Chunky

One good thing about this blog, and one of the reasons that I started it, is I realized that I wanted to blog on a topic in which I would have a never-ending stream of things to write about. Not all of them are funny, like I had hoped, given my blog’s name and tagline, but all of them are honest and hopefully evoke a little emotion inside of your heart. Tonight’s post is kind of a bummer, and I apologize for that – but if I’m going to be completely honest in my little space on the internet about my weight loss quest, I need to be willing to bare some of these difficult details.

OMG! A bathing suit shot of me surfaces on the internet! Scandalous @ 11 years old.

I must have been 11, or maybe 12 years old. I was wearing the biggest size in the junior’s jeans – i think at the time, a 14 or a 15 depending on the brand. They didn’t make Junior Plus back then – it was just juniors, and if you were too fat for that, Misses. It was a precarious thing to try on jeans because I was burdened early on with blooming hips and often left dressing rooms in tears, cursing my full, changing body.

I recall after a particular shopping trip coming home from the store and craving a popsicle. My Nana was visiting from Tennessee and I remember her leaning back in the recliner as I came in the door. She was just the type of grandma you imagine in movies – heavy, but in the squishy old lady way, with tight gray curls and a never-ending supply of lifesavers and tic-tacs (for her diabetes). My Nana was a shocker because she looked like any sweet grandma on the outside, but when she opened her mouth, unexpected swear words would fly out of her pink-lipsticked mouth.

My beloved Nana and Uncle Larry in Georgia

“What are you doing, Lyss?” she called from her recliner, curious about the immediate opening of the refrigerator so soon after I arrived home. “I’m just getting a popsicle,” I replied, tearing the cold stick out of the waxy paper, happy that I had found an orange one amidst all the leftover red ones. My favorite flavor was green – for lime, but those always went fast in a house of three kids.

“Are you sure you want to do that?” she said.

I looked down at the popsicle, not sure why anyone WOULDN’T want to eat a popsicle – cold, refreshing, easy to carry, quick to eat. “Why?” I asked back, at this time licking the melting juice from the bottom of the stick.

“Well,” she said, her voice distinctively trailing off.  “You’re getting kind of chunky.”

I froze. “Chunky” is a word reserved for a type of soup. Not pretty, 11-year-old girls with wavy blonde hair who win school-wide spelling bees and play flute in the concert band.

I felt the instant welling of hurt inside of me, churning upwards like vomit in my throat. I can’t remember what I did after this, but I’m pretty sure I went upstairs and cried – cried to my little 11 year old self for being a big fat failure and for not being able to resist a popsicle. Despite my Nana’s warning, I remained chunky.

It’s hard writing about this, because I know I WAS chunky. What was hard about it was the way it was presented. I know my Nana didn’t mean to hurt me, and this post isn’t about a “Mean Grandma”. She also battled her weight and had lots to lose. I try to put myself in her position, to think about what I’d say to my future daughter or granddaughter if their life was so quickly mirroring mine, one headed towards the grim and painful path of obesity. It’s things like this that make me so afraid for when I have children, because their worldview can be so easily melded depending on the lessons you teach them.

If I was my Nana, would I have said it a little differently? Would I have waited until there WASN’T food in my hand, albeit a 50-calorie popsicle? Would I have saved my concern for my parents, or rather had a frank discussion about exercising and healthy food? Might I have said, “Have an apple instead”? Would I keep the popsicles under a locked box with a key, and have only frozen grapes instead? I don’t know. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. She wasn’t saying it to hurt my feelings, she was saying it to try and prevent me from starting down the very path she herself struggled on so often.

If you have kids, or when you have kids, how would you handle it if they were getting a little chunky? Would you be so matter of fact and hope that bluntness would drive home the point, or would you approach it in a completely different manner? My father has always been very pragmatic and closed-mouth about his daughters’ weight, whereas my mother is quite a bit more blunt. Is a child’s perception of what a word means just that – THEIR individual perception, or is it the way the message is presented that carries the meaning?


6 thoughts on “Chunky

  1. I often have wondered about this myself (having had a grandma who, when I was six, told me I was too fat for a pretty little dress I was trying on at Kids Gap.)

    I want my kids to have a healthy relationship with their bodies and food. I feel like the best way to do it is by example: always have fresh/decent food on hand (apples, grapes, berries, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, peanut butter, cheese, hummus, yogurt. whole wheat crackers) and allow kids to eat those whenever they are hungry. I remember being told I’d spoil my dinner with a banana (which in retrospect had more nutrition than the white rice accompanying my dinner.) And I think that’s crazy.

    Basically, I think I’ll try to keep mostly healthy food around and if there’s going to be junk food, it’s going to be high quality and a treat. And have the kids help cook. It made me really appreciate using fresh food.

    As far as exercise, I’d make it a family affair: we’re ALL going for a hike/bike ride/game of basketball/tennis/ice-skating, etc. That way, it’s not my child’s sole responsibility to go outside and play by themselves. I’d also encourage lessons (like yoga, dance, karate, whatever) and probably take a class myself as well.

    Or, I won’t have kids. Pr0blem solved, right? :D

  2. I am close mouthed because I try not to be hypocritical. I’m not going to say anything about eating a bag of tortilla chips while I’m doing the same PLUS drinking a beer.

    You can only guide kids to a certain point. Once they start thinking for themselves, they will eat what they want and do physical activities (or not).

    Nice pic of Lake Sonoma. I would bet that we had sandwiches, chips and fruit there to snack on. On the way home, I’m sure we stopped at McDonalds for Ice Cream too. Gotta balance out the swimming and rope swinging with a treat!

  3. Thank you for sharing this personal memory Alyssa. You have no idea how many times I’ve had experiences like yours. My dad once looked at me in disgust, while we were out to eat at a restaurant and blurted, “Why do you love food so much?!?!” I knew I was doing something “wrong”, but I didn’t know the anwer to his question either. My grandmother used to say, “You don’t want to get fat like your mother do you?”. She was cruelly shaming her own daughter every time she said that. And these were people who loved me!

    I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what I’ll say to my children. I think I will definitely teach them about good nutrition and good health. I’ll try to avoid mentioning weight, and I definitely won’t ever use the “f” word or even euphemisms like “chubby”. I will ask them to choose one treat a day, because I think parents do need to establish rules, but I will never say that they have to do that to avoid gaining weight. I also want to tell my kids as often as possible that they’re beautiful and amazing, and I will make sure,especially with my girls, to compliment things other than their looks. I want them to know their insides are just as beautiful as their outsides…at any weight.

  4. Ugh, this. I can totally relate, and I am similarly confused and unsure of what I will do when I have kids, especially girls. Sometimes, it can be very constructive for someone you love to be honest with you about your outward appearance. My mother has always been the one who recognized when I was out of control with behaviors, or deluding myself about being able to eat like a “normal person,” or if I was wearing an unflattering skirt. Some people are shocked that she would tell me that a skirt made my butt look huge, but it really was a vital lesson for me in “you can lust after what is in fashion, but if you put it on your body it will accentuate the body parts that you don’t want it to.” (tiered gypsy skirts, I hate you)

    But then, where does it cross over into handing your issues onto your kids? I inherited food guilt from my mother, handed down in lessons that were meant to help me develop healthy eating habits. (I eat healthy food, but way to much of it and for the wrong reasons!) What do you say/do to help your kids have healthy body image & not abuse food? I don’t know. It’s scary.

  5. I think I touched on this in a comment before haha.
    I definitely think my mother handed down poor eating habits to me (calling certain foods “bad,” telling me I was fat, extreme dieting tips she had tried and shared with me), and I am terrified of what I am going to teach my future daughter.
    I have a basic plan: I am going to make those kids active, active, active! As a kid of course we ran the streets like hooligans, but in high school the activity levels dropped.
    I’m going to have better food choices available to my future spawn also.
    Portion control will be a big concern, because as Americans we kind of go overboard.
    I’m not going to let my kids drink soda until they are at least 7 years old. I drank so much soda as a kid and consequentially had to ‘break the habit’ on my own as a teen. And it drives me up the wall when I see a baby’s bottle filled with soda. >:-|
    I’m not going to do to my daughter what my mom (and family members) did to me. I know there are better ways to handle health and fitness than by saying, “You shouldn’t eat that, bubble-butt.” I can stress the importance of foods that are better choices and how that affects how my kids feel. And everyday I’m going to tell my babies how beautiful they are, inside and out. :)

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