Growing up in a military family, there were references to exercise, weight, and body mass index (BMI) tossed around a lot. My father was always running just before the monthly weigh-in at the company in an effort to “make weight.” I don’t know what the hell he was ever worried about. He NEVER had a weight problem.
But the same military standards from back in the late 60’s and early 70’s were what he seemed to use as a guideline for my mom, without understanding that those charts were still primarily guidelines for men who have a lower percentage of necessary fat than women. So my mother, being 5’5″ and weighing 145 lbs after having a baby, felt that she was ugly and overweight and would begin jogging daily and eating only one meal a day. I don’t remember her ever being over 115 lbs growing up. She always looked extremely thin and the only thing I remember complaining about was her “poochies” where her thighs jutted out slightly under the hip.
I always felt overweight. I am 5’3.5″ and have been since eighth grade. My weight fluctuated from 110 lbs (and being bony) to 140 lbs (and being muscular with boobs) until I was about 19 or 20. While I was a senior in high school, I ran indoor and outdoor track and took dance class for PE (which was quite rigorous, studying modern, ballet and jazz.) Track practice involved running at least 10 miles for endurance training daily and 5 on the Sundays with meets on Saturday. It was during the Spring that my dad looked at me and asked me how much I weighed. I told him 140 lbs. He said,
“You’re 5’3″. 140 lbs is entirely too damn much.”
To which I responded, “Well, I run 10 miles a day already and I’m built like your mom. Short of lopping off a boob, I don’t know that that’s going to change.”
He never commented on my weight again.
I don’t know why I never felt the same pressure to work at something like weight loss that my sisters did. I grew up in the same house that they did, ate the same foods that they did, and heard the same unhealthy attitudes about food, weight, and BMI that they did. I watched my sister develop the same body image issues and criticize her size, her hips, her butt as my mom did (and still does.) I still felt overweight, yes. BUT the difference was that I could see how my bones were actually bigger than most girls my height and age. I could see that I was already doing what I could as far as exercise and this was where my body staked its claim on the scale. So to me, THIS was normal….for me.
Perhaps I just had the extrovert thing going for me and was able to compensate for any feelings of inadequacy with my attitude of “Damn, I’m good!” I usually faked that as a teenager and young adult…but I faked it with such audacity that people believed it. I never gave a whole lot of thought to my weight. If my clothes got tight, I’d start running again or take Jazzercise (Oh, yeah…I’m THAT old) and get back down to where I wanted to be.
It wasn’t until I was about 22 and living on my own in Maryland that I actually felt hurt by the F-word. My mom flew out to Baltimore and I picked her up at the airport. While I was driving back to my apartment, she reached over and pinched my wattle (that portion of skin between the chin and neck) and said, “Look at how fat you’ve gotten. You have two chins.”
I just looked at her like she had two heads. I told her that I do not have two chins and that that was just a mean and hateful thing to say. I told her about the $10 I had won at the beach just two months before at Jolly Rogers where the person was supposed to guess within 5 lbs of your weight and she was 20 lbs under it. I don’t look what I weigh. I also told her that what she said had hurt my feelings. I have a mirror. I know what I look like and certainly don’t need anyone else criticizing how I look, least of all my mom.
Back then I thought I was overweight. But I wasn’t. I actually am overweight now. I’m what is considered obese. I’m still 5’3″ but I’m now at 227. But I only look about 180. What difference does that make? Not much inside my skin. But I don’t get as much in the fat-shaming department as some of my curvy sisters across the nation. I am actively pursuing weight loss in an effort to get healthy so I can be a better mother to my kids and so that I can feel better in general. But I’m trying like hell to not look in the mirror and talk about my butt being too big or how I hate my thighs or this C-section belly flap that has been so overly used during the 4 Caesareans and complete hysterectomy. My obstetrician should have just sewn in a heavy duty zipper there, honestly. I make sure to look in that mirror every day and tell me how awesome I am, how pretty I am, or how hot I am. My kids overhear this sometimes and that’s a good thing. Because they do as we do and not as we say.
And the thing is, I don’t hate my body. I get discouraged from time to time. But I know that these are my battle scars; my medals of honor. I have 5 amazing kids that helped me with all that excess weight gain. Some of it came from eating 12-inch subs while I was pregnant with them. Some of it came from eating my feelings since they’ve arrived to the magic land of TEENAGER.
No matter what, I vowed in my head that day 24 years ago, to never make my kids feel inadequate about their bodies; to never point out bodily flaws or fat-shame. I never want my kids to feel the way my mom made me feel that day.