Friday, July 10, 2009


I dreamed of my grandma last night. She died 10 years ago but my dreaming of her isn't really a surprise considering all the thought I've been giving food and exercise lately. I believe my grandmother is the root of the issue I have with both. She passed her obsession to my mother who became anorexic who passed it on to me and I obviously rebelled and went the other direction. My grandmother was hyper aware of appearance and health. She took many vitamins, watched what she and everyone else ate, and exercised regularly. She nagged my perpetually thin and healthy grandfather about every small treat he ate. She baked cookies with applesauce instead of oil before it was in vogue. If he wanted a small chocolate shake from McDonald's it was a huge deal. She meant well with her nagging but she drove everyone crazy.

For as long as I can remember my family nagged me about my weight and what I ate. Perhaps it doesn't go back to ages 5, 6, and 7 but in my memory it does. My grandmother started with the "You have such a pretty face - if only..." crap when I was very young (always while sweeping my bangs off my face because no matter their length they were always hiding my pretty eyes). I don't know if my mom thought about my weight before my grandmother started the comments but my mom took it and ran with it. We had no treats in the house. The worst foods were saltines and peanut butter. She refused to buy or bake anything fattening. I got in trouble when I came home and had a snack other than an apple. As I got older, I started sneaking food and hiding it. I would buy something at the little market up the street (at least I got exercise hiking to it) and take it home to eat. I would buy a bag of chips or a quart of ice cream or candy bars then feel like I had to eat it all so I could throw it away and get rid of the evidence. Sometimes my mom would find my stash. She would pile it on my bed and yell at me about being "a dirty little sneak". I would feel such shame and promise her not to do it anymore while promising myself to get better hiding places. My furtive behavior made her even more restrictive. She threatened to lock up the cabinets when I ate saltines or made pasta. Her restrictive behavior reinforced my sneaky behavior. It was a vicious cycle.

She tried to take me to child psychologists to "fix" me but it never lasted long. The psychologists either treated me like a moron and I could see exactly where they were going with everything or they just handed me a diet and told me to follow it. Neither was helpful but then I didn't even attempt to speak honestly with them because I was ashamed and because I was sure they would tell my mother everything I said. I was a kid who felt powerless - much like the anorexic who exerts her only control through food I did the same thing just on the opposite end of the spectrum.

I don't share this to paint my mother or grandmother as bad women. They were/are both amazing in their own ways. My mother was divorced and struggling to raise me alone while working and going to school at night and trying to date and maintain a middle class lifestyle. Nor do I want to blame them for where I find myself currently. I am a grown up now and I take full responsibility for the choices I make. I share it for 2 reasons. First, I've never told anyone any of this before. It is a source of great shame for me. And second, because I've been examining why I have such an unhealthy relationship with food. One of the things that made me recommit to getting healthy right now is that I found myself thinking about snacking out of my husband's sight which reminded me of the sneaky behavior with food from my childhood. It is a cycle I want to break because it is ridiculous.


  1. What a great post. Not great the things that happened, but examining and figuring things out.

    What you wrote could describe my sister's childhood. Same issues. She has never broken her cycle, but I'm so glad you are working on yours.

  2. Aside from being born a preemie and a very small infant, I've been overweight for my entire life of awareness. My problem is that I don't eat when I'm hungry or stop eating when I'm full.

    I think this comes from my time as a child when parents and daycare teachers would enforce the Happy Plate rule. To "make a Happy Plate" was to eat everything on your plate. I was conditioned to ignore my body telling me its full and to eat everything I was given. But now I am aware of the connection and can work to change it.

    Great post.

  3. Wow, I could have been reading a story about my life, our childhood experiences are so similar. Well, not fully - a little less yelling and shame from my mother, and none from my grandmother. But restrictions about food in the home? Check. Sneaking food? Check. Feeling shame about food? Check.

    I struggle now with how I am going to raise my yet-to-be-born children to have a healthy relationship with and view of food. As fuel and sustenance. And something to enjoy, too. But not as their friend, their comfort, or their safety. *I* want to be that for them.

  4. I completely understand this too - my mom was never really bad but my grandmother always used to say stuff like "you are going to be in high school and you want to think about how you look" etc. I started sneaking food at a young age and have done it with my husband. It is absolutely ridiculous. I don't want to teach this behavior to my daughter but i don't want to be psycho the other way either. balance is hard.