The day my daughter called me fat

One of my daughters gave me a picture she'd drawn of us together.
One of my daughters gave me a picture she'd drawn of us together. Photo: Supplied

It’s pretty obvious when you see me that I am not in the best shape. My tummy sticks out like I’m six months pregnant. I wobble a lot when I walk. And my clothes pull tight around my big bottom and flabby back. I am overweight, but when my daughter called me fat it pierced my heart.

In recent weeks, I’ve started to face my fitness and health issues head on. I’ve been writing about it in a weekly series called Wobbly on my blog. I’ve decided it’s time I make some big changes and stick to them, not only for my health, but to set a good example for my children.

I have three girls. I am very mindful about body image. I never use the word fat and never complain about my weight in front of them. I talk about health, not appearances. I want them to grow up to value health over being skinny. I want them to strive for a great mind, rather than focus on beauty. I want them to live long lives. For that to happen, they need to eat fresh, healthy food and do regular exercise. They also need to have someone in their lives to look to for inspiration. After “the fat” comment, I’ve been determined to be that person for my girls.

Anyone who struggles with weight knows how hard a journey it is to change long-held, unhealthy habits. They also know how upsetting it is when people look at you in a funny way or comment on your weight. It can be demoralizing and can make you feel quite sad.

This is why when my children have called me fat I’ve found it hard to know what to do. On one hand, I don’t want them to use the word fat, as although true, it has nasty connotations. On the other hand, I don’t want them to develop a mindset that overweight people have something to feel bad or ashamed of. I want them to think of everyone as equal regardless of their weight.

Recently, one of my children gave me a picture she’d drawn of us together. It shows us under a rainbow jumping for joy. I look like a massive round ball. She said she’d drawn me like that because I was fat. I sat her down and explained how using words like fat wasn’t very nice. That yes, I was overweight, but I was working really hard to get healthier. We made a pact that the word fat wouldn’t be used in the house anymore.

It is such a problematic area and I’m not sure if I handled it well. I don’t want my girls to develop the deep-rooted body issues that have plagued me over my lifetime. I also want them to be mindful over other people’s feelings. By talking about healthy choices, I also feel concerned that they will look at overweight people and make a judgment that are in fact unhealthy or lazy, when they may not be at all. There are many causes for being overweight.

Actually, I don’t want them to judge other people at all. As I hope they are not judged for their appearance. Most people have something they’d like to change about themselves, something they are sensitive about - whether it be their weight or hair or nose or chewed nails. It doesn’t mean they aren’t good, kind, smart and intelligent people.

I just want to raise children who are accepting of other people; instead of judging others, they have empathy. It’s about teaching your kids not to judge a person on what they look like, but instead assess a person’s heart, mind and character.

Being a parent is such a big responsibility. I try my best, but I don’t always get it right.

Do you use the word “fat” in your house?