Google+ Authentic Parenting: Fat is Just a Word

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fat is Just a Word

Welcome to the October edition of Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Body Awareness.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted Authentic Parenting. This month our participants are sharing how they activelyinfluence their children's body awareness and how they experience their own! Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


A couple of days ago, my daughter walked into the room as I was typing and said: "Mom, my calves have gotten so fat! Look at them!"
Kind of baffled and without a second thought, I said to her: "No honey, your calves are not fat, they're beautiful!"
Image: Laura Lewis 23

And then it hit me! I had just juxtaposed fat and beautiful, as if they were opposites!
That's what we do in our culture: fat is the opposite of beautiful, fat is the opposite of active, fat is the opposite of smart. In a nutshell, fat is the epitome of all negative qualities one can attribute to a person.

But I thought I was above that. I thought I at least knew that fat shaming is silly and cultural and plain bad judgement. And there I go, so fearful that my daughter might think she's fat that I go and hand her the very tool that will make her shun fat and put fat in another category altogether.

My daughter has been raised in Africa her whole life, and for her fat is not an insult. Fat is an attribute of wealth and health. Fat is quite the opposite to her as Western culture makes us believe.
All she was trying to tell me is that her calves have gotten so muscular - and they have (yes, in Sub-Saharan Africa, strong/muscular and fat are interchangeable words, isn't that a refreshing change).

Fat is not an insult.
Fat is just a word. It is the opposite of skinny, if anything, but it should not have any other connotation than that.
If anything, I am grateful that this experience has made me think. Has made me knowledgeable that I have to weigh my words carefully when speaking to my daughter about her body, and that I am not rid of the notions passé don to me by my culture.

Have you ever found your words slipping into stereotypes? How do you actively avoid them?

  APBC - Authentic Parenting
Visit Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Hybrid Rasta Mama: A reggae loving mama’s thoughts on  Conscious Parenting, Natural Living, Holistic Health and General MindfulnessSkin Color and the Mixed Race Child - As a mother of a mixed race child whose skin tone falls between her mother and father’s, Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama tackles the tough question of “is my skin light or dark mama?” You can also find Hybrid Rasta Mama on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

  • Momma Jorje: a slightly crunchy mommaKnow Your Body - Momma Jorje shares one way she encourages body awareness and autonomy in her children. You can also follow Momma Jorje on Facebook.

  • Fat is Just a Word - Laura tries to actively debunk the negative connotations of the word 'fat' after a shocking discovery, on Authentic Parenting. You can also find Authentic Parenting on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Hobo Mama: A Natural Parenting BlogYour Body is Beautiful Now - Lauren at Hobo Mama offers your body a love poem. You can also find Hobo Mama on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Does Your Daughter Feel Beautiful - DeAnna L’am of Red Moon School of Empowerment for Women and Girls writes about how Moms can model self acceptance and a strong body image for their daughters.
6 Ways for Children to Learn about Their Body - Ariadne is sharing calming yoga games, art activities and other wonderful ways for children to learn about their body over at the Positive Parenting Connection. You can also find more peaceful, positive parenting ideas and resources on the Positive Parenting Connection community Facebook page.



  1. In a nutshell, fat is the epitome of all negative qualities one can attribute to a person.
    I had to go back and read this sentence several times to allow it to sink in. I am fat and actively working on losing weight. But lately I have been wondering what exactly it is about being fat that makes me feel so unworthy and even guilty? I am educated, active, and am in a loving healthy relationship. That sentence just nailed it for me. Thank you. Thankyouthankyouthankyou.

    1. In Western Society, we try to live up (or down in our situation) to an ideal of female beauty created by misogynist gay men, because if anything, fashion industry isn't run by woman loving women.
      We should not aspire NOT to be fat, we should aspire to be healthy.
      you should thank your body for it's capacities to store fat, because that means you come from a line of people who were well equipped to survive. Caucasians tend to gain weight and store weight easily, because we had to survive harsh winters. Your body doesn't know it lives in a culture of constant abundance.
      Be healthy, be active and your body will settle. Focussing on weight loss will only make you feel bad about yourself.
      Do not reduce yourself to a number on a scale, as you just wrote, you are so much more than that.

  2. Yes! So glad your daughter thinks fat is beautiful, and so glad you caught yourself — it really is incredibly hard not to confuse fat and ugly, when fat is just what we all have and need in our bodies, and that some of us have more of than others. Your comments about the different cultural connotations of "fat" in Sub-Saharan Africa are so intriguing. I love that!

    1. Yes, it's quite schizo for me though, when people now ask about weightless, I have internalized that they mean: you look bad, you seem depressed, I think something is wrong. On the other hand, I still have this psychological connotations to fat - it takes a while to eradicate cultural notions - so when someone hearer calls me fat, I can't help but be offended and feel bad about myself. I am very happy that my daughter might grow up with a different notion about weight altogether

  3. I've come to realise that I can't just keep quiet about any negative feelings I may have about myself. I have to actively say OUT LOUD to my kids that I like the way I look and that I'm happy I have this mother's belly. My daughters are aged 9, 5 and 2 and have already internalised the fat shame of our culture, but to her credit, my oldest child has actively turned away from it.

    You are right. Fat is just a word. I don't lecture my kids if they use it. Unfortunately, people everywhere feel embarrassed when I speak nonchalantly about my physical appearance and quite frankly don't know what to say. When the trite phrase "but you're not fat!" gets met with my response of "what do you call a size 20, then?!", they quickly change the subject....


I love comments! Drop me a line