This Is How To Be A Body Positive Mom

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Being a body positive woman and raising a body confident girl can feel tricky. Meeting both of these self image goals starts with self love.

body positive

Self Image Goals

The body positive movement has been given a loud, beautiful voice. Because of this, many women are finding and creating space to move from body hate, to body tolerance, to body love. On VProud there is an amazing video about where body positive feelings have to start, which is self love, and broaches the question what would happen if we did all come from a place of self love? Mother, writer, and founder of Girl Body Pride, Pauline Campos, reflects on this topic in terms of how to parent and raise body confident girls. Like all things parenting and body image related, this comes down to how we talk to and treat ourselves first and how we talk to and treat our girls second. Take a look at this behind the scenes, intimate look at a direct conversation Pauline had with her own daughter about the word fat and self love. The conversation is difficult and important and Pauline transparently shares how she maneuvered it giving insight into how we can all take steps toward becoming body positive parents.

—The VProud Team

raising body positive girls

What’s in a Name: Why I titled my book “Babyfat” and How I Explained it to My Child

By Pauline M. Campos For VProud

"Mom?" Eliana is looking at me, her eyes wide and her mouth frozen in a bemused "O." She's just picked up a copy of my first book, BabyFat: Adventures in Motherhood, Muffin Tops, & trying to Stay SaneThe wide-eyed wonder look is courtesy of the author pic on the back cover. My cover designer, Michelle Fairbanks of Fresh Design, had selected a photo of me and Eliana instead of the traditional solo headshot, and I had somehow managed to keep it a secret. 

My author copies arrived just the other day, and Eliana was standing there with a book in her hands, convinced she is now world-famous, because her face is on the back of my book. I'm bursting with pride that my kid is so thrilled to be associated with something that has taken years of work to make happen. But with the book in hand, and having processed and mentally moved beyond the photo that had momentarily side-tracked my inquisitive child, she now wants to know  the answer to a question that, really, I should have been expecting.

"It's not nice to call people fat, right, mom?" Eliana is looking at me, lips pursed, one eyebrow raised. Her head is tilted a bit, just to the right. Her eyes are darting between my face and the book cover. I already know she's referring to the title, but I decide to take her lead, not because I want her to come to some life-changing realization on her own, but because I'm trying to buy myself the time to formulate what I hope is an acceptable answer. "No, it's not," I say. "But it's not just "fat." Words like "Skinny" and "Tall" and "Short" are not how I like to refer to people. I think it's much nicer to focus on what people are like than how they look.”

I follow her eyes as she looks off to the left, and I breathe easier. She's thinking again; processing my answer while I try to put into words the response to the question I have only managed to stall. "So, it's nicer to tell you I want my funny friend or my kind friend to come over to play instead of saying my fat friend or my short friend? Like that, mom?”

I nod. I'm counting in my head, forcing myself to breathe out and in a full ten-count. I want to distract her with a movie or start tickling her to divert the conversation, but I know doing so will only serve to make what is probably a non-issue in her mind into A Something and Somethings about body image can lead to Somethings about eating disorders and mommy's history and I'm not ready to have that talk yet. 

Not with the little girl I am so desperately trying to help build up a foundation from which she can draw on for the rest of her days; one strong and secure enough to withstand society and impossible beauty ideals and photoshop and plastic surgery and Everybody Else's Baggage. I want her to know that she is always worthy of loving who she is, where she is, and of the time and energy involved in putting herself first when it comes to both her physical and mental health. 

"Yeah," I say, "like that. I'd much rather be known as the funny writer than the lady with fuzzy hair.”

"But you are a funny lady," Eliana says to me. "And I like your hair. Don't you like your hair, Mama.”

Shit, shit, shit! Trying to navigate the body image and self-critical thinking discussion is like trying to tip-toe through a land-mine. How do I explain to her that I want to her never hate what she sees in her own mirror because I did hate what I saw (and sometimes still do, depending on the day)? Every answer is the beginning on a new question. I don't want to accidentally plant the wrong seed in her mind. I'm not sure which way to step. So, for a moment, I breathe. I don't move. 

At her age, I was hiding in my parents' pantry, stuffing myself full of anything I could get my hands on that didn't require cooking. I had no idea what binge-eating and emotional eating were. Nor did I have any idea what I was in for when anorexia and bulimia and compulsive eating all came into play in my teen years. 

I was athletic and curvy and healthy otherwise, but because I was so caught up in my hips in comparison to the girls I went to school with, I had determined that I must be fat and fat was the enemy. So I cycled between starving myself on one slice of cheese and one apple per day until the need to eat overcame my willpower and I jumped to the opposite extreme, stuffing my feelings down with so much food that I couldn't breathe until I had purged myself of everything inside of me. I was 24 before I could legitimately say I was in recovery. 

Then came the pregnancy and the weight gain and the understanding nods from friends and family as the swollen feet and cravings molded my body into the one it needed to be in order for it to sustain my daughter as she grew inside of me. "Don't worry," they all said. "You work out a lot. You'll drop the weight in no time." 

And I believed them because I needed to, not realizing at the time that in doing so, I was minimizing my self-worth as a pregnant woman and only fueling the body image issues I had been fighting against for so long. 

Some might believe that in order to be healthy, a scale, a workout plan, and discipline in calorie intake are essential. I don't buy into this mind-set working for everyone, especially those women with eating disordered and body dysmporphic histories. For us, I think, we have to first come to a place where we love who we are now in order to get to the place we want to be, no matter how it is that we define the word "healthy". 

That's what BabyFat is about: the desire to lose the muffin top at all costs—the diet and exercise plans attempted and failed, and ultimately, the realization that the journey to self-acceptance matters so much more than the number on the scale. It's funny. It's snarky. It's honest. And I know that women who see the cover and read the title will not need it explained to them. They will know that I am not referring to the adorable baby chub on our our little ones and instead talking about they emotional and physical mind-mess we are left to sort through after pregnancy changes us and softens our curves. 

But the eyes looking at me and the hands holding my book are those of a child. 

"I love my hair now," I finally tell her. "And I always want you to love yours.”

"But mom?…"

"I know," I say. "You want to know …"

"Why you called it BabyFat if it's not nice to call people fat. Aren't you being mean to you, mama?”

Mean to me

The child is smarter than I give her credit for. "I used to be mean to me," I say. "But every day I try to be nicer to myself. I called the book BabyFat because I was using a play on words from the time I wasn't being nice to myself to remind myself that my body was meant to change when I became a mommy. Does that make sense, babe?”

She's blinking. She's thinking. "Do you like you now, mama?”

I breathe, in an out, before answering. I need to be truthful. She can see through my bullshit. And I smile. "Yes, today I do. I like myself just fine."

pauline campos vproud
About the author: Pauline Campos is a Sometimes Radio Personality, a writer, speaker, commissioned artist, award-winning photographer, and founder of Girl Body Pride and #ChingonaFest. She’s also Latina Magazine’s #dimelo advice & relationship columnist. She has been recognized as 2014 nominee for the Hispanicize #Tecla award for Best Parenting blog, a 2014 Latism Top Bloguera and BlogHer ’15 Photo of the Year honoree. Her first book, BabyFat: Adventures in Motherhood, Muffin Tops, andTrying to Stay Sane, is available online with most major retailers. Join Pauline's honest conversations on VProud.

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