When You’re Too Fat for a Fix

Our generation of women have learned how damaging it is to say the F word.

If we’re mothers we know that every turn in front of the mirror grabbing a handful of belly fat and proclaiming our disgust speaks silent disdain into our daughters souls. Every dressing room mirror and swimsuit season can leave grown women chanting mantras about more exercise and less Krispy Cremes but really it’s so much more than that and most of us know it.

I read a book recently and the author discussed her battle with bulge. She wrote about feelings I mirror. I pictured her laying restless in her bed thinking about the last bit of ice cream in the freezer and the squish of her thighs as she padded down the stairs to retrieve it and push spoonfuls into her mouth with only the glow of the fridge light.

I pictured her standing in front of a closet full of clothes that seemed to shrink day after day and struggling to make zippers grab and buttons close.

I pictured my life. And then I saw her author pictures. And I knew she had no idea what it felt like to be me. I mean, she may understand insecurity and food addiction but she didn’t understand the F word. She wasn’t fat. Not at all. 

But I am. I know I am not supposed to say that but really, who am I kidding?

Because there is a point when you hope the seatbelt clicks on the plane and you try not to lop over into the aisle, and you shift around a few times and suck it in and hear the click and feel relief wash over you because what do you do when it won’t close? Do you have to flag down the flight attendant and proclaim you are too fat for your seat? Do they bring you an extension? Do the people in the seat next to you pretend not to hear or do they look at you with a sense of embarrassment on your behalf. Do they silently judge you when you order a diet coke?

Because there was that time we visited the amusement park and remembered how we screamed on the ride that sent us upside down and we waited in line. My daughter with her brave face on, my husband holding the tickets. And I remember when we passed the goofy sign with the cartoon finger-pointing at height limits, Kaia stood tall and just barely passed by. Last year she had been too short. And we climbed into our seats and waited for the mechanic whoosh when the overhead restraint lowered. And everyone reached up to pull it down and in that moment I knew it wouldn’t close. I pushed myself as far back in my seat as I could manage and cursed my boobs but the gangly teenager had noticed me squirming and headed my way.

“It’s got to click,” he mumbled at me.

Everyone’s eyes turned to face me. A teenage girl leaned over and giggled something into her friend’s ear.

My face burned scarlet but there was no click. “Sorry, you’ll have to get off,” he said.

Too fat for a fix

I lifted the restraint back up and climbed down.

“Where are you going mommy?” Kaia questioned.

“Umm, mommy’s just going to go watch with Grandma. I’ll be right over there,” I whispered as I made my way down the platform past the line waiting for their turn. Someone was called from the line to take my empty seat.

I wanted to cry. To burst into tears right then and there. To melt into the sticky sidewalk and disappear. I sat on the bench watching as my daughter flew through the air squealing. And I thought about how I needed to hold it together for her. How I needed to bite down that raw grief and embarrassment so that she would see a strong mother.

I would brush it away, unfazed, when inside the weight of shame was crushing me. 

 And then I read an article about how we should never talk to our daughters about their bodies. Never mention weight or beauty. Never address food as anything other than fuel. And I read through the hundreds of comments praising this way of skirting the issues of body hatred, peer pressure, and self-esteem. This formula for building strong daughters.

But everything about that made me shake my head because I remember being 5 and walking behind my brother and his friends so they wouldn’t see how fat I was. How fat my emaciated body was after being diagnosed with leukemia. No one had ever told me I was fat. Not once, but I believed it.

Because these lies that defile and plant and grow up into flesh and fullness, they don’t just start with models on glossy magazines and size racks in the department stores. They start in the whispered hiss that the daughters of Eve are ever left wanting. Ever left vacant and empty and wretched. And don’t tell me you haven’t heard it yourself a thousand times since the day you were called girl.

And there was the day she fell behind when she was running and her tears met me in the bathroom mirror and my heart broke into a million pieces.

 I wish I had the luxury of quietly sweeping body image and beauty under the proverbial rug and thus ensuring my daughter never frown ugly into her reflection but that is not the world in which we live. 

I remember when Kaia was in ballet and a girl in her class had asked about her belly and how Kaia’s eyes had swelled with hot tears and how she had asked me if she was fat. She wasn’t even entirely sure what the word meant but knew it hurt. She still had toddler thighs and the chubby baby cheeks of an angel and I remember wanting to ignore this cruel world where girls make you feel ugly before the boys ever do but I couldn’t.

cruel girls

Because my baby was hurting and I knew she needed truth more than she needed a strong mother.

She needed to know that I hurt when I’m too fat for Stitchfix and everyone is getting packages I can’t fit in and I close the browser and look at jewelry instead.

She needed to know that I don’t always feel beautiful or strong or whole.

She needed to know that I cared a whole lot what boys thought and that every mean word from other girls tore into me a bit and honestly, I still carry some of it.

She needed to know that I am not just spirit but flesh. That it hurts to walk around in this body sometimes.

She needed to know authenticity. Not that I hate myself or my body or that she should as well but that we all feel the pulse of the world around us and sometimes that world will tell us we’re not good enough and sometimes we’ll listen. And when that happens, I’m not going to tell her not to feel it or don’t worry because the pain doesn’t matter or worse, doesn’t exist. 

 I will tell her that the broken bits are a place where God works. The beauty is in the honesty. The telling the truth about yourself. And the only truth I know is I am both broken and whole. That I hurt and yet am healed.

I will tell her  God sees all of it, including the appetite that sometimes veers out of control and the disgrace I feel drowning in calories, and the zippers that bulge and that instead of pretending I’m ok with it all, I can cry out to a God who gets me.

And when she comes out of the gate and asks me if I saw her so brave and strong up there, I will say I see you. I see you. And know that when she sees me, she’ll get the truth in all its devastating beauty.

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Comments

  1. christywillard says

    Alia: I’m right there with you — bulging zipper and all. It’s a place you only know if you’ve walked in it. You are so courageous and I want you to know how much I appreciate your honesty in all its vast array. And that if you’re like me, and you lay your heart out in a post and you’ve peeled back the veil, there might be a moment that you wish you could suck it all back in? But, I hear your heart and I appreciate you! Thank you for the necessary reminders of broken and whole at the same time. Because sometimes I forget!

    Christy @ A Heartening Life
    http://www.ahearteninglife.com

    • says

      Thanks Christy. Yes, actually this post was written a bit ago and intended for a guest post on another site but that got pushed back so I’m posting here and I’ll write a new one for them down the road.
      It’s funny because sometimes my most vulnerable posts, I tend to want to post on someone else’s site. The one where I share about my childhood abuse is over on my friend Tanya Marlow’s blog and it just felt safer having it a little removed. Does that make sense? I don’t know. But I’m getting braver, I guess, because this was a hard write as well and here it is on my own.

  2. says

    Alia, I’ve been reading blogs on my phone for ages til the computer gets set up well, so I’ve been terrible about commenting. But no more! I’ll sit here and toss platitudes at the 2 year old who wants out of his crib until I can write to you. This was beautiful. My daughter is 4, but I can see it all coming. And I think your answer is perfect. The idea of ignoring the bad has never helped anyone get through it. Because it’s there and no matter what our daughters look like, they’ll encounter the fear and the shame and the doubt over and over. So thank you for these thoughts. (I’ve missed chatting through comments!)

    • says

      Aww thanks Janice. I’m laughing over the image of your two year old. I know that feeling. “One more second, mommy is almost done…eat a cracker.”

      Yeah, I read a “viral” post a few months ago and it basically said the way to have strong confident daughters is to completely ignore their bodies and only talk about how healthy or strong they are. And while there are some things I did value in that post, I know that for the girls and women I know, it’s an incomplete story because we all feel what we feel regardless of what words we always use.

      I feel like I’m lying to my daughter if I’m ignoring my feelings or hers when the reality is that sometimes it’s really hard to be a girl or a women in this world. Sometimes we just need to cry and sometimes we need to eat chocolate and sometimes we need to say, I’ve been there too.

  3. says

    Oh, sweet friend, I ache with your hurt and pain. Thank you for so openly and vulnerably sharing of your experiences and concerns. I applaud how you’re addressing this honestly with your precious girl. (((HUGS)))

    Deb Weaver
    thewordweaver.com

    • says

      Thanks Deb. It’s one of my greatest hopes that my daughter would grow up to know the truth of who God made her to be. Beautiful and beloved. Always.

  4. says

    This post deserves a place of significance in my heart, Alia. You write from the pain of knowing. I know too. It’s a knowing that both sears my heart and strains my emotions as I think about how this will affect my own sweet girl in the future. She is beautiful – all cheeks full of Five and belly full of joy – but I want her to always be able to appreciate the beauty that is her body, as well as all that it can do. Even if it becomes fat. I read this through tears as I realized that shame can keep us, so many of us, from seeing that beauty. Thank you. Thank you for being brave and writing this. I love your heart.

    • says

      Thank you Missy. So many of us girl mamas just want for our daughters what we struggle to find for ourselves. Acceptance, belonging, beauty. I pray I’m doing some of that right, teaching her that I don’t have it all down but God sees me in the struggles I have and He’s close to me when I hurt, or feel other or ugly. And God is with her too. I love that image of your sweet girl. Praying she’d always know her beauty. And all the girl mamas said AMEN!

  5. says

    You are so right, these messages get ingrained in us from birth!!! I love your heart & honesty! You are such an inspiration for me. And you are truly beautiful!! I can’t fit stitch fix either, but I would be honored to snuggle next to you on a plane! Blessings & hugs!

    • says

      Thank you so much, Lauren. It does seem like every woman I know struggles with these kinds of issues at times no matter what they look like or weigh. It’s so common to just feel less than. Can’t wait to meet you at Allume!

  6. says

    I’ve struggled with weight most of my adult life too. I’m in the weird in between- right in the middle of fat and skinny. I think chubby is the right word. I’ve often wondered if I could even do Stitch Fix myself- would the clothes even look right on me if I could? I feel like sometimes it is so hard to be me, right where I am. Especially in a sea of “hip” skinny Christian bloggers writing about stitch fix and skinny jeans. I appreciate your bravery here to really share your thoughts. I know being vulnerable isn’t easy!

    • Alia Joy says

      I’ve been every stage at some point in my life from emaciated and sickly to athletic to chubby to obese. The funny thing is I felt just as badly about myself when I was normal sized as I do now. I wasn’t fat when I was younger, but I carried the weight of it inside me. The only difference is that now what I have always felt on the inside shows on the outside. In a lot of ways, even with the weight and the pain and the embarrassment, I am more whole now than I have ever been and that has only happened by embracing the mess. The broken parts of me and knowing God is at work in my life even when the scale seems to say different. Thanks for sharing a bit of your heart here with me. I cherish it.

  7. rkrumpe94 says

    That line….” I remember wanting to ignore this cruel world where girls make you feel ugly before the boys ever do but I couldn’t.” undid me. I am not overweight but I have struggled with self image so much. I look at the “trouble areas” here and there and then label the whole as fat. There is such a distortion in some of our brains and I have found that peace and acceptance in the way we were created is such a battle. I press into the truth and stop playing the comparison game where I am either a loser or filled with sinful pride. Beautiful, raw post, Alia. Love, Rachael @ Inking the Heart

    • Alia Joy says

      Thank you Rachael. It is so much more than fat or skinny, pretty or plain. It really is. Because no matter what we look like or how we measure up, there will always be a void that no amount of vanity will fill. There will always be those feelings that tell us we’re not enough or too much but never just right. And it is a battle. Yes, it is. We’re stronger in it though, when we let our guard down a little and say, it’s hard but I’m worth it. I’m fighting that battle to believe as well. Thanks for sharing here, Rachael.

  8. says

    I’m nodding my head with every word. As a woman who hit a size 14 in 6th grade (and I’m not talking a little girls’ 14 either) I know all too well what it means to feel fat. But the world acts like we should either hide away, ashamed, or pretend we’re not the size we most obviously are. I don’t know a good answer. I think when we pretend we are minimizing some very real feelings in our girls and that can create shame. They think if we don’t talk about it there must be something wrong. But it’s OK to admit that parents have moments (days, weeks) of self-doubt, when we feel less than powerful and accepted. They need to see us admit it and work through it, because that will give them the tools to do the same thing. Then again, I’m stumped when my 53-pound 9 year old competitive gymnast, who is nothing but muscle, looks in the mirror and declares herself “fat” when she is anything but. Thanks for your voice on a sensitive subject. And I say we should start our own version of StitchFix. :-)

    • Alia Joy says

      Oh it is so hard. SO hard to be a woman and raise women and know that we belong and we are beautiful and strong and broken and hurt. It is all there. I don’t have all the answers, I wish I did. I know that there is so much to this complex issue but I do believe wholeheartedly that we need to be real. And we need to have hope. Both. I will never let my daughter feel like being or feeling or seeing herself as ugly or fat is a good place to land at but I do know that she will feel all of those things and that to feel them is not wrong, even though they’re lies. Feeling them and admitting it is the first step to crying out to God and asking that He speak truth into our lives. That He remind us of who we were created to be. Glorious and whole. Beautiful and beloved.

  9. says

    Alia – This is a beautiful & raw & transparent post. There are no words to express all that I am feeling right now. The thing is this will resonate with every woman because we all have felt these feelings, whether overweight or not. And that is the feeling of being “ugly” or “unaccepted” or “unloved”. Having two young granddaughters, I so appreciated this post today. May I somehow deposit into their lives that they are beautiful, always. Alia, I just want to hug you & thank you for sharing today. You have blessed me deeply! ~~Joanne~~

    • Alia Joy says

      Yes, no matter what size or shape or age, we all feel it at times. I pray your granddaughters do grow into that knowledge and core belief that they are beautiful in every way that matters. Thanks for sharing here, Joanne.

  10. says

    Dear Alia,
    Weight has always been a struggle in my life- either watching my family members struggle with it or dealing with it myself. I read the post I think you are referring to and I so appreciate your take on this! It was something that we just kind of tried to ignore growing up and I don’t want that for my daughters!!! I want them to see the struggle and know that it hurts, but that we don’t have to just stay in that struggle. It is so much better to face it honestly. I want them to know there is no topic that is off limits, ya know?
    Oh, my heart breaks for you with the roller coaster story. I sometimes wonder why we have these struggles in life, but then I see your gift in writing and I can’t help feeling that your struggles are a part of why your writing is so beautiful. Keep being brave. You bless so many!
    Love,
    Becky

    • Alia Joy says

      Yes, no topic off limits. Absolutely my heart in parenting my kids. I have heard that the greatest pain in our life is the area that Gods glory can shine the most. I do believe in my life it’s so true. Thanks for reading. You bless me with your kindness.

  11. says

    I ordered a Fix exactly one time and was able to fit into a scarf. I’ve worn a 12 for years and a 14 since my son was born, which is supposedly the ‘average American women’s size’. But even in a 14, there are fewer options and the Fixes don’t fit and the XLs are tight, and I taste what women bigger than me feel. Thank you for giving a voice to so, so many on the spectrum of not skinny.

    • Alia Joy says

      Yes, I forgot to mention my huge scarf collection. I do buy those and makeup. And I used to buy shoes before my feet grew 3 sizes after my babies.

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks Dana, it was fun hanging out at #fmfparty last night. And thanks for all your prayers over this ridiculous cold. I appreciate you so much.

  12. says

    Alia, what a brave post! I’m sure your ego is taking shots even if they’re self-aimed. But any wounds you sustain from this will be the price of freedom your words bring to ALL women. The crazy thing is no one is immune from these lies. Like you said, “don’t tell me you haven’t heard it yourself a thousand times since the day you were called girl.” And YES, we need to talk about these things with our girls and with each other. We need to be the compassionate listening ears and the voices that defy the lies. “I will tell her that the broken bits are a place where God works. The beauty is in the honesty.” And the beauty is in you, Alia . . your words, your face, your body, your style. You are a beautiful, radiant woman.

    • Alia Joy says

      Thank you so much, Kim. I think the same thing about you. I remember telling Kathi at Jumping Tandem how beautiful I thought you were and it wasn’t just your gorgeous hair and the way you carry yourself but your kindness and you passion for justice and the way you make room in the conversation for others. I agree, we have to tell the truth to ourselves and to others. And the truth is we all feel the lies and we all have a chance at living in the truth instead. So thankful for you, friend.

  13. says

    its such a fine line with teenage girls – we’ve always stressed that beauty comes from the inside and it has been easier on the other side of the ocean, growing up in africa. but i also think that we do our girls (and boys) a disservice when we deny what they see in the mirror and don’t disciple them in what it means to treat our bodies as the temples of the Holy Spirit. and that doesn’t mean glamour magazine thin… but it does mean exercise and eating right… etc. i’ve always been honest with my girlies and my own struggle with weight and as i’m hitting those mid 40s, i’ve finding the struggle rearing its ugly head again. at one point, i had to force myself to hug and hold my older girl who struggles continually with her weight (she’s her mama’s daughter) – but it was hard because i didn’t like the extra weight i felt when i did… and that sounds awful. so i continue to work to affirm that i love her, that she’s beautiful and precious… and that caring for her body can be evidence of the Holy spirit inside, teaching her discipline and self control. and most days… she thanks me for that.

    • Alia Joy says

      I think that is a very hard line to walk. We are made righteous by God without works, only grace and from that flows our absolute belonging and fulfillment. When we choose to walk in our flesh, we do reap consequences for it, like being unhealthy or overweight. I don’t think we can deny that gluttony is a sin and that for those times when I feel out of control with food, it doesn’t bode well for my dependance on God and in turn my self control and discipline. I’m not trying to deny those things when i talk about my struggles or even try to pursue being healthier.
      I think there is a big difference between being healthy and being skinny though and for some skinny isn’t a realistic or healthy possibility. I will never be skinny. I’m not built that way and my children, except my youngest, isn’t either. My husband has a laser fast metabolism and although he eats just like the rest of us, has put on very little weight and is still almost all muscle. I have a metabolic disorder that makes it extremely hard to lose weight. Not impossible and I know my food choices have a lot to do with it, but a lot harder than the average person.
      It just seems that no one thought anything of those issues of my heart when I was thin (not skinny) or athletic, which I was all through high school. No one would have ever thought I struggled with gluttony or self control. I was an athlete. But I did. Just as much if not more than now. But it didn’t show on the outside yet. It took time for those things to catch up with me.

      All of that to say, just because your daughter has some extra weight doesn’t mean she’s any less than if she were slim. And I can’t help but wonder if she feels you pull back when she’s gained weight. If she feels your resistance to her form. I know my dad struggled with his weight when he was alive and he was always on me about losing weight. I know now it’s because he saw how hurtful this world could be, he wanted me healthy, he loved me, but it hurt all the same. I needed to feel loved and seen and accepted and I think in a lot of ways, his pushing me, made me hurt even more.
      Those are just my thoughts. I don’t have the answers. I just know how hard it is. Praying for wisdom and grace for all of us mothers and daughters.

  14. says

    *crying over here* Reading this made me so sad. Sad because there’s just no way to protect the most vulnerable among us… sad because we can’t protect our children from being hurt. But I think it’s so important that we don’t brush over truth (that we give our children a healthy script about what beauty really encompasses) but also that we don’t pretend as if the physical aspect of it all is unimportant. Because of course it’s important. As long as we live in a society that idolizes youth and skinny and flawlessness and fashion-as-status it will continue to be important that we don’t ignore the very real pressures and address the very real hurts. Our daughters need to see us be strong, but they also need to see us be transparent and vulnerable. They need to see us humbly acknowledge our deep need of the Jesus who saves, the Jesus who heals, the Jesus who comforts and redeems. I know that many of my friends with daughters fret over how to teach healthy body image to their girls (and I would, too), especially when they’re dealing with their own issues. But I think you nailed it when you said we have to show them that we can be both broken and whole. There’s an aspect of watching our language, shifting our perspective, choosing to overcome the lies… but another aspect of extending ourselves grace and allowing Jesus to fill the parts of us that ache and just can’t be filled by addressing our own vanity or blocking out the negative voices. As fundamental as it is, knowing (and embracing) our worth doesn’t come easily. All of it–every last bit–is so hard… but so worth it. Ultimately, here’s what I really think about all of this: your daughter is so lucky to have you. So lucky. And I have such confidence that she is seeing Jesus through your parenting (and even through your own struggle) and that she’s learning to see her own beauty, too.

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks Adriel. That’s my hope too. That no matter what faults I have or what mistakes I make along the way, God’s grace and love would astound her every day and meet her wherever she is. And me too. Because she’ll see it here first.

  15. says

    Dang girl. You are seriously my hero. Over and over again. You are beautiful and wise and inspire me always. So grateful for your link to #TellHisStory. Just. Wow.

  16. says

    I am in awe of you, for your willingness to deny self and write anyway, that it may bring hope and healing to so many…that they will know they’re not alone. And I think you are so wise to recognize, that even those of us who can order stitch fix—barring we can afford to keep what we order–often feel the same feelings inside about our weight. This issue transcends dress size, and I long to join you in honest discussions with our daughters and with each other. Thank you for your bravery and for giving us the inspiration to believe the truth that we are all hurt and healed all in one. With so many hugs to you, my friend. So so many. xo

    • Alia Joy says

      You know all the things from our talk the other night. It kills and hurts and heals in the best ways. And it’s in His hands. Always. Thank you for telling me it matters. It helps.

  17. says

    Oh, wow. I’m so in awe of the way you see, the way you tell truth. You speak to something in me and it unearths emotion, it makes the truth in me arise, and say yes, that’s right. How you said you shook your head no to the article when it said to never talk about food, or your daughter’s body, etc… and all the words that followed, oh friend. I’m so there. I’ve always struggled with anorexia, and my daughter hasn’t been eating very well (she’s almost 13). And I decided, I *will* talk to her about it–I will be honest, I will instruct and teach her to be a truth-bearer. But I will not constantly harp on her, I will not watch her with intent eagle eyes and make her feel paranoid. I want her to feel free in her home. She is safe here. Thank you for this.

    • Alia Joy says

      It’s such an important thing for us mamas. And even if we get it wrong, which we often do, we need to be able to always point to Christ who heals those starving for beauty and worth. He gives us the only things that really matters. Praying for wisdom as you mother those girls. It’s never easy but it’s so very worthy of our best effort. And when we fail, pray God speaks His truth in those areas where we fall short. Love you, friend. Hope you are finding rest in Him.

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