I am a fat lady. I have always been fat as an adult but having a baby has made me really really fat. Nice people tell me that I am not fat but what they really mean is that I am not the negative things associated with the word fat, like lazy, or dirty, or stupid. I am well kept, put together, intelligent fat woman. But I am still fat.
I do not wish to be fat, I hate being fat, but for a long time I have been fat. I have had a horrible unhealthy relationship with food. I have a tendency to binge eat when stressed. I will eat whole boxes of crackers or 8 bananas or the stereotypically carton of ice cream. I have, on occasion, tried unsuccessfully to become anorexic but thankfully have a really weak gag reflex and couldn't make myself vomit. If I am not paying attention when I eat, I will, without fail, dramatically overeat until I feel ill. For most of my life when I had something to celebrate I would do it with food, when I had a bad day I would treat myself to happiness with food. I can not resist free food, if someone brings in candy I will not just have a piece, but ten. If someone brings in cookies I will have five, never one. Food has been for a long time both my enemy and my friend. In the past when I have tried to diet or exercise it makes me think about food more and my weight more which depresses me and leads to further binge eating and weight gain. Oh the irony.
The weird thing is that my self-esteem and my waistline have had an inverse relationship. When I was a child, teenager, young adult I was slightly overweight (at most). But I felt horrible, I hated myself, I believed everyone found me disgusting, that no one would love me ever, that no one would hire me or want to work with me because I was fat, and so forth.
As I have gotten older and fatter, I am more confident and happy and optimistic about my life. Which is kind of bizarre situation isn't it? There is obviously a lot of shit there to unpack. Shit I need to unpack if my current 532 attempt at getting healthy is going to stick. The thing is I really don't want to examine my relationship with food too closely, its painful, its hard to admit that I can't seem to control certain behaviors even when I know they are bad for me. No one likes admitting that they are weak, least of all someone like me who is strong and in control in every other way. I succeed and conquer almost every other thing I have ever tried in my life but food... oh food... it thwarts me every time.
I say food, and not exercise, because I have always been an active person and my relationship with exercise is pretty normal. When I have the money for a gym membership and free time I go. I ride my bike to work most days, I go for walks, I like to hike, etc. Obviously for weight loss I need to up my energy expenditure but this is not the problem area. This I can do and be okay with. I don't love the gym but I can get my ass there when I am not a sleep deprived zombie new parent.
Which brings me to why I am trying once again to get healthy, I am a parent. I may manage to lose weight, I may not, but what I really really don't want to do is pass on my extremely unhealthy relationship with food to my daughter. I don't want to burden her with my shit. So what is my shit exactly? Where does it come from? I can for the most part trace it back to my own mother, which makes me part of scary cycle, one I want to break forever. I don't want to do to her what mother did to me. And least you think I am parent-blaming to excuse my behavior let me tell you a few stories...
My mother always bought clothes for me a size too small so I would be uncomfortable and encouraged to lose weight. I was placed on my first diet by mother when I was six. I can not remember a family meal as a child where I was served the same food as the rest of my family. I often left the dinner table hungry and would sneak food late at night after everyone was asleep. My mother would always point out obese people to me and say if you don't stop eating like a pig you are going to look like that person some day and no one will ever love you. Seriously, she said this EVERY time she saw a fat person. My second grade teacher was a really large woman and every time she picked me up from school she would say this.
My mother would say things like "you would be so pretty if only you lost some weight" to me regularly when I was in elementary school. She told me that my father was ashamed to come to teacher/parent night for me because I was so fat (this was a lie). She used to offer me money to lose weight. She would pinch my stomach and ask me why I wasn't more ashamed to look this way. When I was sixteen she offered to pay for lap band surgery because no one would ever respect a woman professionally who was fat and she wanted to see me succeed in life (for perspective at the time I was 5' 8" and 155 lbs). She would say really super manipulative things like "I only say these things to you because I love you, all your friends think the same thing, but they don't love you enough to say it." And of course my favorite, "someday you will have kids and you will understand". She recently tried to convince me to stop feeding my 10 month old daughter formula and instead switch to skim milk so she doesn't get fat like me.
The sad irony of all this is that I wasn't fat when she was doing all this, I was very healthy normal weight for my height, but that wasn't good enough for her, she wanted me to be THIN damn it! Of course that never happened and once I left home I became clinically overweight, I think in part to spite her. My mother's insidious comments just stayed in my head, my unhealthy bizarre relationship with food had been forged and took on a life of it's own, and I have attempted to break the pattern over and over again with incremental successes at best. Oh the power that we mothers have. Even just typing all this out makes me want to go get a candy bar to soothe myself.
So I am trying once again to change how I think and interact with food, I am trying to unpack and put away the weird emotional baggage that goes along with the simple act of eating. But I have a long way to go. Getting healthy and losing weight, at least for me, is about a whole lot more then just calories in and calories out.