The Fat Politics in our families…
I have just taken the children to visit my brother for the weekend. This can sometimes be problematic for me. My brother and I are very different people, we are on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, I am heart on sleeve and he is really not!
Anyway, going up there can be quite triggering for me and tends to make me want to eat in order to manage my emotions.
I remember one particularly difficult weekend a couple of years ago, when he started to tease me because I mentioned that my wedding ring was too tight and I needed to get it resized. He looked at me and asked with his tongue in his cheek, ‘why do you think that is then Lisa!?’ I could have slapped him, honestly.
I can’t remember what happened next, but I ended up hiding upstairs for the rest of the night and there was a lot of sobbing. In my head at that time, I felt utterly demoralised, totally crushed and it was one of those, ‘I’m going to have a massive wobble about this because I hate my body and I can’t bear to be teased about it.’ It was AWFUL.
On another occasion, at my house this time, where he and his wife (both of whom I love dearly BTW) were busy making my daughter feel bad for eating Nutella (or at least the serving she was giving herself). He had already commented about her choice of toast topping and was even holding the jar away from the table, so she couldn’t get at it… such that I made some remark about “the food police” and snatched it off him, because sometimes, that is what it feels like being around my brother. Anyway, his wife was busy reading the label, working out (with a calculator!) what was an appropriate portion and helpfully informing my daughter that the pot contained 15 portions and therefore should be lasting a lot longer!! Funny how people think this kind of thing helps, because it really doesn’t!
You get the picture.
So, this weekend I was brave (!) and took the children up there on my own. We were having a good time…we’d been out for the day, conquering the maize maze, and then it was time for ice cream! Surprisingly, the children were allowed 2 scoops (my brother was paying) and were all asking to have a taste of each others, as they do! My eldest doesn’t like ice cream, so asked if she could have a milkshake, which I thought was reasonable, so the orders were made and she waited for her milkshake for AGES! I even went to check on its progress… still, we waited. When it finally arrived it looked yummy and she had just started it when her younger cousin asked if he could have some, which she declined! My brother made a knowing remark, ‘that’s the problem if you let then have different things…’- but my daughter doesn’t like ice cream!! What is he suggesting I do? Feed her ice cream because the others like it?
The cousin, nose out of joint, then called her “greedy” which I thought was unfair and basically unkind. My brother backed his son up with a ‘well, if she won’t share…’ As if that makes it ok to be called “greedy”. Then the cousin asked again if he could have some, to which my daughter stood firm, and was called greedy AGAIN by cousin number one and then cousin number 2 waded in and agreed and started to tell my daughter off. By this point I could keep quiet no longer.
I said something along the lines of, that’s enough, she is not greedy, she just doesn’t want to share with you. It’s not ok to call people names, just because they don’t do what you want them to do. By which point my brother mumbled some sort of acknowledgment. My daughter, bless her, was trying to calm down the situation by saying “it’s ok Mum, It’s ok” but it wasn’t ok and I could see she was upset by the treatment she’d received. She also told me afterwards that inside she was cheering me on, for sticking up for her! I cannot bear my daughter to be in the firing line for this sort of thing, it’s bad enough her little cousins giving her a hard time, but for my brother to be aiding and abetting, is horrible. And, just to be clear, this sort of thing feels like fat shaming to me.
Straight after this exchange, my other daughter realised she didn’t want any more of her ice cream because she’d had enough, and cousin number one said HE wanted it and sat there eating TWO ice creams! Rather ‘greedy’ I thought to myself, but said nothing.
So, on to the evening meal...
Where the children had something like spaghetti bolognese and my son was commended for having a healthy appetite by his aunt!
Why do we commend boys for having a good appetite and reprimand girls for ‘being greedy?’ What is that about?! I pick up on these things now because I am better educated about the gender politics of this but currently, this stuff is just accepted in our society as normal and ok. Why do we congratulate people on how much they’ve eaten?
When I told my sister in law that I’d lost weight, and I need to buy a new swimming costume she commented “that’s good!” why is it good? What the hell difference does it make? Am I better than I was before then? According to whom?
The more I read the more I learn that ‘Fat Politics’ are everywhere; it’s insidious and accepted. This is why I work so hard to help women realise that THEY are not to blame, that it’s really not as simple as expecting women to learn to control their appetites and transform their bodies at will. We’ve bought this for so long and IT JUST ISN’T TRUE. We are meant to be different, different shapes and sizes and to spend your life trying to mould your body into something that it never will be, through a diet which will never work and will actually do you harm, not good, has got to be misguided at best and a DAMN SHAME.
Please, please believe me when I tell you there is another way to deal with this and it’s simple! Its’s listening to your body, trusting yourself and shifting your focus from weight loss to wellbeing. I can help.