Allison Kimmey, an author, self-help speaker, and mother, has battled body dysmorphia since she was a teenager. Throughout her college years Allison was trapped in a bizarre cycle of overeating and excessively exercising causing her to gain, lose, and re-gain hundreds of pounds over a few years. “I would spend the next 10 years fluctuating from a size 4 to 18, gaining and losing hundreds of pounds and navigating my way out of the destructive thoughts and behaviors,” she said in a post on Instagram.
One day Allison’s daughter was angry and called her “fat” out of frustration. What Allison said next is absolutely perfect. She wrote,
My daughter called me fat today.
She was upset I made them get out of the pool and she told her brother that mama is fat.
I told her to meet me upstairs so we could chat.
Me: “what did you say about me?”
Her: “I said you were fat, mama, im sorry”
Me: “let’s talk about it. The truth is, I am not fat. No one IS fat. It’s not something you can BE. But I do HAVE fat. We ALL have fat. It protects our muscles and our bones and keeps our bodies going by providing us energy. Do you have fat?”
Her: “yes! I have some here on my tummy”
Me: “that’s right! So do I and so does your brother!”
Her brother: “I don’t have any fat, I’m the skinniest, I just have muscles”
Me: “actually everyone, every single person in the world has fat. But each of us has different amounts.”
Her brother: ” oh right! I have some to protect my big muscles! But you have more than me”
Me: “Yes, that’s true. Some people have a lot, and others don’t have very much. But that doesn’t mean that one person is better than the other, do you both understand?
Both: “yes, mama”
Me: “so can you repeat what I said”
Them: “yes! I shouldn’t say someone is fat because you can’t be just fat, but everyone HAS fat and it’s okay to have different fat”
Me: “exactly right!”
Them: “can we go back to the pool now?”
Each moment these topics come up, I have to choose how I’m going to handle them. Fat is not a bad word in our house. If I shame my children for saying it then I am proving that it is an insulting word and I continue the stigma that being fat is unworthy, gross, comical, and undesirable.
Since we don’t call people fat as an insult in my household, I have to assume she internalized this idea from somewhere or someone else.
Our children are fed ideas from every angle, you have to understand that that WILL happen: at a friends house whose parents have different values, watching a tv show or movie, overhearing someone at school- ideas about body image are already filtering through their minds.
It is our job to continue to be the loudest, most accepting, positive and CONSISTENT voice they hear. So that it can rise above the rest.
Just do you!