Weight…

Every night at dinner time my Mom would fill our plates then pull out her little white scale. Then she would carefully weigh each portion of her dinner before sitting with us.

“I’m fat,” she’d say in explanation. “I need to lose weight.”

Every Friday we would go to the local mall. My Dad would take us for an ice cream cone while my Mom wandered around the mall until we were done.

“Why won’t you have an ice cream cone?” I asked.

“Because I’m trying to lose weight,” she replied. “Besides, I have a treat waiting for me at home.”

The treat was frozen green grapes, which didn’t sound like much of a treat to me but adults could be weird sometimes.

I had losing weight pegged as an adult thing, right up until one summer when my neighbour complimented me on my looks. I felt a little uncomfortable because he was the parent of one of my classmates and I wondered why he’d commented now.

“You’ve lost a bit of weight,” my Mom pointed out. I’d been homesick and barely ate anything that vacation. “If you lost just 10 more pounds you’d be perfect”.

I’m not digging out any pictures but I weighed 125lbs at the time and was nowhere near fat. But teenage me knew what to do, at least I thought I did. I knew counting calories was a part of losing weight so I started looking at boxes and containers. A packet of Bovril soup stock was 13 calories. Was that normal? Too much? I had no idea. I made it anyway and drank it down with some water. Then I went to the garage and got my bike. Exercise was important too. And so I biked farther than I’d gone in a while; uphill and down, all the way to the local conservation area. I loved going there  but I was much too weak and dizzy to go in. Luckily I managed to get back home. Where my Mom lovingly berated me for eating too little and made me eat a real bowl of soup and a sandwich.

And that was how my weight loss journey began, later than my Mom’s journey which started in primary school.

Even now I know I have a bad relationship with diets. The moment I start one I become terrified of food and their calories. Is it too much? Not enough? What if I screw up? Then I snap and eat half a carton of ice cream or a row of homemade cookies.

Back in September I decided to start walking at least 10,000 steps a day and I’ve been sticking to it. So far I’ve lost 31lbs. My pants are pooling around my heels and my shirts are looser. I am not dieting though, that’s just not a good choice for me.

One thing I did when the kids were growing up is tell them they were pretty, strong, and brave… never thin. And I never talked about being fat, I was trying to get healthier. So far it seems to have worked. Hopefully the dieting cycle has been broken in our family.

We need to stop criticizing ourselves in front of our children. They are little sponges, absorbing everything. And we need to stop criticizing them. It’s normal for preteen girls to put on a little weight, they’re growing rapidly and need that weight as fuel. Yet I had other parents tell me I should put Kait on a diet and take away her baby carrots (one of her favourite treats) because they were full of sugar. She was perfectly normal and thinned out the farther she got into puberty. She’s perfectly normal now too.

And we need to stop linking weight with health. There are plenty of thin unhealthy people and fat healthy people. As soon as you correlate fat with unhealthy you start seeing fat as the problem and stop looking for the real issue. You can’t diet yourself out of Crohns or stomach cancer. As the saying goes, if you see every problem as a nail, soon you’ll see every solution as a hammer.

I wish I could go back in time and tell my Mom not to worry so much about losing weight, she looked fine the way she was. That one ice cream cone a week was okay. To pick out an activity she liked and get moving (the bonus being a child free evening).

You only get one life to live, make life count instead of counting calories.

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21 thoughts on “Weight…

  1. As an ex-anorexic who almost killed herself with dieting, I absolutely agree with you! Be healthy and keep looking like you, no matter the weight!

  2. There must have be an error in my previous comment since you deleted it.
    Again I will state I have known your mother for a very long time and do not believe you statement. I find it very disrespectful of how you speak about your mother, especially when I know how much she does for you.
    Also weight and health are completely linked. But do agree weight and beauty should not be linked

    • I checked his Facebook account and that one was male but someone could have just made up an email address that turned out to be a real one. Either way, my Mom didn’t know who he was.

  3. Hello. I definitely don’t know your mom, and I appreciate how fraught food, eating and weight are. My mom had lots of weight-shame, which lead to me NEVER EVER wanting to go to the diet territory. The shame was the thing.

    And now, for the first time in my life, I want to lose weight and have made some choices to hopefully nudge toward that.

    I question the idea that weight is not a negative health factor. I’ve read some (probably small %) of the health-at-any-size writing, and I thought the point was that trying to LOSE weight is not helpful to health because people don’t keep it off. Which i find believable. (The % of people who keep weight off is SO teeny.) But that doesn’t mean that it is just as healthy to be one size or another. It also doesn’t mean that thin people are healthy in other ways, for sure many are not. I see healthy as more complex, and I expect most people do.

    I struggle with this, because I’m very informed about food and nutrition, and I’m strongly against shaming people (yuck!). I’m also deeply feminist. I often feel I’m walking a very fine line and wish I could find easy ways to say what I want without risking so much discomfort for me and others. I’ve been watching some few selected weight loss approaches, and I think a lot about health (not beauty!).

    I am totally impressed how much weight you’ve lost by walking.

    • Oh, and no one in the universe can gain weight on baby carrots. I should go calculate how many pounds one would have to eat to just maintain their current weight……. Non-starchy vegetables have the lowest “calorie density” of any food category. That’s a measure of how much bulk the food has (how much it fills you up) per calorie.

    • I’m not a dieting guru and everyone is different but what works for me is increasing my exercise (10,000 steps a day) and decreasing my calories. I try to eat plenty of vegetables and fruits and legumes and beans. Plus I have the occasional treat so I don’t just snap and eat all the chocolate in the world LOL.

      And don’t be too focused on the scale. If you’re eating healthy, properly proportioned meals and getting plenty of exercise then you’re bound to be healthier. And remember, size wise, muscle weighs more than fat. So the scale might not show a drop but your clothes will.

      I hope this helps.

    • I can recommend a few books and approaches for you to consider, if you want.

      These will (probably) help you lose weight and ALSO seriously improve your health:
      — McDougall’s maximum weight loss plan (that may not be the exact wording), by John McDougall
      — Eat More, Weigh Less, by Dean Ornish
      — eat to live, by Joel Fuhrman

      These are plans where you do not weigh food or restrict amounts, but you eat only plant foods, and very low fat (like no added oil). Basically think super balky foods….fruits, green vegetables, intact whole grains (rather than crackers), beans and lentils, and starchy veg (potatoes, corn, squashes, sweet potatoes, corn). These diets will generally reverse healt disease and diabetes (though there are other books by same and other authors with more specific emphasis that I could recommend for these diseases also.)

      Here’s a book that is about a weigh-all-your-food and eat exactly a specific plan approach. It is basically treating food-as-addiction:
      Bright line eating, by Susan Peirce Thompson
      This is more mainstream in that it allows eating measured amounts of meat, oil, butter, etc.

      There’s much much more available, but that’s a tiny bit of start.
      I personally find the former approach much more relevant and acceptable for me, and I follow a number of vegan-whole-food authors and nutritionists.
      I don’t want to restrict the AMOUNT of food I eat or measure it, unless at some point I come to feel it is worth it or I have to?
      But I am willing to restrict WHAT foods I eat.
      Your mileage may vary.

      All of the books I just listed restrict entirely use of sugar of any kind, and most of them restrict use of bread and crackers and other flour products (but not intact grains or potatoes)

  4. Hi Kathleen. I feel you make a really important point about not criticising our bodies in front of our children, and not criticising their appearance either. Otherwise we just repeat generation after generation of body dissatisfaction and a dysfunctional relationship with food. I was very moved reading your post, thank you for writing it and Happy New Year.

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