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What I Learned When My Five Year Old Called Me Fat

What I Learned When My Five Year Old Called Me Fat

When I look into a mirror, I think I look okay. I know I’m overweight, and I know I have a “mom bod.” But my husband never complains – he just tells me I’m beautiful no matter what. But every once in a while my confidence takes a hit, and I have to remind myself that my size is not my worth. My body does not define what I can do or who I am. The other night, I was sent reeling by a comment from my five year old, Dexter.

I had just got out of the bath and was in my pajamas. Being honest, they were fairly tight, and I knew they weren’t anything I’d want to be wearing in public, but as it was near enough bed time, I had slipped them on anyway. We’d just put the baby down, and I was tucking Dexter and his three year old brother, Daniel to bed. As I bet over to kiss his forehead, Dexter started laughing. I asked him what was so funny. He said, “Mommy you look like you’re having a BABY!”

“What?” I exclaimed.

“Don’t worry. It’s just ’cause your belly is so FAT!”

As you can imagine, it wasn’t a great thing to hear just before bed, but as I finished tucking him in, my mind was racing.

Yes, I’m overweight. I am even what you call fat. Three kids in four years took its toll on my body, and a whole host of health issues in the last year meant I put on a ton of weight. Last week I was in the hospital having an iron infusion because my anemia was so severe. I’ve had no energy for months, I can barely breathe and I am dealing with severe tachycardia (fast heart rate) whenever I do anything. So the pounds have piled on, and I’ve not paid much attention.

But just because I don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

As the mom of three boys, I’ve realized that it is up to me what kind of men they turn out to be. Will they be the kind of guys who call an impressionable classmate fat because she still has some of her baby weight? Will they be the kind of guys who won’t look at the overweight cheerleader because they’re afraid what their friends will say? Are they going to grow up believing that what they see in magazines is real?

Not if I can help it.

In an effort to make a point, I bundled the kids in the car and drove to Target on a mission to buy a bikini. I searched the racks for an XL, and I even let Dexter help me decide which one to get. He was really enthusiastic about a rainbow colored bikini, so that’s what we went with. We headed for the checkout with a big smile.

The young checkout girl rang us up, looked at me in wonder and said, “How do you find the confidence to wear this? I could never let my flab hang out.”

I just kind of looked at her. I don’t think she meant to be mean, but I was definitely thrown. I realized pretty quickly that she was not insulting me, but rather sharing her own insecurity about her body. In the end, I just kind of smiled and said, “I’m teaching my three boys that women are beautiful no matter their size, and I don’t want them to think it’s funny or weird or unnatural to see a woman in a bikini at any age or weight.”

She smiled and said, “Awesome.”

I headed home with every intention of putting that bikini on and going outside. I pulled it out of the bag, I took off the tags… and I stared. No way was I going to look good in this. It was too skimpy. I should have gone to a plus sized store that would have given me better options to hide my stomach. The sales girl was right – I could never let my flab hang out…

I put it away and went back downstairs.

My kids were in their swimsuits, ready to go outside. I told them to go out and play by themselves… mommy was going to stay in.

Immediately the questions started coming – “Why, mommy? Where’s your swimsuit, mommy? Will you please come and play with us, mommy?”

And I thought, What the hell am I waiting for? I’m in my own backyard. There’s a fence all around. No one but my kids can see me. Go put on your bikini, lady!

So I did.

And I handed my kids my camera and had them take photos.

There is a real need for better body image for moms and women everywhere.

I look good, right?? This is how I thought I looked. I had curves and a banging body. Overweight, yes, but not too bad. But alas, the reality was actually this:

There is a real need for better body image for moms and women everywhere.

Yep. The reality hit hard. I wanted to cry. I wanted to delete the photos. I wanted to put on a cover up and run back inside. Most of all, I wanted not to care. I wanted not to worry about how I looked and focus instead on how I felt. Because the truth is that it was a HOT day – over 100 degrees – and I wanted to run through the sprinkler with my kids. I wanted to be silly. I wanted to lay out in the sunshine and get a little Vitamin D. I wanted to relax.

But I was at war with myself. I saw only my cellulite, my lumps and bumps, my body that was so far removed from what I thought it was.

There is a real need for better body image for moms and women everywhere.

My reality vs what I THINK I should look like.

There is a real need for better body image for moms and women everywhere.

Doing some photoshop surgery on myself. If only life were that simple.

I had so many negative words going through my mind – Fat, Ugly, Gross, Disgusting, Fat, Fat FAT. But I knew this was an opportunity for teaching. I knew that how I acted now would be how my kids learned what is normal.

I am a size 14 (yes, I know some will say I’m way bigger, but I assure you I fit in a 14 from most stores) and 5’8. I am 190 lbs, which I hate admitting, but it’s the truth. I am not currently happy with my size and weight, and I hope to lose some of it once my health issues are sorted. It won’t be easy – I am lazy in many ways, another trait I want to work on for the sake of my kids. But I will work toward a goal so that I feel better about myself.

But in the meantime, I want to celebrate my body for what it is NOW. It has done more than I ever thought it could. It has seen me through 34 years, three kids and two marriages.

Ladies, I GREW HUMANS! From SCRATCH!

So while I know that I need to lose some weight to better my health, I am going to work very hard to remember that this is the body I have. It’s a miracle. It’s beautiful. And it is the example for my boys of what one version of a “real woman” is.

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Anonymous

Thursday 17th of March 2022

Thank you for sharing. Funny but not really, my 5 year old son called me fat too and to cope I went looking for articles and came across yours. Similar to you I have had 3 children in the span of 4 year. I don’t have medical issues but I’m a full time worker and go to school. When he called me fat I really tried to brush it off but then he said it again to his father who laughed. That made me upset and sad. My body went through a lot of ups and downs these past few years and I’m taking my time to lose weight. I’m going at my pace and I’m going to incorporate some of your strategies because I want my son to be respectful regardless of someone’s weight. Thanks for sharing. Sending you positive vibes!

Katie Reed

Monday 21st of March 2022

I'm so sorry you aren't getting the support you need at home, but please know that you are doing the right thing in taking your time and going at your own pace. You are not obligated to look any certain way, and your body has performed miracles. It's going to take a hit! Since I published this article, I've actually gone on to have ANOTHER baby (he's four now!), and while I still wear the same size, my body is definitely much bigger than before. My belly is just... squishy. But my four year old is OBSESSED with it. He never calls me fat, but he constantly tells me "I LOVE your big belly, mommy!" He rubs it and kisses it, and it's cute and only mildly offensive. Haha. But he thinks of it as his safe place. Mom's warm soft belly where he can always come cuddle and find the love he seeks. Anyway... my point is that while I am still working to lose weight and change my body, I know it's never going to be perfect. I have realistic expectations that I will hopefully one day get back to a point where I can feel confident enough to just be out with my kiddos without feeling self conscious. And making sure that my four boys know that all bodies are beautiful and strong and imperfect and amazing. <3 Sending you lots of love, mama.

Courtney

Tuesday 1st of March 2022

I want to thank you for writing this. My four year old daughter asked me why her mommy has a fat belly and other mommies don't. I wanted to cry and had the same conversation you describe in my head. I tell her mommy is working on it and that everyone is different.

Your words really hit home. Thank you for taking the time to show I am not alone.

Rico

Thursday 10th of February 2022

Don't take it personal. Kids being kids, and they...say the...well, you know how the saying goes. And besides, there's always someone (looks like you already found him!)

And honestly, I think you're hot too.

Mandy

Saturday 24th of April 2021

I know this is a few years old, but it’s exactly what I needed to read tonight. I put on 15lbs recently and my 5 year old wasn’t afraid to let me know it! Thanks for making me feel human. And not body shamed as most would do. I love the raw perspective, but some times it’s hard to take.

Cara

Wednesday 24th of March 2021

Thanks so much for sharing this. I can relate to what you said on every level. I want to get healthy, but it doesn't help to berate myself in the meantime. Way to go mama!

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