Contagious Crazies

This morning I was insisting that Kate* comb her hair before leaving the house, no, really comb it, not just wave the comb in the general direction of her head, and she said, “You just hate that you have an ugly child, and you want to make me perfect!”
The thing is, Kate looks strikingly like me, scarily like me, except for hair (hers is naturally a to- die-for auburn, mine goes back and forth between brown, and to-dye-for auburn) and eye color (Her eyes are hazel, mine blue)  We have the same face, nose, hair texture. We’ll probably have the same body type- (late-blooming) tall and thin. If I believe that I gave birth to an ugly child, then I believe I am an ugly person. If she believes that I believe that I gave birth to an ugly child….she believes she’s ugly. And that I’m ugly.

I just want her to comb her hair.

Some of this is bubbling up because she is finishing 6th grade and going into 7th- it is a natural stage for her to criticize her looks, when everything is changing too fast, but not fast enough.

Some of this is bubbling up for me because I have been consciously dieting for the first time in a long time.

With my “baby” almost 9 years old, I have decided I need to really work on that baby weight…I have been doing yoga pretty regularly for almost 2 years, and generally exercising more.  Also, for two years, I have been stuck in the no- man’s-land of pant sizes- 16 is too big, 14 is too small, I waver in between, depending on the brand. I have always hated shopping, and this makes it even worse- taking in 2 sizes of everything into the dressing room, being unsatisfied with all of it. Coming out of the dressing room believing I’m ugly.

Odd- It is awkward right now, publicizing my pant size- my inner voice saying, oh my god, don’t tell them that!  I’ll tell you my credit card number before I tell you my weight.

It was 186 pounds a few weeks ago. I don’t own a scale, and the only one I know of is at the pool, and we haven’t been swimming for a while. I get a little psycho when I weigh myself, anyway. I suspect many people do, but we don’t much talk about it. It’s a secret number.

The diet program I am using is an app for my iPod called My Fitness Pal (link) I put in my weight, and height and level of activity, and how much weight I’d like to lose. Each day I add the food I eat, and the exercise, and it totals up the calories and fat and protein and subtracts the calories from exercise, and at the end of the day there’s a little graph showing whether I was on target for the day, or over, or under.

I have set the goal of losing a pound a week, and it made me pretty neurotic for a while (noooo…that’s not what made you neurotic…) but this week, it is having the effect of making me aware, and conscious of what I put in my mouth. For example, I often stop at the grocery store by my school on the way home and get a doughnut and coffee on the way home.  I deserve it, right? Um, sure, but the latte is 250 calories, and the doughnut is 250 calories, and that is really a lot, for it not to be a real meal. Today I didn’t stop, I came home and had some peanut butter on toast. It sure wasn’t a doughnut…but it had some nutrition, at least.

So, as a fretful mother of a middle schooler, I worry that this consciousness, this awareness, or hyper-awareness, is rubbing off on my sweet girl. When I first started tracking, she said she wanted to track her food too, so she could fit in with the other girls who are on diets. Ack!

So, how does this work? How do I improve the way I look, without rejecting how I look? How do we minimize the craziness?  I just want to be able to button my pants, and it has opened up a can of crazies. Or maybe the crazy can would have been opened anyway. What are your thoughts?

*the girl has decided she wants to be referred to by her real name. “How am I supposed to get famous if you just keep calling me ‘the girl?'”



7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. racheycarter
    May 18, 2012 @ 09:40:27

    Ugh. I have struggled with that issue so much. How do you tamp down those negative middle-school associations with food and weight and body image when they are so closely linked to healthy behaviors like working out, eating better, and losing weight? I sure don’t have the answer, but I empathize with both you and “the girl” on this one — sometimes I feel like both are wrasslin’ inside me when I step on the scale.


    • katsmama
      May 19, 2012 @ 03:56:24

      Rachel- I probably couldn’t have written this post, if I hadn’t followed your process. You were so brave to make your TBT public, when I suspect so many of us keep the numbers on the scale and on our pant sizes a secret, no matter what those numbers are.


  2. Candace
    May 18, 2012 @ 09:45:10

    There are never any easy answers when you are raising a girl and they get less easy when they reach adolescence! At my house we never say thin. We say strong and healthy. Not to say that we don’t sometimes have cheez it’s or rhubarb pie with ice cream AND whip cream, we do. I don’t know if at nine she is really buying the whole “strong and healthy” line, but I keep trying. We have also started talking about what a serving looks like because being able to eat a whole box of Mac and cheese doesn’t mean it’s a good idea even if Mommy could do it without blinking. But most days….I just want her brush her hair.

    By the way, I think you are both beautiful. And i think that taking good care of yourself is the ultimate demonstration of high self-esteem.


    • katsmama
      May 19, 2012 @ 03:53:37

      Thank you, Candace. This made me tear up this morning when I read it the first time, and it’s happening again. Can’t blame the smoke from the fire…


  3. chksngr
    May 18, 2012 @ 21:16:38

    I love the transparency of this, my friend. And having been a teenage girl yourself once, it should be easy to remember how frickin’ hard it was…I STILL have “body issues” as my hubs calls it. I look at it as not rejecting my body, but becoming more the self God created me to be. Becoming more “me.” it may be a mind bend, but it works for me.


    • katsmama
      May 19, 2012 @ 03:51:33

      thank you for this- you are one of the few people I’m still in contact with who can recall my bad hair stages. I know we can make it through, but there are some tough days ahead.


  4. memyselfandkids
    May 20, 2012 @ 10:07:24

    Sounds rough. These images that kids get through the media are so strong. I would guess their messages are as strong or probably stronger they what she gets from you.
    I have 2 younger boys. One of them is slim and talks about a diet. I don’t know where he gets it from. He needs to gain weight.


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