Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Mother and Her Diets

The first time I became aware of "diets" I was 10 years old.  My mother gave birth to her fourth child at age 43 and she wanted to get her figure back.  She committed to the plan in Adele Davis' book "Calories Don't Count." It was a low carbohydrate diet very similar to the Atkins Diet.  She slimmed down quickly and ended up weighing less that before she became pregnant...no small feat for a 44 year old woman approaching peri-menopause. Perhaps she was successful because my older sister dieted with her and did the cooking.

Unfortunately with life there are too many twists and turns, like my baby sister's surgeries. My mother slipped off the low carb wagon right into a pool of sweets and starches.  She was also starting through peri-menopause so the weight came back on.....plus some.

It must have been the photo of my mother cradling her first of five grandchildren that shook her to her core.  She had always detested heavy women who didn't cover the "flags" of fat on their upper arms yet there they were on hers.  She never thought that floaty house dresses were very stylish....but there she was in a big blue one.  She had worn her hair long for years and would often wear it in a pretty chignon at the nap of her neck.  There she was with the typical short, curled hair done in the salon once a week.  Fed up and depressed she joined a new diet organization that had just set up shop in our little town...Weight Watchers.

My mother was diligent in her quest for slimness and said she would have eaten a piece of toilet paper every day had they put it on the list of "legal" foods.  Our kitchen was purged of all sweets and bakery goods except those reserved for my father who never gained an ounce.  I was a teenager and learning my way around the kitchen.  I learned how to make salad dressing for four people using a juicy, salted tomato and a teaspoon of real mayo.  I watched my mother make spaghetti not from dough but from Spaghetti squash.  The list of non fat "legal" foods went on and on.  My mother was eventually hired to be the Weight Watcher's Lecturer and manage our little town's chapter.  She not only sparkled and shone but succeeded beautifully in her new found role.

I had the good fortune of having her pay my way through Weight Watchers after the birth of her third grandchild.  I had some "baby" weight to drop and with her encouragement and food advice I was able to lose the weight in just a few months.  To this day I remember the plan and the portions and don't normally exceed a proper "serving".

I wish so much that joy could have continued.  Organizations being what they are and some times catty or political she was terminated.  I never heard the whole story because I was married and out of the house by then but I knew something inside my mother had died.  It had to do with all lecturers being required to fit into a size 10 or smaller.  My mother had been proud to be a 12 but it still wasn't good enough.  She was unable to lose more weight to go down another size.

Women and their food...this is such a heavy and uncomfortable subject.  It's sufficient to say that when women are caregiving, sacrificing, working jobs, making homes, keeping schedules and making sure all is well with her world, eating right to stay slim is not high on the list of priorities.  There was a time when manufacturers refused to make women's clothing larger than a 14 or 16.  Society labeled women this size and larger as "lazy" or not interested in looking attractive for their men.  I'm glad that some of those attitudes have changed but not enough.  More tolerance is needed as well as nutritional education.  Obesity is not healthy but without the support of her family a woman can very easily eat herself into poor health.

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