Taylor Call is an adorable 6-year-old from Houston. I saw her on “Good Morning America” this morning saying on camera that she thinks her tummy is too big. She hadn’t realized that until one of her pre-kindergarten classmates told her she was fat.
I thought 11 years old was young to have body issues. That’s when I first decided I wasn’t as pretty or as thin as my fellow fifth-grade girls, who were all being asked to dance by boys at Chrissie Hauser’s birthday party and I wasn’t.
Six years old. ... A panel of 6-year-olds were asked by “GMA” if Taylor needed to lose weight. They said she didn’t, albeit prompted in a sympathetic tone by the reporter. But when shown a photo of four other very young girls, they immediately pointed out the one who was slightly larger than the others, and one said: “Yeah, she needs to lose weight.” Another girl described her as being “really chubby wubby.”
I was horrified as I realized my eyes had been drawn to the larger girl, too, and whether I wanted to or not, I was judging her. A 7- or 8-year-old girl.
Weight obsession is an American tail as old as the state of Minnesota, with some historians saying fad diets began about 150 years ago. So none of this is news. But the level to which we’re focusing on it -- myself included -- makes me so sad when I think of girls like Taylor, whose self-image shouldn’t go beyond pretty ribbons around her pigtails.
It made me take a hard look at myself. How I’m perpetuating this.
In this whole weight-loss campaign, the word “health” has been much less of a concern than the word “thin.” Even my blog says at the top: For now this blog has been taken over by Amanda’s fight to be fit. She will be back with entertainment commentary when her tush is smaller.
My supporters are just as guilty. “How many sizes have you gone down?” “You look great; how much more weight do you want to lose?” “Your face looks so much thinner.”
At 45 pounds lost, my visceral fat level was in the healthy range. My risk for cardiovascular problems has practically diminished. I’m exercising almost every day, resulting in greatly increased strength and cardio stamina.
These aren’t things I get excited about. I’m concerned about getting back into my skinny jeans. I fixate on organizing my closet into sections: clothes I can wear, and clothes I still have to lose more weight to get into.
I write about these things. I publish them. People read them. And in a way, I reinforce the bars of the mental prison most women (and men, too) have been in since their teens.
The trouble is, I don’t know how to stop thinking this way. Tens of thousands of public images and messages per week reinforce the idea that I should be a size 4, and it makes me less attractive and less important that I am not. I don’t know how to convince myself this isn’t true.
These thoughts are with me in one form or another dozens of times per day, when I scoop out some of the cereal I pour into my bowl to save calories, when I look at my outfit from the side to see if any unflattering puffy areas emerge, when I keep my eyes on the sidewalk while passing a guy to avoid seeing disapproval on his face.
It’s too late for me. Sounds dramatic, but it’s true. I will never get out of this mental prison of body issues. I will always want to be thinner, rather than healthier.
But I wish the same wasn’t true for Taylor. For feeding into all of the demons above, I feel responsible that at 6 years old, she doesn’t like herself. It’s my fault she thinks she’s fat, just as much as it is yours.
Taylor, you are healthy and beautiful. And I’m sorry we made you think otherwise.