I was joking around with my kids, telling them that I would chase them and beat them if they messed up my freshly-swept floor. Ethan started clumsily bolting around the room, with all the grace of the last kid picked at dodgeball, and shouted, “Miss Mandy can’t catch me!” The other kids laughed, and Jean shouted, “No, because she is fat!”

Stopping dead in my tracks, I glared at Jean. I wanted to make fun of her fivehead or the fact that she had the social aptitude of an idiot savant. But c’mon, really? Getting mad at a kid because she hurt your 28-year-old feelings? That’s just stupid. I need to go Dr. Phil on my feelings. Why am I really upset?

Good hair, marshmallow face. This picture should be featured on a milk carton: Missing: Mandy's cheekbones

Kids tell the truth. They don’t understand politics or white lies or beating around the bush. They see it, they say it. Constructive criticism is just twenty one letters of confusion.

So Jean says I’m fat. She doesn’t mean I resemble Jabba the Hut. She probably doesn’t even think I’m really that big; I’m just bigger than most women she knows. But in this infuriating moment she voices the concern that I’ve had for a while.

Since the “I MOVED ABROAD AND LIFE IS ONE GIANT ADVENTURE!” wore off into the “I live abroad and life is still life”, I’ve gained some weight. I have all kinds of excuses. Between emotional and physical factors, I’ve been a Biggest Loser cry-your-eyes-out episode for a good while now.

Fluffy like a giant teddy bear, and just as fun to hug! I didn't ever want this picture to see the light of day, or the internet, but this is a good example of a day when I felt extra pudgy. And my hair was flat. Stupid hair.

My self-esteem rests quite heavily on my physical state. I don’t care about my weight, but I do care about how I feel when I look at my body. When I feel athletic, I have fewer worries – about figuring out my love life, about figuring out my future, about figuring out anything else that needs figuring out.

Thankfully I have a friend here, Denise, who’s just as interested in being more athletic. The past three weeks she and I have pushed our bodies at least four times a week, to the point where my legs give out as I sit down. I actually feel guilty when the lady on my RunKeeper app tells me I’m running too slow. We’re going to be athletes, and the RunKeeper lady will be proud of us.

Denise and me in October 2010, before I decided that Hi Chew candies were my best friends.

I just hope that the next time I’m walking into work and, upon running into Jake, hear, “Whoa!”, I don’t immediately wonder if he said that out of surprise or disgust. But my self-esteem doesn’t rest on my supervisor’s opinion of me. That would be lame. Almost as lame as getting mad at an 8-year-old idiot savant for calling me fat.

This would be what Jake saw that morning. Not too terrifying.

(Just to clarify, she’s not really an idiot savant. Jean’s one of the smartest kids I know.)