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  • You're not too old, and it's never too late

Monday, January 27, 2014

Raising Girls can be a %#!$ when Dealing with Your Own Food Issues

Last week, one of my daughters said something that nearly brought me to my knees.

“Mom, I really hate my body.”

This would be hard for any mom to hear, but for a mom dealing with her own eating/food/body image issues? It’s catastrophic. In one short statement she said, "I know you're trying hard to raise me to not have food and body issues, but you're FAILING."

“I hate my stomach. I want it to go away.”

I fought back the tears and went into “Mom” mode. 

“Honey, you are so beautiful.”

Cue the head tipped to the shoulder, and the “Give me a break, Mom” face.

“You are perfect just the way you are.”

“Mom, come on. I know you know how to lose weight and I know you can tell me how to get rid of my stomach.”

So I tried humor.

“Get rid of your stomach? But what about all of the stuff you like to eat? Your stomach will miss it. It will be so sad!"


She wasn't giving up. She never does. So I relented.

“Yes, you can do aerobic workouts that speed up your heart rate and help you burn fat.”

“Should I do a ton of sit ups?”

“No. You could do sit ups after the cardio workouts, but sit ups alone won’t help you lose your stomach.”

I felt confident dispensing this little bit of exercise information. After all, I’ve done everything I know of to lose my stomach as well. It hasn't worked, because I haven't kept up that kind of exercise regime, but I couldn't tell her that. Not when I felt like she was looking at me, praying she wouldn't end up looking like me.

“But if you want to be healthy,” I said, “it’s best to find an activity that you love doing and just do that.” 

This is a child who is very active. She currently plays basketball and field hockey. Don't ask me when she could fit more activity into her schedule.

“Is there someone at school who you think looks really good?” I asked. "That you wished you looked like?"


“On TV then?”

“No. I just hate my stomach.”

It was like taking a bullet. 

Here I am, working so hard to approach food and exercise differently than I ever have. I’m trying to model healthy eating and exercise habits for my girls, but still, this issue rears its ugly head in my household. I feel like there’s just no escaping it. Because guess why? There isn’t. 

I can honestly say I’ve never belittled myself in front of my girls. I’ve never been one to say, “I look fat” or “I don’t look good in this dress” in the presence of my daughters. I’ve been rigorous in my attempt not to put these thoughts or images into my girls’ heads. Society does that for them enough. But I’m not so much in denial that I don’t realize they’ve probably picked up on some things without my intention. They watched me do Jenny Craig a few years ago. I lost 15 pounds and everyone—the girls included—told me how great I looked. They saw that. They saw the smile on my face when people noticed I’d lost weight. So there’s that.

Truly, I believe this issue with my daughter and her body and her stomach stems from society and school. Maybe I’m putting blinders on, but I can’t think of how she would get this message from us at home. We just don’t talk like that here. We don’t comment on anyone else and their appearance—not in real life, not about anyone on TV or in movies. I don’t buy fashion magazines or any publication that distorts the female image. We don’t extol thinness and restricting food. 

Needless to say, I ran screaming for help from my therapist (ok, I didn’t actually run screaming. I texted her) and she offered the immediate support I needed. She also said maybe this was a way of my daughter trying to connect with me. ?? Who knows? 

My daughter hasn’t brought the subject up again since then. She eats normally, like she always has, and she hasn’t started any cray workout routines, and for this I’m thankful. 

She enjoys cooking and baking, so I plan to ask her to help me with those tasks and teach her how to make healthy choices when planning meals. Maybe if she’s actively involved with me in this chore it will help her feel better about herself. I'll ask her to join me and the dogs for a walk. I'll invite her to go down to the basement with me and do Just Dance 4. I pray doing things like this will help her feel better about herself. 

I'm also going to reinstate something we used to do when the girls were little. We had this monthly tradition called "Special Plate." Once a month, one of us would get the "special plate" set before them at dinner, and during dinner, the rest of us would say things we liked or appreciated about that person. It could be a general something like, "I appreciate Susie because she cares about other people" or it could be specific like, "I appreciate how Susie helped me clean up the kitchen the other day." My husband and I felt it was a great self-esteem building exercise. It also taught the girls how to appreciate us as their parents, for we, too, would get the "special plate" when our turn came around. I'm not sure why we stopped doing it. We moved, for one thing, and I think the tradition just got lost in the transfer. 

So these are my plans. I'm open to any suggestions, though. Feel free to comment! ;o)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Can Everyone Please, Just Shut the *!%* Up??

I'm not going to apologize for my post on Woody Allen, but a friend kindly pointed out to me that I need to stay more on topic with my blog posts since I'm working on a memoir about my food and eating issues and my EDNOS. So the Woody Allen post was a one-off. I can't promise that it won't happen again because every once in a while things rear up for me and I just have to vent to the world. Or vent on my blog. That's more accurate because I'm not really sure how many people in the world are actually reading what I'm saying here. NO ONE COMMENTS. :o/ 

Anyway...I sat down to work on my novel and my memoir but made the mistake of checking in on Facebook, thus today's post.

(I read somewhere that the esteemed author Jonathan Franzen writes in an office that has no Internet, no WiFi, nothing to distract him from his writing. Just a computer monitor. I should probably follow his lead. But I digress...)

In working on my food and eating issues, I've become acutely aware of the negative messages the world and society sends us. And I mean all of us here, not just those who are struggling with EDs and food issues. Everyone one of us receives these messages. They nestle into our psyches and become part of who we are and then, without us even knowing it, we spew them back into the world. Like a baby spitting up pabulum. I believe these missives are not always intended to hurt our feelings, but they're negative and hurtful just the same, and I wish more people would consider what they say before they say it. Or post it.

Case in point: When I was checking my FB page, a post from one of my female cousins popped up on my screen. Here it is:

Now any normal, everyday person who is moving through life without a care as to what they're putting in their mouths and how often, and who may be exercising regularly and loving it would not think twice about this image. I, on the other hand, felt like an iron had been smashed into my face. It speaks to me, and I find it hurtful. 

I wish my being overweight only had to do with the fact that I might be lazy (which I'm not).

If it were only that simple.

I know my cousin would not intend to hurt me. She is a young mom who just lost all of her baby weight from exercising and restricting a lot of what she ate (I know this thanks to her FB posts). And good for her. She found something that worked for her and I sincerely think that's wonderful.

However...what worked for her does not necessarily work for everyone, and her posting this says to me she has no real understanding of what many women (and men) are suffering through out there. This post, though intended to motivate, comes across as just plain thoughtless. And uninformed. She has no idea of what she's talking about. 

She also posted this:

Which I half understand and like. But underneath this picture she wrote, "I promise that working out is the easiest part of all of this. Don't you deserve to look your best? What are you waiting for?"

Again, her intentions are good, I know it. 

This hurts/bothers me because I'm fighting to get away from this mentality, this kind of "work hard to LOOK your best" way of thinking. I'm trying my hardest to embrace the fact that I'm more than how I outwardly appear to the world, I'm more than a number on the scale or the size jeans I fit into. It shouldn't matter how any of us LOOK. And I'm not saying we don't need to exercise. We do. But instead of killing myself on a treadmill or doing P90X again, I'm trying to discover physical activities that actually FEEL good to me so I want to go back to doing them again and again.  

I/we encounter this kind of thinking and this belief system every hour of every day. 

It's exhausting. 

Then another family member shows up and says she's reading Cameron Diaz's "The Body Book." I haven't read it, but I did just check it out on Amazon. Of course there's a beautiful picture of Ms. Diaz on the cover looking every bit her gorgeous, sensuous self, just like she always has on every magazine cover and in every movie she has ever made. She was blessed with great genes, there's no denying that. But the message she is sending is: "Follow what I say in this book and you'll look just like me!"


If only. 

Again, I believe Cameron Diaz's heart is in the right place, but she's no expert on food and eating. It's just another example of a CELEBRITY dispensing their thoughts on food and eating and really, do I need another celebrity talking to me about this stuff? No offense, Cameron Diaz, but you're part of the problem, not the solution.

 I discussed this with my therapist last night and she made a good point. She said that if a Pulitzer prize winning nutritionist had written a book on food and eating and it was sitting right next to Cameron Diaz's book at the bookstore, whose book do you think would sell more copies? Unless the nutritionist looks anything like Cameron, I'm thinking Ms. Diaz is going to win this one. 

I don't have the time or energy to launch into a complete review of her book. I haven't read it. I did read the first few pages of it on Amazon and to her credit, she does admit that she's not a doctor or a scientist. Thank God for that. But she remains part of the problem because she started out with different genes and a different genetic map than the rest of us, and we as a society embraced her because of her appearance. 

I imagine I'm racing against a world-class sprinter. He gets placed in a starting block way ahead of me, halfway around the track. The gun goes off and I'm told to "catch up." He inevitably wins the race, then stands at the finish line and elucidates the reasons why I didn't win and how I can do better.

Who needs that??

Ok. Enough ranting and raving. This lazy girl needs to get to work on her novel and memoir. But if anyone has any thoughts or comments, I'd LOVE to hear from you!! :o)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Conflicted Love of All Things Woody Allen

It began on a wintery March day in 1985. My best friend, Katie, had suggested ditching school, a sure remedy for our raging case of "senioritis." We climbed into Katie's red VW Bug and headed for her house. First we stopped at a gourmet popcorn shop for snacks, then a video store to get some movies. 
(Her mom worked; mine did not).

Katie found "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)." 

"Have you ever seen this?" she asked, holding the chunky VHS case in the air. "It's a riot."

(Remember video stores? Remember VHS tapes? God, I'm old...)

Katie was right. We laughed our asses off all afternoon watching that movie, and it remains one of my favorite Woody Allen movies to this day. Hannah and Her Sisters is another favorite.  And Annie Hall, and...I could go on.

And now, Blue Jasmine. 

I treated myself to this movie last night. There was no trudging out video store in the blizzard, no VHS tape, not even a DVD. Just a simple push of the "On Demand" button, and the movie appeared on the screen, in my bedroom, while I snuggled beneath my down comforter. Ah, the On Demand button...getting older does have its advantages. 

I'm not going to review the movie. Simply put, I liked it, and think all of the nominations it has received are well deserved. 

My husband, Scott, came to bed towards the end of the movie. "Is it good?" he asked. "Did you like it?"

"It is. And I did. I mean, I do like it."

And then there it was...that heavy, sinking feeling I always get when I admit to liking anything Woody Allen does or has done. It's my maternal conscience...the one that jumps up and judges and shakes her finger at me and says Woody Allen has a thing for young girls and it's wrong in every sense. Well, had a thing for young girls.

Maybe my heightened aversion to his personal life choices has more to do with the fact that I'm the mother of two daughters. One is 15, and the other is getting ready to turn 13. Soon-Yi Previn was 19 when she began her affair with Woody. He was 56. I can't imagine my oldest daughter, who will turn 19 in three short years, falling in love with a man who is older than her father. It's very strange to me. (It's strange to all of us, right?) It makes me squirm with repugnance, and when I get like this, my thoughts inevitably turn to Mia Farrow. 

If I'd been married to Woody Allen--or any man with whom I adopted children--and he "fell in love" with one of those children, I would want to kill him. The relationship is wrong and inappropriate, and I know...I'm being very judgmental. I'm not Woody Allen or Soon-Yi Previn. What do I know of their relationship? But I'm a mother and a human being and whenever this issue comes up or I see it on TV or in magazines, I get that heavy, slinking gut-reaction and if there's one thing I've definitely learned as I've gotten older, it's to listen to my gut. 

So this is my conundrum. How can I have these objectionable feelings when it comes to his life choices and still like and appreciate him as an artist? What does it say about me? That I'm ok with him being married to a young woman who once lived in his home as a child? That he can get away with this kind of behavior because he's a brilliant writer, satirist, director and actor? 

I like Woody Allen and his movies. I can't help it. He makes me laugh. I appreciate his talent. I wish I was half as talented a writer as he is. And seeing how he continues to win awards for his work I'm clearly one of the throng who holds him in high esteem. 

I'm just wondering if I'm in the minority of those whose moral standards are at odds with their appreciation of him as an artist. 

Am I?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Coming to Grips with My Exercise Aversion

Who knew exercise aversion was a real thing? I thought it was just called laziness, but that was before I started working with my DD (Dynamic Duo for any first-timers). Sometimes when we discuss my possible aversion to all things physical I imagine a couple of sociologists sitting in a room somewhere devising a new term like they did with "personal fable," which describes how teenagers think nothing bad can ever happen to them (a tidbit I remember from a sociology class when I was in college way back in the Dark Ages).

"We can't tell overweight folks
that they're lazy, so let's come up
with a more sensitive, politically
correct term that won't hurt
anyone's feelings."

"How about we say they suffer from Treadmill Tremors?"

"No, no...too kitschy."

"Unenthusiastic underactivists?"

"No, too judgmental."

"Well, doing anything active seems to be a real turn-off with this group. How about exercise aversion?"

"Ooh...I like that. We'll go with that one."

Turns out, it's a real thing. My nutritionist says I need to focus on doing things I like...taking a walk with my dogs, playing tennis with my daughter, etc and I need to begin slowly, which is a thing for me because in the past, I would start off the new year by engaging in a rigorous, balls-to-the-wall workout routine only to throw in the towel after a week or two. Makes sense. I can see how I've grown to hate exercise over the years. For one, I make it very difficult on myself, and two, I do things too hard, too fast that are most likely way above the activity level where I've been living for the past several years. For some reason, I think I'm still 17 years old and in the best shape of my life. Just call me Cleopatra. ;o)

I came across an article in the New York Times about a Chinese study that looked at how thin women and overweight women interpret images that show females engaging in different activities. According to this study, our body shape/type affects how we decipher these images and big surprise...thinner women's brains lit up when they saw other women working out or running, and overweight women turned on when they saw food being prepared or women reclining on couches.

It's an interesting article and you can read it here:

Our body shape/size may determine how we see exercise

If I'm having a hard time swallowing the idea of "exercise aversion" I can only imagine what all of the workout fiends and fitnessphiles and society as a whole thinks of this expression. I can just imagine eyeballs rolling in gyms across America.

Not that I care anymore....

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Oops, I Did it Again

I felt the pull of its magnetic force the moment I sat down in our orthodontist's office. My head turned in its direction, and in a nanosecond's moment of clarity I said to myself, "Don't do it!" but its seductive exertion was too much for me to bear. Apparently, I harbor within myself a large, steel plate that responds to any periodical which headlines diet success stories People magazine's "Half Their Size" issue. It comes out around this time every year and it hooks me. I can't help it. I'm weak! You know what they say....

(On a side note...while researching the "there's a sucker born every minute" quote I learned it has been wrongly attributed to Mr. Barnum over the years...supposedly, it was first uttered by a NYC con man named Joseph "Paper Collar" Bessimer in the late 1800s. There's your "you learn something new every day" tidbit). 

Can you understand why it's hard to resist? Look at these folks. They look great. They had a lot more weight to lose than I ever have and they succeeded at losing the weight. That's what I always say to myself when I pick this issue up: They were larger and they did it....I should be able to as well. I imagine what these people might say to me. "You only have 50 pounds to lose? That's nothing!" I bet it isn't when you're facing a 200-pound weight loss. 
If you're reading this and you're like me, I'll save you the $5...they all lost their weight through programs like Jenny Craig (been there) and Weight Watchers (been there numerous times) and NutriSystem (surprisingly never been there) and other like programs. 
Hmm...Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers advertise in People magazine. Interesting....
It's still a challenge for me to make it through the supermarket check out without picking up Shape or Fitness or People or Us...like I said, anything promising weight loss success...but I'm working on it. At least I didn't BUY this issue. I just flipped through its glossy, promising pages while sitting in a waiting room. Not throwing my money at the diet mentality machine in support of this message is a step in the right direction. 
All of this being said, this is the latest song I added to the playlist on my iPhone. I like it. It's uplifting and fun. Enjoy!