Looking through my old pictures, I was always a chubby faced child with pudgy thighs and a soft belly. To my Chinese parents, I was an adorable baby and toddler with pinchable cheeks and a voracious appetite for their home-cooked meals. They grew up in China during a time of food scarcity and wanted nothing more than to make sure their daughter had enough to eat. My mother fed me hot dogs, french fries, and ice cream to my heart’s content because these were seen as luxuries that only the middle class could afford.
Then puberty hit during middle school, which is when they expected my baby fat to naturally melt off. Except it stayed and was joined by the development of larger hips and thighs. My parents, both naturally thin in their youth, started monitoring my food intake, even going as far as to move the meat dishes closer to my brother’s side at the dinner table, far enough that I had trouble reach it with my eager chopsticks. In high school, when having a car and driving to school became an option, my father offered to buy me a new car if I lost fifteen pounds. They kept driving home the message until I took it upon myself the summer before my freshman year of college to lose weight.
Over the course of 3.5 years, I lost 35 pounds, a considerable amount when you consider my five feet tall frame. Now I hover a little above 100 pounds, a healthy weight to be sure, but I’m forever stuck with an unhealthy mindset. I can’t enjoy food. I hate eating out because I have no idea what’s in the meal I just ordered. Since I’m still tracking every calorie I eat, I despise restaurants that don’t post calorie counts (even though they’re probably wildly inaccurate). When friends want to grab dinner and a drink, I do mental calculations to see if I can still fit in calories from lunch.
I don’t know if this is an eating disorder or just disordered eating, but I can’t say that I’m convinced I’m any healthier than I was when I was 35 pounds heavier. The tracking and pre-planning take up so much of my attention each day, and I’m afraid I’ll be thinking this way until the day I die. There’s no lesson or message to my story, but I do wonder if I’d be this way if my parents hadn’t pushed dieting so much.
Anonymous | Philadelphia, PA