Fat Talk: I’m totally quitting… tomorrow.

“Dude, my butt looks so big in this suit.” 
“No man, your butt is awesome. Girls like a man with some junk in the trunk. Check out my hair though. It’s thinning and I can’t do anything with it.  Should I wear a hat or just shave what’s left of it?”
“You have plenty of hair. Have you seen my crow’s feet!?”

Said no men, ever.

So why do women talk like this all the time? You had to have seen the Fat Talk clip from the Today Show.  I even saw it and I don’t have a tv. In case you missed it, here you go.

The experts on the Today Show run through a litany of reasons why women commiserate about how fat/unattractive we are. I agree with everything they said- especially that little part they mention, right at the end: Body bashing perpetuates poor self-esteem and you should never do it in front of your kids. 

No duh, right? Before I had Sweet Pea I promised myself and Dan that I would never do this once our baby was born, especially if we had a girl. Never again would I say any of the following:
I feel so fat right now
Does this outfit make me look huge?
I just ate so much cake. I’m gross.
Is my stomach sticking out?
I didn’t used to have cellulite. Here, see? Look at the cellulite. LOOK AT IT.

It would be like a Fat Talk fast…. forever.. It would be good for me. I was actually looking forward to it.. Kind of like how I look forward to the 5:30 am workouts; they’re so good in theory, yet so rarely executed.

I went to a really interesting talk on neurolinguistics last spring where I learned that you can influence your thoughts and feelings based on the words you use, both in your communication with others, and in your self-talk. I know this has been true for me with sports. Some of my best times have been recorded when my body was ready to quit while my mind said  “Yes I can, Yes I can.” (This turned out to be a good strategy for enduring natural childbirth, too).

You might be surprised at how easily I can tell myself , “Yes I can” when in fact I feel like I absolutely can’t, given the fact that I can hardly breathe and my legs are on fire. I do it because it’s what I’ve always done.  I do it because I work so hard at moving toward my athletic goals, it would be a waste not to give myself the free speed that comes with a good attitude. I do it because I know how good it feels to see a faster time on the finish clock. I do it because I know how easy it is to back off, and how quickly you go from backing off to giving up once your mind goes to “No, I can’t.”

So why can’t I give the same positive attitude and discipline into avoiding Fat Talk, especially around my child? Oh, yeah- all those resolutions I had about ending it just as soon as I gave birth- Just add that to the never-ending list of stuff I said I’d never do once I had a kid.

So I make excuses. Sweet Pea is only 15 months old. She doesn’t understand what I’m saying. Even if she understands, she can’t talk yet, so I have a few months till I really have to quit. I’ll quit soon. Anyway, I always tell her I love her little body. I find her chubby tummy especially delicious and she knows that. And her pudgy thighs! I adore the thighs. She’ll be fine. She’s not really watching me.

Best. Lip balm. Ever.

Except I know that’s not true. When she was a few weeks old, I would lie her down on her back on the bathroom floor while I scrunched some product in my hair and applied my makeup. I’d glance down intermittently and catch sight of her eyes darting around, following my every move. Lately, she has started to root around in my clutch whenever I go to pay for something. She’s not just exploring, she’s going straight for my lip balm and she doesn’t stop until she gets it into her little hands and “applies it” to her lips. (Her inability to unscrew the cap is a minor detail). And I know she’s been watching me when she goes to the closet and grabs the broom and the dustpan and drags them around the house. (If she were really paying attention she’d be focusing on the 2 foot radius surrounding her high chair, however).

She’s got her eyes on me. And I’m still making disparaging statements about my body, albeit not as often as I used to. Though I would be lying if I said that was because my self-awareness and body acceptance have blossomed since I stepped into motherhood. (Or since motherhood trampled me; how I look at it depends on when you ask me). It’s probably because I weigh less than I’ve ever weighed as an adult. But that doesn’t mean I won’t complain about the half full water balloon shape my breasts have taken on now that we’re almost done nursing.

I want to believe that my body is beautiful, every single day- even if my tummy is bloated, despite my butt area sagging a little, regardless of the deepening lines around my eyes. And I want desperately for Sweet Pea to think it’s normal for a woman to consider herself beautiful.

I know you can’t do everything at once. Many, many years passed between my first near death experience jog around the block and the “Yes I can” that lead me to my first marathon, subsequent triathlons and (much) faster marathons. But I don’t exactly have years to develop an awesome body image to model for my daughter. I need to start fast, like yesterday.

Do you struggle with this?  What are you doing to model good positive body image for your children? I know what I’m supposed to do, I just don’t know how to do it, so I’d really love to hear your tips and ideas in the comments.

5 thoughts on “Fat Talk: I’m totally quitting… tomorrow.

  1. Stephanie Sprenger says:

    This is a great topic, and really important, especially as mothers of daughters. I have noticed my toddler miming me applying makeup by blowing on the brushers and then dabbing her cheeks with them, so I know she is watching too. Having a six year old makes me feel even more accountable- I don’t use that “F” word at all (the other one, as you know, is another story!) but one day she commented that she looked “fat” and I bit her head off. (Another awesome move, I know. Award,please.) I snapped that we do NOT use that word in our family, especially to describe our own bodies. What I really need to knock off is whining that I just ran into someone I know at Target while I was, gasp!, not wearing any makeup. That’s the stuff I need to catch before it comes out of my mouth… Great post, Pam!

  2. Pam Moore says:

    I know… It’s just so hard to slow down and catch yourself before you say something you didn’t want to say. I wish there was an easy answer on how to SLOW DOWN.

  3. April says:

    Love this topic! It is hard to exercise self-control of the tongue. I could use a bit more of it in other areas too. For me, I am chronically insecure about my body. It is just ridiculous. But, this makes me very careful about what I say in front of my children. They see that I exercise, they see that we try to eat healthy. Yet, they also see me eat fun junk food without feeling bad about it. I think it is about balance. And I think anytime we beat ourselves up (even if it is about being a good enough role model for our little ones) that we are selling ourselves and them short. We aren’t perfect. But the more you try to set a good example of healthy body image, the more she will see what you are trying to do.

  4. Kim M says:

    I have girls and it is really hard to constantly act as if I am accepting and happy with my body when in reality that is not always the case. I think the hardest part is that after a baby, especially the first one, our bodies are almost unrecognizable. We are struggling with a totally new body image while trying to be the best role model we can be! That is tough stuff. I guess the saving grace is that as kids get older, you can talk to them and discuss the issue, including your own struggles and in the meantime, you do the best you can, because after all, you’re human! Great post!

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