of cupcakes and confidence

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“Mommy, why don’t you like cupcakes?” takes another giant lick of frosting off the top of hers. half ends up inside her mouth, half gloms on top of her growing pink mustache.

“well, it’s not that i don’t like them, i just don’t feel like having one right now.” god, i really do feel like having one right now, but would rather fritter away the calories on another glass of wine.

“but Mommy, you never eat cupcakes.” so serious, yet so ridiculously frosting-mustached.

“i do, sometimes . . .”

what i can’t say to her is that Mommy can’t eat cupcakes right now because Mommy is tired of being fat and is trying desperately (and finally, lately, succeeding) to lose that last 10 pounds of baby weight plus that 10 pounds she gained during the incredibly heinous year that was 2013. Miss Girl doesn’t think Mommy is fat. Mommy just looks like Mommy. i’m just not ready to open that can of worms by saying the wrong thing about my body and how i feel about it and how that drives my non-cupcake-eating habit. (and yes, now i’m going to have to write a post about fat vs. fat-for-me for y’all rolling your eyes out there.)

just like with her skin issues, i know it is so incredibly important to say the right thing—even at 4. she is not fat and her weight may never be an issue. and i don’t want it to be a perceived as an issue based on my misgivings about my own body or the media or the mean girls she’ll meet. fat and skinny are not concepts i even want her to have right now. (yeah, i know i can’t control it forever.) healthy is the concept i want her to have. so i talk about how many more green beans she has to eat before she can have a cupcake and how fun it is to run around and play with her friends in the park instead of staying glued to the iPad. and i steer clear of talking about how anyone looks.

and that’s why this article about what happens when you tell a young girl she’s fat hit home when i read it yesterday. it’s about a study that found “the odds of being obese as a young woman increased if someone had labeled the participant ‘too fat’ by the time she was 10. [Researchers] also found a participant’s likelihood of being obese increased as more people told her she was ‘too fat.'” the link is low self-esteem, not that the words packed calories or shoved that fast food down their throats. negative reinforcement as a means to incite behavior change, at least in this area at least on these study participants, didn’t work. it only made them feel worse about themselves, which made them seek comfort in (unfortunately) the worst place they could: food.

the comments are really interesting, too. and, while i completely agree that we all are responsible for taking care of ourselves, what many of them miss is, again, the importance of what we say to our daughters (and the other girls in our lives) about any aspect of their appearance and how we say it. in the long run, repairing a truly distorted self image and low self esteem is a gazillion times harder and more complex than dropping a few pounds. and a girl with confidence values herself enough to know when to say no to a cupcake.

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