I'm a Fat Mom and Still a Healthy Model for My Kids

When I read Yellowjackets star Melanie Lynskey's post stating "skinny does not always equal healthy," I felt that deep down in my chubby mom soul.

Mom with 3 kids
Photo: Katie Cloyd

Since becoming a parent almost 10 years ago, I have sometimes felt like Luisa Madrigal singing "Surface Pressure" in Disney's Encanto. Trying to be everything society expects me to be as a parent can leave me buckling and bending under the pressure of expectations, but parenting never gives me the freedom to actually break. There's just too much to think about, balance, and schedule.

For me, this pressure feels the most crushing when it comes to discussions about my children's health. I'm a fat mom, and my experience has shown me that many people automatically assume that means I'm a parent who can't model health for my children.

Health is so much more than body size, though, and I'm so careful to make responsible choices in front of my kids as often as I possibly can so they will understand that.

While I'm expending unbelievable amounts of mental energy trying to be balanced and moderate and healthy, I'm still responsible for the practical parts of parenting. School runs, speech therapy, grocery shopping, potty training, meals, laundry, bedtime, ballet lessons, gymnastics…oh, did I mention my husband is deployed?

Like so many other parents, every plate I'm spinning is completely full. The only way I could add something else is if I sacrificed the precious few moments I get to spend by myself each evening. I'm unwilling to do that. Modeling health for my children means showing them that they are autonomous humans and the curators of their own experience, and they have every right to create boundaries around their time.

This week, Melanie Lynskey, star of Showtime's Yellowjackets, reposted a now-deleted tweet by author and podcast host Ashley Ford. Ford's tweet read, "It's wild how confused people in the Midwest seem to be that I'm not thin and also not trying to lose weight. Folks act genuinely confounded that I'm not calorie counting, avoiding carbs, or even just hating myself out loud. But…how could I hate someone as sexy as I am?"

Lynskey retweeted Ford's post while declaring her disdain for concerned trolls who pretend to be worried about her health. "The story of my life since Yellowjackets premiered. Most egregious are the 'I care about her health!!' people…b** you don't see me on my Peleton! You don't see me running through the park with my child."

She ended her post by declaring that,"skinny does not always equal healthy," and I felt that deep down in my chubby mom soul. Lynskey is a starring actress, a wife, and the mother of a 3-year-old. The fact that anyone expects her to waste a single moment of her busy life attempting to force her body to be thinner instead of embracing the shape her body naturally takes is the epitome of unfair. It's no wonder that she related so closely to Ford's original tweet.

The tweet was funny and cheeky, but it was chock-full of truth.

Like Lynskey, I have dealt with my share of "concerned" trolls. Some people can't—or more likely just won't—wrap their minds around the idea that health is of critical importance to me, but thinness is not.

It's exhausting, frustrating, and hurtful. I'm well aware that my body's size and shape don't conform to society's standards. I also know that maintaining my health is absolutely a priority for me. My children watch that in action every day. They see me drink plenty of water and eat nutritious foods. My kids are there when I participate in Mommy and Me ballet lessons, take long walks, and work hard around the house. They're present when I visit my doctors. I'm honest about my mental health, and I take my anxiety medication daily so I can parent effectively. I model health for them because I ask for help when I need it, and participate in solo activities that make me happy, like painting and reading.

I am teaching my children to treat their minds and bodies well so they can contribute to their chance to live long, fulfilling lives. I am not teaching them that their bodies need to look a certain way before they can believe that their healthy choices are "working."

I want my children to know all the way down in the deepest parts of themselves that healthy doesn't have a look. They need to truly grasp the fact that they can't look at every fat person and assume they're riddled with health issues. They also can't always see the way someone in a thin or athletic body is struggling to gain their health. Many illnesses are invisible, and many signs of good health are impossible to measure with the naked eye.

Not to mention, perfect health as society defines it actually is impossible for some people living with chronic conditions. When we judge parents simply because their bodies fall short of the aesthetic ideal, what message are we sending parents who don't even have the option to model health for their children?

As parents, we have a finite number of years to raise our kids. Once those years pass, we can't get them back. Whether we are Hollywood stars or everyday parents, we should all be allowed to spend our children's childhood years in the body we have without struggling to shoulder the pressures of impossible beauty standards. When we as a society idolize thinness to the point that we expect working parents to strive for largely unattainable body goals, we are not modeling health.

But when a chubby mom like me lives her best, happiest life in the body she has, and she teaches her children to do the same? I can't think of anything healthier.

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