Tag Archives: food

What a difference a week makes

I have been back in the US and back living with my parents for almost a week, and although I suspected it would be difficult, I am a little thrown at how unmoored I feel after just this small amount of time living in the house where I grew up.

Case in point: I am writing this entry on my father’s computer (because he doesn’t have wireless in the house, I can’t get online on my laptop) with the private browsing on so there is no record of my blog or what I am writing.  I am alone in the house and I feel like I am sneaking around.

I think back to this post and realize that I am going to have to tap into those skills HARD.  I really had no idea what living with my folks again was going to do to my eating, but whoa boy, it has been triggering being here.  The second night I was here, I asked my mother if she had any ice cream, and she said “oh, have a yogurt, it’s better for you,” and I capitulated and ate the yogurt.  It was yummy, it was fine, but I’m a grown woman and I can eat the ice cream if I want to.  Did I say that out loud?  Of course not.

Then my mom started showing me her book on mindful eating and how it’ll get you to lose weight, and I just sort of brushed it away with some kind of distraction.  Did I mention, oh by the way, I’ve been working with a nutritionist and know all about mindful eating?  Of course not either.

On Michelle’s advice, I bought some food of my own to have in the house, but I felt scrutinized buying it and I feel scrutinized eating it.  Last night I sat in the living room waiting for my mother to go to bed so I could eat some crackers in peace.  I eventually decided I didn’t want the crackers because I had heartburn, but I hated getting wrapped up in all that drama around whether or not I should or shouldn’t want them in my head. 

Now my parents are out grocery shopping (as they do every Monday night, as they have done for the past 25 years at least) and I am home alone and I just ate 7 cookies in a row that I didn’t necessarily want all of out of mild hunger and raging defiance.  I am finding that I am a little hungrier during the day than I prefer to be because I am not eating all I need to stay satisfied because I don’t want the big old judgy eyeball from my mother. 

So I know that this isn’t working for me the way it is, but I am not yet sure how to handle it.  I can certainly work alone on eating what I want out of desire instead of rebellion – I really have no desire to feel 15 years old again – but lurking in the back of my head is the idea that I might have to have a conversation with my mother where I lay down what’s what with me in an adult and reasonable manner, and that is so far from the way my family communicates (or doesn’t communicate!) that it is intimidating the socks off of me.

I guess if nothing else, this is an opportunity to really get to work on being an adult, because this feeling like a kid again really bites.

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Pikku Nälkä, or hunger personified

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been living in Europe for the past year.  (I’m not naming the country so it can’t be Googled, but if you’re familiar with the language, you’ll recognize it from this post.)  I have found it very entertaining to watch TV here and see the differences from the US, and something that stood out to me is this yogurt commercial that I totally adore.  It personifies hunger as this so-ugly-it’s-cute troll figure, Pikku Nälkä (Little Hunger) that bugs you during the day.  The way to get it to stop bothering you?  Eat!

I am reminded of the Weight Watchers commercials that Brian talked about here, where hunger is also personified as a monster.  This monster is even cuter than Pikku Nälkä, but the message in this commercial is that dieting is the way to get rid of the monster, which is completely nonsensical.  When I dieted, hunger followed me around all day long – diets just prolonged and amplified my hunger.  As well as made me feel like there was something wrong with me for even having an appetite!  I was really struck by the difference between the two commercials – eating to satisfy one’s hunger seems like such a no-brainer, but it certainly isn’t a message that gets much play in US mainstream media.

I am also intrigued by the personification of hunger as a monster in both commercials.  Certainly hunger seemed monstrous to me when I dieted, and I fought against it so fervently as if it were an enemy.  Now my hunger is so useful.  It lets me know when I need to refuel, and it sparks my appetite so I am able to enjoy my food.  Were I to personify it for myself, I might think of it as a guardian angel of sorts, tapping me on the shoulder to wake me up to the need and desire for food.  Except that I think there is something to the image of the cute monster – it makes me think of when I get too hungry and start to get cranky and snarly and out of sorts, and a cute-ugly troll seems the perfect representation for that feeling.

Then I eat, and me and my Pikku Nälkä settle back down, soothed and satisfied.

As I’ve mentioned before (https://fatbodied.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/happy-returns/), I’ve been living in Europe for the past year.  (I’m not naming the country so it can’t be Googled.)  I have found it very entertaining to watch TV here and see the differences from the US, and something that stood out to me is this yogurt commercial that I totally adore.  It personifies hunger as this so-ugly-it’s-cute troll figure, Pikku Nälkä (Little Hunger) that bugs you during the day.  The way to get it to stop bothering you?  Eat!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHH24meVmqc&NR=1

I am reminded of the Weight Watchers commercials that Brian (http://red3.blogspot.com/) talked about here (http://red3.blogspot.com/2009/01/hungry-is-my-friend-and-yours.html), where hunger is also personified as a monster.  This monster is even cuter than Pikku Nälkä, but the message in this commercial is that dieting is the way to get rid of the monster, which is completely nonsensical.  When I dieted, hunger followed me around all day long – diets just prolonged and amplified my hunger.  As well as made me feel like there was something wrong with me for even having an appetite!  I was really struck by the difference between the two commercials – eating to satisfy one’s hunger seems like such a no-brainer, but it certainly isn’t a message that gets much play in US mainstream media.

I am also intrigued by the personification of hunger as a monster in both commercials.  Certainly hunger seemed monstrous to me when I dieted, and I fought against it so fervently as if it were an enemy.  Now my hunger is so useful.  It lets me know when I need to refuel, and it sparks my appetite so I am able to enjoy my food.  Were I to personify it for myself, I might think of it as a guardian angel of sorts, tapping me on the shoulder to wake me up to the need and desire for food.  Except that I think there is something to the image of the cute monster – it makes me think of when I get too hungry and start to get cranky and snarly and out of sorts, and a cute-ugly troll seems the perfect representation for that feeling.

Then I eat, and me and my Pikku Nälkä settle back down, soothed and satisfied.

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You’re not the boss of me

Yesterday was a bit of a landmark for me:  I finished the last session of the Learn to Eat program with Michelle (aka, The Fat Nutritionist).

I don’t want this post to come across as a commercial, but I can’t help but boggle at how much differently I feel about my relationship with food compared to just six months ago.  Yesterday, Michelle read me the following statements that I made in my application to work with her:

“I get very panicked if I have an compulsion to eat junk food and I contemplate not eating it. I feel very threatened and deprived if I think of not eating when I have the impulse; it mentally brings me back to how very miserable and ashamed I was when forced on diets or decided to diet myself.  But even though I’m not dieting any more, I still have a great deal of shame attached to eating.  I feel uncomfortable with the compulsive eating, but I also feel uncomfortable and shamed when I try to stop.  I feel like stopping eating compulsively is acknowledging that my family was right to be disgusted by me as a child, and I am so angry about that that I don’t want to stop either.  So I’d like to WANT to stop eating compulsively.”

What really blew me away is that I don’t remember how that felt anymore. I barely even remembered writing it.  The changes that she helped me initiate were so gradual, and at a pace that was respectful of what I could handle at any given point, that I didn’t really notice the gravity of the changes until I looked back at my words from February.

The single biggest change is that this work helped me to accept my own authority in choosing what and how to eat, and to trust that not only could I make decisions around food that were good for me, but that I know best what I need.

As I’ve mentioned before I was forced on diets at an incredibly early age, and certainly the messages that I couldn’t be trusted to eat didn’t come from my parents alone.  That’s what every single diet plan of the bazillions out there tells us: you can’t be trusted around food, you out-of-control fatty, so pay us money so we can tell you what to do.

Being told time and time again that I am someone who can’t be trusted with my own decisions in my own life has run deep, far beyond feeling stressed out about feeling ashamed for eating a large bag of potato chips, or even for wanting to eat those potato chips.  It’s made me question my self-worth and undermined my confidence, and made it difficult for me to find a fulfilling career path or feel worthy of advocating for myself.  It’s made me susceptible to listening when other people tell me what I should do, how I should talk, how I should eat, sleep, read – because of course they knew better than me.  It told the men who abused me that I wouldn’t question their authority, because I had none.

It seems a small thing on the face of it, to reclaim my right to eat what I want, as much as I want, but have no doubt – this is a powerful and radical act, and I’m in charge now.

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Being Auntie Claudia

I don’t have any children, but I have two nieces who are the love of my life.

Bella is almost ten.  She has the loveliest warm eyes, a smattering of freckles across her nose that she doesn’t like but I think is the cutest thing ever, a wickedly sardonic sense of humor even at her age, and an enthusiasm for life that bubbles right through her emails.  (We have become pen pals since she got an email account.)

Maddie is almost seven.  She has blonde hair like my brother did at her age, and is breathtakingly fearless – she will jump into any activity without a second (or even first) thought.  She loves to make faces, scream, make noise, make herself heard.  She has a fashion sense that has nothing to do with prescription and is pure self-expression.

My family, as many families are wont to do, makes comparisons between the generations.  There is a picture of my brother Jeremy when he was young that Maddie used to think was a picture of her, they looked so much alike at the same ages.  The family lore also says that they have the same personality – Jeremy was the daredevil while I was the bookworm, and Bella and Maddie are seen in the same way.

Bella looks a great deal like me, to the point where she has been mistaken for my daughter in public.  She also has many of the characteristics that my family liked to note in me at her age: she’s clumsy in comparison to Maddie’s dexterity, she reads and writes beyond her age level, she can sometimes get caught up in her head and not notice what’s going on outside of it.  Her parents even call her Mini Auntie Claudia, particularly when she’s just tripped over something.

It is an interesting experience watching my nieces grow up, one that is often poignant.  At Bella’s age, she is already starting to show some signs of puberty – like me in childhood, she is not just above average in her intelligence and skills, but in height and weight for her age.

It is hard for me to remember when I was first scrutinized for eating, when I was first put on a diet, because I was so young that I can’t be sure.  I have strong family memories that help me put it in some context: one of my first is of eating some Doritos at a party my parents threw and my father scolding me for not needing them in front of all his friends.  I was about five, if I remember correctly.

When I was six, my grandmother bought me a shirt and told me I could have it only if I lost ten pounds.   My mind boggles now at the sheer cognitive overload such a request was at that age, but then I really just wanted that shirt.  It was navy blue with long sleeves, and had a Noah’s Arc scene embroidered on the chest and the arms, and I loved the animals.  I also hadn’t the faintest idea how to lose ten pounds.  She eventually got disgusted with my lack of willpower and gave me the shirt anyway.  The animals had lost their charm at that point.

When I was eight, my mother gave me a diet book and told me to start following it.  I don’t remember the name of it, but I can picture it vividly in my head.  It was bright yellow, and had before and after pictures of kids from fat camp.  I remember it had recipes requiring copious amounts of saccharine, exhortations to think of spaghetti as bloody worms so you wouldn’t want to eat it, and suggestions to tie bags of frozen peas to your ankles in lieu of weights for leg lifts (this particular technique was supposed to give me the shapely legs of an ice skater.)

(My mother still has that book on the bookshelf in her bedroom.  I want to take it from the shelves and set that fucker on fire.)

Meanwhile, my mother still cooked the way she always did.  I don’t blame her for that one bit; we had little money, my father is an incredibly fussy and inflexible eater, and feeding a family is hard.  (Hell, I find it hard enough in my family of two.)  But I was eight, and told to make that diet work for me, while nothing in my environment changed.  At the same time, I remember coming home from the third grade one day after one of those dreaded public weigh-ins, and my parents demanded that I tell them how much I weighed.  I laid face first on the kitchen floor with my head in my hands and wouldn’t say a word as my father shouted, “I bet you weigh as much as your mother!”

Writing about this, I notice an urge to downplay how much it hurt me.  Other people have had it worse, right?  My mother’s mother (of the shirt bribe) was an alcoholic, and I grew up hearing stories of how abusive and chaotic the household was.  (My mother often couldn’t hear me when I talked about what was hurting me, because hey, at least I didn’t have to raise my siblings and clean up vomit from my drunken mother.)  Even the body shaming could have been so much worse.  I remember reading an account of a woman whose father would give her a lashing for every pound she didn’t lose toward her “goal” weight.  So this makes me feel in some ways like a whiny little baby for even talking about it with any kind of gravity.

But then I look at Bella, living so happily in a body so much like mine at that age, and the idea of her undergoing any of that shame or self-hatred crushes me, in a way I couldn’t feel it for myself.

I look at Bella and Maddie, and I want a different life for them.  They are so vibrant, so carefree and alive and at home in their bodies and their personalities and their right to exist and take up space and be noticed.  I know this isn’t an easy world for girls, and that they will have darker things to deal with as they get older, pressures to hide their light lest they shine too brightly.  But I want them to have a fighting chance.

I have never talked to my brother about weight or food, not really.  He went through an anorexic phase in his teens so I know he didn’t get out unscathed either, but our family is good at avoiding talking seriously about, well, anything.  The idea of talking to him scares me, feels like making myself vulnerable in a way I’m not used to showing him.  But I think about saying to him, see what was done to me, and how long it has taken me to feel worthy or valuable, to eat and love and live without shame.  Use my experiences to help your daughters avoid that same pain.

As for me, I’m just going to keep being fat Auntie Claudia, loving my nieces with everything I’ve got.

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