Our Sizeist Attitude Starts At Birth

Did we ever have a chance at having a healthy body image?

It all starts at birth

He was 6 lbs 13 oz.

It’s a number I’ll probably never forget.

I’ve been a mom for 9 months now and it’s understandable that at this time, it’s all about how much weight he’s gaining or not gaining. His weight, height, even his head circumference matters at this point.

We weigh him regularly.

It’s important at this stage in his life to ensure we track his weight because it can be crucial to both his physical and mental development. We track and track because we need to. But we also do something else at this stage of his (and other babies) young life — we make comments and remarks about how big, heavy, small, or skinny he his. There’s no intention behind these comments, good or bad. They just come out because sizeism is so ingrained in our culture and in our identity that it becomes a natural part of us.

Since birth, we’ve subject him to sizeism and body discrimination. Eventually we won’t need to weigh him anymore. Both he and I will grow out of that stage. What we don’t grow out of is the “need” to make the comments about their body and about other people’s body.

How kids view their body is a reflection of us as parents and as a society

Keaton has started to blow raspberries aka spitting all over my husband and I. How did he learn how to do that?

From us.

Because we thought it was cute and funny and, now, instead of laughs we get spit in our face.

Kids will mimic us and internalize everything we do and say to them so we need to be careful especially when it comes to treating our own bodies with the respect they deserve.

Our insecurities or security about our bodies will be passed down to our kids. No matter how hard we try to hide them from our little ones, they notice everything and they will either become exactly like us or try their hardest to become anything but us. So whatever we do as parents will eventually be passed down in one way or another and I don’t know about other parents but I hope my kid wants to be somewhat like me when he grows up.

We remember the negative more than we do the positive

I was a chubby kid. My face looked like a little round tomato. I didn’t grow out of the chubby phase until I hit puberty the summer before going into grade 8.

I don’t remember my parents ever saying anything about my weight to me. But I do remember an aunt making a one-off comment calling me fat as she picked me up to go to Chinese school. I’ve carried that comment with me for years and I can still vividly remember her saying it as I got into her car.

Despite that comment that have lived with me for decades, I have a pretty healthy image of my body thanks to my parents. My mom was never on any fad diets and rarely made any negative comments about her own body that I can remember.

But there will always be people like my aunt.

The ones who make the one-off comments thinking their remarks are funny or useful or that they’re the inspiration we need to fix ourselves.

As much as positive reinforcement and influence is important for a healthy body image, we unfortunately tend to remember the negative ones.

Even 8 year old kids aren’t immune to our sizeist attitudes.

Our sizeist attitude becomes second nature

If we’re repeatedly exposed to something it becomes second nature to us, especially when we’re exposed to it when we’re young.

Our sizeist attitude is much like having the ability to breathe and walk — we don’t ever have to think about it anymore once we’ve learned it.

Once we’ve established our thoughts, beliefs, and actions, rarely do we ever question the validity of them.

We are born with a clean slate. Everything we learn is learned by living. If we are constantly bombarding our children with comments about their weight and size with negative connotations behind the words “heavy” or “skinny”, that is what they will associate those words to. If we are always commenting about our own weight or other people’s weights, our kids will normalize that too.

Our attitude towards weight and size shouldn’t be a habit. It shouldn’t be second nature to judge a person’s character based on their size but we do. We do it all the time without so much as an afterthought and I wish we didn’t teach that to our kids the moment they’re out of the womb.

Some comments are said with good intentions…some are just mean

I have looked exactly the same since high school.

I’ve never had an issue with my weight or size yet I have been subject to comments about my weight for decades. I’m too skinny and should eat more (like all the damn time) or my face has rounded out (okay…thanks…).

Maybe they’re just stating their observations but why do they feel the need to state them at all?

Some comments are said with good intentions and some are just mean spirited. But as the recipient of such comments, I often don’t know the difference between the two and if I don’t know the difference between a well intentioned comment or a mean remark, how can we expect a child to understand? Unfortunately, most comments regarding weight and size are denoted with negativity even if that wasn’t the intention.

Weight is a sensitive issue because we’ve tied it to our self worth

For one reason or another, we as a society have tied our weight and size to our self-worth. This is why comments and remarks about our bodies don’t just roll off our backs. Instead we carry them with us like a giant boulder on our shoulders.

Our weight becomes a burden we must bear.

It doesn’t help that every social media outlet plugs the myth that the way we look directly correlates with the way we should feel or who we are as a person.

Skinnier means productive and overall happier (but not too skinny or that makes you vain).
Fatter means you’re lazy or have no willpower.

When it comes to our size and weight, there is no happy place where nobody can say anything about your body because somebody will say always have something to say about it.

Tying our value as a human being to our size is a learned trait. Babies are born just as they are with no beliefs or values. Everything they learn is from us, as a parent and as a society and if that’s the case, shouldn’t we try to teach our future generation that their value is worth more than their weight?

Did we ever have a chance at loving our bodies?

Since becoming a parent, I’ve been trying really hard to listen to my own words. The first few months, I’ve called my son heavy, small, big, little.

Although these words don’t mean anything to him now, they will. If I keep using these types of words to describe him, will he ever have a chance at developing a healthy image of his body and learn not to judge people based on their looks?

As a parent, I believe that everything we do and say has a consequence on our children.

Directly or indirectly.

Good or bad.

We are their very first influence in this world and since that’s the case, shouldn’t we give them a chance to love themselves for who they are regardless of what they look like even if we haven’t learned to do it for ourselves yet?

Living life imperfectly and as creatively as possible. I write about creativity, motherhood and personal growth. Website: www.alicevuong.com

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