Hilary Freeman, a London-based mom and journalist, has been receiving death threats. The reason: she penned an op-ed for the Daily Mail admitting the reason she chose not to enroll her 2-year-old daughter at a nursery school was because the assistant teacher was obese.
“I was expecting some level of backlash, given that this is such an emotive subject,” Freeman exclusively tells Us Weekly. “But I had no idea quite how big it would be.”
Freeman began by recalling the day she toured the facility and observed the assistant playing with her little girl. Though the woman was “kind and great with children” Freeman had concerns about her health. “She moved slowly and breathlessly, her face flushed,” Freeman claimed in the Daily Mail piece published on Thursday, September 7. “Would she, I wondered, have the lightning reflexes needed to save an adventurous toddler from imminent danger?” The When I Was Me author also questioned the “unhealthy habits” her daughter might learn.
“Looking around, I noticed that she wasn’t the only extremely overweight member of staff. I couldn’t help worrying about the message this was sending to the children in their care: that being very fat is normal — and when children adopt role models so readily — even desirable,” Freeman continued. Her anxiety was the main reason she chose another school where the staff are all a “healthy” weight.
Freeman believes no one should be shamed or discriminated for their size but also feels the fat acceptance movement has gone too far. “It’s now an excuse for the severely obese to celebrate their bodies, the consequences be damned,” she wrote. “Activists say that ‘fat is beautiful’ and being obese isn’t a problem. Anyone who points out it’s not a good thing to be so overweight is condemned. Telling a woman she should think about losing weight for her health is, apparently, now ‘anti-feminist.’”
Freeman cited her own body struggles as the reason she feels “so strongly” about the topic. She is a size 6 now, but was once a 10 because of an underachieve thyroid that makes it hard to lose weight and can cause pounds to pile on quickly. “I’m a slim person with a fat person inside, wanting to burst out,” Freeman wrote, noting that she never consumes more than 1,500 calories a day and exercises 30 minutes daily.
Freeman’s article received more than 2,600 comments. But many have messaged Freeman personally. “Unfortunately some of my good friends have been hurt by my article, which was not intentional, and I regret that,” she tells Us. “I wanted to generate what I think is a much needed debate.”
“I never said I wouldn’t allow a fat teacher to teach my child. I just said that I was concerned that a morbidly obese nursery assistant, not a qualified school teacher, might not be able to keep up with active toddlers and that when choosing between two nurses, this was one influential factor in my decision,” Freeman tells Us. “At that nursery they were eating jam sandwiches . . . something I wouldn’t give my daughter. At the other they have hummus and cucumber and tomatoes.”
Freeman hopes the debate will continue. “Obesity is a huge health problem in many countries and it’s important that we are able to talk about it openly, without resorting to insults,” she adds. “People shouldn’t be scared into silence. Ultimately, like all mothers, all I want is what is best for my daughter.”
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