Why I'll never call my daughter "gordita"

It wasn't easy growing up in a household where we ate the typical Latino fattening and fried foods or relied on fast food when there wasn't time to cook while at the same time being criticized for being overweight. My parents supported me in a lot of ways, including instilling a great love for education and helping me get to a good college. But one thing they didn't care to teach me is a healthy body image.

As a teen, my mom constantly complained about my weight. Despite the fact that both of my parents (and several members of my family) were fat too, it was always pointed out to me that I was not the ideal weight--even as they kept buying the same sodas and snacks that made me a bigger girl in the first place. The worst comment I remember my mother saying was that nobody would love me if I was gordita. She was trying to motivate me to drop the weight, but it only served to instill an insecurity that I still fight to this day.

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My weight has been through a lot of ups and downs in my life. I went from being a slightly chubby kid to an overweight teen to an obese adult, losing weight and then regaining almost all of it until I finally had a gastric bypass to lose the weight once and for all. Through it all, I never stopped hearing from my parents about how fat I was then, ironically, at my lowest weight after surgery they deemed me too skinny.

Body image is one of those things that many parents tease about. I know my mom didn't mean any harm with her comments, but they still hurt me none the less. I don't think parents realize how much impact their words have since they're our primary influence. Even as an adult, a harsh comment about my thighs (which my mom still considers too big, thus, making them my most hated body part) or my haircut can be particularly hurtful when coming from my parents.

It's no surprise that parental criticism is the first problem with loving your body. As I've grown and matured, one step I've taken to love myself for who I am and what I look like is to surround myself with positive influences. I've chosen friends that are confident and encouraging, something which has helped me in my own struggles with body image. I've also learned to stand up and tell my mom when a comment bothers me.

I've flat out had to tell my parents that a negative comment does not motivate me the way they hope it will, instead it stops me dead in my tracks because I'm so hurt. I've also started to remind myself that they don't mean harm but that I can also reply that I don't accept the way they see it. When my mom recently asked me to change my Facebook photo because she didn't like the way my arm looked, I simply replied NO.

Maybe their comments will never truly stop, but I can do my best to try to make them understand why they're not OK and remind myself that ultimately my own approval is what matters. At least this is a good lesson for what I'll be teaching my daughter when I have her. I can promise you one thing: I'll never call her gordita.

How has your parents' criticism or approval affected the way you feel about your body?

Image via Arwen Abendstern/flickr

Topics: exercise  health care  overweight  latino health  weight loss  womens health  mental health