Thursday, April 22, 2010

That Girl's Not Fat: She's Big-Boned

“Heaven’s, no. That girl isn’t fat. She’s big-boned.” -Helen Wilmer

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.)

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.

I’ve been traveling a lot lately. 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 62,000 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 62,000 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 flav-ahhhh (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 the minute they are in. Eight year olds are just so darn good at “is-ing.”

I consider the challenges I’ve faced over the years seeking that kind of peace with myself. Somewhere around sixth grade I forgot how to “is”—to be content just being who I am.

The Girl Box didn’t help. Over the years our Girl Box culture reinforced the made-up notion that peace comes from somewhere outside oneself.

“Buy this, try this, use this and then you will feel good.”

Well, go figure. I don’t know a single 8 year old girl who spends much time thinking about the kind of car she drives, the fullness of her lips or her hips or the size of her bank account 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 fourteen year old son, Hank.

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 big, bold and beautiful! 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 are not concerned with physical fitness because we want to look a certain way.

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.

Healthy weight management is a very complex issue in a culture that focuses on the external.

The physical way we, particularly women, show up in the world is 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 damaging the bodies that house them. The shift in focus to the beauty within really does create a beautiful “without.”

So today…consider the following question. How will you nourish, fuel and care for the skin you’re in, so your big, bold and bodacious YOU can get out into the world? How will you implement the “Just Is It” body plan?!!!


  1. YOU GO MOLLY! DON'T BE SCARED! Many a day I have used my participation as a GOTR coach and my own personal struggles with exercise and healthy living as a model and motivator to those of my girls who feel they do not measure up. This is a topic that must be addressed or we will continue this trend of an obesity.

    The Girl Box.. OMG Molly it recks havoc on girls today, I feel moreso than when I was a youth. I have found that when I am able to intervene best, is when I can coach a young girl into being honest with who she is, how she really feels, and where she wants to go emotionally, spiritually and physically. It motivates me to be a better me as well.

    Molly, Keep up the AMAZING work!

  2. For so long, I was caught up in the Girl Box, and had disordered eating for almost a decade. Trying to please everyone, earning 2 graduate degrees while trying to "be perfect"....and then I found triathlon, and realized that food is fuel, and finally started to appreciate my body for what it could DO, rather than what it LOOKED like. Though I have always been an athlete (gymnastics, tennis, and rugby), it wasn't until triathlon that I finally realized how amazing our bodies can be, and how important it is to take care of them.
    I am SO excited to be a GOTR coach this fall, to be a role model for girls on healthy living and choices, and to empower them in all aspects of their lives! :)