My pre-teen daughter came to me this morning and asked, “Mommy, can I be on a diet too?” The very words made me feel sick to my stomach. I remember saying the same thing to my mom when I was even younger than her. It was sometime during the 1970’s and my mother – who has never been over-weight a day in her life – was on the popular diet of the day. This diet, or cleanse as we would refer to it now, consisted of eating hard-boiled eggs and bananas in differing amounts throughout an 8 day time span. In the 1970s – the golden age of processed foods – this sounded like a healthy thing to do.
The real reason I wanted to join my mother on this primal diet wasn’t because I was looking for a healthy thing to do or even because I adored hard-boiled eggs and bananas, it was because even at that age I had already figured out that dieting equaled acceptance and worthiness. In school, the kids who wore the clothes prominently labeled “chubby,” “husky” or “pretty plus” were always the kids who were teased, ridiculed and generally left out of the games and social circles. Later as a teen, I simplified this equation to mean: deprivation = beauty. Somehow I got it into my head that even if I wasn’t perfect, if I was at least trying to improve myself by extreme dieting and exercise then I would be accepted for who I was – imperfections and all. I remember spending an entire summer alternating between starving myself and binging. One day when several of my friends were over at my house, I stepped on the scale and was elated to find that I weighed 80 lbs. At 5 ‘ 2″ tall, 15 years old, weighing 80 lbs., I still felt that I was over-weight and therefore unattractive.
This morning when my daughter asked, “Mommy, can I be on a diet too?” I answered, “No one should ever be on a diet.”
Instead, we discussed making healthy food choices and pursuing activities like yoga, swimming and bike riding that are fun and good for your body. I explained how I use the Weight Watchers plan to help me determine healthy food portion sizes. We also talked about loving yourself for who you are this very moment and not worrying about what other people think you should look like or act like.