I've struggled with weight and low self-esteem my entire life. I was at my largest, aside from pregnancy and postpartum, when I was in middle school, so you can imagine how fun that time period was. I've always been cognizant of how people talk about weight, too, and now that I'm a mom I've been hyper-focused on how people talk about my 12-year-old daughter. Sadly, I've come across things people say about my daughter's weight that are actually shaming, and I know, first hand, that these comments impact her in ways both large and small.
It's impossible for me to forget how those snide comments about my weight hurt me as a child, especially at a time when I was trying to figure out who I was as a person. I remember trying to squeeze into clothes that didn't fit and hiding as I shopped in the plus size section. I remember even the most well-intentioned people commenting on my body, and how those comments made me want to shrink until I simply vanished entirely.
Which is why I worry for my daughter. She's always been incredibly observant, so she can pick up on people subtly or even "accidentally" shaming her for what she eats, how she eats, how often she exercises, and her weight. I've caught her talking negatively about her body as a result of these comments, too, so I know that even the smallest slight is leaving a lasting impact on her and her self-esteem. Which is why I remain vigilant; constantly listening to how people talk to her and ready to stop them in their tracks if the conversation takes a judgmental turn. And I absolutely will not stand idly by when people say the following things:
"You Look So Different"
My daughter, like any child, has grown a lot in a year. And in that year we've moved away from family, so when we come back home people are quick to talk about "how much she has changed." I know exactly what they're really saying, though, and so does my daughter. They look her up and down, as if she's on display, and I can tell they're trying to calculate how much weight she has gained.
"Maybe You Should Join A Sport Or Team?"
This is an indirect insult that my daughter picks up on immediately. When she was younger she tried all the sports, and the last one — cheerleading — negatively impacted her self-esteem drastically. She's not naturally athletic, and that's OK, but I know there are people who think that's some kind of moral failing.
"Are You Sure That Fits?"
My girl is in that weird in-between age, where she's not really a little girl but she's not really a "teen" either. So, when shopping for clothes, she has to pick from the "kid's" section and the junior/teen section, and her selections don't always pan out based on various sizes and brands.
I remember navigating this same struggle when I was a kid, and it was embarrassing. So the last thing my daughter needs is for some store clerk or family member or stranger to make a comment about her clothes and whether or not they're going to fit.
"Do You Have Anything Else You Can Wear?"
My daughter loves choosing her own clothes, and is somewhat of a fashionista if I do say so myself. So imagine my rage when I see grown-ass adults slut-shaming my daughter for her outfits. She. Is. A. Child. She is expressing herself in a way that is healthy, and I, for one, am proud of her for being authentic and true to herself and her sense of style. So when people tell her she can't wear a certain thing because of her "body type" or because it shows "too much" of her body all my daughter hears is that something is wrong with her body.
"You're Mommy's Size"
Why people feel the need to compare my daughter's body to anyone else's, including mine, is beyond me. She doesn't need to feel as if she is in competition with anyone, lease of all her mother.
"Maybe You Should Eat A Little Healthier"
My husband and I, like most parents, try to emphasize healthy eating and healthy eating habits. That doesn't mean we keep all the sweets out of our house, though. We want to teach our kids that no food is a "bad" food, and that everything can be enjoyed in moderation. I want my daughter to eat food because it makes her feel powerful and strong and fuels her body and mind. I also want her to enjoy food because, of course, it should be enjoyable to eat!
So to have someone shame her for her eating habits is to undo all the work my husband and I am doing to establish healthy eating habits at a young age.
"You Don't Need Dessert"
My daughter's body, my daughter's choice. It is no one's right or job to try and police what my daughter eats, and to do so is to tell her that food is bad and her body is somehow paying the price. Telling a child that dessert is bad isn't helping them develop healthy eating habits or a healthy self-esteem. In fact, you're teaching them the exact opposite.