The other day I offered my sweet 6-year-old a homemade muffin, only to have him turn it down. He'd eat muffins exclusively if we let him, so I asked if he was feeling OK. He replied, "I shouldn't. My friend told me to lose weight." My son is 6. My heart broke, then shattered when my son asked, "Do you need to lose weight, too?" In that moment every awful thing people say to "plus size" moms like me bombarded my mind; things that make me feel less than.
I want all of my kids to grow up to love their bodies, and I want them to know that they deserve love no matter what they look like. Unfortunately, as a mom who is overweight, I have learned firsthand that society bombards our children with an entirely different message. Being healthy is synonymous with being thin, anyone who is overweight should want, desperately, to be thin, and unsolicited weight loss advice should be shared ad nauseam because, again, our entire goal as humans is to be conventionally thin and attractive. If you're not thin, or you have no desire to be thin, something is innately and morally wrong with you and you should be shamed and judged into losing weight (often in an unhealthy way) until you meet an unrealistic standard of beauty. I don’t go a day without being subtly or overtly fat-shamed by my friends, relatives, and even people I’ve never met before, so trust me when I say that these overt social messages are, unfortunately, working.
I’ve started talking back and confronting people head on, because not only does it need to stop but, obviously, my children are listening, too. I don't want my kids to believe that my worth as a mother, and a woman, hinges on my ability to weigh below a certain threshold, lose the so-called baby weight, or shrink myself down to a certain size. Being fat does not, and never will, make me a bad mom.
"But You're So Confident"
Translation: "You're confident... for a fat person."
It took me a long time to learn that there are way more important things in life than the size of my jeans or if other people like the way I look. I shouldn’t have to apologize for daring to love myself, wearing a two-piece bathing suit, taking risqué pictures, or posting selfies on Instagram. This fat body birthed three babies, carries them when they are tired, and ran a marathon. So you are damn right I am confident. I wish people weren’t so surprised that a fat woman actually does these things with pride and not shame.
“Don’t Worry, It Takes Time To Bounce Back”
Why do people assume I am worried about my post-baby body? As if that’s the most important thing about me or the key to my happiness as a new mom?
I used to be thin, and when I was I was way less happy than I am now in my overweight body, with a stomach pouch, back fat, muffin top, and stretch marks. Being thin does not always equal being happy.
"You Should Totally Cut Carbs"
There is one person and one person only I want to talk to when it comes to my diet: my doctor. I don't need or want anyone else telling me what to eat, how much to eat, or what I shouldn't be eating.
"How Old Is Your Baby?"
It feels like when you have a baby a clock starts and people expect the so-called "baby weight" to start falling off in a very specific amount of time. And, of course, different people have their own ideas about the appropriate time-frame for meeting this specific "achievement".
Every body is different, though, and honestly losing weight was so damn low on my priority list when I was recovering from childbirth and trying to breastfeed and attempting to function on zero sleep.
"Nice Mom Bod"
A friend of mine considered this comment to be a "compliment," and I still can’t figure out why this person felt it was necessary to say something to me about the way my body looks or is shaped. I had no idea how to respond, either.
"Did You Breastfeed?"
Not that it's anyone's business, but yes, I breastfed all three of my kids to varying degrees. For me, it’s simply impossible to lose weight while nursing. I actually seemed to hold onto an extra 20 pounds well after I weaned my babies. Breastfeeding is not always the weight-loss solution the brochures and breastfeeding books make it out to be.
"Have You Tried [Insert Weight Loss Product They Sell]?"
I'm not interested in trying your magical weight-loss product. Not only because as a fitness professional and science nerd I know that the fad diets, shakes, plastic wraps, vitamins, and essential oils won’t likely result in long-term weight loss, but because it’s rude AF that people assume that I need or want to lose weight.
"You Should Work Out More Often"
Fat people work out. Some of us even do it professionally, and plenty of us don't work out to lose weight. People look downright shocked when I tell them that I ran a marathon, or that I teach fitness classes.
But even if I didn’t ever get off my couch, it’s still none of anyone's business what I do or do not do with my body, including the number of trips I take to a gym.
"Don’t You Want To Be Healthy For Your Kids?"
I am so tired of people equating being healthy with being thin. It’s just not true. Is obesity a public health concern, associated with negative health outcomes? Absolutely. Is every fat person you encounter unhealthy? Absolutely not.
As NBC News reports, one study found that about 50 percent of overweight people are perfectly healthy when it comes to things like their blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, but a surprising 25 percent of people at a "healthy weight" are at risk.
And again, my health is none of your concern.