Friday, October 24, 2008

A life of diets

I grew up in a large family with many much older siblings. As a child, I remember that my family, none of which were overweight in any way, were always on various diets and health regimes. My Mum had stayed really skinny through all her other pregnancies until she had me. After that she apparently had never shed the baby pounds. So my mother and my sisters were always following some diet. This was the '80s and the '90s. Diets were the "in" thing.

There was the Banana and Milk diet, where for 3 days all you ate were 3 bananas and 5 glasses of whole fat milk (no skimmed in those days). This never resulted in weight change, but apparently shrunk your stomach so that you could start the next diet all ready to loose weight! There were bowls of homemade coleslaw and very grainy wheat bread. I remember one of my sisters making homemade healthy bread and needing to knead it so much that she was actually throwing it against the cupboards that lined our kitchen walls. There was not eating after 6pm. There was only eating half of anything, half a slice of bread and half an apple. There were calorie counts and point allowances.

Then the exercises that had to be done. There were sit-up competitions, and skipping/jump-rope competitions in our large kitchen. We walked a lot, though my Mum always walked a lot, in fact my whole family always walked a lot. Often daily walks of one hour or more. We walked beaches and woodland parks. We ate chicken and everyone only drank white wine. I was too young to drink, but I remember the white wine everyone else drank reluctantly. We went to saunas and did workouts in the sitting room.

It was in some ways fun. A family event which never really accomplished anything. Although I do have good memories of it all the obsession with weight and the obvious desire to be thinner, always thinner is not a great memory. Even now my Mum will ask, "So how's the weight?" She lives on a different continent and yet she feels she has to ask. The last time she asked I pointed out that it really was none of her business. To which she responded in a huffy voice "Oh, not good, then." And to some extent, she was right. I would like to loose a little weight and if I was exactly the weight I wanted to be I probably would not have been put out by the question. I probably would have answered in a glowing voice, "Just perfect!" In fact, I may have even told her before she had to ask. She has said she just can't bear to loose her beautifully thin daughter that she had at my wedding. But guess what? That was 6 years and 3 children ago. And I'm not exactly lost just because I'm one size bigger.

Through out my life I have had many anorexic and bulimic friends and acquaintances. It is part of our life in our society. I am sure no one reading this does not know of someone who has suffered or is suffering from an eating disorder. I have known too many people who have deprived themselves of food until they were skeletal thin, irrational and irritable. Still they look in the mirror and think, just one more pound and I will be perfect. Or who are scared to eat in case they put it all back on. As a result of these experiences, I can not bear to be really thin and I find it really hard to listen to anyone who is presently obsessing about their weight. Even though, right now, I need to loose some baby weight of my own.

This is so much something I don't want for my children. I don't want them to feel fat when they are 5 because they are surrounded with people who talk about weight all the time. I want them to eat healthy and exercise, but not because they feel guilty. That guilt only makes you want to rebel against it, exercise less and eat more. Society in general is so obsessed with weight and eating habits, that all I can do is try to not make it an issue at home and hope.

1 comment:

Jump Hi said...

It seems this is a world-wide mess. My (very heavy) Grandma used to criticize me continually as a young teenager for being too fat. She went so far as to tell me on the eve of tryouts that I was too fat to be a cheerleader. I don't remember being fat as a teen-ager, but I do remember dieting unsuccessfully constantly and feeling fat. In fact, I was nominated for prom queen my senior year and thought it was some kind of Carrie joke because I was too fat. However, as a 30-something I discovered that the dress I wore to prom had made its way into my Mom's 6th grade costume box. She was a teacher. She told me that hardly anyone could wear it because it was too small. So, if the dress I wore as a 17 year-old does not fit a majority of 12 year-olds could I really have been that fat? I agree something is wrong with society.