Posts Tagged 'body acceptance'

How to talk to my sister

I just got off the phone with my 9-year-old sister. She called me to tell me she didn’t need me to babysit her tomorrow, since her flu seems to have passed. But could I come anyway so she’d see me for half an hour before school. I said I’d come to dinner tonight instead.

My sister is a cool kid. She’s bubbly and chatty and flirty. She rides horses and plays field hockey and runs faster than any other kid in school. She likes school and enjoys sitting in the front of the class, if only because she can chat with the teacher more. She doesn’t give a damn about hierarchy. If she likes someone, she’ll hang out with him/her, regardless of cool factor, age, sex or anything, really. She talks back when she disagrees with something.

She also has some insecure traits, though. She has really bad nerves when she has to present something in class like a book report. When she’s in a new environment, she can be very clingy, though she’s getting better with that. And she’s terrified of getting fat.

First off, she’s not fat. At all. She seems to take after her dad, who could never put on weight however hard he tried until he turned fifty. My mom and I are both fat, my mom much more so than me. And she doesn’t think I’m fat, though she knows mom is.

But lately, she’s been saying things like “I don’t want a sweet, because I’ll get fat,” or “if I eat this, I’ll have to exercise more.” At 9 that’s a bit worrying, I think. And it’s not necessarily that she thinks fat is ugly or unattractive, but it’s that she’s been taught that being fat is unhealthy. And that message seems to be reinforced from so many different directions:

  • My mom is quite unhappy with her body. She’s trying to get better at accepting herself for who she is, but she still wants to lose a lot of weight. At the moment she’s trying to eat intuitively, but with portion restriction (I’m supposedly the only person who knows she’s on a diet. Somehow I don’t think she can hide it). I think, somewhere, my mom is depressed and really hates herself a lot more than she shows. But kids pick up on that.
  • My sister’s dad doesn’t like the fact that my mom is fat. She was fat when they met, but not as fat as she is now. I think he thought he’d be the one who’d make her so happy she wouldn’t need to be fat anymore. Big disappointment there. They rarely sleep in the same bed, supposedly because they have different rhythms, but really because my mom snores. Because she’s fat.
  • Television ads like the one about how it’s healthy to eat less and excersize more if you’ve had a birthday with cake and snacks the day before, just to balance things out, because otherwise you’ll get fat. [government message]
  • School assignments about which foods are healthy and which ones aren’t. As in fat is unhealthy. Not as in you need a balanced diet to stay healthy.
  • The talk among older (teenage) girls at her sports clubs about being fat, and how it’s a disadvantage in sports.
  • Comments from other adults about weight she happens to overhear.
  • Segments on the news about research on how unhealthy fat is.
  • TV shows that are about weight loss, especially those that make kids lose weight as well.
  • Just the fact you hardly see fat people in the media, and that when they are around, a negative characteristic is almost always attached to being fat.
  • Hardly any attention is being given to the fact that not weighing enough or eating enough is at least as unhealthy as weighing too much or eating too much.
  • Or the fact that different bodies metabolize food differently, so people have different needs in terms of food.

These are just the things I thought of at the top of my head. There are many, many more messages about how fat is detrimental to your well-being. The whole image of beauty is skewed in the media too.

So how do I counter all these messages? How do I show my sister that no matter what shape or size she is, she is a beautiful, powerful, smart person? That she is good enough? I hope I’m around her enough to tell her she is a great person and have her believe it.

The Shape of my Heart, uh, Body

Just the other day, I was looking at myself in the mirror. I was in a store, trying on jeans (they fit, btw), and for the first time ever, I could see why I don’t have a really defined waist, and why most jeans aren’t comfortable, even when they “fit”: The distance between my ribcage and my pelvis is really small, only about 5cm at my sides.

 I knew I had big lungs since I was twelve, and we had an experiment in biology class to measure lung capacity. Mine was more than 1.5x what was average for my height. I also already knew that my hipbones were bigger from when I took ballet classes as a kid. My hip bumps were at a completely different place than those of the other girls. But I never put two and two together.

So, most jeans that supposedly sit at your waist, and therefore get narrower on top, sit around my hips. Can you spell MUFFIN-TOP*? My realisation about my anatomical quirks also explains why normal shirts, and also, oftentimes, plus-sized shirts don’t fit right: because my chest is bigger, my breasts are set lower, so the space is in the wrong place in fitted shirts. I’ve tried hoisting the boobs up higher, but if anything looks ridiculous, it’s breasts with a fold above them instead of below (yeah, that’s what my boobs do). Really. Weird.

For some strange reason, I had never realised that my anatomical composition could have anything to do with the way clothes tit fit me. Wow.

So today, I stood in front of the mirror at home in my underwear, and actually looked at the shape my body has underneath my clothes. My breasts are big and soft, and sit at the middle of my chest. My arms are long. I have a flabby bit near my armpit. My armpit is not hollow. I have a belly. My hips are slightly curved. My bottom is quite flat. My thighs are big and muscular. They almost stick out more than my ass at the back. My calves are really defined, but not small.

It’s my body, and I love it.

*Don’t get me started on ‘hipsters’. They don’t even go past my hip joint. Ouch.