I grew up chunky. It was about fourth or fifth grade when my thighs were notably larger than my (fraternal twin) sister’s, along with a growing pot belly, and a rounder face. I remember thinking I felt like we were Timon & Pumba. I developed strange, secretive eating habits. I liked to eat things quickly; Jell-O pudding cups, those little clementine oranges, iced animal crackers. And I hid the wrappers! Like some sort of criminal on the run.
My weight became something I obsessed over once bullying became a prominent part of my life in middle school. I began to expect to be teased (on some level) daily, and some of the comments are drilled into my memory.
We’ve been wired to think fat = bad, and there have been so many articles, essays, and books published on the subject of fat shaming and why it’s terrible. But what about how to avoid putting on the weight in the first place? I know genetics play a role in our body fat percentage and our general build. But becoming overweight, or obese as a child has to be something we can avoid.
I think about my niece. It might be an easy task for her to put on weight if poor eating habits were to take hold, simply because of genetics. And I don’t want that for her! Not because I think being overweight is something that deserves our ridicule; but because it creates unnecessary hurdles in life.
Of course, then I start to think I wouldn’t take back any of those years I was made fun of. I don’t know if anyone will take this idea seriously; but it gave me a lot of character. I don’t know if I’d like the person I would’ve ended up being without the insults.
On the other hand, maybe I would really like the person I would’ve been. Maybe she’d be a little stronger, a little less inclined to compare herself, and a lot less concerned with how she was perceived physically.
So there’s my undecided verdict. I don’t want my niece (or a future daughter/son) to experience thinking less of themselves because they are overweight/obese. I want healthy shapes and healthy relationships with food and activity.
My niece said “Chocolate will give me a big belly.” and I felt sad because yes it will. But not if you have a good relationship with chocolate. I used to have a horrible relationship with it; it was my binge-y best friend.
And now, I’m comfortable holding hands with a square or two a day (and on days I’m feeling crazy, maybe a little more!)
So how do we nurture this concept in children?