Bullying is much on my mind these days. It's all over the media, with the news of the horrific suicides from young people tormented by their peers, and it's made me think about my own childhood when I was both the victim and perpetrator of teasing. And teasing or its more severe form, bullying, plays a big role in the lives of many fat people and people with food issues.
The first conscious memory I have of being called "fat" is when I was in the third grade. I don't remember the boy's name, but I remember we were sitting across the table from each other in the classroom, and he pointed at my arm and said in a nasty tone, "You're fat!" I looked at my round arm, which was bigger than his scrawny one. I made a bicep. "That's not fat, that's muscle!" I said. "Nuh-uh, it's FAT!" he said.
I was a very active kid in elementary school. I played outside a lot. I ran, I climbed trees, I played kickball with the neighborhood kids. But I was bigger than most of them. Was I fat? Not really, but I wasn't a skinny little thing either. My mom had to buy me "Husky" jeans from Sears. They were boys' jeans, too. Boy, did I hate that.
I don't remember being teased a lot about being fat in elementary school, but by the time I hit middle school, I was. At age eleven, I was very mature physically. I regularly was mistaken by adult men for being sixteen (good thing I didn't understand all their innuendos)! I was a particular target for the jock and cheerleader girls, who really disliked me for some reason I never figured out. They made fun of my name, my clothes, my size, my glasses. They hid my oboe and occasionally tripped or pushed me when I walked by. They said I was a lesbian (even though I had a boyfriend). I had a friend who also got teased, and once a bunch of girls surrounded me and beat me up for defending her.
But most of the teasing centered around me being fat, and as I grew older and went to high school, I became more and more conscious of having the wrong clothes and not being able to find the styles I liked in my size. Hearing the message that I was fat, over and over again, is part of the reason that I eventually became truly fat. It's not the only reason, but it certainly played a part.
My parents did a great job raising me and my brothers. They were loving and supportive, and they instilled in all of us a strong sense of personal worth and independence. My older brother may have teased me about being fat from time to time, but not much --- he was on the chubby side himself. So, thankfully, I didn't get hateful messages about my body from home, but I did get messages that I had to be careful, watch what I ate, and avoid the dreaded fatness. My mother was plump herself and was always dieting. I could reel off a series of incidents that still ring in my ears --- not intended to be hurtful, but hurtful all the same, and they informed my opinion about myself while I was growing up.
All those messages still rear their heads, years and years later, even after I have come so far and established control of my physical fitness. But I am aware that compared to many people, I am very lucky. I was teased for being fat, but I didn't have it nearly as bad as most people, and I was able to stand up to my bullies most of the time. Now, I still hear some of those messages, but I have learned to answer them. Reviewing my past, getting back to the roots of some of my beliefs about my body, weight, and relationship with food, and confronting my memories of fat bullying have helped me rewrite the script.
Yesterday, I planned to take a day off working out --- not because I wanted to, but because my knee was acting up. I did some yoga in the hotel room and then I just couldn't stand it ... so I went early to rehearsal and did a half hour on the elliptical. But I forgot to take a towel, deoderant, or a bra, so I had to go to rehearsal wearing my bright pink sports bra under a white shirt! I sprayed it down with the stuff they use to clean the equipment and prayed that it wasn't too stinky. Yech!
Today, I did my weight lifting and crunches. It felt good! It's always the best when I work out first thing in the morning --- then I feel good (and virtuous) all day.
Foodwise, it's been pretty good. I've been inclined to munch the past several days and when a pattern like that begins to emerge, it's time to look at the food plan. Sure enough, I was being a little severe --- trying to make it look good on paper, as it were, and then adding stuff here and there, which of course, adds up. So now I'm thinking it through a little more and planning some of the snacks I like, instead of trying to impress myself with restraint (which doesn't work, anyway).
Looking over some comments from the Challengers, I see a number are facing challenging times in their personal lives. I see a pattern where people are doing very well until a certain time of day, or a certain type of situation, arises. You have to plan for these things. You know it's going to happen from time to time, so have a plan in place to deal with it. Keep some easy foods on hand for when you get sick or run out of time, or have a healthy restaurant meal in mind that you know you can order out. Keep some satisfying snacks in your pantry. If it's too tempting to eat more than you should, keep them parceled out in individual portions in Zip-locs. Most importantly, take a moment before that food reaches your mouth. Literally stop and count to ten and force yourself to be conscious about what you are doing. You can eat it, but you MUST acknowledge to yourself what you are doing and why. You MUST say to yourself, "I did not plan to eat this chocolate chip cookie, but my husband left the kitchen a mess again and the dog pooped in the living room and my son just told me he has a major homework assignment due that he hasn't started yet, the dry cleaner ruined my favorite blouse, and Mom is pissed because she says I don't call her often enough. I feel overwhelmed and this cookie looks really good and I want to eat it. I know I don't need to eat it, but eating it will make me feel better. Of course as soon as I've finished eating it, I will feel even lousier and I will regret it. I am making a conscious decision to eat off my food plan in this moment. Is it worth it to me?"
And here's the other trick. No matter how many times you pick up and put down that cookie, you've got to have a conversation with yourself before it goes in the mouth.
You can do that.