A year or so before my mother died, I decided there was one subject I could not broach with her.
At one point, I concluded that anything that had to do with diets, weight loss, weight management or my relationship with food (other than sharing great recipes) was off limits.
Without making any kind of formal announcement, I quietly closed that avenue of conversation with my mother. There seemed to be no point in keeping it open.
Let me Explain
I have always “struggled” with my weight. Or at least, that is what I have always thought.
In reality, I have only technically been “overweight” at two points in my life. The first time was after surgery in 2010 when my exercise habits had to change dramatically. The second time is now, after having had two babies.
What was happening before now amounts to this: I was never as skinny as my mother had been as a child and young woman.
This is not to throw shade on my mother.
I can see in hindsight, however, that her own relationship with food was likely somewhat disordered. It’s not surprising, therefore, that she should unconsciously communicate some of those disordered feelings to her daughter.
Building Frustration Over Years
When I was a teenager, my mother and I started having conversations about food.
We would talk about our habits, and we would talk about healthy habits. We would compare the two, analyse ourselves, agree that we knew what we had to do to improve.
We’d talk and talk and talk, but rarely did anything change.
Eventually, these conversations felt so cyclical, so repetitive, so fruitless and ultimately so demoralizing, that I gently but firmly put a stop to them.
It Wasn’t About Me
Again with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that these conversations weren’t so much about me as they were about my mother.
I had always thought that my mom struggled with her weight after she hit menopause. I recently learned, however, that her efforts to control her weight began long before then.
This surprised me. I always remember my mother being slim. I can remember her wearing a bikini at the beach on summer holidays. If I can remember it, I was likely five or six, making her at least 39 years old.
It turns out, though, that her weight and her relationship with food were probably two of her biggest demons.
The Effect On Me
It’s funny how now it seems so clear, so obvious, that these searching, analytical conversations about our weight and how we ate were more for her benefit than for mine.
In her effort to talk herself into a healthy mindset, she unconsciously made me feel like I was failing, like I weighed too much, and like I wasn’t healthy enough.
I know she didn’t mean to do this. I know none of this was malicious. But the truth is that these conversations, while they were probably meant to be helpful, were actually quite damaging to my self image and self esteem.
So Here We Are
Our habits are our own. No one else can make our choices for us. However, the example we see from the people we are closest to, the people we look up to, and the people we love most can have a huge influence.
All this to say that I have a few demons (some inherited, some my own) to push back against.
One demon that I have to fight hard against might have been inherited (my mother never said this), or it could come from societal attitudes. That is the idea that being overweight is somehow a moral failing.
It is not.
Just because I struggle to maintain a healthy weight (and I define “healthy weight” by whatever weight I need to be at for my back to feel good), does not make me a weak person.
A Question of Habit
That’s what it comes down to. Our habits are the things that we do without even realizing it. We’re so used to them that we don’t consciously choose to do them.
That is why they are so hard to change.
My aim is to change my eating habits from ones of extremes (Eat all the things! Deny myself everything!) to ones of moderation.
It’s not easy. It’s not going to happen overnight. And it won’t likely happen without help.
Which is why I write about it here. Because you’ve all been so helpful.
My mother was helpful, too. And I know she would be proud of me right now. She wanted for me what she felt unable to do herself. With your help, dear readers, I’ll get there.