My First Grader Says She Is Fat And Hates Herself, Now What?

PPBB Mom: “Was rather disturbed this afternoon when our 6 year old (turns 7 next next Friday) daughter came home from school today and told me that “she hates herself as she is fat”. I immediately told her that she isn’t and that she is beautiful. In fact she is a very healthy little girl. The scary thought in all this is that she is only in grade 1.”

PPBB Answer:  Hi Michele – You are not alone, I have a lot of parents contact me with similar concerns with girls the same age as yours. Girls learn quickly at young ages that body hate is a secret language females speak to each other and that this is how girls measure themselves. Your voice has to outshine whatever was learned at school. That is such a tricky thing to deal with because it is human nature to find it easier to believe something negative about yourself rather than positive. It is also a rock and a hard place – you want to acknowledge her feelings and concerns, but do so by affirming she isn’t “fat” and that she is beautiful, which only serves to reinforce those are the more highly valued qualities. Well of course that is the first thing a parent would say! My first reaction would be similar.

Her body is her machine for life. Her relationship with her body can be as wonderful or painful as she lets it be. But she only gets one, and life is way too awesome and too short to not love the body you are in.

I like how you also included “healthy” as a status for her physical being when you were reassuring her, because our bodies can look beautiful in all different sizes and still be healthy. Health should be our goal in life, not socially-acceptable thinness. Maybe you have a print out from her last doctor visit that shows her in scientific, measurable terms that she is exactly the size she should be. If she is your biological child, you might have a photograph of you at the same age which you can use to show her she looks just like what her genes are programmed for. Tall and lanky? Short and stocky? All in the DNA, so shake what your mama gave ya. 

You may also want to remind her she is “growing”. As a kid, that is literally her job. To grow up. Kids’ bodies carry muscle and fat differently because they are constantly growing. Try to focus the conversation on all the things her body can do. Make a list (like a poster for her room) or play act some suggestions (dance, hug, skip, jump, stomp, spin, soccer kick, karate chop, ballet positions, roll, wiggle, worm, cartwheel, run, etc). When she frames her body image viewing her body as an instrument rather than an ornament she gives herself the power to define part of her self worth based on how her body serves her through life and how it feels as opposed to simply how it looks.

You might want to have her go into more depth with you on why she says she hates herself and thinks she is fat. Is she repeating something she heard? Did someone tease her? If someone is teasing her, remind her that “fat” is the new “stupid”. That word is commonly hurled around the playground, usually comes from a place of jealousy, and is completely subjective. Did school introduce a new weight-based health initiative that weighs children or focuses on the misguided BMI? That may give you more insight into how to tackle her distressing announcement. You may also need to get her teacher on your team to help sort this all out if it is a problem in the classroom or a school program (which you can opt out of, an action I highly recommend).

If this revelation is the result of teasing or even a school program that fat shames rather than teaches body acceptance, now is the perfect time to introduce her to the idea of building her own personal brand. Your daughter is Full of Awesome. Why would she believe any different. Because a kid at school told her so? No. When I do presentations at schools I use the image below when I tell the kids they are in charge of how they see themselves, what they put out into the world, what qualities they let shine through that impact others. They get to put the writing on the wall and what other people say about them is none of their business.

Your child gets to create their own personal brand (read: self image). No outside forces get to negatively influence that.

Your child gets to create their own personal brand (read: self image). No outside forces get to negatively influence that.

And finally, I would ask her why she says she “hates herself”. That is a strong statement, one she likely does not entirely understand. If she heard you say that about yourself, or a sibling say the same thing, how would she react? What would she say? How does it make her heart feel when she says she “hates” herself? What is she looking for you to say back? Can she think of some health habits your family could change for the better to help her feel better? What if you took a walk with her as you discussed these things, so she gets her body moving and heart pumping as she discusses how she feels?
Six years old is such a tender age – and completely common age – for these types of thoughts to arise. I know it hurts your heart to hear your baby say it. But she took the risk to say it out loud to you because you are the center of her world. She trusts you, she counts on the foundation of unconditional love you have built for her that she stands on every day. Now we just have to show her how to build that foundation inside of her, so that love comes not only from her family but also from within.

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

She Looks Just Like Me

I watch my daughter closely as she watches herself in the mirror.

She looks just like me.

I watch her as she looks at her dark eyebrows. Her front tooth with a groove on the bottom edge. She studies the mole on her arm she says looks like the state of Texas. She makes faces and watches her expressions change. She examines her arms, her legs, her belly.

I watch as she pats her belly proudly. As she mouths the words to a silent song and pumps her arms in the air. I watch she gives her reflection a sly smile and a thumbs up.  As she turns around and shakes her bottom in a weird little dance, tapping her foot to a beat I can’t hear.

I watch her and it is like watching  a child me. An eight year old me.

How powerful are the mirrors in your life?

How powerful are the mirrors in your life?

My mom often calls her by my name, her eyes playing a trick on her even though the child before her is a generation away from the other dark haired girl she raised. The trick succeeds because she looks just like me.

We run into friends and they comment on my daughter being my mini-me. When I lose her in the museum I ask if people have seen a little girl, “about this tall, she looks just like me”. People see her at school events or around town and recognize her immediately as my daughter. She looks just like me.

So when she sees me looking at myself in the mirror she sees me smile. She sees self love. She hears positive comments from my lips. She sees me smooth my hair or check my outfit but doesn’t see me flatten my tummy or sigh at my bottom or the tired skin around my eyes.

She watches me as I appreciate all of my parts. She’ll never see or hear me pick myself apart.

Because she looks just like me. When she sees me love myself, she grows up with the permission to love herself. As she is. Just as she should be.

 

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Do you see flaws? Or the perfectly imperfect?
Do you see what you don’t have? Or all of the amazing things that you do?
Do you have a part you prefer to hide? Or do you love to show off your amazing parts?
Do you see age or scars as something to escape? Or a road map of the years you’ve lived well?

Do you see the version of beauty that is sold to you? Or the version you have defined for  yourself?

Photo credit.

 

 

Should – Guest Post by Cammy Nelson

“Should” – A Guest Post by Cammy Nelson

“Should” is a powerful little word that has drained more energy, caused more stress and produced even more frustration than I want to think about for as long as I can remember.  I should do well in school, I should be a good friend, I should always be happy, I should make everyone around me happy, I should be the leader, I should get as involved as I could, I should make a difference NOW, I should, I should, I SHOULD. The word seemed to come at me from every area of my life: school, family, organizations, sports, and even myself. Then, a whole new level of should’s came at me. These were much worse and much more frustrating…

These shoulds told me that I should wear makeup, I should lose weight, I should go on a diet, I should have a boyfriend, I should hate my body, I shouldn’t speak up in class, I should always be nice, I should eat less, I should have perfect teeth, I should be popular, I should be PERFECT.  These should’s were trying to make me believe that I wasn’t good enough and I needed to “fix” the things that could be changed.

Well, I’m here to tell you a little something about that heavy “should” word – it’s just a word.  When I was in middle school, I would have loved it if someone had said to me “you can ignore that word, and any word, that makes you feel like you’re not good enough or that you need to be something you’re not.” The negativity surrounding me was horribly draining for me, and it still is for many girls.  THAT is what really needed to change.

For every girl who feels like she has a constantly growing list of “should’s” that need to be followed, I’ve created something better for you.  If I could hand my 12-year-old self a list of “should’s”, this is what it would look like…

  • You should be YOU. Exactly who you are right now. That girl is AWESOME and I want to see the rock star that she is.
  • You should do and wear whatever makes you feel confident!
  • You should write your own definition of beautiful. Make it whatever you believe real beauty looks like, sounds like, and acts like.
  • You should not be afraid of your bright light. Do not play small for anyone – that only hurts you.
  • You should learn about you and discover what you are passionate about.
  • You should be quiet if you need time alone to think, process, and develop ideas.
  • You should speak up when you want to share your voice, speak your mind, ask a question, share your dreams, help a friend, laugh… or whenever you want.
  • You should learn about the advertising you see every day. The reality behind it will shock you.
  • You should be a leader be a leader sometimes and a follower every now an then. You will not and do not need to know the answer at all times. Give yourself room to grow and learn.
  • You should do YOUR best. That’s the greatest strength you will ever feel.
  • You should never hide your intelligence. Smart girls are AWESOME!!!
  • You should be a good friend to those who are a good friend to you.
  • You should always believe in yourself – with confidence as your wings, you will fly higher than you can imagine.
  • You should learn about your body. Understand it, listen to it, take care of it, and love it. Your body carries you through life and will be there through all the amazing experiences you will have.
  • You should take it one day at a time. Things will seem overwhelming from time to time, but remember that the future comes one day at a time.
  • You should forge your own path, follow your dreams, and always, ALWAYS know that YOU ARE ENOUGH! You are everything you will become and you have it within you to make all of your dreams a reality.

 

To the brave girls reading this, you get to start making decisions for yourself now. You get to decide who you want to be, what’s important to you, and how you will get to where to want to be. Listening to the “should’s” of life will only hold you back. Spend your time thinking of the amazing experiences you will fill your life with, the people you want to surround you, and the dreams you have for the world. Try new things, make new friends, and step outside your comfort zone.  Ignore the negativity that comes your way and remember, the only thing that will ever really matter is that you are being you.

Cammy Nelson

 

 

Cammy Nelson is a speaker on girls, goals, and personal power. After spending nearly her entire life speaking on self-esteem and the media, Cammy is committed to creating change for girls through her inspiring message of empowerment and leadership. For more information on Cammy and her mission, visit www.givegirlsmore.weebly.com.

What My Radio Flyer Wagon Has To Do With My Body Image

My family has just returned from our first real vacation — a trip to sunny Florida to spend an amazing week with my parents and brothers and their families in a big house by the beach. It was a perfect vacation….that ended at 2am on Monday morning when we pulled into our driveway after the long drive home to snowy Wisconsin. I was reminded of this as I was driving to my doctor’s appointment this morning as an unidentified rattling squeak coming from the far back of my minivan was interrupting my singing with the radio and really annoying me.

Then I remembered that we had been too tired to finish unpacking the car and had left the Radio Flyer wagon in the far back of the van. I made a mental note to lug it out later. This morning I was going back to my doctor because after finally being diagnosed with a rare endocrine problem, I had gained 23 pounds in 10 weeks from the steroid medication I had been put on to control it. My doctor and I were going to come up with a new plan for treatment. But this wagon constantly rattling in the back was really putting a damper on my singing with Kelly Clarkson while I made my way across town….

Then I had a little epiphany as I drove: That wagon in the back of my van was like my extra pounds. Rattling around and being obnoxious and there for no good reason, but the wagon being there didn’t affect the efficiency or value of the van. I didn’t love the extra weight, but I did still love me. My value had not changed. Whether the weight was there or not there, my worth remained unchanged. Body image is about loving yourself, even if you don’t always love where you’re at. A good friend taught me that.

My mom had noticed the moon face, it appeared four weeks after starting the new pills and completely changed how my face usually looks. My husband noticed the much bigger boobs and that I had put away all of my jeans and was wearing yoga pants all of the time. My kids noticed that I was “getting big and cushy”, and suggested I watch a weight loss commercial they had seen. Amelia said she loved me no matter what. My four year old asked where my muscles went. We talked about how the medicine was changing my body and that my doctor was going to help me be as healthy as possible. We talked about health being about what goes on on the inside of your body and doesn’t usually have anything to do with how big or small or in-between a person is.

The extra weight scared me because heart disease and diabetes run in my family and I wondered if it was a symptom of something more serious. I could deal with the weight if I had to, but I didn’t want to jeopardize my health. As someone who is usually active and fit, I didn’t like the feel of my current body. These extra 23 pounds….and right before the trip to the Florida beach…..I would not be honest if I said it didn’t bother me just a little. I was anxious about seeing what I would look like in vacation photos. My family is spread across the globe (my brothers live in Madagascar and Costa Rica, so complete family photos don’t happen often and have to last for years). Our first big family vacation, and I was at my heaviest weight I had ever been in my life. My face didn’t look normal and I was puffy everywhere. But I bought a new swim suit and said hell with it, I was going to have a blast on vacation because I’ve been working myself to the bone for nearly four years and I deserved a week off with the kids and my husband. The only person who cared about what I looked like was me, and I wasn’t going to let this get in the way of all of the fun and the memories we were about to make.

During these weeks while I could feel my weight going up, not once did I complain about it in front of my children or sigh in the mirror or talk about “looking fat” with the other moms after school in earshot of the kids. I confided in a couple of friends and my husband, but not a word of Fat Talk was uttered in front of my kids. I was adamant about that. Through all of this, I loved myself and that is what my kids saw. I was bothered by my face not looking “right” and my clothes not feeling comfortable, but not one of these extra pounds changed how I valued myself. At the risk of sounding incredibly arrogant, I love me. I adore me. I really, truly do. I think I am fantastic. Full of awesome. Even if I have an extra 23 pounds right now. My weight is not my worth.

So I don’t love my extra weight, none of my clothes fit, and I don’t feel strong or healthy right now.  My doctor agreed this morning we needed to switch medications immediately, and assured me the weight would slide right off once the steroids were out of my system. She promised the moon face would go away within a couple of weeks. And she confirmed that my immediate health was not in danger from the extra weight or medication switch and that we would just watch my liver carefully.  You only have one liver, which always helps with perspective when you need it.

So taking the wagon out of the van will be easy enough this afternoon, and then I’ll have my Nissan Quest back with stereo rocking and me signing *just like* Kelly Clarkson and P!nk.

So it will go getting my healthy body and comfortable weight back. I’m still the same on the inside, the outside will change a little, and I’ll still be rocking.

And the same will be true tomorrow night when my daughter’s school holds a Family Fun Night — I’ll put on my swim suit and not care that I am one of two moms in the pool while the rest of the moms sit along the edge and talk about the weight they need to lose, like they did last year instead of having fun in the pool. I’m up for a cannonball or two. And I’ll dance with the kids in front of the DJ because who can hear “Party Rock Anthem” and not start jamming?

23 extra pounds or not, this girl likes to party. So here’s pictures of me from vacation, at my heaviest weight ever and a big ol’ moon face and…..HAVING AN AWESOME TIME. My kids are not going to remember what I looked like. They are going to remember the fun we had. Who wants to miss out on that? Not me.

These photos are going to be seen by a couple thousand people. They are not the best photos of me, but I’m willing to make myself vulnerable if another mom out there feels more comfortable about her imperfect body because she read about and saw my imperfect body and decides to join me in saying “The Hell With It!” and looks forward to having fun with her kids. A little self love can go a long, long way.

What I wish moms everywhere could know is that your kids are not going to remember how thin or fat or in-between you were, they will remember how fun you were. Don’t miss out on that, no matter what the scale or tag inside your jeans say. We only get one shot at this, don’t miss the party.

 

Me, my niece, Amelia, and Ben at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in front of Winter's tank. If a dolphin with no tail can feel good about herself, then I can get over a little moon face.

 

My family dressed up and prepared to go on a night-time hunt for buried treasure on the beach after Amelia found a treasure map "hidden" in our rental house. It was so much fun!!

My husband, children and I on the beach in Florida. Medication has caused me to be the heaviest I have ever been. I don't love this photo of myself, but I do love myself. My weight will be changing significantly with a change in medication, but my self worth remains unchanged. We had a great day on the beach, which is what my kids and I will remember 20 years from now.