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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Trying to heal the inner child

Originally published Oct. 29, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

It’s official. I now weigh less than I did when I was 10 years old. Click for stats.The first day that I weighed in below 199 pounds, I was in shock. After a week, I was excited.But once the excitement wore off, I discovered a new emotion: anger.
My husband would say that my anger is nothing new. He thinks I’ve been angry quite awhile. It has something to do with no longer being able to squelch my feelings with food. But this new anger is different. It’s immature and unreasonable.

Angry little kid
Every time I look in the mirror, I become a mad 10-year-old. I’m angry with adults in my life who looked at me and didn’t see anything wrong. I’m angry with my pediatrician for not telling my mother that having such an obese child was a problem. My bariatric doctors warned me before I had this surgery that as the weight dropped, emotional issues would surface.

Though I worked hard to prepare for what might arise, this is one issue that I never saw coming. I thought I had made peace with the events of my childhood. The adult in me says that my mom did the best she could with the knowledge she had at the time. My doctor was no miracle worker. When he looked at me, he probably saw a kid with the deck stacked against her. He knew there was a family history of obesity, and he probably knew that lecturing my mother wouldn’t do any good. I presume he gave the best advice he could in such circumstances. I remember him telling my mom that it wasn’t such a bad thing, but it might be a good idea to have me try not to gain any more weight. I was in the fifth grade then, but I remember it all clearly. I also remember crying myself to sleep after the first day of eighth grade when I weighed in at 203. I had maintained my weight for three years, but somehow over the summer, it crept up on me. That’s when I began dieting in earnest.

As an adult, I think I should probably thank that doctor for saving me from the yo-yo diet routine for three years. After all, if he had done what I wish he had — required my mom to help me lose weight — it probably would only have served to start me on that path so much sooner. That should count for something. But the sullen 10-year-old rants. All she can remember are the taunts and teasing that made walking to and from school seem unbearable. She remembers having to wear ill-fitting clothing because manufacturers at the time weren’t in the business of creating stylish outfits for plus-sized children.

Going back in time
I’d love to go back in time and have a talk with the 10-year-old me. I’d tell her that she might feel powerless, but as an adult, she’d be in control of her own destiny. I’d tell her about the power of making good choices. I’d talk to that girl’s mom and tell her how her daughter’s size was a prison, and that she should do something about it. I’d encourage her to take daily walks with her daughter and develop an active lifestyle. I’d visit the doctor and tell him his complacent attitude wasn’t helping anyone. I’d encourage him to be more proactive when dealing with overweight patients and their parents.

Of course, going back in time is impossible. All I can do is acknowledge that it’s normal for me feel this way. When the angry 10-year-old makes an appearance, I try my best to listen to her. Maybe through this process, the little girl inside of me will heal her heart.


Anonymous said...

This is a great fear I have for my daughter, who is still just a toddler and not overweight, but is surrounded by adults with food issues. How can I protect her from bad influences that are so pervasive in our everyday lives.

Tonya Kubo said...

I don't think you can fully protect her, but you can arm her with the tools necessary to develop healthy habits with food. I don't pretend to have all the answers. My daughter turns 2 in January, and I lose sleep over similar fears. What I can do is cultivate a healthy perspective on food. There is no "clean your plate" policy in our home, and I refuse to allow any other adult to impose it upon my daughter even in their home. If they try, then we don't need to have meals there. I introduce my daughter to a wide variety of foods and don't question her if she refuses. Food is not a battleground and it never will be.