I have never been one of those girls who opted for only a salad and a diet coke at dinner. I grew up with a mother who loved to cook enough for an army and a father who’s after-dessert staple was a bowl of pretzel sticks and a glass of orange juice. We were a food-loving family. Granted, I have had my own hang-ups with weight and body-image, as would any teenage girl, but generally I feel pretty confident regarding food and myself.
Yet lately, calorie-counting has made it’s grand entrance into my household. I won’t disclose whose compulsion it is, but I will say that it came as quite a shock. Now, every conversation revolves around food: how healthy it is, how much of it is acceptable, fat content, grams of sugar, wheat bread, fiber. It’s enough to drive me crazy and make me want to cry all at once. I have never in my life felt like the spotlight was continuously on what I, and everyone else, ate. What’s more, I didn’t realize weight came with a judgement call: Thin equals good, and anything less than that equals bad.
Lesson: Food should be fun.
I am a dancer. One would think if food and health were an issue, it would likely have come up in my 15 years of taking classes full of mostly rail-thin girls. But none of my teachers have ever, ever brought up weight. We are taught to value strength, artistry, and expression. The focus is on technique, execution of steps, and performance quality. Even during recital season, no girl is made to feel ashamed or embarrassed if her costume has to be altered. We are equals. It is more important to work together and work hard than to work out.
The weight-consciousness in my house comes as an unwelcome addition. What’s even more unwelcome is that dinners out are no longer the luxury they used to be. Splurging a little at your favorite restaurant is normal. Now, I am the only person who even contemplates ordering dessert. It’s a lonely feeling having to tell the waiter, “yes, yes, only bring one spoon, please.”
I don’t want to come down on anybody for trying to healthy. I just think it is important to keep the focus on individual health and not inadvertently wander into the area of weight. Thin isn’t always healthy, and weight is not always an accurate measure of one’s health, confidence, or happiness.
When I was at my skinniest, I was a junior in high school. I barely ate, and I slept only five or five and a half hours every night. Every minute not spent in class or activities was used to complete an AP US study guide or a myriad of English essays. I had a sparse social life and dark bags under my eyes. I was miserable.
Now, I’m a bit different. I try to stay active and maintain what I consider to be a reasonably healthy lifestyle. I sleep significantly more than in high school. I work out at my rec because I miss dancing at my studio. I eat when I am hungry, enjoy meals out with my friends, and partake in the occasional trip to YogoLuv. I don’t let calorie-counting deter the unadulterated, absolute joy of my mom’s home-cooked meals.
I may not be a supermodel, but I am happy.