“There are starving children in Manila. Finish your food.”
This refrain was repeated throughout childhood. At an early age, my siblings and I learned that regardless of the amount or type of food that was on your plate, you ate it. No questions asked. Kids who wasted food were rude — repugnant, even. Our friends were judged for being picky eaters.
It’s no surprise that the three of us have had weight issues at different stages of our lives. After years of hearing “clean your plate,” learning moderation was (and still is, at times) difficult. Even now, my mother is a relentless food pusher.
“I’m trying to eat healthier.”
“So? You can have ice cream. Then you can just run later.”
“I would rather just skip dessert.”
“Just listen to me, I know what I’m talking about.”
Except, my mother doesn’t know (about this, or anything she hasn’t actually experienced).
In elementary school, I was the chubby kid on the country club swim team. To say that the kind of girls who lived in that neighborhood were cruel shallow bitches would be an understatement.
“What size do you wear?” Maddie asked as I wrapped a towel around myself after practice.
“Why do you want to know?” I quickly packed up my tote bag.
“So I never let myself go like that.” She followed me to the parking lot.
“I have a slower metabolism than you do.” Don’t let her see you cry.
“Maybe you should lay off the fatty foods, then.” She flipped her hair and sneered.
We were eleven years old. I waited until I bolted out of my mother’s car and into my room before crying and eating a stack of Chips Ahoy cookies. I found solace in food and books. Though my mother insisted I was beautiful as I was, she added that I’d outgrow my chubbiness. I did in middle school, but eating my feelings was a habit that persisted.
Now, I’m unlearning the association that only wasteful assholes don’t clean their plates. I’ll never be a waif, but I’m working on being healthier. I’m not perfect and I’m okay with that.