It’s not a secret. It’s not a complete travesty. I don’t generally shout from the rooftops that the BMI charts designate me as obese, but it’s pretty clear if you pass me on the street. I was overweight before I got pregnant — and, you know, miraculously grew another life form inside the caverns of my body. I actually didn’t gain extra weight during those nine months of gestation (there was, though, an isolated incident involving half a chocolate cake). But between my baby’s birth and his first birthday, I packed on a good amount of pounds, most likely from stress-eating leftover drumsticks and ice cream at two in the morning while pumping, and cramming meals in between my multiple jobs and time with baby.
Regardless of how I got to Camp Fat, one thing’s for sure: People seem to have something to say about it. But the thing is, no matter what you’re thinking in your head when you see me, or how good your intentions might be, there are some things you just don’t say to new moms who are overweight.
Here are my top picks for Worst Thing to Say to a Fat Mom:
“Still working on losing that baby weight, eh?”
No. The answer is no. I lost my “baby weight” when my baby popped out of me. He weighed seven pounds, and the placenta weighed another seven, and I was down 14 pounds mere seconds after that stuff was no longer playing houseguest in my uterus. The rest of my fat is mine — all mine. Plus, losing weight isn’t “work.” My job is work. I go at eight in the morning and leave by five in the evening. Losing weight is a goddamn life goal — and one where I don’t get free stockpiles of felt tip pens or a matching 401K. I just get shame and pressure and judgment from people like you who make comments.
“Don’t worry. It took me six months to lose all my baby fat.”
Good for you. No, GREAT FOR YOU. Did you notice how I didn’t use an exclamation point? That was intentional. It’s because I’m pretending to be happy for you, but I’m actually in reality not at all happy for you. It doesn’t make me feel better to hear how long it took you to lose weight, especially since my baby is two and I still haven’t lost the extra weight. Knowing how successful you were just made me feel worse.
“You look amazing!”
This sounds like a perfectly nice thing to say, but to a new mom who is feeling like she’s not looking great, this may be received as disingenuous and might actually make her feel more self-conscious. It’s hard to look truly “amazing” after squeezing out another human that you’ve been growing inside of you. It might be more sensitive to stick to less hyperbolic adjectives and say things like, “I hope you’re healing well,” or “you’re wearing motherhood well,” or “you’ve got that new-mom glow.”
“How old is your baby?” (This one comes with an up-down look scanning my body).
Older than your mother. Just kidding. But hey, your passive-aggressive attempts to judge me based on how old my baby is, and hence how long I have before you start condemning me to fat hell because I haven’t lost the weight I didn’t gain when I was pregnant is negative helpful. The only time limit on how long I have to lose the fat after having a baby is death. Any time before I die is a perfectly fine time to lose weight, and if I never lose it, that might be OK too.
“Oh, you’re going to eat that hamburger?”
Yes. I am. I like hamburgers. It might be my downfall and possibly the downfall of mankind (I recognize the carbon footprint of consuming herd animals; I do try to eat free range when I can), but sometimes I really just want a hamburger. Yes, I know. I’m fat, so according to many folks I should eat only lettuce and kombucha or whatever. But then I would be hungry all the time, and possibly really bored. I try to eat well as often as I can, but I like crappy food from time to time too (sometimes more times than I should, admittedly). Regardless, your judgy questions aren’t going to make me choose differently; they’re just going to make me feel bad.
“I took this great Pilates class after my son was born.”
That’s amazing. I am in at least some small way in awe and envy that you managed to master postpartum fitness and “me time” with a newborn at home. You might think it’s fabulous. Mostly, though, I think it’s unattainable. After my son was born, I had leaky nipples, an oozing lower abdominal cavity, and any energy I had left after close to zero sleep was devoted to keeping this tiny human that I had just birthed alive. My hormones were raging, and even a second away from my kid made me bawl. If I had tried Pilates then, I probably would have just used the mat as a great spot to catch a power nap while feeling equal parts guilty and sad for leaving him.
“When are you due?”
I’m not pregnant. And you just embarrassed the holy hell out of me and, frankly, yourself. Don’t ever assume a fat person is pregnant. It’s just plain safer not to. I once was pregnant, and then I just ate a lot of hamburgers. It’s possible I’ll give birth in nine months to a cheeseburger, but likely not. Maybe stick with asking me other questions like what my favorite book is, or whether the heat index is as obtrusive for me as it is for you.
Being overweight continues to be stigmatized in our culture. Be sure to remain mindful of questions or comments that might come across as insensitive or offensive, particularly if you’re talking to new birth moms — you know, those postpartum folks who might be feeling extra vulnerable about their bodies. Okay?