Unbearable Weight

Candace, 26 July 2005, Comments Off on Unbearable Weight
Categories: Bodies, Women's Studies

My mother was an on-again off-again member of Weight Watchers. Throughout my childhood she was a constant dieter: she did aerobics every morning (from the t.v.) and several nights each week (t.v. or at a centre), took diet pills, laxatives, measured her food, recorded every bite – or skipped meals completely. I don’t remember her ever sitting down with the kids at mealtime (my dad worked afternoon shift). I do not remember her being overweight (how could she be with all of this obsessive behaviour?) but she must have been unhappy with her body or else why would she have tortured herself this way?

I picked up her habits early and by the time I was twelve I also hated my body. I would choose an arbitrary number on the scale and decide that this would be my ideal weight of the week. I would skip meals until I had reached my ‘goal’. I remember making the concious realization that there was so little in my ife that I could control that reaching this “goal”, this arbitrary number on the display, would mean I was good at something. It never occurred to me and no one pointed out that I was a growing child or that what I was doing and what my mother was teaching me was unhealthy.

I wore baggy clothes and no one to my knowledge ever new of my new hobby. In high school I remember being humiliated when the gym teacher weighed us all and called out the numbers to the class. I hated being the heaviest, weighing in at a hefty (not) 115 lbs. I was also the tallest girl in the class. My already non-existent self-esteem went downhill from then on. A large part of this was because I was teased for being ugly (see week 6). Though no one ever called me ‘fat’ to my face, my weight was the only thing I had the power to change. I wanted to fit in and it seemed that being thin was the primary prerequisite to belonging.

My two best weight loss discoveries were morning sickness and poverty. Each of my three pregnancies resulted in weight loss of at least 15 lbs. I felt awful, my baby was at risk from the lack of nutrition, but I looked great. I could not function because I had no calories in my body from which I could draw energy, but I was thin. Luckily for my babies I had a few pounds extra from which they could draw but I would not recommend this as a healthy way to lose weight. I was not physically fit from conditioning my body with exercise and good food: I was ill. I avoided hospitalization the third time because the lack of support at home meant there was no one else to watch the other kids. I promised my health care provider to try harder to eat. I am lucky my kids were all born healthy.

I was really really poor after my third child was born. I supported my family for almost a year with the Child Tax Benefit and emergency food from the local health and play centres until I could return to ballet teaching. I got really skinny. Not only had I lost weight during the pregnancy but I was now nursing 2 children and trying to find work which was compatible with my children’s needs. I was miserable: my kids were hungry and they hated the food I made with all the dried beans the food banks gave us.

Now as a student receiving OSAP I have never felt so rich. I can buy groceries most every week. At first it was wonderful to eat and to build up some reserves but I have become dissatisfied with my body once again. I have no time for exercise and I am getting older. My life feels out of control and I find comfort in skipping meals. Taking control over my eating lets me believe that control over all the rest of the things in my life will happen someday. I hate the roundness of my body, I hate the extra flesh. It makes me feel lazy. It is hard sometimes to not eat but when I think of it as fasting and all the benefits that cleansing our body systems offers it is easier.

I live in an area of the city where most of the families around me are working class. So many of the parents I see bringing their kids to school are obese. It is hard to remember that poverty brings obesity not the other way around but these walking reminders help.

I am trying to change my habits around eating and exercise. I know I feel better when I’m physically active but I so desperately want to be done with school that I continually sign up for course overloads so that I can finish sooner. This leads me no time to do the things that are nurturing so I burnout. and then the cycle repeats. It is hard to do what is best for my body when it is my mind that pays the bills these days. I know though that if I don’t take care of my body I risk serious health problems.


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