Maintaining a positive body image isn’t always easy. There are lots of messages out there telling us to be ashamed of how we look—especially those of us who weigh more than society says we should.
It can also be tricky to know how to talk about all of this. People who want to be sensitive about the way overweight people are often treated search for just the right word to use as a descriptor while not being insulting. And they frequently find themselves at a loss for words.
Self-help author Allison Kimmey has the right approach—and for the record, she doesn’t view the word “fat” as an insult.
When Kimmey overheard her daughter use that word in anger, she decided that she had to do something about it.
Many mothers would immediately punish their children for using “fat” as an insult. Kimmey, however, doesn’t believe in the effectiveness of that approach.
“Each moment these topics come up, I have to choose how I’m going to handle them,” she wrote. “‘Fat’ is not a bad word in our house. 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.”
“Since we don’t call people fat as an insult in my household, I have to assume that she internalized this idea from somewhere or someone else,” she continued. “Our children are fed ideas from every angle. You have to understand that that will happen; at a friend’s house whose parents have different values, watching a TV show or movie, overhearing someone at school—ideas about body image are already filtering through their minds.”
“It is our job to be the loudest, most accepting, positive, and consistent voice they hear. So that it can rise above the rest.”
Here’s how Kimmey responded to her daughter’s words (text taken directly from Allison Kimmey’s Instagram page).
“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.”
Me: “What did you say about me?”
Her: “I said you were fat, mama, im sorry”
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: “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. 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!”
Kimmey’s exchange went viral almost instantly, and for good reason.
She’s doing a great job of showing a healthy, positive way to deal with body shaming.
Kimmey has more parenting wisdom to share. She recently announced that she’s working on a children’s book about body confidence. The book will be available for pre-order this month, and it should hit store shelves in autumn. For more information, follow Kimmey on Instagram here.