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.
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.
“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?