Sunday, September 2, 2012

Special Edition Feature: Childhood Diet Fad Debacle

At a very early age, my image of myself was completely shot.

I had a huge belly, I walked like a duck, and had problems with my feet and back because I didn't get to walk until after 3 years old. I had scoliosis and braces for shoes. The docs said I would never walk, but look at me now, with a degree in dance and theatre. Wow, had I listened to the doctors, I may have just crawled into bed and not chosen the morning to rise...
Spending years suffering, in pain, hypoglycemic and sick quite often, led me to understand just exactly what it was I was dealing with. I was dealing with people who meant well, but did not have all the answers, at least to my feeling better. Who knew that the answer was truly in my food?

My mom spent my young life teaching me about the evils of sugar and the joys of a super high protein and fat intake. Beef this. Beef that. Ribs for lunch. Roast for dinner. Ah ah, just two cups of vegetables. We don't want to encourage a blood sugar surge! Wow. It came to the point where, every chance I got, my body rejected the Atkins low carb lifestyle. Little by little, the voices and choices got louder and louder. Flour-free bread made with sorghum and those sugar-free candies from Estees began to get the best of me after 12 years. The years passed, my disdain for my body grew, and the binge-purge cycle had begun.

By 15 I was dieting on tuna and the equivalent of one salad and one slice of bread a day. Mom encouraged it. My mom was convinced that carbs was what made her and I fat. I lost about 35 pounds, going from 125 to 92 pounds in about 8 weeks, which I was so proud of. But every few weeks, I felt like eating an entire cake and began sneaking out any sweet treats or carbs I could make available to me. Of course my Dad would purposely buy chips and donuts to taunt us, because as he would say, He wasn't on a diet, but we could help ourselves to it. That was like a diabetic child in a candy store. Of course I wanted it! But if I did, the consequence would be great.

Dancing and competing kept me so obsessive about my weight that I started to stick my finger down my throat as an experiment and way to offset my cravings. I figured, there's gotta be a better way to feed my cravings and stay thin! It only resulted in my crying in the mirror while drinking down a glass of water, only to vomit minutes later. Yeah, ten Reeses peanut butter cups had even to me, become obsessive. All I could think of, was how I did not even give the candy a chance to digest, before I decided to relieve myself of my guilt. All Mom could say was, "why are you crying? My child has gone crazy." I never shared my brief bout with bulimia, ever. I didn't think anyone would understand at the time.

By 17, the moment of truth had come. Starting a college dance program had brought some serious changes, among them, the desire to lose the weight I had gained by resting completely between summer and the new fall. I completely rested every summer I can remember. No activities except dancing would occur in summer. So here it was, me and my scale. I nearly jumped out of my skin. A staggering 151??? How was this possible? I think I cried for 14 days.

Even though I'm exaggerating a bit, I'd have to say this is when the exercise mania began....even the exercise bulimia....but I didn't want to change my eating habits...though I did abandon the low carb concept, once and for all. Now it was the all carb concept. All and any food, the "see food" diet we would always joke about in the days at school. Donuts, ramen noodles, wonder bread, pastrami and Hillshire Farms sausages were my mainstays. Pizza, burgers and catfish made the second string. Vegetables and fruit were nearly nonexistent. Although I brought it down to 135, my weight hovered around 144 with lots of muscle and about 6 hours of daily exercise, whether dance or capoeira. After college, I turned down the opportunity to apply for Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, and decided to become a homemaker, albeit a weak one. After crying for another two weeks straight, I spent the next five years making sure I would never complain about my weight again. I remember struggling with some very light weight on the gym floor with a friend who was running marathons, named Jeanine. I finally found some healthy, low fat eating habits, and began to fall into place until...

The question of huge change loomed over me. It was time to make a decision about the fate of my marriage, so I decided to run until I came to an answer. I think that was when I really went into a minor bout of exercise bulimia. More excessive than the first, I'd lift for an hour, run 30 miles a week, teach 8 hours of cardio and 12 hours of dance. Um, yeah, and I did that for years. Too much.
Part of it was a deep dissatisfaction I had with my inability to control my calories and food but also a disdain for how I looked. Image had been so much a part of my life growing up on stage that it hurt to be me. I was no MJ, but one can only imagine what he must have suffered through.

Some would still consider this extreme, but I found my road again when I did yet another thing I never said I would do, next to running a marathon, and that was to become a vegetarian. Even though the last 12 years of vegetarianism are a story in themselves, it brought me more balance cumulatively than the alternatives. My mom muttered, " wow, next you'll be a hippy liberal teaching yoga." Is she psychic? ;)

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