She’s Not Fat, She’s Big Boned

“Heaven’s, no.  That girl isn’t fat.  She’s big-boned.”  Overheard at my gym.

Do I dare do it?  The topic is kind of scary.  Actually it can sometimes be taboo.  But I’m going to go for it because…well…because I have to for me, you and the girls in Girls on the Run.


Yep that’s right.  And while we’re at it, let’s admit it.  Obesity is the politically correct way to say fat.  At Girls on the Run I’ve avoided the conversation because just the mere mention of the word “fat” can wreak havoc on a woman’s sense of worth.

Fat.  There I said it.  And it didn’t feel very good, either.

Merely a descriptive word, an adjective, fat is perhaps one of the most dreaded words in the English language.   (As a matter of fact, in a survey recently conducted by the Girl Scouts of America, the numero uno fear of girls wasn’t nuclear war, their parents getting divorced or even bullying.  Nope!  It was getting fat.)

Somewhere along the line it’s like this three-letter word was branded BAD or SHAMEFUL by the fashion/beauty/advertising industry and used to guilt, manipulate and control women into spending gobs of money on products, accessories and ideas that would somehow take away all that shame and guilt.

Even the mere mention of the word “fat” has become taboo.

“Shhh.  Don’t call her fat.  She isn’t fat she’s “Chunky.”  “Big-boned.”  “Strong.”  “A Big Girl.”   We are terrified of the word because of the shaming stories our culture tells about it and the people who are.

Over the years, I’ve met many, many beautiful young girls.  Inevitably we get around to discussing the importance of being “comfortable in our skin.”

“What do you think it means, to be comfortable in your skin?” I always ask.

The wisdom of 8 years olds always amazes me:

“To feel good about who you are.”

“Loving yourself.”

“It’s good to like yourself just the way you are.”

“To feel safe with your thoughts.”

So, to honor all those fabulous girls…yes all 110,000 of them that last year Girls on the Run had the privilege to share time with, I’d like to introduce an approach to the “obesity epidemic” that those fabulous girls…yes all 110,000 of them…have introduced to me.

I call it the “Just IS It” approach.  (Trust me…just say it out loud and that alone will bring a smile to your face.)

Do this sometime.  Watch an 8 year old girl.  She floats.  She runs. She twirls.  She naturally moves through space with a fla-vaahhhh (yes say it like that, for added impact) that is wonderfully and fabulously all her own.

Children this age are still very much surprised by their bodies and the amazing things they can do.  They love to dance, jump and skip, totally uninhibited.  They are surprised when they successfully pull off a double turn and successfully land on both feet.  “See?  Did you see what I just did?”  They move through space with a sparkle in their eye–a curiosity to see, feel and experience the space around them.

They are perfectly content with themselves and even more so with the minute they are in.  Eight year olds are just so darn good at “is-ing.”

For so many years, I wanted to possess that kind of peace with myself.  Somewhere around sixth grade I forgot how to “is”—to be content just being who I am.

Spending too much time, handing my very SOUL over to the advertising and fashion industries didn’t help either.  “Buy this, try this, use this and then you will be at peace.”

For whatever reason, I believed them.

So how did 8 years old get so darn smart?   I don’t know a single 8 year old girl who spends much time obsessing over the kind of car she drives, the fullness of her lips or breasts.  These have all just been distractions, a crazy kind of obsession with the external…distractions that have kept me from what really matters, like loving, feeling the sun on my face and dancing in the living room with my teenaged children.

One little girl put it so succinctly several years ago. Think of your body as some kind of fabulous little sports car…or if you prefer a hybrid, a stretch limo or in my case, a small fuel-efficient, powerful get-around-kind-of-economy-car.

Riding around inside that skin (car) YOU are in, is the BIG YOU…the unique you that is as big, bold and beautiful as everybody else’s BIG YOU! Nourishing, fueling and taking care of the vehicle (body) that houses that fabulous YOU allows your body to stick around long enough so that the YOU riding around in there actually has time enough to dance, enjoy life, love, evolve and as our children do so well…“is”!

Get it?  We don’t count calories or restrict them to lose weight (or in the instance of some folks, gain weight.) We do it to nourish, fuel and love our bodies so that the BIG YOU on the inside, has the ability to thrive, flourish and find its way out into the world before the body can no longer sustain itself.

Weight management, obesity and eating concerns are truly very complex issues in a culture that focuses primarily on the external.  The physical way we, particularly women, show up in the world is frustratingly often a determinant of our “success” in the world.  But I’m convinced that Girls on the Run is onto something.  The more opportunities we provide for girls and women (heck ALL people) to focus on, celebrate and honor the BIG YOU resting within…right there on the inside…the better care we naturally end up giving to the outside.

The more time we spend using words which celebrate and create safe spaces to honor WHO WE REALLY ARE, the less time we spend shaming, judging or putting down the bodies that house them.  The shift in focus to the beauty within really does create a beautiful “without.”

So…I’ve got a new campaign I’d be more than happy to share with Nike.  Instead of Just Do It….Let’s Just Is It!  What do ya say?

11 thoughts on “She’s Not Fat, She’s Big Boned

  1. Great, great blog Molly! I Love being a Girl! At 35 years old, I am still a GIRL. I try to remind myself everyday underneath this woman, I am still a girl, an 8 year old girl, that giggles at myself when I do something silly and get’s distracted when something peaks my interest. I know you’re still a girl too and that’s why you have made 110,00 GIRLfriends!

  2. I’m w Melissa, still a girl at heart at almost 51 years young! I’m so glad I found GOTR, and so glad to have you in my corner! Keep it coming Molly! You have no idea how many lives you are changing w your words of wisdom and w you just being you! Hope to see you at the summit!

  3. thank you for this fabulous message, Molly. Ok, this may sound wierd but I will make my point; I was just in a bathroom at a bank in our little town and there in the one and only stall was a scale, the focal point while seated on the throne. I know a number of the beautiful women that work in the bank and I really wanted to just stash that scale in my bag so it was NOT a focal point. It took a lot of self restraint to not walk away with it…but I had another tool in my pocket, given to me last year at Summit by Kaitlyn from Operation Beautiful. I left a Hi Beautiful message on the bathroom mirror with the message of: Thank you for being who you are! Have a great Summit meeting!..and how about a blog specifically on the issue of scales, I would like to read your thoughts.

    1. Martha. I’m actually meeting with Caitlyn next week. (Operation Beautiful Goddess.) I will absolutely write about her, her work and what she (and GOTR) is all about. I LOVE that you left a sticky note with those words. Just fabulous.

  4. Very well said.. very well written, I have two daughters one is heavy the other really thin.. they both have issues with self esteem and how people judge the outside.. I like what you wrote very much.. My oldest was in Girls on the Run last year thru Bass.. the younger has not had the chance to be in it yet..

    1. Virginia…please let both your daughters know, that once they move into high school, GOTR would LOVE LOVE LOVE for them to come back and volunteer as Jr. Coaches with the program. And…while you are at it…let them know…I said Hi.

  5. I find true self esteem comes from knowing your value as a human being. If you are an invalid or the fastest runner on earth, both possess the same rights and are of utmost importance to the functioning of our society. I like to stress what we are and not what we do. That way, no matter how I look, or feel, it is my intrinsic value that is important. We have, in some areas, been led to believe that we are chance beings, mistakes or just luck. Difficult to know value when our origins are supposedly from uncertain beginnings and therefore we are only worth what we ourselves create.

  6. I had a ” sit down” with my daughters best friend a few months ago. This strong, athletic little girl (10) was dieting because she thought she was getting “fat”. What she didn’t know, what her mother didn’t know, what so many little girls her age and the people they look to to support their changing body images don’t know is this. Your body needs a lil’ fat to grow on. Your body naturally packs on a little extra to make boobies,
    and hips, to mature your ovaries, and to prepare
    you for the process of becoming a women. As long as you are eating healthy things and staying active there is no reason to DIET?!? Most kids grow “out” before they grow “up”.

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