In my earlier years… teens to fifties (yes, I AM that mature! but I prefer to say well seasoned) I always had 2 sizes in my wardrobe. I noticed in the late fall and winter months I seemed to gain a few pounds and no, I did not panic by the extra 10 or so pounds. It made sense to me.
I rarely went to a gym so during the winter months my only exercise was perhaps shovelling snow and dancing to music in my bedroom and as I grew older, married and had kids, that season had not changed much. I shovelled snow with the kids, and cleaned the house…often pausing for a Mrs. Doubtfire move…and pretend my vacuum attachment was my microphone. Yes, the children laughed for a short span until they were over 7 years and thought “mommy is so weird”. So it made sense to gain a bit more and the meals were very different in the winter…it’s cold in Quebec in the wintertime…you need warm tasty comfort food, right?
I do remember fond memories of the long long walks with my friend Janet, however, even during deep freezes but we sure walked slow so we could savour our chats for hours and hours. To this day, I have never met a friend to share special walks/talks with. But those were talking walks and not geared to lose any calories. We were both moms of young children and it was our precious escape….but, I digress.
Come Springtime, the bikes would get oiled and ready; walking became such a pleasure after being stuck inside for so long; registering the kids for swimming lessons, soccer or baseball and yet, hockey was still winding down slowly…which also added to the extra running around I had to do including working and studying for my degree part time. And summer came around and more biking, sailing, swimming, walking, walking and more walking…and eating lighter because our summers get hot and very very muggy, that it just made common sense to shed the winter pounds naturally.
Your body has a natural set point and when you diet, you actually raise that set point…I learned that ONCE in my 40’s trying to shed a few pounds. Well, I sure learned my lesson and did not resort to that again. Yes, eating healthy and exercising which can include 3 times of 30 mins or more of rigorous walking can make a difference. But HELLO! the moms out there who have to run around after the children, pick up and pick up for the thousandth time, work, bring back and forth from daycare…that is plenty of exercise, thank you very much!
I have had friends who have gone on protein diets, stapled their insides and gained it all back. I have seen some lose a lot of weight and kept it up as their new found religion…exercise exercise and eat very very healthy…and admire their perseverance. That is awesome and the healthier way to go…eat healthy. But A diet means to deprive yourself, so what is really the point once you get off the darn diet??
I remember after my first child listening to a friend who was going to Weight Watchers and sharing lots of things she was learning every week…it made sense!! Just listening to her every week helped me get into some better eating habits like not eating the leftovers off my kid’s plate plus my own plate! But that was eating healthy…watching what you eat and how much; Also trying to understand your relationship with food…like eating while watching t.v….no no!! or eating on the run standing at the counter…another no no. I am not preaching here…I know I actually eat too much and exercise too little and my metabolism has dramatically slowed down over the years. I am writing this because it worries me to see so many people especially women/girls become obsessed with this.
If you say you want to get into a healthier lifestyle…regiment…like Weight Watchers or similar healthy changes in your life…that sounds reasonable as it is not just focusing on weight but on planning differently…changing your relationship with food…period. If you are not too sure where to start, then truly it is worth seeing a nutritionist to help you and educate you on what to look for when doing your groceries etc.
But to be obsessed with this…sheeeesh…it is sad as life is too short…you only get ONE body and ONE life to live in it…so how you choose to do that may take some serious thinking. If you are in your 20’s and are obsessed with your body image, weight etc…how will you even manage with the slightest changes in your life…being in a relationship…having children…struggling with sickness…work…etc.? I guess saying “don’t sweat the small stuff” would be like talking to a wall.
I speak to youths in my job who struggle with trying to control their lives…their weight is sometimes the only thing that makes them feel in control. I recently went to a lecture at the Douglas Hospital (mental health hospital in Montreal) and the topic was eating disorders and anorexia nervosa. The psychiatrist was phenomenal. He explained how often we hear about a group of young teens go on a diet together and within a week or two most have gone off of it but ONE may have been drawn in…trapped into this vicious cycle. One diet can alter chemicals in the brain of a young person. I did not know that. Wow!! So in time it becomes an addiction…and it is difficult to stop…it takes a lot more than willpower. This I did not know.
One of the psychiatrist’s patient was at the lecture to answer questions if we had any. She had been his patient for over 10 years. She said she was dong well and going up hill but the struggle was always present. She looked like a modern version of a woman starving from third world countires…really! I could only see the frame of her delicate body and large bones…so very thin and frail. She said, it hurt her when people would actually stop her on the street to ask her, “Are you anorexic?” OMG, I felt so moved and admired her for sharing her story with us. What courage it must have taken her to talk to us. You could tell there was fond admiration for the psychiatrist as well.
I also remember a few girls struggling with bulimia when I worked at a school. One was part of group of 12 yr olds daring each other to purge…and low and behold she was the only one who continued. This affected her for years.
All this to say that it is important to be aware of our preoccupations with body image and weight. As women, as mothers…watch how you are behaving…you are models to your children too. Don’t ever doubt that your children do not notice and some learn the wrong message.
As I mentioned for the first 40 years of my life…I did not have to struggle with worrying about this and I was lucky not to fall into that trap. My mother was on and off diets most of her life until her late 70’s. Diets and purging and on and on. Other members of my family struggled with this too…I guess I loved to eat too much or I just had a different predisposition than they did. Thank goodness! Although I no longer fall into that category now with age, slower metabolism, sedentary job, too little exercise and my fondness for food has not diminished…I am in the wee beginning of the cycle change…pre-pre-pre-contemplation…:)
When my daughter was in gymnastics at 9 and I overheard her and her friend in the dressing room of a store one day trying on bathing suits and her friend said, “Oh, I’m so fat…look at my big tummy!” She was 9!! and she was skinnier than my daughter. Boy oh boy, when I got home I threw out my scale. And I tried being more mindful about complaining about myself when a garment just did not seem to fit right. Yup, your little one is looking UP to you!!
Boys experience similar struggles. The preteen who can’t wait to get muscles…the teen who works out too much and may delve into steroids…the girls who talk about how they admire those muscle arms and six-packs of the guy at the gym. Again, pressure to fit a certain body image.
I remember watching the movie “Real Women have Curves”. Wow! That is such an awesome movie about an 18-year-old girl becoming a woman, falling in love and giving of herself to her lover for the first time. The pressure in a Catholic Mexican family to remain a virgin until you are married was huge. The girl also struggled with accepting her body. Her older sister had a sweatshop sewing Size 2 dresses for American companies. The message is pretty powerful and how important it is to accept yourself for who you are.
All this to say…if you want to make some important nutritious choices and changes in your life…explore long term healthy alternatives and not fads and things that can put you on that spiral which can be harmful to your physical and mental health.
Also keep in mind we all have different body types we have genetically inherited…
For those on healthy changes…kudos to you!!
…now what’s for dinner…???:)
© Cheryl-Lynn Roberts, April 2013