Sunday, December 1, 2013
Leftovers from Thanksgiving - Sometimes They're Hard to Swallow
Lately I've been thinking about a lot of things. I've been in a meditative mindset for a while now, actually. I think about my health and how far I've come this year. I think about how blessed I am to have my family and my marriage. I think about how proud I am of the men my 15 year old boys are becoming. I think about how much I want to teach my girls about being real and also how I want to protect them from the ugly expectations the world puts on women. My girls are 8 and 10 years old, the younger has more of a long-legged, skinny-no-matter-what-she-eats type of frame and the older is more of a short-legged (like her mama) curvy girl, who has learned early on how hateful comments about weight can hurt you to the core. Mind you, she is NOT fat. She's just a pre-pubescent girl who is a little softer around the edges.
For the last several months life has been handing out one extreme slap in the face after another and I have been taking it all in stride until this last month and a half when things really began to catch up with me. Stress eating moved in and I allowed it to. My weight loss topped out at 55 pounds and I've been holding steady other than wrangling back and forth with 5-10 of those pounds in recent weeks. It seems to be a gain/lose situation right now. I'm a little disappointed in myself for not still losing weight, but I know that it's a decision that I make with every bite I put in my mouth and every run I choose to skip. I'm a little disappointed that this (mental) plateau didn't hit after an 80 pound loss, but I'm also not going to hate myself because I have stalled for the moment. All in all, when I look for positives, I'm proud of my 50 pound loss this year. I'm proud that this Thanksgiving I was able to wear a size 16 while at this same time last year, I was poured into a size 22. I'm thankful that I can buy a normal misses size XL and not the 2X from the women's plus-size department. I'm very happy with my doctor's reaction to the weight loss when I had to visit her last week. In all those respects I have come a long way this year. And, by golly, I'm proud!
So, this brings me to the ever-painful, must-endure-seeing-family-members-who-insist-on-remarking-about-your-fat Holiday Season. I love this time of year, but I also loathe it as well - for that one particular reason. If I could skip extended family gatherings altogether, that would be great. In these recent weeks before Thanksgiving I have rehearsed in my head, as I always have for as long as I can remember, how to handle the one thing I can count on - fat comments from HATEful family members. I knew that everyone would be looking to see if my weight loss had increased from the last time they had seen me and that they'd probably realize that I'm at a standstill, or as they'd like to perceive it, I'm completely back-sliding and I've gained nearly all my weight back! I have dealt with being treated badly, in regards to weight, for my entire life. Several family members have been nothing but hateful toward me for as long as I can remember. I have come to really despise these people - even more so as an adult because I cannot fathom how any human being can speak such ugliness to another human being, especially a child! I'll never understand it. I'm sure it has more to do with the insecurities of the person speaking the hate than it does with the handful of extra pounds I may have had as a child, but the damaging effects are very real and they never go away or even lessen for that matter.
Another thing I painfully think about and feel anxious about is how to handle a painful-comment-situation with my older daughter should one arise. What to do, what to say, how to make her feel like she is perfect just the way she is when some hateful adult wants nothing more than to make her feel bad about her body and ultimately herself. So far I've been lucky and haven't had to address anything too major in regards to any of this with her. Although, she remembers clearly a situation that I had to deal with myself in regards to a hateful attack on my own weight a couple of years ago. Besides, she's already self-conscious about her body and she sees the physical differences between herself and her sister. She wonders why her belly is round and her pants always need hemming. She wonders when her body will change. She reads books about self-care and worries about eating egg yolks at breakfast. She covers herself up at all times - even during her beloved dance class, where she always stands in the back of the studio away from all the other girls. Even when she is known to do the best splits out of anyone else in the entire class. She is tender-hearted and compassionate. She loves animals like no one else I've ever known. She is also painfully observant of everything and everyone.
Yesterday, at our family Thanksgiving dinner, without me knowing it, she had to handle a situation where an older family member singled her out in front of everyone and told her that she should 'watch what she's eating, because she's getting FAT.' I didn't know that this had even happened until late in the evening when Thanksgiving was over and the kitchen was being cleaned for the very last time. So all the mental preparations I had done to sail through yet another family holiday and keep all the fat comments in check were for nothing. I wasn't there to protect her from being singled out among the other children, I wasn't there to explain to the old man just how SICK and TIRED I am of having to be ready defend myself and my child at every holiday gathering and how every gathering leaves me mentally exhausted and feeling like I don't belong - like I should sit in a corner and observe, leaving the fun for the normal family members (whatever that means). I didn't get to make a scene in front of the family, leaving everyone who'd be there to witness it scared to cross my path again, sending them gossiping about it to those family members who weren't there, warning them about my rage. I didn't get to cry tears of a broken heart in front of the perpetrator, making him see that I and my child are both human beings, too, and that carrying around a few extra pounds does not mean that your feelings don't get hurt and that your heart doesn't get ripped to irreparable shreds by hateful words. No, I didn't get to do any of that. I wasn't there in that moment to protect her from the ugliness that gets covered up all too often in the word family.
The only thing that soothed my pain for her was the fact that a cousin, reportedly, did step up and handle the situation with the older family member in a manner that I appreciated. I just wish I would have been there for my girl, because I know that little confrontation broke her heart. I know that this will make her even more self-conscious than she already is and will distort her body-image even more as she is entering those delicate pre-teen years. I know this because this morning, when I awoke, I found her sleeping beside the book I gave her as a gift. She goes to that book with all the questions she has about being a girl and dealing with her emotions and feelings about many different things. She never said a word to me about this situation, but she may have mentioned it to her sister and her friend since they all camped out together in the living room.
All of this brings me here: do I ask her about it? Will my asking about it only show that other people are talking about her and this situation behind her back? Does the fact that someone thought it should be brought to my attention reiterate what she feels is probably true? Do I just let it go unless she comes to me? Do I tell her to stand up for herself when she is feeling attacked - even by a family member? Does telling her to stand up to the fat-police do anything more than make her feel like she's less-than and to expect to be sidelined every single time we have to do these family things? Do I just let her learn on her own to rehearse her own defense against ugly comments the way I have done for the past 30+ years? I really don't know the answer to any of these.
I do know, however, that I am tired. I am tired of feeling like I need to explain my weight or the weight of my child. I am tired of it being the sole focus of conversation with everybody, all the time. I am tired of feeling like such a failure with my extra, unwanted 40 pounds and like those pounds somehow make me a bad person. I'm tired of watching my daughter, to whom I've tried so hard to teach self-love, get caught up in the same ugliness that has plagued me since childhood. It feels as though the 50 pounds I have lost and the progress I've made are somehow invisible to these people who insist on hurtful comments. No matter how much I improve, I only hear the negatives. It doesn't matter that we stay far away from junk food and how everything we eat is homemade from whole foods. None of it matters. I'll always be that girl to those people, no matter how much I lose or how many miles I run. Maybe that is the biggest reason for my opening up about this right now - just maybe I refuse to care more about these people than myself anymore and I am ready to take the respect that I and my daughter deserve. At this point though, I only want to protect my daughter from being that girl, as well. I want her to know that she is beautiful just the way she is, that she is NOT fat, that she is healthy and her body is beginning to bloom into life and that is an amazing thing to be cherished, not despised. I think I also want to teach her how to let go of these people who continually hurt her feelings and treat her badly, even if they are family. They don't deserve to be her family - or mine.