The first and last time I wore a bikini was when I was three years old. I don’t remember wearing the bikini, but I have seen pictures of me in a cute, dark green two-piece.
Strong 4 Life in Georgia had released ads in 2012 that featured obese children telling how difficult their life is. Many parents were offended, and experts claim that the ads were an outrageous example of fat shaming.
Many people have never personally experienced childhood obesity. They gained the majority of their weight as adults or after having their own children. These types of ads might be ludicrous to them.
I do not know whether the childhood obesity ads are hurtful. What I do know is what it feels like to be an obese child. I cannot remember a time when I did not have more flesh to love.
When I was in second grade, my class was learning about weight and measurements. A cruel kid said, “I bet Jenny weighs 100 pounds!” I bowed my head, hid my tears, and wished that he wasn’t right. I was compared to a beached whale on more than one occasion. I was even asked if I was pregnant before I was sexually active.
I suffered through cousins of the “O” word. Cousins like “heavyset, pretty plus and even curvy”. I hated all of them. While I didn’t have to deal with billboards, I had to deal with mischievous boys cracking a joke at my expense, mean girls making snotty comments during gym class, and strangers whispering about me just loud enough for me to hear.
It didn’t matter what the size of my body was. I always felt like a little girl. I desperately wanted to be more like my friends, who could eat whatever they wanted while escaping the rude comments of others. I felt the same joy, sadness, and loneliness.
Often, I would hide my insecurities behind a confident exterior that could not soothe the hurt inside.
An obese child’s biggest enemy is often themselves. I did not really believe I had a problem, despite my doctor’s warnings. Even after I had emergency surgery to save my life at the age of 17, I didn’t change my habits until several years later. I figured I had plenty of time to eat healthier.
If you are the mom of an obese child, you might be desperate to know how to help your child. Although my children are not obese, I can still remember the little girl inside of me. Here’s what I can tell you- an ad does not know your child’s sensitivities or fears. You do. No matter how you address their larger size, lead with love and understanding.
Obese children do not want your pity, shame, guilt or derision. They do not want to be told to stop eating, be judged for what they do eat, or to feel like the butt of other peoples’ jokes wherever they go.
She is still your little girl. She just has more for you to love.NPR