Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Weightier Issues

Melissa Hayden, Swan lake
My homegurl is in the center, second row back. 

As a freshman in college, I experimented with extreme dieting as I watched my college roommate successfully puke-up and shed her freshman 15 before returning home for the summer. No one was more aware of my new weight gain than I.  And, at the time, I would have done anything to have the body I had nine months prior to entering college.  When I returned home that summer and expressed my concern to mi madre, she slowly spun me around, checking me from head to toe.  While nodding with approval she said something like: You look more gorgeous than ever.  I've missed you so very much, and I'm so glad you're home.  Had she said anything to me, confirming what I had been feeling about my figure, I may have spent my summer rekindling my relationship with my finger and the toilet.  Instead, I spent the summer eating fresh veggies from mi madre's garden and biking 6 miles to and from work each day. A change in my routine from sitting long hours in the library and classroom returned me to my usual weight. 

Last Sunday The Times published an article about Dara-Lynn Weiss, a mother, who after meeting with her daughter's pediatrician learned her daughter was, according to the BMI chart, obese.  Upon hearing this news, Dara-Lynn gave herself license to put her daughter, Bea, on a strict diet.  Cutting Bea's meal portions in half, monitoring the foods she ate while at school, and basically announcing through a bullhorn to family and friends that Bea was overweight and on a D-I-E-T, her daughter shed 16 pounds.  Dara-Lynn, after writing an article about Bea's diet for April's edition of Vogue, signed a book deal.  The media has both slandered and praised Dara-Lynn for her methods.

My first read of this article generated a feeling of wanting to meet Dara-Lynn at the back of the school fields, where I'd whomp on her dieting police boo-tay.  I wanted to squeeze her cheeks (the ones on her face) and explain: Bea is just getting ready for a growth spurt, and all those stored reserves are in wait for Bea's metamorphosis into becoming a beautiful young woman.  On the other hand, I was reminded that just the other day, I told my homegurl she didn't need to eat that second cinnamon roll she was reaching across the counter for. One was enough for my ballet girl, and I offered to make her a plate of carrots and cucumbers instead. This memory made me think to myself, "You're a monster compared to sweet Dara-Lynn.  After all, who made those tempting, butter-laden cinnamon rolls?  You did, you enabler. Then you made your daughter feel guilty for wanting another.  You should be tied and quartered for running your mouth like that. This wasn't the first time I had stopped her from eating something that could alter her shape.

You see, in the ballet world, no matter what anybody says, body size is EVERYTHING.  Just look up Balanchine body (a long, lean, and sculpted frame), and you'll get lists upon lists of what the ideal ballerina should look like.  While Hannah was auditioning for summer intensives, underneath the the description of each school there would be a warning like: "They only accept a certain body type." or "They are open to a more athletic build."  As my homegurl's mother, I feel like it's my job to help her maintain the healthy body that would put her in the running for becoming a professional ballerina.  But I fear some of the comments or looks I've made about her eating choices have translated into: Don't you dare reach for another handful of food. (You'll become fat.) I've never said it directly.

 Nobody else feels pressure to look a certain way more than she.  She dances with it for fifteen hours each week, then comes home to find her dancing partner (the ideal body) on TV, facebook, and sees it again in her friends who are already dieting because they feel "fat." To her detriment, she sees it again when her mother, the woman she admires and trusts, makes small comments in order to get her to change her mind about what she's going to eat. I've even seen her hurriedly put back what she was about to eat in fear of my disapproval.

Since reading the article I've talked to my homegurl about the things I've said.  She told me she's glad for the reminders because if it were up to her, she'd down an entire carton of cookie dough ice cream, each day, for the rest of her life.  But she also said that the a few of my comments have made her feel dumb and like I don't trust her choices.  I said I was sorry, and to never become a mother like me, and to please forgive me, if possible.  She forgave me or is in the process, I think.  I also reminded her that starving herself or barfing-up her food isn't an option, ever.

My mother, in all her life, has never said anything to make me feel my eating choices were unacceptable.  Instead, she always had a house filled with healthy choices and a few sweets.  As children, we were able to choose what we wanted to eat, and if we ate all the chips in one day, there wouldn't be anymore until the next shopping trip.  This made us learn how to ration the sweets and grow a taste for healthier foods. Dr. Kimberly Dennis suggests that the best solution for healthy living is, "Life-style changes, in tandem with pleasurable exercise and emotional care, ... have the potential to effect life-long changes for the better."


  1. you're a good mom and hannah is a good girl/ballerina. all around goodness I'd say. weight is always a tricky subject. Hannah has such an amazing goal to reach for here, I hope she goes all the way!

  2. I am so weighed down by this. I have struggled with my weight my whole life. My mom put me on my first diet at age 8. My husband and I gain and lose gain and lose. I worry what my kids learn from all of this.

    I am praying now that I will spend less time feeling sad about my body and more time pleasing my Heavenly Father in the way I live my life. How do I make people feel? How could I make them feel if I would tear my eyes away from my butt dimples for five seconds and give of myself? Ahh! It is a vicious, terrible cycle.

    In my deepest heart, and in my quietest moments, I feel that God loves me for what I do and how I live. I feel I could have so much more pure joy in my life if I shifted my focus to first, living outside my head and second, health and activity.

    It's a daily struggle to do so.

    I really enjoyed your post. I think you are traveling the right road with your homegirl. I admire your cajones in aplogizing:) Good for you! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Angie, It is such a cycle because our physical body and soul are intertwined. When one isn't where we want it, the two of them both suffer. I think good health--eating right, daily exercise--minus the idea: When I reach this size, look this certain way, I'll be happy.

    I always love your insightful comments.

    Jill, I don't think before I speak, and it's a problem. I love how you still have confidence in me after reading all my confessions. I love you!

    1. I meant to add to that last sentence and didn't. Here's the missing bit. I think good health--eating right, daily exercise--minus the idea: When I reach this size, look this certain way, I'll be happy, makes all the difference in how we see our physical body. I don't think that made sense either:) Just know I love your line of thinking on this issue.

  4. well I love the addition of the photo with her in it :)

  5. I read this over the weekend. What a smug look Dara-Lynn Weiss has on her face. I wanted to take her to the woodshed and beat the s---- out of her.

    Sorry, I have strong feelings about this.

  6. My sis called me from Idaho to tell me to read this post. We might just have to meet to discuss this matter further and so that I can get some tutoring on the subject. A topic I have been greatly anguishing over. Thanks for your thoughts on the matter, although I am still at a complete loss of direction to take. HELP! And P.S. Louise is hilarious!

    1. Heidi, it's so complicated. I have a friend who said, "So what? You just let your kids eat whatever, whenever, and let them get fat? I can't let that happen, so I'm very frank when explaining what happens when they eat certain foods." But everything I read says a mother must be so careful in how she talks to her daughter. Here's an article that may help??? Just C&P :http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Help-Your-Teenage-Daughter-Manage-Her-Weight-Evelyn-Resh

      I think we should ask Louise to write a post about this.

  7. Katy,
    Let me begin by saying...I love your blog. I think you are charming and hilarious and completely easy to relate to. I just want to say that as you already know, what you say to your daughter will be relationship/life altering. My best friend in high school had a body obsessed mother. She was never even close to being overweight but her mother pestered her into basically starving herself and exercising excessively to please her mom. It was so sad. To my knowledge it never affected her health in an extreme way (i.e. she never became anorexic or bulimic) but it hugely affected her high school days (she could never relax and have fun it was always about how much she had eaten and "no I'll just eat this lettuce...no dressing...thanks"
    And worst of all...her relationship with her mother was just sad. I would say it's never been the same. I just want to tell you i think you're an awesome mom and I hope to follow you're example. The story of your mom was inspiring! You both rock. Thanks for being so candid. It's refreshing.

  8. Chloe, I'm just so glad Hannah and I have talked about it, and now I'm so CAREFUL in what I say to her--maybe a little too careful. I'll figure out the balance, but until then, she's my guinea pig. Have a good night!

  9. the thought of this post came back to me as I was waking up this morning. I really feel like its our job to teach our kids how to eat healthy. reminding them not to eat a second cinnamon roll is a good thing in my opinion. Those are treats and should be enjoyed but not made a meal of. that is not to say i've never gone back for seconds, just that I always wish I hadn't. maybe it's not great to go as far as dieting but helping them to understand what is good for their bodies is awesome. Looking back to my childhood I wish my parents had a clue so they could have taught me better. I had to learn on my own. I guess I am a little sensitive on the subject because my dad fights me on some of the measures I've taken as a parent to teach my kids not to just put anything in their mouth and to make better choices. mainly he's upset about my ban of high fructose cornsyrup. He thinks i am depriving my kids and that it doesn't affect them but of course it does affect them. and believe me my kids are in no way deprived of sugary treats. we just look for good old fashion sugar instead and then we try our best to limit it. its very difficult. I find people throwing treats at my kids around every corner and I find it really annoying. anyway I have really strong feeling on this topic because health is a major player in our quest for happiness.

  10. Don't be mad at me when I give Natalie a sugar cookie at church today. We do pass out too many treats. I love what you said, though. Our job is to educate. Finding how to do it so our children have a healthy relationship with food is the tricky part.