My daughter didn’t want me to make a big deal about you calling her fat. She’d probably be pissed if she knew I was writing this letter. But there are some things about her you need to know. Things that might even make you stop and think about the power of your words the next time you’re tempted to call her—or anyone else—fat.
1. She’s not overweight. My daughter doesn’t look like the skinny girls you see on TV shows or in those Abercrombie & Fitch ads. Her tummy’s not flat and her legs are sturdy and solid. Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. And her doctor says her body is just fine. Even if she was heavy, you shouldn’t be commenting on her size.
2. She isn’t lazy. Maybe you think she doesn’t get enough exercise and sits around watching TV or playing video games all day. Not true. She’s training for a 5-K and the only girl on her school’s track & field team. When she’s not busy with these activities, you can often find her swimming, hiking, kayaking or shooting hoops with her dad.
3. She doesn’t eat like a pig. You might also assume she eats tons of junk food or just eats too much. Her diet isn’t perfect, but she’s usually pretty careful about her food choices. She rarely eats fast food or drinks sodas. She has limited snacks and treats. In fact, she eats a lot less unhealthy stuff than many of her friends who happen to be naturally thin.
4. Her medication makes it hard for her to burn calories. One reason my daughter is a bit bigger than some girls her age is because she has to take medicine that slows her metabolism. It’s kind of like her body is a car with a flat tire and a weak engine. It can’t go as fast, or burn fuel as efficiently, as a car with four good tires and a turbo-charged engine.
5. No one is more aware of her size than she is. She’s self-conscious about her weight, even though she shouldn’t be. She’s beautiful the way she is. I’m trying to teach her that being strong and healthy is more important than the number on a scale. But it’s hard for her to believe that when you constantly tell her something different.
6. She’s brave. Imagine you had a broken leg, but you loved running. So you decided to run in a race you’d trained for even though your leg was wrapped in a clunky cast. Think how tough that would be. It would be even tougher if other kids made fun of you as you hobbled along. You might even want to quit. That’s sort of what my daughter goes through when she runs in a race. It’s not easy for her. I’m proud of her because she never gives up, no matter how far behind she falls, or what anyone says about her. I’m afraid, though, that one day she will quit—if you keep calling her fat.
7. Your words leave scars. My daughter pretends that your name-calling doesn’t bother her. And she’s not a tattle-tell, so she won’t rush to a teacher or some other adult to snitch on you. But I want you to know that your words pierce her heart like invisible knives. And the wounds they make are just as painful and may never heal.