Thursday, May 26, 2011

Weight Just a Minute...

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We interrupt our regularly scheduled decor, art, mood lifters and general happiness to chat a moment about weightier matters.   Namely...weight.

I could write a novel on this subject.  That's not an exaggeration.  In fact, I've considered doing that.  But for today, just the highlights.

From the beginning - I was not a skinny baby or a particularly thin child.  In my childhood photos I seem to veer from normal to slightly chubby to fairly chubby to back to normal.  You'd be hard pressed to find a photo of me looking svelte.

I don't remember being particularly concerned or even all that aware of my appearance or whether it was "normal" or "over-normal" until around maybe 3rd grade.  I mean, at age 3 I am sporting a bikini rather proudly (blissfully unaware that I'll never wear one ever again...which is also why I can't see limiting little tiny girls and telling them they can't wear a bikini because it's not's probably one of the few times in their lives, regardless of their weight, that they will feel happily unself-conscious in one.  live while you can I say).  By 3rd or 4th grade I'm aware that I am definitely not skinny.  And I am aware that some girls are.  And I'm already slightly confused about why I am not skinny, and other girls are skinny, given my eating habits do not seem worse than girls who are skinny.  I'm a at a friends house and their family is eating loads of raw cookie dough their mother has kept in the fridge for them to snack on (this would never happen at my mom would make the cookies, but never allow us to treat the dough as a snack).  Her mom also sometimes makes fresh bread and everyone in their family eats it with copious amounts of sugar and butter.  As much as you want!  (this also would not happen in my house - my mom occasionally made bread, but we were allowed 1 slice, maybe 2).  Not that we don't have snacks at my house.  At my house there are always cookies in the pantry, and you can pretty much grab one whenever you want.  I love them right when they come hot out of the oven - while the chocolate chips are melty - but after that, I rarely eat any.  But when my friends come over - especially my very skinny friend - they eat them by the handfuls.

Truly, my diet is fairly normal.  Very suburban 1970s childhood foods.  Yes, there are a lot of noodley casseroles.  But there are also a lot of vegetables and fruits and it's a pretty balanced meal.  We DO usually have dessert after dinner.  Ice cream, maybe a cookie, maybe pie (if you're lucky...because my mom's apple pie is the best), but more often raspberries in a bowl or strawberries or peaches.

But somehow I do stay on a curve where I am slightly larger than the other girls my age.  Or at least that is my perception.  I don't know how accurate my perceptions are any more.  (I would scan a bunch of photos into the computer so you could judge for yourself, but last time I tried using my new scanner I nearly threw it across the room in a fit of frustration so you'll have to take my word on my size as a child).

By 6th grade I feel officially worried about my weight and/or size.  One day I am at recess with these three girls I know  - one of them says she weighs 65 lbs, the other one says "oh my gosh you're so skinny!  I'm sooooo fat!  I weight 80 lbs!"  the third girl says "that's not fat - I weigh 81 lbs and my mom says that is totally normal".  I do not tell them how much I weigh because I am horrified at age 12 (I'm almost 12, actually still 11)  to weigh 100 lbs.

In retrospect I am sad that I weighed 100 lbs and felt fat.  Here is my 6th grade class photo: 

I am on the back row, light blue shirt , (between the red head and the girl in the red dress) - do I look fat?

By 7th grade I am pretty convinced I am grossly larger than every other 7th grade girl. I could go into a lot of long explanation about how my thinking got so distorted. (if I ever do write that novel, this will be a long chapter) There are a plethora of reasons. Suffice to say that I started a "diet". I also started a lot of unhealthy eating habits around the same time I started the diet. I swung between the two extremes of a VERY restricted diet of lemon chicken and an apple and some melba toast (gross) some days/weeks to other days when I walked with my friends to a convenience store for lunch where we would buy deep fat fried burritos and mint chocolate chip ice cream cones for lunch. Other days we ate at a restaurant called Arctic Circle where they sold massive artery clogging burgers (but who cares when you're 12) or we walked to a grocery store and got mashed potatoes and gravy in to-go containers from the deli. Other days we walked to a drug store and had grilled cheese and french fries, and if we had extra money, a ice cream sundae with marshmallow topping. Then I'd be back to a can of tuna and some melba toast for a few days. This kind of eating went on ad naseum. For pretty much...ever.

Here are I am in 8th or 9th grade...thinking I'm pretty large: I don't look like an anorexic model...but I hardly look like the fat lady in the circus I thought I was bordering on...

So this nonsense continued. And continued. When I was graduating from high school, I had perfected this system - so that one day might be a day where I had 3 hostess chocolate cupcakes and a diet coke, while the next day I had some healthy shrimp salads. Here I am at the end of my senior year:

I'm on the left end in the gray and black.  Gee I'm huge.  (seriously, I would like to go back and slap some sense into that frustrating)

So then this set in motion pretty much a life time of not understanding my limitations where food was concerned. And a lot of twisted thinking happened along the way. For a long time. For a reallllly long time. Here I am in college:

So to try to bring this up to speed as quickly as I can for you. I got married, had 3 kids, had roughly the same psychoses regarding food I always had except now I had to bring food into the house for other people. The problem with that is that it makes it really hard to stay on the kinda sorta bulimic diet I had been using to stabilize my weight. It can be done. But it's really hard to be constantly on that up and down one day you don't eat the next day you do, but you never quite get a grip on it roller-coaster when you're also trying to be a mom. I know moms who do it. But I could just never quite make it work for me as well as it had when I was younger.

So over the years of my 20s and 30s I have been up and down with my weight. Mostly up. And up. and up. With a couple of brief periods where it was noticeably down. And there have been soooooo many different diets.

Diets I tried (and was everything from completely not successful to very successful for a while):

Weight Watchers
Jenny Craig
Diet Center
LA Weight Loss
My Doctor's plan
Modified Sparing Fast
Oprah's cookbook/Bob Greene
Lemon Cleanse
and any wacky weight loss technique you've ever read in a magazine (grapefruit diet? yep, tried it. soup only diet? yes. Juice only? yes)

And you know at some point it just gets so exhausting.

So I have spent more than a year in therapy. And although I have had many things to work on, one of the big things was unwrapping a lot of issues and baggage I have about food. I read a book I really liked about weight loss and that helped, but still it has just been a lot of THINKING and THINKING about how I FEEL. And FEELING for how I THINK. And it has not been easy. In the meantime, I've actually gained weight. So that's a little frustrating because it doesn't actually look like I'm accomplishing anything in the losing weight department.

But you know what? It is okay. It really is. Because one day this week I woke up and something shifted in my brain. I cannot exactly explain it to you. I cannot exactly tell you what it was - but it felt like I had all these things I've been working on and suddenly, they just fell into place in a way that made sense.

Can this work? Can suddenly seeing food differently work? I'm not sure. But so far, so good. My doctor gave me a estimate of how many calories I should eat each day and the amount of exercise I should get in order to lose 2 lbs per week. Now in the past, I can never be patient enough to only lose 2 lbs a week. I've got to be losing 5 or more lbs a week or forget it, pass me that cupcake. But suddenly I'm okay with this plan. Because it seems that every day with food is a little different than it was before.

We'll see. I'm sure people will feel that this may not really work.

But I don't really care what anyone else thinks. Maybe for the first time ever. It doesn't matter. It only matters what I think. So I'll update you from time to time and I'll keep that little ticker on my side-bar. I probably won't update about food or weight loss all that often because - well, because it's just not the most important thing in my life. It's just a thing I am doing - it's just my life. My life isn't defined by the food, or the lack of the food, or the type of the food or even the weight. It's just food. Nothing more and nothing less.

and that seems totally different.


rachel said...

I have the same problem. Always growing up I always felt like I was super large but looking back I never was, I just never was a stick. It was in high school that I blew up like a balloon and didn't even try anymore, causing me to create a LOT of bad habits with food. I'm still struggling. It's a struggle every day. Maybe someday it will get to the point where it isn't anymore. We shall see.

Cynthia said...

Love the post. Why oh why did any of us think we were gigantic in jr. high??
I hope that whatever path we choose in the calorie in/calorie out issue, I hope we can all come to some kind of peace with it. It will always be work, but I hope we can find it manageable in the long run. I know you can -- cuz you are amazing.

Ramirez Family said...

I think it is brave of you to post this blog entry. It's a struggle lots of us share. We do what we can and try not to beat ourselves up when we fall short. I think there are lots of great things about you and you are awesome for those things :)

Suzanne Barker said...

I think it's the rare person that doesn't have some kind of issues with food. You are doing great to work so hard at it.

Bandanamom said...

Thanks for the comments. It is a tough issue and a struggle for many people. And there are multiple different ways in which you can be messed up about it! It is rare to encounter a woman who does not have some sort of hang up where food and weight are concerned. It seems the only people I know who don't have those issues are two women I know who can't gain weight. One actually wants to gain weight and can't. The other just doesn't give a fig about weight or food. But she also doesn't notice when other people are thin or fat, which I think is interesting. She herself is very thin and eats whatever the heck she wants and I think she assumes that some people are just thin and some people are just fat and that's just the way it is, end of story. She and I have had some interesting conversations about weight (interesting to me...she seems bored by the subject). I think maybe because she can eat pretty much whatever she wants (and she does eat a lot of junk food) she just doesn't judge other people by their size. It would be nice I suppose if society were like that, but it never will be.

Anonymous said...

Your situation as a youth describes my daughter today. Based on your experience, what would you tell her today, specifically regarding food? She is 13 years old.

What advice & cautions would you give her parents?

Bandanamom said...

It's so hard to answer that anonymous - only because I have a 14 yr. old and I still find it difficult to give advice regarding food. When parents try to be really controlling about it, that can backfire completely, when parents try to just let the child find their own way, that may not be very helpful either. I think the best thing is to try to educate them - help them to understand what a 'healthy' diet really consists of - and what the ramifications are of both under and over eating. Long term - not just right now, but how things might be down the road. I wish I had learned how to find that balance between not eating and eating too much when I was much younger.

Sarah said...

Love your site, your pictures, your ideas!
You Rock!


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