Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On Soda When I Was Seventeen

found on weheartit

I was probably in mid-elementary school when visits to my doctor started really filling me with dread. It wasn't even because of the needles, honestly; it was the scale. For a series of years, I was told I gained 5 more pounds than I was supposed to, and after those years of supposed-to-be gaining weight, I was told that I was just becoming increasingly fat and needed to cut it out. I hated going to the doctor because I hated the lectures. To tell the truth, I didn't really feel fat until I got to middle school (which is, as we all know, the armpit of society), but I was aware, even in elementary school, that my body was a problem. A couple of weeks before going for my check-up, I would stop eating the snack my mother packed, discretely tossing it in the garbage when no one was looking. I knew that if I ate snack, I would only be fatter, and in my young mind I believed that I would easily achieve "normal" through 10 or so skipped Fruit Roll Ups.

Of course, I didn't get skinnier.

It was the summer after my Sophomore year of high school that I decided to get serious. My doctor suggested Weight Watchers and monthly check-ups on my weight. I was devastated but determined. I really have no way to explain my sudden motivation to change everything, but I do remember coming home from the doctor and that very night having water instead of soda and a very small portion of chicken. I wrote it down in a notebook, along with the points, as my mother had an old Weight Watchers Points counter thingamabobbin in the towel drawer.

It took me about 3 months to drop 30 pounds, which was pretty awesome and astonishing, especially since it all still seems like I almost did it on a whim. I felt... decent my size 6 jeans, and I even had a pair of 4s that fit, though a little snug. I wanted to be a size 2, I determined. I wanted to be 115 pounds instead of 120. I would make comments to my mother about needing to lose more weight both to make her proud of my dutiful *ahem* weight watching and to shock her, to make her tell me I looked good the way I was.

Food was-- and still is-- hard to deal with in my household. Food is God, and food is the enemy. My mother has struggled with weight all her life. She constantly complains about how fat and disgusting she is, but brings home boxes of cookies and bakes too much. I was made very clear that my weight, like hers, was not okay. I was assured that I was fat, that boys wouldn't like me (they didn't, though I doubt weight was the sole reason), that I was disgusting, that I had a gut, that the stretch marks on my thighs were hideous, that I was going to die young and unloved and awful if I didn't get a hold of myself. I don't think I truly felt bad about my body until I was my most overweight and my mother became more and more insistent that I was should be ashamed.

And so I changed.

But, as I've mentioned many a time, it didn't bring me happiness. I thought about food constantly because I had to plan every bite. I thought about the smaller sized clothing I wanted and worried about what would happen if I got bigger. I beat myself up for having a tiny bit of fat on my stomach, which I would prod in the mirror on a regular basis. I constantly felt my shoulders, collar bone, jaw line, cheek bones, back in order to assess how prominent the bones were (a behavior that now is just another part of my OCD, except now I aim to harm my skin instead of simply take pleasure in my form). I looked at other girls more often, beaming with pride if I happened to be the thinner one. I did not think I was skinny enough or pretty enough. My boyfriend at the time made fun of me, took me on agonizing runs, and then told me how sexy I was. I hated myself.

I will always remember one particular night when I decided I wanted a soda with dinner. I was usually pretty regimented when it came to eating within my points range, so I figured a soda couldn't hurt as long as it fit. I poured myself a glass of Pepsi. Unfortunately, my mother saw me.

I never knew something as simple as a glass of soda could cause such an uproar. I saw her stare me down. She said "what are you doing?" as if I really had something to explain. I didn't know what to say, but she did.

"So you're just going to throw it all away? You're going to ruin it?"

I explained it was just one glass of soda, that the points were there to cover it.

She lectured me on how disappointed she was that I was going to get fat again.

I poured the soda down the drain and ran upstairs. I cried for hours in my bedroom. If I recall, I didn't eat dinner that night.

I've been sitting on this story for awhile now. I wrote it down a week or so ago, and I just haven't known what to do with it as far as this blog goes. Because I have to think, after all, why will you people care about this story. What is my point? What does it mean for you, you know? And while I do have this vague sense of it in my head (it's hard to deal with family and food can be emotional and the pressures to conform to others' ideals are incredible), I have this little bit of a feeling that it doesn't have to have a point. It's a story, a thing that happened in my life that, without question, think contributed to the many neuroses that I have socially and when it comes to my relationship with eating.

So why should you care?

Because things like this happen, and it's just, well, not very nice. Many of us have taken part in causing someone anxiety about food or their body, whether we knew we were doing it or not-- or thought our actions were for that person's own good. When I think about the world girls today are growing up in-- that we grew up in, live in still-- I have trouble comprehending the sheer amount of pain they go through daily in dealing with the standards society sets and the pressures that are thrust upon them. I believe there can be value in losing weight for many people, but for health. And I don't think anyone should be made to feel sorry for the number connected with their body. I don't believe that girls should feel fat because someone else says they are. I don't believe skinny girls should feel less feminine for not having curves. I don't believe that "average" girls should feel caught in the middle, invisible-- or that there should be such word as "average" to refer to the human form. I don't think anyone should be uttering the words too or not [blank] enough when it comes to their bodies.

You have one body, and it needs love to be its best, to reach its peak, whatever that means to you. You don't have to be beautiful for anyone, be thin for anyone, be curvy for anyone, be anything for anyone. You? You are debt free.

Except to yourself. You owe yourself love and a little place in your heart and mind to be safe from all the discouraging forces out there, a place where you are okay and you are the ideal and no one can tell you otherwise.

That's what you owe yourself. And maybe a soda.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this - it brought tears to my eyes! I have struggled with my weight all my life and my mother seems to act in a very similar way to yours when it comes to food. She is obsessed with her weight and how fat she is and yet she is also obsessed with food. I feel like I am being judged everytime I eat in front of her. Unfortunately this has just caused me more problems - an eating disorder of sorts. I often hide food and binge in secret, sometimes I think i do it to hurt her and to make her notice. I am much bigger than her but she always talks about how disgusting her fat makes her look - she doesn't seem to consider that this makes me think that she thinks I am disgusting as well.
I am working on not letting my mother affect me this way as well as working on my weight and trying to like myself whatever i look like. Thanks for your encouraging and inspiring words :o)

The Naked Redhead said...

Preach, sister, preach!

Kris said...

I really love your blog. Never commented before, but read it from time to time. You seem like a wise and experienced individual and your writing is excellent. We need more people like you.

I have struggled (and do still) with severe mental disorders throughout my life, so I can relate to a lot of what you write. Weight was never my main issue, but I regocnise a lot from my sister's experiences.

It's good to share stories like this. I have sometimes shared some in my blog, but I'm usually more vague. I should take a leaf out of your book and have more courage sometimes. You're brave! Thanks.

Brittney said...

Way to put yourself out there, girl. I agree with you, but am sad that you had to go through this to learn it.

Sydnie said...

Wow ... this was such a powerful post. I know exactly where you're coming from. A lot of my friends are dieting constantly; I'll be lucky if I catch them eating an entire salad for lunch. It's really sad how today's media has made people view themselves. I'm so proud that you put yourself out there, and you might not know it, but you just made every single person reading your blog envy you for having the courage to do it. I know I do! This is one of the best posts I've seen from you, and that's saying a lot, since they're all amazing!


Laells said...

Awesome post man.

Posts like that don't need a point. It's an experience and you seem to have a wonderful talent for getting out a story in an eloquent, well said, and funny way.

Thanks for sharing the experience too. I, like you, and so many other ladies have struggled my whole life with weight and as someone who has a very hard time putting words to her own thoughts and feelings, reading a blog like this is fantastic.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. <3

Kimberley said...

I agree with all the other supportive comments - this post was wonderful and really struck a nerve with me. It takes courage to be this personal on a blog and I congratulate you for posting it.
I think this post was beautifully written and although I love all of your posts - this was my favourite. xx

Rachel Elizabeth said...

I too have struggled with my weight. When I was in college I lost 40 pounds.Everyone complemented me. Men hit on me. I obsessed over my body, waking in the middle of the night to look at myself in the dorm bathroom while everyone else was asleep. This post is brave and true and very important. Keep writing. I will continue to read.

Vanessa said...

I don't even know how to express how grateful I am for all these kind comments. I'm especially touched by those of you who shared your own stories with me. It's absolutely overwhelming. I hope that all of you will feel free to get in touch if you ever need to talk about things like this.

Kayla Lane said...

I'm so glad I found your blog today. I really, truly like it. You don't have that same annoying ego so many of the popular bloggers these days do. I will definitely keep reading!!!


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