While whipping up dinner, my two daughters were watching the movie “Madagascar 2: Return to Africa” for the first time. Part way through the film, I stopped in dead cooking mode as these lyrics pounded out in a rhythmical, catchy beat:
I like ‘em big
I like ‘em chunky
I like ‘em big
I like ‘em plumpy
I like ‘em round
With something, something
They Like my sound
They think I’m funky
Here’s the full video of the song in case you missed the movie:
Being the concerned parent, I was trying to discern whether the song was promoting obesity, or embracing all body types. Or maybe a little of both?
As I listened to the song, I could hear my daughters giggling, my youngest ran up to me, poked my stomach and teased, “Mom, you’re chunky!”
Oh, that stung.
Battle of the Bulge & The Heart
A flood of memories about my weight battles came to mind. Each and every day, there is a fight between my willpower vs. food. Being overweight was almost expected in my family – as pretty much everyone teeters at the 200-pound and over mark. When I tell people that obesity is the norm in my family, they usually respond, “No! Oh, but you’re thin.” I will never be thin. Inside I feel like I will always be chunky – much like the song.
Truthfully, I want to be healthy, fit – inside and out. I am 5’8 and weigh just under (ahem) 140 pounds. I work extremely hard to maintain that weight. I am an avid exerciser. But I also love eating – snacking – especially at night. That’s the killer for me. Everyone’s asleep and there’s no accountability. It’s just me and that bag of chips.
Growing up, I remember my mom trying the yo-yo diets – pills, shakes, fasts and all the commercial diet support groups with special foods. You name the diet, my mom probably tried it. At one point she was even hospitalized because of one of the diet fads – causing permanent damage to her heart. She almost died.
When I was around age six, and soon after my mom had her last child, I remember someone asking when her baby was due. Ouch. The pregnant question is one of the cardinal no-nos among women, along with asking someone’s age. I could see the look of hurt on my mom’s face.
My older sister also fought weight issues and was sent to “fat camp” for kids. As a child, I thought how sad it was that they have to send a little girl to camp because she’s chunky. It didn’t make sense to me.
Here’s a photo of a similar tummy roller I tried at the age of 12.
Around 12 years of age, I recall my older sister and my mom joined an all-women’s gym. They let me “workout” with them a few times. This was during the 80s, and I remember this odd wooden contraption that had giant, moving rollers that would spin on their stomach – like a boxer on a punching bag. I thought it was burning off their stomach to make them thin. I tried the machine, which hurt my abdominals and gave me a rash.
Most of the time, my mom and sister would hit the jacuzzi at the gym. One time, I went in the locker area to find my sister slumped on a bench. I asked her what was wrong, and she said two girls were making fun of the fat lady that just got into the jacuzzi. They were referring to my mom. Mean girls strike.
Desperate to lose weight?
I knew at that moment I did not want to feel that sting of hurt. Or heart failure. Or diabetes. Or asthma. The list of weight-related medical conditions goes on…
When I was a teenager, I announced to my parents that I wanted to be a healthy person. I declared: “When I am an adult, I want to run with my kids and be healthy.” I wasn’t the jock type, so I joined the local YMCA and began a committed, enjoyable work-out regimen. Between working out and my waitressing job, I was a healthy teenager and young adult.
After college, I began working desk jobs and commuting. I slowly put on almost 40 additional pounds. I vowed to stay true to my commitment I made as a teenager.
I also wanted to be a healthy mom. While being pregnant can be a wonderful experience, it can also add those unwanted pounds. I thought of my mom and sister, their pain and medical complications associated with weight. Before I became pregnant, I lost nearly 30 pounds on Weight Watchers. For me, motivation, accountability and support were key.
Skinny Is (Not) In
Inundated with a media that markets “thin” everything, I now worry about my daughters and the battles they face when it comes to self image. Last year, I took my older daughter shopping for jeans and the sales person asked if she’d like to try on the “skinny jeans.” Really? That made me sick to my stomach.
Diet and exercise are critically important when it comes to childhood obesity. My oldest daughter is neither petite, nor athletic. Exercise is also not a favorite on her list of activities. She’d rather read, draw or watch TV. It doesn’t help that she is made fun of by others at school because she can’t do a cartwheel, or run fast. Kids can be cruel. When she comes home upset, I now feel her hurt.
As a parent, I know that talking and listening to our kids is crucial during these formidable years. We also need to be role models for our children. We can’t shield them from everything, but it is our job to guide them in making healthy choices and clearly distinguish between negative and positive behavior.
We are now on a mission to find a physical activity that my daughter enjoys. She wants to learn how to do a cartwheel. So, she has asked to try gymnastics. She made her statement. And, I am listening. After gymnastics, though, I thought we might take a run (or a walk) together.
Sidenote: OC Family ran a wonderful article entitled “The Costs of Childhood Obesity” by Tori Richards. An excellent piece that sheds light on the epidemic of childhood obesity. My take away: It’s up to us to make the change.
Do you have a story to share related to a weight challenge that impacted your life? Do you have a child that fights you on exercise and/or a good diet? How are you listening and talking with your child? What do you think of the media and its skinny marketing?
I grew up on the outskirts of a small California town in the Central Coast. In the 1970s, I was raised on a communal farm with two hippie (sometimes hick) parents, three sisters and a brother. By the late 1970s, we relocated to the "city." After watching countless episodes of the popular TV sitcom "Brady Bunch," I struggled throughout the years to assimilate into mainstream society.
Eventually, I graduated with a journalism degree from a four-year college (a first in my family). For the last 15 years, I have been a professional communicator and consultant for several Fortune 500 companies (working for “the man” as my parents would say). However, my dream has always been to write – creatively with a passion for telling the story of my own experiences and unique upbringing.
I started this blog with the hopes that my clear thoughts and epiphanies could have a positive impact. I also hope to someday publish my memoir. Now living in suburbia with a loving husband and two beautiful children, I hope to offer some perspective into my daily life blended with my past - because moments matter.