Recently, I was interviewed for an article about HAES(SM), and the interviewer asked, “What was your earliest experience with dieting?”
I felt a little funny telling her that I did my first diet when I was 4 years old. Even though I include that fact in my biography, and I hear similar stories all day long in my practice, it still felt funny to say it.
I actually remember quite a lot about that first diet. I don’t remember what I ate or how I went about it, but I remember telling my mom that the kids at nursery school were calling me fat. After some discussion (I was a really talkative kid), we decided that I would go on some sort of diet, and I would get a gold star on the calendar every day that I stuck to it. After a certain number of gold stars accumulated, I would get a toy.
As you might imagine, I think that this set me up for a lot things that some of you may have experienced, too. For years I had underlying beliefs like: it’s important to focus on weight and food, it’s important to please people in order to get something (a toy, approval), I need to change how I look to be accepted, and in some ways, a belief that the bullies were right.
Maybe in reading this you’re thinking, “I would never put my kid on a diet at such a young age.” And perhaps you wouldn’t. But when I think about my mom’s experience of life, how she was the chubby one among her thin siblings, how her mom (my grandmother) worried about her weight and my mom’s weight, how she had gone through life thinking she was fat, starving herself to fit in, etc., then it doesn’t seem so weird. In fact, it makes perfect sense. My mom was trying to avoid the pain that she had experienced as a fat kid.
When I write in my gratitude journal, I often find myself writing about my Mom. I feel grateful to her for so many things, but I’ve also come to a place where I’m really grateful that she put me on that diet at age 4. That diet, and the diets that followed, were part of my journey to where I am now. I would never have been the anti-diet crusader, the fat activist, and the healer that I am today if I hadn’t gone through the intense torment of repeated dieting. I wouldn’t wish it on another kid, but I see that journey coming to fruition in the fat activists around me, and I think there will be legions more of us in the years to come, since childhood obesity has become such a lightning rod issue (phony as it is).
I inherited so much from my mom. I have her wavy hair, her love of learning, her zeal for social justice, her love of humor, her love of creature comforts and beautiful things. I know she blames herself for my inherited weight, even though I would love for her to let go of that. I think that would be a great Mother’s Day present to herself, even though my mom hates Mother’s Day and thinks it’s a commercialized, fake holiday. (I guess my mom’s hatred of fake holidays is another thing I inherited, though I solemnly and devoutly celebrate International No Diet Day every year – and every day, really.)
So here’s a tip for finding some healing from the guilt and blame cycle: take a moment to picture your mom (or whomever was like a mom to you) in different stages of her life. Picture her as a young child, a preteen, a teenager, and a young adult. For each of these stages, ask yourself, “What were her dreams for her life? What were her fears and insecurities?” Doing this exercise may help you understand your mom a bit better.
It’s a good reminder that, as Louise Hay says, “our parents were doing the best they could with the understanding, awareness, and knowledge that they had” at the time. (And by the way, if you’re not there yet in acknowledging your parents’ journey, that’s okay, too.)
Please share your insights in the comments section below.
Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. is a certified holistic health counselor who specializes in transforming your relationship with food and your body. Go to http://www.bodylovewellness.com/stay-in-touch/ to get your free download – Golda’s Top Ten Tips For Divine Dining.
One reply on “In Honor Of Mother’s Day: Taking A Break From The Guilt/Blame Cycle”
I enjoyed reading your last article and asked a question, so if you have a moment, can you go and check it out!
I remember when I realized that my mother was so scared of being “wrong” that she could never, ever admit the harm she had done to me. It was when I was trying to explain to her how scared we were of my father growing up, and how we lived in hell. She kept asking me, But can you imagine how it felt FOR ME?
It was then that I mentally took a step back and said Wow, she just cannot look at her behavior, it’s too painful.
That day I was able to release my anger at her. I found myself feeling such a wealth of pity and sadness for our loss, the loss of the relationship that we will never have; the loss of the healing that I could have shared with her; the loss of the relationship with my siblings, because she had damaged all of us, our ability to trust and confide in each other.
My mother is broken. Realizing she is broken and how she got that way, while I have so much sympathy for her, doesn’t encourage me to absolve her of her responsibility for the damage she caused me.
Yes, it made me who I am today, but without it, I would have been a happier, healthier more whole version of me, and I would actually have been able to SEE me.
Inflicting pain to avoid pain, my mother did that too. I’m so happy I came to understand that so I wouldn’t do it to my daughter and she would NEVER have to learn to undo that, too – or put herself back together again like Humpty Dumpty.
My mother was damaged, and to avoid addressing her hurt and pain, she projected her hurt and pain onto me, and “made me into her”. I say that with no blame or anger. Believe me, I understand her but honestly, that is a horrible thing to do to a child.
In short I guess I’m saying, I’m happy I broke the cycle. My daughter will be whole enough and healthy enough to fight other battles, and there are surely enough of them in the world that she doesn’t have to spend years fighting an inner one.
I wish my Mother had done me that courtesy, and her mother for her. I truly understand pain is how we grow, but you know, I didn’t need what she did to me to be who I am.
What she did made me spend years searching for who I am under the layers of all her lies and abuse and mislabeling. I am truly not angry at her, I want to make that clear, but she is responsible for damaging me to spare herself pain, and it would be a disservice to her if I tried to white wash that.