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Mom and Weight and Food

Mother’s Day is always a little tough for me. Not only because it’s now been over 12 years since I lost my mom, but because remembering her inevitably reminds me of food and weight issues.

Mom was terrified of being heavy. I’m sure that at least some of it was vanity, since I also know she didn’t want to weigh too little, because it would reduce her modest curves to a straighter figure, something she didn’t want. But it was also because both of her grandmothers had diabetes. After seeing what it did to them, she didn’t want to go through that herself.

This meant that she was careful about what she ate and tracked her weight daily in her diary, as well as making sure she exercised almost every day, be it walking, swimming, skiing, biking, hiking, using our trampoline, lifting weights, or something else. We always had vegetables with our meals, often from our own garden, fresh in the summer, canned or frozen in the winter.

From that description, looking back, I suspect some people would scratch their heads and wonder how I ended up gaining so much weight. After all, I had good food options available, a good model for healthy eating and exercise, and a mother who was supportive of me trying to lose weight, finding ways to pay for things like Weight Watchers and nutrition counseling despite a tight budget.

What we didn’t talk much about when I was gaining weight, though, is that it didn’t feel “supportive” to me. It felt suffocating. I was convinced that my weight was the only thing that mattered, because she put so much emphasis on it. (To be fair, so did other family members, including her mother, and society as a whole.) It meant that I snuck food, especially sweets, so while I ate the way she wanted in front of her, in secret I was cramming candy bars, cake, brownies, cookies, ice cream, and anything else I could.

Eventually, after one disastrous visit with the nutritionist, Mom realized that she had perhaps gone too far. A note in her diary indicates that she decided she wouldn’t say anything about my weight again, unless I brought it up. By then, though, I was already over 200 pounds, so while it helped our relationship, it was a little late on the weight gain. (Plus, it didn’t address the other reasons why I gained weight.)

Which makes the irony all the sharper when I wonder whether or not I would have lost weight if Mom hadn’t died. If I hadn’t had that impetus, that fear for my own health, that regret that we never climbed Katahdin together again, would I be where I am today? Would I be working to help others with their own food and weight issues?

I have no answer to those questions, and on days like today, they’re hard to consider. So instead, I try to remember this. That Mom did give me a good model to follow, once I was willing to do that. That she would be proud of what I have accomplished, and what I am doing with my life. That even though she was afraid of what being overweight would mean for me in the long run, she loved me and was overall a wonderful mother. And that she will always be in my heart, nourishing me in ways that have nothing to do with food.

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