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And having posted this, I'm off to the vending machine for some M&Ms

A few weeks ago I read Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher. And of all the things that I don’t want happening to my daughters as they grow up, I think first on that list is having an eating disorder.

The author first decided she was fat at the age of five. By nine, she was making herself throw up once a day. She was in and out of hospitals and mental institutions throughout high school and college. At the age of 20, she weighed 52 pounds. 52 pounds – that’s less than Mallory weighs now.

Eating disorders are so insidious. They’re so hard to control, to recover from. Even while writing her book, Hornbacher insisted that she wasn’t cured. (And the disease has had long-term repercussions on her health – she can’t have babies, she has depleted bone and muscle mass, her immune system is shot.) There is no cure, there is only coping. It’s not like alcoholism or drug abuse – everyone has to have some kind of relationship with food. I think in this culture it’s extremely difficult to make that relationship a healthy one.

I first remember thinking I was “fat” in fourth grade, when I joined the “Little Dribblers” basketball team. All of us little girls would sit around the locker room and compare the size of our thighs. I considered myself fat all through junior high school and most of high school, in fact – although I never was. I distinctly remember wearing a size 4 as I entered college – I was anything but fat. Now I am definitely overweight (funny, I find it hard to say “I’m fat” now that I actually am) and it’s because I really don’t have a healthy attitude towards food. I eat when I’m bored, when I’m stressed, when I’m celebrating, and I make poor choices. And every couple of months (remember last January?) I decide that I’m going to lose the weight, no matter what it takes! And it takes all of a week for me to decide that I don’t really care enough to stick with it.

In part, that’s just because I like to eat. But I also find myself resenting – after a day or two of “being good” which also means being hungry – the fact that I feel the need to be thin. Whose standards am I trying to live up to? Whose idea was it that thinness is more attractive than plumpness? (There were times in history that I would’ve been the ideal womanly shape – perfect for bearing and feeding babies.) And who am I trying to impress, anyway? I think I also realize that I tend to blame things that are going wrong in my life on my weight. If I could only lose weight, I wouldn’t be so shy. I’d make more friends. I’d get a better job. And so on. And none of that is true. I’m who I am, no matter what size I am.

Certainly it’s true that I want (and need) to be healthier than I am. I am trying to change my diet to include more nutritious food, need to change my lifestyle to include more exercise. But as far as losing weight just so I can say that I’ve done it – I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

But the rub is – I also have to set a good example for my kids. Not only in what I eat, but in how I feel about myself and my body. I don’t want my kids to be overweight, but I don’t want them to be fearful of being “big,” either. From a genetic standpoint, they’re just never going to be the skinniest kids in the class. They may never, in point of fact, be skinny at all. I hope that I can instill enough self-confidence in them so they can accept themselves as they are, and not fall prey to the voices around them telling them that thin is the only way to be.

Also just finished reading:

The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits
Family Man by Calvin Trillin
Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern
A Wild Ride Up the Cupboards by Ann Bauer

Comments

Anonymous said…
Very insightful. And probably also very true for a majority of people.

I just bought 3 of the books you recommended the last time, and I haven't read them yet. I will never catch up!

Mom
aimee said…
I just hate that today girls have it plastered over everything images of skinny (not thin, skinny) models baring their perfect skin, wearing the skinny jeans that in fact, no one but a size 0 can wear, and feel they have to be that.

I feel like I have fat legs. Genetics have given me flabby knees and bigger thighs and no matter what I do, they are never going to be stick thin but what do I do? I try to get them that way. This is my latest obsession. I don't concentrate on the fact that they are getting more toned, that my arms are my best feature about me, that being healthy is the goal, I concentrate on my big thighs. Ugg.

I'll stop before I write more than you blogged, but I am with you. We need to make sure your girls are self-confindent enough to know that they are beautiful-even though they may never be able to wear skinny jeans. I say we because I will help them to know exactly that.

Sorry. Touched a nerve I guess. :)
aimee said…
Oh and I have a book to recommend to you!

Stolen Lives by Malika Oufkin. Beautiful, sad, tragic and strong. Loved it.
J&H Noble said…
Amen! Self image is worth a boatload of skinny jeans! :)

(As I'm chowing down on my Cheetos!)
H

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