FAT: Yet Another "F" Word I Will Try Not to UseSonya Benham
I gained 5 pounds this summer. I had a lot of fun, travelled a bit, went to a few barbeques, visited a beer garden or two, got ice cream with my son semi-regularly, and here we are. It’s not a big deal, but my pants are hella tight and it’s unpleasant. It’s making me feel, well … fat. The problem is that as a person who says everything I’m feeling out loud, I keep saying that. Out loud.
Now, here’s the thing. These 5 pounds have not pushed me over the line into overweight territory. In fact, according to this online calculator, I’m still well within my recommended weight range. So, my proclamations about feeling fat are not particularly well received. In fact, it’s straight up annoying.
There are a number of excuses I could list about why I obsess over my weight,`but none of them are all that valid. I was a chubby kid; I gain weight easily and have to watch what I eat; I have a self-deprecating sense of humor; blah, blah, blah. But I don’t think I’m the only one using the “F” word on occasion. Ultimately, I think the problem is cultural.
As women in this country, we are trained to be hyper aware of our weight along with all other aspects of our physical appearance. And we overuse the word “fat.” We use it without thinking, sometimes when we mean something else entirely. I say “I feel fat,” when I actually mean “I am bloated,” “My pants are snug,” or even “I just ate a hot fudge sundae.” Even when the word “fat” isn’t used, I’ve heard perfectly thin women saying things like “I hide it well.” Whether you are heavier than you’d like to be or not, it’s just not a nice way to talk about yourself.
Although it feels embarrassingly natural, I’ve always been cautious to not to speak this way in front of young girls. Over 24 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder, and young women are much more likely to develop one. Funny/sad story: I was watching a friend’s daughter once when she asked me why her and my son couldn’t get a second ice cream. I froze. This is the moment, I thought, when I give her the eating disorder. My answer? “Diabetes.” Oops.
Only recently have I realized how detrimental this kind of talk is to my son. Not only are eating disorders on the rise amongst boys, but it’s also teaching him horrible lessons. I don’t want him to think it’s okay to obsess over weight or to use “fat” as an insult, even if it’s done in a joking manner. What I did not anticipate is that he now refers to me as fat. I’m not proud but yes, I have mistakenly taught my 5-year-old son that a perfectly healthy woman is indeed, overweight. You’re welcome, future romantic interests.
So, I’ve been talking to him about it and explaining that I am not fat and that women are supposed to be softer than men. He’s definitely catching on and I’m confident I can remedy the situation. But I’m done dropping the “F” bomb. It’s just plain lazy and I want to teach my son to treat himself with love and respect. It’s time to step up and model that.