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Sunday, July 17, 2011


I have struggled with food my whole life.

When I was little, I didn't want to have anything to do with it. It was more of a nuisance that interrupted the time I would rather spend playing.

As a pre-teen I abused it and found comfort in it, mistakenly thinking I could fill the empty places in my heart with another bite.

My junior year in High School, I walked away from it and found power in turning my back on the calories and embraced the solace in running.

But I often didn't know what I was running from.

Or to.

In college, I mistakenly followed what I jokingly called the "Sorority Girl Diet," eliminating fat but eating my fill of jelly beans and bagels and ensuring that beer was part of the regimen (at least from Thursday - Saturday nights).

I would like to say I found my way in my 20's.

But as I sit here in my 30's, with two impressionable children who I have the power to influence, I realize I am just as messed up today in how I view food as I was in my teens. Not much has changed.

I can't remember a day when I thought I was "thin enough." Even as I look back at pictures of myself when I was my fittest, I try to remember what was going through my head at the time the pictures were snapped.

Not good enough.
Not pretty enough.
Not thin enough.

My husband asks me to acknowledge this strange relationship I have with food. Perhaps he didn't want me to write it on this blog, but oh what the heck. It's hard to admit to crazy, but I can truly say that when it comes to food, I have always been a nutjob. Completely.


I sometimes feel shame that as someone who has seen poverty first hand, in such extreme circumstances in the villages of India, that I would reject or abuse what so many people don't have access to and are literally starving for.

I bought a magazine at the store the other day. Like a junkie being pulled in by a vial of coke, I found myself adding it to my cart.

"Starving to Be Sexy" the cover said, showing images of celebrities who have fought their battles against any body fat and appear to be successful, flaunting clavicles, pelvic bones and ribcages that defy any unwanted calorie to even try to slip by.

"Isn't this crazy?" I showed the magazine to my niece when she came to visit me.

"Yeah, but it's what people expect. Of course they feel the need to be thin."

As I found myself being drawn back to the magazine, I realized that it's not so much that I think those celebrities are crazy. The rational part of me does, of course.

But there is also this part of me that relates to them. And where I have never been able to get "thin enough," these celebrities have.

And it made me jealous.

How does this happen? I ask.

I think of myself as intelligent (reasonably). Not vapid (most of the times). Rational (cyclically).

The irony of one of the images actually made me laugh. One of the celebrities on the "Starving to Be Sexy Cover," is reality show actress, Audrina Patridge. Wearing the same bikini that she recently wore on this month's cover of Shape Magazine, a fitness magazine. One of the other celebrities touted as "too skinny," Leann Rimes, just appeared on the cover of Shape Magazine, perhaps five or six months ago.

So let me get this straight. On the one hand, we look at these images and are being told that these women have gone to an unhealthy extreme. At the same time, we will see these same women highlighted on covers of purported "health" magazines.

It's confusing, right?

I realize that the things I say glibly around the house are making an impression on my daughter. And that I need to ensure she doesn't have this same messed up relationship with food that I feel like I have had.

So I try not to say things. I try not to show her just how preoccupied I am with food labels or show her any of my insecurities I feel when I look in the mirror.

And I hope she never goes through these mindless cycles that I have gone through.

Self-loathing when I "cheat."
Hunger when I punish myself for not being strong enough.
Judgement when the scale taunts me with a number I want to deduct another 10 pounds from.
Or maybe even 15.

I am writing this post to say that I am one of many women who is too hard on herself. Too quick to judge myself. Too quick to punish myself. Insecure enough to buy in to the images that are telling me what society values in women.

But one thing I am NOT is a woman who plans to keep her subscription to Shape Magazine.

After years of trying to embrace healthy, I think that it's time to acknowledge what "healthy" really means. And its not about the photoshopped celebrity on the cover.

It's about acceptance.



MiMi said...

Girl, this is SO true. Pitiful.
I hate that they tout these women as "healthy" on one cover, but on the other cover, "starving to be beautiful." As if starving yourself is a way to make yourself beautiful in the first place. The fact that they put it THAT way on the cover is just one more thing that's wrong with us! No wonder we're so damn confused.

Ms. T. said...

Love you, Kiran. What great honesty and humbleness you have. You're living the greatest role in life right now-- that of a parent. I don't have much advice or words of encouragement because I've never been there in regards to body image issues. I will say, though, that it's critically important that we show children how to love and be loved. That is the greatest gift you can give your kids. Keep up the amazing work. I've heard nothing but wonderful things about your parenting skills. :)

Michelle Tschannen

Karls said...

Hear, hear! I have a similar relationship with food... But a more dysfunctional relationship with myself. Can any one say 'self sabotage'? I am extremely fit... Yet still considered 'overweight' on the BMI. All due to the bad choices I make. If I truly loved my body I would treat it as it deserved and stop gorging myself on chocolate and crap. I would stop giving myself more reasons to beat up on myself. Vicious circle.

Everyday Goddess said...

i can see myself in your very eloquent words.

what scares me even more than the insane media, is the number of parents who push their normal weight female children into nutritionists offices for "help with eating."

i think mothers AND fathers need to accept that their daughters have developing bodies that look disproportionate for a few years around pre-puberty.

as for models and actresses, they chose to be products, in my opinion. they have many people in their lives who are paid to keep them in a certain shape.

forgive yourself for not loving yourself, and then do it again the next time those old buttons are pushed. eventually, you'll be happy with yourself as your perfect you.

webb said...

You are NOT alone! There are so many of us on a lifelong journey to accept ourselves, but also to be healthy (and happy). It's a hard line between acceptance of oneself and healthy by the books. That is, it's not such a good idea to accept oneself if one is 200 pounds overweight - except that psychologically it is...

I've struggled forever, and will forever, altho I am slowly learning to make those small healthy changes - like smaller portions - that will actually help over time.

I wish you well on your journey. Look for me along the way!

Anonymous said...

Sigh....I KNOW this as well and every day I am trying to fight the "You're not xxx enough" and just BE happy.

Especially with food and body image - I have about 15 pounds (or 8kilos) to lose to get to my pre-marriage weight and it feels like this magic number that I am constantly striving for.

Put on top of that a tendency to be lazy and not actually do anything about it, it puts me in this self-loathing spiral.

I keep thinking, I hate feeling like this, and I don't want any future children to ever feel this too. Yet I struggle...

Masala Chica said...

Thank you all - for letting me know that I am not alone, that this voice inside of me about this topic does resonate with someone and that mainly, I am not alone.

I often wonder what type of role model I am for my nieces, nephews and younger cousins. I think the one thing I have going for me is honesty. I can't lie to them about some things and how I have lived my life - but I can acknowledge that while I try my best - this life I have lead is far from perfect.

As am I.

But then I come to this conclusion.

Perfect is effing boring. And the day I am boring is the day that it doesn't matter anymore what size I am, what bones are sticking out enough and whether people are complimenting me.

Despite my insecurities, I know I would rather be around the fun, intelligent ME any day than the ungrounded, dissatisfied ME I also revealed today.

Both parts of my identity. But I have every right to decide which one plays a starring role in my life. Every day I can make that decision.

Thank you guys.


Anna See said...

i can relate. i have never felt thin enough-- possibly since i was about 11 yrs old. and a lot of those times, i was quite thin. i have never had an eating disorder, thank God, but i do base my attitude about myself on a number on the scale. and i have a daughter. i am so afraid for her. she is a perfectionist-- about grades and everything else, so i think she is highly suceptible. i never weigh myself in front of her. i do not diet. i eat what i want. i do not have fashion mags in the house, and when she makes fun of my cellulite and my bulging tummy, i tell her i love the body God gave me. now if i can just believe that myself.

grace kay said...

thanks for sharing this, Kiran. And i love the comments cause i know i'm not alone - i did have a nasty anorexic phase a few years back - maybe i'll blog about it now :)

Lemon Gloria said...

This rings so very very true. You're beautiful inside and out, Kiran.

I am Senita said...

Thank you, Kiran, for being so real -- all the time. : )

Islam said...

Thank your for sharing
Messenger of Allah


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