In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d write a post about my mom’s impact on my health and wellness. Of course she’s impacted my life in every possible way – I wouldn’t be half the woman I am without her guidance and support. But if I had to quantify it, one of the things I am most grateful to have gained from my mom is a good attitude toward body image and a strong instinct and common sense toward healthy eating.
My mother has never, ever said anything negative about my body or physical appearance (besides maybe, “Put a sweater over that shirt before we go to church” or something). I have talked to so many of my girlfriends, and seen so many bad examples in the media, regarding their moms instilling negative and sometimes downright harmful attitudes toward women’s bodies and what we “should” look like. I am so terrifically thankful that I never got that kind of vibe from my own mom.
Especially because we have such different body types. My mom is naturally thin, and by puberty it became pretty evident that I didn’t inherit her metabolism; I passed her up in weight and size in probably seventh grade. Of course this was uncomfortable for me, but the discomfort was not of her making – I don’t remember her ever commenting on our differences or comparing us. I took after my grandma, her mother, much more, shorter and stockier with a tendency to gain weight. I do remember my mom commenting on my grandma’s obesity, but it was always from the perspective of health and wanting her mom to be able to do all the things she wanted to do, never about looks, or worth based on size, or anything like that.
I grew up hearing other women (including her four sisters) ask my mom, “How do you stay so thin?” And she told them the truth – that she doesn’t formally exercise, but she stays moving all the time and eats good food. That’s it. Simple, common wisdom that doesn’t work for everyone but holds a lot of truth nonetheless.
Then there’s the food! I tease my mom and myself all the time about the way we ate hippie food while I was growing up. Some examples include:
- I never tasted real ice cream until I was in elementary school. Up until then, my “ice cream” was mostly yogurt with a spoonful or two of the real stuff mixed in.
- In my copy of The Giant Jam Sandwich my mom used a brown colored pencil to color in the bread, since we always ate brown bread at home and I guess she didn’t want me to know that white bread existed.
- I never tasted soda until probably third grade.
- My mom tells the story of when I was still young enough to sit in a carseat, her friend that we were driving with convinced my mom to let me have a piece of candy she had in her purse, which I normally never had. She gave me the candy and then they noticed how quiet I got and turned around to check on me. I announced, “I… loooove… caaaaandy” (pronouncing the first syllable like exaggerated “con” of course), and she knew she was done for.
We ate well when I was growing up, giving me a good base for making my own food decisions as I got older. Of course, it also gave me something to rebel against, and I frequented Taco Bell drive-thrus for awhile after getting my own driver’s license, for example. But I think I have good instincts about food now (despite whether I follow them or not…) because of how we ate when I was a kid. Whole foods. Lots of fruits and veggies. Minimal sweets. Our dinners when she got home from work too tired to cook weren’t of the fast food variety – instead she’d do something like throw chicken breasts in the oven covered in barbecue sauce and mix up a quick salad. Eating crappy food just usually wasn’t an option for us, and I strive to make that a reality in my life now.
I could write for ages about my mama. I feel so blessed for all the good lessons she’s taught me.