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A woman of a certain size

Posted Aug 19 2012 9:57am
does Mommy Dearest's dysfunction look
too big
in this dress?
Does my weight matter? I am a woman of a certain size. Average height, average weight range, statistically, for an American woman which means I am what the charts would deem "overweight."

I share this because it matters to something that we rarely talk about in the ED world, but often THINK about: the weight of the mother of the patient. I have been aware that people scrutinize this ever since I saw my weight status written on my daughter's assessment. I remember feeling odd during mealtimes when I went to ED events, wondering if people were watching what and how I ate. I have in turns worried that I may appear too heavy and people would think "Oh, the eating disorder was about not wanting to be like mom" but on the other end I have thought "I'm glad I'm not thin enough to make people nod and smirk, either."

Countless mothers, on learning the diagnosis of their son or daughter, point to their own (over or under) weight as a factor in some way, and often have to be talked off the ledge of guilt this makes them feel.

I can laugh now, but it's embarrassing to confess: I once ate two lunches one after the other because I was hungry before a lunch event and went ahead and ate early but then felt totally inappropriate to say "I'm full" in front of all these people who were surely watching me for odd behaviors expected of "the mother of the patient" so I said yes and did the most DISordered thing by eating again.

I wonder how it might be different to do this work if I was shaped differently? What if I was markedly smaller, or bigger? What if I had celiac disease or allergies or diabetic and had to turn food down in public? What if I had an eating disorder in my own past history? What if I had a distinctly ethnic appearance, or was in a wheelchair, or was a man? When I had surgery last year I lost some weight and remember thinking that this could be a problem in the ED world and realized just how nuts it is in our society to be worried about appearing to be dieting!

It is impossible to be body-less and without an appearance, and yet whatever body you DO have will affect how people hear your message. Luckily, I have no desire or plan to change my genetically and mentally happy state either way! It is taboo, of course, to talk about appearance in the ED world or to judge body size, which I love, but I have no illusions that people aren't ever THINKING about it.

Have you, as a parent or activist, felt YOUR body and eating habits were being analyzed? Do you do any analyzing yourself, of others?

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