Weight and value. Value and weight.
How did these two vastly different topics become so intertwined as I grew up? Perhaps I was heavily influenced by the media or my peers, or maybe it was a byproduct of how my young mind made sense of the world around me. Regardless of who or what was to blame, somewhere along the line I formed an inextricable connection between the number on the scale, my clothing size, and my value as a human being.
For years I battled the societal lie that my weight was a reflection of my (lack of) discipline and self-control, my beauty, and my worth. It wasn’t until I started therapy in my late twenties that I began to dismantle these dangerous beliefs and finally give myself grace.
Overcoming this damage has taken years of dedication and commitment, and I’m still chipping away at it now. Now as a mother, I feel a greater sense of urgency to sort it all out for good and lead by example so my children develop strong self-worth and an anti-diet culture mentality. Sometimes my anxiety gets the best of me and I fear the cycle will never fully stop. I fear my children will be in harm’s way, much like I was growing up. But then I reflect and realize that even if I don’t model my behavior perfectly for my kids, at least I’m aware of the toxic diet-related stigmas and doing my best to shut them down.
I never imagined I would have to advocate for my children as infants, but that’s when it started. I wrote the following text in 2018 when my daughter was nine months old.
Today a female family member made comments about you being a chubbier baby than another little girl in the restaurant. For the record, you are perfect and completely healthy according to your doctor—and, yes, it infuriates me that I even feel the need to clarify this. When I heard this comment, I was calm on the outside, but incredibly upset on the inside. As this person waxed on about how you never know what body types people will go on to have later in life, etc., I politely shot back that it doesn’t matter. Because it really, truly doesn’t. And it’s never right to comment on other people’s bodies.
As the day went on, I fell into despair. I felt so sad for society, especially women, and in this case, my beautiful, joyful, and innocent baby girl, as it seems everyone has to face judgment about body stereotypes and lifestyle choices at one point or another. (Horrifyingly, even as a baby, though you aren’t aware yet.) But then I felt peace as I realized, Baby Girl, I am proud and glad I can be a strong mom for you. I am and will always be the type of person who is outraged by these kinds of comments, rather than perpetuating them and demanding unrealistic standards from you or anyone else. I am proud to defend all people against these egregious expectations and stand up for what is right, even when it’s an unpopular opinion. I love you so deeply because of who you are and just as you are, no matter what. Never feel less than, because you are truly everything. 💜”
Reading my own words four years later, my heart swells with many emotions. I’m endlessly proud that I felt this way then and still do today. I’m hopeful that I will continue to stand up for what’s right, and that body positivity and acceptance will overrule this chaotic, diet-culture, shame-based mentality that is so, so TIRED. I’m sad because this memory still punches me in the gut as if it happened only yesterday. And lastly, I’m angry that the stigmas that plagued me during my own formative years and into adulthood are still ever-present in our society today.
Believe me, I’m so tired. But I won’t ever stop fighting. Not for myself, not for my kids, and not for society. Readers, please join me in this battle. Let’s be on the right side of history here—not only for ourselves but for future generations. This problem won’t go away without intentional effort and a collective mind shift. I believe we can influence a different, better, brighter future for our children, grandchildren, and beyond. I implore you to join me.