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When Allison Kimmey asked her kids to come out of the pool, she didn’t expect her daughter’s reaction. Cambelle, 4, was upset about leaving the water and told her brother that “Mama is fat.”
Kimmey, 30, was floored.
“I was wondering where that even came from since we don't do that in our house,” the mom from Cocoa Beach, Florida, told TODAY Style. “I also didn't want to perpetuate the idea that using the word fat was an insult. So I asked her to meet me upstairs so I could have a few minutes to gather my thoughts before I reacted.”
Cambelle felt bad about what she said and quickly apologized, but Kimmey still used the incident as a learning opportunity for both Cambelle and her 6-year-old son, Graham.
“The truth is, I am not fat. No one IS fat. It's not something you can BE,” Kimmey told her kids, according to an Instagram post she wrote later about the conversation. “But I do HAVE fat. We ALL have fat. It protects our muscles and our bones and keeps our bodies going by providing us energy.”
Kimmey, who is currently writing a children's book about body positivity, also told her kids that everyone has different amounts of fat, “but that doesn't mean that one person is better than the other.”
The kids seemed to absorb their mom’s message. Kimmey wrote on Instagram that they repeated it back to her. “I shouldn’t say someone is fat because you can’t be just fat,” they told her, “but everyone HAS fat and it’s okay to have different fat.”
Kimmey’s account of her inspiring parenting moment quickly went viral, racking up more than 33,000 likes on Instagram.
The mom of two hopes that her post will remind other parents to model body-positive language and behavior for their own kids.
“I want parents to see that we are the loudest voices our children should hear, regardless of any outside noise,” she told TODAY Style. “It is vital that we choose our words carefully and that we are willing to have these hard conversations.”
Kimmey says these conversations should start early, because children are bombarded with unrealistic beauty standards from a very young age. Her daughter’s use of the word "fat" as an insult was the perfect example.
“Since we don't call people fat as an insult in my household, I have to assume she internalized this idea from somewhere or someone else,” she wrote on Instagram. “Our children are fed ideas from every angle, you have to understand that that WILL happen: at a friend’s house whose parents have different values, watching a TV show or movie, overhearing someone at school—ideas about body image are already filtering through their minds. It is our job to continue to be the loudest, most accepting, positive and CONSISTENT voice they hear.”
Kimmey also shared how she models body positivity in her own home.
"I show them the way by being happy in my own skin,” she told TODAY Style. “We don't talk about health in terms of numbers or pounds. And we consistently focus on finding our joy and living in kindness.”
“It's not always going to be perfect,” she added, “but it will always be worth it to show them a life where they don't have to be afraid of their own body.”