I’ve never been skinny. Not when I was an athlete. Not when I lost 60lbs through starving myself and excessive working out. And definitely not when I gained weight with each of my subsequent pregnancies. My body has changed so much and with each pregnancy, I’ve had to re-learn to love my body because of the changes that came from birthing my babies. But I know that my struggles with my body image are a result of fat-shaming from childhood all the way into adulthood.

Fat-Shaming From My Childhood

Growing up in my family, the thin were celebrated and it wasn’t something that was even hidden. At every family gathering, the greeting was, “Oh hey Aaronica! I see you’ve been putting on weight. You should probably eat less.” And my plate was scrutinized at whatever holiday dinner we were attending. I remember being told that wearing a 6X was because I was so fat and sleepovers with family members where I wouldn’t be fed more than a piece of toast with butter while my thinner brother was served full meals.

I remember looking in the mirror quickly and hating my reflection. I have cankles and was teased horribly about it to the point that when I was in sixth grade, I stopped eating and started popping diet pills I stole from the local Rite Aid. I just wanted to fit in with my friends but also, I wanted to finally get the love from my family that I so desperately longed for. My boy cousins were already the preference because of gender, so I fought an uphill battle being both fat and a girl.

We won’t get into the shame I felt when wearing a swimsuit as a competitive swimmer–there’s only so much one post can hold.

Everything Changed When I Got Pregnant With Mini Though

Before getting pregnant with my oldest, my ex-husband and I were trying to have kids for over a year. During that time, I was told that I was too fat to get pregnant and I would need to lose weight–this came from a family member and not a medical professional. This was one of the many statements that cut like a knife through my heart. I knew I never wanted to make my kids feel about their bodies the way people who loved me made me feel about mine.

When I found out I was pregnant with Mini, I knew it was a girl. I could feel my favorite grandma’s spirit around me like she was protecting me and filling me with her spitfire. My pregnancy was when I planted the true seed of self-love, acceptance, and love for my body that I nurtured through her development in me. I would look at myself in the mirror and say affirmations before I knew what an affirmation was. I wrote things like, “My body is beautiful. My rolls don’t define my worth. I’m worthy of love. I love you.” on my mirror for me to say and speak when I would look into the mirror.

I NEVER wanted my kids to hate their bodies the way I hated mine. There was a period of time where I would have reoccurring dreams where I would be cutting the fat off my body in hopes that people would then see me as beautiful. Thinking and writing about this has me in tears now.

But My Kids Love Themselves And Their Bodies

My children LOVE mirrors. They stand there and admire themselves at all angles talking about how beautiful they think they are and how much they love their reflection. Now I might be biased, but my kids are beautiful children. But the fact that THEY see it? Goodness… After I boot them from admiring themselves in my mirror versus theirs, I admire myself and the work that I put in daily to not just inwardly loving myself, but also sharing this love outside of myself.

See, kids do with what they see, not what they’re told. They are out here actively doing the behaviors that I’ve modeled for them and while it makes me happy, it also makes me feel a little weird. Like I’m legit undoing generational curses that have harmed me in the deepest ways and I’m wow-ed. But this isn’t something that happened overnight.

Teaching My Kids To Love Their Bodies By Loving My Own Out Loud

Each of my kids has looked at me with analytical eyes and said something about my body–from back-handed compliments to outright calling me fat. Kids are savage, but they’re often just saying what they see, not necessarily attacking you, but their truths are pure and not coated with sugar.

But what we teach them is important. Fat isn’t an insult in our home, it’s a descriptive word. Yes, mommy is fat and everyone has fat AND she’s still an amazing person. Yes, mommy’s boobs have some hang time AND they have nurtured each of my children for longer than a year. Yes, mommy’s body has stretch marks that tell stories from conception to birth of each child–the body that was once told it wouldn’t house babies.

We teach them through reframing. I teach them through sharing my love of my body aloud. n a world where body-shaming women is a sport, it can be really hard to look in the mirror and see my body for its worth. I have curves, though some of my curves have curves. and in all honesty, I love my shape. My body tells a story of abuse, hate, love, and everything in between. But most importantly, my body doesn’t determine my worth or whether I deserve love and neither does yours.