Have you ever been called “fat” before?
I have. It’s the worst.
Growing up, I would hear that word used as a way of tearing a person down. For me, the word “fat” implied someone was lazy, unhealthy, and didn’t care about themselves. Eventually, I learned to describe myself in that exact same way. I was also called “fat” on occasion by people who used the words “I love you” with me. It was very confusing, and it left me with a major body image issue for nearly 20 years.
And then I found Allison Kimmey, and the whole game changed.
This mom and self-love hero is on a mission. She wants to change the way we view the word “fat.” Kimmey recently shared an Instagram post describing a vulnerable exchange she had with her 4-year-old daughter Cambelle. The conversation has connected with so many parents, receiving over 32K likes!
Underneath a photo of Kimmey and her daughter smiling in bathing suits on the beach, she writes:
“My daughter called me fat today. She was upset I made them get out of the pool, and she told her brother that ‘mama is fat.’ I told her to meet me upstairs so we could chat.”
After hearing what she said, Kimmey had a candid talk with Cambelle and her 6-year-old son Graham about why the word “fat” was used to describe their mom. While Cambelle immediately apologized to her for saying what she thought was a mean word, Kimmey has a much different direction for this chat. She says:
“Me: ‘Let’s talk about it. The truth is, I am not fat. No one IS fat. It’s not something you can BE. But I do HAVE fat. We ALL have fat. It protects our muscles and our bones and keeps our bodies going by providing us energy. Do you have fat?’
Her: ‘Yes! I have some here on my tummy.’
Me: ‘That’s right! So do I, and so does your brother!'”
Kimmey’s son Graham says he doesn’t have any fat, since he is “the skinniest” and just has “muscles” on his body. Kimmey is quick to respond in a way that completely gets Graham’s attention:
“Me: ‘Actually everyone, every single person in the world has fat. But each of us has different amounts.’
Her brother: ‘Oh right! I have some to protect my big muscles! But you have more than me.’
Me: ‘Yes, that’s true. Some people have a lot, and others don’t have very much.’”
And this is the part where I tear up every time I read this exchange! It’s when Kimmey sends a poignant message to her children about how to view others who appear to have more fat on their bodies than they do:
“Me: ‘But that doesn’t mean that one person is better than the other, do you both understand?’
Both: ‘Yes, mama.’
Me: ‘So can you repeat what I said?’
Them: ‘Yes! I shouldn’t say someone is fat, because you can’t be just fat, but everyone HAS fat, and it’s okay to have different fat.’
Me: ‘Exactly right!'”
Underneath the conversation, Kimmy explains that in her house, “fat” is not considered a bad word. She will never use it to tear down her children, others, or herself. More importantly, she will always talk to her kids with gentleness if she hears them using the word as an insult. “If I shame my children for saying it, then I am proving that it is an insulting word, and I continue the stigma that being fat is unworthy, gross, comical, and undesirable,” she writes.
Kimmey ends her post with a powerful sentiment. Since our children take in so many ideas from the world around them, it is inevitable that they will encounter moments where the values of their own household are challenged. So it is up to parents everywhere to help kids see and hear an ongoing example of kindness and love. “It is our job to continue to be the loudest, most accepting, positive, and CONSISTENT voice they hear. So that it can rise above the rest,” she says.
I couldn’t agree more with this amazing mama!
Kimmey loves sharing conversations, like these, on her social media pages. She feels they are essential learning experiences that allow her to pass on much-needed lessons to others. In the case here, she wants to remove the stigma around words like “fat” that create a narrow ideal for what is considered an acceptable standard of beauty to others.
“We don’t have to keep doing something just because it’s what’s always been done before, especially if it isn’t right. And in my opinion, demonizing the word fat and shaming anyone that has it is not something I’m willing to have exist in my home,” she tells Babble.
Kimmey feels that it’s important to have these conversations with our kids, but it starts with ourselves. For parents everywhere, she wants us to heal our internal struggles first so that we can be a positive role model for our kiddos. For moms in particular, she recognizes that so many of us put ourselves last in an attempt to be there for our children as much as we can. But in order to help them see a true example of self-acceptance, we need to be there for ourselves just as much as for them. “By taking time for ourselves and recovering from our own insecurities and poor body image issues, we can better pave a positive path for our children to follow — that will lead to the prevention of self-hate and the perpetuation of never feeling good enough,” she says.
In addition to inspiring moms and dads to have more “body positive” dialogues with their children, Kimmey has also created the non-profit organization GirlPhoria to help teen girls learn to love themselves. This mama is also writing what I’m sure will be an extraordinary children’s book about self-image!
“My ultimate goal is to prevent the next generation from ever having to recover from the damage that poor body image causes. Glitter Stripes was born from an actual conversation I had with my daughter about stretch marks,” she tells Babble. “I am so honored to create the story in a way that children will love and learn,”
Whether it’s sharing an inspiring conversation or posting body-loving images on social media, one thing is for sure — Allison Kimmey is my personal hero!
It is because of this mama that I am learning to lovingly embrace my own amazing mom bod. As my 19-month-old daughter gets older, I am so excited to instill in her a deep sense of self-worth and love, and even more jazzed to give that same love to myself.
Thank you Kimmey for inspiring so many parents to teach our children a better way to see and describe our bodies!