Mom’s criticism of those who are heavy (or at least heavier than she) might stem from a body image that is at least a little distorted. Although she doesn’t see herself as fat at her weight (and, of course, isn’t) she does voice concern at times about not wanting to get so big that she doesn’t fit into her clothes. Now, seriously, what are the odds of that! Mom loves and regularly eats ice cream, lots of bread and desserts but in fate’s cruel laugh at the rest of us, she doesn’t tend to gain an ounce no matter how hard she tries. Her thinness has even caused her doctor to say that she actually needs to gain weight in order to have the cushion that an older person needs in the event of illness; otherwise she can waste away. Plus, with osteoporosis, should she fall, the lack of cushioning will make a fracture in her bones more likely. Despite all this, comments about not wanting to get too big still bubble through our conversation at times.
Luckily, for the most part, I’m able to filter out negative attitudes about weight from Mom, other relatives and society as a whole. Years ago, I remember hearing that the results of a study said African-American girls are less focused on having the model-like (curve free) build that so many want—and therefore have less of a tendency than other groups to develop eating disorders. I am African-American and judging from my own attitude and what I’ve seen and heard from others in my neighborhood (Mom not withstanding), this appears to be true. When I was most active at a health club a few years ago—I worked out with a personal trainer for 2-1/2 years—I was fit and strong but never would describe myself as thin. Even if I had been on a quest to get dramatically slim (and I wasn’t), my boyfriend often cautioned me about not getting too thin (a.k.a. losing my curves). It was nice to know that he likes my body and me as is.
Maybe that is the message in all of this. When others’ views about weight (including those of our mother), conflict with our own, we need to filter them out. Our bodies are our own—we live in them. No one should tell us how our home should look and no one should tell us how our body should look either. When we try to live up to an ideal body image we inevitably fall short.