Being fat

What must it be like for a child who’s parent is constantly grumbling about being fat?   I hadn’t really thought about it before this week.

I do a lot of reading on the internet. In fact the vast majority of my reading I do online. Downloaded books, magazines I subscribe too, even my daily edition of the Times, all delivered to my Nexus. It is rare, therefore, that I read something that makes me sit up and think, and then burst into tears.

Yesterday, however, I did just that.

Over a blog post that was linked to in a Tweet.  Written by somebody I have never heard of before.   Do go and read it but please come back.  I will wait for you:  When your mother says she is fat

Now this is not an article I empathise with because it was my childhood, far from it.  My mum has an enviable figure (she doesn’t stand still long enough for fat to stick to her) so it is not how I feel about my mum.   But I can imagine my children thinking it.  And I can see many other people saying it of their own mothers.   I can see my own children having written it.  And that makes me desperately sad.

It is a truly powerful post.

I wish Samantha Brick could read it.   Especially this bit:

I learned that women must be thin to be valid and worthy. Girls must go without because their greatest contribution to the world is their physical beauty

When did that happen?  When did we start judging people so heavily on their appearance?  And when did we start hating ourselves so much?

I ran a bit of a “no scientific basis” experiment yesterday by asking friends to describe first of all, themselves in one word.   There were many adjectives used, including:

busy / content / talkative / complicated / stressed / mum / underestimated / knackered / forgetful / worthless / unstable / chunky / needy / useless / stressy.

Then I asked that group of friends to describe one other friend in a single word:

feisty / reassuring / gorgeous / talented / huggable / fun / lovely / strong / kind / awesome / clever / supportive / caring / epic / inspiring / warm.

Not one negative in that second list.  Not one of those words referring to body shape.   Why is that?

Why are we so quick to highlight the negative in ourselves when that is just not how others see us?

As parents what does this say to our children when we use such negative terms towards ourselves, even if in a jokey way.   I often joke about being fat.

Not anymore.



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  • Ooo I love this. When I was a child growing up being ‘fat’ or having BO or nits were the 3 things that I often saw others – from primary school to secondary school – teasing others about. And I really think that is an essential stage in life that we need to be looking at and helping work on. I’d like to think times have changed but I suspect they haven’t that much.

    The worse thing was the secondary school I went to was an all girls school… girls being girls, the bitchiness of the ‘mean girls’ the plight of those ‘not popular’. I would love to report that the mean girls ended up in shit jobs whilst the downtrodden used their negative experiences to rise from the ashes and do well but for my class, most of who I now follow on Facebook, it seems like the mean girls have done very well and the downtrodden are still, well downtrodden.

    Hopefully an older generation can now help a younger generation to see just how much impact throw away comments and taunts can have x

    Sorry I have gone off on a real tangent!

    • You hit the nail on the downtrodden still downtrodden head, there Annie. I think in some ways the downtrodden may accept their fate to a certain extent. Feelign hopeless, can’t get out, well I must be worthless. And so it continues. It is incredibly hard to get out of that mindset if your family, friends and society are reinforcing that image.

      We all need to start being more positive. Finding the positive in other people. Not constantly belittling or finding the negative. Being supportive of ourselves and saying “do you know what, I am fucking awesome”.

      God knows some days if we dont say it to ourselves nobody else will

  • I read somewhere recently that we shouldn’t tell our children that they are beautiful because it places so much emphasis on looks but why shouldn’t we tell our children, our friends, our family that they are beautiful? It seems that no one is ever happy with how they look and the image they hold of themselves is never the one that other people see. Thanks for this T! xx

    • I read that and wanted to murder the government minister who said it. A) don’t tell me what to say to my children. and B) don’t tell me what to say to my children.

      There is not enough telling people they are beautiful in this country. Maybe if there was we wouldn’t be so negative towards ourselves.

  • What I find the most difficult, is when those words you use to describe yourself, are then echoed by your closest family. In those times it’s so hard to think, “Actually, sod them, look at everything that I do in a day, then tell me I just sit on my bum!”

    • Yes. I can imagine that is incredibly hard. Or when your family just say nothing at all. Silence can be as equally reinforcing of your negative mindset. “well if i was great, they would tell me I am great. They don’t so I can’t be”. It just perpetuates the self loathing.

      But I know you are fabulous. I only hang out with fabulous people.

  • I can’t take a compliment without saying something negative about myself. I am overweight, I detest my smile cos of the state of my teeth. I have days where the thought of going anywhere makes me sob. Yet, to most people that know me, none realise this. I put on a massive “big girl, big personality” front and hope no one discovers the truth.

    • Sending you hugs, I am exactly the same, we must start telling ourselves we are amazing people x

    • And do you know what…. I could have written that comment. We need to start seeing ourselves as others see us. And putting on our big girl pants more often

  • We rarely speak about weight in our house, we are who we are and I will not have my daughter growing up with an obsession about it, I frequently tell her she is beautiful because she is in my eyes and many others, she came home one day really upset, about 13 at the time after someone told she was fat, I told her she was just jealous at the beautiful figure she had, I have a photograph of her and my god that girl has an amazing figure nothing fat about it, infact I’m envious because I am large and always have been.

    People should taking more notice of the saying if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say it and even moreso have respect for other people x

  • I love this, especially the words used to describe a friend, amazing what others can see in us that we are blind to.

  • I too read this article yesterday and it really resonated with me. My family are TERRIBLE for this. My mum has yo-yo dieted all her life and is never happy with her weight, even my nan in her late 70’s put herself down for her weight and does weight watchers!

    I am determined not to ever let my girls see me putting weight on how I / they look (even if I sometimes feel pants in private). I need to be a confident mummy who is happy with herself if they are going to do the same.

    I’ll definitely be having words with family about how they talk about weight in front of my kids too if it comes to it. I commented on my baby’s lovely chubbly thighs the other day and someone told me not to worry ‘she’ll slim out eventually’! And when my toddler was tucking into dinner a few weeks ago I was told that I’d need to make sure she exercised in future if she eats like that. She’s not even 2.

    I’m all for healthy body image – pass the cake!! L x

    • Not even two and noticing and commenting on food intake in your child? They need a slap.

      But indeed, pass that cake!

      • Its crazy – she’s a tiny little thing too and was tucking into a healthy dinner, not like was letting her eat 12 bags of crisps in a row or anything!

        Hate to think what people will be like when my kids get to an age where they notice comments like that. L x

  • I am soooo with you on this. I believe we can totally be ‘fat’, but amazingly beautiful.

    You know how I’m writing a book about losing weight – the problem is that I don’t agree with talking about losing weight – this is a quandary! I believe in being Healthy, Fit, Strong and Sexy.

    I just hope that more people read your blog than read all the rubbish out there about being skinny!

    • What a brilliant book to be writing!!!

      Diets make you fat. I am all for being healthy. both in body and in mind!

      Can’t wait to read your book

  • I’m a nightmare for being self-deprecating – it’s my defense mechanism against others criticism but mostly happens because I’m so goddamn critical of myself. Husband is always telling me not to say such things in front of Sausage and I always brush it off, thinking I know best, but I think I need to make a lot more of an effort to not let MY issues affect her.

    As a side-note, I was talking to Husband the other day about two things that I remember vividly from my childhood – one is watching my Mum, laying on the floor with a bootlace through the zip of her Levis to help her pull it up, they were that skintight. Another is going with her and my aunt on a Saturday morning to a dodgy clinic in deepest, darkest Essex which prescribed diet pills (you know, the old ones made entirely of amphetamines, not the fat-binding ones we have these days) to anyone who wanted them.

    Make of that what you will…

    • And you vividly remember those images. We do these things and think they are “normal” that is just us being us. That it’s not really significant. And then we realise that they are.

  • I have not always been “fat”, but since my early twenties I have been “fat”. Wait. Lets call it what it really is in my case “obese”. In all honesty, it’s not me being negative about myself, it’s a medical fact. For my height, my weight is not in proportion and I am, medically speaking, obese.
    Did it bother me then? Hell yes! I was the “fat” one amongst friends and siblings.
    Does it bother me now? No.
    I’m healthy, confident AND I’ve just had a baby.
    I read a blog post written by Brittany Gibbons a US blogger, who started the Curvy Girl Guide.
    She made me realise you need to own your body.
    Love yourself with what you’ve got.
    I tried diets, exercise etc. nothing shifted the weight.
    I ate healthily, not excessively, did moderate exercise and the pounds didnt “melt” away. In fact they stayed with me no matter what.
    The ONLY time I ever lost weight was when I was very sick or pregnant.
    In fact before I got pregnant I was at my heaviest in 5 years. A week after giving birth I was 2 stone lighter, the lightest I’ve been in 8 years. Just before the birth of my baby I was the lightest I’d been in 5 years.

    Technically I am obese, fat in the eyes of others. But it doesn’t bother me. I am healthy, I am happy, I am a confident young woman who occasionally has a rant about not being able to find jeans that fit in the waist AND leg, or comfortable affordable bras, but none the less, I am me and I am comfortable with the skin I live in.

    I don’t use the term negatively, it is what it is. If others want to call me fat, then let them, I’m comfortable enough with who I am that it’s water off a ducks back.

    ( apologies this is turning into an essay!)

    I firmly believe that my body shape is not going to change, so I work with what ive got and I have learned to live with it.

    I think people need to look beyond theor negatives and try to concentrate on their positives.
    It’s hard but not impossible!

  • I read that post yesterday, and like you, had tears in my eyes at the end of it. Not because of how I remember growing up, but because I’m almost positive I’m doing that to my daughter and I hate myself for it.

    I’ve made a conscious decision to pack it in and every time I catch myself starting to think it, I have to stop. Hopefully I’ll learn & hopefully my daughter will realise how wonderful she, and other women are, regardless of shape and size.

  • The one thing I cannot stand is people who will always look for the negative in others and taunt them, it drives me nuts so consequently I always look for a positive in people and I think if everyone was to do that the world would be a much better place but some kids aren’t loved at home and their frustration turns into dagger remarks in the playground – it’s what they’re learning to survive. They think it makes them look cool.

    So what do we do as parents? Teach our children to look the other way? Sticks and stones?

    Sadly there will always be someone out there who is bitter and this makes everyone defensive.

    I am far too self deprecating in as much as ‘if I say it first others can’t so I won’t be upset’ and it’s a ‘survival tactic’ that goes far too deep and that my children will probably learn from me too
    Let’s all be nice <3

  • It is a powerful post you’ve linked to Mummy B, but my mother had issues, my nan had issues, I learnt to be the same.

    As a child/teen I developed eating disorders, bulimia in fact. Mum’s response? Take me to slimming world/Weight watchers to “learn” how to cope better. Erm, thanks?!?

    I am a slave to my appearance, and people DO judge you. I have to have my make up, even this morning, where I had already overslept badly, I couldn’t leave without the paint. I can leave in scruffy clothes, or with unbrushed hair, but not the paint.

    The times I’ve not put make up on I get treated very differently. If I go in to shops without my make up I’m judged as a thief, a shoplifter, maybe a druggie. The problem is everything bruises or scars me. and I still get acne, my face is patchy, scarred and multi-coloured. I wish people wouldn’t judge, but they DO. Same shop, with make up i’m treated fairly, a few days later, noo make up, security follow me about the shop. I’ve actually tried this in a few shops, and my blokey agrees they ARE treating me different based on appearances. And that sucks Ar$e to be honest.

    • It does suck. Big time.

      You are you. And you know how brave I think you are and what an epic human being

  • Thank for writing this and linking to that blog. One of my most vivid memories from early childhood is my mother asking “You’d love me even more if I was thin wouldn’t you?” and me innocently replying “No Mummy, I like you being cuddly”. This made my mum quite cross.

    I have grown up with an extremely critical view of my appearance and have recently been advised that I have binge eating disorder. I am absolutely bloody determined that my children will not grow up feeling the same way and so I am careful to always appear body-confident around them.

  • What a vital post. Totally agree with you and really hit a nerve. I try to never be negative or focus on body image infront of my kids (however I’m feeling and I am currently trying to get my pre body back). I do think the formative years as youngsters makes a huge impact on us as adults. I like Annie went to a horrendously bitchy all girls school and sadly comments stick.

    It takes a lot of relearning and new positive attitudes to gain self respect.

    I do think schools/teachers need to play a bigger part in body image and we as parents have a responsibility too. I do think it’s a very British thing not to compliment others, I personally don’t find these among my Greek friends although realise that’s a huge generalisation, just talking generally! We need to be kinder to ourselves and others. I think you’re beautiful and I know your kids will think that too x

  • Child of the eighties therefore child of mother-on-perpetual-diet. The G-Plan the Y-plan, the F–plan. I can’t remember now. But when I found I was carrying a daughter I asked both weight-obsessed grannies to refrain from using the F word as descriptive o to obsess in front of my daughter. A pointless exercise, as it turned out, because she brought the word home, and says things like : if you eat another biscuit you will be fat.


    How do I get them through the tricky teenage years so that they emerge as unscathed as possible and have confidence in themselves?

    All I can do is tell them I love them, that I am proud of them. And try very hard not to put myself down- or let anyone else for that matter- in front of them. And hope that it’s enough.

    • Its more than enough. That is what I am doing with my own teens. tellingn them they are beautiful and that they can do anything. If they hear it often enough they might just start to believe in themselves.

  • I loved your post. I agree with every word. I have 2 boys that I found myself explaining to that diests are “women things”, there by condemning them to believe that every woman should be or is on a diet…
    I just (coincidently) wrote about my journey to non-fat-land on my blog last week, and the thing I found during my journey is that it really doesn’t matter, because when you spend your whole life thinking there is something wrong with the way you are built (or in my case – I was built fine, I just didn’t use it correctly and git fat), or that whenever you see your mum (no matter if you are a size 16 or 8 at that moment) she pats you on your stomach and says, yeah you still need to work on that a bit… When you spend you life like that, even if you do work, even if you do diet and exercise and deny yourself and reach that coveted size 8, you are still too damaged, your body confidence is too far gone, and when you look in the mirror you see that same fat person you were before…
    God I hope I haven’t scarred my boys for life…

  • Your post went straight to my heart. I say it so often. Even yesterday I sad to my 4 year old “I’m fat” and she said…”You’re not fat mummy”. But after a few minutes she looked at me and said….”are you fat mummy?” To which I didn’t really know what to answer.
    I cuddled her and realised that I shouldn’t say things like this. I should be proud of me no matter how I look if I wan my daughters to be proud of themselves.
    So now while I’m trying to lose my extra kilos I will stop saying negative things in front of my daughter.
    Thank you or writing this post. Xxx

  • Great post! I think the best we can do as parents is teach our boys to respect women and help our girls be as confident as possible in their own skin. That’s a winning combo surely?

  • My friend did her dissertation at Uni on body image and it’s not just girls that suffer. Boys are less likely to talk to a friend about it either. The media has a lot to answer for – boys are supposed to be fit too aren’t they – footballers and the like.

    Great post and it is true we are often harder on ourselves.

  • I’m fat. Always have been. But I let it define me. I apologise for it. I feel like a failure for it. I feel I’ve wasted opportunities because of it.

    I seem to be on a endless life of yo-yo dieting, one day on top of the world, the next, in the pits of hell. Some days I think fuck it, and all the people who judge me for it, others, I take it so personally and want the ground to just swallow me up.

    I have tried to accept being fat and just getting on with it, but I just can’t. I try so hard, but my tries feel like fails. I have to go for a weigh in tomorrow – I don’t want to be weighed. I’ve put on weight and feel like crap.

    A lifetime of bullying, of being sneered at or mocked, I am grateful that my son isn’t fat. I’d die first than see him go through the ridicule.