See, my mom was raised in a household where praise was considered not good to give children because it would go to their heads and they would become egotistical. My mom never heard what she did right; it was always what she did wrong. It made her strive for perfection, and her lack of control over so many aspects of her life led to a desperate need to have control over her body. I'd say she's borderline anorexic and certainly has a very crappy body image as a result.
As unfortunate as it was that my mom experienced these messages when she was young, it is even worse that she decided somehow to pass that on to us. Although she managed to remedy the lack of praise (we were constantly told what we were doing right), she couldn't help but to press her daughters for that elusive ideal body. My sister was especially susceptable to these messages, and she's always had issues with how she looks. Sure, a ballet teacher needs to be slender, but I think that at 5', being 84 lbs is still a wee bit light. But in her mind, at least she's not that horrid 106 lbs that she was when she came home her freshman year of college and my mom told her she was fat. No shit. 106 lbs. That's it!!!
I remember my mom delivering the same messages to me. I was pudgy for a lot of my childhood; the other kids even started to call me cow. My mom kept nudging me to lose weight. But, the strangest thing happened...I was unaffected by all of that. I laughed when the kids teased me and started making mooing noises. When they realized I didn't care, they gave up and it became a joke that evolved into the cow being sort of my totem animal in high school. But then at the end of 8th grade, I hit my last growth spurt and got desperately ill at the same time. I lost a load of weight by accident, and suddenly my mom flipped into OPPOSITE mode: you're too skinny! Eat, eat! I remember going outside to goof off with my neighbor's daughter and my mom fussing at me that I couldn't go until I ate this cuban sandwich, and so after she shoved it in my mouth, I was wandering down the driveway bewilderedly with this huge-ass piece of bread and meat dangling between my lips and teeth.
Clear message: there is too fat. There is too skinny. But there is never "just right."
My sister heard that one loud and clear, now that my mom moans at her that she's too skinny. But...somehow I missed it entirely...
It's hard to explain. We're taught, esp. women (not that men don't worry about it too, but women are made to focus on it more due to media, etc), that we must look this one way to be "good." We're given that subliminal that even today, long after the right to vote and the feminist surge, we as women should focus on looking pretty. Looking pretty, according to the models displayed on the runway, means you take a skeleton and throw some flesh on it. It's an unattainable and unhealthy ideal that is waved in front of us constantly. And there's my mom in the background reinforcing it. And there is my sister tortured by it off and on her whole life. And then there's me....
I just don't care, and I can't figure out why. I don't sit in front of a mirror and wonder why I've gained weight nor feel issues with self esteem during the phases in my life when I did put on the pork. My awesomeness can't be put on a scale ;) I was only on one diet in my entire life, and that was mostly because we just couldn't afford to buy more clothes, and there I was busting out of everything I owned. After I lost 14 lbs, I accidentally got pregnant with Ariana a bit earlier than planned, and there was never another diet again. My Maw Maw has pointed out to me when I've become "fat," and my mom sure as hell has. My ex used to even point it out to me as he gained way more weight than I was gaining. Ahhh, the memories...Jared was six weeks old, and I was going into the doctor's office to get my clean bill of health. The ex said something about how I was steadily losing weight, and then he added, "I can't wait until you lose all that weight so we can start having sex again." I remember blinking, looking at him, raising an eyebrow, and saying, "OK, good, how about you lose that 50 lbs you gained too--that's fair, right? We'll wait to have sex until you do THAT." And he sputtered, and stammered, and said that wasn't exactly what he meant....ahhhh good times, that.
But it didn't really get inside me, you know? Other people's opinions on my physical shape just don't bang around my head like they seem to do for normal folks. That's not to say I don't remember fretting to Alex before his brother came to visit that I was a bit tubby for a Frenchwoman, and I hoped he found that I was worthy of him despite that fact...it was mostly worry that James would wish something better for his bro because of the excess weight I had picked up over the years, and GOSH you just don't know how the French are about weight (back me up, Laurita!!!). But it passed rather quickly, and there was never a need to diet or do something about the fact that I had crept up to 134 lbs. by last December.
Instead, last Christmas I realized I just didn't feel great. I didn't want to diet; I just wanted to feel better. So, the first change was eating more fruits and drinking more water. That really made me feel so much better. And since in my attempts to get in my five servings a day of fruits/veggies meant sometimes a bowl of pineapple was substituted for a bag of chips as a snack, I managed to go down to 126 lbs on that alone by last May. For me, the goal had been achieved. I felt better. It wasn't a weight issue. Still, I decided to up the healthy stakes by cutting out all sodas in every form, even diet. I had just read an article about how even diet sodas did funky things to one's metabolism and had all sorts of manure in it one should never consume, and I finally had the strong desire to drop them. Since May, I've only had a coke once (when my throat was torn up) and some ginger ale when I was sick for two days. Instead, I wake up with a lovely cup of green tea in some form or another. Then Total Wine made me walk, walk, walk. Then the kids ran me around this summer swimming, swimming, swimming. But hey, the term started up. I had no more swimming. I had only one day a week I was walking at Total Wine. I was sitting on my butt doing teacher stuff all the time (grading, reading, etc). In August, I figured the gravy train had ended at 121 lbs and that was just fine and dandy. Clothes were more comfortable. I felt more energetic. Life was good, and after all--I wasn't even TRYING to lose weight, so who cares?
As a side note, I think I'd be dead in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. My metabolism would have never been able to survive off of more meagre foodstuffs. I'd have had to be a noble to have made it. I watch some of my friends eat far less food than I consume and struggle to keep down weight or lose weight. It's SO not fair. I feel guilty. Not only is it easy for me, I simply am unaffected by all those mommy and society messages that say, "You're worth less because you're not a Barbie doll." It would mean way more to others to have a good metabolism like this...why am I so lucky?
Or maybe it's not luck. It could be a tapeworm. I'm down to 115 lbs. now, and I'm eating cheese, chocolate, and potato chips, plus downing a fair bit of wine. I don't feel deprived at all. I'm not dieting! It's amazing how much those lifestyle changes helped me, and my only goal was to just have more energy and be more alert. My mom still thinks I'm fat, but who cares? Society would say I'm still a little cushiony because I look nothing like those models (esp. at 5'2"), but who cares? I'm just happy I feel good. And I feel more blessed, actually, for my ability to blow off what others feel about me and my appearance/actions/and so on than I do for the weight loss. I really hope I can pass that on to my kids: you're loved, and that's all that matters. Screw the rest of the world. Just do what you need to do, and let them talk to a mirror.
Somehow, when you do that, it just all seems to work out.
AND I got gas for $2.99 today!!!
Grant, put down the chainsaw...I'll eat the doughnuts and chocolate cake...just put down the chainsaw....