It’s very rare to hear about women consciously gaining weight. But, in the last few months, I have tried (and succeeded) to gain fifteen pounds.
No one would ever look at me and say I’m fat, or for that matter, even chunky. Most people would probably still consider me on the skinny side, even with this extra weight. Sadly, I can’t fit into any of my old clothes, except the few pieces I saved that I wore when I was four months pregnant.
I did this, and am doing this, for my 12-year-old daughter, Rowan, although she doesn’t know it.
Two months before school ended last summer, Rowan and I were in the car when she told me that one of her friend’s asked her to go on a diet with her. My heart sank immediately and I quickly got as heated as a microwave.
‘Are you kidding me?’ I asked, with anger in my voice.
‘But don’t worry. I’m not going to.’ my daughter responded immediately, recognizing that I was seething.
Still, once your pre-teen daughter even mentions the word ‘diet’, as a mother, all you can think is, ‘No no no no no. No. I can’t have her having an eating disorder.’ Never once has the word ‘diet’ been used in our home. We don’t even own a scale. She was at least five before she even knew what the word ‘fat’ meant, and that was ONLY because her grandmother was trying to sit at a table and, with an off-handed remark, as many of us do, said, ‘I’m too fat to get in.’
As a mother of a girl who also goes to an all-girls school, I have talked to many mothers who have told me horror stories about eating disorders, cutting, and attempted suicides. It’s very hard to be a pre-teen these days. And hard to be the mother of one.
I often, jokingly, in my writing, describe my daughter as a Q-Tip with a head. She’s skinny. She eats ‘clean’ (thanks to her dislike of junk food) and is extremely athletic, swimming multiple times a week and ski racing in the winter. She hikes. She bikes. She dances. She walks home from school. She is moving all the time. She’s fit and petitie. So why the hell would her ‘friend’ even suggest she go on a diet? I don’t understand it.
That was the last I heard about going on a ‘diet’ with a friend, although, ever since, I’ve been extremely watchful of what my daughter eats at breakfast and dinner, the two meals I share with her. Then, a couple months ago, as we were sitting down for dinner, she looked at my plate and said, ‘That’s all you’re eating? That’s not very much.’ I put more on my plate, even though the reason I hadn’t put too much food on my plate was because I hadn’t had time for lunch until about 3 pm that day, so I was not very hungry at dinner time.
I have never suffered from an eating disorder, but I have had, as it is sometimes called, ‘Disordered Eating’—which I probably had, ironically and sadly, because of her and the baby weight I had gained.
Once I popped her out of me I basically ate air for a good few months to lose the 60 pounds I had gained when I was pregnant with her. Looking back at photos of me, holding my daughter at 8 months and on, I can see I did go too far. You can see my ribs, collarbones, my hollow face, and my legs were skinny as pencils. I thought I looked good, and even when my friends would say, ‘You’re so skinny!’ I would just wave them off. But they were right.
I didn’t eat pasta or bread for almost a decade after my daughter was born. I was on my own version of the Atkin’s diet. I still ate dairy. I still ate fruit. But no to pasta. No pizza. No rice. No bread. And, yes, a lot of yoga and training at the gym. When I became pregnant with my second baby, I turned into a human garburator, eating anything and everything that was in my path. And, again, to lose the 70 pounds I gained with my son, I reverted back to eating air and no pasta or obvious carbs. I lost all the weight (and then some, again) after six months.
But, as I write this, I sit completely uncomfortable in jeans that are supposed to fit loose but now fit on me like skinny jeans and a shirt I am continuously pulling down over my new love handles. Honestly, I do not like the way I feel. I do not like this weight I have gained. But I do like that my daughter sees what I put, rather than what I don’t put, on my plate. She seems me eating pasta again (what was I thinking? Pasta is delicious!). And pizza (what was I thinking? Pizza is delicious!). And even the bread they give out at restaurants (what was I thinking? Bread is delicious!).
While I might not be entirely comfortable in my new skin yet, and am consumed with personal worries every day, wondering if people are looking at me and thinking, ‘Wow! What happened to her? She’s gained so much weight!’ I’m more consumed with being a good role model for my daughter, which means eating, without her asking, ‘That’s ALL you’re eating?’
If that means an entire new wardrobe, so be it. If my friends are wondering why I look so much heavier, it’s because I AM heavier. But with a lighter heart, knowing I’m doing this for my daughter. Plus, like I said, pasta is damn good.