Saturday, February 2, 2008

The History of Weight Loss (as told by me!)

Well, I'm getting ready to jump back up on the dieting bandwagon. The department I work in is starting up a version of 'The Biggest Loser'. There are already a lot of big losers there, but I guess not so much in the weight loss division.

So begins the weight loss attempt for the umpteenth time. I have been losing (and gaining) weight for what seems like my entire life. As far back as I can recall, I have been surrounded by people obsessed with weight loss. I have been on or heard of every fad diet that's come along in the past 30 years. The Dolly Parton Diet (cabbage soup), the Bloomingdale's Diet, the Scarsdale Diet, the Rice Diet, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Atkins and South Beach, just to name a few. I am a professional dieter.

I wasn't always heavy. I really didn't start to put on weight until I was around 8 years old. I didn't have the best of childhoods, and to cope, I think I turned to food. I had a wonderful great-grandmother who spoiled me rotten, and let me eat whatever I pleased. I was chubby throughout all of grade school for sure. When I started in Junior High, my mom really started cracking the diet whip. I lost some weight as my body changed (I blossomed!), but she constantly chided my heavy thighs and hips. My well-meaning grandmother gave me a Weight Watchers cookbook from the 1960's that I won't even discuss here. Over and over again, I heard from my mom and other family members, 'you have such a pretty face. Don't you want a nice thin body to go with it?' I'm sure their words were meant as encouragement and 'constructive criticism', but they made me feel like I never quite measured up.

It's only now as a 40-year old woman that I understand where my self-loathing comes from. When you hear an endless stream of "you're fat, you need to lose weight, that looks awful on you, boys won't want to date a fat girl", etc., you begin to believe it. It becomes so ingrained on your sub-conscious, that you don't even realize that you feel that way about yourself. But you realize that it is a part of your mindset, when you notice that there aren't any full-length mirrors in your house. If you've ever dreaded going shopping because the thought of trying on clothes leaves you in a cold sweat, those words are still affecting you. It doesn't help when you pick up any woman's magazine and see models who are thin and smiling. In our society today, just as it has since the dawn of advertising, thin = happy.

Now that I'm going to try to lose weight again, I'm looking back at all the other times I tried to lose and why they failed. And I realized that I never tried to lose the weight for the right reasons. I dieted and lost for events, like getting married. I dieted to look good enough to find a man. I skipped meals or picked at them like a bird to please my mom. I never tried to lose the weight for the most important person, me; I never tried to lose the weight for the right reason, to stay healthy.

So this time, I'm really going to TRY to do this for me. Not for my mom, who will never be pleased no matter what anyone does; not for my husband, but he never says anything negative about my weight, bless his heart. He simply says that he wants me to be happy and healthy. Not even for Kai, although it will help me to stay an active part of his life. Now is for me, for my own sanity and self preservation.

I wish that every woman who has had a life long struggle with her weight could learn to let go of the self hatred and shame and guilt that so many of us live with. We should learn to accept ourselves as we are now, and to love ourselves for the people we are. Not hate ourselves because we're not the person others wish we were.

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