weight gain

It’s My Body. Period.

It happened yet again. A lovely, bright, charismatic young woman came to see me the other day for counselling about her relationship to food and her body. For someone’s first session I always get her story, of course. This woman started off by recounting that her issues with her weight began at age 12. I made a note of this as a point I wanted to return to. Engrossed, she carried on. When her narrative reached its natural conclusion, I began my active engagement. My first question: “I’m curious. How old were you when you got your first period?” “Twelve,” she answered. I was not surprised.

 

I was 13 when I got my period. It was January of Grade 8. I had started Grade 8 at 98 pounds. By the time I Grade 8 had ended, I was 136 pounds. Quite a change. Wait, wait! I know what you are thinking. With puberty, you gain weight. That is absolutely true. Curves, padding, breasts. All good for pregnancy. But for me it was something more than that. For most of the women who come to see me it is something more than that too. And we hate ourselves for it. Which begs the question: What is so wrong with a woman’s body?

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My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Two of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

My mum had had a handful of boyfriends since her divorce. Not a high number for a single woman, but for a girl who missed her dad, who liked the men her mum was with, and who was devastated every time one of her relationships ended, it was too many. It was like having my already tentative heart opened only to have to close it again—hardened with a new layer of scar tissue each time.

 

To make matters worse, my dad was not someone I could rely on emotionally. I have learned in adulthood that I am Métis through him, and that he spent grade five and grade eight in care with the Catholic Church in Moose Jaw and in Edmonton. I have heard stories that my grandparents drank a lot and partied a lot, and were desperately poor. My dad won’t say much about that time except “you knew which priests to stay away from.” But his elder sister recounts memories of neglect at home and being left for long periods of time in the convent. On the occasions when she was finally picked up by her parents, she would arrive home only to meet new siblings.

 

My dad is a much better parent to adult children. I get that. And in my youth, when I needed him most, he was carrying a lot of shame from my mum’s leaving him. That likely only exacerbated the scars from his own parents’ eventual divorce. One thing I knew then, my mum was all I had.

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New Year, New You?

It’s the new year! That magical time when everything seems to lie ahead of you and you envision yourself anew. One of the ways that many of you will do this is with a slimmer body. Over the past year (or even the past few years), you may have put on a few pounds, and you believe everything would be better if you lost it. Or maybe you catch yourself as you walk past a mirror; you gaze uncomfortably at the reflection of a larger self than you realized and can’t help thinking that you’re not the way you know yourself to be. Either way, changing your body typically means going on a diet. But if you’ve gone on diets before, you know you usually gain the weight back…if not more. You think if you could only do it better or if you could just find the right diet for your body type, then it would be different. You end up feeling like a failure. But have you ever stopped to wonder if you are really the problem? Maybe diets are the problem. On that verdict, the jury is in. Statistics say and have said for years that only 2-5% of those who embark on a diet will lose the weight they want and keep it off.

 

Those who do “succeed” often do so because they are willing to see the rest of their lives as a form of diet. Even the “saner” exercise-based programs for weight loss do not fare much better. And yet one of every two US women is on a diet right now. Girls are going on their first diet younger and younger. More and more men are joining women’s “dieting” ranks. When you include diet pop, gym memberships and bariatric surgery, in 2013, Americans spent $66 billion dollars on the weight loss industry. Canada is not far behind with its numbers.

 

Why is permanent weight loss so hard? I mean really, it should be as simple as “less in and more out.” To add insult to injury, obesity rates in the affluent western world continue to rise. I believe that there are many interesting reasons for this, and will be writing a series of articles on this in the coming months on this blog.

 

The first thing I want to emphasize is that diets don’t work. Why not? Because they are based on deprivation, and deprivation sets up an equal and opposite reaction. Weight gain. There is a brilliant illustration of this in the aptly titled book Diets Don’t Work! by Bob Schwartz.

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