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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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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!

Ann

Saturday 2nd of January 2021

I have had 3 kids in 5 years as well and my 5 year old said the same thing to me... got to love child honesty. It just creeps up when you add 5 here 10 there 5 again. At least you're husband is a real man, I have a man-child who doesn't get I made humans with my body. It's really ashame his mother never gave him what you gave your boys and he will probably end up alone.

Thank you for posting and the strength of your message!

David

Sunday 8th of March 2020

Might have all these looking-for-permission-to-stay-fat-women snowed but I don't believe for one second a Target cashier would risk her job by saying “How do you find the confidence to wear this? I could never let my flab hang out.” I don't care how "young" she is. Nice little addition (fabrication) to your story but it didn't happen.

Erin

Friday 9th of March 2018

Thank you so much for sharing your story.

I know this post is almost 2 years old...but it happened to me this AM. Just like you, my 5 yo told me that I have "a baby in my belly" and I am "fat". I was devastated. There was no malice in her words - it was simple and honest - just a descriptor. It made me ask - at what point does "fat" become a bad word? I told her that Mommy works very hard and that her words hurt my feelings. In hindsight, may be that wasn't the best response b/c she felt bad. That wasn't my intent.

I have struggled with my weight all my life. Last year, I made a fitness goal and have been doing awesome. I'm down 25 lb and really working out hard. Like you, I'm a size 14 and 5'9". So when my daughter said that - it crushed me. I cried and then I googled...and found this.

This article really hit home. Thank you for sharing. It takes a "village" to raise respectful, little humans. We are in this together.

Katie Reed

Saturday 24th of March 2018

My heart goes out to you, mama. It's hard, but that's why we talk to our kids about how everyone comes in different shapes and sizes, and our worth is not measured by our sizes. It's so hard to go through mentally and physically when you are "overweight." It's a constant effort for me to accept and love myself no matter what. I just had my fourth son a couple of months ago, so it's been a whole new process given my post-pregnancy body. But once again, I plan on just doing my best to be healthy and happy and teach my boys that we're all beautiful. <3 Much love to you!

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