I’m just going to come right out and say it. I’m fat. Not just chubby, not just a little overweight. I’m fat. I’m 5’2″ and my weight is too much for my frame. It’s something I’m working on, and something that is actually starting to diminish now that I’m full-time nannying again and eating healthier food. Running with a stroller all over my neighbourhood in Toronto and having my own weight-lifting class with a 13-month-old helps a lot!
But though I’m fat, I also have feelings. I know, what a concept, right? But you’d be surprised at how many children and parents like to point out that I’m overweight, as if it gets in my way when I do my job.
“You’re really fat, L, did you know that you’re fat?”
“Yes, I can understand how hard it must be to get to the gym when you’re a nanny. Do you eat out a lot?”
“Why am I skinny and you’re fat?”
“Will I be fat when I’m older, L?”
“Do you ever worry about family history? Like medical stuff? I always worried when I was trying to get pregnant if being overweight was going to stop myself from conceiving.”
When it’s little kids, from the age of about 3 to the age of maybe 6, I’m able to shrug it off. “I’m fat because that’s the way my body is. People come in all different shapes and sizes. I don’t know if you’ll be fat when you’re older. It only matters if you feel healthy. It doesn’t matter what you look like.”
With parents, though, I either shrug uncomfortably or don’t say anything at all. Fatphobia is rampant in our culture and I’ve been on the receiving end of disgusted looks if I eat at a fast-food restaurant, people giving me encouraging smiles if they see me out walking or jogging on a treadmill at the gym, and veiled comments like, “Wow. That girl is so fat! She’s really disgust — OH, no, I didn’t mean that all fat people are disgusting! You’re pretty, L!”
I think what I wish that we could teach our kids, and what I do try to teach children in my care, is that it doesn’t matter what people look like or how much they weigh. There’s a lot of “concern-trolling” in our society that makes bystanders feel like they can ask how much a person weighs, what they eat, what their habits are and what their doctor says. If the answers are less than satisfactory, the overweight person is labelled as “selfish and unhealthy by their own actions” and judged. I wish that I could walk down the street with a hot dog in my hand and not worry about whether or not that man over there is staring disgustedly at me or at something else. I wish I could exercise without people nodding approvingly because I’m being a “good fattie”.
My weight is a problem – for me. I want to feel healthier. I want my chronic health problems to lessen. But I don’t feel disgusting, less energetic or less able to do my job because I’m fat. And what I try to model is self-acceptance – and acceptance of other people, because it’s no one’s business how much someone weighs but that someone themselves.
I had a conversation with a 3-year-old who liked to talk about people as being “circles” (fat people) or “rectangles” (skinny people). He snuggled up to me, laid his head on my chest, and said, “I wish more people were circles. They’re soft and nice and kind, and I love them.”
I wish more people felt the same, sweetie. I wish more people didn’t focus on the “circle” and more on the personality.