Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Nattering Mass

Years ago, at the end of a visit, Mom brought me a stack of Weight Watchers propaganda and asked me to read it with an open mind. During the short conversation about why I probably couldn't do that she told me not to blame my genetics for my weight because ..."I've been fighting this all my life."
And she has.
I have early memories of her sitting at the dining room table nursing a glass of some kind of diet liquid meal while the rest of us ate.She did her last liquid diet under the supervision of a doctor who wouldn't do knee (Or hip? I forget.) surgery until she lost weight. She was in her seventies. I was livid. It seemed crazy dangerous. She's always talked about her weight as a success or failing of her own will power. But do not dare say anything if she's indulging. She'll coil like a cobra and hiss.
A few years ago I stopped plating her meals. What ever I did was wrong. One plate brought protests about too much food and the next was met with a fearful query about how much more was left in the kitchen. Maddening. She'd talk about too much food when it came to salad and pile a bowl full of ice cream and cookies after the meal.
Dieting makes people crazy.
I read an article from  the Times to her today. There's lots to like in it although it is written from the perspective of a fat person who does not want to be fat and assumes all fat people would rather be thin.

Nobody wants to be fat. In most modern cultures, even if you are healthy — in my case, my cholesterol and blood pressure are low and I have an extraordinarily healthy heart — to be fat is to be perceived as weak-willed and lazy. It’s also just embarrassing. Once, at a party, I met a well-respected writer who knew my work as a health writer. “You’re not at all what I expected,” she said, eyes widening. The man I was dating, perhaps trying to help, finished the thought. “You thought she’d be thinner, right?” he said. I wanted to disappear, but the woman was gracious. “No,” she said, casting a glare at the man and reaching to warmly shake my hand. “I thought you’d be older.”

But it does however document how complex fat bodies are and how the eat less/ exercise more thing is not as simple as it sounds.
The author wishes her mother were still alive so she could tell her not to blame herself so much. Having read and discussed the article with my mom I could tell her it would be futile. I don't even try to argue with my mother's desire to be thin. I am frustrated and annoyed by the daily accounting of how much she's eating and how much weight she's gaining. We've had so many talks about the holidays and as we eat up all our gifts and treats we get back to simpler eating. But a life time of denial and indulgence has taken over and all reason is lost.
Many times fat people try to talk to me about their diet successes and failures. It's almost like a code. A way of acknowledging the "problem". I listen to Mom confessing to her friends on the phone, my friends who visit, waiters and grocery store clerks, anyone, everyone.
I've seen this in a friend with no history of  weight gain. She's very health oriented. Lots of hiking and exercise. She's beautiful inside and out. And almost every time I see her eat something like a cookie she talks about it being bad. I've never been able to impact her thinking.
Out national dialogue about food fluctuates from hyper and dubious ideas about health to bigger and more food. Commercials for diet products are followed by commercials for fast food. It's been this way for years and years. My favorite commercial right now advertises a kind of girdle as a solution for unsightly bulges. I mean ... just crazy.
When Mom leaves I usually go through a sort of food break down. I come home from taking her to the airport and order a pizza. I crave bologna and potato chips. It lasts a week or two and one day I snap out of it and .... just ... eat. Eat. Not from reaction or in resistance but just ... eat. Nothing to prove or confess.