Tuesday, July 05, 2011

This is a hard post to write.

It still shocks me, these topics that still feel so raw to me that I hesitate to even write them down, let alone voice them out Loud, here.

I have rarely been comfortable with my body. My Mother was naturally, effortlessly thin. When the genetic gifts were divvied out, the effortlessly thin gene was not part of my package.

Breasts, hips, booty and sturdy thighs made up my body type, a curvy throwback to the 1840's when women were expected to be soft and lush. Cross this with a tendency to want to lounge and read and you don't have the puzzle pieces for a woman with no body fat and a six pack abdomen.

But this story isn't really about me.

It is about my daughter.

Emily, as I have noted copious times, was Small as a baby and toddler. As in 12 pounds at her 1st birthday small. The doctors were concerned.

But let me admit something that I am a bit ashamed of....I kind of liked it. I liked having a petite, cute baby. I liked thinking that I had given my daughter the genetic equivalent of the weight jackpot - she was thin. She was naturally THIN!

I mean, the kid ate like crazy. We couldn't shovel in the organic home made baby food fast enough. Of course, she was on a dairy and beef and seafood free diet, so I substituted other proteins in for her. The kid ate everything! A whole sweet potato! Gone!

She was still being breastfed on demand, and would drain the one breast she accepted milk from (just call me Loppy the breastfeeding mother- she'd only drink on the right one).

Now, sometimes I think it was my depression that contributed to her "failure to thrive". Don't you LOVE that term? A real ego booster as a Mom, eh? I loved being asked if perhaps my milk was "inadequate" for my baby's nutritional needs!

This went on for years. At age 4, Emily was wearing a 3T. By age 5, maybe a 4/5? It was hard to find shoes for her when she began walking at 9 months, because they didn't make walking shoes that small. The kid wore her winter coat for three winters. She simply did not outgrow things.

Of course, she still ate like there was no tomorrow. Literally. The kid was a never ending pit of stomach. But, she remained small. Petite, little.

And then...it all changed. By the time she started kindergarten? My child had a Gut. A protruding gut. She'd spent 4 weeks with my in-laws and come back 10 plus pounds heavier. Our doctor was appalled. Emily had now moved from on mark, slightly underweight...to Overweight.

In a month.

Holy Shit. We got strict orders from our pediatrician to knock this shit OFF. No more juice, no more soda and donuts. The child we had struggled to get any weight on, we were now trying to get some weight OFF of her.

I could have cried. I think I might have. I infected her after all. She was going to be fat.

We swung from trying to get anything into her, to restricting her intake of sugar and white flour. This went on for about a year. She didn't lose any weight. She hit 60 pounds as a kindergartner (and people, we are not a tall folk here...)

In the Spring of her Kindergarten year, she started Adderall. And lost weight like crazy.  She moved into the mid 40 pounds by the end of the summer.

And get this? Are you ready? She was now too thin! Yep. Now we had to go in for once a month weight checks cause she was losing too much weight! After being told for the year before that she had gained too much weight.

Sweet Suffering Moses.

In the meantime, I had eliminated most of the sugar and flour from my diet and lost 40 pounds. Of course, the impending threat of the permanent return of the Diabetes was the prime motivator, but I wasn't unhappy about the weight loss.

Of course, when Emily went OFF the med's - she started to regain the weight. By the end of this summer, all of her clothes didn't fit again. She was now 8 and squeezing her into a size 8 was a nigh impossibility - and the 10's were outrageously long.

As she got older, I just kept finding bigger clothes. Two years ago, at age 11, she was wearing regular woman's sizes. A medium at first....then a large....then an XL.....and finally we had to buy XXL shirts to fit around her belly.

I held out last year when Terrance tried to broach her weight with me. I went to the doctor last year this time for confirmation - she was Growing, right? And ramping up for puberty?  This weight, it would melt into her growing body as puberty stormed through and things would even out, right?  Right?

But it wasn't until this year that I had to see what was happening in front of me. When I held out a pair of shorts that were too big for Me and tried to zip her into them. Size 14. And it was not happening.

I may have cried later that night. My 13 year old daughter was Fat. And it was my fault. My fault for not being a better role model. My fault for not encouraging her to exercise,my shitty biochemistry that she inherited.

After a very difficult conversation with Terrance that threatened to veer off into "accusation and blame or the other parent" land, we decided to talk with her.

She cried. She told us she didn't want to talk about it, and cried. I held her later as we tried to explain why we were having the conversation with her. I explained that I was worried that her weight was out pacing her height...that I KNEW she was going to grow this summer, and I know her body is going through such rapid changes with puberty that I was hesitant to bring it to her attention...BUT when I saw her try to get into pants that I can't wear, I got worried.

I know what it is to try to lose weight. I have been wrestling with that all my life. She shot back that I didn't do exercise. (Which is true) I explained that I actually eat very little ( which is also True).  I explained that Portion control was the hardest thing that I had to learn. To STOP eating when I was full, rather than eating for Pleasure past the point of fullness. To make sure that I was drinking water ( and not soda) and wasn't thirsty instead off hungry.

Finally,we told her that she needed to Move her body. No more coming home and sitting down in front of the TV. No more plopping in front of the computer to watch 2 hours of movies.  She had to walk. And Swim, and do all the things Kids should do in the summer. Camp would be a great place to do this too since she had no TV and plenty of swimming, walking, hiking and exploring time.

And again, here is the kind of sad thing -  I felt better as a Mom when my kid was skinny. I felt like I was giving her some intangible gift of womanhood - thinness without trying. A gift I never had received. A gift that my mother and sister seemed to just HAVE. I felt like I had let her down in some way, by cursing her with my metabolism and my body's love ( and inability to process) white flour and sugar.

But I also knew that this was the time to take control of the issue. Waiting will only make it worse, and harder.

As I held her, and she cried, I explained that we really did this because we want her to be healthy - not Skinny. I am Not skinny. Her aunts on her fathers side, Not Skinny. But moving your body and not over eating are habits ( along with more vegetables) that she HAS to adopt.

With that, our summer began, and I am forced to tackle yet another part of womanhood with which I am not wholly comfortable. But this time, it is with my baby girl.

8 Baleful Regards:

Mel said...

I can only imagine how it breaks your heart. The thought of your child crying over her weight makes tears come to my eyes. But because you are a good mom, you do it, for her because she will be happier.

roo said...

Ah, that's tough. Talk about a minefield.

I think you're on to something with the moving around, though. If she can find an activity that's really fun, something she'd want to do regardless, it'll be so much easier for her to stick with it. And if she stays active, she might not be a skinny minnie, but she won't get too big.

Good luck to both of you pretty ladies!

E. said...

This is so tough. It's so hard to navigate this minefield of our culture's completely fucked-up expectations about what women and girls are supposed to look like while still addressing the fact that to be healthy, humans need to eat a much better diet than the average American diet and move much more than average American habits dictate. It's okay to be fat, but you've got to be active and eat well. And if you do those things, and you're still fat, that's your body. Love it. It's beautiful. It's you. That sounds fucking cheesy, but it's true.

If you haven't seen it, go to youtube and watch Joy Nash's "Fat Rant." It's brilliant.

Dawn said...

EXactly - I don't want to convey that she is less than beautiful to me, or less than perfect the way she is - But I also have the hard won knowledge of Our body type, and the way we both view "exercise".

I hope, hope, hope that this intent came through in my talks with her.

And I haven't seen that E - I will seek it out.

Anonymous said...

I've come back to this post three times in as many days. Although I was underweight growing up, I was never in shape and hated pretty much anything PE entailed. I did eventually put on weight and I've found a healthy normal for me (although it has taken some time to adjust). I've also learned that I have to exercise and eat well to be healthy even if I don't have (or want) to do it to be skinny. It has taken me a very long time to find what I liked. I really wish that I'd had someone to try things with growing up. I was shy, timid, and bookish, so shouting and competition was my worst nightmare. It turns out, I loved yoga and the emphasis it put on my ability to be myself-I could turn up and never say a word and hide in the back! I've walked out of classes where the teacher spoke incessantly about getting a bikini body. It has gotten boring, so I've tried some other things in the mean time-a ballet class, a zumba class, aerobics, running, swimming, biking and two minute interval training throughout the day. I've hated some and loved others, but instead of feeling guilty and miserable about the ones I hate, I try to emphasize to myself that the important thing is that I exercise regularly. I hope you can help Emily find something that works for her, something that helps get those endorphins flying so she knows that while some activities are awful exercise itself isn't always a bad experience! Listening to audio book chapters can also be good motivation! Most importantly, I really hope you can both bond over this, I'm in my late 20s and so many of my peers still struggle in silence with a balance of healthy/obsessed/skinny/fat/happy/self-hating.

Anonymous said...

Having been fighting my weight since I was a young teen, I feel for you both. What a hard situation and you should be proud of yourself for acknowledging the situation. I only wish my mother had that discussion with me. She was overweight as well, and just ignored us both. So ease your aching heart, and pat yourself on the back for being strong and keeping you BOTH healthy!!!!

Blue House Studio World HQ said...

Please read Why We Get Fat - and what to do about it by Gary Taubes. It is available from the library or you can pick up a used copy. It is not a diet book. I have spent my whole life calculating every bite that entered my mouth. I have changed that now. It takes the "sloth" (inactivity) and "greed" (overeating) out of the weight equation. My partner and I (he is 6' weighs in at 153, I am 5'2" at 148) both consider it life-changing.

You were on the right track with no flour or sugar.

La said...

As usual, because I am not a mom, I will offer no advice because I don't feel I have a leg to stand on. But I will say this: you are incredibly brave.

I think it is hard for parents to confront flaws in their children because directly or indirectly, it reflects on them. My mom, she of constructing perfect images and buying into "should be", was an avoider of things that didn't fit. When I was younger and the only dancer in my daily ballet classes saddled with the burden of thick thighs and hips and butt, I complained about my weight. My mom, she later told me, decided to ignore my complaints because, "I would see what heavy was when I got older." She preferred to ignore rather than talk to me about my body image issues, encourage me to find healthy ways to slim down, or reinforce my physical worth. She ignored me right into a fairly significant eating disorder that she never noticed.

This is beyond the point, because this is not about me. This is about you, being brave enough to not only confront the problem but be willing to stand by your daughter's side through the journey. You should be commended.

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