Weight Loss, Denial, and Body Image

(This is an edited version of a post I put on my personal blog last week.  So some of you have already seen this.  So my apologies to those that have already seen this, but I DID warn you it was going to be showing up here!!!  🙂  )

I’ve lost weight.

I don’t know how much exactly – I haven’t weighed myself in almost a year.  I DO know that I’ve gone from a UK size 20 (US 16) to an 18 (US 14) {according to the size conversion charts on the Evans website}.  To put this into perspective for you: I haven’t been a US size 14 since I WAS 14.  I’m 32 now.

I honestly don’t know how this happened.  Not much has changed, other than the fact that the kids were home for their 6 week summer vacation, and now they’re back at school.  I haven’t drastically changed my eating habits or my activity levels.  I haven’t gone off or on medications.  My stress level is high, but to be perfectly honest, it’s ALWAYS high.  (I just don’t always TALK about it.)

And the fact is, I’ve been denying the weight loss for a while now.  People keep asking me if I’ve lost weight, and I keep deflecting the issue, saying things like “oh, you’re just not used to seeing me in clothes that actually fit, as opposed to clothes that are 4-6 sizes too big.”  Not just to deflect the issue (although since I’m finally facing the honesty in this situation, that IS part of it), but because it’s true.  In the last year (less than, actually), I have almost completely changed the way I dress.  For years – since I was a teenager – I purposely wore clothes that were too big for me.  I thought that by hiding my body, I was somehow making it more acceptable.  Like if they couldn’t see my body, they wouldn’t know just how fat I really was, and that was better than actually letting people see me.  But now I actually DO wear clothes that fit.

But the realization that I’ve lost weight hasn’t come from people commenting on it, or the sizes of the clothes I’ve been buying.  It’s come from wearing clothes that I’ve had for years — and suddenly they don’t fit like before.  My favorite jeans have suddenly become baggy.  My embellished cargo pants have suddenly become loose enough that while they’re not falling down or anything, I can pull them off without undoing the button or zipper.  My favorite sweater in the whole world has become so big on me that it’s annoying rather than comforting.  I “had” to go buy myself something else while I was in town last week because it was bothering me that badly.  (On that note, does anybody have any idea if I could alter the sweater?  Like, take it in?  I’d much rather do that – even if I had to pay the alterations place in town to do it properly – than get rid of it.  I seriously love this sweater to death.)

I’ve finally had to face up to the fact that I’ve lost weight.

But now that I have, I realized something.  I didn’t want to have lost weight.  I kept denying it because I didn’t want it to be true.

Yeah, um… let me repeat that: I kept denying that I lost weight because I didn’t want it to be true.

Now HOW fucked up is THAT???

But now that I’ve admitted that to myself, I had to examine why.  Why the hell would I NOT want to lose weight?  I mean, isn’t that what I’m SUPPOSED to want?  Even the most die-hard FA’ers would admit that while they strive for fat acceptance, they’d be lying if they said they didn’t WANT to be thin. Or thinnER.  It’s pounded into our heads on a daily basis, and even if you agree with all the tenents of Fat Acceptance (and I DO), it’s almost impossible to live your life completely unaffected by societal views on body image.  You’d have to live your life in some sort of bubble, and I sure as hell haven’t been.

The one thing I worried about was gaining weight.  In my head, I know that gaining weight wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen to me.  But it’s that irrational fear of taking over the whole world that a lot of us can relate to. It was only after seriously reflecting on my weight fluctuations in my adult years that I realized that it probably wouldn’t even happen.  Even with weight fluctuations, my body keeps going back to the same-ish weight.  200 lbs, give or take a few.  My weight has gone up to 230 and down to 190 (barring pregnancy weights, of which the highest was somewhere around the 270+ mark, but the majority of that was water retention from pre-eclampsia), but I always seem to go back to 200 without any real effort on my own part.  (And the weight gains, up to 230?  Have almost always been right after having a baby.  Once the baby is walking age, I always seem to go back down to 200 without doing anything.  Correlation?  Methinks so.)  I never even gave any real thought to losing weight.  I’ve never been able to lose a significant amount of weight (more than 20 lbs.) without a superhuman effort or living through an abusive relationship.  So that?  Didn’t even enter into it, as far as I was concerned.

But here I am, I’ve lost weight, and I’ve had to admit to myself that I didn’t want it to be true.

Am I afraid of weight-related craziness?  Am I afraid that, now that I’ve lost some weight, I’m going to become obsessed again?  Start dieting again, because after all, I’ve just lost weight without doing anything… just imagine how much weight I could lose if I actually tried?! (/sarcasm)

Or am I afraid of how I’m going to feel if I gain weight again?  Am I going to slip back down the oh-so-slippery slope to self-loathing again?

If I’m perfectly honest, that’s one road I really don’t want to go down again.  I am feeling good about myself for the first time in my life, and it is not because person X told me I should be, it’s because I’ve started to realize for myself that I am not the worthless, ugly freak I thought I was.  I certainly don’t think I’m all that and a bag of chips, but I realize that I just might be okay the way I am, after all.  That maybe – just maybe – the way the world sees me just might not be as important as I always thought it was.  That maybe my husband (and most, if not all, of the boyfriends/friends/family that preceded him) was (were) telling the truth when he (they) said that he (they) thought that I was beautiful and desirable and funny and and and.  To go back to hating myself?  Well, I’d rather be dead.  Seriously.

Maybe it was a combination.  I don’t know.  I just know that I honestly did not want to admit that I had lost weight.  And while I’m sure there’s a big huge revelation in there somewhere, I’m not sure exactly where it is.

Other people’s reactions to my weight loss have been… uncomfortable would be the best way to put it.  “You’re doing great!”  Um… I’m not DOING anything differently now than I was a year ago.  The big changes I’ve made in my life have been internal changes – changing my thinking, changing the way I react to certain situations.  Nothing physical.

My SIL Kirsty (who, for the record, is only 12) automatically assumed that I’d made some big diet changes.  Um… not exactly.  “You’re just like my mom,” she said to me yesterday.  “She used to drink coffee all day long, and now she only drinks one or two cups.”  I went on to explain to her that I haven’t done ANYTHING differently in the last year.  I eat the same way I always have, the only change has been how I approach food.  Food is no longer my enemy.  It is not something to be fought; it is there to fuel my body.  I eat what my body wants when my body wants it.  (To an extent; we live on a limited income and sometimes what I REALLY want, we don’t have.  So I pick what I want out of what we’ve GOT.)  I place no restrictions on food.  Food is food, period.  It’s not good or bad, it just IS.

(Having the in-laws over yesterday was a great opportunity to preach some HAES, I must say!  It was quite cool, actually.)

And seeing my reflection has become strange.  Obviously the weight didn’t fall off overnight, but I honestly didn’t notice it until the last couple of weeks.  And suddenly I can see the change in myself and it’s just… weird.  I look at myself and it doesn’t even look like ME.

Hubby thinks it’s just me letting go of most of the negativity in my life.  And he may well have a point; I honestly just don’t know.

I just don’t know what to think about all this.  Not so much the weight loss itself (although, on that note, do y’all think it’s possible for fat to re-distrubute itself this late in my life?  Because that would make so much more sense than me spontaneously losing weight), but my reactions to it.

One More Time: It’s Not Your Body’s Fault ____ Doesn’t Fit.

While out shopping today, I had an opportunity to remind myself of this fact.  And would you believe, it all started with a simple bangle?

I was getting birthday presents for both my SIL and my daughter (SIL turned 12 today, daughter #3 will be 8 on Sunday) and I just happened to pass by the jewelry section of the store.  I love bangles – always have – so I figured I’d give one a try.

Didn’t fit.

Tried another one… that one didn’t fit either.

Same thing with the next, and the next, and the next.  I literally tried on every type of bangle they had, and NONE of them would fit.

The thing is, I have a large bone structure.  I inherited it from both parents, really.  Every family member save one that I know has a large bone structure, regardless of whether we’re talking about my mother’s or father’s side of my family.  (And that one family member?  Was very sickly as a baby, and is now the dwarf of the family.  She’s the shortest and smallest out of all of us.)

So this means that I’ve always had large hands.  Even when I was younger and thinner, I had hands that seemed huge to me.  Of course, at the time, I thought that losing weight would be the solution to even that problem.  But the more I really take a step back and analyze these things, the more I realize that’s just another part and parcel of my Fantasy of Being Thin.  Losing weight would not have magically made my hands thin and dainty.  That is simply something my hands will never be, regardless of whether I weigh 100, 200, 300, 400 or even more pounds.  I will always have large, strong hands, because that’s what my genes have told my body to grow.

And it means that even bangles from the “fat store” (i.e. Evans) don’t fit over my hands.  I can’t even get them past my knuckles.  And if by some miracle I manage to FORCE a bangle over my knuckles?  I can’t get it off again.  I’ve been wearing one of my daughter #2’s pink bangles for a couple of weeks now for that very reason.  The two youngest ones didn’t believe me when I said I couldn’t get them over my knuckles, so I decided to show them.  Bad mistake.  I managed to force it over my knuckles and now I can’t get it OFF!!!

But as I was standing there in Primark today, I was increasingly getting frustrated that I couldn’t put these damned things over my hands.  And, as I said, it didn’t matter where I get them from.  So my frustration wasn’t just borne out of one particular experience, it was a culmination of numerous experiences all resulting in the same thing:  I can’t have what I want, because the combination of my hands + babgles just doesn’t compute.

But it’s not the fault of my body.  It is not the fault of my size 18* (14 US) body that my KNUCKLES are too big to get a bracelet over them.  It’s the fault of the designers who don’t even take variations in BONE STRUCTURE into account, never mind BODY SIZE and SHAPE.

So, after some yoga breathing (or, to be perfectly honest, what I IMAGINE to be yoga breathing), I simply accepted the fact that the bangles were not going to fit me, and went on my merry way.  But it was a good reminder for myself – and for all of you out there – that when you’re trying to find clothes, shoes, and even accessories and you’re having problems of one form or another:

It’s not YOUR BODY’S fault.  It’s not your fault that designers seem to think there’s only one mold for anything and don’t take variations of ANYTHING into account when doing the actual designing.  It doesn’t matter if it’s clothes, shoes, bracelets, or whatever.  If it doesn’t fit (or doesn’t fit properly), it’s not your body’s fault.

* – Look for another post soon regarding body size.  I’ve got one brewing, but it’s not quite ready yet.  You have been warned.  😉

Mother, you’re breaking your Daughter’s heart.

nuff said.

'nuff said.

I wasn’t sure how I wanted to write this.  I knew I wanted to write about it, from the moment I had this conversation with her, but I just didn’t know how to approach it.  I’ve decided to make it an open letter to my mother.

Mother,

My heart is breaking for you.  This year has been terrible – first the thing with Baby Sister and Nephew, and then Stepfather died in the Spring.   I’ve been amazed at how strong you sound every time we talk on the phone.  I wouldn’t blame you if you just broke down, but you just keep going, no matter how hard things get for you.  You truly are an inspiration.

But then you talk about having lap-band surgery.  And my heart breaks even more.

You say that you “need” it.  That your health is just “so terrible,” and it’s the only thing that’s going to save you.

But Mommy, you’re going to do yourself more harm than good.

You say that it’s going to cure your diabetes, high blood pressure, and back problems.  All of which you know are inherited.  Grandmother had every single one of those problems, and Grandfather has at least two of them that I remember.  You say Grandmother was once as big as you are now – and honestly, I haven’t seen you in 5 years, so I don’t know how much you’ve gained – and you use that as an excuse to prove to me that you have to have this surgery.

But Grandmother wasn’t always very heavy.  I remember her being roughly the size I am now.  And I know that when she died, she was pretty small.  Just because she was heavy at one time in her life does not mean that one time caused all those health problems.

Having the doctor close off part of your stomach is not going to do you any good.  You’re going to become malnourished.  Sure, your diabetes might get better.  Because you’ll be starving yourself. Your body needs more than just a few ounces of food a day.  And it would even if you were thin.

I know it’s hard to fight the fatphobia that you see every day.  Even people who are well meaning are a lot of the times, unknowing fatphobes.  It’s institutionalized and it’s almost impossible to get away from.  I understand that, I really do.

But I hate to see you taking all of that fat hatred in and turning it on yourself.  Don’t you get enough hatred pointed your way from others?  Do you really have to hate yourself, too?

Part of my reaction is our relationship.  Since finding each other again six years ago, we have developed the kind of relatioship I only thought we could have in my dreams.  I have been able to turn to you when things got bad, and you supported and encouraged me.  I never thought I’d have that.

Part of it is my own rising self-esteem.  I can hear the self-loathing in your voice even when you don’t outwardly express it – because I’ve been there.  And I know how good it feels now to be able to say I like myself just the way I am.  I want you to know that feeling, too.

And part of it is that I’ve learned so much in the last few months, and hearing that you’re seriously contemplating surgery – to fix one thing that’s not broken, and to fix others that it simply won’t work for – seriously terrifies me.  You just don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.  And while I know that there are serious statistics – X amount of people have serious health problems, X amount of people actually die as a result of the surgery, X amount of people will actually end up gaining all their weight back – I never thought to save the URLs of the blog posts/studies/news articles I read, so I can’t “prove” it to you.  I know what I know, but without that “proof” I know you’ll just dismiss me as being a worried daughter.

And I am a worried daughter, no question.  But I also know that what you’re contemplating doing is going to be so much worse for your health than doing nothing at all.

And it makes me want to cry.

Some wishes DO come true!

Somewhere, over the rainbow....

Somewhere, over the rainbow....

When I first found the Fatosphere back in October of last year, I wasn’t looking for a place full of righteous indignation.  I wasn’t looking to become an activist.  No, my initial reaction was much more self-centered than that.

I just wanted to like myself.

I had spent so long absolutely abhorring myself that I was exhausted with it.  I was just so tired of looking in the mirror and saying those hateful things to myself.  Some part of my brain knew that this wasn’t a healthy way of thinking, but the rest of my brain said “but we don’t know any other way to think!” When I found the Fatosphere, and saw that it was filled with people of all shapes and sizes saying that being fat was actually okay, and that liking myself as I was wasn’t a crazy thought, I seriously thought I’d found my lifeline.

Here were people that were saying that I didn’t have to lose weight to become an acceptable human being – even to myself.  I didn’t have to hate everything about myself simply because I didn’t fit some unrealistic, unattainable (for 99.999999% of the world’s population) “ideal.”  I had the right to expect to be treated with respect and dignity just because I exist.  Because I am a human being.  I am a whole person, with strengths and weakness, with thoughts and feelings.  I just happen to also be fat.  That fatness is only a physical characteristic – it is not now, never has been nor ever will be the sum total of what it is that is “me.”

But all I wanted was to be able to say “I like myself.”  And mean it.

Very slowly at first, I started to feel better about myself.  But choosing to immerse myself in the on-line presence of people like me was bound to do that.

Then the rollercoaster that is my life took a downward spiral for a little while, and I didn’t even touch my computer for 4 months.  Not even to check my email.

Then in the spring, something in my head just snapped and part of my brain said to me: “you KNOW what you need to do.  You need to get back in the Fatosphere and back into blogging.  You’ll feel so much better about yourself if you do.”

And I did.  Part of me felt apprehensive – I’d suddenly dropped off the face of the Fatosphere for months and here I was, about to jump right back in with both feet.  How was I going to face the inevitable questions* about why I just disappeared like that?  But I knew that I had to just let come what may, because for my own mental health, I needed to get back into it.

Around the same time, I joined the Fatshionista community on LiveJournal.  Posting pictures of myself took a lot of courage, but it was so good for me.  Again with the mental health.  Seeing all these women – of all ranges of fat; from what I would think of as “totally NOT fat” to the higher end of the fat spectrum – and realizing that they were ALL beautiful, all in their own way, went a long way in re-programming my brain to think “well, if they’re all beautiful, why can’t I be, too?”

And there’s the crux of the matter.  “Why can’t I be beautiful, too?” Short answer: I can be.  And so can you, and you, and you.

Long answer: beauty, in the sense that I’m talking about it, is an intangible thing.  There is no set formula for what is beautiful and what isn’t.  As opposed to physical attractiveness, most people can’t pinpoint down to the slightest detail what beauty means to them.  One person might find nature beautiful, while another might find something like architecture beautiful.  Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder – because each person’s particular likes and dislikes are all different.

People are supposed to be different.  Different colors, different heights, and yes, different weights. The mere fact that I happen to weigh more than what society tries to force me to think is “acceptable” does not negate the fact that I have my own unique beauty.  And again, so do you and you and you.  You over there?  Yeah, you too.

In the last few months, since I jumped back into the Fatosphere with both feet, I have come a longer way in accepting and liking myself than I had in the 32 years before that.  Let me repeat that:

I have learned more about accepting and liking myself in less than five months than in thirty-two years of existence on this planet. (Nearly half of which have been spent in some sort of counseling.)

I have finally gotten to the point where I like myself the majority of the time.  No, I haven’t found self-esteem nirvana, but I have come so far in such a short time that I’m still finding it odd.  I find it odd when I look in the mirror and I don’t immediately put myself down for some flaw or another.  (I still have flaws, of course, I just don’t feel the need to put myself down because of them.)  I look in the mirror and I finally see me – not some warped, hate-filled version of me that has never been accurate.  And me?  Isn’t so bad, really.

Other people have noticed it, too.  My rise in self-esteem has been one of the major factors of my marriage becoming what my husband and I both want it to be.  I finally started to see myself the way my husband always has, and it has brought us closer in ways counseling (which we tried once) never did.  Nothing has ever worked like my learning to like myself.

Friends have noticed it.  I’m so much happier now than I ever was before.  In my life.

Even strangers notice it.  How else would you explain the fact that I’m suddenly getting hit on left and right?  I can’t remember the last time somebody hit on me before I started feeling better about myself.  Now, it’s every time I go out.  It’s surreal.  I almost feel like I must be in someone else’s body, because these things just don’t happen to me.  So I just take it as a tangible sign that this internal change must be visible externally, in some way or another.

I started out this journey just searching for a way to like myself.  What I found was so much more than that.  But that one wish, that I wished so very hard and very long for?

It came true.

Well how do you like them apples?

* – I don’t want it to sound like I’ve got some huge massive ego and the whole Fatosphere was going to be sitting around wondering “where did nuckingfutz go?”  However, I had been so active – commenting on pretty much everybody’s blogs, practically every post – that I was sure somebody would have noticed my absence and would ask about it.

Want to preach FA? Get drunk!

I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing….

Done?

Okay then.

Here’s the thing: as I said in the comments on my last post, I’m not very good at articulating my FA stance to people I know and love, let alone total strangers.  Hubby is the only one that really knows how involved I am in FA, and as a naturally thin person, there are a lot of things that he just doesn’t get.  What he does know is that since finding FA, my confidence has soared, I have begun accepting myself, and my self-loathing (the one thing about me that he really didn’t like) has all but disappeared.  (It still rears its ugly head every once in a while, but not very often, thank FSM.)

Well, I went out drinking last night.  The second time in 2 weeks, but only my 3rd time this year (I don’t go out much, obviously).  I had run into my best friend May’s sister Carol, her daughter Gemma, and her son’s girlfriend Debbie when I was on my way back from Number One Daughter’s school on Tuesday.  They invited me out, and when I mentioned it to Hubby, he was all “go ahead!”  So… I did.  🙂

One thing you need to understand, though: May’s family – even her extended family – are like my second family.  Shit, Little Miss Naughty calls Carol “Auntie Carol”.  When they were younger, The Little Chatterbox and LMN kept getting confused, thinking that May was their aunt and her children were their cousins, so what did that make Carol and Gemma and the rest of them?  They’re only now getting to the point where they understand that no, they’re not REALLY family, they’re just REALLY good friends to us.

So the relationship between us and them is… complicated, sometimes confusing, but altogether a good one.

Well, as we were making our way between one nightclub and another, talk between Gemma, myself, and Gemma’s cousin (can’t for the life of me remember her name right now; she doesn’t go out with us all that often) turned to body image.  Carol’s diabetic and so is Gemma, and Gemma related to me the horror of a doctor’s appointment.  It was the usual fatty horror: you’re going to die if you don’t lose weight; you’re going to have a heart attack by the age of 23 because you’re too fat; etc, etc, etc.  I looked at her and told her “BULLSHIT!”  I was just drunk enough that I could say what I was thinking without worrying about the consequences.

At a UK size 12 (US 10-ish), Gemma is not only NOT fat, but she’s smaller than the “average British woman” (which, IIRC, is a UK 14).  Her cousin?  Even smaller, at a UK 8-10.  And yet they were both talking about how they need to lose weight.  I looked at both of them and let them have it, from both barrels.

Oh, I wasn’t nasty.  I wasn’t all “shut up you skinny bitch”.  I simply told them that this “obesity epidemic” bullshit is just that – bullshit.  I told them that not only do they not need to lose weight, but they need to stop thinking in terms of “dieting” and “good food/bad food”.  I asked Gemma, “if you had never been told that fat was bad or disgusting, or any of the thousands of horrible things people like to say about fat people, would you have still wanted to lose weight?” (At one time, she was a lot bigger than she is now, at a size 18/20 – basically, the same size I am right now.  She has lost weight and managed to keep it off for now.  Either she hasn’t hit the 5 year mark yet, or maybe she was meant to be this size.  You know, set-point.)  Her answer?  “No!  I was fat and happy!  I didn’t care what size I was, until that doctor scared me into losing weight.”  How many fat people are there in the world that know exactly how Gemma felt?  A hell of a lot, I’m sure.

Now granted, we didn’t go into a whole lot of detail, but I was glad that I had the chance to say something to both of them, and also glad that I was drunk enough that I didn’t worry about what they were going to think.  These people are my friends, they love me for the person I am – even if they don’t agree with me, they’re going to at least listen to what I have to say and not make me feel bad for having the convictions I do.  It’s silly of me to even worry about it, but worry about it I do.  When I’m sober.

I definitely was NOT sober.

And in this case?  I think that was a GOOD thing!  😀

Internalized Fat Hatred Right In Your Face

Number One Daughter had a doctor’s appointment today, with her specialist.  Dr. Specialist comes to the school and takes over the nurse’s office for the day and sees the patients there – all the parents have to do is come to school.  I tell you, this is a lot easier than having to keep a kid off of school and drag them all over hell’s creation for a 10-minute appointment!

So I get to the school (10 minutes early!  considering the school is waaaaaaaay across town, this is a record for me), and I wait in the parents’ room.  Dr. Specialist is running a little bit late, so as I’m waiting, two other mothers come in.  Both of them were fat.  Other Mother One is older than me – mid to late 40’s would be my guess.  Other Mother Two is exactly one year older than I am, 33.  Other Mother One and I were talking about the area I’m living in now (we just moved here a year ago), as she’s originally from here – she grew up not 10 houses down the street from me.  As Other Mother One and I are talking, Random Female School Employee comes in and says hello.  These two women obviously know each other.  After a series of “hi, how are you?” ‘s, Other Mother One immediately says “I’m on my new diet now!  I’ve lost 8 pounds!”

Me (in my head): and how are you going to feel when you gain it all back?

Ugh.

Random Female School Employee says something to the effect of “I can’t lose weight no matter what I do.  Even when I was going to Slimming World, I didn’t lose a pound.  It’s my thyroid.”

Me (in my head): or maybe you’re at your set-point!  (Note: I’m not discounting the fact that it could be the woman’s thyroid, but I know that some people just assume that because they can’t lose weight, there must be something wrong with them.  When in fact, there’s nothing wrong with THEM, there’s something wrong with society for making them feel like they HAVE to lose weight to become an acceptable human being.)

Part of me really wanted to go all FA on their asses.  But these are women I don’t know and probably will never see again, and I just wouldn’t feel right launching into a speech like that with somebody I don’t even know.  It’s times like this when I think having some business cards printed up with some web addresses – like Shapely Prose, for example – would be a GREAT idea.  I wouldn’t even have to say anything.  I could just give it to people and let them check it out for themselves.  Let them find the clue-by-four on their own.

The thing is, since I don’t interact with other people all that much, I honestly don’t see the Internalized Fat Hatred Diatribe all that often.  I know it happens, of course, but I just don’t see it.  So when something like this happens, it seriously makes me sad.  Sad for these women, that they can’t just try to love themselves the way they are.  Sad that they feel like they’ve got to put their entire life on hold until they live up to some arbitrary, unrealistic ideal.  Sad that they internalize all this shit to such an extent as this.

Because I know what that feels like.  I talk the talk, and I’m learning to walk the walk, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget what that feels like.  And I want to tell them how amazing it feels to wake up and not feel that hatred weighing me down every day.  I want to tell them what it feels like to be able to look in the mirror and not have those messages that are shoved down our throats by society-at-large running through my head every single time.  I want to tell them that internalizing that fat hatred is worse for them than any weight they might reach.  I want to tell them what it feels like to be free!

I just hate it when I see women looking so happy about hating themselves and their bodies.  Because there’s a 98% chance they’re going to be right back where they are now, if not heavier, and their self-hating is just going to get worse.

And that?  Is just sad.

I need some help brainstorming.

The Little Helper, between Little Miss Naughty and The Little ChatterboxThe thing that I was hoping to avoid happened yesterday.  The Little Helper came to me and announced that she was going to Fitness Friday* to exercise to get rid of her belly.  “I have 3 weeks** to get rid of this,” she said, grabbing the puppy fat she has around her belly.

I was horrified.

I had really hoped that my change in attitude would prevent something like this, but I guess it’s unrealistic of me to think that I can prevent outside influences from affecting her.

I tried talking with her, and asking her why she felt she had to do something so drastic.  She told me that she gets “called” at school (meaning teased/bullied) about her puppy fat, and she already hates herself.  This is an 11-year old girl*** who has already had more boyfriends than I can count.  She has tons of friends – even more so now, since we moved last year.  She still has friends from her old school, and she has friends in her new school.  She’ll be going to secondary school in September (think: high school) and she can’t wait, because she’ll have almost all of her friends around her at the same time; most of her friends from her old school will be going to the same school she is.

So I told her that trying to lose weight that quickly isn’t just stupid, it’s dangerous.  I explained to her that doing so could really screw up her body.  I told her there wasn’t anything wrong with her body the way it is – yes, she does have a little bit of extra weight, but it’s all in her belly, and I suspect that it’s just a pattern of her growing.  Number One Daughter did the same thing – she’d gain weight before a growth spurt, and kind of “grow into” her belly.  The Little Helper is only 11 – she’s got a lot of growing years left in her, and I highly doubt that what she looks like now is going to be what she looks like in another 7 or 8 years.

I explained to her that her “ideals” of beauty are so out of whack it’s not even funny – even the models in the fashion magazines don’t look like that!  I went so far as to do a google search on photoshop so I could show her the way that they re-touch and change the photos to make the models look even more “ideal” than they already do.

I don’t think it’s enough, though.  It’s hard to explain, but the look on her face and her attitude told me that she just thinks I’m being “mom.”  And yes, that’s part of it, but I see her slowly turning into me, and I can’t have that.  I cannot have my daughter hating herself simply because of the way she looks.  I can’t.  Can’t can’t can’t can’t can’t!

So… what I’m wondering is, do any of you have any bright ideas for me?  I’m not by any means going to let the subject drop and think that I’ve done enough, but at the same time, I don’t want it to seem like I’m lecturing her.  I need to find a happy medium in there somewhere, but I need to be armed.  Help me build my arsenal.  I need weapons, people!  Big sub-machine-gun type weapons.  I need to blow those thoughts and unrealistic ideals right out of her head.

And right now, I’m just in a panic.  I have always told my children that I think they are beautiful just the way they are – partly because I never heard that… like… EVER… – and to hear her talk that way has me frozen in panic.  I just want to shake her until those thoughts come leaking out of her ears from her brain.

* – Fitness Friday is an event run by the local leisure centre, where the whole place is open to the kids.  They can work out, go swimming, dance, even get their makeup/nails done.  She used to go a lot, before she had some trouble with one of the local girls and they started threatening to beat her ass if she went.  We thought that maybe enough time had passed that she could safely go, but we were wrong – she came back within 10 minutes, having been run off by some of the local hoodlums.

** – In 3 weeks, her entire grade is going to Wet N Wild, a water theme park.  She’s getting swimming lessons between now and then, because she doesn’t know how to swim (and neither do her dad or I, so we’re not much help).  She’s worried that walking around in a bathing suit is going to make people tease her mercilessly.

*** – She’s also already hit puberty.  She’s had her period for about a year now, she’s got big enough breasts that she wears bras, and while she might have a bit of a belly, she’s also got a very womanly figure for someone her age.  She reminds me a lot of myself, really, in the way she’s built.  Which could easily change as she grows some more, but since I do see so much of myself in her, I can really empathize with how she’s feeling.  And that feeds my panic, to be honest.