August 15, 2006 at 12:01 pm
It’d be nice to believe that my mind is an endless wellspring of witty insights into the dieting lifestyle, but I got to admit, some days I got nothing. So instead of coming up with something totally original, today I’m going to answer a question Peter asked a little while ago:
I would absolutely love to hear more about the way you grew up, with regards to eating and weight, and what effect you think your family has had.
I guess that technically wasn’t a question since it lacks a question mark at the end, but it’s close enough. I suppose any sentence can become a question if you stick a question mark at the end? (See?) I knew a girl in high school who ended all her sentences with an upward tone when she spoke, so everything sounded like a question. It made me want to strangle her. Maybe the asphyxiation would have made her tone go down at the end.
The weird thing about my family growing up is that my mother was fat, my father was fat, my younger brother was fat, and I was fat, but my older brother was thin! To this day I still have no idea how he managed that. He was eating out of the same fridge as the rest of us, wasn’t he? Maybe I should have checked his closet for a hidden mini-fridge stocked with baby carrots and celery sticks instead of just snooping around his shelves and finding his porn collection. (If you’re going to snoop, be prepared to find out things you don’t want to know! P.S. – If you ever read this, sorry, bro!)
Other than my freakish older brother, I came from a family of fat people. Everyone’s weight fluctuated over the years, but my mom topped out somewhere in the mid-to-low 300’s, as did my dad. My younger brother never got that fat, but did make it to the high 200’s. The ironic thing is that in the past 3 years everyone in my family has lost a lot of weight, except for my older brother who has gained weight as he approaches his 30’s. The universe seeking balance, perhaps?
As for aunts and uncles, my mom is the oldest of 14 kids, so we’ve got a wide sample set of DNA combinations to look at. Most of her sisters and brothers are at least a bit overweight, but among all my cousins’ families I’d say we were the fattest. So I’d guess heredity had a bit to do with my obesity, but lifestyle choices probably had more to do with the extremity it reached. Notably, about five or six of my mom’s siblings have had their gall bladders removed, as have my mom and dad. So while I’m sure my diet played a big part in the fact that I had to have my taken out at age 23, I feel secure blaming a genetic predisposition as well.
As for my eating habits growing up, um, I don’t really know. I think it’s sometimes hard to evaluate how “normal” your eating is because you don’t have anything to compare it to. You might only notice something is off kilter when you visit someone else’s house and realize they do things differently than your family. You need the contrast to realize what the differences are. One weekend when I was about six my parents went away for the weekend and my babysitter had the audacity to sprinkle sugar on our cereal! This was not the way things were done in the PastaQueen household and there was much whining and much cereal poured down the garbage disposal. Sugar and milk just don’t mix well on my flavor palette.
In retrospect there were some eating habits that could have been curbed. Every Sunday as a reward for getting through church we’d stop at the grocery and buy some chocolate covered, crème-filled éclairs. While I didn’t realize it at the time, I probably consumed all the calories I needed in a day when I ate 2 or 3 of those for breakfast. I also got obsessed with making fudge during middle school and if I was hungry for a snack I’d just whip up a batch. There was also a period in high school where I’d eat four slices of whole wheat bread for breakfast. Not toasted, not buttered, just bread. I think these are habits that would have been better discouraged, but I never heard a negative comment about them, as far as I recall. (Confession: I still make a loaf of whole grain bread in my breadmaker on the weekend and eat it way too quickly even though I tell myself I’ll portion it out over the week. Bread is my kryptonite!) Oh, we also drank a lot of soda. Regular, sugar-riddled, soda, which I can probably solely blame these last 50 pounds and at least 12 cavities on.
Also, weight was never a topic discussed or much fretted about in our house. We didn’t even have a bathroom scale. I obviously knew I was fat and that my parents were fat, and I wanted to be thinner, but I was never nagged about it or made to feel bad about it. There could have been more self-awareness about our obesity, but I think the good thing about it was that I never became obsessed with dieting or food. I also typically had good self-esteem because I did well in school and found self-value in my intelligence, not in how I looked. Though judging by pictures of myself from back then, if I’d know how frizzy my hair was and how poorly I dressed, that might have changed. Ignorance really is bliss.
I suppose my parents could have set a better example and cut off some of my worse eating habits. But I don’t blame them because I doubt they really had much of a handle on good eating habits themselves. My mom still finds it difficult to stay on her doctor’s prescribed diet which should ward off her pre-diabetes. Anyway, there was lots of love and laughter and the thought of those éclairs were the only thing that could get me through Sunday mass.
The weird thing about trying to analyze my childhood eating habits is that I don’t know how accurate my memory is. How often did I really make fudge? I have no idea. How frequently did Mom make brownies with us? I wasn’t keeping statistical data on this. Did I really have good self-esteem or do I just think I did? I know there were some really miserable times in middle school. Maybe I’ve blocked out how bad it was or just remember the good things. How much of my life do I actually remember and how accurate are the memories I do have?