Kids and Weight

“Mommy, do you think I’m fat?”

Those words from my five year-old, uttered in a soft whisper of a bathroom stall as we changed in to her ballet tights and leotard, stopped me dead in my tracks.

“God, no!” I replied, and then quickly wanted to backtrack.

Not because I think my daughter is fat. She is anything BUT. However, I wanted to backtrack because I didn’t want to condone a belief that she should look to other people’s opinions to feel good about herself.

Kids and Weight

So, there I was, squatting in a bathroom stall, trying to figure out how to make sure my daughter had a positive self-image while I got her dressed.  Sometimes teachable moments happen when you least expect them, right?

Instead of trying to skirt the issue, I asked her if she thought she was fat. And thankfully, she said no.

Digging deeper, I asked why she asked that, and she just shrugged.

I still don’t know where this question came from. Maybe it was from a misplaced joke about full bellies after a big meal, and my daughter just grabbed hold of that thought and ran with it.

Or that time last year when a kid larger than my daughter made a comment about my daughter getting “fat”, because my daughter outgrew her 4T shirts. Because, you know, she was growing. Like little kids are supposed to.

Perhaps I’m blowing all of this out of proportion, or that I’m making too big a deal about this question she asked. I mean, she hasn’t brought it up again, and I doubt she sits around worrying about it since then. But I hate that my Kindergartner is questioning her body at such a young age. That she feels, even for a brief second, she might not be as perfect as she thought she was, or that I think she is.

I think some kids are just more fragile when it comes to their bodies than others. And because she’s a girl, I think the issue becomes exponentially more acute.  Those quick little “fat” comments, even though they may be made in jest, can plant seeds in young girls that root down deep, and there’s just no weed killer for that.

I know that my daughter loves her body. She’s not afraid to get in a bathing suit, and she loves every item of clothing you put on her, no matter how it fits. I’ve seen her checking herself out in the mirror when she’s in her undies before a bath. She likes what she sees. And I want to keep it that way. I don’t want any cheap shot to chip her confidence away.

But more importantly, I want to her to continue liking how she feels in her own skin. I want her to appreciate how strong she is, how good it feels to be active, and how nice it feels to eat healthy.

I know far too well from experience how your mind can mess you up. I’ve been so careful not to make remarks about my own weight, or have her see me scrutinize myself in front of a mirror. But even I fall prey to letting someone else’s comments get the best of me.

One day while driving to school, “All About That Bass” came on, and my son yelled from the backseat “Mom! This song is a good one for you!”

My first instinct was to get defensive. “What the hell? I know I’m not as lean and strong as I used to be, but is all my son sees when he looks at my body is a gigantic ass?” were the kind of thoughts ran through my head at that moment.

But after taking a beat, I realized that this was not how I wanted my daughter to see me react. My son was meaning this as a compliment, with no ill intent.  That even though I may be an apple-bottomed girl, I am strong, healthy, and, like Meghan Trainor explains, every inch of me is perfect. From the bottom to the top.

Just like my daughter.


Has your child ever asked you if you thought they were fat? If so, how did YOU handle it? I’d love to hear your answers in the comments section below!


The other day in rehearsal we were watching video of the last concert to try to recreate timing for a new dancer.  And let me say, I DETEST watching myself on video.  It never looks like it feels.  But this time, I thought it might be different.  I think I’m dancing better, stronger, fuller than I ever have. 

Yet, video didn’t cease to let me feel discouraged.  Here I was, thinking that I’m jumping higher, feeling length through my legs, moving with the strength of my pelvis, feeling voluminous in gestures.  But nothing looked like I imagined.  There are certain dancers that look just as great on video as they do in person, but I am not one of them (assuming that I look great live, ha!).  Listen, I worked for many years archiving dance film and video.  I know the pitfalls of the media: video makes things flat, movement dynamics don’t read like they do live, and performance energy is something that can’t be captured as well.  But damn.  It was a blow to my self-esteem.  I have to admit, I came home and gorged.  Adding some bloat to the weight I’ve gained back since the show.   Must.  Get.  Back.  On.  Track.

No pain, hopefully no gain…

Let me start this with a disclaimer: K is old school and I love that about her. She’s tough, she expects hard work, and she’s chock full of amazing information about how the body works and how dancers should embody movement. She’s not afraid to tell it like it is. Coming from a more collaborative environment where everyone shared equal weight, created an ensemble hierarchy and gave criticism with sugar on top, working with K has had its challenges.

Mostly, it’s my issue to deal with, I know this.  Yet I find myself getting pouty and hurt like a small child from time to time.  I’m not sure if it’s me, or just the atmosphere that is created.  K’s work is designed for the kind of company I’ve been terrified of. Certain people get solos, others do not.  Some are cast in everything and featured like a blockbuster movie, some only in a few large group pieces.  This is not how I’m used to operating.  You would think that after four years, I’d get used to it.  But I haven’t.  I still feel sensitive to things.  Like the days when she seems to be dishing out glowing compliments to other dancers, but is still pushing me to “get stronger.”  And I have been working my ASS off to get there.  I completed a round of p90x, in the hopes that my new-found strength would either garner praise or at least make the remarks of my strength issues go away for a while.  But it didn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, K’s work is wicked tough.  It’s demanding, technically hard and  requires a heckofa lot of endurance and stamina.  And I love that.  It pushes me to work in a way that feels challenging, but proud of.  But is all of that hard work paying off?  Perhaps she’s just more conscious of my age then I am.  She’s not giving out any breaks just because I have birthed two kids and have the pelvis to prove it.  I DO know that I bring it at every rehearsal.  I don’t think I’ve ever marked anything unless it was absolutely necessary.  So why I’m still feeling like a disappointment, I’m not sure.

More importantly, why am I letting someone’s opinion of me and my dancing effect me so much?  Is that the nature of the artist, the need for approval?  Shouldn’t I be over that by this point in my career? As a dancer, it’s so psychological – sure it’s my dancing, but it’s also my body, my brain.  Somehow the hit is harder than if someone were to criticize my knitting, grammar, or even parenting on some level.  It’s how I look, how I move, and how I process things.  What a triple whammy!  No wonder so many ballet dancers are anorexic.  I have never danced in an environment like this, and I can see how it would be easy to get sucked in to that mindset.

In the end, I have to constantly remind myself that I’m doing this for ME, and if K likes it, than that is a bonus.  After having Mr. B, I came back to dancing a little more free, knowing that there were bigger things to focus on.  I seem to have lost that along the way.  And I need to stop comparing myself and what is or is not said to me with others.  If I’ve remembered one thing from all of my positivity crap, it is that I should not measure my success by others success or failure.  Right?  Right?

But just to show you want I’m talking about, let me give you this:  We’re trying on costumes that we wore in the last show, and the costumer tells some of us that she was told by K that someone had gained weight, but she didn’t know who, and that was why we were trying on costumes.  Shit.  Really?  So the six of us in the room start questioning whether it is one of us.  One dancer has come back from having her second baby and is still nursing (and looks FABULOUS) by the way.  The other two are guys who have clearly lost some weight, and then there’s me.  So I spent the rest of rehearsal thinking “wow, does she think I have gained weight?”  Then I reminded myself to breathe and enjoy…