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Mother of food problems

My mother is undermining my diet. A couple weeks ago she started cleaning out the refrigerator before the big move by cooking all the frozen pumpkin from Halloween into pumpkin bread for her church group. She also cooked two big pans of brownies and left them right on the counter for me to see and smell and drool over when I came home hungry from work. (Psst! Don’t tell the church people about the drool!) This happened to be the same weekend when I’d read it might be a good idea to break your diet for a day to get out of a plateau. Not fair, attacking me while I’m at my weakest!

The next week I skipped breakfast before taking my cat for his annual check up and nearly fainted in the veterinarian’s office because it was so warm. That’s totally the wrong type of doctor’s office to have a medical emergency in. When I came home I had plans to make an omelet, but my mom had cooked some Pillsbury Grand’s Biscuits which I grabbed because they were there even though they are far too high calorie and high GI.

She also seems to be coping with all the moving stress by buying junk food and thinking a good hiding place for the Double Stuf Oreos (not a typo, Nabisco only puts one “f” in “Stuf”) is on the shelf right above the trash can. Perhaps she thinks we’re so filthy that we never throw anything out and would never see them. Yesterday I absently chomped on two Oreos before checking the back of the package to see that each cookie contains 70 calories. 70 calories! I nearly tossed my cookies in shock. That’s more than one of my yogurt cups, all devoured in two bites! I’d have to go run a mile to work off what I’d been able to eat in all of 20 seconds. It was truly horrifying.

I will cut my mother some slack since she’s under a lot of stress and because I’m grateful she never hounded me about my weight as a child. Everyone I have ever met who has had such a mother has told me it’s royally fucked up their body image and self esteem. Never once have I met someone who’s said “My mom hounded me constantly about my weight as a child and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me!” Nope. Hounding a kid about their weight is sure to lead to years of therapy. Unless you are a psychologist trying to add to your client base, don’t do it!

However, my brother and I agree that our mother has always been the weakest link in the dieting chain. If you open the freezer door to see two half gallons of Edy’s ice cream nestled between the frozen broccoli and peas, she’s probably the one who bought it (which she did, last weekend). She probably got it for buy one, get one free, as though the calories come at half off too. The “it was a great price” excuse is her favorite rationalization for buying bad food, followed only by the “I’m making it for someone else” excuse, like the before mentioned church brownies.

I’m not a food nazi. If my mother wants to eat crap, it’s her business. I have however asked her to hide the crap food she buys. Bury those ice cream cartons beneath the bags of asparagus. I’ll never find them there! But she keeps forgetting to do this and it’s really beginning to piss me off. She’s stressed out. I get it. But is it really that hard to stash the cookies under your bed instead of in the cupboard? Geez.

Needless to say, it’s led to a couple small slips on my part. I’m not completely blaming my mother for these slips. I’m a grown woman. I control what I put in my mouth. But I also know what I put in my mouth is determined by what I can reach, and she’s been putting a lot of bad stuff within arms length. I feel like I’m a smoker trying to quit the habit while living with someone who’s smoking two packs a day.

I think moving out will be good because I won’t be colliding with these tempting yet terrible foods while I’m searching the fridge for an afternoon snack. Plus, my mother can eat whatever shit she pleases without me having to harass her about hiding it.

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17 Comments

Eh... not so much • May 22, 2006 at 3:28 pm

Yeah, I started Weight Watchers after I moved out of my parents’ house back in 2000, and it was much simpler when I only had myself to worry about food-wise. Hang in there!

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Jester • May 22, 2006 at 4:32 pm

The only caveat to that logic is that when you live alone, if you want a small taste of something, no one else is there to eat the rest!

Weight Watchers (my plan of choice) will tell you to go ahead and allow yourself a small serving of something if you’re really craving it, but getting rid of what’s left after your “small serving” can be a challenge.

So there are some times that I just try to work through a craving, knowing that if I give in it could be just apocalyptic!

But, that minor inconvenience pales in comparison to being the only person determining what food enters the front door. (And having 100% power over the remote control!)

Jester

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Sarah • May 22, 2006 at 8:40 pm

I totally feel your pain. I love my mom more than anything in this world, but she doesn’t understand that if she offers me food, I can’t refuse it.

I love your page, by the way. I’ve been reading your blog for almost a year now, and I’m so jealous because you’re still losing weight, and I’ve been stuck at a plateau for 2 years now. But you look magnificent. Truly. The transformation I see when I look at your progress photos, and now the one of you in your dress, it’s just stunning. You look so radiant and happy, and I have such admiration for you.

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Suzie • May 22, 2006 at 9:02 pm

OK, I’ll be the first to bite on this. My Mom did hound me about my weight, and honestly it was a good thing. But to get to why it was good, I must tell the whole story.

I was always overweight-my Dad’s pet name for me was fatso. My Mom had me on a diet at about 10 years old-but before that she was constantly dieting herself-so was sort of always giving dieting advice before the first official diet began.

I hated the nagging. Hated. it. And I swore I’d never ever do that to a child of mine. I was moderatly overweight as a teenager-wore a size 12 in a size 8 household. But it was my Mom’s nagging that kept me there.

I grew up, moved out, got married, had 4 babies, got fatter. And I followed through on my promise. I never nagged my daughters about their weight-never.

One daughter weighs nearly 400 lbs. The other, about 300.

I have given them a much bigger burden than my Mom gave me. Yes, she made me feel bad about my body size, but she also kept me from being obese.

So I ask you. Which is worse? A complex or terrific health problems, and social rejection?

So I thank my Mom for her nagging. I wish I’d nagged my daughters when they were young enough to actually listen to me.

But you can’t unwind the past, and I hope someday they will choose to take the path you have choosen. And I don’t even care if they blame me for their problems as long as they attempt to fix them.

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PastaQueen • May 22, 2006 at 10:20 pm

Suzie – There’s got to be a happy medium somewhere between the extremes of nagging and not nagging at all. I think finding that medium is one of the reasons parenting is so hard.

Sarah – Aww, you’re so sweet. And hey, it’s better to be in a plateau for 2 years to gain it all back! I dunno how long I’m going to be stuck in this plateau but I hope never to gain back what I’ve lost.

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Kyra • May 23, 2006 at 7:09 am

There is a happy medium – it’s all about educating your children on a healthy lifestyle, not a size 8. When you make how they look and what they weigh the focus of the “lesson” you teach self-depreciation and a self value based on those things. But when you focus on “eat this apple because it’ll make you feel strong, and you’ll be able to play longer” the focus, you find a way to communicate the proper habits without demolishing a value of self.

I grew up with a beyond-nagging mom. She was a bulemic anorexic. I was NOT a heavy child, but she had us all on different diets (anti-sugar was a good one, no white anything in the house. I remember going to my friends houses and practically fainting when I saw the fruitypebbles in their cubbord.) So I have some deeply rooted issues and opinions on the nagging. She used to look us over critically all the time. Look at the sizes we were wearing, etc. She did nag about everything we ate, etc.

And then I DID get fat, after I got married. I got obese. All by myself. All because of MYSELF.

I had to dig my way out of that, and all of that was before I had kids. I lost the weight, and had children, and now I’m even a certified personal trainer. But my biggest concern in all of this is what to communicate to my children and how. Nagging isn’t the way. Ignoring it isn’t either. It’s a fine line you have to walk, and focusing on health instead of making it personal is the only path I that doesn’t HURT someone in the process.

Proper nutrition (with balanced practiced moderation of “treats” so there isn’t deprivation either ;) )and activities are essential tools for my children to lead a healthy lifestyle. The best thing I can do is give them these tools along with a healthy sense of self so they’ll use them.

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little miss ess • May 23, 2006 at 9:16 am

I feel yer pain, PQ. Right now at my apartment, The Mister has a pint of Haagen Dasz Mint Chocolate Chip (my favorite!), some chocolate covered raisins, and cookies. Before he moved in, those things were never in my pantry or refrigerator. I know better to keep them around, because if I know they are there, they call to me, and I can’t rest until I’ve eaten every bit of whatever it is. When The Mister first moved in, I started having a little of whatever treat he was having. He’d bake a pan of brownies and I’d have one. And then another. And then I’d be in there evening it up, you know, so it wasn’t crooked where pieces had been cut. Almost 30 lbs later, I realized that I just can’t eat that stuff regularly. It’s been hard, but I have learned not to do it. Not even to sneak it. I think it’s because I now really do have an idea of how it makes me feel physically when I eat that kind of stuff. Not good.

Anyway, you’re getting your own place soon! Then you can choose not to even bring it into your apartment.

Plateaus are infuriating (I’m having one right now), but just keep chipping away at it.

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Jen • May 23, 2006 at 10:01 am

I don’t think you should ask your mom to move/hide food you’ve decided you shouldn’t be eating. You do live in her house, she bought the stuff for herself. She should be able to put her stuff where ever she wants. You’re to the age where you’re an adult living in her house, not a kid with impluse control issues that has to be parented.

Not eating Oreos is your deal, not hers. Though it would help you if you didn’t see stuff you’ve decided not to eat, it’s not other people’s responsibility to make your decisions easier for you to stick to. It’s all you baby. It always has been.

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K • May 23, 2006 at 11:00 am

I am kind of with you on this one. Although I can very much see that if one is going to make good food choices, one should be able to resist the bad food even if it is visible and available – sometimes it just doesn’t work. As another person who still lives with her family, I sympathise.

I’m much better at resisting temptation in the supermarket than in the kitchen, myself. For example, if everybody is having a delicious dessert I can’t not have any. I can have a small piece, but if I don’t have any, I’ll probably eat something else silly later. Fortunately, this is a once-a-week occurrence. And there’s an upside to living at home; I don’t have to cook the evening meal (although maybe I should sometimes). My mother will make something balanced. No worries.

In four weeks, we’ll be moving out of my parents’ house, and my husband and I will finally be making our own food choices (I’m veggie and he’s not, so we don’t have to eat the same things). He’s not much of a snacker, so I don’t think we’ll have junk food in the house; what worries me more is portion control. When we were at college, if I didn’t watch it I ended up eating as much as my husband was eating. This is not a good idea. Ever.

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PastaQueen • May 23, 2006 at 12:44 pm

Jen – The reason I’m keen on her hiding the food from my sight is because there was a study that came out last February that showed people ate more candy from dishes in their office if the dish was transparent instead of opaque or if it was on their desk instead of across the room. Out of sight, out of mind. I’m in favor of anything that can improve my odds.

I know my mom is supportive of my weight loss goals too and it’s such a small thing to ask. I’m not asking her to hide her food under the floorboards or in a safe :) Just stuffing it in the cupboard above the fridge that I never open would be fine. And I’d never ask her to stop buying or cooking what she wants to eat.

I have gotten better in my ability to say no to foods. I haven’t eaten any of the ice cream she bought and I stopped after the two Oreos. But when she hits me when I’m weak I’m more likely to cave.

K – I read an article last year that talked about how women are more likely to gain weight after marriage because they eat man-sized portions. Good luck minding that!

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Kelly • May 23, 2006 at 8:10 pm

I know how you feel. I have to get ALL of the crap out of my home, or I will devour it. It’s a good thing I’ve been working a lot lately because my roommate splurged on a Ben and Jerry’s sale a couple of weeks ago and told me to help myself. Be gone, ice cream demons! It’s just better for all involved when the stuff is not around me.

Good luck with the move!

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K • May 24, 2006 at 5:56 am

At least I know what I’m up against!

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Allison • May 24, 2006 at 1:06 pm

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Laura • May 24, 2006 at 3:51 pm

I think the issue maybe isn’t that nagging is good or bad in-and-of-itself, but a parent should be able to learn enough about the temperament of their child to know what motivations will work and what won’t work. Some children can learn from body-image criticism, or know how to make it useful without internalizing it. Some people internalize the criticism in ways that are supremely unhealthy (my body is bad, therefore I’m a bad person, for example). A parent should strive to figure out what WILL help their child and take those actions accordingly. All people aren’t alike–all children aren’t alike. And a parent’s the person in the relationship who is best capable of adapting his/her response to the problem, not the child.

I don’t know if my mother nagged me exactly, but I know that her actions, coupled with bad school experiences, made me incredibly self-conscious. I was a chubby kid, but I didn’t get fat till after college, in part because my body image was so screwed up I had no way to objectively measure where my body/health was at a certain point, except the scale, which isn’t necessarily an objective means of measurement if your head is screwed up.

And of course, the bottom line will always be–I did this to myself. There may have been contributing factors, but I did it to myself. No ands, ifs, or buts. But it helps to know how I got to where I am–and there were a lot of people who helped me on this journey, and there were those who didn’t.

As for the issue of hiding food, I think the same thing applies. A mother should help her daughter do something positive for herself–especially if the action she’s being asked to take is a relatively small one, and one she only has to take for a little while longer anyway. Maybe PQ should exercise more willpower, but isn’t this about people who love each other making small sacrifices in order to help each other out, especially when they’re asked? It’s not about whether or not her mother has the right to eat whatever she wants in her own home–it’s about whether or not her daughter’s efforts to get healthy mean more to her than convenient access to the snacks does. And saying that someone who’s lost well over a hundred pounds needs to work on her own self-control issues is a bit nutty, don’t you think? I honestly don’t think the self-control required to maintain a weight if you’ve never had a problem is ANYTHING compared the the amount of self-control required to take off a significant amount of weight after it’s been gained–because the body, once it’s acquired the weight, fights to keep it.

My mother loves me to death, and I love her, but Lord! I don’t know how many times she’s sabatoged my efforts to lose weight. Knowing the sabatoge will come doesn’t make it easier to defend against. And I know her mother did the same thing to her. What a vicious cycle. Fathers and sons don’t do this to themselves, do they?

PQ, your blog is lovely and inspirational. Keep up the good work!

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Marla • May 25, 2006 at 7:01 am

There are so many good comments on this post, and I found myself agreeing with every single one, even when they were opposite opinions!

I think the responsibility issue is a gray area. This is not an entirely fair comparison to make, but the first thing I thought of was putting alcohol in the path of an alcoholic. Sure, that person is responsible for her own self, but don’t you think there’s a least a little shared burden on the person who lives with her? We all have to make compromises in dealing with people we love, and it’s not unreasonable to expect their support.

The other aspect I thought of – and I mean no disrespect to your mother here – is that a grown person who keeps a lot of oreos, ice cream, brownies, etc. around the house probably has a few food issues of her own. Could she be deliberately – albeit unconsciously – sabotaging your WL?

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Kari • March 12, 2007 at 8:00 pm

I think you’re right about how your family can play a role in your body image while you’re growing up. My family never directly harped on me about my weight, but my father indirectly insinuated that I was fat. I know he was just trying to help me be a healthier, happier person when he took me on many, many walks, but I think that definitely plays a role in how messed up my body image can be. And there were also mixed signals. He would take me out on walks, but then buy me an Icee! Huh?

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Calidaho • October 28, 2008 at 7:29 pm

Try dealing with a hubby who has bad habits! I can and do influence him but I do not control him and he knows how to bring home a bag of cookies. The worst is when he brings me a giant brownie from the farmer’s market that he passes through when he gets off the train. Oh, that delicious brick of chocolatey goodness.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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