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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mother to Daughter

This story makes me sad. My mom was (is) a chronic dieter and had (has) serious, serious issues. She suffered from anorexia before I was born and was overweight all of my childhood.

When I was growing up, she kept journal after journal chronicling her struggles with food and weight. I remember like yesterday how she would sit on her bed drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes while writing frantically- in her beautiful cursive hand-writing on the lined pages of a black and white composition notebook. She chronicled every calorie from each and every bite of food that crossed her lips and the pain and the negative emotions that those calories made her feel. Sometimes when she wasn’t home, I would read her journals and I would learn.

If you are fat you will be unhappy. If you are fat no one will love you. If you are fat you are ugly. Food is merely calories meant to be counted. Food is not to be enjoyed. Shame on you for eating.

She kept pictures of thin celebrities on the refrigerator. Cans on Slim-Fast filled our cupboard and cases over diet soda were stuffed under her bed.

She blamed everything on food and her weight and she blamed the food and the weight on my dad. It was her unhappy marriage to my dad that drove her to eat and it was the eating that made her fat and it was the fat that made her depressed.

I went on my first diet the summer before sixth grade- 1986. In a diary entry from that summer I wrote:

Dear Diary,
I’m on a diet. Today I have only eaten one slice of cheese. I’m going to ride my bike all day….


My obsession with dieting ebbed and flowed throughout the years; punctuated by periods of extreme dieting usually brought about by stress or the need for control. By junior high I was keeping track of everything I ate on slips of notebook paper. By high school, I was living off of Special K and skim milk and I would punch myself in the stomach when I felt too full.

In college, while I was still obsessed with dieting and weight, my obsession with beer won out. Alcohol and late night food binges resulted in a 30 pound weight gain. I was the fattest I had ever been and while my weight made me miserable; alcohol, food, and good times with friends soothed the pain.

Finally (and this is the Cliff’s notes version), thanks in part to my college education (yes, in between the nights of partying I managed to graduate with honors and receive a B.S. and a M.S. in Nutrition), I got things under control. I lost all the weight from college by working out and cutting back on portions. No crash dieting and no obsessive calorie counting. I still have my moments of insanity and I do wonder how my psyche would fare should I ever battle the bulge again but all in all, I have met my demons head on and won.

As a mother to a daughter I have a lot at stake. I will not repeat the cycle with my own children. I will not do to her what she did to me- inadvertently or otherwise. My mom continues to battle her demons. She is now extremely, extremely thin. Food is all she talks about and she rarely eats. I have told her that I will not allow my children to be exposed to or influenced by her disordered eating. I want my children to know and love their grammy but I want them to be healthy and have a normal relationship with food more.

I want them to have everything I didn’t have. Isn’t that what every mother wants?

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3 Comments:

Blogger Jill said...

My story is very similar Amanda (I have written about my own eating issues on my blog, but not my mom's as she and other fmaily members read my blog). I work really hard to instill healthy eating habits in Zoë, focussing on balance and not on weight. I have recently lost over 30lbs, and worked so hard to ensure that Zoë knows mommy is eating healthier, and not "dieting". I worry about passing this on ot her all the time.

I also worry that she'll be fat, and feel guilty for that.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Abby said...

It was not good at my house either. We are petite people and were told we should never weigh more than 100 pounds. Both my sister and I in high school were about 90 pounds and hardly ate. It scares me looking back now.

I too have a daughter. I do not use the word fat. She somehow knows it anyway. And we have had quite the talk over it. She has got to see herself as more than just a number. I have wasted too much time on that. Enough for both of us.

5:07 PM  
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