“Mom, Chris called Ian fat today.” Those were the first words out of my son’s mouth when I picked him up at school one day. My heart sank. Not because there’s anything wrong with fat, but because there’s something incredibly wrong with pointing out a body difference in a patronizing way.
As a body acceptance, non-diet warrior I had been preparing for this day all of my life. And then the day came. It was game on. I was a ball of emotions – saddened to hear that my son’s friend had been on the receiving end of a bullying scenario, and yet endorphins raced through my veins because it was time to set the record straight and I didn’t want to screw this important conversation up.
I decided to start with empathy,
“Gosh honey, that must have been really hard to hear your friend be attacked like that. You really care about him and I’m sure his feelings were hurt in that moment.”
And then a counter-cultural message for the win:
“I just believe that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Ian’s body. God made us all in unique shapes and sizes, some tall, some short, some thin, and some fat, and I’m really glad He made us all different. I wonder why Chris said that. I guess he hasn’t heard that we’re all supposed to be different and that all sizes are beautiful.”
Sigh. Gulp. Praise God He gave me the words to set the record straight in that moment. And there have been many opportunities that have followed. From picture books with fat-bashing messages, to weight loss commercials, to Victoria’s Secret ads. We’re constantly under-attack! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to quickly change the channel or skip an entire paragraph while reading to my son. The thin = beautiful message is a constant. I’m telling y’all – children’s books, for crying out loud!!
And making matters worse, it’s back-to-school season. Each morning we drop our kiddos off into the school abyss. Public, private, charter – no one is immune from verbal attacks or messages that don’t quite line up with our own philosophies about health and well-being.
But with these incidences come the opportunity to educate our sons and daughters. It’s up to us to teach our children right from wrong. We must speak the truth about our creative God and that He doesn’t make mistakes. He makes each and every one of His children beautiful on the inside and out. That health isn’t a number on the scale or a pant size. Larger children aren’t lazy and thin children aren’t perfect eaters. Jeans don’t matter, genes matter. Every body is a good body!
I pray that the Holy Spirit grants each of us the words at the right time to share this important message. And in the meantime, may He protect our precious children from the ways of the world. I pray that He muffles out the sounds of “you’re not good enough” and washes the noise away with whispers of, “you are fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Dawn is an Associate Professor of Nutrition and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She is a wife and a mother to an amazing 11-year old boy. Dawn enjoys finding creative ways to spread the word that God’s unconditional love can bring healing to every broken relationship, including one with food.