The Hunger Games
Talking about disordered eating.
April 2012 — The news online is that Dara Lynn-Weiss, the Manhattan mother who wrote an article for Vogue on the draconian measures she used on her seven-year-old to get her to drop 16 pounds, has scored a book contract. Bloggers have lit up the screen with indignant cries. This is a mother who denied her daughter dinner after she discovered she had eaten over 800 calories of Brie and chocolate during a French feast at school (l'horreur!) and who dumped her daughter's Starbucks hot chocolate when she couldn't determine the calorie count in the cup. But the taste of victory was sweet — at fighting weight little Bea earned many new dresses and a photo spread in Vogue.
I'm not indignant about the article. I'm terrified by it. At 57 years of age, with the onset of every new month I've always dedicated thought to the subject of my weight. As in, "Lose those last five pounds." Sometimes the number is three, sometimes it's 8, but there is always a number that will finally get me down to where I dream to be.
Even, sorry to say, when I'm looking and feeling fine.
As April begins and my thoughts turn once again to my hips, I had a sudden flashback to the many years that I have been obsessed with weight issues. After reading the Vogue article I was swamped by the various ways I've tried (and succeeded) and tried (and failed) to shed those pesky pounds. The no carb diets, the low carb diets, the low cal diets, the cabbage soup diets, the grapefruit diets, etc. etc. Skipping breakfast, skipping lunch. Not eating after 8PM. Locking away my favorite foods. Fighting my slow metabolism with extra bouts of running, biking, weight lifting. And on and on.
What might it be like, I wondered, to love your body and not worry about every extra calorie that passed between your lips? How would it feel?
Who would I be?
As people with diabetes, we have more than the usual pressure to stay slim. We have to keep close track of what goes into our mouths, as well as listen to others police what passes between our lips. We don't really have the freedom to occasionally binge on a chocolate bar (or two), or to skip a meal when we don't feel like eating. All of which can lead to disordered eating and its partner — disordered feelings about food.
Many of my struggles with food predate my diagnosis with diabetes. My mother was on a diet from the time I could remember. A slice of Hollywood diet bread for breakfast, a can of tuna and salad for lunch and usually a skipped dinner. This stringency was often followed by nights of binging — my siblings and I found the empty boxes in the morning trash. And though my mother never put me on a diet, the message came through loud and clear: there was something wrong with food. It wasn't a friend, but a kind of frenimy.
So when I went off to college and put on the freshman 15, I was off on my own dark fall down the diet hole. Between diets, I'd binge on whatever I had been missing while on my latest weight loss plan: the starches and the sweets. On Monday morning it was back to dieting again.
Many years later, talking about my disordered and secret eating fetishes was tougher for me than talking about sex. I ended up at a therapist who specialized in eating issues, who tried to convince me that eating felt good, and that I should eat what felt good to me. To this day, as calorie and carb counts run in my head with every bite I put in my mouth, I struggle to believe her.
All of which went through my head as I contemplated the Internet brou-ha-ha over Dara Lynn-Weiss putting her seven-year-old daughter on a strict and inflexible diet. As a parent, I was appalled by her techniques and motives. As a life-long food obsessive, I was scared to death for her daughter.
Teaching healthy eating habits is part of good parenting; turning a child into a disordered eater is not.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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