My size 14 body was wrapped in a towel, drying off at the Rec Center locker room. I was minding my own business. Suddenly, a voice range out behind me. “I’m still fat. Just in case you wanted to know.”
I turned to see who was talking. A stranger. Not just that I didn’t know her; I’d never even seen her before. I would guess this thirty-something was a size 8 or 10. Why she was so distraught that she felt the need to tell a complete stranger she was “still fat”?
And what are we doing to women that they feel the need to talk about themselves this way?
I rarely hear men talk about being fat or ugly. In fact, it seems to me, that many men who are, well, to put it nicely, pudgy, believer they are fine representations of a man. The man who most women might feel is less than attractive often believes he’s a great catch for any woman.
Women, attractive women, thin women, average women, all seem to believe they are less than enough. “I’m still fat.” Why is that?
We live in a culture of prevalent airbrushed photos of women, not just in porn but in magazines at the checkout counter. We are bombarded with the lives and images of models and actresses who as Julia Roberts character says in Notting Hill have “been on a diet every day since I was nineteen, which basically means I’ve been hungry for a decade.”
We live in a world where Victoria’s Secret’s Bright Young Things line targets young girls with panties that say “Call me” on the crotch. And one where, as this Time magazine article says, Abercrombie & Fitch markets “overly revealing catalog images and thong underwear for children emblazoned with ‘Eye Candy’ and ‘Wink Wink.'”
When will we say, “Enough”? What will it take to rescue the next generation of women from feeling so bad about their bodies? (I’m pretty sure it’s too late for this one.)
Here are my suggestions:
- Don’t dress your little girls as sex objects (or as Celia Rivenbark’s book title so aptly puts it: Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank). This includes the overdone makeup for dance recitals and cheerleading squads.
- Parents (but especially dads), tell your daughter she’s beautiful, often, but be sure to also complement any signs of inner beauty she displays, such as compassion, kindness, strength, and self-discipline.
- Speak up when a store that caters to kids offers clothes that sexualize children. Create or sign a petition on change.org asking them to stop selling the items. (It seems to have worked for Victoria Secret’s Bright Young Things line, although they don’t admit that.)
- Women, stop complaining about your weight or looks in front of your kids, and don’t obsessively step on the scale. Concentrate on becoming fit and a confident woman of character. Learn to laugh; it will improve anyone’s looks instantly.
- Tell your friends they are beautiful, and again, point out strength of character, especially in front of your (and her) children.
- Don’t bug your daughters about their weight or allow teasing from siblings about their looks. Serve healthful meals and snacks and become an active family together to build physical strength and fitness.
What ideas do you have for helping the next generation escape “I’m still fat” self-loathing? I’d love to hear your ideas or what those of you parenting young children are currently doing to stave off the problem. Just give us your ideas in the comment section below.
5 thoughts on ““I’m Still Fat””
Good stuff here, Carol. It is so hard to fight this battle for yourself AND a daughter. Isabelle’s BMI (seriously, she’s 5?) is beyond the “normal” which her doctor says is fine for her build but she already warned us that we’d get a letter from the school nurse telling us our daughter was at risk for being overweight. “Put that in the circular file,” she said. The words we say are definitely important. I notice how much people tell Isabelle she looks so pretty or her dress is beautiful and I want to list all the other great things about her too. I think we’re doing okay but I do worry about when she goes to school. I’m learning to not use the word “fat” about myself. And we want to be active as a family. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Lisa, for your comments. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to raise a daughter in this climate. And you’ve reminded me of the importance of looking beyond the easy compliments on clothes and appearance when I talk to little girls (or boys).
I honestly hear that comment all the time in the locker room at the gym, from thin women to obviously overweight women. I’ve been fighting the battle of the bulge since I was in high school. It’s only now that I’m 38 that I can walk out of the house with confidence because I’ve lost weight and realized my true beauty really does come from God. In my 20s, I had zero self-confidence, and even though I knew in my head I’m beautiful, my heart didn’t believe me. And not only did I endure constant bullying from peers and family members, I also endured it from the medical community. It took me until I was 35 to find the right doctors to treat me for some of the underlying causes of why I gained weight (insulin resistance, poor food choices, etc.) I had spinal fusion surgery six months ago. I thank God every day for His hand of mercy in my life because he allowed me to continue recovering from it thanks to losing weight and eating better. I wish women would stop degrading themselves and realize that we’re created in God’s image and have a responsibility to care for our bodies, our minds, and our souls.
Candace, I am so thankful you’ve found some freedom from this trap. It’s very difficult in our culture. Continue to cling to the truth that you are beautiful in Christ. Thanks for commenting!
Thanks! I’m glad I got out of the trap, too. Ironically, I had a doctor appointment today, and the doctor I saw was dumbfounded that I lost weight the hard way (eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and exercising 3 to 4 times a week.) That just makes me more determined to treat my body the right way like the temple God created me to be.