By Melissa Mc
I was put on my very first diet during Kindergarten. I distinctly remember going to the doctor and him telling my mother that a sandwich (probably white bread with a meat slice) was not what I should be having after school – an apple would be more appropriate. I don’t remember eating too many apples after that, but I do remember being able to finish off a whole bag of chips and salsa just to spite him.
Thus, my personal jihad with food and my body began; a war I fight to this day (and not very successfully, I might add).
During my thrid grade year, in an attempt to get me “moving” my parents signed me up for girls T-Ball. The only thing I really remember were the insults – “fat fry” “chubby” “tubby” – hurled at me as I rounded the bases. I remember driving off after one game and some mean girl (I guess mean girls have been around forever) was still calling me names as I desperately tried to roll up the window, so I wouldn’t have to listen to her. I begged my parents to let me quit –I think I had to finish the season, but I didn’t go back.
My diets continued…
The summer between fourth and fifth grade I remember going on another “diet” – I don’t remember what I ate (or didn’t) but I do remember going back to school and all the kids commenting, “hey, Melissa, you’ve lost weight?!” I think it was the first time I had ever heard those magical, yet evil words. Because those are the words that have defined me for the majority of my life. For 38 years I have battled my brain, my body and soul over how my clothes fit, what the scale reads, how many chins I have, what I look like in the mirror and how people perceive me.
And because of that, I have developed a complete and utter fascination (obsession?) with the bodies of my children.
They are perfect.
None of them look like me.
By the time I was 5 I had thunder thighs.
My daughter’s are long and lean and look fantastic in a pair of tights for her ballet class. She is angular where I was rolly. She is slim where I was hefty. I adore looking at her in her bathing suit – completely unconcerned with her body, other than it is free to have fun. By the time I was her age, I was already terrified to put on a bathing suit and go out in public.
(I still very RARELY go out in my bathing suit – in fact, a group of my college girlfriends are gathered in Vegas for a reunion this weekend and one of the many reasons I didn’t’ go, was because the majority of the time, they were going to lounge by the pool. But I digress).
My boys are equally magnificent.
They already have that pre-athletic build. Small curves where their pecs, biceps, and quads will develop. Square calves that define their lower legs. I swear my 4 year old has the beginnings of a “6-pack” something I was only aware of if it came with “Dr Pepper” written on the front.
I am even more amazed at the body of my 4 year old – a body that was cracked open twice at the age of 5 weeks to correct a heart defect. With the exception of a 6 inch scar running vertical down his chest and 4 equally gruesome looking “bullet holes” where his chest tubes were inserted, he is more perfect than anything Michelangelo could sculpt. One day, when he wants to play football or basketball and the doctor tells him he can’t – will his battle begin with his body. But until then, his body is completely limitless from the affects of his “broken heart.”
I made a promise to myself and my husband that I would NEVER utter the words — diet, fat, I’m fat, You can’t eat___, weight – any noun, verb or adjective associated with my body dysfunction in front of the children, and I have kept true to my word. None of my kids have ever talked about their weight or what they look like – or what their mother looks like, for that matter. A month ago, my daughter out of the blue said, “Why would anyone lose weight?” Like it was this ridiculous notion (Hah! I only wish!). I think I responded, “Well, sometimes it’s healthier if your body is a smaller size.” And that was it. Issue dropped. (Do you think the SEX talk will end so easily and quickly?)
My personal struggle with weight has been intensified this summer – the more I walk or play tennis – the bigger I seem to get. And the demons continue to wreck havoc on my psyche.
But when I look at my kids – I try to imagine the freedom they must feel – the complete and utter joy to jump and frolic, to laugh and play – without any inhibitions or limitations from their physical body — and I wish, I could have had at least one more year (or two or three?) before my mother took me to the doctor who told me to eat an apple.
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