Sunday, February 12, 2012

A little bit fat

My baby is fat. She is soft and round and has dimples where her knees and elbows go. She has a squishy little belly and rolls on her thighs. When she grins, which is often, her eyes crinkle up as they meet her nursing-baby cheeks and you can see her double chin. After my sweet skinny-minnie Anna baby, I had forgotten just how adorably fat babies can get. And it’s often that, when I pick Lily up and bury my nose in her soft tuft of brown hair or snuggle that little roll on her neck, I will exclaim, “You’re such a good, fat baby!”

I promise, I'm not insulting her.
It’s this statement that raises eyebrows more times than I can remember. Not always, mind you, but often enough that I know chances are, when I say something to that effect, a well meaning mom at play group, or friend, or total stranger in the checkout line, will rush to my baby’s aid.

“No!” they exclaim. “Your baby is beautiful.”

At first I was confused. Of course my baby is beautiful, and, if I may brag, not just in an “every mom thinks their baby is gorgeous” way. Lily is a seriously cute kid. But it took me a couple of “corrections” to realize these people actually seemed to think that I was disparaging my daughter by calling her fat. As if my five month old baby was going to think I was insulting her.

It’s no secret that society is, as a whole, fat phobic. Fat people are lazy. Fat people are unhealthy. If all those fatties would just put down the Hostess box and go for a walk, the obesity epidemic wouldn’t be what it is today. Fat bashing is one of the last accepted forms of discrimination, but I had no idea it had gone so far until I realized that people thought I was insulting my baby daughter by exclaiming over her chub.

I am hopelessly out of the loop but it came to my attention that recently, designer Karl Lagerfeld called singer/songwriter Adele “a little bit fat.” I learned of it when I read comedienne Margaret Cho’s beautiful rebuttal (note: link contains strong language that may not be appropriate for work or children). Adele is overweight, but I can bet you she’s healthier than the skinny girl who eats a Snickers bar for breakfast and calls it good. I’m no doctor, but I’m a singer (with about .000009% of Adele’s raw talent) and I know you can’t sing the way she does and be too unhealthy. When I started running, I noticed my vocal control improving, my range expanding, my pitch getting much more spot-on. You cannot be a total sloth and have the ability to sing like she does.

But even so, why say it? What's with the fat shaming? (Lagerfeld, who has in the past said things like "no one wants to see curvy women" has since apologized and says his statement was taken out of context.) I am “a little bit fat.” I am 5’8”, wear a size 12 or 14 and, despite a regular exercise regimen that includes three mile runs, Jillian Michaels and extra abdominal work, despite a reasonable diet, the number on the scale hasn’t budged in months. I’ve lost some inches, but nothing remarkable, and that wasn’t exactly the goal. 

Ten years ago, the number on the scale might have triggered a major emotional meltdown, possibly an eating disorder. Five years ago, the number on the tag in my jeans, the ones that make my butt look fabulous and my legs look a mile long, would have sent me into a tailspin. It’s only now, after having three kids, that I can look at my body and be amazed at what it can do, what it has done. My body has surpassed my every expectation of it and continues to surprise me. It also continues to be larger than the standard of "beauty" that's pushed at us on a daily basis, and I’d be lying if I said I was at peace with that every day. But it is no longer the end-all, be-all. The number on the scale no longer influences if I feel beautiful that day. I know I am, and not just because I’ve got “a pretty face.” The size of my skirt no longer tells me if I am a worthy member of society. My body has brought three children into the world and nursed them into the fat and skinny babies they were, beautiful, all.

My daughters will never hear me say I am fat in a disparaging way. Regardless of how I look, they will see me be healthy. Mary has asked why I run and I tell her it’s because our bodies need exercise to work their best. I tell her we eat vegetables and fruit and good proteins because those are things that make our bodies strong and healthy. Mary, I will note, was also a roly-poly baby who grew into a perfectly proportionate, healthy toddler and preschooler, with the same chubby baby cheeks her father had until he was 17. (Kid, you will be carded for beer until you’re 40. Enjoy that.)

But kids are mean. Kids try to hurt each other. I know that chances are, one day, no matter what body type they turn out to have, one of my girls will probably come to me, upset that “so-and-so said I’m fat!” It happened to me and I wasn’t a big kid. I used it as an insult myself when I was a kid and hurting and looking to make someone feel bad, so I’m not going to pretend I’m some innocent party in the whole “fat is bad” propaganda campaign. But I hope that, if and when that day comes, my first reaction will not be to decry to accusation, as if being called fat is the worst thing that someone can be called. I hope that I will be able to make my daughters see that they are, now and always, so much more than the sum of their parts, that whether they are a size 0, 8 or 18, they are creative, intelligent, compassionate beings, with their father’s cheeks, mother’s eyes and, God willing, someone else’s attention span.

You are beautiful.”


  1. This has been my favorite so far, Kim :) My son, who is now 2, is starting to thin out, and I miss his pork chops. I think all babies are beautiful, chubby, or not! When Evan was a baby, we would call him the michelin baby, and I loved every bit of his chub, and would also makes cracks about it. I have said I hope my bun-in-the-oven, due in June, is chunky, too, at least they look healthy that way :)

  2. I do not know about Lily but Paige prefers to be called festively plump and wants people to focus more on her dainty feet and hands (her words not mine). I am also told we should not refer to girls as princess (according to one play group mom). So Paige will either be called an "Amazon" or "Mommy's little suffergette."

  3. Kim, this post is beautiful, you'll see it in the news feed on fb....