All my remembered life, I’ve gotten the message that I am too big and need to be smaller. I got the message that I was too big in a variety of ways: I took up too much psychological space (shhh! Let other people talk!), and too much intellectual space (don’t be such a know-it-all!), and too much emotional space (don’t be so dramatic; calm down!). Most importantly, though, and at the foundation of it all, were the messages that I took up too much physical space.
All my remembered life, I’ve been told by my parents, my doctors, and the $64 billion/year weight loss industry that I was fat. They also told me that eating too much was what made me fat.
They lied...on both points, really, but we’ll stick to the latter message for the moment: overeating was my problem, according to every source I had.
The grown-up authorities’ solution was always that I should eat less of something; I should count and limit a spotlighted value that made food “bad” by being too much in some way, just as I was. I’m too big and my food is too big. I had too big a portion, too many calories, carbs, or fats, depending on the diet plan. Doctors, parents, books, Weight Watchers®, Jenny Craig®, even Overeaters Anonymous told me, always, that the remedy to me being too big was to limit and deny myself the abundance of something (though what that something was, varied).
First, you go low...and then lower. From low-calorie diets (1,000/day) to zero-calorie foods (I thought I’d gone to heaven when Tab and Fresca first came on the market), from low-fat diets to zero-fat foods (eat as much as you like from this list of snacks!), from low carbs to zero carbs (remember the taste of ketosis, fellow Atkins followers?). Believe me, I have tried most of the well-known ways to be parsimonious with food, and some not so well known.
I have denied myself nourishment in many ways, but especially with food, and I have lived many years of my life hungry. Truly physically hungry, with my stomach growling for food half the day, because my body was starving for its real and valid nutritional needs. It was a metaphor for the rest of my life, in more ways than one. If I wasn’t hungry, I was eating “too much” and getting bigger again, taking up more than my share, everywhere.
My first clearly remembered message that I was fat came at age 4-½ (a few months before this photo), when Mom had to put me in a size 6X dress at the store. Mind you, I’m not talking about the adult size 6XL, but the little girl’s size 6X (which is just another gift from the clothing industry to diminish the self-esteem of sturdily built, large-boned little girls like I was, and like Mom was, before me). At that age, your size is supposedly how old you are, so I was shamed in a public place for being a four-year-old wearing, not 4s, but 6s and, worse, 6s that were X-tra big, to fit extra-big six-year-olds.
And bless Mom’s heart, she was handed a pretty crap toolkit for coping with issues of weight and self-esteem. I don’t blame her for unloading it into my little plastic kiddie purse, even when I was so young. Maybe she needed to quit feeling so badly about her weight; or maybe her own lifelong hunger finally drove her a little mad, when the sociopath-alcoholic-pedophile husband and five little kids got tossed into the mix. I don’t know. I suspect that she just didn’t know any better, having been wed very young to the story that she, also, is too big. Whatever it was that made her shame me for my size at the tender age of four and a half, I know it wasn’t really about me or my size. All is forgiven, Mom!
One more verbal snap shot for you: my first diet. I was in 5th or 6th grade, age 10 or 11-ish, and our family doctor put me on the “Grapefruit Diet” (VERY big back in 1964). Basically, it was a very low-calorie diet in which you ate a grapefruit or drank 8 ounces of grapefruit juice before every meal. The grapefruit’s main function seemed to be to fill me up a bit before allowing me my meager supply of low-calorie foods, though the diet’s promoters touted the grapefruit as having some kind of magical fat-burning power that I never understood. My mother’s eagle eyes watched what I ate at meals, so I snuck food and ate in secret (tricky to do in a household with five other sets of eyes!). By age 12 and junior high, I was making money babysitting, and the grocery store and dime store candy counter were a shorter walk than my elementary school had been. My friend and I would split a jar of olives as we walked home, as a special treat, even drinking the brine. (Yes, weird, but better than the cigarettes we switched to a couple of years later.) By the age of 16, ending my junior year in high school, I was 5’8” and weighed more than 200 pounds.
The decades of yoyo dieting and relentless weight re-gain are chapters in a familiar story; I won’t tell you my whole saga. Just know that this pattern left me approaching 60 years of age in a size 4XL, headed into 5XL...so I came stunningly close to bookending that childhood 6X with a brutal echo. And I do mean brutal. Weighing that much takes a real toll on the body; my knees may fully recover when they’re replaced with bionic versions, but likely not before then. As an added bonus, I had finally succeeded in becoming diabetic, and was headed for an old-age marked by loss of limbs, vision, and life-sustaining kidney function.
But that brutal life is all over now.
I’ve finally learned “how to nutrition,” as my niece’s sweetie called it. Guess what? The truth of how to feed my body has NOTHING to do with parsimony, restriction, or denial of quantity in any nutritional category: calories, carbs, fats—I eat them all, and I eat them in HUGE portions, relative to my prior experience. For the first time in my life, at age 63, I get to feed myself abundantly! I generously nourish my body as I fill myself up three times every day with a bounty of delicious and beautiful food. I eat huge platefuls and bowlfuls of wonderfully nourishing fare and almost never go hungry, if I plan ahead!
After all these decades, I finally learned the truth: good nutrition is not about quantity, but quality. It’s never been about how much I ate; it was always about the forms in which I ate it. I wasn’t eating too many calories or carbs or fats, just the wrong calories, carbs, and fats. These days, I consume very little that comes out of a box, bag, or jar, and nothing that comes out of a window into my car window. I quite happily, with no sense of deprivation, eat no dairy, grains, or refined/artificial sugars, and, while I was at it, I kicked out the hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and other added chemicals. I eat the flesh of chickens and cows raised naturally in pastures, rather than in factory "farms."
My once nearly-empty refrigerator is always full now, fairly bursting (or so it seems to me) with whole, real food. It seems my meal plates fairly overflow with food and my #1 rule is that, if I’m still hungry, I should eat more. Today, I giddily consume a cornucopia of juicy apples and oranges and—yes—even grapefruit, salty skin from roasted chickens, sweet roasted carrots and potatoes, cashews and avocadoes slippery with fatty goodness. I cook my food in lots of fat—clarified butter and coconut oil, mostly, but I even save the fat from roasting chickens and use that to cook with, too!
I eat and eat and eat—huge servings of fabulous food. And my body’s excess size shrinks away, as if by magic.
The process of learning to give generously to my body, to love it—bountifully and abundantly—with food, appears to have been a short journey of just five months, though this finale really launched from a platform of small changes over many decades. What I recognize today is that those five months were the last side-trail on the longer, wider-ranging trek of learning to be, and to love, my whole self—bountifully and abundantly—and in all ways: spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical.
These past few decades, I have learned to feed my soul on a cornucopia of juicy laughter, salty tears, tangy intellectual pursuits, sweetly affirmative prayer, unctuously ecstatic song, sumptuous emotional intimacy, and the mysteriously savory umami of meditation—in mass quantities. Over the past few years, I have upped the serving sizes on this soul-filling diet to levels previously unimaginable to me.
I believe that the physical revolution I am currently living through is a final shining gift from the 7 Childhood Treasures, the crowning glory that includes all my gems. This lovely metaphoric diadem allows me to reveal more fully to the outside world all the inner changes I’ve sustained, from doing the work of mining my Treasures.
Now I feed my body the way I feed my soul, mind, and heart, and the health of all are visible to you.
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