Thursday, August 16, 2012

diary of a chubby kid

My relationship with food has always been on a Rocky Road. With chocolate on top. 
I know, I know. I'm a cheese ball.
Elvis Face at Disneyland- Do you like my themed ensemble?
But seriously. I have always been a chub. It just so happens that it runs in my family. Or you might say that no one in my family runs. Either way, since as long as I can remember I have been on the stout side of the Little Teapot song. In elementary school my  parents even had to get involved when a few "popular girls" (BTW how is that even a thing in elementary school? Not cool.) were teasing me. I still remember shamefacedly receiving one of their apology letters, written with backward 's' and all.
 "Dear Mandy, 'S'orry I called you a whale. I think you're really nice. -Cindy"

You can insert a lisp when you read that if you want. Even though a "popular girl" would probably never lisp. Her elocution teacher would never allow it. I do it, though, just because it's more fun that way.
Being called "whale" hurts almost as much as looking at this picture does.
 I played 's'oftball with Cindy years later and we actually became friends.

We never mentioned the teasing. Or the letter. Or water-dwelling mammals of any kind.

My parents started looking sideways at me in my swimsuit at a swim meet one night soon after the lisping incident and told me that I needed to start watching what I ate.

But I WAS watching what I ate. I watched it all. I watched after school ice cream sundaes (made like a boss with melted peanut butter and Hershey's syrup on top) and chips and snack cakes sliding past my lips all of the time. It was the best tasting food, the food that our cupboards were stocked with. And I loved it all. The whole "You are what you eat" thing really wasn't registering with me.

Soon after that, mom started taking me to a nutritionist before school once a week. There I would have to talk about vegetables and portion sizes and keep a food journal that I was supposed to go over with my nutritionist at our meetings. I was probably ten. It was embarrassing, intimidating and confusing to me at that age. I thought I looked like everyone else in my family. Ate like them. Why was I there? I don't remember how long I went, but I don't think I learned much about being healthy or turning skinny and pretty - and I was much more interested in the latter. I had no idea what I was doing wrong because I had honestly never considered before that food could be bad.

Life went on. I was always involved in sports (I was the consummate tomboy. I told anyone who would listen that baseball teams should admit girls because softball was just too wimpy for me. My first love was Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez. I wanted to be buried under home plate at Dodger's Stadium... Well, I stick by that last one...). I was pretty happy and active. I was the sweet, funny chubby friend that every cool skinny girl needed in their entourage (They will never admit to it, but I am 95% sure that every friend I had in junior high and high school read that in a Teen Vogue somewhere, and treated it like scripture. And rightly so. I mean, it's Teen Vogue. Am I right?).

My gorgeous sister! ...and me, age 18.
I vividly remember the day, my senior year of high school, that my soccer coach called the team together to have a talk about nutrition. This was literally the only time I can remember connecting food to fuel. I was so interested and quite frankly astounded by his demand that we eat balanced meals. Did I need to buy a scale? What did this have to do with soccer? Whatever this meant, I was sure I wasn't doing it right. And I was the type that said "How high?" the moment Coach said "Jump". So I canned food runs to McDonald's and began eating what soon became known as "The Regular" in my local bagel shop- wheat bagel, turkey, mustard, veggies. The owner of the bagelry loved me. This was my idea of balance.

When I left for college I had no idea how to cook, feed myself, or stay healthy. I was eating garbage at all hours of the day and night, and, while I was not alone among my college besties in gaining the Freshman 15, I was probably the only one who was not eating out of character. The only real change was that I had stopped playing competitive sports 5x a week, and so the pounds packed on. During our sophomore year, my roommates and I made a concerted effort to eat smart and healthy, and it was with this amazing group of women that I learned the following: 1) That I love food. Not just to eat, but I love cooking it, I love shopping for it, I love watching other people prepare it, I loved feeding it to others and eating it with others. 2) That I could lose weight and still eat. and 3) That I wanted to have a different relationship with food than I had ever before considered. It was during this crucial year of my life that I decided that I would be a food-lover in the right way. Somehow.

Blowing it up, age 20.
I got married that year, and my love of cooking has grown exponentially each year since then. I am now known among my friends as a pretty great cook, and that's just how I like it. My life revolves around food, especially trying to find the healthiest and best-tasting way to feed my family.

But I am still a chubby girl. You've seen the pictures. And it has nothing to do with intervening years, babies, or lack of trying to stop being chubby. It has to do with my emotional connection to food and the way I am able to completely zone out when there is a plate of great food (or plain chocolate, peanut butter, bacon and/or any combination of the three) nearby. I wake up minutes or seconds later, licking my lips in satisfaction. Then I look down at my empty plate/bowl and wonder where it's all gone.

Chubby in France, the place where a food lover's dreams come true, 23.
 ...okay, I don't actually have food amnesia, but clearly I am lacking in hours spent practicing self control around food. Even as a grown woman, if I couldn't have all of the food I wanted or if I had emotions that were too difficult to deal with, I would resort to sneaking around with food, having rendezvous with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Ben&Jerry late at night in dark corners of my house. 

Coming to terms with this lack of self control has been a very slow and painful process. I am still working on overcoming the intense craving I have to devour all delicious food whenever it is present instead of savoring  it. About a month into practicing my new mantra, although far from perfectly, I read an article on FOMO in Women's Health magazine. FOMO is an adorable acronym for something that is pretty pathetic in all incarnations - the Fear Of Missing Out. As I read through the article, I started to see myself, my patterns from both childhood and adult life, in print on the pages of the magazine. I have always struggled with trying too hard to fit in and please other people and not miss anything important. And, as it turns out, I especially have a major FOMO when it comes to food. I am afraid of saying no to something delicious because good food makes me happy and I just don't want to miss out.
  And, yes. Even as I type that I can hear how ridiculous it sounds. 

From necessity my mantra in the past five months has become, "It won't kill you to miss out." This means telling myself at least one thousand times that I can have a Pronto Pup - the world's best corn dog - at the State Fair this Fall. That I don't need one today, even though they parked their truck of deliciousness just a few feet away from the face painting booth that I am helping my friend, Laura, with for the next 8 hours. It means saying no to cake on other people's birthdays and not feeling weird about it. It means taking a good, hard look at whether I really "deserve" some chocolate in the long afternoons that accompany being the mother of two small children. I am trying to put my relationship with food into a more accurate perspective. I have taken  my passion for it and my knowledge of it and tried to assign it the proper place in my life. And so far I feel like recognizing my skewed perspective has only helped to increase the love for food and health and nutrition that I started cultivating as a nineteen-year-old. Food still makes me happy, but that other, darker side of my relationship with food, the side filled with regret and frustration and fear, is diminishing each time I just say no to *fill in the blank with something yummy*. 

So far I'm sticking with "It won't kill you to miss out" - let's call it IWKYTMO - pretty successfully. 
And I'm taking IWKYTMO one day at a time. Which I fully realize makes me sound like a recovering alcoholic. But, you know what? As someone who has, on more than one occasion, eaten chocolate alone in a dark closet, I am okay with that.


  1. Mandy, you had me laughing the whole way through with your amazing sense of humor and outlook on food. That acronym made me LAUGH out loud- IWKYTMO. Hilarious. I am tooootally with you on the FOMO with food. That is totally me. Baby showers? Wedding receptions? Birthday parties? Grandma's house? Bottomless french fries at Red Robin? Bottomless chips and salsa from Chili's? Forget about it. I love to eat. And I've noticed that my deepest cravings are sugary treats. Like, I'll eat an entire box of fruit snacks, or an entire bag of Hot Tomales. To my husband, he just rolls his eyes at me and calls me crazy about it.

    I think you are so fantastic and you inspire me to eat healthier and cook healthier! Recipes please??

    1. Okay, I am seriously such a nerd! I just found out that I can reply to comments! Wahoo!! haha
      Thanks so much, Meagan! I'm glad I kept you laughing. A sad chubby kid is right up there with a sad clown in the Uber-Depressing department. I am also so very glad that I am not alone with my FOMO issues!! I am the exact same way- every occasion warrants anything but self-control. It is, after all, a baby shower/holiday/date night! Sweets are the worst, too! There is something about chocolate that seriously makes me zone completely out.

      I am working on some recipes and trying to figure out the whole photography thing (I am the WORST at pictures) so check back soon for those. I am loving watching all of the progress with you and baby girl #2! xo

  2. Mandy, thank you for sharing. As I was reading I kept thinking about some of the issues I have. I am addicted to sugar (sweet things) and have a small taste of what it is like to try and over come an addiction. I know it sounds crazy but I have said for a few years now that I really need to go to sugar anonymous. Over the past so many years I have found it hard to have self control and resist eating too many sweet things. It's pretty bad when you sometimes wake up and think about eating a treat. You motivate me to work harder and be stronger since I keep saying I am going to and I haven't. It has been frustrating to find exercise that works for me because of my RA and lack of money for a gym etc.

    1. I feel the same way with sugar! My experience with the addiction recovery program in the past two years has really helped me to realize that I can't change my life and habits alone! The worst part is the one day at a time thing- I just wish that these changes were easier to stick to! But I know we both can do it! Exercise has been my nemesis lately- there just isn't enough time in the day with kids and school and housework and... yeah. I am hoping to get back on track with some exercise goals, but right now food is my #1 priority! I need to get it under control. I would love to hear how you are doing and hope you are able to get started- I can't wait to hear all about it!

  3. The ironic part, is I always considered you skinny growing up! Guess that shows how skewed my view of things was/is! But I would agree, food is amazing, and I am trying to teach myself the IWKYTMO!

    1. Hahaha I think you were the only one- and you knew me when those terrible photos were taken!! hahaha Seriously, I am in awe of you, though! You look damn good, girl! I have been so out of control for so long, I think that IWKYTMO will be my saving grace. I'd love to hear your secrets, though, to keeping fit with how insanely busy you are!

  4. Mandy,I love you! This is a brave story, and dare I say, a painful one. I have lots of thoughts and feelings, but I'm too exhausted at the moment to share most of them. I've had a summer of change and have self-soothed with food. I have found this problematic, but I haven't yet made a plan for myself. Thanks for sharing your story. I can't wait to hear about what else you're doing that is helping you feel better.

    1. Lindsay, I miss you so much! Sorry, I just thought I'd share that. I seriously sat in Powell's Books this week and read through a Ryan Gosling feminist meme book and peed my pants a little and wished that I could have talked/laughed with you about it.
      I know what you mean about stress eating- I love how you put it, self-soothing with food - and you have been under more stress than anyone these past few months! I keep telling myself that all of this struggle will be worth it, but then I think about ice cream and I'm back to square one.

  5. i love how you write. this is so great. do we need to mention that freshman year? woof. i made a looooot of mistakes that year. but i'm really happy i met you on that first day and we had a really good time. we cleaned up our act pretty quickly (no more late night mcdonalds runs) but that was a dumb time for us. I think you are great and keep it up girl!

    1. Freshman year and woof DEFINITELY belong in the same sentence. For real. But I will never ever ever regret meeting you and Kristine- you guys really did teach me so much and I miss you both like crazy! But I still will never ever ever make a tuna melt without thinking of freshman year and the George Foreman grill.