One day, when she was only five or six, my granddaughter came home and told me that a little boy at her school had said the “F” word. That got my attention! Hmmmm….how do I handle this with sensitivity, yet honestly…and how does this precious child in front of me even know the “F” word and that it’s inappropriate?
Well, I say….that wasn’t very nice and we don’t use that language do we? ‘No”, she answers seriously. “My Mum told me that it isn’t very nice to call someone fat.”
Ohhhhhhhhh, that “F” word!! What a dear child, and what a great Mum, I think to myself as I hug her tightly. If only more people knew that that particular “F” word is far more hurtful, nasty and life altering than the other could possibly be.
Like many other people, especially women, my whole life I have struggled with my weight. Unlike many others, it wasn’t because I had too. I was a chubby baby and little girl…photos prove that…but by the time I was a young teen, I had lost the ‘baby fat’ and was quite thin.
Perhaps it was unintentional, or perhaps it was meant to hurt and damage, but I have been told since a child how “FAT” I was…I don’t remember being told I was smart, creative, pretty, imaginative, or any of the other things we generally tell children to bolster self esteem and their sense of value and self worth. Perhaps people did tell me those things, I am sure my grandmother did, but all I remember…my take away from the first 16 years of my life was: You’re fat.
By the time I was 30, I had been on diet after diet. I’ve done them all, used all the products, bought all the books. I ran, I walked; I did yoga; I biked; I joined gyms,; I took exercise classes; I bought workout tapes. I started smoking. I took laxatives by the box full.
I was Bulimic . It was my dirty little secret. I hid the laxatives like I hid the food i binged on.
It is extremely difficult to see that written down. I know it, I knew it at the time but I have never written it. The power of the written word…it gives me cold chills to see those words on this page.
During these years, my top weight, other than being pregnant, would have been around 120-125. I was 5’6″ tall and I thought, …no, believed…I was fat.
The power of words: spoken straight out; implied, or suggested, to a child… especially to a child, hold power like nothing else. All of my self doubt, self loathing…virtually all the negative thoughts I have ever held about myself stem from a three letter word that I heard over and over and over again…and still do…from people who profess to love me. FAT
A few years ago, we moved back to the small village where I grew up. In the two years we lived there I became what I had feared and fought my whole life. I gained 60 pounds. I walked right into the trap laid many years earlier with those words. I heard them spoken to me often …even before I gained the weight. “You’re fat”. I wasn’t prepared for the effect they would still have on my life…on my sense of who I am now.
It happened slowly, the weight gain…but picked up speed when my husband left for work after the first year. I became what I thought was expected of me…I became what I had been told my whole life I was. I thought I was stronger, but I was not.
Today I am still struggling to drop the weight, but I no longer live in that village, nor in that head space. I am working very hard to put those words and the reasons behind them into perspective. It’s not easy and I struggle everyday…with both issues.
We must encourage our children and watch closely what we say to them. We need to reinforce all the positives, nurture and love them. We need to balance out all the negatives they will hear in the world and teach them how to deal with those things that are hateful and harmful.
Most of all we need to listen to my granddaughter’s Mum, and never call a child FAT. It’s not nice.