Sarah, my nine-year-old daughter, had just come home after a week of scout camps. She sprayed and bubbled, did not know where to begin the story. While talking, she pulled out to go under the shower. And at once I could not see my happy, happy, self-confident girl, who had just been there.
All I could see were the bacon rolls on her hips and the round pop, bigger than her three-year-old sister. After a week’s distance, the sight hit me like a blow. At the same time, I hated myself for my evil, negative look at my wonderful child. But I can not help it. Sarah’s weight is occupying me. I just do not know how to handle it.
I am not a tiger-mom, who is fanatical about the optimization of her daughters. No Dara-Lynn Weiss, the American author who put her seven-year-old daughter on a diet and wrote an article for the Vogue and then a book about it. I am also not overly slim. I wear size 40/42, find that I look pretty in the normal way and I do not want anything more than women feel comfortable and accepted in their bodies. I am excited about any plus size model I find in a magazine, and admire the actress Lena Dunham for forcing the American media world to perceive her imperfect, rather stout body as normal.
I am afraid of the day when other children call her”fat”.
So far the theory. And then I see how my daughter is wearing a newly bought T-shirt for twelve-year-olds, and it stretches over her belly. And I am unhappy. Sarah, fortunately, not yet. So far, the mobbing of my daughter is my problem. In the first place, she is burdening me because I want to protect my child. I do not want to see Sarah sad. I fear the day when other children destroy their indifference, calling them fat. I am afraid that Sarah will not suffer any more. She feels as different as her thin girlfriends. As less pretty and thus less valuable. I’m afraid she might think she has less to expect from life because she does not conform to the norm. Although she is so beautiful.
I see two ways to save Sarah. Either I can help her not get fat. There is still time for it: she is stronger and heavier than other girls in her age, but we are not talking about a disturbing case. Or I can strengthen her back: you always keep in mind what is charming about her-and what her father and I love so much about her. Her warm brown eyes, her great curls, her radiant laughter. Her alert mind, her imagination, her wit. Your kindness. I can tell her over and over again that she can be proud of her body with which she can run faster than all the other girls and most of the guys in her class and with whom she balances on things that others do not hold for three seconds could.
It sounds right to strengthen her back. The clever, enlightened woman, the feminist in me nods: Yes, exactly so you have to do it. Just: Is not that right, because it is the more comfortable way? A bit of encouragement, a few good words and done? How much more strenuous would it be to change the dietary habits of a whole family. This means more than just buying low-fat instead of whole milk. No hot dinners any more, even if it is still so cozy-after all, all have already had something warm at noon. No refereeing. No croissants for Sunday breakfast. Not for Sarah, but no more for her sister, for me, for my husband. Eating habits change only when everyone pull.
Criticism of her is criticism of me
When I listen deep into myself, there is another reason why I do not want a chubby daughter. Being overweight is not a private affair. Everyone can see them. Already I hear remarks here and there. They give me stitches:”Well, your little one is well fed!” “Sarah always likes it, does not it?” For me, nothing more than indications of my failure as a mother: Well, so healthy does not seem to be eaten at your home. Being overweight in our society has never been a pleasure. Being overweight is the inability to pay attention to your own body. And in the case of overweight children, it is just the mother’s inability.
Almost worse: in critical looks at Sarah, I believe, in fact, to read criticism of my own body. Sure, like the mother, so the daughter. And they are right: Sarah is coming after me in every respect. Stella, our great, twelve years old, is the image of my husband, slender, tall, hibbling, moderately interested in food. Sarah has inherited my optimism, my gaiety, my curiosity, but also my disposition to grow quickly. As a child, I looked exactly like Sarah today, with tummy and little bacon rolls. When I was nine, it did not bother me as much as it does now. I was just as cheerful, self-confident and unprejudiced. For my mother my weight was never an issue.
In puberty I accepted, and boys began to tease me. From my first name Tanja became Tonnja or equal ton, although I was never really fat. Just more rounded than most girls. I swarmed the guys who liked me, always from a distance, because I assumed anyway that a thin girl likes better. And that is exactly what my Sarah does not have to experience. But I am also afraid of laying the foundation for an eating disorder when I make diet and weight before it is the subject.
I want a world that measures beauty at inner values, not at the BMI.
I want her to eat when she is hungry, and so much until she is satisfied. She is a child. You do not need to know how many calories lasagna has, but only whether they like lasagna. I do not want to forbid her the second breakfast sandwich, the ice cream in the pool or the cake at a birthday party. Limo may my girls at most times in the restaurant drink, Junkfood is with us not at all. I buy good food and like to cook. It’s just so simple: While Stella is eating a small plate of my freshly cooked pumpkin soup, Sarah likes to take two more. Do I have to forbid her this? On what grounds? Or should I just be happy that she has so much pleasure in the food?
If I should wish, then Sarah can continue to feed with the same enthusiasm and pleasure without getting fat. Or that we would live in a world where the beauty of a human being is measured by its inner values and not by its BMI.
Wishful thinking, too beautiful to be true. But can not at least one wish be fulfilled? Can not I wake up one morning and suddenly know what the right way is to make my daughter a permanently happy, loved one of yourself and others with a great body feeling?
* Name changed by the editor
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