Deb and I just came back from visiting my mother, sister and brother-in-law in Calgary (and Radium, BC). It always surprises me how food is such a mine field with my family. Growing up I was placed on diets beginning at the age of 8 years old. I remember going to Weight Watchers meeting with my mother who lost the same 57 pounds over and over again. Food was cast into the realm of good and bad. You either deserved food or you did not. If you didn’t work hard and ‘earn’ it then you couldn’t eat it. But if you had done something particularly strenuous that day then you ‘deserved’ a little something extra. This attitude became completely entrenched in my family when my mother married her second husband. He managed his weight meticulously. He backpacked and cross-country skied several hundred kilometres per year. In fact, we spent many summers backpacking for weeks at a time walking well over 200 km with very heavy packs. He was very concerned about food and how much we ate (or didn’t as the case was). Despite his influence my mother remained overweight the entire time they were married.

Once he passed away from leukemia (which was a shock to all of us given his very healthy lifestyle) my mother ceased to have interest in food. Currently she is about 5 feet 9 inches and weighs about 130 pounds. For the first time in her life she is thin and she loves it. The other morning after I got up I was sitting with my mother and sister (who were smoking their faces off) and my mother starts talking about how she can eat anything she wants now. She said: “If I want ice cream, I have ice cream, if I want potato chips, I have potato chips and I don’t have to feel guilty about it.” My internal dialog was screaming about how silly this was and how food should not have this amount of power in our lives. But I know better than to get into this kind of a discussion with them. So I sat there biting my tongue and wishing it would just stop.

Later that day my mother insisted on watching The Biggest Loser – Australia because she enjoyed the ‘personalities’. I couldn’t stand it. It was so contrived. My mother likes this kind of thing because it makes her feel superior just like being around me makes her feel like she has won because I am fat and she is not. She was so excited that I had lost weight (about 50 pounds). The only reason I lost it was because I was so sick for so long but that does not matter to her. She keeps thinking that I am going to suddenly lose all the weight and morph into an entirely different person. I have news for her – it is not going to happen.

Usually these visits take a huge toll on my self-esteem. Not this time though. I look at my mother and sister (who are like one person as Deb says) and I know I am so different from them (I am adopted). I also know that I will never have her approval unless I weigh 125 pounds. I have long given up on this ever happening. Instead I do other things for her. I am her personal computer support department. On this last trip I picked out a new computer for her and set it up in Radium including installing all of her programs and configuring it just the way she likes it. Deb spent her time cooking and filling her freezer with easy to heat up meals so that she might eat. We are also a little concerned as she is having a lot of trouble breathing. Just plugging something in caused her to breathe audibly for 10 minutes. She complains of having no energy, being tired and generally feeling unwell. I am concerned that she is in the beginning stages of COPD. She has smoked for probably for 50 years and now she is likely smoking more than a pack a day. I hope that she sees a doctor soon about getting a physical and a chest x-ray. I doubt she will ever quit smoking.

Other lowlights from the trip: our flight into Calgary was horrible. There was much turbulence and the landing was very hard. Then we went to get our car from Budget and the call centre had messed up our reservation and we could not the same rate I had been quoted ($43 per day). Apparently, they were sold out but they would give us a car for $170 per day if we wanted. So the question was are they sold out or are they not?? I could not get anywhere with them. So we rented from Enterprise who had excellent customer service and gave us a car for $109 per day. We were very impressed with them. Our flight back to Abbotsford (I cannot say enough good stuff about the Abbotsford International Airport – we will never fly out of Vancouver again!!!) was ok with just a bit of turbulence. We were both completely exhausted by the time we got home and slept until noon the next day. Thankfully, the yearly trip is now over barring any family emergencies.

12 thoughts on “Dispatches from the Land of Fat Phobia

  1. I can completely relate to you story. I am 34 years old and mother is still harping about how much I weigh, and that I need to lead a life of food denial. The fact that I may be comfortable with my body is something she could not possible accept. I don’t think that I will ever in my life time see society agree that it is okay to be fat.

  2. The thing is, Christine is probably only 60 or so pounds heavier than I am, but we carry our weight differently. I have more muscle mass, and her mother insists that I’m not “heavy”. WTF!? I know how much I weigh, I’m fat, there ain’t no rose coloured glasses on the planet that can make my body look anything but fat. I can lift heavy things, and work “like a man”, which buys a lot of respect in this wigged out family.
    Chris’ mom has worked hard to developed a welcome case of anorexia. She loves looking like a waif. She loves having people natter at her about the fact that she’s not eating enough. I told her she was disappearing, and she beamed. Sad.
    Christine’s sister is just as weird about food. I think her greatest fear is turning into Chris or me. Forget that she has 0 self-esteem, 0 job skills, 0 motivation to better herself through education, and she’s married to a loser. Christine’s mother and sister are really two halves of a whole person, and their co-dependence is frightening. I’m so glad this year’s command performance is over.

  3. That is very weird.. I’ve battled food for a long time, but everyone in my family has that problem, so i get lost in the crowd of people who love to eat.

    Sounds like they like to shift the blame around which is the most unhealthy thing to do. Finger pointing is a symptom of addiction, and sounds like your mom is really addicted to smoking…which is not any better or maybe even worse than over eating.

    Sounds like co-dependant festiva land to me, you have integrity which is a much better quality in my books.

  4. I get the same attitude but from my size zero (literally) daughter, not my mother. But at least my daughter isn’t killing herself with smoking at the same time that she attacks my weight.
    Did size zero even EXIST twenty years ago???
    Those obligatory visits are the worst – welcome home!

  5. Ha, ha! I love it! The biggest non-smoker show! What is really kind of strange is that she has always admired me because I quit smoking and I have stayed a non-smoker since 1991. I think it pisses her off.

  6. My Monster-In-Law smokes a pack and a half a day (minimum), drinks to excess (daily), gambles as a “hobby”, has OCD, feels that a woman without a man is “less than”, somehow, is lonely and miserable. She’s skelatal, though, and that should mean something, in her world. I think it drives her insane that , in spite of the fact that Chris is overweight, she has a spouse who loves her deeply (she gave my brother-in-law shit because I am so much more romantic than he is), she has a group of long-term friends who love her, she is extremely intelligent, beautiful inside anf out, has, as Lydia said, integrity, is honest, kind, dedicated and strong. Basically Chris is a happy, normal lesbian, living the typical ideal lesbian suburban life. Fat people don’t “deserve” that, according to her mom. We should be ashamed, and shamed, we should try to be invisible, and God forbid we should actually be happy in our own skins, or worse, proud of who we are! Eek!
    Much better to be huffing and puffing while dragging one’s gaunt self, smelling like an ashtray, to the nearest casino to stare at a screen while drinking red wine, all with one’s co-dependent daughter. Good times!

  7. Oh, and size “0”, Jean!? Don’t get me started! I met your daughter. She’s beautiful, but at what cost, and how horribly would it affect her if she were no longer able to keep that very thin body as is? Society has made “perfection” almost impossible…..and it just keeps getting worse.

  8. I don’t smoke and I have 5% body fat. I can bench 300 ibs and run 5 ks in 17 mins, and I eat whatever I want. I eat healthy stuff like suishi, but I also eat crap like McDonalds cheeseburgers and fried ice cream(which is dope). I don’t get it.

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