You’re Fat! 7 Scary Effects of Fat Shaming Your Daughter
This week’s post is a letter to all parents who have little girls. Don’t call your daughters fat. Don’t even think about it.
When I contemplate my childhood, the thing that stands out the most for me is my father criticizing my weight.
He didn’t just call me fat. I’ll give him credit. He was more creative than that. He called me names like “thunder thighs” and told me boys don’t date girls who are heavy. Not only that, but also he made me mow the lawn in the dead of summer in sweats so I would get exercise.
Equating exercise with mowing the lawn was a bad move. Building that connection between exercise and mowing the lawn only served to make me hate exercise even more than I already did. Have you ever mowed a lawn in the summer in sweatpants? It gets hot.
Dealing With My Weight Was a Nightmare
For a little girl blossoming into a young lady, dealing with my weight was a nightmare. And my father never truly understood the impact of his words and actions.
To be honest, I was so young I couldn’t even articulate how his criticisms made me feel. I just knew it wasn’t good. Plus this was the time before the concept of fat shaming was introduced into society.
Just so you know, I’m not going to whine through this entire article, but instead give concrete examples of why telling your daughter she’s fat – even if you think you’re being constructive or helpful – is not the right way to go.
I’m also going to end the article with a more positive way to get your daughter to lose weight without directly or indirectly fat shaming her.
What Happens When You Call Your Daughter Fat
With that said, here are 7 scary things that may happen to your daughter when you tell her she’s fat.
#1 – A Boatload of Low Self-Esteem
Being told I was fat was utterly devastating. For one thing, being labeled as fat was the worst thing you could ever be. That meant I was the worst thing I could ever be.
TV shows and movies made fun of fat people. Magazines only featured thin girls. Fat girls never got chosen first in gym class. So many things in my life made a fat person stand out for all the wrong reasons.
Being fat meant there was something wrong with me. And having something wrong with me made me feel awful. Most days I hoped I would wake up as someone else.
#2 – Raging Jealously
Not only did I want to be someone else, but I was also jealous of virtually everybody else in my life who was thinner than me. They were good at sports and got to wear cool clothes.
I would sometimes hear that, “I was beautiful on the inside,” which is all fine and dandy, but that doesn’t help me fit into a size 12.
#3 – Seeking Approval Elsewhere
Apparently, despite being fat himself, coming from a long line of pleasantly plump people, and spending an entire childhood co-dependently eating huge sundaes together at Friendly’s, my dad still wanted a thinner girl as his daughter.
I tried dieting and nothing really happened. With that said, I came to the conclusion that I’d never be able to please him. Part of me believed he didn’t love me anymore because I was fat. Who could love a fatty like me anyway?
As a result, I went out of my way to please other people in my life. This need for approval and love was pretty strong and got even stronger as I got older. As I got into boys, I did my best to please them. They didn’t seem to find me fat, but those encounters were short-lived, didn’t turn out well, and kept me searching for that approval and love I desperately craved.
#4 – Falling Victim to Weakness
Just as good girls go for bad boys, girls with a tendency to gain weight also make crummy food choices.
Who ever thought to label foods as good and bad, healthy and unhealthy didn’t do us any favors. If we’re anything alike, when someone tells me I can’t have something that makes me want it more.
Wanting – craving – the bad foods only made the problem worse. I knew I shouldn’t be eating them, but I ate them anyway and then felt guilty about it. Once I felt guilty, I would need to make myself feel better so I would eat some more. It’s quite a rollercoaster.
#5 – Developing Unhealthy Eating Habits
Whether I was gorging myself or just chewing foods so I could taste them and then spitting them out, I wasn’t eating healthy at all.
Neither made me feel better about myself, but circle back to point #1 above and my low self-esteem made it so I didn’t really care. I was fat so I deserved to feel bad.
#6 – Trying Fad Diets
In the quest to lose weight, I tried some of those crazy weight loss programs. You know the fad diets. In my case, I was drinking those thick, chalky and somewhat vanilla-y, meal replacement shakes. However, they didn’t seem to fill me up so I would eat too, which was a no-no.
Because I didn’t have the proper direction (I was only about 13 years old), I ended up gaining weight rather than losing it.
#7 – Damaged Self-Image
When I was younger, I would look in the mirror and cry. It was especially painful when I went clothes shopping. If you can’t fit into a “normal” size and you’re feeling pretty bad about going up a size or two, clothes shopping can be traumatic.
I found myself crying in dressing rooms on more than one occasion wishing I was skinny. It’s pretty embarrassing. Even more embarrassing is getting the larger size clothes and then feeling like people are staring at you, even though they probably aren’t.
A Better Way to Help Your Daughter Lose Weight and Get Healthy
Please read these words and heed this warning. Telling your daughter that she’s fat, heavyset, big-boned, etc. will not get you your intended outcome of her losing weight and getting healthy.
Losing weight will only come when she acknowledges the problem herself and wants to make a change in her life.
My suggestion? Change your own habits first and set a good example. Then slowly start to include your daughter in your new lifestyle. Show her how good you feel when you eat better and how much fun you have when you’re exercising. Show. Don’t tell.
That’s how to change behavior. Little girls look up to their fathers and notice everything they do and don’t do.
If you can relate to anything in this article, you might enjoy my book, the Grounded Girl’s Guide to Dealing with Difficult People and Saving Your Sanity.
If you need help changing your ways or getting out of your fat funk, maybe I can help since I’ve been through it and come out the other side. Feel free to join my Facebook support group or book a completely private one-on-one session with me.
Just reading this article is a step in the right direction so good for you. Keep up the great work!