18 October 2011

The Little Girl and the Diet

This is the story of the Little Girl and the Diet.

When the Little Girl was nine years old her Mummy decided the Little Girl should go on her first diet.

The little girl wasn't obese, she wasn't having any medical problems, but she wasn't skinny either. The Little Girl heard 'puppy fat' being mentioned when her Mummy discussed her size with her friends. The Little Girl didn't want to be fat. Fat was bad. Fat was ugly. Boys didn't go out with fat girls. Fat people were lazy. The Little Girl hated the tent dresses that Mummy made her wear. Mummy said it was for the best, because they covered her up. She wanted to wear what the other girls were wearing, like t-shirts and skirts. A diet seemed like a good idea.

Mummy knew all about diets. Mummy was always on a diet. Mummy only ate lettuce and cottage cheese and Ryvitas. The Little Girl couldn't really understand why Mummy ate them. Mummy retched as she swallowed the cottage cheese she clearly detested. Mummy hated her thighs and her knees and her tummy. Mummy had nothing to wear. Mummy cleaned her teeth a lot to stop her wanting to eat.

Mummy made a chart for the back of the larder door. The Little Girl was allowed 1,000 calories per day. The Little Girl wasn't allowed to have 1,000 calories of chocolate as it would not fill her up. She was allowed 100 calories of milk per day (from the 1,000 calories). 100 calories of milk was about two inches in a cup. Every time the Little Girl had something to eat her Mummy consulted the Calorie Guide and wrote the food and the calories on the wall chart. At the end of the day the calories were added up to see if she had been a good girl.

The Little Girl was allowed to eat Ice Pops as these were only 10 calories. She was allowed to eat apples (40 calories for a small apple) and Weight Watchers bread (90 calories per slice). She drank tins of One-Cal lemonade. The Little Girl cleaned her teeth a lot. The Little Girl was always hungry. The Little Girl was hungry for weeks.

The year following the diet, Mummy out to work in the evenings. Daddy worked too, but at home. The Little Girl felt rather abandoned and she was bored. The Little Girl spent most evenings rummaging in the larder and the fridge. After her tea she would pilfer a chocolate biscuit or two, a Kit-Kat, a slice of cheese, a bowl of cornflakes, a jam sandwich, a spoonful of peanut butter, a spoonful of dry drinking chocolate powder and a 300 calorie drink of milk.

Very soon the Little Girl got fat. She became a yo-yo dieter. She followed a variety of diets. She lost weight each time, sometimes a lot of weight. Then she stopped following the diet and ate anything and everything again until she put the weight back on and a bit more on top. This pattern repeated for almost thirty years. At times of stress, loneliness or boredom she eats. It's her fall-back position. It's comfortable. It's what she does. For those few moments she stuffs her face, she doesn't think or feel. She goes into an emotional vacuum.

She hates herself for reaching for the biscuits every time an unwelcome emotion appears. She hates the way she looks. She hates all her clothes. She hides under tent dresses. She hates her thighs and her tummy. Her knees are okay though.

Now she knows why diets don't work. She has stopped dieting. She feels somewhat liberated. Now she eats normally and healthily, with her family. They usually have their five-a-day. No foods are forbidden or sinful, they eat everything in moderation.

She still binges, but never in front of her children. She is an expert in secret eating. She is trying to stop bingeing. She is a couple of stone below her top fighting weight. She weighs less than she did a year ago, without dieting.

She knows her mother was only doing her best. She also knows she will NOT pass her eating disorder onto her own children. She tries to look on the bright side.



  1. Oh Sandy, you are very brave to write about this. I have been on the other end of the scale and can only say: it's one and the same shit we have both been through and it really sucks. Lots of love, you are doing great!

  2. Oh Sandy you had me in tears reading this. Just trying to eat normally and healthily is the best anyone can do, we're all human and we mess up too. Food really does affect people in different ways, it's good you manage a better approach these days x

  3. Oh lovely, no wonder we get on so damn well, you are describing my childhood! Call me if you need to lovely xxx

  4. Sending lots of hugs! What a very brave post. Unfortunately, a lot of us have major issues with food due to the influences in our younger years.

  5. I was in pieces reading this, which struck a very strong chord with me. I had the mum always on a diet though fortunately she thought I was perfect just the way I was. But, like you, I am determined not to pass that on to my children. What a brave post.

  6. Big hugs beautiful lady! I can totally relate to this and know just how you feel. We don't use the 'd' word in our house and always try just to talk about eating healthily. You are doing a brilliant job, keep going, xx

  7. Love the honesty and bravery! One generation and family at a time we can break the cycle!

  8. gosh what a powerful post, really feel for you and you are so brave writing about it. Be brave, keep smiling, you are a great mum and a great person and you are lovely just the way you are x

  9. I think this is a very powerful post Sandy and I'm really glad you shared with us. And it's not just those knees that are OK. x

  10. This is a wonderful post. It is very brave of you to identify the source of the issue but to do it with such compassion and understanding.
    Body image is such a huge feminist issue. With so much pressure from all sides to look a certain way as a woman it is no wonder us women do terrible things to our girl children with twisted good intent.
    A healthy body is not meant to be the sizes portrayed by the fashion industry and celebrity. Food is not the enemy, body fascism is.
    The diet industry has a lot to answer for equally.
    In my opinion fat isn't the problem, sugar is. Sugar and anxiety .

    Well done for breaking the cycle.

  11. My friend, well done for breaking those old patterns. They may be deeply entrenched but you are walking on the right path. Let go of the guilt around food and accept your choices, love all of your body and keep eating well and your health will follow.

    As a fellow fatty I do beleive that telling a child they are fat is a self fulfilling prophecy: if you tell them it's what they are, it is what they will become. *Everyone* told me I was fat and I look back and at the body of my daughter and I can see it's just a different yet normal shape. I am determined to break the cycle of fat women in my family.

  12. Its so hard breaking the cycle, everything in moderation is a good thing. I have to admit I do find it very hard trying to encourage Fifi to have a healthy attitude towards food especially as she loves everything thats bad for her and is a biscuit fiend. She is 91% percentile for weight and is a little bit plump and I have to keep reminding myself not to make a thing about food. So, i'm trying the approach of not having stuff there other than fruit etc and I dont say anything about weight ever. I remember my mother saying I was plump etc as a child but equally we didn't do diets. I'll have to quiz her about her approach as I think I have a reasonably healthy attitude to food.
    Hugs to you, thank you for bringing this issue up! x

  13. An extremely well written and powerful post, and well done for breaking the cycle and giving out positive attitudes towards food. x

  14. Brave and honest post. It is good not to pass this on to your children, one thing we have learned. Hugs x

  15. Met Mum, it really sucks, especially when you look back and know that things could have been different. Lots of love to you too x

    Emily O, I didn't intend to make anyone else cry. I constantly berate myself for having such a problem with food, but I know why and I am trying to change x

    Emily MTJAM, thank you, it was tough to write and even tougher to hit publish x

    Emma, oh honey, I'm sorry to hear that. It's about time we had a catch up too x

    Gigi, I know I'm not alone, but have felt like I am due to the secrecy aspect. Thanks for the hugs x

  16. Domestic Goddesque, thank you. I'm sorry I upset you. It's so hard being a parent, but it helps if you are aware of your neuroses! x

    Amy, thanks for the hugs. Yes, you won't hear the 'd' word in this house either. I'm trying to encourage the boys to enjoy all foods and they understand that food gives you energy. We're getting there! x

    BothaBunch, thank you. Yes, the cycle definitely stops here! x

    Rock&Roll Mummy, wow, what a lovely thing to say. It was a hard post to write and I agonised over publishing it. Everyone has been so supportive x

    Cathy, oh bless you, what a lovely thing to say x

  17. Kids Party Heaven, thank you for leaving such a thoughtful comment. I totally agree and I despair at the body fascism in the media x

    Kat, thank you. We are extremely careful with the language we use around the children and try not to put labels on them for the exact reasons you mention. I'm feeling quite positive about reducing the binge eating now I've gone public. Getting rid of the guilt and body image issues may take longer x

    Zooarchaeologist, Fifi looks absolutely fine to me, but I can understand your concerns. It is so easy for food to become a toddler battle ground, so you try to be relaxed about it without letting them eat too many biscuits. Please let me know if your mother has advice x

    Very Bored, thank you. Luckily I was aware of the potential for this cycle to repeat before I had children, so I knew I wouldn't let it. Thanks for the RT too x

    Susan, thank you for the kind words and the hugs x

  18. This is such an amazing post, I found myself crying earlier when I read it. Such amazing emotive writing, and I am so very sorry that you had to go through this.

  19. The Boy and Me, sorry I made you cry. It was a long time ago but I'm glad I know the cause of my issues with food. Now to deal with them! x

  20. I was allowed to eat all kinds of junk as a kid. My lunch every day at school was a hamburger, chips, coke and a mars bar. My Mum didn't cook so I had frozen dinners at home, never anything fresh. I was skinny so no one questioned it but no wonder I had such awful skin and hair.

    I totally agree with you about everything in moderation and no diets, you are setting a great example for your boys (and all of us falls off the wagon once in a while) x

  21. My boys will never hear the D word. I was very lucky and grew up with a mum that didn't diet and didn't push one on me

  22. Sandy, when I see you all I see is a beautiful lady (inside and out) you are always cheerful, always welcoming and always genuine and never without a smile. I am sure that you will be a fantastic role model for your children and for everyone out there who reads this very brave post who has issues with food too xx

  23. Oh my lovely lady I wish I could have attended yesterday to give you a great big hug. I am doing SW at the moment but I'm really careful not to use the word diet around BG I don't want her to worry about her weight. x

  24. Oh Sandy i'm in bits. Weight has been one of the biggest hurdles of my life. I want to give you a massive cuddle. Thank you SO much fo rputtignh this into the blog carnival. We muct be so careful with out children,

  25. Gosh Sandy. I hadn't read this when I met you last week. I'd be offline most of the week. It was wonderful to see you and I was thrilled to bits you were at the UNICEF event because you are one of the loveliest bloggers I know.

    There is so much I could say here, you probably know that. All I will say is that the word 'hate' stands out for me and it's sad that you feel so negatively about yourself when you are such a wonderful person. I know you won't see that, but having previously felt the same way about myself I found talking to a therpist transformed everything. I think if you can tackle your feelings of self-worth then other areas of your life, like your relationship with food, will improve too. Or I could just keep coming over and telling you how great you are. You know where I am if you ever want to talk and I really do mean that. xxx

  26. It's midnight and here I am reading your blog and about to snack on something moreish! ;-) No matter what our size or shape, so many of us grow up with issues around what we eat or what we look like - and it's tragic how much of this is passed on through generations.

    Your ability to see yourself and your past with clear eyes is shaping you not only as an excellent writer but as the best kind of mother - one that's true and kind and able to break the cycle of self-hate. I agree with an earlier comment -you're a beautiful woman who radiates joy and inner strength. Sorry I'm a bit longwinded, by the way I think this post is perfect for the NOW Carnival (on body image), I'll try and dig up the details - email me to remind if you can! x

  27. Sandy, I've sat here with my fingers poised to type for a few minutes now but I don't know what to say. Brave post, beautifully written. xxx

  28. I hate that you went through this, beautiful girl.

    I have an eating disorder too. I can type this here because no one will really notice but there you go. Has been pretty bad lately. And I don't have your awful experiences to excuse me. I wish I knew why it happens sometimes, what it is about this culture that sparks it. Much, much love x

  29. Everything in moderation - so true. My sister-in-law tells me of kids that come over to hers who are 'banned' from sugar etc and who gorge like crazy the minute they're out of the parental view. So I've gone with the idea that treats are fine at parties and every now and again and if everyone else is eating cake of course she can have cake too - but on regular days wHen it's just us at home we will pick something a little healthier to snack on (which she has no complaints about. She is a fruit fiend) We never, ever discuss weight or 'fat' in front of 3yo but
    she does know what's healthy/not healthy (though she
    thinks of it more in terms if what's good or bad for your
    teeth after a dentist visit to nursery!) So many of the schools round here are rife with anorexia and other eating disorders - so thank you, your post is a brave reminder that a healthy relationship with food begins at a very young age and that being happy with yourself is way more important than whether you are carrying the odd extra pound or two x

  30. Make Do Mum, I'm no longer that hard on myself when I fall off the wagon as I understand that's how I am. It's funny how we've all had such different upbringings x

    The Mad House, Diet is a 4-letter-word around here too! x

    Mummy Matters, what a lovely thing to say, I'm really touched. I don't think I've been called a role model before! It was lovely to see you last week x

    Carol, thanks again for doing that post for me, you are wonderful. You are being sensible with SW and not getting obsessed. The main thing is to eat healthily when you stop going and I'm sure you will. Wish you lived closer so I could get that hug! x

    Liveotherwise, thank you x

  31. Lindy, I love you too and I'm delighted you're doing so well at WW. Diets aren't for me, but they clearly work for others x

    Becky, that was the main reason for writing the post. I had seen some tweets about 7 year old girls wanting to lose weight and it made me so sad x

    Rosie, it was lovely to see you too - as always. I know you understand. Yes, hate is a strong word and I would never say it out loud, but it is how I feel. I have had some therapy, but I'm not seeing anyone at the moment. I think it's about time I took some action. I appreciate you being there x

    Babes, thank you for your kind words. I'm struggling to type now as I've got tears in my eyes. I'll have a look for that carnival and email if I can't find it x

    NotSupermum, thank you my dear x

  32. Porridgebrain, ha! I also leave confessional comments on other people's blogs. Sorry to hear you're going through a bad patch. I'm glad I understand why I have mine, but it's still there regardless. Much love to you too x

    Cazroz, we have a similar approach here. The boys understand that too much salt is unhealthy and they know it's good to have a balanced diet (for want of a better word). I like using teeth as a reason not to eat too much sugar. Most of their snacks are healthy, but I don't mind if they eat chocolate biscuits at their grandparents' houses. Balance is key x

  33. Fat is not ugly, fat is not weak and fat is not lazy. Inside my layers of fat is a healthy eating, slim woman wanting to break free, but thanks to another Ryvita and cottage cheese mum is a woman who can and does comfort eat for England. Well done for writing this Sandy, from the times I've met you I know how beautiful you are. As you know my girls are older and I am so pleased to have broken the chain and see they don't have my relationship with/attitude to food. I struggle on and have bad days but am trying my best not to beat myself up for slipping into habits learned over a lifetime. I wish you the courage and strength to do the same, plenty of people understand my love, good luck to you. xxxxx

  34. Another difficulty I have is well meaning friends who advise me in different ways - I've been kindly urged to go to WeightWatchers, buy shakes and have a gastric band in recent years - I know they mean well but each gentle suggestion has been something that has made me feel worse -- 'ooh' they say 'so and so has lost 10lbs in three days just by eating raw courgettes and drinking cold tea' - well bully for them! Like lots of binge eaters/yo-yo dieters I can quote you chapter and verse on calories and healthy eating - to quote Victoria Wood, just because I know how many calories there are in a Curly Wurly doesn't mean I can't eat ten. The best choice I made was talking to a nutritionits, a lovely woman who spent my time with her explaining that I didn't lack 'willpower' and that food wasn't 'good' 'bad' or 'naughty' - it's just food. Yes I am now back at WW and I am all fired up but it is from a health point of view, I am going to try and trundle quietly along and get fitter, not compare myself with anyone else - yes I have weight to lose but if I have a bad week I won't be making out like it's a crisis. Good luck to you Sandy - you are beautiful inside and out. xx

  35. Linda, thank you for taking the time to comment. It's lovely that you have broken the cycle too. It is difficult to change the habits of a lifetime, but if we can do it gradually and accept that we will slip back occasionally, then we will get there. I love that Victoria Wood quote! Good luck at WW, lovely lady and I hope we get to meet up again soon. Take care x

  36. Sandy, while I was reading your post I thought that somebody was writing about my life. I still cant believe that somebody has had the same upbringing as me. I read this with tears in my eyes not feeling sorry for me but for the little girl who was made to feel so different as such an early age. As you do I dont blame my mum but she did pass on her eating disorder`s to me. After suffering from bulliemia for many years i have only just got the help i needed. I kept my disorder a secret for more than 25yrs and only asked for help as I dont want to pass this onto my 2 young daughters. Thanks for writing that its nice to know Im not the only one x

  37. Anon, I'm glad it has helped knowing that you are not alone in your upbringing. These things we do to ourselves are usually done in private. I'm pleased you have sought help. I'm sure you will not pass on your eating disorder to your daughters, because you are self-aware and understand why you are like you are. Good luck xxx

  38. So many lovely comments! I too had a mum that was on a constant diet. And I learned from a young age that if I want too be thin I need to diet :( well I use to be bulimic in my teens and since then I tried all diets in the world! But now I know the only way is eating health! I might not be the best looking but I am me. Still have a problem with being fat and I don't like myself but I hope that it will change soon....
    Hugs and thank you for writing this!

  39. Otilia, thank you for your comment. I'm sorry you also had a bad relationship with food from early on. Eating 'normally' is the only way forward. Try looking in the mirror and finding at least one thing that you like. I bet you could do that. Hugs to you too x


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