Thursday, March 12, 2009

Does this blog make my butt look fat? (Part One)

Almost everyone I know struggles with their weight and/or getting enough exercise and/or food issues. I am the jackpot winner in this arena, having dealt with all three of these bonus categories at various points in my life. Since I really want to take the time to explore this set of topics from the “ground up” so to speak, I’ve decided to split this part of the journey into pieces. I mean, y’all have lives and more to do than read my blog. (Well, some of you anyway.) Eventually, I hope you’ll have a neat series of posts which give you my frame of reference as well as what I do now to deal with these areas in a healthy way. Always back to the whole “taking care of the critical core” thing. See, you're already figuring me out and we've just begun.

Oh - now might be a good time to cast your vote on whether or not you think it’s safe for me to post the dreaded “before and after” pictures. I’m slightly scared right now so we’ll see.


As a child and pre-teen, I was considered one of those annoying “I can eat and eat and never gain weight” types. I say that about my daughter now and it’s true. She is so long and lean, it’s crazy. My dad recently pointed out however, “She has long skinny legs now, but that can change. Just look at you.” Luckily I love and appreciate my dad’s sense of humor. Plus, he has a point. Personally I think I was just malnourished as a young kid.

In many of my friend’s houses, FOOD = LOVE.

It’s hard to say for sure what the equivalent was growing up in my mom’s house. A case could be made for the converse equation, but to say we had no food and no love” seems a bit harsh. At one point in my life, I felt that way I guess. But I’ve been through enough reflection and self-analysis to know that it wasn’t an accurate perception.

So another possibility is, “If you loved me, you wouldn’t make me eat that.” My mother was not what you would call a “happy homemaker.” She was highly intellectual, a talented pianist and fine artist. She also struggled with physical and mental illness, both of which I’m sure will be elaborated at some point during my blogging journey. For now the point is: the woman could NOT cook. More than once, she burned a hole in a pan whilst attempting to boil water. I’m not kidding.

My most positive childhood food memories at my mom’s house include sitting in front of the TV, eating butter on saltines. Also, “fun dip” which was eating my mom’s powdered daiquiri mix out of the little foil packets with my wet finger.

Oh, and ketchup. I loved ketchup. I mean, it’s pretty hard to screw up a condiment. Plus there were days when that was all we had in the fridge that didn’t look like a science experiment.

It turned out to be a lucky thing that we weren’t the type of family that was accustomed to a sit-down dinner every night. Every once in a while though, mom would decide we needed to act like a “normal” family.

This usually meant one of three dinner options: beef roast with “mashies,” liver & onions, or Hamburger Helper. I used to pray for “door #3” because my step-father was the Hamburger Helper king. (Sometimes Tuna Helper but Chicken Helper didn’t come out until 1983.) I may have some stories later about this guy too, but his mastery with a “Helper” meal was one of the high points.

My mom had this knack for cooking a beef roast until it resembled a hard, black rock. Remembering this makes me question my parenting skills today. My own kids can be really picky when it comes to food. Of course it’s my fault for allowing it. My daughter won’t eat a hot dog cooked on a grill because she doesn’t like “black marks” on it. And here I had to ingest what probably tasted worse than the charcoal briquettes.

What can I say about the liver and onion meal beyond the obvious? Despite mom’s uncanny ability to burn everything, these were the two ingredients she undercooked. The liver was cooked just to a pale grey color and the onions just to the point of soggy. Okay, “EW?” Ironically, my older sister always says now that she really loves liver and onions. The only possible explanation is that she has some food version of Stockholm Syndrome.

Suffice it to say that my unhealthy relationship with food started at a very young age.

Moving on...

During my senior year of high school I moved in with my dad. Did I mention that my dad was remarried to my mother’s (much younger) sister? In normal circles, this might be considered the “weird” part. But my childhood reality was so off the grid, this is now just a basic fact about my family. What's Springer worthy about "Uncle Dad?" Wait, don't answer that.

My dad and aunt/step-mom’s house was like living in a grocery store. Even more exciting to me than the fact that they had one of the very first Apple home computers was the fact that they were early adopters of the “juice box.” They also had Oreos covered in mint chocolate. They had not just peanut butter but Nutella.

We had big dinners with crescent rolls, salad, sausages (hot and sweet) and big cheese raviolis. My dad served freshly grated Parmesan cheese instead of the powdered stuff. If we ate enough food, we got more food in the form of dessert. Maybe even a Fruit-Roll Up chaser.

I don’t remember exactly how much weight I gained during that adolescent food honeymoon, but it was a lot. I remember a specific outing to Hampton Beach with a boyfriend. He told me that I had a pretty face but that the new stretch marks on my thighs made me look “old ladyish.” Lovely.

My first year in college I did justice to the “freshman 15” tradition, with the help of a hefty dormitory food plan of course. I also met my next boyfriend who one day commented about how cute my ass jiggled when I walked across the room. (Can I pick a guy with no filter or what??)

The next day I discovered the school workout room. This budding awareness of physical fitness opened up a whole new realm which would have both positive and negative effects on my life from that point through today.

I met my first husband at a gym. It’s ironic that those years mark the “rock bottom” of my low self-esteem since I was probably in the best physical condition of my life. Maybe 102 lbs (I know!), strong and muscular, but lean. I look back at pictures and wish I had felt prouder of my well-sculpted “pipes and pillars.”

Those years further etched mental programming which told me that in order to make exercise count for anything, I had to spend at least two hours at a gym. (This is not how I feel today and we'll talk about this more later.)

In retrospect, I’m sure I worked obsessively at my external appearance because I felt so crappy on the inside.

Plus, I was married to a sex addict. Even though those were the early days when *gasp* you had to pay for online porn, my ex-husband spent much of his day downloading naked pictures of other women. Somehow I thought I needed to look like those chicks to be “successful” at my marriage. Having read my previous posts, you know how this eventually worked out.

Flash forward to meeting my current husband. (This was 12 years ago this May if you can handle "flashing forward" to the past.). At that point I had been consistently single and "working on myself" for several years. I’d say I was in pretty good shape, both mentally and physically.

Not sure if it was the process of falling in love or maybe spending more time than usual in horizontal positions or what, but I definitely got a little chunky during our first year of dating.

I also started a new job which included traveling to fabulous places where there was lots of booze and lots of food. On one such trip to Puerto Rico, I tried to put on a favorite skirt and could not zip it up. Yikes. I was either really fat or I had colon cancer. Actually I was fat, but for a reason. I was pregnant.

Stay tuned for Part Two of “Does this blog make my butt look fat?”
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jmvcep said...

I have the opposite dysmorphic disorder. I look in the mirror and think I am fabulous and then see a picture and say yikes. I think almost everyone has gone through self doubt. But good for you at seeing what was right in front of you. You are fabulous and 40!

Charlene said...

Oh trust me - our "reverse dysmorphic body image disorder" will definitely be addressed in a future post!!

carolinebender said...

Don't kid yourself - saltines and butter are awesome.

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