools where teams are organized. I dreaded gym class horribly and have only recently realized that I like to run–maybe because there isn’t some hirsute barking idiot of a PE teacher whipping me from behind.

    I share in the sadness and fear of this post. Everyone’s stories have been so moving. I had been dieting since I could remember, with visions of Scarsdale, Richard Simmons, and grapefruits dancing in my head thanks to my now-deceased mother. She (proudly) announced that she had fit into my great-grandmother’s wedding dress by eating only lettuce for two weeks. The misery of starvation is offset in the wedding pictures by the relief of getting married in a world where fat women didn’t get married. Two things that my mother constantly said to us: “You’ll be two hundred pounds before you’re 16!!!1!” and “I’m so fatanugly” (and, yes, for a long time I thought it was one word–internally, I sometimes still do). Never was activity used as an escape from fat. It was always Snackwells and Lean Cuisines and one slice of lean ham instead of two on our sandwiches for lunch. Interestingly, my mom’s own starvation usually rebelled into Cinnabon, Mexican food, and Baskin Robbins. We revelled in it. Why shouldn’t we? We were kids, and we loved all kinds of food! Our mother was usually starving us!

    My dad didn’t really help either: I was “Wally” for the walrus-shape into which I was evidently morphing. At ten.

  72. My parents’ generation was the first one where middle-class women were dieting as a way of life (in the 60’s), and it has always struck me as very connected that their kids (my generation) came of age with many more eating disorders. I have always wondered why I didn’t get an eating disorder, when others in the family did, and almost everyone was dieting or admiring thinness. A couple memories:

    I am a stocky little kid, being teased about being fat on the playground. It stops me in my tracks, and I am humiliated, and I ask my dad what to do about it. He says, “They aren’t very smart. If you agree with them, they won’t know what to do next and you can move on and play.” I return to the playground and use the “I know I am” technique, and though I really hate agreeing with them, it does confuse them and they give up. Years later, I realize that I was a bossy, powerful kid and calling me fat was how some kids could temporarily disarm me.

    I am a stocky 14-year-old, pouring my third bowl of Product 19 cereal after school, when my mom comes down the stairs and sighs. “I just don’t want you to have the problems I have had with weight.” She had taken me to Weight Watchers the year before, where I lost my commerical diet virginitiy, and lost and regained weight. I look at her and say evenly, “Mom, stay out of it.” She considers me and says, “OK.” She acknowledges that she hasn’t figured this out and maybe I will. She actually does stay out ot it and probably truncates my time wrestling with the issue by decades. This trust in my own power to take care of myself is an enormous gift, I realize much later.

    I am a sophmore returning to college after a summer of canned tuna and sunbathing. I suddenly am back in my body and I realize I am thinner again. And then I suddenly feel something rear up inside me. “The same old pattern, here we are. Lose weight in the summer, gain weight in the winter. This has got to be harder on my body than staying at a higher, stable weight. Plus, what is this supposed to get me exactly? I am already in a relationship. I am already doing fine in college. What is the point of this foolishness?” It was last time I ever dieted.

    So what did my dieting, thin-admiring parents do to create a fat acceptance activist? They didn’t have to not have problems of their own. They just needed to let me own my own problems. They didn’t need me to be different, they loved who I was, even though they sometimes criticized my weight. They respected me. They helped me be powerful in all kinds of ways, not just the pretty-girl-power way.

    When parents ask me how to help prevent eating disorders in their kids, I tell them, respect and admire your kid, respect and admire people for all kinds of traits, accomplishments, and skills in front of your kid. It’s worth doing even if what causes eating disorders has nothing to do with that.

  73. I have a three-year-old daughter who was born three weeks early already weighing 8 lbs. 4 oz.. During her first year of life, doctors would look at her, look at me accusingly, and ask me how much I was feeding her. It was infuriating. For the last year or two, though, her weight has been “on the charts,” (although not exactly height/weight proportional — she’s on the short side) so the doctors haven’t been so annoying.

    I am terrified, though. Even though I think I have armed myself with some knowledge and a decent plan, it scares me to be the protector of this precious little creature.

    One thing I’m going to do next month is to join a mommy and me dance and movement class with her. I always wanted to be in a dance class when I was a kid, but it just wasn’t something fat girls did. I’m trying to walk the walk with her — not just encourage her to love her own body, but to try my darndest to love my own.

  74. My mom used to say, “Fat people aren’t supposed to eat potato chips” and then give me a nasty look. She also used to tell me that boys don’t ever want to date fat girls. Sometimes fat me and my fat boyfriend bone and then eat potato chips afterwards. Good times.

    BWAH!

  75. My mother’s family, who I take after completely, are all built like rugby forwards (in fact a number of them have been). My father’s side are short and mostly chunky too. I started growing/getting fatter at about age 10 – you can see it in school photos – but never got past 5ft, where I was at about age 13. At the end of high school I was playing touch football and training ferociously for it, and I was about 125lb. I felt huge, but looking back I was not at all! When I got married at 21(!!) I was about 140lb, and now I’m 175 and that seems to be my set point, since I’ve been there for about ten years. I know that 140lb is probably impossible to get to now – and it is still “overweight” for goodness sake! – so I don’t try. I’m now in my mid 30s, cycle, swim and walk, and love food. If I eat more, I don’t put on weight. If I eat less, I don’t take it off. All health indicators are tip top.

    As a kid I can’t remember being picked on because of fatness as such, more that I was awkward socially, and not pretty. But I remember another girl being picked on a lot, mostly by the boys but also by a few bitchy girls. Small town schools can be ferocious. She was also very poor, somewhat unkempt (truth be told her home life was probably abysmal) and not pretty. I remember being ashamed at how they were treating her, but wasn’t strong enough to do anything about it – I knew it wouldn’t do any good, and they’d all have to just grow up. I made a point of including her as much as I could. By the middle to end of high school the whole group was a lot more inclusive, which I was really thankful for.

    My mum was definitely very fat from an early age, and throughout my childhood she was sometimes dieting, but she NEVER actually mentioned it, or pushed it onto us girls. We ate normally. I know she probably hurt a lot from looks, etc, but she didn’t pass it on, for which I am really grateful. She has said, recently, that she basically had no “fullness” cues, and she has only (over the last ten years?) started to have a more normal relationship with food, especially after joining the local cooperative gym and being told by the trainer that most women need to eat MORE food, not less. She’s lost a lot of weight over the last five-ten years, really gradually, but enough for me to be quite stunned last time I saw her. It makes me wonder if she’s really ok after all :-(

    But I’m glad she didn’t guilt us out over weight or food. I always knew I’d never be skinny, and I knew it was fruitless to try, seeing as how it was so obviously stacked against me; I was sad about that because I am not good looking either, and they seem to be the only things that other people value. It was only after I’d sadly accepted that fact – given up on any illusion of being something other than what I was – that I was able to really grow in who I am.

  76. My cat has a serious over-eating problem. Not only that, but she lies about it, and I think she’s using cough drops to get her fix. What should I do.

    Give her more water. Maybe sheshould carry her water dish around with her.

  77. I just got back from spending New Year’s at my best
    friend’s house. I live with my parents and we’re so
    cash-poor from the economy being bad to me
    being in graduate school, that today I ate a peanut
    butter sandwich for lunch and two salmon patties
    a piece of cornbread for dinner. I had an apple for
    breakfast. That’s a TYPICAL DAY FOR ME!

    I can’t afford to eat a lot of food because of money.
    Fyi: I’m 5’8, 280-290 pounds (size 22/24) and my
    mother just bought a case of water and begged
    me not to drink it up because I usually drink 4-6
    glasses of water every other day. (I used to drink
    8 but I stopped because I heard it was bad for
    your kidneys.)

    Anyway, my best friend is probably 6’2 or 6’3 and
    weighs about 160-165(about a size 10 and this
    is after 2 kids.) I kid you not when I say this is what
    I saw her eating over ONE evening: six big chicken
    wings cooked in Crisco (at my house, my parents
    are in their 60s and 70s, therefore we use Olive
    Oil), nachos w/ cheese and hamburger (i stopped
    eating hamburger years ago. It’s yucky to me!)
    and I’m not talking about ONE serving of nachos
    but THREE. A glass of wine, a wine cooler, cookies,
    veggies with dip and ice cream. And that was just
    for dinner.

    The next day for breakfast we had bagels and cream
    cheese (that’s a typical breakfast for them; I’m lucky
    if I can even afford to have breakfast which might
    be once a week) and then we had nachos again
    for lunch.

    Also, her two kids are 5 and 4 and they ate adult
    size portions like it was nothing. Her husband is
    also over 6 feet tall. They in addition to eating nachos
    with us, the next day they ate bagels and cream
    cheese, doritos and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
    and full cups of juice. I was shocked at how much
    food they ate and then the leftover fried chicken
    was going to be their dinner. My family eats way
    healthier and all of us are bigger, though I’m the
    biggest.

    I would love to do a documentary so people could see
    what life is truly like for a fat woman. People don’t
    realize that I’m JUST a normal person.

    If and when I do have children, I’ll teach them the same
    way that my parents taught me about being black in
    America: LIFE JUST ISN’T FAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  78. jelly filled, both of my girls were 9lb, 13oz babies and are now thin. I’ve got a good friend with two very early preemies that are now “overwieght”. Weight at birth isn’t a correlation to weight the rest of the life – and what doc worries when an infant is robust and chunky? That’s whack.

    That was the beauty of seeing midwives. My girls were all chunky and blessed with sweet baby rolls for the first 6 months or so, and the midwives would smile and tell me I must be making grade A cream, to get my girls so big and healthy. :-)

    I think it’s great you are looking for a way to move that you’ll love, and that will nuture the girl you were and inspire your daughter to love and nurture her body at any size!

    I wish we had more belly-dance options around here!

  79. I haven’t read the comments yet – I will, but I wanted to post this before I forget! (I’m getting senile at 39. ;) )

    Two things:

    1) I wish my mother wouldn’t have told me to just “walk away” or “ignore it” when people teased me, bullied me, and otherwise tormented me, the fat girl. I wish I had been empowered enough to stand up to the bullshit, to report it to teachers and other authorities, and to not tolerate THEIR bullshit (like the high school principal who decided the solution to me skipping school – due to bullying, which never actually got mentioned out loud in the entire discussion – was for him and me to go on a diet together, as though I hadn’t already been dieting since I was 6). And I also think if she’d signed me up for some kind of self-defense classes, that awful Stella Mc______ wouldn’t have tried to beat me up.

    2) As an adult, I asked my father why they had put me through all that horrible dieting, grueling exercise routines, and other weight loss obsessions (and it was an obsession – I felt like the ONLY goals my parents had for me were to finish school and get thin). He said, “We just thought it would be harder for you to get by in the world if you weren’t thinner.” So I guess I wish my parents had been a little less concerned with my assimilation and a little more concerned with where my life was really going, because it took me a long time to get over it and start figuring it out.

  80. But the PE teacher? I will hate her with the proverbial white hot heat of a thousand fiery suns till the day I die.

    I have two of those. First was Mr. B in elementary school, no small man himself, who would make fun of me during gym class. Second was Mrs. F in junior high, who became possessed with putting me on a diet, forcing me to keep a food diary, all in the name of “concern”. My mom marched in there and put a stop to that shit right quick. And when I think about it, I was just as active as the thin kids–I played all the games and I ran and all that crap. No, I couldn’t do 900,000 sit-ups in a minute like the President’s Physical Fitness fucking bullshit test demands, and I couldn’t run a 40-yard fucking dash in X amount of seconds, but Jesus H. Christ, I WAS INVOLVED TO THE BEST OF MY GODDAMNED ABILITIES. It was never, ever enough. Whee, repressed rage!

    So, I learned that exercise was punishment and wasn’t worth doing if you weren’t an aspiring athlete or “good” at it. I never took another mainstream P.E. class again (I was excused on doctor’s orders from P.E. in high school based on “exercise-induced asthma”, which was basically my mom refusing to allow me to be verbally abused by another P.E. teacher).

  81. My grandmother was plump, my mother is skinny, and I had a little tummy. (I’ve calculated what my BMI was when I was 18 – it was 23!) One of my younger brothers is extremely underweight, and the other is plump. I was taller and heavier than my mother when I was 11, and, thanks partly to undiagnosed PCOS, had a real pear shape, but I was fit and played sports. My parents are feminists and made sure that my brothers and I were treated equally at all times, except, as it turned out, for weight. I was fed different meals to the rest of the family – and ended up binge eating out of hunger – and, unlike my brothers, was not taught to cook. My family constantly teased me for being fat (which I wasn’t) but I was banned from teasing my skinny brother about being skinny, or about his psoriasis.

    I went to university unable to even boil an egg and (no surprise) gained weight! It wasn’t until I taught myself to cook that my weight stabilised and I started to get fit and active again. Later, I had thyroid cancer, which wasn’t diagnosed for 18 months because I had internalised the idea that weight gain was my fault. On finding out that “going for a walk” wouldn’t have helped cure thyroid cancer, my mother told me “Trust you to get a cancer where you gain weight.” I moved four hours away from this toxic environment, and although I would like to see my supportive and non-weight-obsessed brothers more often, going near my mother upsets me too much to see her more than once or twice a year. And she wonders why I don’t visit more often!

  82. My sister was the fat kid, and I was the er … “less fat but definitely still chubby” kid. My Mom was the fat kid in a family of five skinny siblings. Very recently I was going through some old family photos of my Mom as a kid and of us as kids at similar ages, and my jaw dropped as I saw that Mom and my sister could have been identical twins. It honest to god hit home for me for the first time about genetics and body type (even though intellectually I “know” that it’s the case), and that for all of the teasing and criticism and tears that it really REALLY was not their “fault” that they were larger than other kids. My Mom grew up poor in the projects and couldn’t afford boxes of baby donuts or heaping bowls of cough drops, and she never let us gorge on junk food when we were growing up.

    A lot of these stories are really sad, but for as for some of the stupid and cruel comments, I honestly think people just didn’t know any better and were doing the best that they knew to do. I doubt many parents wake up thinking,”Today I’m going to make heartless comments to my kids and scar them for life.” I’ve learned so much about FA from this and other blogs, and it’s all gradually sinking in (see recent epiphany in 1st paragraph). And our families and others had nothing of the sort years ago.

    Obviously deciding whether or not to have kids is a deeply personal and complex decision and I don’t know any of you from Adam (or Eve) Deciding not to have kids because they might get dealt the fat card really makes me sad. Forgive me if I’m just not getting it, but that outlook sounds a lot like what most people here seem to be railing against in the first place. Your kid could inherit any of your wonderful traits (humor! amazing writing ability! compassion!), or NONE of them. Or have a within-the-acceptable-range body but have a learning disability. Why focus on your future non-existent kid’s possible potentially emotionally wounding zombie fat? I got teased for being fat, being smart, being a nerd, wearing cheap no-name sneakers … Seems to me it’s a crap shoot.

  83. …my father who generally never brings up weight mentioned that losing weight might help my knee (not true, as it turned out)…

    This is off the Fat Kids topic, but my Mom has been having big time knee issues and is convinced that if she just loses some weight (the 10% of her weight that is supposed to make all the difference in your health…) it will get better. I keep telling her that she needs to go to the doctor and have it looked at and that thin people get knee issues too, etc. I know she doesn’t want to go and be told by the doctor that if she just lost some weight it would help (because we all know there are plenty of doctors who will do just that). I keep remiding her that she’s 62 (she generally doesn’t have issues with her age) and things start to deteriorate as people older and there are people of all sizes who have knee problems much younger than she has. I worry that a potentially serious issue isn’t be addressed because she’s dismissing it to weight and certain she can fix it herself if she is just committed enough. (She also says she doesn’t want to have a knee replacement when she’s this heavy, because it will just wear out again faster. I remind her that her first one has lasted 62 years and even if a new one only lasted half that long (I have no idea the typical age of them, but anyway…) she’d be doing pretty well.

    Another off topic thing: I think this pops into my head because of the talk of having babies/children. I didn’t watch it regularly, but I saw the TV show “Fat March” when it was on (last spring?) and I remember one of the contestants wanted to lose weight because she and her husband wanted to have a baby and her doctor “would’t let” her get pregnant until she had lost weight. Argh! (I’m guessing she was probably a 20 or so, size wise).

    …I’ve concluded that the obesity hysteria has penetrated veterinarian medicine…
    The vet practice that both my Mom and I take our pets to has several Vets in it. There is one that both my mom and I refuse to have appointments with, because she ALWAYS tells us our pets are too fat. One time I took my 3 cats in – One a big fluffy guy, one a sleek skinny guy, and one a young kitten. She told me only the kitten was at the right weight. I decided there and then that anyone who could take a look at Merlin (the sleek skinny one) and say, with a straight face, that he was overweight must have some issues. (and even if she didn’t, I just don’t want a vet who’s so concerned with that one thing).

  84. I got the “you have such a pretty face” thing constantly as well as “if you lose weight I’ll buy you nice clothes”.

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!

    I am just now, at 42, learning to buy nice clothes. Not sweats. Not “just for now” clothes. Nice clothes that fit. Damn, what a waste of time.

  85. I had the misfortune to be adopted into a family that was blond, blue-eyed, very slender, sporty, tanned etc etc. And then there was me, hitting all the opposites in a big way. It was a relief to meet my family of origin 30 years later to see what genetics have given me. My adoptive mother is extremely fat-phobic, stage whispering to me last time we were on a flight together that she was glad she hadn’t got stuck sitting next to a fat person who would take up all her room. Even as I am sitting there across the aisle, looking at her incredulously! She also thinks she should be allowed more luggage allowance than a fat person because she weighs so much less. Bwaaaah. My father, when I was eight and telling him my legs were aching, loudly told me (in front of our extended family) that I was carrying too much weight.

    Yow, this recalling stuff is painful!! No wonder I am so fucked in the fucking head with all issues regarding food.

    I have SO learnt from my parents what not to say to children. If anyone so much as mentions bad food, ugly fat people etc etc around my daughters I will rip their fucking heads off, including my mother. I have had to educate my very thin husband about what he is NOT to say. We do not talk about junk food or good and bad food. We do not have scales in our house and I NEVER talk negatively about myself (even though I might be thinking it!).

    Ang

  86. I’m fat, and so is my husband. One child was fat while young, but is now thin (he grew a foot in 7th grade.) Another was slimmer while younger, but has now put on some weight. The third has just been “average” all along.

    You don’t know what you’re going to get when you roll the genetic dice. Embarking upon parenthood means you accept the child for what he or she is. There aren’t any guarantees in life.

    We have *never* made an issue out of weight with the kids. Even in my unenlightened days, when I was dieting (while they were little), I never let them know, or engaged in “diet talk” around them.

    I don’t know about dealing with schools – we homeschooled (mostly), and our chubby son was lean by the time he went to school. None of his homeschool friends ever said anything, to my knowledge. He did find his size to an advantage once in a playground scrape – one kid was bugging him, completely unjustified, and all our son had to do was sit on him to pacify him.

    Our MD never said anything about his weight.

    I now that today’s situation is different. In general, though, as a parent, you have to be an advocate for your children. That means being very careful who you take them to for medical care, where they go to school, etc. As parents, you have to work out what your priorities are, and find out who can best help you with them.

    I won’t pretend that it’s easy. For us, though, it’s been worth it. Our kids are one of the best things that have ever happened to us. They’re almost grown now (21, 18, 16), and we can see where a lot of those early struggles and hard decisions have started to bear fruit.

  87. I’ve yapped on already in the Pants thread about my worries for my son, and whether I can skillfully handle the weight issues that might arise in his life, but just about parenthood in general, I always think of this poem:

    They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.
    Philip Larkin

    I’m being tongue in cheek posting this, and I think / hope / assume he’s being ironic, but sometimes I worry he’s on to something…

  88. Wow, I’m on a roll today…

    I was tiny until I was about 8 or 9 and then I started getting chubby (I thought fat, but looking at pictures, the next few years aren’t any more than chubby), then don’t think I got Fat, as such, until High School. I think my parents did a reasonably good job, though my mom’s own issues rubbed off on me, as they’re apt to do, and my dad is known to make the occasional sarcastic comment (not about my weight, but about how much I might have on my plate and such. He did this regarding Christmas leftovers last week, actually. Him: “Have a little to eat.” Me: I will. And I intend to enjoy every. single. bite. That said, on the occasions I’ve mentioned to him that I plan to diet, his response has been “don’t starve yourself,” and when discussing weight, he responds that I “got my mother’s metabolism” so definitely doesn’t assign it as a blame thing, just a that’s the way your body works thing).

    Anyway, I was lucky enough to be fairly well liked throughout school (though I didn’t have a lot of confidence – as I always said, I had high self-esteem, but low self confidence: I thought very highly of myself, but I didn’t trust that anyone else would see it). I remember every single occasion I was teased for my weight throughout my school years. (Not counting, perhaps, by my brother – who I love dearly and usually got along with even then, but who could be a first class ass at times). There were a total of 4 occasions. My favorite of them was when, in 5th grade, I was walking home from school and a classmate made some comment to me about being fat or eating a lot. I went off on him about how I probably didn’t eat any more than he did, and maybe less, but that my metabolism was just slower. He tried to get away as quickly as he could. I was hella shy but not one to be pushed around. I’m still the same way.

    Regarding PE, I do still have memories of middle school when we had to run the mile. I was the last kid running, of course, and one of the “popular boys” came out to the track and ran with me while I was finishing up. He was trying to be encouraging, and now I appreciate it for what it was, but at the time I was terribly embarrassed and wished everyone would just go do something else while I had to finish up.

  89. Deciding not to have kids because they might get dealt the fat card really makes me sad. Forgive me if I’m just not getting it, but that outlook sounds a lot like what most people here seem to be railing against in the first place.

    Suzanne, I definitely wouldn’t let the fear of having a fat kid stop me. And as I tried to say, it’s not the fear of the fat kid his/herself — it’s really the fear that I wouldn’t be able to deal well with all the shit it would bring up for me, and I’d end up dumping all my baggage onto the poor kid.

    I’m not entirely sure if I’m going to have kids, for lots of reasons, but I certainly wouldn’t say, “Well, I really want them, but WHAT IF THEY’RE FAT? Nope! Can’t do it!” It’s more, god, I don’t know if I could be a good parent — and on the long list of reasons for that, having to deal with fat issues makes an appearance.

  90. Kate — I realize you had the FA issues in a list of other concerns — I didn’t mean to imply that it was the one and only reason to avoid procreating. But from what I read here you seem to be pretty damned honest, strong-willed and enlightened! Thanks thanks thanks for doing what you do.

  91. For me, mental health issues have been as much of a factor in my deciding against having kids as anything having to do with weight. Even if they were thin, if they had my issues with backwards mental wiring and social ineptitude, and they were made bully targets like I was, I’d find it very hard to deal with. You certainly don’t have to be fat to get rations of shit at school and from doctors. And detesting interpersonal conflict like I do, getting into protracted fights with kids over x, y, and z over and over and over again never seemed like a good thing for anyone involved.

    But yeah, when I hear about parents of 5-year-olds wanting to get them signed up for bariatric surgery — yikes. I mean, the very idea that anyone would suggest that to a parent nowadays gives me the willies.

  92. I hear you on the mental health. But even well-adjusted people can have fucked up kids. My Mom suffered from serious depression and had weight issues (which I never knew until the WW scale showed up on the counter one day). She swore like a trucker and smoked like a chimney. But you know? She was just my MOM, and I loved her as she was. Kids do that! She was also wickedly smart and hysterically funny, and had an amazing singing voice etc … I miss her, can you tell?

  93. I’ve been reading this blog for a while now. I’m not really sure how long. But this is one of the topics that keeps grabbing my attention.

    I don’t remember being a fat kid. I look at pictures and see that for the most part I wasn’t. I wasn’t rail thin by any stretch, but no one made fun of me. Not once that I can remember until junior high school. Before that I was fine after that I was upset and indeed getting fatter. Also known as acquiring my adult shape. I remember getting teased for sitting in the shade of some giant hedges with another boy in elementry school, but that was just Oooo boy/girl kootie stuff.

    I know that I grew up with my mom talking about just being “good polish stock” she would say it in a deeper important sounding voice. My parents continue to amaze me, in how they raised me and my siblings. I have never dieted (other than the weight watchers stint) and I have never been really encouraged to do so. My mother was never a fad dieter and she didn’t read things like comso magazine. I was always encouraged to do the best that I could and if I was having a hard time of things, it was completely okay. I don’t really have any way to describe how wonderful my parents are.

    But the main thing they did was continually reassure me that I was okay just the way I was. They asked that I tried my best in school and everything. Grades didn’t mean the world to them and the things that made us each happy (there are four kids, me being oldest) were more important than anything.

    I know there were playground bullys in my life because I remember my mom telling me to just ignore them. Later in life she told my younger brother to either tell them “so?” when they made comments or to ignore them as well. Many people don’t think this is the answer and for some people its not, but I think it worked for us because when ever we returned home we were safe. We were always just fine the way we were at home. I don’t know about my siblings but I’ve found it easy to carry that attitude with me into the world. I never notice that I’m fat unless I’m cloth shopping in a regular store, or other random things. I am just me and I am doing what everyone else is doing, living.

    and as for having the mom who blogs about fat acceptance. My mother is a an artist and my father would like nothing better than to have free time to build giant metal mobiles in the yard. One full summer my mom painted her toenails black and wore flip flops everywhere, cause she thought it was neat. My father works for a sewer and water company and never graduated high school. He spends most of his day in the mud at the bottom of 10 to 30 foot holes. All of which are things alot of people could easily tease a child over. But my dad is the strongest 47 year old I know of as well as very smart, and my mom is living her life’s dream.

    Of course everything wasn’t always so hunky dory, but it does say alot for a good attitude. Its also a good example of how a repeated message works. A GOOD repeated message. I think what also helped was sitting down to dinner and having discussions about things…like how the kid three lockers down is dealing drugs out of it and how to deal with social problems like bullys, even though my mom’s come backs were always really corny. Then it usually degraded into farting or talk of such.

    I don’t think you should worry about if your kids are fat or not at all. Thats not whats important. Whats important is preparing them for the world and to be good people, something I’m very sure you already do through your actions and what you say. Its almost like worrying if your child is going to be ADD or have a learning disability. Those things are going to get a kid teased too, but if they can come home to someone who knows they are very smart wonderful people it easily makes the name callers and bullys seem stupid and shallow.

    I suppose its just now that I’m understanding all of this though. I managed to do something, for all my mother’s reassurances I did not think was possible. I had a boyfriend. I was certain that would never ever happen, probably because some where out in the world I learned that fat girls didn’t get boyfriends. I was wrong and my mother was right. What other kind of acceptance things was she completely right about. That if I just go out there and be who I am life will happen and I’ll be able to enjoy it? Its hard to feel so empowered and self assured all the time though.

    I’ll quit rambling now….

  94. I’m still working my way through all the comments above, but wanted to share my story.

    My mom was often put on a diet as a child (I’ll leave whether she was thin/chubby/fat up in the air, because I don’t know). As an adult, she’s a curvy woman, but not fat by any means. My dad is a very heavy man, who I remember being on WW when I was little. He’s got a lot of health problems, and essentially had bariatric surgery a few years back (the result of a stomach tumor, not for WL).

    I was a chubby kid, not really becoming fat until later (though I certainly thought I was fat at the time!). I have a heartbreaking diary entry from third grade that says I want to lose weight so a certain boy will like me. But Mom and Dad rarely brought up my weight, I think because they knew what hell it could be. They never put me on diets. They sometimes tried to suggest more “appropriate” portions, and once in a very great while, take me aside and gently express concerns for my health. Dad, especially, has said that he doesn’t want me to end up like him, which makes me cry… I’m so afraid he’s going to die too soon, and afraid I will, too, even though I know all the FA stats re: obesity and morbidity…. I’m still working on overcoming that.

    While they have been encouraging whenever I have chosen to diet (mostly in adolescence), they never made me do it. And Mom was always very careful to compliment my appearance, or repeat compliments about my appearance that she heard. She knew I heard often enough that I was smart and loveable, but she also knew that I wanted to hear that I was pretty, so she made sure that I did when she could.

    There’s lots of things I wish they did differently, but I think they did ok wrt my being fat.

  95. Oooh, I have a few examples of how NOT to parent a fat kid:

    Don’t grab your kid’s tummy and go, “what’s this?!?”

    Don’t give your kid “bad” food and then criticize her for eating it or eating too much of it. Don’t classify food as “good” and “bad” while you’re at it.

    Don’t allow your other children to make fun of said fat kid, and if it happens, don’t join in.

    Don’t constantly warn your kid that she’ll get fat and define her by her weight, because this will become her self-talk.

    Try not to be too embarrassed about being seen with your fat kid in public.

    Don’t teach 8 year olds to count calories, fat grams, or any other measure of their food’s health-, I mean, thinness-promoting properties.

    Don’t take your kid to a dietician and allow said dietician to pinch the kid’s fat with fat pinchers (which physically hurt, by the way), and then tell her that if she wants a treat as part of her 1000 calorie diet, she’s only allowed to have the amount of air-popped popcorn that will fit into a small styrofoam coffee cup.

    I got it way worse at home than I ever got it at school, and when I look back, I think the reason it because I was a chubby kid, but I wasn’t really fat until my teens. So, don’t make your chubby or fat kid feel like she is some kind of monstrosity.

    Speaking of fat teens, don’t buy your fat teen clothes that are 2 sizes too big and massively unflattering, unless that’s what your fat teen wants to wear. And don’t make her buy a prom dress that looks like a garbage bag.

    Ok, I’m done for now. But I will be discussing these points in therapy! Actually, I’m not in therapy, but maybe I should be…

  96. I’ve been lurking for a while now and trying to wrap my head around body acceptance. Like many, this post struck a little too close to home not to comment. One, because I dealt with fat issues growing up and two, because I have a 15 month old son. When I was pregnant, my best friend of 20 years and I had this exact conversation. Our conclusion was that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t, meaning no matter how great or un-great our parents are we are going to have issues about something, some way, some how. The fact is that our parents are not the only ones that raised us. Society plays a role in the people we are from the second we are brought into this world. Our teachers, doctors, friends, spouses, the media, hell, even strangers can influence the way we think about ourselves and the way we live our lives. I can divulge all my horrifying teenage fat moments and I can pinpoint the two or three times my mother actually made demeaning fat comments to me, but my parents are not solely responsible for my mindset and the way I view myself.

    Kate, your fear is perfectly natural. When you don’t have children, it is not easy to see why we should bring one into a world that seems to have so many challenges. I think the last month of my pregnancy, all I could think about was every which way I could screw up my child. Remeber, as parents in today’s world, we have more resources at our fingertips to help us cope with issues. The fact that we are on here discussing an issue like this says a lot. I don’t think our parents thought twice about any of the comments they made or the way they treated us. In fact, I would go so far as to say most of them did what they did because they loved us and didn’t want to see us get hurt by the “outside world.” It is important for us as parents to recognize that we can’t shield our children from society no matter how much our motherly instincts tell us to. If it’s not fat, it’s going to be something else. It is what it is and we aren’t going to be able to change human nature.

    So, is my heart going to break when my child comes home from school crying because his best friend called him “four eyes” or “fatty” in front of a goup of kids? Of course it is. BUT, I know the best parent I can be is one that loves their child unconditionally and shows him how to learn and grow from his darkest hours. I did not learn this from my parents, I learned this from growing up and dealing with my weight obsessed mother, a mean sports coach and living every day uncomfortable in my own skin. I admit it is not going to be easy at times, but no part of parenting is and maybe the one thing I can pass down (other than the fat gene :) is a non-judgemental spirit and kind heart.

    Body acceptance is about accepting ourselves. It’s about not letting body image stand in the way of living our lives and accomplishing our goals. Having/raising/advocating for a child, fat or otherwise shouldn’t be any different.

  97. A lot of people have been talking about knowing where to draw the line with managing their kids’ food intake. There’s a parenting philosophy having to do with trusting and facilitating what is believed to be the brain’s natural ability to self-regulate and self-direct for optimal health, and this covers all sorts of things from breastfeeding to sleeping to eating to learning. There’s a lot of good stuff here on the food part of that.

    I was 5’6″ and 125 lbs. in sixth grade when my doctor and mom conspired to get me on a 1200 calorie/day diet. For the first time in my life, I felt guilt about food, and I vividly remember obsessing over “bad” food. The hunger hurt physically. It was all I could think about. And of course I ultimately quit and was considered “weak”. It was just too damn hard for a kid to be fighting her body and psyche that way. I remember my dad screaming at me that I was going to get fat, and my mom admonishing me when she found I’d eaten an entire 5 oz. Hershey bar all in one sitting. Later, my mom happily paid for Jenny Craig, and spent many years criticizing fat strangers, while giving me “positive reinforcement” in the form of compliments when she thought it looked like I’d lost a few pounds. I’ll never forget when I was pregnant with a huge belly and she commented that my outfit was “slimming”. I was just beginning to get into self-empowerment and building my self-esteem and I let her have it. I’ve more recently told her I don’t believe in diets and that I’m not trying to lose weight, and that I never want to hear her comment on another person’s weight or how I look. She’s really a good person and a loving mom, and she’s totally respected and abided by that. (Now to get her into FA for herself.)

    No one in either of our families or extended community has commented on my oldest son, who is following the exact same growth pattern I had in childhood. I wonder if this is because he’s a boy — we do live in a fairly progressive community, but I know that not all these people understand FA or know about the science behind it, although some do and that helps a lot. Our kids participate in two kinds of sports in which the coaches are extremely good about accepting and celebrating all the kids where they’re at, but we definitely were picky about this. We sought those people out. Our family doctor is great — she, like me, believes that it’s a normal growth pattern for a child who’s well-nourished and has a particular genetic make-up. (She is thin herself.) She hears that he is active and eats lots of healthy foods, and she believes us. It pays to shop around for a doctor who is a critical thinker and isn’t arrogant.

    These are the situations we’ve dealt with: One, a cousin who has called his sister (who shares my son’s growth pattern) a fat pig. Two, a few movies we watched in which there were jokes about fat people. Three, advertisements for weight loss. We counter this by talking about the crazy thinking and bigotry behind these things, and by actively accepting our children’s bodies as good things by physically and verbally showing our appreciation for them. My husband and I, who are both fat, are also very obviously body positive.

    The only one I’m worried about right now is my 6-year-old daughter, who is sensitive to mainstream culture’s definitions of beauty. For the time being we’ve gotten rid of broadcast television access and only watch movies, which has helped immensely. We don’t have magazines in the house that showcase that sort of thing. We don’t (and I know this is debatable, but it’s where we’ve drawn the line) buy Barbies and similar dolls. The longer they can remain innocent to this crap, I figure, is the longer they have to build up their own perception of themselves as being exactly right just the way they are.

  98. I worry about the one thin kid/one “fat” kid thing with my nephews. They’re both quite young (3 years and 9 months) and neither could be called fat, but the younger child is definitely proportionately bigger than his older brother — he’s longer and heavier than his brother was at his age, he’s got big hands and a big noggin — and the way the family talks about him sets my teeth on edge. He’s a boy so there’s a certain amount of pride in his size and growth, but even so I hear things that are clearly adults projecting their expectations for a larger child onto him (e.g. “that kid wouldn’t miss a meal”…uh, he’s a baby. He doesn’t have a whole lot of control over when and what he’s fed).

  99. This is something that I’ve been thinking about, as we’re currently trying for our first child. Our children will most likely be fat, though it’s far from guaranteed.

    My husband’s family is thin-to-average sized on his father’s side. Unfortunately for him, he took after his mother’s family, all of whom are naturally disgustingly healthy but very heavy from early childhood. He was often derided by his thin, athletic, but asshole father (whom we no longer speak to, thank goodness) for being just like my mother-in-law Kathy. Interestingly, this man left Kathy for another short, fat woman, and the last time we saw them their daughter was just as overweight as Phill but adored by her father. Apparently the mental abuse he heaped upon Phill during his childhood was just a result of that man being a jerk.

    Kathy is one of those rare people who have managed to diet and exercise herself to thinness at some point after the divorce, and keep it off for multiple decades straight. She’s managed it by constantly thinking about her diet and running five to ten miles every day. Still, she’s never been nasty about our weights the entire time I’ve known her, though she frequently comments on her own overeating when visiting and the need to get back to her normal salads.

    Phill sometimes complains about feeling fat and needing to exercise more, but he’s largely managed to escape most of the mental baggage that he should have ended up with. It’s especially surprising considering that he was extensively bullied in school.

    My father’s side of the family also tends to be average sized or thin, though the women are a little heavier and pear shaped. My brother inherited this set of genes, and remains thin in his mid-30s. Actually, at one point as a broke vegan in his early 20s, he was dangerously underweight and was hospitalized for a short time. I, however, take after our mother’s side of the family. Prior to the age of 14 or so, we’re quite thin (and many of my cousins, female and male, were model-pretty, though I wasn’t quite that lucky). Then we rapidly gain weight which stays with us the rest of our lives. I’m currently somewhat heavier then the average among the female cousins, though not the heaviest. Two older cousins that I know of (one slightly heavier than I, the other slightly lighter) have opted for WLS, but in both cases have gained a significant portion of the weight back.

    Somehow I also managed to escape most of the mental baggage. I wasn’t teased much that I can recall in school, and the few times I was it was because I was weird, not because of how I looked. (And I grew up in the 80s – you know how we dressed then.) I’ve had several doctors complain about my weight, but I stopped going to the ones who more than gently hint that I could stand to lose a few pounds. My father has been regularly telling me how beautiful I am since childhood (though I’m pretty sure that he’s using rose-colored glasses there :), and never stopped when I became fat. My mother dieted occasionally and has been known to comment negatively on my weight once in awhile since I broke size 20 a decade ago. But I’ve never been on what I’d consider a true “diet”, though a couple of times I’ve done small experiments towards eating slightly less for a couple of days to see if it made any difference (though never to the point of actually leaving myself hungry at any point). What I eat has never been an issue anyway, as my diet reflects habits absorbed from my vegetarian health food freak father. I don’t exercise nearly enough, and my weight directly reflects how much effort I’ve put into being active in any given month. By which I mean I vary between fairly fat and really fat depending on my work schedule. :)

    Anyway, to bring this back the the original topic, my children definitely have a better than average chance of being fat. But I think that we can raise them with self confidence if we try. The part that I’m struggling with is the difficulty I’m having actually getting pregnant. When I told the gyn, whom I otherwise like, that I was trying and was getting worried about our fertility, he suggested that it would be a good idea to put it off a couple of years and try to lose weight first. (I’m 31, by the way.) But he redeemed himself (slightly!) by ordering about 100 tests and recommending me to a specialist for pre-conception counseling. The tests all show everything in working order (as they always do – my bloodwork always comes back baseline perfect for a woman my age, which endlessly and amusingly frustrates doctors convinced that I must have thyroid issues or diabetes or at least high cholesterol). The specialist was also useful, sending me for yet more tests (saying that I had all the classic symptoms of PCOS, for instance, though it eventually proved not to be the case). And then he recommended if all else failed to lose weight, and pushed a brochure about an in-hospital liquid diet program at me. The books I’ve looked at also say that when they other reasons for infertility are excluded, a woman’s weight is a major cause (though they also note that for a third of couples, no reason at all is found). So I’m left wondering if this is more pseudo-science, or if I really need to go onto a unhealthy crash diet that’s probably doomed to failure anyway (despite being perfectly comfortable as a size 28) just to have a child.

    Damn, I didn’t mean this to turn into a book. *grumble*

  100. Dorianne, my mother told me repeatedly the same thing: if you ignore it, they’ll stop. Except it was just another lie – they didn’t stop, it got worse. But by saying that my mother made it clear that I wasn’t to do anything or say anything, which sent the message that I deserved all the harrassment and bullyiing (except they called it “teasing” and “kids will be kids”). The only time I remember my mother going to bat for me was when the snots down the street started throwing rocks at me, and she did go to the school and their parents and get that to stop.

    My grandmother always said “you’d be so pretty if you’d just lose weight”, and kept saying that she’d buy me a whole new wardrobe if I’d just lose weight. (“Just” as if I should take an afternoon and make it happen.) It wasn’t until years later that I realized she never mentioned a firm number, so even if I did I doubt she ever had any real intentions of paying off. I can’t remember my folks ever telling her to lay off me, and I was not to “back talk” to an adult.

    I was on a diet at about 8 where I had to write down everything I ate, then look up the calorie counts, and then see if I had a “good” day or a “bad” day. I had notebooks full of this crap. I had a pediatrician who made me cry when he sat and listed all the foods I could never eat again like bread and gravy, while my mother just listened. I lived in a house full of junk food where if you didn’t eat as much as you might ever want from the bag of Doritos or potato chips when you first saw them, you wouldn’t get any because they’d be gone. Let me tell you, I learned some really nasty eating habits that way.

    My parents made it clear that yes, it was great that I was a straight A student, but I was still fat. I was creative and great at arts and crafts, but I was fat. I read voraciously, way above grade level, but I was fat. They were proud of me for winning awards, but I was still fat. I got the message loud and clear that it didn’t matter who I was or what I accomplished or anything else – all of that put together couldn’t counterbalance the fact that I was fat. And nothing else mattered because I was fat.

    And it’s worse now that I’ve lost some weight because my parents have pretty much confirmed all of the above through their words and behaviors.

    (Both Mom and Grandma are/were not small women. In fact, NONE of the women on that side of the family have ever been slender – we’re all short and stocky and plump. And the funny thing is I look at pictures of myself back then through high school and I really wasn’t that fat at all.)

    I’m still coming to terms with all of this, but it’s made even harder by my parents not even willing to listen to the suggestion that what they did might not have been optimal. As far as they’re concerned, it was all just perfect and there is nothing to discuss.

    I wish my parents had stood up for me and said STOP. I wish they’d told me it was ok to say something and fight back (at least verbally) and backed me up when I told how terrible it was.

    I don’t have kids not because I’m afraid they might be fat (I know they would be.). It’s simply that for various reasons I know I’m not cut out to be a parent, and I knew it early on. I’m a GREAT eccentric aunt, though!

  101. Damn, all these stories about family members trying to bribe little fat kids with promises of new clothes are killing me. I mean, I know many of us have been through much worse with our families, but this one is sticking in my craw right now. Like, it’s not hard enough to be the fat kid without looking like a total target for bullies and other hatefulness in your baggy sweatpants and faded old t-shirts -or worse, too tight clothes that you’ve grown out of (’cause, hello, you’re a KID, your still supposed to GROW).

    In my last year of high school, I nearly KILLED myself dieting and exercising down to a size 16, which was actually the product of my stepmother’s work….of completely controlling my food and insisting I do daily 2 hour aerobics sessions (followed by swimming laps). And after all that, she tried to bribe the wannabe rock star in me by promising to buy me a pair of much-coveted leather pants (like Joe Elliott’s on the Pyromania tour, oh yes), IF I could get down to a size 14. Never happened. Never, never, never. Size 16 was my smallest number, even though after that I tried every kind of weird diet known to womankind, and even went on to become bullimic.

    Well. I make my own fucking money now, and I’ll buy my own goddamned size 22 leather pants if I want ‘em. (Presuming I ever find ‘em anywhere.)

    Actually, I just applied for a moonlight job in a plus-size clothing store, and the initial discussion with the manager (whom I know from being a customer there) was very positive. If I get the job, I’m gonna do whatever I can to upset that old bribery apple cart whenever I see it.

  102. Up until I hit puberty, I was on the sturdy side, but not really fat because I was on a constant growth spurt (at the age of 4 I was about the same height as a 7 year old). I can only remember my mother once suggesting I should go on a diet, and I think that was more her mental state at the time (she suffered from depression) then actual concern about my weight. She has said in recent years that she was criticised a lot about her appearance by her mother, and was determined not to do the same to me.

    I absolutely loved my high school PE teacher. She was wicked sarcastic, but never once commented about people’s appearance or weight. As long as you tried your best in her class, then you got great marks! The only trouble I really ever had at school was with a boy in my year who thought it was fun to sexually harass the fat girl (i.e. me). This went on from the age of about 9 to 14, when one day the fat girl got so fed up, she began to harass him right back, which for some reason he didn’t find quite so amusing!

  103. I hate the fact that I starved myself for 2 weeks at music camp and walking back and forth to practice, lost the first weight of my life (and had my first unconscious bout with anorexia! Yay! I don’t think they called it that then, although when I read about the girls these days pushing food around on the plate, I think “You think you’re original? You think you’re the first ones who have done this?”) after a plump childhood with 2 skinny cousins who could both out-eat me times three, and as a result of the body that seemed to come out of the starvation and the walking I earned dates with the first chair cellist and jazz band trombonist when no boys had ever paid attention to me before EVER — therefore always associating attention from the opposite sex with thinness.

    Then when I came back home, my mother, who was terrified of everything except food, kept me in the house the rest of the summer so I put all the weight back on. Yay for yo-yo dieting. AT FUCKING TWELVE. (Also, what is it with all of us bookish types who were assaulted with team sports and therefore took up the piano?)

    I hate the fact that after WW @ 13, I had the va-va-voom body of an 18 year old, and my dad didn’t know how to deal so he just left it to my mom to overfeed me — if her kid didn’t look “well fed”, well, she just wasn’t doing her job, so I was going to eat, dammit — and put it back on.

    Again.

    Fucking hormones in the fucking food.

    I hate that my grandma, who was about 5′ and “cute”, never spoke to me unless I was in a skinny phase. Never mind that I made straight As for 12 STRAIGHT YEARS and graduated valedictorian of my class. No love unless skinny. Them waz the rulz.

    However, I LOVE the fact that, at 10, when Presidential Fitness tests came around, I looked the gym teacher dead in the eye and said:

    “Why does the President care about how many situps I can do? We just finished studying the Cuban MIssile Crisis. Surely he has more important things to think about.”

    Dude, OK, I was snotty. But I’m still proud that I had that kind of presence of mind when I was ten.

    (And I didn’t have to jog in gym class for the rest of the year. And I never had to take another Fitness Test. I joined the track team freshman year of high school.)

    I would say to parents that if you think something weird is going on with your kids and their food and their exercise?

    Ask them what THEY think.

    Don’t ignore them. Don’t just stew in your own head with your own issues. They have thoughts on it. Then everyone — at least those in the family unit that give a damn — can work out a solution together.

  104. They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.
    Philip Larkin

    Oooh! Ooooh!! Cara!!

    This is one of my favorite poems.

    I once recited this from memory drunk at a bar in Boston after one and a half Scorpion Bowls.

    I won a nice mirror with the bar logo on it. :D

    Once more, with feeling…

  105. Looks as though I’m just another longtime lurker brought to comment by a very, very touchy subject.

    I just realized, at 23, that it was my parents lack of discussion of weight and eating that led to my many self-esteem and body image issues. Both of my parents are on the larger side and have never told me I couldn’t eat something, and really pushed any discussions about anything serious (body image, sex, etc.) under the rug.

    That being said, I have always dealt with weight issues and have had body image misconceptions since I was 7 years old. My sister was anorexic to the point of nearly being hospitalized. When I was made fun of for being fat at school (I was never reeeally fat, just chubby) my mom would say those kids are mean, but always vowed NEVER to get involved at school by calling a friend’s parent or one of my teachers, and for that I felt like she agreed with the teasing. In fact, when I brought up what I was going through, it was most often swept under the rug instead of discussed. Moreover, my sister (while 5’8″ and 79lbs) would call me fat and I would, out of spite and knowing what irked her, would call her fat back. My parents never interrupted this destructive behavior, and I wish they had.

    When I was 11 we started going to family therapy to help with my sister’s anorexia. At the time, I was nowhere near overweight as I had just gone through puberty and was 5’1″ and 131 lbs. In a session the therapist looked at me, asked me how much I weighed, and after I told him (mind you, I was 11) he asked, “oh my, 131 lbs and 11 years old? Do you think you’re gaining the weight for your sister?” I never went back to that therapist, as you can imagine.

    Most all of my distress about my weight came from school, and those fucking Presidential Physical Fitness Tests. This alone is what I see as my sole reason for hating exercise, just as other bloggers have said here. I have serious gym-phobia now and always feel like I’m not measuring up when I go work out.

    I wish I once had body positive talk in my childhood to deflect what I was experiencing in the outside world.

    And I’d like to add – thanks to reading this blog over the past couple of months I have finally given away all of my “skinny” clothes that I was saving for “one day…” I have to say, it was the most refreshing thing in the world to donate FOUR GARBAGE bags of “skinny clothes”. I immediately went and treated myself to a few new outfits. I have to say, I feel pretty foxy for the first time in a longtime.

    Seriously, thank you for this blog.

  106. It’s mindboggling how many of us were also scarred by those damn Presidential Physical Fitness Tests. I, too, was unable to do beyond the 20th percentile in running at any point of my school career and was therefore relegated to remedial gym. (Never mind that I was in the 90th percentile in flexibility and sit ups.) I hated every moment of that class, which was mostly running, while the other kids got to do fun things like archery or the weight room.

  107. I’ve been reading the posts here, and it’s amazing how weight in children has become such an issue. I mean, I knew it was an issue when I was younger like the early 80’s, but now it’s insane.

    I remember being a thin kid, ok remember, or remember cause I have pictures? lol My sister has been fat since I can remember. My mom tried putting her on diets since she was little. I was rather insensitive about it, cause I was 10 and really, was rather addicted to the french fries at McDonald’s and I got mad at my mom, saying I couldn’t eat them because it was like she was using me as an example for my sister. I now understand that I shouldn’t have been eating french fries as a sole diet as a kid.

    I remember telling kids off who made fun of my sister for being fat. I was a real tomboy when I was young, and liked the Ninja Turtles alot. So I had a sort of, wannabe badass kind of attitude with other kids. It really was alot of talk. There also was an issue were some kids were making fun of her, or giving her trouble in high school. I probaly embarassed her by telling those guys off, but someone should tell them off.

    I don’t know how anyone female could survive schools these days, without getting an eating disorder, or a faux eating disorder. By that I mean, like a diet that comes very close to being calorie-counting and food obsessing like an eating disorder, but oh it’s not Anorexia it’s a diet.

    I feel kind of at a loss here, cause I really can’t recall having any bad experiences from being fat. I think I had more problems from being a Goth in high school. I feel my sister probaly did go through alot of things you all did, but she’s really sensitive about it. I mean, to where I’m not going to reveal her name, or suggest she post her. Since where I’m someone who finds relief in talking things out with people, she is the complete opposite.

    I really am angry that if my sister or I grew up today, we wouldn’t have had a chance to be who we are, cause of this obesity hysteria. I mean, ok when will school be about learning again. Not about political issues of social cliques, not about weight issues. About learning. It’s no wonder so many people who go to school to actually learn something, are bored out of their minds having to put up with this crap.

    I also want to mention that my dad had an episode where he went to the hospital for chronic low blood sugar. He went on a all vegetable diet. After the episode, he lost his ability to have short term memory. It’s just now, that with the help of medication, he’s starting to be like himself again. It’s one of the reasons I’ve really become involved in the size-accpetance movement. Since I know, if people didn’t hassle him so much about his size, he wouldn’t have gone on that crash diet.

  108. It’s scary how “fat” has become the primary indicator of someone’s health. It seems as though people are being encouraged to basically starve their children – at a time when they need nutrition the most – to keep them from being fat. And yet, at the same time, children have fewer chances to be active in a healthy way. Schools are cutting back on or eliminating recess for younger children, ditto for PE classes (however awful) for older children, sports teams are only open to those who can win, and there seems to be less of children just going out and running around the neighborhood. So the children who aren’t naturally thin or athletic are harassed to lose weight, but not given many options other than starvation.

  109. Mom was the tallest and therefore largest of her and her sisters, which apparently caused her grief as a kid, until she landed a local modeling job at 16… which shut up her mom and her sisters. Mom is now fat and my sis and I are ‘overweight’ by the holy scale of BMI.

    Growing up in Mom’s house ‘diet’ was a four letter word. Mom loves to cook and didn’t want to hear that we couldn’t eat cream sauce or potatoes or whatever else. She was great about 3 squares a day, and I don’t think that either sis or I have food issues… my cousins on the other hand have obsessed about food and diet since birth, I’m pretty sure.

    Mom lived by the idea of ‘live well, eat well’ We do, and don’t look back.

  110. “Damn, all these stories about family members trying to bribe little fat kids with promises of new clothes are killing me.”

    Thanks, Dorianne. Very good point, since we do this to OWN SELVES now, don’t we? We try to bribe ourselves. A commenter pointed out that they have finally cleaned out their “skinny” clothes and got clothes that fit them NOW. I am also about to do this, since I’ve found this blog.

    I still have a struggle with this because I can’t afford to buy much. But I’ve decided I’d rather have a small wardrobe of good fitting items than a large wardrobe that makes me feel shame and frustration because I either can’t wear it or I do wear it and I’m uncomfortable the whole time.

  111. But I’ve decided I’d rather have a small wardrobe of good fitting items than a large wardrobe that makes me feel shame and frustration because I either can’t wear it or I do wear it and I’m uncomfortable the whole time.

    I think it’ll be worth it, javamama. You’ll have fewer items in your closet, but those were the only items you were wearing anyway, right? It’s really liberating to rid yourself of the “skinny” clothes; you’ll be taking away a daily opportunity for self-shaming. And if you donate the clothes, you’ll be helping someone else who needs them. It’s a good move all around!

  112. I’m not a parent, but if I were, I think I would be in constant terror of all the messages we’re being bombarded with about fat.

    You can do your level best to help your kids learn how to love and accept themselves, but what if it’s all undone by the cruel, judgmental stuff they hear from everyone else? What if my own efforts as a parent aren’t enough?

  113. What if my own efforts as a parent aren’t enough?

    They won’t be. They come from you, but they are not you and in the end it will be up to them to make choices about what is presented to them. All you can do is give them the tools and your input and be supportive of them. Taking away Barbies, etc, is about as effective as being afraid of talking to kids about sex. They WILL see Barbie and if you don’t make a big deal of it, neither will they. I told my six year old that if she were real she couldn’t live and would snap in half. She told me, “Mom, I know she’s just a doll.”

  114. I read these threads and then remember high school and college — every girl I knew who had major food issues had a mother with major food issues. I’ve always been so grateful to my mother for not passing that on to me (I got a pathological fear of moths from her instead).

    One of my best friends, though, has the worst fat phobia I’ve ever run into. And she’s not fat by anyone’s definition. She was seriously underweight and pasty unhealthy all through college. She still fears cooking with more than the barest amount of oil “because she might get fat.” At a soiree in college that had THE best dessert buffets I’ve ever seen, she refused to go near them, despite being the biggest chocoholic I’ve ever met — definitely a fear of eating the world. We lived together briefly, and her constant policing of her food intake was scary. And she wears a size 6. Most of this goes back to ONE SINGLE COMMENT she overheard as a child. Her mom, who is also pathologically fat phobic and probably starving herself, was talking to her dad about a diet. Her dad told her mother that he wouldn’t love her if she got fat. Or maybe he didn’t say exactly that, but that’s what she heard. It still makes me sad, especially since I’d guess her set point is maybe 10 or 15 lbs above where she’s at, where she’d look healthy. But no, her doctor praised the fact that her hip bones stick out at her annual gyn exam, and she’s proud of it.

  115. Oh, wow. I’ve just found an answer to my question above about whether I should lose weight in order to increase our chances of conceiving in Junkfood Science. Yay!!! Thank you, JS.

    On the other hand, I’m now even more worried about how our children will be treated (and if we’ll be treated like abusive parents) from reading the articles about schools and doctors and the government montoring children’s weight, and doctors recommending WLS for five year olds. Ah well, win some, get beaten down emotionally by some.

  116. I suppose that I was “lucky” to be a skinny kid. Rail thin, in fact. And when the doctor told my mom that I was too skinny and needed to gain wait, she told him to buzz off, that I ate plenty. (Well, she said it more nicely than that, because buzz off is too close to swearing for my mom.) However, as a “normal”-sized teenager, she did manage to make me feel ashamed because I had breasts. And hips. I was in colorguard, and our uniforms consisted of unitards. I was self-conscious, not because I thought I was fat, but because I was a normal, paranoid, self-absorbed teenager who didn’t want people to look at her, especially if she had to wear a purple skin-tight crushed-velvet leotard. However, it didn’t help that my mom would come find me after ever performance and practically force me into our team sweats afterwards so that my “womanly figure” was hidden from view.

    Because of this I still have issues with showing cleavage, ever. Which is too bad, because I have fantastic cleavage.

  117. Oh, and after reading the heartbreaking comments about gym teachers, I had to give props to my ninth grade gym teacher. We of course had to do the Presidential Fitness Tests, because they were mandatory, but we just did them. No comments, nothing. We had a few units on skills – basketball skills, soccer, etc., and of course the mandatory sex ed unit. (We were all highly amused that he proudly announced his wife’s pregnancy on the day we covered contraception.) Other than that, we were allowed to do pretty much whatever we wanted, as long as we were moving. We could use the weight room, play soccer, basketball, touch football, run laps, even walk around the track while talking to your friends. And on top of that all, exercise was NEVER promoted for weight loss – it was all about feeling good and having more energy.

    We need more PE teachers like him.

  118. Actually, way back up there someone said that KH may not wish to parent but is doing a huge service to kids by supporting their parents, and I have to say that is true. This site is giving me the confidence to change doctors, with a pre-screening for HAES acceptance. It’s allowed me to put the fear that I have somehow broken my “solid” elder son down.

  119. My mother has always been on one diet or another and that fantastic learned behavior definitely wafted down the genetic line to me. My family is just large. What people used to defensively call “Big Boned”. Which is a fancy way to say, we’re fat!

    But that doesn’t stop the agony of growing up in such a fat-hating world. I was a size 10 in High School. 10. A size I would KILL to get to at this point and I wasn’t small enough. I was obese. I was the fat-girl. In gym class changing was always in the bathroom stall to forego hearing the embarrasing snickers.

    It takes a really strong spirit to suffer through the torment of snide comments from friends or fellow students…but the really hard part is trying to get over the “helpful” comments and advice from your parents who don’t want you to be fat and picked on (rather than just worrying about increasing my self esteem it was always talk about how to increase my thin-ness cause with “thin” of course comes “happy”….not that this ever seemed to be the case for my scrawny younger brother but anyways I digress…).

    I think the only advice I could say is what a lot of other fantastic people here have suggested and just raise any children (fat OR thin) with love and respect; teaching them that acceptance comes in all colors, genders, and sizes. OH and that if you’ve decided to take up a diet, your child does NOT have to join you!!!! It is not a fun bonding experience to stave in mother-daughter pairs. Its humiliating and painful.

  120. Thinking about this thread last night, I realized: this is where we get the Fantasy of Being Thin, or fillyjonk’s Fantasy of Having My Shit Together — here, in this toxic stew with promised rewards and bribes that were never made good, with punitive ‘remedial’ measures for perceived failures, and with the arbitrary denial of ordinary pleasures until we’ve fulfilled someone else’s wildly unrealistic expectations.

    I’m struck by how often we’ve been expected to become slim and fit in no time, as if all it would take would be a few games or a few laps to somehow magically transform our bodies. I’m also struck by the lack of any understanding that not all bodies are alike, and not all of them are equally suited to every physical activity. And I’m absolutely appalled by how often this same supposedly transformative physical activity is used as *punishment.* Not only that, but it’s so often track & field. That was true in my day too, but now I’m looking at it here, I’ve really got to ask — WTF? Why force kids who aren’t in good shape into so demanding a sport? Why not help us build up strength and stamina gradually, with activities we can enjoy even when we’re not good at them?

  121. You know what I just thought of as a solution for raising fat kids? This sounds totally insane, but take them to a really, really diverse school, or take them overseas.

    I went to an international school in Cairo, Egypt from second grade all the way until graduation. Kids were teased, yes, and there were usually a couple kids who got picked on in elementary school. But. The school was so diverse, with kids who didn’t speak English, kids who looked so much different from you, kids with totally different cultures who brought weird food from home, who had different clothes, who parents spoke a language you’d never heard before, that you just couldn’t get away with mocking people for being different for very long. People still self-segregated into groups of like people once you got to high school (e.g. the Egyptian kids, the white American, the Black American, the Koreans), but I never experienced anything like what has been talked about here.

    Most of the fat-is-bad feelings I had came from internally comparing myself to other kids, and from my dad constantly worrying about his weight and worrying about my weight. I was pretty much never teased, although to be fair, I wasn’t really fat as a kid, more so after I hit puberty. When everyone is different, fat isn’t that different.

    Also, if you don’t live in the United States (or Britain), people won’t be eating all that shit-ass processed food and junk food won’t be marketed to your kids like it’s the fucking holy grail.

    This sounds insane, but I am actually kind of serious about this. If I have kids, I will seriously consider raising them in an environment where they can go to an American/International school overseas.

  122. Ick. If you want to have an awkward life as a kid, try having a dad from a genetically fat family, and a mother who’s one of those people who can eat anything and remain under 100lb. See, in my mother’s eyes, my brother was ‘supposed’ to take after my dad – which he does – and I was ‘supposed’ to take after her. I also take after my dad. Trouble is, nobody taught this woman genetics, and she’s spent most of my life convinced I’m some kind of freak. I have sometimes felt like just coming out with ‘Look, if you wanted skinny kids why the hell did you marry a fat guy?!’ Seriously.

    The interesting thing is that when I was living at home, there were no diets as such, even though I was a fat kid, and getting teased about it at school, from age 7 or so. There was also, of course, no reassurance that she loved me as I was – I don’t think that concept exists in my mother’s universe. Please, please…who got this crazy idea that praising your kids makes them ‘spoilt’? Never praising your kids, and in particular, telling them how special and clever and pretty every other kid is compared to them, leaves them with years of self-esteem to attempt to drag out of the gutter. That would be the case for any kid, but it’s especially hard if you’re a fat kid, because after you fly the coop, most of the rest of the world is telling you they were right.

    What I did get was a bunch of nagging, and a lot of ‘advice’ on how to cover up any inch of bare flesh that I might be thinking of showing, and why I shouldn’t read because sitting down too much made me fat, and times at Sunday lunch when she’d actually reach over and remove potatoes from my plate – potatoes she’d put there when she dished up. It was only after I left home that I got suggestions I should actually diet. Odd pattern, but typical of other things – the way she ignored my ‘wonky teeth’ all the years she paid my dental bills, then started on about them after I was working. When it could be construed as her problem, she ignored it; when it was obviously mine, then she’d dig in.

    My dad, to his credit, didn’t give a hoot what I weighed or, a lot of the time, what I looked like generally – he’d only comment on what I wore in my teens if he thought I was dressing like a tart. (Which, being an old-fashioned dad, he often did, even thought most of what I wore was pretty tame.)

    I’ve had real issues over the past few years over whether or not I even want kids. I’m now pretty sure the answer is ‘no’, and there are a lot of factors to that, but the whole issue of whether I have too much baggage of my own to be able to successfully raise a child with a sense of confidcence and self-worth is somewhere in there. And I’m also a sufferer from depression, so that’s another thing.

    Having said that, I’m now psyching myself up to possibly stand up, in the future, for someone else in the family. I have a great-nephew, just over 18 months old. He’s my brother’s grandson, and he’s absolutely the dead spit of my dad. He’s adorable. And in the family tradition, he’s a very big kid. I’m afraid my mother has already made comments – out of earshot of my nephew, the kid’s dad, who’d probably strangle her if he heard some of it – about this ‘fat baby’. And I dread to think, with the way things are in the UK right now, what the little guy may be up against. I don’t see him very often, so it’s hard to do much except keep my eyes open. Thankfully, his parents are sensible, lovely people. But if I ever find out anyone in the family has been starving that kid, or telling him anything to make him feel bad about himself, it may well be the FA Aunt from Hell doing the strangling.

  123. I have two children. One is tall and rail thin. He has always, always been thin. I worried about it when he was a baby, but his weight was fine, he just kept getting longer! And he’s still at it. I kid you not, he grew almost an inch in one month. I know because at Thanksgiving he was shorter than I and by Christmas he was taller. He is 12 and thinks this is the best and funniest thing ever. He has his father’s genetic stamp all over him. He also has neurological issues and so is sensitive to the fact that everyone is different and everyone deserves to be dealt with according to who they are and how they act, not how they look or what makes them different. My favorite thing he says when teased is “Do you say stuff like that because you don’t get enough love at home?” and he’s totally sincere in his concern for them. Only once has he gotten really angry, and that scared the bully pretty badly because my son’s eyes just went dead as he screamed with very little inflection about how stupid it all was. (Was it about a girl? Why yes, yes it was…) The teasing has slowed down a bit since then. Go figure.

    My younger son is shorter and stockier. In fact, he’s me only small and male. He is far, far more active and athletic than his big brother. When he broke his leg rollerblading in gym class, he put on quite a bit of weight. I got all sorts of advice on how I should limit his food intake while he was recovering from a broken bone. Seriously? WTF??? He wasn’t eating any more than normal. In fact, his appetite fell off and I had to make sure he ate something on a regular basis.

    My MiL said she was “worried” about his weight when the kids visited her this summer. She made sure they walked every day and swam, etc. Mind you, they did all that every summer visit, but she pointed it out to show she was trying to make him better. I finally told her that I thought the activity was great, but to please not put it in those terms when talking to or around him because it made it sound like he was deficient for having put on weight during his recovery. Thank god I spent years training her to listen to me (if it had been my husband asking, she’d have blown it off). I told her it would work itself out. I still had to dissuade him from talking about or attempting dieting this Fall, though that could have come from classmates as much as from his grandma. I told him it would work itself out and that a diet is something one has (normal eating habits) not something one does (unnatural starvation). You know what? It’s working itself out! He doesn’t feel bad about himself or his body. He does keep getting taller, though I console myself that he’ll be at least 13 before he tops me.

    My husband and I work very hard to make sure our kids understand that what constitutes normal is a much wider range than what is projected on TV or in magazines. (No beauty or porn mags in this house, tyvm). Also that skin color, religion, family situation, weight, height, sexual orientation, choice of hobbies, etc. can be different and still perfectly normal. It probably helps that they’re boys so they get fewer messages about body and clothing at this early stage. God willing, we’ll have fostered enough confidence by the time they get the serious peer pressure about looks that they will be able to weather that without too much damage to their self-esteem.

  124. Actually, way back up there someone said that KH may not wish to parent but is doing a huge service to kids by supporting their parents

    Hear hear! I feel safer and readier in my parenting choices because of Kate’s, FJ’s and SM’s writing, and the contributions from all of the readers. I feel I have pointers to real data to research due to sites like JFS.

    A few months ago, I was miserable after the failure of yet another diet, and trying to psych myself up to trying bulimia. Luckily, I frightened myself and told my husband where my head was at, and he told me I had to find a way to start loving myself as I am, and not trying to torture myself to death. (Typing that I realise how f’ing lucky I am to have a great guy like that).

    I started looking at FA and I feel like without sites like this – and Kate’s balls-out, take no prisoners, humor – n – rage filled writing, I’d have perhaps lost hope and returned to the diet / fail existence. Or perhaps to bulimia. So, yes. This site, Junkfoodscience, pretty much anything in the Notes from the Fatosphere feed – I’d say that my family is directly and significantly happier because of this. If that ain’t bringing value to the lives of kids, I don’t know what is.

  125. My parents were a bizarre bundle of contradictions when it came to fat. They swallowed the whole “fat is bad, it will kill you” nonsense hook, line, and sinker, yet didn’t seem to care. So we ate crap, but always acknowledged how terrible it was. My parents also strongly believed in finishing food. If we were having pork chops, and everyone was full, but there was still a pork chop left? That bad boy was getting eaten. I have vivid memories of my mother being like, “C’mon, you eat it, someone has to,” and me saying, “But I’m not hungry,” and her sighing loudly and saying, “Fine, I guess I’ll eat it.” Young as I was, I can remember thinking, but why does someone have to eat it? What difference does it make?

    My favorite parental fat story, though, is more recent. In 2004, I had an emergency appendectomy on Christmas (awesomely, it turned out I didn’t even need it, but that’s a story for another time). My husband (then-boyfriend) was in the waiting room with my dad when the surgeon came out after the surgery. The surgeon told my dad that all had gone well, but suggested to my father that I should probably see an endocrinologist, because he was concerned about the fact that I had a ton of body/facial hair, and my fat was concentrated on my belly. The surgeon left, my dad turned to my boyfriend and snorted, “Endocrine problem, yeah right, her mom’s whole family claims they have one of those. The whole bunch of them just eat like pigs.” My husband told me the story later because he wanted me to go see an endocrinologist.

    Oh yeah, and it turns out? I have PCOS. Fuck you, Dad.

  126. re: clothes that fit…. I have always had this fantasy of producing a line of my favorite clothing. It consists mainly of flowy challis skirts with elastic waists and pockets – and either the ubiquitous “office T-shirt” or a loose pullover, depending on whether or not you want to showcase your curves. I live in this outfit, (or flat-front, side-zip, suedecloth pants), and the beauty of it is that you can go to work, out to dinner, to a cultural event, on a picnic or home to flop on the couch with equal comfort and at the end of the day you can wash and dry the whole thing at home.

    If only I didn’t have the costumer’s burn-out issues that keep me from going back to my sewing machine….

  127. Oh, and this is not fat related, but may help people who think “Fuck you, Dad” is a little harsh understand where I’m coming from.

    That Christmas morning, when I came downstairs (I was at my parents on a college break) and told my parents that I was in crippling pain and had been throwing up the entire night and felt like I was going to die and thought I need to go to the hospital, these were their responses:

    Dad: Can it wait until after your sisters open their presents?
    Mom: Can you drive yourself to the hospital?

    So my advice is: don’t be my parents

  128. Great topic, Kate.

    My dad still gives me a hard time for being big. he doesn’t know he’s doing it. Hell, *I* didn’t even clue in that he was doing it until a few years ago. He thinks he’s being supportive, but I can’t help noticing how many compliments I get from him when I’ve been dieting or going to the gym, compared to the zero I get when I’m not.

    My mom is obsessed with her weight. She’s thin now and has been for about five years. And yet, she’s currently going for hypnosis to lost weight. She’s one of those people who go on and on about how fat they are when they have no right to say they’re fat. It pisses me off. And it pisses me off that people take her money for things like hypnosis to lose weight when she doesn’t need to lose weight. So, the message I alwasy got (even though she didn’t say it) was that she must think if she thinks she’s fat, and that that’s really really bad, then she must think I am disgusting..

    I’m now a mother to a one year old who is probably going to be a big guy. He’s very tall for his age and his weight matches his height. People comment, all the time, on how BIG he is. This worries me. They might not mean “fat’, but that’s what I hear. This, of course, means I have to work on my own issues, but I also think that we need to make sure, at least within our own families, that there isn’t so much focus on size all the time. It doesn’t help that he has a cousin who is the opposite: very small for his age. Size is a constant topic of discussion, and they are constantly being compared, which isn’t good for either of them. He’s going to get enough crappy messages about size from society without having it be an ongoing topic within his family too.

  129. Thinking about this thread last night, I realized: this is where we get the Fantasy of Being Thin, or fillyjonk’s Fantasy of Having My Shit Together — here, in this toxic stew with promised rewards and bribes that were never made good, with punitive ‘remedial’ measures for perceived failures, and with the arbitrary denial of ordinary pleasures until we’ve fulfilled someone else’s wildly unrealistic expectations.

    NICE one.

    I hereby nominate Eucritta for this month’s Cognitive Meta-Lightbulb Award.

  130. I don’t plan to have kids, but yeah, I was Teh Fat Kid in my family. My younger brother is now 6’4″, and he can’t put on weight if he tries. He does try to eat nutritiously, he says, but in between that he ~lives~ on caffeine and sugar. At Easter he clears out the stores of Peeps. And he’s a human hoover — he eats three times what I do, if not more. Every time he came to visit Mom, he’d clear out her fridge; she said it was a great way to get rid of all the accumulated leftovers that she could never bear to throw away. He was always tall for his age and super-skinny, and he is a walking blast furnace. I can’t sit next to him in the summer because he radiates so dang much body heat.

    Me, I’m the exact opposite. My normal body temperature is 2 degrees below “normal”; 98.6 is a fever for me. I guess I started to get “pudgy” around… what… eight? Seven? Dunno. I remember the first “just a bit too loud” side comment to my mom from my grandma about that. I was always overweight (compared to “normal”) after that, but nothing horrendous….

    But how my parents (and grandparents etc) treated it was with constant shame and haranguing and pestering and “helpful observations.” My weight became the ~family~ obsession. (This despite the fact that I was a competition swimmer, and while not among the very best, was still top quarter to top third ranking. And later came marching band. Carrying a sousaphone. And bicycling everywhere, all the way up to college.)

    Result? Constant yo-yo dieting & starvation diets (thankfully I escaped anorexia and bulima, but I actually TRIED to develop those habits in my pre-teens) followed by the inevitable binging when I “slipped up,” and now I am well and truly fat. I’m living proof that constant yo-yo & starvation dieting resets your body’s base-weight ~up~wards instead of downwards.

    My family stock is split — some with my brother’s eternally-skinny build, some with the heftier farming stock of mine. Both sides of the family, too, and both genders.

    But seeing that the men could get away with whatever their build was, could enjoy their food, eat when they were hungry and stop when they weren’t, all that stuff…. I finally said screw it and went that way instead of the constant deprivation and anxiety of the wimmimfolk. Lived that for decades, just made things worse. Still dealing with eliminating a lifetime’s worth of mental/emotional brainwashing, but at least I’m enjoying my life a whole lot more than I used to.

    Don’t plan on ever having kids, but my latest shelter-adopted cat is a bit fat (she came that way) and now my vet is starting with the “comments.” LOL Never mind that my previous four cats were all normal to skinny wieghts.

    Goofy stuff.

  131. Late to the party here, but I’ve been noodling on this all day as the ideas here on this blog are mostly new to me and I’m still working through all of it in my mind.
    No women in my family are fashion-thin, but I’m the biggest of 4 sisters, tall like my father with a shape and weight-gain pattern exactly like my short mother. Especially compared with the horrible stories I’ve just heard, my parents were great about this – weight was never mentioned although my mother was pregnant a lot and dieted a lot. Now I have a 1 year old daughter and worry about not screwing her up with my issues.
    So…
    Someone else mentioned homeschooling and to me this is a perfect example of why I’m really leaning that direction (home/unschool). (Only speaking for myself and my own family here.) Not to hide a fat kid away from the world, but because I really want to reject the idea that a child HAS to deal with daily torment just BECAUSE. I wasn’t fat in elementary school, but was socially rejected for being a nerd or whatever else was “wrong” with me and school was awful. My mother tells me I cried every day after school for months starting in kindergarten. So, if I can socialize my child(ren) in ways that don’t mean being trapped for 6+ hours EVERY DAY with mean people who make you the object of their power trips and degrade your self-confidence for whatever twisted reason, then I really think I need to do it.
    Of course there are a lot of considerations that go into this, but to me this is a big one. I absolutely do not agree that, say, a fat kid needs to “learn to take it” as a CHILD ’cause the real world is going to hate them for being fat. In the real world, you can (mostly) choose your own surroundings and get away from people who make you feel bad. I will never forget the combination of feelings I always had about the social side of school (I rocked the academic side) – fear, resignation, hope/excitement at the new year that this year would be different, then the first incident that puts me back in my place.
    Sheesh, I’m breaking my own heart thinking about my 9-year old self! High school actually was great for me – I had a crowd of fellow nerds and a lot more confidence by then.

  132. re:bribing fat kids with clothes-

    Yeah, I got that a lot, but when it comes down to it, the UNIVERSE bribes fat women with new clothes. So it’s natural that parents/grands/total fucking strangers would do the same.

    Not RIGHT, mind you, but natural.

  133. littlem, thanks! I tried to think of something brilliant and witty to say, but this morning about all I can think about is, ‘ahhhh … coffee … cat on lap.’

  134. I was a fat kid and I’m still fat now. and I’ll probably die a old fat lady. As a fat kid, my parents dealt with weight differently. My dad was passive at best. He didn’t criticize but he didn’t stand up for me either. My mother would put me on diet after diet after diet until I was about sixteen. I started dieting at 6. She would tell me things like nobody loves a fat girl. You are going to die before you turn 10. (At the time I was only considered overwieght by the doctor.) She allowed my family and friends to tease me. Then she would say if you lose the weight, then they’d stop teasing you. It’s your own fault you’re getting teased. (Side note: Shame never works as a motivational tool. Instead of wanting to lose the weight, I just wanted to die and I tried a few times. The funny thing was that I never wanted to be thin, I liked my fat body. I just wanted the teasing to stop. I just didn’t want to be treated like a glutton monster. A regular hungry mungry. I was totally buying into the fantasy of being thin. I never got thin. Just occasionally less fat.) Then one day she stopped making me diet. .She got fat. She gave up. who knows? But the criticism did not until I turned 26. (I’m 26) But by that time the damage was already done. I never felt good enough. I never felt worthy of love or decent treatment. It has infected (and I do mean infected alot of my relationships.) I have a masters in library and information science but I couldn’t celebrate or enjoy my achievement because I failed where it counted for my mother. Do you know what my mom is the most proud of? My sister who lost 60 pounds and is thin now. (She’s 16) To be honest, I’m not completely over it all but thanks to this site and sites like this one, I am on my way to accepting my own body. (I already was accepting of the bodies of others) My mother and I are not close but we are working on that too. Sometimes she’ll strike a nerver, saying that I was too sensitive and it was my fault of I had those negative feelings. In part she is right. I am an adult and I don’t live with her and I don’t have to listend to what she says anymore. But how do you turn off the negatvie thought when it sounds like your mother’s voice? I’m working on it.

    Yet, I digress

    I don’t have any children but the only advice I could give is what I wish my mom would have done for me. Tell them that they are okay just the way they are. That you love them. That they are worthy of equal treatment. Treat them like a normal kid. Because they are normal. Stand up for your kid. Show them how to stand up for themselves. Show by example. Especially, if you are fat too. Be good to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Don’t talk negatively about your body around your chldren. Stand up for yourself. Kids pick up more than you think. My great gandmother loves to say that the world is against you and your baby. Be that safe haven for them. The world can be cold, mean, and cruel. Home shouldn’t be that way too.

  135. Risha, I am so glad that you checked Junkfood Science & got the right answer. Believe me, LOTS of fat women conceive & give birth with no problems & more than a few thin women are infertile. They try so hard to blame EVERYTHING on fat as a way to coerce us into buying the lies & the products. Good luck on conceiving, I wish you well.

    And you are right, cocoadahlia, the world is cold, mean, & cruel, & it really sucks when home is that way too. I got it everywhere, home, school, on the streets…for being a disabled geek, mildly plump, & not pretty, & mostly at home because my parents were incredibly messed up & abusive. It is a lousy way to grow up.

  136. I stumbled upon this site in the midst of hating myself for the way I’ve been treating my 11 year old daughter. I watch every bit of food that goes into her mouth and give her a nasty glare when I dissaprove. When I got pregnant with her, I was convinced I would have a boy because surely God would spare me the pain of raising a daughter with my “fat” genes. He didn’t, so I worked really hard to lose the weight after I got pregnant with her and got into a size 8 (from a 14) on ww. I even became a leader/evangelist for 5 years. Once I had the second and third children (boys), I regained all the weight I’d lost. When my daughter’s weight started creeping up, I blamed myself for not being a fit and healthy example, and have been trying to diet my way back ever since. It’s not working, BTW. My girl is an amazing kid, healthy and strong. She grapples in martial arts. She also has a belly, as do her dad and I. I’ve been the food police out of fear that she will go through the horrible torture I did in adolescence. In a weak, fearful moment, I told her there are no cute clothes over a certain size. I wanted to shoot myself. I love her so much and I don’t want her to be the basketcase I am, yet the childhood abuse is still so fresh in my mind. My therapist likened it to PTSD. I had a skinny sister with a sharp wit and a mean streak. She berated me for eating a cupcake and called me a fatso in front of my first boyfriend, and that was a “mild” incident. I had an abusive gym teacher who constantly embarrassed me in front of the class. There should be punishment for verbal abuse. I was so depressed and an insomniac by the age of 12. My parents told me I was beautiful, but my mom was constantly on a diet and calling herself fat. She thought all of her problems would be solved if she’d just lose 50 pounds, never recognizing the fact that she was beautiful, creative, intelligent as-is. When I told her how upset I was about what was happening in school, she told me she’d help me lose the weight.. We went on tons of diets together. All my friends were eating pizza and fast food and were thin, and the diet crap I had to eat was so gross. I remember at the age of 12 soaking a piece of diet bread in skim milk and trying to fry it in a non-stick pan and calling it french toast ,and when I was 15, I was on 800 calories a day! In between the diets, there was an overabundance of really good Italian food being shoved at me. Now, here I am thinking that the best thing I can do for my daughter is to lose 30 pounds as an shining example of healthy living???? I’ve even toyed with the idea of having her count points to get an idea of healthy diets and portions. How sick is that? And my once thin sister now alternates between starving and bingeing. My dad is having serious health issues because of obesity and he might need bariatric surgery, so health issues are scary to me too. My mom once said that if he had the surgery, she would want to gain enough weight so be a candidate so she could be thin too. Despite all of the insanity, it’s hard for me to let go of the idea that thin=love and thin=healthy, even though my heart tells me everything I’m reading on your site is true. I’ve done so many things right as a mom, but this is one thing I seem to be doing so very wrong, and I hate myself for it. I eat mostly healthy foods, occasionally stress eat, walk frequently, and am 5’9 and a size 14. My husband thinks I’m sexy (though I have a hard time believing him). Why can’t I just learn to be happy, enjoying life and food? Wouldn’t that be the example my daughter leads, instead of forever questing to fit into the size 8 jeans sitting in my closet? I hope it’s not too late to undo the damage I’ve done to my amazing little girl, and I hope I have the strength to unlearn all that was taught to me. Thank you all for your honesty, and I’ll keep reading.

  137. Pingback: She Looks Good…Hell, I Look Good Naked! « PhotoPhobic

  138. i was the thin one growing up most of the time, and my brother was the fat one most of the time. my dad has always been a bit of a fattie himself and has always been extremely insecure about it, and so, naturally, since HE was insecure about his weight, my brother MUST have been falling to pieces on the inside due to his. shoved diet books in his face, the whole house was on sugar/fat lockdown. my dad is the expert on all things weight loss, and don’t you forget it — he’s been dieting since the 1950s remember! one year my brother was put on an extreme crash diet so he could make weight for pee-wee football, and he did it, and you’d think he had won the junior heisman trophy for it. poor kid didn’t give a shit about what he looked like and to this day doesn’t, god bless his big rational head. i on the other hand had some sort of anxiety switch flipped in my brain and became hyper-aware of my own weight by around age 7. blew up into bulimia at 19. i untangled myself from that a bit over a year ago but i still struggle with bingeing. i’ve forgiven my father and grown up a lot, but you can be sure that the fear of passing this neurosis on to my future children is very present in my mind.

    PS: i gave up dieting a few days ago. this blog and the purring kitten in my lap at present are big helps. thank you : )

  139. Wow, kara — amazing post. Thanks for YOUR honesty. I already said it up there somewhere, but again, I really believe that the negative and sometimes cruel comments dished out by family members is rooted in the best of intentions. They know how tough and discriminating the world can be, and end up becoming exactly what they fear. My Dad says, “We’re all just trying to do our best. Sometimes our best really sucks, but it’s still our best.”

  140. I’ve been trying to read through these comments for days, what with the actual “parenting” interfering with my ability to do anything else.
    That said, I was a fat kid (just barely, now that I look at the pictures) and I have stories that mirror may of the comments here, with verbal abuse at school and at home and no relief in sight.
    I love my 3 year old — a strong, funny, affectionate, caring kid (did I mention imaginative and adorable and many other things) and parenting is still the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I worry about passing my neurosis on to my kid but I think that I’m doing a decent job of passing along love that’s a bit less conditional. I do have faith that the most important things to instill in my child are that good people come in many different packages, and that just because someone LOOKS good, it doesn’t mean they ARE good (or bad).
    I am really just absorbing all of this and it’s very relevant in my life right now, and trying to evict the inner harsh parent.

  141. I don’t have kids, but I was a fat kid – chubby from 7 onward, and by 7th grade, I wore a size 18. I weighed between 180 and 200 pounds in high school. After reading this thread, I can say that my parents weren’t either the best or the worst when it came to weight.

    My dad – and everyone else in his family – is fat. My mom’s thin, but thinks she’s fat because she’s pear shaped, like me. She hates her body. It took me a long time to really believe that it’s okay, or even attractive, to have a butt and hips. My mom is a intelligent, strong, and beautiful woman, but she never had a positive thing to say about herself. She was always on a diet, and she often asked me to diet with her, but I always declined. (Yes, thankfully, I was never forced to diet as a child.) My dad was much meaner to me about my weight. He’d occasionally make nasty comments about it, but he’s not the world’s nicest guy, so I took it with a grain of salt. My parents broke up when I was 11, and things were better when we weren’t living with dad anymore.

    I think that to some extent, I was off the hook with my parents because I was very healthy and physically active as a kid. I have a brother who’s thin. He’s 8 years younger than me, so we weren’t really compared to each other. He’s always been the more fragile one, health-wise. I was always the kid who acted older than her years, and seemed to be physically and emotionally indestructible. Also, I was very, very stubborn. My parents – or at least my mom – always treated me with respect.

    My parents never gave me the idea that my appearance was the most important thing about me. On the other hand, they reinforced to the anti-fat messages I was getting from outside. I was in my mid twenties before I realized that my body could be considered attractive, and that it wasn’t innately horrible and disgusting. I wasted what should have been the first ten years of my personal life thinking that no one worth having could possibly be interested in me. That pisses me off now, because I’m actually very good looking, and my body is well proportioned. Why couldn’t someone have told me that when I was younger, instead of making me feel like I was some kind of giant, deformed mutant? I hated my body So. Much. I remember being 9 or 10 and hitting my belly until it was red, thinking that if I didn’t somehow become thin, I’d never have a boyfriend.

    I got teased in school. Actually, I found school to be a painful experience in general. I was always bored, and I got into trouble. I wasn’t any good at giving the teachers what they were looking for. When I got bullied, I was told to ignore it – and it was treated as a problem with me rather than a problem with the bullies. (Apparently, I was “oversensitive.”) I was angry, restless, and depressed a lot of the time. I was an escapist reader. At my peak, I was reading a book a day. But, things got better as I got older, and the last couple of years of high school went well in a lot of ways.

    So, hum… lessons from my childhood.

    Things my parents did right:
    • Not trying to force me to diet.
    • Not acting like my appearance was the only thing about me that mattered.

    Things I wish they’d done:
    • I wish my mom hadn’t modeled so much body hatred
    • I wish my dad hadn’t been a jerk about my weight
    • I wish that we’d discussed the negative messages in the media and advertising.
    • I wish they’d tried to find a school where I could have been happier – where bullying wasn’t tolerated – or at least advocated for me a little.
    • I wish that I’d gotten even one unqualified compliment about my appearance from an adult. (it was always “You’d be so pretty if you lost weight”)
    • I wish that my parents had encouraged me to get involved in athletics for fun. They were very anti-jock.
    • I wish that they’d made an effort to help me look better at the weight I was. I had thick, ugly glasses, bad haircuts, and unfashionable clothes when I was growing up. To be fair, it was almost impossible to find fashionable plus-sized clothes in the ’80s, but still…

  142. First, I love to read these comments. It makes you realize you’re not alone.

    The one thing I remember about fat and growing up was my grandma/mom making comments on how I ‘had a butt’ or ‘had a tummy’ or was starting to get said butt/tummy or how said butt/tummy was growing. My aunt, who always was ‘the fat sister,’ made a really telling comment to me one day. She said ‘Mom(grandma) always feels like it’s her right to comment on our weights. I would never do that to (her daughter’s name) because I know how that feels. Even if she gained hundreds of pounds. I just keep telling her to be healthy.’ When my aunt says ‘be healthy’ she means the REAL definition of being healthy and not just being thin.

    My mom was the thinnest of her sister, and now, she is the one with more of the health problems. She has diabetes, so I did grow up in a house where we were ‘on a diet’ because my mom basically cut all sugar from her life after I was born – which was when she was diagnosed with diabetes. Most people think of diabetes as a ‘fat people disease,’ but my mom has shown me that the ‘thin person’ in the family can have this illness, too.

    In the end, it’s those little comments that can really hurt a person. As I’ve gotten older, I realize how all those ‘little things’ really have shaped me. Your kids DO remember the little things. The ‘big trauma’ experiences will be remembered, sure, but those little things that your kids experience daily will be what shapes your kids attitudes.

  143. My mom had been very accepting of my weight. She knew that I’ve had enough trouble dealing with fat-hatred outside the family so she never did make rude comments about my weight. She would always try to assure me that I look good even if I don’t and I appreciate how she tries to make me feel better about myself even when I look so bloated.

    Dad is less accepting but never downright rude about it either. He’d pass comments like “You’re getting fatter aren’t you?” but would usually stop there and nothing more.

    In all, I guess I should feel really lucky that I’m not subjected to a certain cruelty at home, despite my parents being really tiny in their younger years.

  144. The entirety of my childhood-memory landscape is littered with trenches and craters and shrapnel from years of physical, emotional, and verbal bullying and abuse from my mother. I can’t recall a time in my life where we’ve had what anyone could consider a normal and loving relationship or even what could be considered a normal conversation, unless it was in front of people outside of the family – keeping up appearances and avoiding ‘shame upon the family’ has always been of the most importance to her.

    I was just -barely- what anyone could consider chubby when I was a little girl. If anything, the body-shape of my prepubescent years wasn’t so much chubbiness as it was a foretelling of the saucy-luscious curves I’d be blessed with once I hit adolescence. However, kids are cruel, and if you’re different in any way, they’ll find whatever they can about you to tease and torment you about. I was very lightly chubby, the only brown kid (half Filipino, half white,) and in a couple of advanced classes (very smart and unashamed of it,) but I also had some pretty obvious emotional problems that I tried to hide – nobody ever found out about the abuse I was enduring at home, though, looking back, it was obvious there was something ‘off’ about me.) Plus, I had/have what was years later diagnosed as ADHD – something I didn’t know I had ’til four years ago. Because of all these things, I was teased relentlessly, to the point that I started having suicidal thoughts as early as the fourth grade. My mother also only bought me clothes off the cheapest of the clearance racks, and only the most unflattering sweatpants outfits, so the “You’re fat… AND you dress funny!” comments came fast and furious as well. Kids learn quickly, too, what affects the objects of their torment the most, and once they figured that cracks about my intelligence and color or how weird I was didn’t bother me, it was all about how fat I was, how ugly I was, etc.

    At home, I was told frequently how being a “mestiza” (mixed kid,) would easily find me a career as a singer, model, or actress in the Phillipines, because ‘everyone knows mestiza are the most beautiful’, but this life of prestige would only be available to me if I were skinny. “I’d buy you nice clothes, Kim Lee, if you would only lose weight.” It still surprises me to this day that I could more or less shrug off the intense beatings (for instance, she once held me down and tried to pull my teeth out with a pair of vice grip pliers to punish me for not brushing my teeth,) by just sort of detatching myself mentally and thinking of other stuff while it was happening, but I was more hurt by the things she’d -say- to me.

    As a teenager, I blossomed physically. I was a petite size ten with an hourglass figure, no longer tormented by my peers for my looks, and somehow managing to hide my depression and suicidal desires by faking an upbeat persona to the utmost and becoming a fairly promiscuous party-hard kind of girl. I hid my partying ways from my parents (my father did nothing to stop my mother, by the way,) and I hid my abuse and self-hate from my friends, and nobody, not anybody, knew who I really was.

    One may ask why my father did nothing to stop my mother’s abuse of me, and since I’ve already gone on so long and been so over-share-y already, I may as well blurt out all the ugliness – he was caught sexually abusing me when I was eleven. He’d been doing it off and on for three years at that point. My skill at dissociation was amazing at that point – he was my best friend and ally against the world during the day, and I only saw him as a ‘monster’ during the wee morning hours before school. (My mother worked a very early first-shift job, so it would happen after she’d gone to work already.) He’d always cry and apologize afterwards and say that it was because I was the only one who loved him, that he was so lonely, that he loved me too much. I never told on him because I was scared to my bones what my mother would do to me if she found out, and also I pitied him a little bit because he was abused by my mother physically and verbally as much as I was. After my mother caught him, the abuse from him stopped, but the beatings and verbal abuse from her increased a hundredfold. She blamed me for all of it, insisted that I instigated it, that I didn’t tell because I -wanted- it, etc. Even as an adult, before I finally cut off all contact with my family, whenever we’d have an argument she’d hiss, “Remember what you did to me, Kim Lee.” She never told the police because ‘she didn’t want to bring shame down upon her family,’ and she ‘wanted to be able to walk through town with her head held high, not ducked in shame because of what you did.’ I wasn’t even able to physically bring myself to even -speak- about it ’til I was sixteen; every time I tried to tell someone, my throat would literally constrict upon myself and I’d start to choke ’til the urge to confess finally passed. Instead, I’d lie in my room, cutting at myself with Exact-O blades on my arms, thighs, breasts, stomach, then after I bandaged myself up, I’d cry and eat the Hostess cupcakes I’d hidden in a secret stash in my room. After ‘the discovery’, I retreated further into myself, into my own mental escape place, just to survive; my mother made night and day a living hell for me…sometimes she’d come home and hiss in my ear, “I know what you said to him today; I know what you did; I’ve got tape recorders hidden all over this house and I have it ALL ON TAPE.” and I would be so scared that it was true that I’d huddle in the corner of my room in a panic with my heart beating rabbit-fast, even though I knew I hadn’t said a word to my father at all that day. (He was home a lot as he ran a lobster-trap-making business from the barn in our backyard.) It still amazes me that she could be such a terrifying presence in my life that what she put me through overshadows the sexual abuse I went through. It wasn’t ’til I finally managed to choke out, over the course of two hours one night, the circumstances of my childhood to my boyfriend at the time, that I started the healing process that I’m continuing even up to this day.

    …Fast-forward through the next several years as I got away from them and that house and started to rebuild my life…I met my husband when I was 19; by the time I was 21, we were married. My weight had already started to go up at that point. By our wedding day, I was up to a size 18 from the 10 of my early-to-mid teens – my mother, whom I was still in contact with at the time, would often lament longingly, “Kim Lee, remember how slim you were back in high school? Oh, I wish you were still like that!” to which I’d reply, “Actually, mother, all I remember was you telling me how much of a fat cow I was, and telling your friends in Tagalog that it was too bad I’m so ‘mataba’.”

    Due to whatever it is – likely a combo of genetics (my mother’s a size 3 and always has been, but my father is very pot-bellied and from good, hardy Maine fisherman stock,) and the medications I’m on to stabilise my ADHD and anxiety attacks, plus the Pill and the high blood pressure pill I’m on to combat the HBP caused by my other three meds, I’m now a size 20, and I love my looks and myself more now than I ever have in my life. I’ve been this size now for the past five or so years, and it’s not likely to change any time soon, and that’s fine by me. Despite my size acceptance, though, I’m still afraid as hell that my skinny-skinny six-year-old with the appetite of a baby elephant will one day wake up and be a ‘fat kid’ like I was, even though I wasn’t that fat of a kid. He has no chance of the at-home abuse I went through, but if he experiences the at-school bullying…I remember that hell all too well. My husband was a skinny kid and young adult, and now at 41, he’s average-sized; since our boy takes after his dad so much, it’s likely he’ll be like his father in that respect, too. Regardless of his size, though, we try to do our best to instill a healthy sense of self-esteem and confidence in our son. He’s such a ball of sunshine and love – he’s genuinely empathetic, he sees everyone as just friends waiting to happen, and even at six he’s still a snuggler. I find myself hoping so hard that the world, so often cruel, won’t crush that bright spirit out of him too easily or too early. Just yesterday, he was curled up on my lap, cuddling as I read him a story, and he spontaneously kissed the rising curve of my belly. “Mom, you know what I love about your tummy? It’s SO SOFT and NICE.” The other night, he caught me grumping at a WW commercial on TV, and asked why. “Because even though they’re not using these words exactly, what they’re saying -really- is that it’s not good to be big like Mommy, and that there’s something wrong with people my shape because we’re shaped like this. Like we can’t be pretty or nice or okay because of the way we’re shaped.” He looked shocked for a moment and then replied matter-of-factly, “But they’re wrong. Some people are just skinny, and some are…well…just MEDIUM like Daddy, and some people are just fat. There’s nothing wrong with them. Momma, you should call them and tell them to stop saying those things; it’s not nice at all!”

    …I get the feeling that he’s gonna be okay.

    (By the way, I just sat here for a few minutes debating whether to hit the “Submit Comment” button or not…there’s something about putting so much of my business all out on Front Street like that when it’s my very first comment, ever, that feels really gauche and embarrassing. But, well, it’s my story, and I refuse to be embarrassed by it anymore – it’s part of what shaped me into who I am, it’s part of what defines me, but -I- am not defined by IT. And so it goes, and so my comment stands.

  145. I think a lot of the weight and body issues that mother’s visit upon their kids stem from their difficulties with their own bodies. So, when I like you worry about having kids who will inherit my body types I tell myself that I am better educated about this than my mother was and that I will know the mistakes out there I should avoid.

    I am the fattest of my sisters, my eldest is very slim, my middle sister less so but still of a smaller build than me. And whilst my mother has never called me fat, would give my sisters hell for calling me fat if we were arguing, and I am sure would be incredibly angry at anyone else that tried it, my weight and my body type has always been an issue.

    This is something I’d never talk to anyone I knew about because I love my mother a lot, and I wouldn’t want others to think badly of her, especially as I am sure she did what she thought best. But, for as long as I can remember she has told me I need to get rid of my pudgy tummy, tried to get me to do sit ups everyday, everytime she reads an article about toning your tummy she pulls it out and gives it me. She tells me I am beautiful that ‘you could be a model’ but always with the proviso ‘if you got rid of your tummy’, ‘you’d be gorgeous if you were a couple of dress sizes smaller’ an so on.

    And I recognise it is society that has done this to her. No matter what I do I cannot convince her that anything but size 8-10 (UK sizes) are attractive to anyone.
    And if I try to call it on her, her response is ‘but it’s so unhealthy, it’s taking years off your life’. Which drives me crazy because she knows I’m healthy, I spend a lot of time cooking and making sure I eat lots of fresh fruit and veg, I row, so I train for that for about twenty hours a week (she was so disappointed when I took up rowing and actually put on weight and got bigger because I was putting on muscle).

    I know that sometimes she sees that it’s damaging me, but usually only when I actually breakdown and start sobbing and asking her ‘do you think I want to be like this?’ and even then I suspect that she is thinking ‘if only she was thin, she wouldn’t have to feel like this’

    It is only recently that I am starting to recognise that I’m not really some huge blubberous whale like the world would like me to believe. Yes, my bmi says that I am overweight, yes most people I know my age are thinner and take smaller clothes, but I eat well, I exercise, and perhaps I deserve to be happy whatever I do.

    Funnily enough the thing that made me realise this is a conversation with my mother when I asked her would she rather I were thin or that my eczema was better. For the record, I have really bad eczema, it is unsightly, it is pretty much constantly painful, it gets infected and makes me ill and on occasions has given my septicaemia and put me in hospital.
    My Mother would rather I was thin, and I had to admit to myself, so would I. Looking at this as a rational person, I realised this was crazy, absolutely and utterly insane. We both would rather I was ill than endure the horror of fat. What kind of world worked like this?

    And perhaps so were all those years of trying to starve myself then breaking down and binging, perhaps feeling I couldn’t buy a bikini, that I could never expose my mid-rift, that everything I bought had to be something that hid my belly, that no one would love me or find me attractive because they’d be too horrified by my stomach were crazy too.

    I wondered how far this game would work? Would people think it better I had one leg than be overweight, or blind, or have asthma, or have epilepsy. Is it better to be dead than fat?

    I know from my mother’s part it is because she herself carries extra weight on her stomach and has been taught to hate it. I really hope when I have kids I am able to stop myself falling into the same trap.

    *Also what drives me craziest is actually my grandma who never mentions weight, but goes on and on about how slim she was and how she had a 20″ waist and everyone said how gorgeous her figure was when she was young.

  146. I come from an insanely naturally slim family. My mother especially weighed something like 97 pounds (6 stone 13) before she had me, at 5 ft 2 inches tall, a size 6 (uk.) She was a strong, perfectly healthy gymnast. My dad was 126 pounds, (9 stone) and a 28 inch waist. 5 ft 6.

    I was the only child on my mother’s side who was overweight, there was only one other on my father’s side. However, my parents not once harassed me, or were cruel to me. My sports teachers were occasionally, but my parents never were. Mum encouraged me to be healthy so I took up gym and trampolining because she was a coach. It wasn’t in an effort to drop weight.

    I think it stems from my mother being bullied from a young age for being so slim. Her mother naturally had a 20 inch waist before having children, and my mother had exactly the same frame as her. She would constantly eat mass amounts of junk food because she was so bullied about being so thin. She would never ever gain a pound. Even at age 45, she is only 110 pounds, (7 stone 8) and a perfectly healthy size 10. I don’t think she ever wanted people to bully or harass me about my weight, because of her bad experience.

    I’m very lucky for having parents who love me for who I am and was.

  147. Perrin J., on January 3rd, 2008 at 4:09 pm Said:

    I’m not a parent, but if I were, I think I would be in constant terror of all the messages we’re being bombarded with about fat.

    You can do your level best to help your kids learn how to love and accept themselves, but what if it’s all undone by the cruel, judgmental stuff they hear from everyone else? What if my own efforts as a parent aren’t enough?

    This is exactly the fear that prompted me to post a comment to the previous topic – here.

    My children have access to a wide range of foods, including lots of fruits and veg and protein and carbs and fat and water and all the rest of it. We eat dessert every day. I like cake. They do the self-regulatory eating thing, and as far as I can tell it’s all good.

    The older one even thinks “fat” is a compliment, because it’s what I say to fat babies, and I love babies, whatever their shape.

    But there’s the whole rest of the world out there, and the stats for pre-teen anorexia are really frightening.

  148. I have 3 kids – one boy who even as a preschooler was clearly thin and athletically inclined, one boy who – even as a preschooler – clearly will be more qualified for defensive lineman than quarter back – and one beautiful, slightly pudgy, tween girl who is consistently poked fun at about her weight.

    I handle all three of them by reminding them of their intelligence, their integrity, the overwhelming love of their heavenly father, and their own individual talents. My dd is a fantastic – very enthusiastic – softball player, and although she is one of the biggest girls on her team – she fits in and feels comfortable as a part of the group. My thin son doesn’t think about his weight, loves his family, and loves what his body can do. So does my stockier son – he admires his strength, his overwhelming heart, and his dog headed determinedness to stick up for the underdog.

    I know weight will be an issue in their life – I only hope their life continues to be big enough to keep the relative insignificance of comparative thin ness (or fat ness) irrelevant by comparison.

    My husband has been fluffy his whole life – much like our youngest son. I developed my weight issues after marriage and children.. they are becoming much less of an issue every year, though, as my own life gets bigger and the size of my body becomes less important than its’ health, and what it can do.

  149. My parents both installed a fear of fat into me when I hit puberty (menstruating at 9 is so much fun, let me tell you) and they, along with everyone else, interpreted my gaining hips and boobs as my getting fat. Before that I was a skinny kid and weight was never mentioned directly to me, but I watched my mom yo-yo diet. When I was 8 she was fasting 2 days a week and yep, she did lose a lot of weight, but it scared the crap out of me that she was being rewarded socially by my father for not eating.

    Then at 14 she bought me a diet book, which recommended a serving size of 2 tablespoons of rice per meal. That stuck in my mind FOREVER because my best friend at school at the time was Japanese and when I announced the 2 tablespoons of rice rule to her she looked at me like I’d just sprouted a second head. But since my parents seemed to think that my starving myself was super cool and awesome I stuck with the plan and at one point was eating less than 800 calories a day. As a sporty active 15 year old. I spent a long time being hungry all the time and being really really angry that no one seemed to notice how miserable I was, they just kept remarking on how much prettier I was getting.

    The funny thing? At my heaviest in my teens I was a size 11. I actually got bigger, not smaller, as a result of the aformentioned starvation diet. And then as an adult I eventually went “screw calorie counting” and went back to eating like a horse and tons of meat and grown up portions of rice and lot of produce like I had as a kid and hey guess what irony? Ended up stabilising at size 6-8. So I’m here to say that yes, kids, diets actually do lead to weight gain in that your body seems to go “wait, wtf is going on here?”. And also make you really angry that the people who’re supposed to love and protect you seem to be quite happy to watch you make yourself miserable as long as the goal is to be “prettier”.

    So yeah, my parents basically did nothing right as far as not making me insane about weight. I think the best things you can do for your hypothetical kids are A. don’t act insane about food and weight in front of them, thus teaching them unhealthy attitudes and B. if they attempt to embark on some insane diet plan, tell them what a bad idea it is. Also if any of them are female and have the misfortune to hit puberty early let them know that boobs and hips are a natural part of being a woman, not a sign of impending fatness. Because seriously, that idea is so messed up, that female secondary sexual characteristics are intrinsically bad and alarming.

    Oh, and also not encouraging your kids to eat special “diet” foods would be awesome. Low fat cream cheese, cookies etc are full of wierd artificial ingredients and taste like a$$. I’d like to find whoever invented the idea that all food products should have a special alternate “diet” version and beat him up.

  150. I learned that I was fat while trying on a bathing suit at age 7, not because the salesperson said, “She’s fat, isn’t she?” but because my normally sarcastic, take-no-prisoners mother looked away in shame. I wish she had felt strong enough to tell that bitch off.

    I think sticking up for your kids- early, consistently and forcefully- goes a long way. If you are not yet able to accept your own body, I say FAKE IT. Pretend you are kate and let ‘em have it. Eventually, the attitude will sink in and do you some good too.

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