Everyone is an expert on this, aren't they? I know all kinds of thin people who carefully watch their weight who would love to impart their advice and wisdom. I actually used to think that I could learn something from people like this. And I always had these wonderful fantasies about being one of them. Wouldn't it be so fun to be very careful, weight-conscious, and feel oh-so-incredibly superior to those who could not, or would not control themselves? Wouldn't it be fun to make fun and feel superior?
I don't need to slam those arrogant thin people, though. I have gone through my own arrogant phases. I think for me, the gift of parenthood has taught me humility. So many beliefs that had formed in my psyche (and seemed set in stone) before I became "Mommy" changed radically.
Let me start by explaining the basics of my personal (here I am going to mention two common terms that make me feel resentful and raw, though they are the accepted phrases) "weight problem" and "eating disorder." First of all, I can most definitely trace my troubles with food back to a mistake that my parents made with me. All those Dr. Phils out there can tell me that I am not taking responsibility, but I respectfully disagree. Just because a person traces a problem back to parental influences does not mean she isn't taking responsibility for solving the problem. I do own an infinite number of irrational choices I have made since my first "diet." That doesn't change the fact that misguided beliefs and inappropriate parental guidance set me up for the problem. Having said that, my feelings about societal and family pressures to be thin, the diet and fashion industry, and the unnatural developments of a multitude of food scientists have conspired together to create a raw-undeveloped-angry-teenaged-Id-thing in my psyche (Now kids, don't use the word "things" in your writing).
I do not blame my parents for the shape of my body. Most of us have read that a complex combination of the sciences (including psychology) create our body shapes. For those of us who are weight conscious, studies of twins that have been reared apart show that our weights are little affected by environmental influences in childhood. Here is a link that is worth reading: The Body-Mass Index of Twins Who Have Been Reared Apart. I do believe in scientific studies when they include very large numbers of subjects over a long period of time (longitudinal). My professor at New School was instrumental in teaching me how to pull apart a poorly designed scientific study -- you know, "lies, damned lies, and statistics" (quote attributed to the 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881). He also told me the Minnesota Twin Study was the real deal.
My issue with my parents was that they dieted, and they encouraged me to diet. And that truly screwed up my natural relationship with food. Because kids, (I know I started this sentence with "because" but in this case, it is more important that you listen to the message rather than criticizing my rule breaking and poor writing skills) -- are you listening kids? Dieting will absolutely cause you to have a disordered relationship with food. You will not eat enough food which will make you think about food a lot (let's call this "perseveration") and eventually some illogical survival mechanism will kick in and you will probably binge on calorie-dense food and you will be caught in a hellish cycle of dieting and pigging out. Now here I am giving advice just like those arrogant thin people who think they've got it all figured out when they haven't even spent a second living with my brain chemistry. So, kids, go ahead and diet if you really want to, but hopefully you will remember this if you find yourself getting nowhere and suddenly having no clue how or what to eat.
I knew about the Minnesota Twin Study when I was in my twenties. Though I knew about it, I didn't want to believe it and I kept thinking that I could find some magical key that would make me into one of those self-satisfied, health-nutty thin people. No need to go too far into my previous decades of various attempts to fool mother nature (diets, endurance exercise, weight lifting, medication, hypnosis, etc. etc. etc.). What I want to express here is that it was only when I had children that I truly understood that those of us who feel compelled to eat more than others are born with this quality. By the time my children were two and three I it was obvious that there was no "off switch" in their brains when it came to simple carbohydrates. I would see a classroom of toddlers all leaving the majority of food on their plates while mine powered through every morsel. It was obvious that my children had both inherited "it" (whatever that is, whatever I have, whatever my dad had) and that "it" made them approach a plate of food differently than the majority of other children. For me, I noticed my children's over-the-top appetites early, but not as early as another of my relatives who noticed her second born baby sucking down bottles like a nicotine addict sucks down a cigarette. That baby has the "it" gene and unsurprisingly, is now morbidly obese as an adult.
My limited knowledge of human nature makes me imagine that you're curious what I weigh, aren't you? Do you want to know what size I am? I know you want some real numbers, but you will just have to decide for yourself. Take a look at my headshot. Do a google search and you will find out what size I am. Or use your imagination and put me where you want me to be. I can tell you this for sure -- I weigh less than 300 and more than 100 pounds.
Another one of my enormously, bitter resentments against my own human race is that I am always reminded of size. Commercials for weight loss products always show these magnificent before and after pictures with the accomplished speaking about their entire previous fat life as miserable and barely worth living. Women talk about fat, exercise, and diets constantly -- always reminding me that I should be thinking about this too and that I am delinquent because I have not yet conquered this terrible "weight problem". (In this case, it is okay to have the period after the quotation marks because I am setting off a special term).
So I have put quite a bit of effort into giving you my understanding of why people come in different shapes and sizes, and I have also whined quite a bit about society and its judgements. What could possibly motivate me to share all this personal stuff? Well, because it is my goal to help my daughter through navigate the same treacherous world of fashion, food, and prejudice. And after doing a terrible job for nine years, I have turned it around. I know what to do for my daughter and that feels wonderful. And if anyone ever reads my blog and cares to learn from my mistakes, successes and struggles -- well I just have to share what I have learned. Stay tuned for Part 2. (Or don't. It's entirely up to you.)