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Why Was Her First Reaction Fat?

Nov 29, 2012

My step-daughter is twelve. She’s pretty, thin, and very outspoken. She’s also a typical stubborn and know-it-all preteen. It can get pretty annoying.

Yesterday, I was looking at photos of beautiful Jessica Kane on her Facebook page. My step-daughter came up behind me, and her immediate reaction was, “Wow, she’s fat.” What?? This kid has stood up for people who are picked on for that exact same thing! She has, in the past, commented on how it’s wrong to say things like that! So where did that come from?

I don’t know. I can’t really get into her head. I can tell you that within the past few months, she has been getting on the scale a lot. She is close to 5’5” and weighs about 120 pounds. She bases how much she eats on what she weighs. She is a size 3 and it seems like she plans to stay that way. She has a beautiful outside. I don’t know how she feels about her own body. I remember back when she was 6 and 7 and she had no body image issues. I remember that innocence and inhibition, when she would ask me about body part names and seemed that she thought that neither our bodies, nor her mother’s, should be any different than what they were. In just a few years (albeit, half of her life), it seems she’s done almost a 180. To be fair to her, though, she has been kind of mad at me lately. Ah, the joys of step-parenting.

I confronted her. “Why was that your first reaction? Why was that the first thing you said? Why not how beautiful she is, or how nice her smile is, or what a pretty outfit she is wearing?” She said something about how her first thought was regarding her straight hair (my step-d likes straight hair).

It is not inborn for us to judge each other by appearances. My judgment of my own appearance, though, existed by the time I was about a year and a half old. I don’t know where it came from – my dad, my mom, my babysitter, a combination. I just remember that when I was that age, I was with a little girl who was a couple of years older than me. We were taking a bath. I compared my body to hers and in my mind, I came up short. At age four, I was looking at my legs and seeing fat. By fourth grade, I was being bullied. I went on my first diet at age eleven, my second diet (after a weight gain) at age twelve, and it was like that from then on. By age 20, I had given up on dieting, or it had given up on me. Body acceptance was nowhere to be found (the concept didn’t even exist). I lost weight in a non-dieting program and stood in front of a full-length mirror with anger and tears in my eyes at the destruction of my body caused by my rapid, anti-dieting weight gain of 200 pounds over less than two years. I was covered in loose skin and stretch marks, and so it has been since with every attempt to lose weight after a weight gain. My body has never been acceptable to me.

I am at the point of no return now, where my only next step has to be body acceptance. It is what I’ve been avoiding. My self-hatred has been turned inward by way of depression and outward by way of body abuse. When I have been thinner, I have dressed well and used my body size as a reward. When I have been fatter, I have dressed poorly and used my body size as a punishment. Either way, I felt the same on the inside, but I haven’t been able to find my inside because I have buried it deeply.

Now, I eat better and am not trying to lose or gain weight. I don’t really get on the scale. I’ve been giving away clothes that are too small, and a few that I’ve purchased recently that either turned out too large because I didn’t try them on, or because maybe I have lost a little weight since I bought them. I thought I was wearing a size 28W pants. It turns out maybe I’m a size 26W. I just gave away three pairs of jeans yesterday that are too large. The animosity between me and dressing rooms backfires sometimes.

My step-daughter is on a path of her own. I can’t fix her head. Nor can I completely correct what society has already done to her. Maybe my continued journey toward body love and acceptance will be a model to her when she needs it. Because she will need it. We all do. You all are my role models – you who write and read blogs on this topic. You who dress beautifully and who are teaching me that I am gorgeous. You who speak to me like my mother did about my beauty. I need my mother now, but her words in my memory will have to suffice: “You are sooo beautiful, Elizabeth.” Thank you, Mom. It is because of those words you said, no matter what my size, that I know that I can believe I am beautiful too.

Jessica Kane, you are a gorgeous woman, and I am following you with the hopes that my journey will lead me to feel as beautiful as you are on the outside, and to let my own inner beauty shine through like you do.

~Liz

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