This is both a simple and difficult question to answer. It is pretty well accepted that a part of who we are and how we see the world comes from our childhood environment. I am cautious with this though. It can sound a lot like blaming others rather than just looking at history as a dispassionate observer. Were there weight issues in my family as I was growing up? Yes. Were there a few strict food rules in my home? Yes. Were there people who had unhealthy relationships with food and their bodies? Yes. Did a doctor tell my mother I was overweight and should do sit-ups at age 11? Yes. Did I read Seventeen and Glamour magazines religiously? You bet! Were there other sources of information that empowered Chatty Kathy? Without a doubt!
I know that my relationship with food was distorted by at least 4th or 5th grade (if not sooner). That’s when the diet rebel came out and I began sneaking food and bingeing after school. Do I know why it began then? No clue and I’m not certain it even matters.
When did I first go on a diet? That’s not as clear to me. I recall being 13 or so and starting to watch others’ plates and make certain I did not eat more than they did. I remember getting very sick around my 13th birthday (tonsillitis) and losing weight because I couldn’t eat. I got down to 118 pounds on my 5’5″ frame and could see my pelvic bones. I tried to maintain that weight, but it wasn’t possible. Not long after that, I became obsessed with my weight. Because I walked everywhere, road my bike, and ice skated, I was in pretty good shape. But I was still always focused on being thinner. At one point, I told my dad I wanted to go on a diet and planned to eat something like 4 saltines and 3 grapes for breakfast. He shut that down pretty quickly.
All the while, Kathy grew louder and louder. My self-consciousness didn’t keep me from wearing short figure-skating dresses, but did cause me to spend a lot of time doing body comparisons (myself against others in my family, friends, etc.). In looking at photos from that time, I can tell I was not overweight. I have always been and will always be curvy, that’s my body type and before pregnancy, was more pear than hourglass…but not overweight! You could not have convinced me of that at the time. Who I saw in the mirror looked very different.
So, by the time I went away to college, I think that Kathy and the food police were quite active and very loud.