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The Big Question: Fun in Dysfunction Edition | Manolo for the Big Girl

The Big Question: Fun in Dysfunction Edition

My nana who –depending on reports– married somewhere between 75% and 100% of the Salvation Army Marching Band, spent much of her life being hungry. Thus her daughter –my grandmother–  spent her childhood the same way until she did what any reasonable woman who was constantly mistaken for Ingrid Bergman would do (after graduating from Barnard with a biology degree): married rich.

I don’t think it’ll surprise anyone by saying she has some Serious Food Issues which she lovingly passed down the line.

I’m not angry with my grandmother for passing on unhealthy relationships with food and body image. She came by those food issues honestly, as did so many people of her generation.  I will say, however, that the cycle which started with her mother and trickled down through four generations will stop with me.

A hundred years is enough.

It has taken me my entire adult life to have a relatively normal relationship with food, and it’s a constant effort. I still have issues with portion control because when I was a kid “good” food (Goldfish crackers, cookies, peanut butter) was squirreled away in secret treasure troves throughout the house and brought out only for brief, shining moments before we were sent outside so she could hde the food again without us looking.It’s a struggle, but it’s not a struggle be thin, and it’s not to thumb my nose at my grandmother –that’s what losing my virginity in a rolling barrel was for*– it’s the fact that I’m strong enough to make this stop.

So are you.

I’m a naturally big girl. I’m 5’10” I wear size 41 shoes, my wrists –which are slender– are 8.5″ around.  I’m still a damn fine lookin’ broad, but the whole lithe and willowy beauty thing? Not gonna happen.

I still over-eat sometimes. Of course I do, I nearly did myself an indelicacy last when I consumed an entire tub of this really porny Greek yogurt that is better than any yogurt has a right to be.  But I over-ate because it was so good I wanted to fake a pregnancy and trick it into marriage, not because I was afraid that if I didn’t eat it all rightthatverysecond I’d never see it again, and you know, I’m counting that as a victory.

Today Miss Plumcake wants to know:

If you grew up with familial food issues, how have you addressed them? If you’ve triumphed, let me hear it. If you’re still a work in progress like I am, tell me about that too.

*
Yeah. Kinda like that.

28 Responses to “The Big Question: Fun in Dysfunction Edition”

  1. Cat July 9, 2009 at 7:33 pm #

    I am the most finicky eater I know, thanks to being force-fed as a child. My parents were force-fed as kids, and that’s all they knew so that’s how they raised us. We had to take a generous serving of everything on the table, whether we hated it or not, and we had to clean our plates or we would sit at the table until ten p.m., be sent to bed, and be served cold leftovers for breakfast. I would gag trying to choke down the foods that I didn’t like. I cannot stand the sight of a cooked vegetable now. I don’t like to try new foods; I stick to the safe foods that I already know I like. And I can go for two or three days without eating and never feel hungry. It just won’t occur to me to eat because it’s not something I associate with enjoyment. I really don’t get a balanced diet, so I try to make up for it by taking a plethora of vitamin and mineral and herbal supplements. My mom has told me that she wishes they’d done things differently.

  2. g-dog July 9, 2009 at 9:04 pm #

    I haven’t overcome all of the food issues – but I’ve made some headway. Like, guess what? Thanksgiving comes every year, and I know how to cook that meal so really, I don’t have to eat the whole thing right now – there will be more later, or I can make it again. Who knew?

  3. ali July 9, 2009 at 11:51 pm #

    God, yes, does my family have food issues.
    I grew up with my mother and my grandmother.

    My mother has been between 120 and 130 pounds most of her life (at 5.8). She would maintain it by eating nothing but bananas and only drink black tea with milk and sugar for weeks (she blamed it on having food allergies – which she has but not so bad that she couldn’t eat anything but bananas and tea). I remember my aunt (who is also very slim), telling me with a disgusted look on her face that when my mom was pregnant with me she “ballooned up” to 180 pounds (that was with me insider her belly). Apparently my mother was so embarrassed that she didn’t leave the house until she had lost the weight.

    My grandmother was dieting until she died at 84 years old. She had a thing that when she was invited to dinner somewhere she would eat nothing at all that day and only very little the day before. She would also try all kinds of fad diets which she heard about on the radio. She was however very petite all her life.
    She’d look at me in disgust saying things like “I just wish you could look normal. I pray to god every day that you lose that weight”.

    Both my mother and my grandmother kept on telling me that nobody would ever find me attractive being fat and all and that I should definitely not expect to ever get married at my weight. (I am happily married by the way. At that weight).

    At age 12 I could recite every calorie content of every food. At age 13 I spent one month only eating one piece of bread a day and doing 1000 sit ups daily. My family was actually supportive of this.

    If I wouldn’t have turned out to be a compulsive and emotional eater, I would have most likely become anorexic.

    I am not a very religious person but I sometimes think god sent me to this weight obsessed family because they wanted to punish them. I think it was my mothers worst nightmare to have a fat child.

    So do I have food issues? Hell yes. But I spent the last two years working on them and I am slowly recovering. I realized that I love sports, I love to push myself and I love to eat healthy. I think eating crap and not working out was partly a way of rebelling against my family. But now it’s time to live my life for myself only.

  4. Cassie July 9, 2009 at 11:57 pm #

    We lived with my grandparents until I was about 9 (mom was a single parent, working nights), so dinner was always whatever my grandfather wanted, which typically meant meat and vegetables cooked to dryness/mush respectively.

    And, like Cat, it was “you have to clear your plate”, complete with the “starving children in China would love to have this!” We were also Catholic, so every Friday during Lent, it was fish. Whether I liked it or not. And I didn’t – still don’t. I can’t stand most seafood dishes, and the taste and smell of it grosses me out.

    I did get lucky in that my mother tried hard to build a sounder relationship with food. If I said I didn’t like something, I had to eat at least one bite. If I still didn’t like it, I didn’t have to eat it.

    The other side of it, of course, is that I’m still an emotional/bored eater. I know that I tend to eat when I’m upset, and I’m working to stop myself when I start thinking “god, I’m miserable. I should eat something.” It is, however, an uphill battle.

  5. Style Spy July 10, 2009 at 12:26 am #

    My mother is a sugar junkie and so am I if I let myself be. Thanks to her, a meal is not complete without something sweet to cap it off. I am trying to learn to live with that incomplete-ness, but white sugar is my crack.

  6. Margo July 10, 2009 at 4:03 am #

    Let me check in with my pals in group therapy – oh yes, do I have some food issues. My beloved Ma once said that she wished she’d “done food differently” with me, not that I lay it all at her feet. I have been so proud to see her confront her own demons, and touched that I am trusted enough to find out where some of them came from (when I was born her mother died, and she was grieving for the first four years of my life).

  7. Cara July 10, 2009 at 7:08 am #

    Greek yoghurt is even better with a generous blob of honey, preferably also greek and maybe thyme. I want to marry it, too.
    Any other yoghurt, especially the low fat stuff, is just a travesty and should be ashamed of itself.

    That said, my big grandmother also hid the cookies and the chocolates in the treasure trove in the kitchen. She spent hours in the kitchen preparing food every day, every sunday there was a cake, christmas was full of elaborate cake and cookies.
    My mother (now 59) has probably been fad-dieting since she was twenty, she has tried everything from pineapple to weird soy products, I don’t know, really everything, no matter how idiotic.
    I’m working out five times a week, which is a lot, but it helps me to balance my weight. I still haven’t figured out how to turn “I’ve been a good girl so I can have a cookie” into “I’ve been a good girl so I can run another three miles”, and I probably never will. I don’t fad diet, I eat what I want, and I try to live as healthy as possible and enjoyable but on some days, I reallly want pizza.

  8. Wicked July 10, 2009 at 8:19 am #

    My grandmother (my mom’s mom) was anorexic at times. I’m not sure if this was because she grew up very poor or was because she wanted to emulate the film stars she saw. She was naturally thin, but my mother was not. And boy did she let my mother know that. She withheld food, told my mother she was ugly, fat, no man would ever want to marry her, if she got married it would only be because her father (my grandfather) had money, blah blah blah blah blah. Horrible woman.

    Now, my mom, bless her heart, did not ever tell me that I was fat or ugly or anything like that. What she did pass on was the need to feel like I should constantly be dieting. And she didn’t do that to me, that was something I absorbed. She’s now 63, and still dieting. She has an underactive thyroid, which they think she’s had since childhood. And she still thinks that she is not rail thin because she is “bad” and eats too much. It breaks my heart that my beautiful mom cannot see how wonderful and beautiful she is.

    I refuse to diet, and it can be a struggle mentally. I keep having these flashes of thought that – I shouldn’t eat that, I should eat a carrot (I hate carrots), I should be dieting, I shouldn’t be enjoying my food, stuff like that. Not as bad as I did 10 years ago, but still I think like this sometimes. Feh.

  9. chachaheels July 10, 2009 at 8:27 am #

    My family (well, really, my father) loved me most when I ate 500 calories a day for months on end, and got thinner, and thinner, and thinner. His family starved for generations where he came from, and you could see they were unhealthy because of that lack of nutrition, so they all gained weight very easily. They have all the signs of long term malnutrition: poor dentition, not very tall people, and always fat. They all wore glasses or had weak chins or ate far too much sugar, which they all craved. My father’s had a weight problem all his life that he can’t face; so the chubbiness I inherited always made him feel guilty, like it was his genes which were at fault, and everyone could tell. I got the buck teeth; my brother inherited the poor eyesight.

    My mother, on the other hand, came from a family who raised all their food, and ate quite a lot of it, all kinds of it, several meals a day. They are all tall, never what you’d call skinny, but substantial–long bones, faces that were wide and symmetrical and very good looking. Beautiful teeth, skin, hair, you name it. My mother was used to cooking and eating all the rich foods we’ve been told are all supposed to be bad for us–high fat cream, butter, rich oils; fresh, homemade pasta, rich crepes, well marbled meats of all kinds (at every meal, if possible, and in her home they ate 5 meals a day), eggs, fresh vegetables and fruits, the whole cornucopia. Her people lived very well, and many lived long past the age of 100. My mother fed us the same kinds of foods, and she was very skilled in the kitchen; but the more I ate less and less, the more I gained whenever “real” food was on the menu.

    So you can see how “disaster” (me!) could happen. I still associate what I eat with morality and duty, I grew up knowing that if I didn’t eat what my mother made I was being disloyal and disrespectful of her efforts, and she’d be furious with me; but if I ate it and “stayed fat” then I’d be putting my father up for ridicule. Many years after I moved away from home my cousin reminded me of how every single morsel of food I ate was counted and commented on, throughout my childhood. I’d forgotten, living away from it for so long. I still want to eat as little as possible and be as thin as possible now. I just know how ridiculous it is to want it now.

    I wonder how many people with “weight problems” grow up in environments just like this.

  10. Jessie July 10, 2009 at 8:29 am #

    We never had food issues in our family,it was “Just try,if you don’t like it,you don;t have to eat it” from my mom.for that,I like to try new foods.
    But I do have some body image issues (Just saying now,on my moms side they are all petite,relatively little,except one,and on my dads side,the italians the “East,Eat,ou never eat,so skinny” is tall big bones,curvy.Guess which side I take after in height.then body.Im not a big girl,parsay,but I am bigger than other girls my age) ,because my mom and my meemaw will come to the house,have supper,then stan dup and just go “Bleh I am so stuffed.Then come over,and mom will be going”I look fat.No you don’t,I tell her.She’s petite,and just has a big bely,so she thinks she looks fat.in everything.Then meemaw will come over,slap her belly and sy”Wel waddya call THIS” and slap her invisible belly fat.She is petite.and little.

    So I have this sort of Im fat,good food bad food type of thing
    But I’ve made headway with the body image,just in time for me to go into highschool.
    Thanks to this blog and some friends.Curves are beautiful.

  11. g-dog July 10, 2009 at 8:43 am #

    Ali – wow, that was powerful & painful to read. You’ve made fantastic progress moving past all of this – keep up the good work.

    It is interesting to see that this obsession with being thin (malnourished) goes back more generations than I would have imagined. I thought it was a more recent phenomenon (at least the pervasiveness of the obsession).

  12. jen209 July 10, 2009 at 9:25 am #

    The example my parents gave throughout childhood (and continue to give) is that food can control you. My mom would put all of us on a “diet” one day…and then two days later we’d be eating ice cream again. The lesson that I unconsciously took away from that was that the food always wins, so you might as well not fight it.

    College was when I first started to change my attitudes – when I wasn’t living with my parents anymore. It’s been a very slow process. But I’ve learned to cook healthier things – that are still yummy even though they’re healthy. Watching my Dad go through 2 heart attacks has helped too – those are consequences I don’t want to have to deal with. And I know this is controversial, but having a scale in my bathroom helps too. Not because I have some goal weight that I think I have to get down to – but because weighing myself reinforces good eating habits. If I fall off the wagon for a week and eat crap, I’ll see it on the scale the next week. But if I eat healthy, I’ll see that too. Always having been a person who responded to reinforcement (can we say straight A student? I loved seeing A’s at the top of my papers), this is starting to work for me.

  13. Lee July 10, 2009 at 10:07 am #

    First, a book recommendation: Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss—and the Myths and Realities of Dieting by Gina Kolata. The research being done on weight and diet is pretty amazing and remarkably invisible.

    I got really lucky. I grew with my dad who had no food or body issues, so while I certainly understood that the societal image of beauty was very thin, I also managed to escape the notion that I had to live up to that image. When I was 13 he married a woman who came with a boatload of food issues: she loved snack foods of all kinds, sweets especially and she hoarded it. We practically had a convenience store in the basement, but we weren’t allowed to eat any of it (she kept a strict inventory). Her issues, though, stemmed from having had diabetes since she was a young teenager. Understanding that, plus having been inoculated against food issues from pretty early on, I mostly thought the amount of food we had in the house was funny; having to ask if we could eat something was inconvenient, but normal. Maybe that affected me in a good way? I can have chips and cake and what not in the house and not feel like it is burning a hole in the cupboard.

  14. Harri P. July 10, 2009 at 10:48 am #

    My mom dealt with getting fat by controlling my and my sister’s diets as kids. Even though we were thin, she obsessed over our weight so we believed we were fat. She controlled our food and put us on unncessary diets.

    I’m not sure if I have food issues now. I eat mostly healthfully, although I overindulge now and then. Basically, I eat like a man. A man who likes salad.

    I’ve tried my best to give my children healthful attitudes to food, and I don’t know if I’ve succeeded. My boy, 15, is very thin, although he eats a lot. My girl, 12, is overweight, although she doesn’t really overeat. But she’s always been a chubby child–she never really slimmed down after the toddler stage.

    Most people think that because my child is overweight, that I’ve “failed” somehow to teach her healthful eating. (But somehow I succeeded with the boy, because he’s thin?) I don’t know. I think she’s just naturally full-figured and the boy is naturally thin. I think it’s more important for her to love herself than it is for her to be thin, but I’m not sure that the loving-herself message has gotten through either, considering the society we live in. On yet another hand, she’s only 12 and 12 is a hard age, so we shall see.

    At least now there’s a good variety of clothing to buy, but there still can be issues. Finding a formal dress for a wedding for a 12 year old who takes a plus size is no picnic, I can tell you. Everything’s too busty or mature.

  15. Lise in NJ July 10, 2009 at 11:23 am #

    Familial food issues, oh yeah. Big girl born to a naturally thin mother who ate anything and “breathed for exercise”, and hoo boy did she have contempt for my overweight. Fought with bulimia for years, fought with the notion that heavy women are unloveable, like that.

    But I’m learning all the time — you get past the damage if you work on it. The issues that come from our family are issues, not a life sentence.

  16. Twistie July 10, 2009 at 11:36 am #

    For those who didn’t think dieting went back very far, consider the fact that the infamous grapefruit diet (virtually nothing but grapefruit and black coffee for a week or more at a time) and the less well-known but almost equally popular cabbage soup diet (pretty much nothing but cabbage soup three meals a day) both date back to at least the 1920’s.

    Eddie Cantor’s 1931 film Palmy Days features a song entitled Bend Down, Sister that urges women to exercise to lose that excess adipose tissue so that they will be appealing to men. Ick. It actually includes the line: Bend down, sister, bend down sister if you want to keep him.

    No thanks. Any exercising I do is for me, not for any man – not even Mr. Twistie.

    I know I’ve seen references to fad diets dating back to at least the 1840’s, but I would have to do some research to come up with details.

    As for my own background, I lucked out. My parents both loved food and were comfortable with their round bodies. Food was plentiful at mealtimes. Snacks were not greatly encouraged, but if we were hungry and asked for something between meals, chances were we would be allowed something.

    As a child I was introduced to a wide variety of foods, including ones from many different ethnic backgrounds. When being introduced to a new food, we all had to try at least a couple bites. If we still didn’t like it, we were not allowed to fuss and ruin the enjoyment of others, but we were not chastised for failure to continue eating.

    Overall, I think this has made me an adventurous and eager eater. OTOH, it has made it easier in most cases to simply stop when I’m done. Food wasn’t restricted by anything but access and appetite.

    That said, I did go through a period of fairly intense binge eating a few years ago. Basically, it was brought on by depression brought on by a series of massive disasters that struck very close together. I spent about two years with my head stuck in a Cheetos bag. It was an ugly time. Once other events started pulling me out of my depression, though, the bingeing came to a halt.

    There are still bad days when I suddenly discover that I’m trying to inhale an entire bag of chips, but they are so few and far between now that I’m not hugely concerned about what it’s doing to me nutritionally. It tends to make me sit back and try to figure out what triggered the episode so I can deal with it in a better way. I’m also better able to stop myself before I start feeling bilious.

    I have a sweet tooth and I love to indulge it, but I’ve also always been passionately fond of spinach and Brussels sprouts and barley and whole wheat bread, and salmon, and dozens of other dreaded ‘healthy foods.’ In fact, I’ve never gotten the whole concept of healthy foods as lacking in flavor. My taste buds delight in eggplant and in tomatoes. What could be healthier or tastier than fresh, ripe, juicy berries? I adore my pies and cakes and cookies, but I also adore the foods that fuel me better.

    All in all, my relationship with food has been that of a good friend. I’m thankful for that.

  17. KS July 10, 2009 at 11:49 am #

    I was a chubby kid, but fortunately my parents never made much of an issue of it besides limiting desserts to “Wednesdays and Weekends” when I was 10 or so and the ‘baby fat’ didn’t seem to be coming off. I am grateful to my parents for instilling healthy food attitudes and not making a big deal of my weight, though I’d be lying if I said that my immature side doesn’t revel in having dessert whenever I feel like it :P

    To Harri P. – like I said, I was a total butterball until I finally started my adolescent growth spurt in middle school, at which point I became “normal-sized” (still never what anyone would call skinny). But I swam competitively, played soccer, and was generally athletic and healthy…I’d bet your daughter is similarly built. Interestingly enough, my dad had also been a chubby kid but eventually outgrew it, while my mom has been naturally skinny her whole life while eating whatever she liked and not exercising. My brother seems to fall somewhere between the two (he’s not particularly active, but is also 6’5″ and not a big eater, so it balances), and my baby sister (13) survives on bacon, cheese, milkshakes, and carbohydrates but can’t seem to gain an ounce despite doctor’s orders. Metabolism is a funny thing!

  18. Elaine July 10, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

    When I was 19 or 20, my mom and my granny and I started going through some of Granny’s old clothes. I tried on (and still have, and still occasionally wear pieces of) two of her dress suits. They were a little tight on me then, and I was pretty dang slender at that age. My mom said, “Gosh Mama, you were so tiny!” And Granny said, “Well maybe, but I never felt like it.”

    My mom is one of 5 kids, with 3 sisters. Two of them are naturally willowy, whereas my mom and the 4th are rounder. Both my mom and my aunt have tried diet program after diet program and struggle with weight ballooning up rapidly. Recently my mom has started again, but it seems she has a better idea to make lasting and meaningful changes rather than diet to get to some magical number on the scale. She loves trying new recipes and shopping for previously unknown ingredients, so she’s making it a personal challenge. So I hope she continues to stay on a healthy track, numbers on the scale be darned.

    Growing up, I had three brothers and my parents lived mostly paycheck to paycheck. Often, we fought for leftovers, literally. We always had a variety of food, not particularly healthy but not particularly unhealthy, either. We almost never had junk in the house becuase it was just too expensive with 4 kids inhaling it. But then we came to regard things like Fruit Loops and popcorn as these wonderful treats, almost off-limits. When it came to trying new food, we always had to eat 3 bites and then we could quit. But when it wasn’t about new food, we had to clean our plates whether we were hungry or not.

    Today, I still struggle with using food as a reward. One of the commenters above made a comment about being able to have certain kinds of food in the house without having it burn a hole in the cabinet. That particular phrase struck a cord with me. I try to eat a variety of foods, mostly healthy. But whenever I do keep oreos or potato chips or whatever in the house, I KNOW it’s there and I think about it more, and crave it more. And I don’t think the solution is to ban it completely, either.

    Ah well, it’s a process.

  19. barbara July 10, 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    We have food issues up the whazoo in my family. My mother has 7 sisters; all of whom have battled weight gain their entire lives. Family gatherings require absurd amounts of food, but food is the enemy. In my family if I say “I’ve been good today” I’m not making an ethical statement, I’m saying “I haven’t eaten much today”. We all understand this.

    You’ll be *shocked* to learn that had a serious eating disorder as a teen/ young adult.

  20. Twistie July 10, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    Eliane, one trick I’ve heard of for overcoming that sense of the desperate need to eat the treat is to get several packages of cookies, or bags of chips or whatever it is you feel you never have enough of. A lot of people find that if they have a clear excess of the item, then it’s easier to feel like it will always be available when they actually want it, removing the urgency of the situation. Then they can eat a cookie now and again, or a handful of chips and be satisfied. You might give that a try and see what happens.

  21. Meg July 10, 2009 at 1:52 pm #

    I grew up as the only girl with lots of brothers. It was a ‘compteitive eating’ situation.

    I’ve recently begun therapy due to an abusive marriage, but the therapist is helping me get to the root of some of my food issues, as well. I started a food blog, which helps me to keep accountable for what I eat. It’s stopped me from bingeing countless times, because I know I’d have to own up to it.

    I’ve learned that food will always be available. I don’t have to worry about ‘missing out’ on something, because there will certainly be another opportunity to eat it.

  22. Leigh Ann July 10, 2009 at 1:54 pm #

    I’ve been lucky in the sense that I didn’t get these kinds of messages from my family. My mom’s mom was artistic, and not a very good cook. When my mom was growing up, her family had a maid/cook, but then by the time I was born they didn’t have that anymore and my grandmother struggled with what to cook. (Mostly, it was Patio Mexican TV dinners, hamburger steak, and fried potatoes, as I recall.) But none of them really had a weight problem. My dad’s mom was raised on a farm, and gardened well into her 80s. So from her, I learned an appreciation for vegetables and fresh foods. She always canned and froze vegetables and fruit. Growing up, I was a stocky but athletic tomboy kid, always climbing trees and playing football with the boys. I was always fit then, and it never occurred to me that I was “too heavy.” But I finally got the idea that I didn’t fit the ideal. I remember being weighed in elementary school, and the lady doing it (the school nurse?) making a really mean remark to me, a really nasty thing to say to a kid, about me being too big and I should stop eating so much. I was about ten at the time, and my reaction was “?”. But it hurt. A few years later, my mom’s cousin offered to give me some hand me down clothes from her daughter. Her daughter was older than me, and a beauty queen (literally). She was tall and slender, and her clothes were lovely! But nothing fit. I still remember trying on one outfit after another, to murmurings of disappointment from the women. “It’s a shame she’s so broad-shouldered, ” my mom’s cousin said. I was only 11 or 12, but I felt like a failure. Obviously, pretty clothes wouldn’t fit ME. And then of course, there was the teasing in high school, because by then I really was overweight, by about 30 pounds. Compared to what some of you went through, this is mild, I know. But I get angry when I think about what this kind of thing does to girls. I grew up and married a man who met me thin, during a time when I was working out 3 hours a day to maintain it. Unfortunately, he dislikes it when I gain weight, and says so. I know he loves me, but he’s very vocal about wanting me thinner. Luckily, I have a pretty strong sense of self-esteem, and my focus is on being as healthy as I can be. I really value balance, and refuse to go back to crazy extremes. And I love healthy food and dislike junk, so that’s good.

  23. Kimks July 10, 2009 at 3:42 pm #

    I grew up in the try it, you might like it camp- I think it was a realitively healthy way to grow up- if we didn’t like something we didn’t have to eat more of if that serving. We did have to try a bit of it every time it was served- which was good- I might still think Peas were gross if my Mom had not made me try them every time she served them. Mom also let us each eat as much of what was served as we wanted- for example, my little brother could eat plain pasta till he was full, but did not like sauce, so he filled up on pasta and salad and his little taste of sauce. I think she was pretty smart by doing this- we did not have to choke down more thna a taste of what we did not like, and we learned to listen to our bodies as to what we needed- more protein- go for it, more veggies- More Carbs (we were all athletes during the carb loading 80’s) OK.

    My mom also baked most of our food from scratch- bread, cookies, cakes, crackers- she made them from scratch. Most everything we ate came from scratch- which I think gave me a deep understanding and respect for the work it takes to make a meal. Looking back I think it was from necessity- not a lot of money- but I greatly appreciate her taking the time and teaching us what it took to feed us.

    One thing I learned from my mom that makes my husband a bit nuts. I tend to make way more than we need and I can’t just show up at a pot luck or a party with just one thing- I need to bring a cake, and an appetizer, and a bottle of wine. Its a crazy food hang up-.

  24. Meg July 10, 2009 at 11:47 pm #

    I grew up with my mother putting my sister and I on whatever diet she was on at the time (lunch in 7th grade was slimfast and an apple — I wasn’t actually that big at that point, maybe a size 12, but I’m pretty sure all that yo-yo dieting from a young age has made it as difficult as it is to lose weight now. Not that I’m actively trying. I have more issues with my shape having changed from how I’m used to it being post pregnancy.). My grandmother passed her issues with food onto my mother (grandmother was pretty much birdlike, Mom took after her dad’s side, I take after my dad’s side – big german women — I’ve got size 10 feet and an 8.5″ wrist).

    It was constantly counting the calories in things and hiding food because it was denied to me. And then we’d go to either grandma’s house and it was clean your plate and have all the sweets you want. And if we had a bad day at school at home, it was “have a cookie, you’ll feel better.” It’s no wonder I was disordered for years. Now I try to practice intuitive eating. Doesn’t stop me from having those days where I have a milkshake for lunch because it’s been that kind of morning at work, but they’re few and far between.

  25. JenniferP July 12, 2009 at 4:40 pm #

    Recently I was in France, in a nice restaurant, eating a tomato and mushroom risotto and grilled lamb and creme brulee so amazing I almost wanted to cry, and there was wine and also coffee and I ate slowly and enjoyed it all very, very much.

    However, at the next table, my fellow Americans were not so lucky. Two couples ate dinner together, and all they talked about the entire time was fat, calories, guilt, self-denial, heart disease: “No, I shouldn’t have dessert.” “Oh, all right, if you’re having it.” “I can feel my arteries clogging.” “Do you have sweet & low for the coffee?” And seriously, it was like sharing a meal with my mom and my grandma even though mom was across the Atlantic and Grandma is in her grave and I am not a little kid anymore so I could think “Shut the Front Door” at them instead of wondering what’s wrong with me.

    My (adoptive) family: Tall slim amazons. Me: A short round hobbit.
    My family: Sweets & fats are guilty pleasures, self-indulgences, eaten sneakily, “No whipped cream…okay, maybe a little….no, that’s too much!”
    Dieting is what women do to bond. When I was 17 years old, dancing and playing three sports, my mom decided that we should go on the 1,000 calorie/day “Gloria Stevens” diet together. It was a living nightmare. I thought about food all the time – 24 hours/day – and of course wondered what was wrong with me for wanting, I dunno, to be fed enough calories to get through the day without passing out.

    My dad’s family are feeders – big food pushers, “Eat, eat, eat, eat more, what, you don’t like it? You should eat. Want seconds?” – but will shame you for being fat or eating too much. If you eat the food they push on you, they might call you a “piggy.”

    So yes, I have a therapist, and will save the rest of this for him. I love France.

  26. Rosemary July 12, 2009 at 7:56 pm #

    My mother has always struggled with her weight. She’s always been a big woman (even in younger pictures I’ve seen of her). My father comes from a tall, slender family. I haven’t really even seen pictures of my mother’s family, so I can’t exactly say where her genes came from.
    I’ve always been chubby/fat/heavy/whatever euphemism is being tossed around today. I remember my mother going on and off diets and my father just eating everything. My father exercised a lot though (and still does) so I quickly learned that was okay. I remember starting to play volleyball when I was in 5th grade. I was one of the heaviest girls on the team (but not the heaviest). I remember my father telling me that I should lose weight if I wanted to be faster and jump higher.
    And thus, this started the whole issue, which is something still being argued over today. Pops had me exercising at least an hour a day, even on days when I had volleyball practice. (In HS, this amounted to 2 hours of school practice 5x a week, 2 2-hour practices with my club team, plus his hour of crapping around.) I didn’t lose much weight from this, even when I decided that if I only ate dinner, I could somehow be better (since this is what I had seen other girls do and talk about). I dropped to all of 171 pounds one summer. (I’m 5’7″ and weighed about 184 during that time frame. Consistently.)
    I eventually realized that this sort of starvation wasn’t healthy when I got to college. Of course, by then, my body as all fucked up and I wound up sleeping most of my freshman year. I quit volleyball sophomore year after an injury during a morning practice that was never treated properly. And of course, I gained weight. I remember hearing all the comments from my mother ‘you’ve really let yourself go’ and all that sort of crap.
    She would tell me about some amazing diet she was on, and I would try, I really would. I would try to be supportive and only drink water and have a Lean Cuisine with a piece of bread (if I had been good that day). I eventually realized that this just was not going to work.
    So I started hiding food. I would eat string cheese and dry cereal. I would squirrel away all these things and eat at night, when no one else was awake to watch me. I still have a problem with that now. I don’t like it when people watch me eat. I can feel them judging me in their head, which of course, turns into being out loud if I’m ever with my family.
    Just the other day, I Was eating homemade macaroni and cheese and my mother came by my house (I’ve only moved out a few months ago, so it’s all still shiny and new) and proceeded to harass me about eating macaroni and cheese and how it’s soooo unhealthy and fattening and everything else. (Of course, I have been trying to cut her some slack since she’s recently developed diverticulitis and now has all sorts of gasto-intenstinal issues, but my patience wasn’t very thick to begin with.) I told her to leave and she did, even though she’s been harassing me about my weight and the foods I make since then.
    I still struggle with good foods versus bad foods, but I’ve been learning that I can make damn near anything I want in my kitchen. I make veggies quite often. I have fruit just about every day with breakfast and lunch. I have veggies everyday with lunch and dinner. I cook with real food, like real butter and broccoli and goddamnit–food is tasty. Food isn’t supposed to be some sort of reward for being a good person. Little by little, I’m starting to agree with that. (Even if my mother can’t seem to get her mouth of my goddamn plate.)

    (I will acknowledge that my father has since stopped harping on me about weight/food. He will discuss it if it is brought up by me first, but otherwise, he keeps his mouth shut.)

    Sorry for the book, heh. This is just something that’s been on my mind recently.

  27. Sarahbyrdd July 13, 2009 at 3:09 pm #

    It’s a process. I’ve recognized self-soothing with food, secret eating, and the “fantasy of being thin” as things I’ve learned from my mother. I’ve kicked the good and bad food idea to the curb, and dissallowed the idea of “diets”, and I feel pretty good about that. I am much less likely to binge, though a bit of rewarding with food still goes on, but a pint is no longer a single serving of ice cream. The unfortunate thing is that my schedule and stress levels became overwhelming at about the same time as I gave up restricting my eating, and the walking and yoga I was doing regularly also got put on hold. As a result I’ve been gaining an uncomfortable amount of weight, and now match my pre-divorce highest weight ever.

    Right now I’m fighting the urge to beat myself up with a diet, because I know it will 1) just make me cranky and insecure, 2) won’t work, and 3) will probably result in my gaining even more weight in the long run.

  28. Babs July 13, 2009 at 5:38 pm #

    I grew up with a bulimic Mom who (as I recently found out) would frequently forget to feed me as a very young child – like 2 -3 years old. My one Aunt had to call her every day to make sure she hadn’t forgotten to feed me lunch. My other Aunt has stories about how “cute” I was at four and five making my own sandwiches and breakfasts. I realize now that when I say I’ve been cooking my whole life, I’m not actually exaggerating by much.

    I constantly got told that I would look better if I “just lost five pounds”. I wore a size six at the time and was 123lbs on the scale at 5’2″. I never ever thought I looked thin in my life – a fact that makes me jaw droppingly shocked when I see photos of myself from that time now.

    I’ve been on every diet and it was routine in my house to have to get up during commercials and jog in place or do sit ups in front of the t.v. Food was routinely taken away from me and so I had to start binge eating late at night to get dinner sometimes.

    All of this stems from my Mom watching a few of HER Aunts get very VERY large and have major health issues. Pretty much, one of her Aunts just….gave up….and sat around the house, rarely ever leaving. The issue clearly wasn’t being fat – that was a symptom. But my Mom, being young and being in a time when stuff like that wasn’t really discussed, didn’t see it that way. She was trying to save me from that ever happening.

    Right now, I weigh the most I ever have. I’m attempting to eat healthy (its hard when one is ripping out the kitchen and redoing it) and to just friggin’ ENJOY my food. I love to cook and to make wonderful, tasty, amazing things to eat. I love to share my food with my friends and family. But, it can be hard because I am the odd one out now because I am fat and they aren’t. And so they think that I eat crazy amounts of food or don’t exercise at all, which is untrue. I’m active and I eat a pretty good, fairly balanced diet. Plus, any time that I lose weight it’s like headline news for my family so I can’t do anything without feeling like I’m scrutinized. It’s annoying as hell. LOL!

    I guess I’m still in process with figuring this all out.