When I was ten, I was driven two states over to spend the summer with my Grandparents. I don’t know what we were doing, but I was playing outside, and walked up to my Grandma. I wish I could remember the words I started with, but she replied “You’d better be careful, Dez, you’re getting the least bit thick in the belly” (this was a ten year old’s baby fat left, and I wasn’t near being overweight). I was a zen like child and took it with grace. I accepted it as helpful criticism, and kept it in mind. My entire teenage life was changed from that one sentence.
I began looking in the mirror a LOT. My mother thought I was vain and thought that I knew I was pretty. I did not. To her, I guess my beauty was obvious! I told her that I looked into the mirror in that manner to make sure I looked alright. ..Because I felt that it was somehow letting the people around me down to look less than what I deemed acceptable. I wanted to be like a model; a goddess. Like in the commercials!! I got the feeling that that was unrealistic and unnattainable for me, at least, and that to me, just meant that I wasn’t very great like all those models (whom I bet my Grandma wouldn’t think were “thick.”, they were like rails, so I was sure..) Cut another notch on my self esteem. A few more years went by before I ever told my Mom something like “I’m fat.” At first she just looked at me and laughed. I’m pretty sure, that she thought I was only saying it because I had heard her saying it practically all my life, and she thought I was trying to “act like an adult” (She’s always said things like “My daughter is a teenager at 11 years old!”, “She’s always acted grown”) Nevertheless, after the initial laughter she rethought and said “No Dizzy Butt, You’re Perfect.” I figured she was wrong so I said something to the affect of “No, I have this spare tire here, and my thighs are huge.” She seemed to get a little bit defensive when she told me “That’s normal! You have to have SOMEthing!” I happened to have been standing in front of her vanity mirror.
No matter how I argued that I was getting hefty, she combated every protest, and fought it with truth. Then she wanted to know what was starting this whole issue. I told her what Grandma had said years prior, and she got a very disappointed look on her face. She told me that she was sure my grandmother had been joking. To this day, I doubt it.. But I don’t fault Grandma, she was affected by the media.
I am very, tremendously, and super happy that we had that talk. Because I was on the verge of either anorexia or bulimia. I hadn’t yet decided, but thought that I was going to have to, in order to reach my near unreachable weight goals. I knew that I loved food, and didn’t mind vomiting because it meant strong ab muscles.
It took only a couple reminders after that to remind me that I was perfect. I would forget and start saying I was fat again, and with a sad face, all my Mom would say was: ” *sigh* You’re perfect.”
This goes to show that you can combat every commercial that tells your children (boys too!) that they are worthless as is. Every media driven well meaning person who has to open their mouth to “help” your children. Everything. You can prove to them what real people look like, and that those ads aren’t real people, and empower your babies to enjoy themselves and celebrate their life filled bodies!
And… Please. Please! Don’t call your children vain when they are looking in the mirror playing with their hair or whatever. They just need the “what real people look like talk”