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Sarah Thompson, founder of Resilient Fat Goddess, writes about body positivity, body liberation, and fat liberation at the intersections of gender, sexuality, and eating disorders. 

Parents, Caregivers, Bodies, and Food

On this day dedicated to mothering (all of you queer, trans, non-binary parents), I think about my relationship with my mom.

 Left: Me; maybe 1992 or 1993. I think I was 10 or 11 when I'd already knew my body was perceived as wrong and had probably dieted at least once. Right: The women on my maternal side. My grandma, my aunt, my mom, my sister, and my nieces; maybe 2009.

Left: Me; maybe 1992 or 1993. I think I was 10 or 11 when I'd already knew my body was perceived as wrong and had probably dieted at least once. Right: The women on my maternal side. My grandma, my aunt, my mom, my sister, and my nieces; maybe 2009.

Our relationship with the people that raised us often forms how we relate to food and body as we grow and become adults.

I’ve heard that the way we are spoken to as children is what becomes our inner voice/inner critic as we become more independent from our caregivers. I don’t know if this is exactly true.

What I do know is that my parents had a major influence on my relationship with food and body. Do I think they caused my eating disorder? Nope. They were doing the best they knew how with the resources they had. Plus genetics, culture, finances, and all that. There are lots of factors.

On this day dedicated to mothering, all of you queer, trans, non-binary parents, I think about my relationship with my mom. The things my mom said or did not say. The things my mom did or did not do. The things that my grandma, my aunt, and my sister said or did not say. What they did or did not do.

The way that my mother (or father) didn’t seem to protect me from my little brother’s bullying about my size and my intelligence. The way that my mother (or father) didn’t seem to protect me from what my grandma said about my body or food. The way that I learned it was best to not to tell anyone when I got home that I got bullied everyday on the bus for my size. The way that I learned it was best to cry by myself as quietly as possible in my room, so no one would know, because that is what my mom did.

I learned that a thin body was very highly valued while having a fat body was extremely devalued. Dieting was the norm. I was not discouraged from dieting. I was not discouraged from loathing my body. I was not discouraged from over exercising. I was not taught how to take care of myself. I only learned how to care for others.

I don’t think anyone in my immediate family, possibly even most of my extended family, had a peaceful relationship with food and body. I don’t think I ever had a consistent example of a typical competent eater to watch and learn from.

I knew these things. This is not new at all.

Yet, somehow writing it and seeing it in these terms is different.

It helps to embody a little bit more that - it is not my fault.

Nor is it theirs.

This was our culture in our family. And the greater societal culture. If my family knew how to do better, they would have.

While I have grieved this A LOT, days like Mother’s Day tend to bring it to the surface for another round of healing. It brings feelings of sadness, disappointment, anger, loss, and grief.

Today, I practice compassion for myself and the healing that is still happening.

I practice compassion for my mom.

I practice compassion for the rest of my family who didn’t know how to do differently.

I practice compassion for my past step-mom self who didn’t know how to do better for her step kids.

I practice compassion for all parents who can’t do better. For all parents who don’t know how to do better.

I practice compassion for all parents who are trying to do better. For all the parents who are making mistakes as they let their kids freely be in their bodies, eat what they need and want, and move how they want.

I send love to the adult children who were not allowed to be in their bodies. To the adult children whose bodies were used as weapons against themselves. To the children who were verbally and physically abused, because their bodies were seen as wrong.

I send love to the adult children who were learned their bodies were to be hated and unworthy. To the adult children that learned their bodies were a project to fix. To the adult children that have dieted or restricted since they were a child before they ever could consent. 

I send love to the adult children that never had a parent they felt safe with. To the adult children who never had parents. To the adult children who parent(ed) their parents.

I send love to all children everywhere who are currently experiencing all of this.

May we all learn that we are worthy of love, care from others and ourselves, and affection at whatever size we have been, are, or become.

May we all find the people who affirm our loveability and worthiness.


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