‘My 5-year-old turned to me, suddenly serious. ‘You shouldn’t eat too much, Mom. Or you get fat like Christy and Tammy.’ I felt tears tickling my eyes.’: Mom urges ‘all bodies are valid’

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“My little girl is 5 and one of our favorite shows to watch together is Scooby-Doo, in any of its many incarnations. If you’re at all familiar with the characters of Scooby and Shaggy, you’ll know that at some point in any given episode, they’re going to eat a humongous amount of food and probably have comically bloated stomachs for a little while before becoming skinny again through unexplainable cartoon logic.

A few days ago, we sat down to watch another installment together. In this episode, as per usual, Scooby and Shaggy managed to find something to eat. My daughter laughed as the two characters devoured a pile of hamburgers.

‘They ate too much!’ she giggled as the two gluttonous goofs rubbed their distended bellies. Then, my daughter turned to me, suddenly serious ‘You shouldn’t eat too much, Mom,’ she said, ‘or you get fat like Christy and Tammy.’

I was shocked. Christy and Tammy are two of my friends. I mumbled something and turned my eyes back to the TV. My sweet little string-bean daughter, with her huge blue eyes and perfect blond hair, snuggled under my arm, pressing herself into my love handles. My mind reeled and a sick sensation consumed my stomach in a sudden cramp. Sadness rose up in my throat and I felt tears tickling my eyes.

What could I say? Should I correct her? Try to explain to her preschool brain that some people can eat an enormous amount of food and never gain a pound, while others, like her own mother, eat relatively healthy and exercise daily and still wear a size 16-18? How can I get her to understand hypothyroidism?

Should I deny it? Should I tell her it isn’t true, that what you eat won’t necessarily affect your weight? Should I let her eat all her candy because I know it probably won’t affect her metabolism at this age? Or should I start training her now to watch her calories?

I can’t do that to her. Not now. I can’t condemn her to that kind of life, especially since society will just do it for me before too long.

Part of me wanted to chastise her for talking about my friends like that. But what would that teach her? That being called ‘fat’ is an insult? No, I can’t do that. I have reclaimed that word. I think all women should, including ‘coming out’ as fat, if you will. By reclaiming the word, we negate the shame. But again, how to explain?

It should be easy. All I have to say is, ‘All bodies are beautiful, all bodies are valid, and you will always be beautiful and special, no matter what you look like.’ It should also be that easy to tell myself that, and believe it. But even though I repeat this mantra every day, deep down, I have to admit that I will never believe that it’s true.

I’ve been bigger than all of my friends for my entire life. I have done every fad diet out there. I have held my pudge and wept into the wee hours of the morning. I’ve been 159 pounds. I’ve been 255 pounds. This is the curse that has been placed on me, on so many of us. I would do anything to make sure that my daughter never goes through what I’ve gone through.

But how?

Do I teach her to eat salads, have her start running and biking daily, throw out all the candy and cookies in the house that my husband feels the need to stockpile?

Or do I try to fortify her defenses so that she can’t be brainwashed by social media, magazine ads, thoughtless adults, or even her own friends?

I don’t know. I don’t know what to do, except load up another episode of Scooby Doo and swallow down my tears.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amelia Kibbie and originally appeared on Mom.com. Follow Amelia’s journey on Facebook and her website. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more from Amelia:

‘We don’t go to church.’ I get shocked looks, promises of prayer. ‘How will your daughter know right from wrong?!’: Agnostic mom ‘unapologetically’ raising daughter without religion

‘Oh my god, did you see Elena’s ears?! I mean, it’s basically child abuse.’ I left the party uncomfortable.’: Woman defends cultural parenting differences, ‘a mother knows what is best for her child’

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