For as long as I can remember, I've been overweight. 

The summer after eigth grade I remember asking my mom if I could join Weight Watchers with her and my grandmother.  Every Saturday morning the three of us would drive together to our meeting, diet journal in hand, worrying about the dreaded "weigh-in."  I was the youngest member.  At my first meeting, I remember the woman in charge asking me in front of everyone what vegetables I liked.  I couldn't even think of one. 

I looked at my mom, and she answered for me, "Uh, you like potatoes, right Dana?  She likes potatoes!" 

The woman responded, "Well, potatoes aren't considered vegetables on the plan.  They are considered a starch.  We've got our work cut out for us!" 

I was mortified.

I look back at pictures from my childhood and I'm confused.  I don't see this huge, fat, ugly person that I thought I was.  I'm not sure if this is because America has become so accustomed to being overweight that we no longer see a moderately overweight person as fat, but moreso as just chubby.   Or, maybe it's because I wasn't really that huge, fat, ugly person I thought I was. 

I know I wasn't thin, but maybe I wasn't fat either.  Maybe I just needed someone to explain to me what a vegetable was and how it was beneficial if I consumed several of them a day.  Maybe someone could have told me that I wasn't really as enormous as I made myself out to be.  Or, maybe, someone could have said that looks weren't everything and being intelligent and well rounded and an all around good person is actually more important than how a person looks. 

Maybe we need to stop putting our daughters and other women down and stop focusing on how we all look.  Maybe we should tell girls that achieving an A in math is actually a better skill than achieving a size 2 body.

They will see on TV and in the movies that it's better to be thin.  Thin models, thin actors, thin mints...er, no on that last one.  But, the focus on a young woman's body is not something that's going to go away.  The pressure to lose weight--and sometimes in an unhealthy and dangerous way--will always be there. 

I know there's a balance in there somewhere.  I know it's important to promote self esteem in our children, and I'm not dumb enough to think that it all could be based on what they posess inside, despite the fact that it should be.  But, for every time someone tells Leah that she's adorable, I'm going to whisper in her ear that she says a mean alphabet and see where it takes us.  We are going to focus on eating and looking healthy, and not necessarily on losing weight and dieting.  We are going to make sure she understands that what's in her head is what's going to carry her through life, so she should always focus on preserving that.  On growing her mind through education and experience and life's natural highs, and I'm going to tell her that the day she stops learning is the day she stops living.

And for the love of god if she wants to join Weight Watchers with me in the 8th grade, I'll make sure she knows a damn potato is considered a starch. 

April, 1994

1 comment:

april said...