Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Be Kind to Your Daughters.

I cleaned out my laundry room this weekend, which in and of itself is no big deal, other than it was a total disaster and it needed to be done. No, what makes this random act of organization note worthy is what I found while cleaning. An old box filled with even older books. High School Yearbooks. The time and place I consider to be the epicenter of my issues with self, body, and food. I'm sure the seeds of discontent were planted far earlier, but there, during that time in my life, is where I know in my heart of hearts there was a disconnect between what I actually looked like, and what I saw in the mirror. And there is where I was somehow derailed.

I sat down with a cup of coffee and my Freshman yearbook 1981-82, and there within its time yellowed pages, I saw a slender, confident, happy girl smiling back at me in her cheer leading outfit. I re-read all the signatures and notes to the "wild girl", the "cool chick" "always smiling", "friends forever" that literally covered the blank pages left for those types of things.

Cute, huh? That's what I see now, what anybody would see looking at this picture. I wish that was how I felt at the time. I'm 15 in that picture, and by then I had already been on more diets than I can count. I had been sneaking food since I was in 2nd grade, and had been binging and purging since 8th grade. Iwas completely caught up in the idea that I was fat.

My Sophomore Year held a similar, but slightly different story. I was no longer a cheerleader, even though I had been one the year before. I had to try out again(we all did), but was found lacking. Nothing had changed, other than I had stopped carrying around bottles of Ipecac syrup in my purse and was no longer puking up most of my food. So yes, I had gained about 15 lbs over the summer. So I told myself I didn't want to be a clique-ish cheerleader, and my best friend and I became the Banner Carriers for our Marching Band. OK.. a step down in the social hierarchy that is high school, but still involved, still smiling, still popular enough.

As I perused the pages of my yearbook I began to notice something in each picture I found, something no one else would really be able to see. In all my pictures, both freshman and sophomore year, I noticed there was no trust in my eyes. There was wariness, and an expectation that an axe would fall, and it would be an axe of words; warnings from parents who insisted I would be fat one day if I wasn't careful,of thinly veiled insults from boys who teased about fat cheerleaders, and crushes who said no.

And my 40 year old self got pissed off. I sat in my living room looking at my thin legs and normal waist line and wondered how "they" found that somehow lacking. I can see now how wrong they were,how wrong I was to give them that much power over me.

Years of self destructive eating, a war I have yet to win, may never completely win, all started long before high school. It started when my mother(who still to this day looks at herself through a fun house mirror),caught up in her own self destructive eating disorder, placed her fears of being fat and unlovable with me. It started when, as a prepubescent girl of 12 or 13,I went on my first diet. A diet that restricted my caloric intake to 1000 calories a day. I'm sorry, that's just insane.

So I can't help but worry for the young girls today, watching as their mothers (many of them my age)obsess and worry over being heavy, count every calorie and point they put in their mouths, perpetuate the idea that to be healthy is to diet, to be happy is to be (insert goal weight here). Are we placing the fears we've learned on the shoulders of future women? Ive been to the Weight Watcher meetings where mothers bring daughters too young to actively participate, but not too young to "watch and learn".

What message are we sending these girls? Why aren't we teaching them that to be happy is to be true to ourselves, to be kind to others, and to value what's inside, not outside? Why are we not teaching them to fuel their bodies with natural foods? To trust their bodies to tell them when they are hungry and when they are full, that artificial sweeteners and processed foods are poison? And why, for the love of god, are we not impressing upon them that BRATZ dolls are not to be used as a fashion guideline,and that the models and teen queens they see on TV are not normal? Why are they watching that crap in the first place?

Ive seen little girls cringe as their fathers, the first male role model they have, the one on which they base all other male relationships, tell them they can't eat that, they don't need that, they've had quite enough Thank you, then worry about being fat. They're not even out of elementary school for Christ's Sake! I've heard both parents comment about a heavy woman or child in none too flattering terms in front of their children. This has to make an impact, I honestly don't see how it can't.

I can't help but be horrified as I watch the birth of another eating disorder.

Perhaps I'm being overly dramatic, it's been known to happen. But it's my gut reaction and I have to go with it. I have experienced first hand what happens when well meaning parents place too much importance on the wrong things. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is be kind to your daughters, to your nieces, to granddaughters for that matter. Give them strength of self, confidence in their inner beauty, and kindness and respect for others, regardless of outwardly differences.

It's time to stop destroying ourselves from the inside out.


Hanlie said...

I don't think you're overreacting at all! I know that my own weight problems stem from a few chance remarks made by my parents. Things that they won't even remember, but became my truth.

The best gift we can give our children (boys are vulnerable too) is to have a healthy relationship with our own bodies. To take loving care of ourselves, to eat healthy, fresh, whole foods and feed it to our families. To be active for the love of it, not because it earns us points.

We should not be raising future fodder for the diet industry. It's all a big con!

Great post, Chanda!

Pattie said...

Powerful post. You're right on! I've heard messages about my body not be good enough since I was a overweight girl in the early 1960's. When Twiggy came on the scene, all was lost!

Then when anorexia became a known disorder, I remember thinking to myself, "some women would rather die than look like me."

All those messages are still rattling around in my 50-something year old brain. I often wonder what might have happened if someone somewhere along the line would have said to me, "You're beautiful just the way you are."

Thanks for sharing your thoughts today, Bea.

FairiesNest said...

Excellent post! It makes me crazy to hear mothers admonishing their TODDLERS to stop eating or they'll be fat. Christ! And the use or withholding of food as reward and punishment...what's up with that!?

we_be_toys said...

Good post! I like that you've opened Pandora's Box of Weight Loss Demons, and in spite of the disclaimers I'm SURE you would hear if this came to the attention of said parents, I think its important to say outloud that this is someone else's raft of shit, and you're not going to buy it anymore.
You are always beautiful to me, Bea, because your beauty is inside and permanent.
(So I should stop wearing the BRATZ-style makeup, ya think??!!)

Anonymous said...

Great post. I think its really important for us to look into the past to identify where and when our problems with weight began... and its even more important not to create weight issues for others, even if well intentioned - words are powerful things.

Your post reminds me that looking at the 'why' I struggle with weight is still on 'my to do' list.

CindyPTN said...

WOW! No, you're not over reacting at all! It is scary how we forget the inner self and focus on outer appearances. Thank you. It's even true for me right now--I am my children's example.

HappyBlogChick said...

What a great post!

I came across my old yearbooks recently, too. De-cluttering will do that, I guess. Isn't it amazing how what we looked like then and what we THOUGHT we looked like then don't match up?

I don't think you're being overly dramatic. There are some very damaging messages that can get passed on if we're not careful.

Skinny Inside said...

Like everyone else has said, that was a great post! Thank you for sharing. I definitely have had a "fun mirror" type image of myself, not seeing the fat. I, too, have been sneaking and hiding food since I can remember, although I haven't done it recently. I am trying to work out all my issues and am doing everything I can to not pass them on to my son. I am very thankful that he's a boy, because I'd be so neurotic with a girl. I don't discourage him from eating, but I don't allow him to eat junk food and try to limit fast carbs. I explain it to him like this, "honey, these foods (whole, natural homemade foods) help you grow strong and healthy, where those (processed/sugar/white stuff) make you grow soft and weak." I hope I'm doing the right thing.

Maggie said...

This is a wonderful post. Honestly, I don't even know why those Bratz are even legal. Have you ever read the back of the box?

Between eight grade and freshman year I gained 15 pounds (I suppose it's called puberty but I was utterly sideswiped.) My ex-boyfriend used to walk behind me with his friends yelling "Four-ton bun!"

I'm sure that might have had something to do with the following years of disordered eating.

I have two daughters and this shit scares me half to death. I know how to do the big things right, but it's the small things you mention, the TV shoes and the offhand comments, etc that stick with you.


Maggie said...

OK, sorry that comment made very little sense. I'm sure you figured this out, but it's "shows", not "shoes", and I meant to tie it up better and whatever, I'M TOTALLY SICK and my throat is stiiinging AND MY HEAD IS GOING TO POP OFF.

OK bye.

Ready Maid said...

Wow. That "searching and fearless moral inventory" can scrounge up some stuff, huh? You are courageous to have explored your past...which is now past. Turn the page. We're all here cheering your on - NOW!!!

suz said...

AMEN Sister!

Cammy said...

Nothing overly dramatic here. You've lived it. I lived it a couple (okay, TEN) years before you did. No doubt there are others here who have lived it, too.

But you're in good company now (if I do say so myself), and no one will judge you for anything but your heart. Which appears to be huge, just the way it should be. :)

flutter said...

Chanda this is really amazing, I am incredibly proud of your strength.

I still see that beautiful girl in you. You are that girl.

Bessie said...

Wonderful post!! While I don't have daughters, nieces, granddaughters, etc in my life I am a youth minister in a church and I have over 30 teenage girls I minister to weekly. This post is so true!! While I won't read this to "my girls" at church, i will keep it in mind and pass on some of the thoughts to our volunteers. Hopefully if these girls are getting this at home, they won't be getting it at church too.

Nicole said...

This was a gorgeous post. Thank you for sharing it with us.

I'm really very sorry for what you went through. If in anyway it makes you feel just a little bit better, I'd like you to know that I'm sure you made a difference today. Someone out here in cyberspace needed to hear this, I am quite sure, and there is no way you could not have made an impact on them.

Ready Maid said...

Congratulations on your being named Blogger of the Week at Scale Junkie. Take a jump over there to see my comment about submitting this post to Newsweek's "My Turn."

Yogi Wannabe said...

Beautifully said. I have two daughters under three and I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to spare them the pain that I have gone through.