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Korinthia Klein

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Korinthia Klein is a violin maker and the mother of three in Milwaukee WI. She, along with her husband run a violin store called Korinthian Violins. Korinthia also performs in her area with the Festival City Symphony and the Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra. She currently teaches at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. A former Babble blogger, Klein currently continues to write on her personal website, The Quiet Corner.

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The Other F Word

By Korinthia Klein |

One of the bigger adjustments for Ian after returning from active duty in Iraq was figuring out when to exercise.  When he’s home he is the in house parent, and cooking, grocery shopping, and shuttling kids around is not conducive to staying fit.  My weight gain during his deployment when that was all my job is testament to that.  So both of us have been trying harder in the past few months to make exercise and eating better a priority.  In Ian’s case his weight and fitness level are literally part of his job as an Army Reservist, so when it’s not possible to make time for both of us to go to the Y his needs take precedence.

We try to head straight for the Y right after dropping the kids off at school, and there is just enough time before picking up Quinn from half day kindergarten for me to swim a mile and for Ian to get in a run on the treadmill and use the weight machines.  In theory we should be getting out to exercise nearly every day, but things come up.  There are early morning meetings with teachers, or one of the kids is sick, or there are dentist appointments, the frequent trips to Michigan aren’t helping….  There are a million reasons why getting in that little block of exercise time doesn’t happen because there just aren’t always enough hours in a day, but we’ve at least been able to make sure Ian can do some kind of exercise every day.  He’s looking good and feeling better and I’m proud of him.  He’s doing better than I am.

Aside from the exercise part of the equation there is food.  I have more trouble than I’d like with food.  Part of my struggle with watching what I eat is that I believe in family dinners.  They are short, but they are nice, and I like that time together when we can share a meal and talk.  But some days I shouldn’t have all the same things the kids are having.  They don’t really seem to care or notice if I have vegetables on my spaghetti instead of meatballs, but I want to make it seem that we’re all sort of having the same thing.  I don’t want to draw attention to the fact that Ian and I are eating differently.  Not that I want to be deceptive, but girls in particular can develop body image issues so early anymore that I just don’t want it on their radar screen if it can be avoided.  What they are eating is healthy and fine–for them.  They can have a bagel.  Most of the time, I shouldn’t.

So the other night we were having hamburgers and green beans and fruit and Ian and I decided we should have Boca Burgers for ourselves instead because the caloric content is significantly less.  I was kind of hoping the kids wouldn’t notice, but Aden asked why dad’s burger looked different.  He innocently said what for him was the truth, “I’d rather have what you’re having, but I’m eating this because I’m fat.”

I don’t normally think of myself as the kind of person who shoots her spouse a LOOK, but my head snapped toward him so fast he looked uncomfortable, and then I turned toward the girls and said, “We need to eat different things from you sometimes because we want to be healthy.  You are still growing, but daddy and I aren’t, so sometimes we make other choices that are better for us.”  Which seemed to work fine, and then the conversation turned to important things like lemurs and gym class and rice scooping work.

It’s funny the things you assume another person knows just because you are around each other.  Simply because I’ve obsessed about a particular topic doesn’t mean it’s something my husband thinks about at all.  How would he have any idea what my concerns for my kids and their potential body image issues are if I don’t discuss them?  He wouldn’t.

It reminds me of a Women’s Studies class I took in college where on the first day we were asked to fill out a questionnaire that included the question: “What do you think about when you walk alone at night?”  The few men in the class were completely mystified.  They looked puzzled, and said, “What does this question mean?  You think about whatever you think about.”  And every woman in the class got wide-eyed and said, “You get to think about whatever you want?”  We went on to explain that walking alone at night as a woman meant constantly monitoring who else was in the vicinity, which places were open that might be safe to run to, and being prepared to gouge someone in the eyes with our keys if necessary.  Letting your mind completely wander meant putting yourself in danger.  The men were stunned.  But how would they know?

So for Ian, the word ‘fat’ is just a word.  He certainly cares about being in good shape and thinks about the work it takes to get there and stay that way, but the word ‘fat’ is not used as a weapon in his world.  It’s just a blunt description.  For girls and women, it’s something else.  Something as tricky to grapple with as walking alone at night.  ‘Fat’ isn’t merely descriptive among women, it’s pejorative.  It’s painful.  It’s wrapped up more deeply than it has any right to be in our self-worth.

I explained to him later that I am very careful not to use the word ‘fat’ in front of the kids.  When I go exercise I tell them it’s because I want to be healthy and strong.  Yes, it will be great if I can fit into a smaller size more appropriate for my height at some point, but I want my kids to know that I’m glad to have a body that works.  It’s good body, and I like it, even if it’s flabby in places.  I don’t want to convey that I think of my body as disgusting.  I let my kids poke my belly if it makes them giggle and I try to laugh about it too.  There are days I’m depressed about how I look and wish I could magically fix it, but I don’t want my kids to see that.  They love me.  If they see me being overly critical of my body they will very likely start looking at their own bodies in a harsher light.  The longer they can be spared from that the better.

I wish I didn’t struggle with my own body image as much as I do.  Most days I think I do pretty well, because I do appreciate my health and my overall endurance.  I don’t want to look like someone else, I just want to be a better version of myself.  But it’s hard not to feel like a failure when something that matters so much seems out of my own control.  I’m trying, though.  I’m swimming my mile about two to six times a week depending on how much disruption there is to my schedule.  My hopes for blogging while using my treadmill have been thwarted in the past couple of months by a bad knee which hurts if I walk on it too long, but I plan to get back to that as soon as I heal.

The struggle is frustrating, and I’m annoyed by the fact that it exists at all.  It should not be this hard and it should not mean the myriad of things it seems to mean.  When I wonder what’s wrong with me that I can’t just maintain the weight I should be, I remember that if someone like Oprah Winfrey who can afford to pay someone to do nothing but swat cookies out of her hand all day has the same problem, it’s not a simple problem, and I try not to hate myself for it.  But it’s hard.

I look at my kids and their perfect little bodies and want them to not have to go through any of the ridiculous body image struggle I argue with myself about every day of my life.  And when I say their bodies are perfect, I don’t mean that they are flawless, I mean that they are unique and strong and functional and I love every dimple and toe and freckle and there is nothing lacking or in need of change.  Right now they seem to like the bodies they are in and I’m glad, because they are beautiful inside and out.  Why is it so hard to see myself that way?

Me and Mona last time I was at a weight I liked

Picture of Aden from around the same time just because it makes me happy


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About Korinthia Klein


Korinthia Klein

Korinthia Klein is a violin maker and the mother of three in Milwaukee WI. She, along with her husband run a violin store called Korinthian Violins. Korinthia also performs in her area with the Festival City Symphony and the Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra. She currently teaches at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. A former Babble blogger, Klein currently continues to write on her personal website, The Quiet Corner. Read bio and latest posts → Read Korinthia's latest posts →

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10 thoughts on “The Other F Word

  1. Amy says:

    It’s so hard to feel like this, it stinks! I wish there was some magic way to look like I did when I was 21 sometimes. Good luck!

  2. Melissa says:

    I think it’s a problem for almost any woman. I’m within a perfectly normal BMI for my height, but I’m always a little distressed that my body isn’t like it was when I was in my 20s. There is no reason it should be, I’m in my 40s and have a child. But more important than that is I worry about not being as healthy as I should be. Marcus also is able to find more time than me to work out. I hate to give up my lunch hour to run on a treadmill and that’s about the only spare time I have.

  3. Jane says:

    I was speaking with a woman yesterday who was able to state the “time to exercise” problem in a way we can all identify with:
    Men schedule the time to exercise into their days.
    Women exercise after everything else is done-the mom, wife, working parts-and if there is any time left we allow ourselves to exercise.

    I have committed to exercising three mornings a week at 7 am at a gym with a trainer (in a small group) before I go to work. I have tried other ways to get in exercise, but I was unsuccessful. Hopefully by scheduling a specific time-before I shower and go to work-I will be more successful.

    1. Korinthia says:

      @Jane: Good points. I hope the work with the trainer does the trick for you!

  4. Sarah Leon says:

    For family dinners, what if you take diet food and make it simply a choice not a restriction? what if you ask them if they want a salad or pizza? There is nothing nutritionally wrong with them eating a light dinner now and then. This way diet food isn’t weird it’s just a different choice. you choose salad because you like it.

    You can all have the same thing at diner. Portion control is more important than anything else. You an Ian could split a burger or make very small ones. Portion control also trains the eye and tummy which shrinks the appetite.

    Everyone thinks they need to go on some big reduction diet when they decide to lose weight. This is not a good idea. I’ve tried over and over and it always fails. Weight loss is best done slowly over time. 2lbs a week is max. if you go over this you are much more likely to gain it back. the body lies in wait for this. it’s annoying. don’t over work it. You will be where you want to be with simply a balanced diet, smaller portions and working out.

    You will get there. You are one gorgeous strong woman. Use your stubbornness. it’s a gift.

  5. SarahB says:

    Great post.

    I’m trying to formulate a thought/question about why you and your husband eat different meals than your kids. I understand taking more of the vegetables and less of the meat, but wouldn’t a healthy meal for you and your husband also be good for the kids too? Just curious and wondering how we’ll handle this when our kid is born.

    1. Korinthia says:

      @ Both the Sarahs: We do usually eat the same meals! Every dinner has fruit and/or vegetables, we work on portion size…. It was that one particular case where by the end of the day Ian and I were sort of at the end of our calorie allotment and the Boca Burger was the satisfying alternative to sharing a tiny regular burger. The problem with having kids and trying to control portion size is dealing with all the waste. Sometimes the kids finish everything, but most of the time someone leaves most of their serving and it’s hard to pitch it. And it changes all the time with 3 kids so we almost never guess right when preparing food. Plus being in the kitchen all the time to make food for them doesn’t help. I would be doing much much better at this if it were just me and Ian, but trying to watch what you eat and making meals for kids all day long makes it so much harder. If I could just not be in the kitchen I could avoid temptation, but that’s not possible. The one extra fish stick or half a juice box adds up fast. It’s insidious.

  6. Sarah Leon says:

    I am sorry to have misunderstood your writing. It is so easy to assume I understand your meals when there is no way i can.

    For my own health issues, I must maintain a certain weight I struggle with it. It enrages me to have to think about it too long because just end up eating more. My husband is painfully good. He measures his food out with an iron will. I call him a puritan bastard and he smugly giggles. I hate being told what to do with food. It has been hard on my ego. I find it depressing. I feel like I failed at something that is obvious and that’s a bitter pill. I am embarrassed to admit the only most effective way I’ve lost the most weight is by keeping a food journal. The food journal I use is alright for being free but I’m not a big fan. It’s called I lost 12 lbs since January. Then I decided I didn’t need it and promptly gained 4 back. argh. The thing I like about the food journal is the record. I learned my patterns, like a light lunch ends in too much at diner, or that I can’t stay under my daily ration for more than 3 days. I just accept this and work it in.

    Cutting out all food with chemicals worked too. I miss my favorite pickles and Chinese take out.The chemical ban is something that is a pain in the butt to get started but once i did I lost weight without intending to.

    I have no idea how to feed children. The waste must be frustrating. My heart goes out to you.

    1. Korinthia says:

      @ Sarah Leaon: Eh, if I didn’t make myself clear, the problem is my writing not the reader! I loved what you wrote, Sarah. I’m always interested in your perspective, and I have so much to learn from you. I really admire how well you’ve managed to integrate exercise into your life, and I think of you every time I make the opportunity to walk to work. And you’d be proud to see Quinn scarf down his cucumbers and Mona eating salad with her hands!

      But yeah, throwing kids into the mix makes EVERYTHING more complicated, even something as basic as diet and exercise. But I will get there! Thanks for reminding me that being stubborn can be an asset.

  7. Gabriella says:

    I used to eat the kids’ leftovers, too. It does seem like a waste to throw it away, and when it’s just half a popsicle or a few bites of mac & cheese it doesn’t seem like much to eat. But then I told myself that it’s just as much of a waste when it’s on my butt then when it’s in the trash. And if it’s in the trash I don’t have to look at it. So I don’t eat their leftovers anymore. Having a compost bin helps in the summer, too. Putting leftovers in there doesn’t seem like such a waste.

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