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.