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L I T T LE PA R E N T ON T H E PR A I R I E

>> AM I.... FAT? “MOMMY, WHAT DOES 'FAT' MEAN?” I was walking up the stairs — embarrassingly out of breath — carrying my son, when my daughter shouted the pensive question from the bottom of the stairs. “What?!” I asked, taken aback. We had just gotten done playing legos, jumping on a trampoline, playing house and generally destroying the play room. Where did this come from? We don’t even use the words fat and skinny around her, so this question felt deep left field. “What does FAT mean?” She repeated. “And, Mommy … am I fat?” I had just arrived at the top of the stairs, and suddenly felt like I was going to fall back and topple right back on down them. I couldn’t believe the innocent, searching words I was just served up by my 5-year-old daughter, and knew I needed to catch my breath and focus. "Don’t be an idiot, Tracy," one side of my brain said. "Don’t make this a big deal or an after-school special, 48 // MAY 2017

BY TRACY KIRBY // CRISTA BALLARD PHOTOGRAPHY

she’s only 5. Just breeze past it." But the other side of my brain, the brain that is always looking for those pure gold teaching moments said, "Take your time with this one. Talk it through." For many mothers or even fathers, this type of conversation might not cause any triggers at all. Perhaps they’ve always had healthy role models, never saw food as the enemy, have always exercised in moderation for health benefits only, and maybe even have the metabolism of the likes of Jesus. (If this is you, I hope you’re eating a deep personal pan pepperoni pizza RIGHT NOW). Whatever the case, body image, eating, or self confidence have never really been a hang-up to them. And then there are some people that have visited the other camp. The camp that has, in fact, experienced some sort of distorted idea of themselves and perhaps tried to compensate for it via eating, not eating, exercising, and/or everything in-between. I'm a woman that has visited that other camp. I had just graduated college in Southern California, and I was living in Los Angeles at the

time. All around me eating disorders ran rampant. So rampant, in fact, I didn’t even notice when it was happening around me anymore. It was said that one in three women at my college had some shape or form of a disorder, and I had just grown eerily accustomed to it. Whenever I heard about an eating disorder, I just didn’t understand it at all and went back to eating my waffle. (I know, I was super compassionate back then.) Then, I remember the exact moment I, myself, started thinking about calories and as it related to my self-confidence. I was sitting at an amazing Mexican food joint in West Hollywood, and all our orders came out at the same time. I looked across the table, and all of my girlfriends had ordered salads; dressing on the side, no cheese, hold the tortilla strips. Basically, you know, prison food. I looked down at my plate, and there sat the most beautiful, giant enchilada topped with a dazzling layer of cheese, smothered in some sort of enchanting hot cream sauce with a side of glorious rice. Basically, you know, heaven. I picked up my fork to dive in, and out of nowhere, I was suddenly self-conscious. I felt guilty, even. And, in

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