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Peer Pressure

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Monday, November 23, 2009


Boy, I've missed everybody! Thank you all for your notes of concern. I've been tied up with taking care of two ailing, elderly parents -- my 96 year old father, and my 81 year old mother-in-law. They are both like the proverbial Timex watches. They "take a licking and keep on ticking"!!

My father is the most cheerful guy there is. Just recently back from the hospital, I went up to see him in his nursing home room. Despite the fact I had seen him the day before, he exclaimed "Joanne I haven't seen you in ages"! While the Large Jamaican nurse, Bonita, bustled around his room, he chattered on about how I always managed to stay thin and keep my figure and never let myself get fat like -- and he points not so secretively at Bonita, who sees his gesture. Mortified, I start to chastise him but she breaks out in a raucous laugh and reminds me of what a sweetheart that he is, but his mind is getting more childlike and besides he isn't saying anything that isn't obvious! I told her for some reason he doesn't remember that I was indeed heavy just a few years ago, and in fact spent most of my adult life overweight. She explained that it's a facet of his dementia. He can remember details from his childhood, but not what he ate for breakfast.

You see, I wasn't one of those roly-poly children. I was painfully thin. The neighborhood boys loved to tease me - "Hey Joanne - I bet if you turned to the side and stuck out your tongue, you'd look just like a zipper"! My older brother had the teasing down to a fine art. Somewhat of a late bloomer, I found myself still stick straight in Jr. High just about the time the rest of my friends were developing cleavage and curves. He knew this caused me angst and so he would slide up to me and say " You know what your "teats" look like"?
Yep. He'd say teats, knowing that if my mother -- who had supernatural hearing caught him saying "tits" she would cuff his ears. So this way if she overheard anything, he could claim he was discussing barnyard animals. If I tried tattling on him, it would be his word against mine and therefore in the interest of fairness, she would cuff us both!
Anyhow, his next line would be "They look like two raisins on an ironing board" and collapsing into gales of laughter he would lope off while tears of pure anger and shame burned in my eyes! He even found an ingenious way to torment me without uttering a word. He'd just hold up two fingers with one hand while pantomiming the motion of ironing with the other and then point at me!

My weight started to pile on with the 45 pound weight gain during my first pregnancy and blossomed steadily up through two more pregnancies continuing up until I reached my all time high -- 203 pounds on a 5'4" frame!

Not genetic, I had nothing or no one to blame but myself. It was the usual - I ate more calories than I expended. But the big question was why? Was I an emotional eater? Not particularly. I'm a cheerful, the glass is half full kind of person. When I feel stress I usually try to meet it head on and plan accordingly. I am a creature of habit and mostly an organized individual. I enjoy self-indulgences like bubble baths and reading. Nice ways to redirect stress eating urges.
Did I eat out of boredom? Sometimes, but not a big issue. I gave up TV in favor of SparkPeople. Can't eat while you type:)


I could kick into a binge for sure. I did that plenty. But what triggered it? My love of food? Yeah... I'm getting warmer.

Then one morning a month or so ago I had a revelation. A breakthrough if you will:

I walked into my office in the phone triage room where I'm a nurse in a busy ob/gyn clinic carrying a bag of Hershey's miniature candy bars that I like to keep in a container on the counter for several doctors who enjoy a little chocolate now and then. It's mutually beneficial -- they get a treat and I get a captive audience to answer questions on charts I've stockpiled on the side of my desk. I don't really have any trouble staying out of them myself. I've managed to convince myself over the years that unless it's premium chocolate like Godiva, and I have plenty of time to savor a reasonable piece, I skip it.
As I opened the bag and inhaled the sweet chocolately aroma, I exclaimed "Mmm I love the smell of chocolate"! One one of the newer - overweight - triage nurses, Kathy, who only knows me as the "thin Joanne" who eats tuna and vegetables everyday with a piece of fruit for lunch, pronounced to the other two nurses "Ooo you wait, now she'll have to go to the bathroom and throw up that vapor"! A little titter arose from the others as Kathy winked at me. Not easily offended, I unwrapped a piece and popped it in my mouth, chomping it down. "See", I declared defensively, "I eat like a normal person"!
While sitting at my desk a few minutes later, feeling guilty and remorseful at eating 80 calories so senselessly, the image of my mother catching me -- around age 15 as I bent over an ironing board trying to iron my hair straight, came to me. Jerking me up by the other side of my hair she shrieked, "What on God's green earth are YOU DOING"???
"I'm straightening my hair", I stammered "All my friends are doing it"!
She leveled me with a stare that only my mother could do that bored holes right through me and without blinking she demanded, "And if they were all jumping off a cliff, would you do that TOO"?

And then it hit me -- PEER PRESSURE. The desire to feel a part of the group. To be liked. I ate and binged on food like an alcoholic with drink to feel accepted. And just like an alcoholic, the course was one of self-destruction. Why did I feel like I needed to prove to anyone that I was a "normal" person? Why couldn't I feel liked without participating in their excessive behaviors? Why was I constantly justifying my "odd" lunches? Did I have to eat what I knew was unhealthy for me or else launch into one of my long winded explanations of how just a little miniature candy bar used to trigger a "What the heck" attitude in me and set off a binge of astronomic proportions?

Work potlucks. Church potlucks. "Ladies night out". Dinner with my nieces. Holiday dinners at my daughter-in-law's. How many occasions did I find myself overeating so I didn't hurt anyone's feelings? So that I felt like I fit in?
By not attending I would appear even more standoffish than if I went, ate reasonably, and offered no explanations. I always volunteered to bring something healthy like the veggie tray and I always noticed that I was able to toss the empty tray away at the end of the day. I wasn't the only one eating healthy apparently.

Maybe, just maybe, some of my angst was self-imposed.

Gradually, I began to reframe my thinking. I quit worrying about what others thought or didn't think about my eating. I pulled out my before picture one day and showed Kathy who gasped, "No way! That can't be you -- you look awesome now. How did you do it?" "Tuna, veggies, and fruit for lunch", I said smiling.
When my dearest friend that I work with, Terry, brought in her terrific homemade salsa I noticed she brought in a special bag of whole grain tortilla chips for me. Yes, she chuckled when I counted a serving size of chips out on my plate chip by chip, so I could could track it online later at home. I rolled up the bag but before putting the clip on I looked at her and unrolling it quickly I reached in and took out one more chip and tossed it over my shoulder to the plate. "If I'm going to be naughty", I told her, "It'll be with YOUR salsa"!

We shared a laugh and I knew...

That I don't have to prove anything to anybody. I'm liked for who I am -- not for what I eat - or don't eat.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    This is so wonderful! As I began to eat healthy I no longer get invited out to lunch. But you know what it's ok because I know that when I leave the job at the end of the day I have to live with me! Please keep writing your blogs they are great and very thought provoking as well as fun. Be blessed!
    3054 days ago
    Great blog and good points! I think you are dead on right! Have a great week. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I am just now getting around to reading older blogs I havent gotten to yet!
    3122 days ago
    have a wonderful day. : )
    3122 days ago
    LOL. I count my chips/pretzels/etc, too. My kids think I'm a little nuts, but they're very proud of me. I just pop everything in a baggie at lunch time. LOL
    3123 days ago
  • LAURT02
    worrying about what other people think..its one of my flaws. i care WAY too much about how i'm perceived or what people are thinking of how i look. you hit the nail on the head though. i hope i can soon learn that i should live for myself, and not always to please others.

    thanks for another GREAT blog :)
    3124 days ago
    I was painfully skinny, also....and then I had babies.:-0 I had an older brother who teased me about being flat. He passed away before I had a chance to blossom. :-) It's funny how your blogs have me thinking about my childhood, as well. Thanks for sharing, and the smile. My brother could not say that to me, today!

    Wonderful blog, as usual!! emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3124 days ago

    Comment edited on: 11/28/2009 3:57:58 PM
    Have to disagree about Godiva - Hershey is the BEST chocolate! :)
    3124 days ago
  • JOYSONG1960
    I have done this also. I'm so grateful my husband is on a diet also since he used to be my peer pressure. Now he is pressuring me to watch what I eat. Way better pressure, but sometimes I have to have what I want anyway, even if it's not what he can eat. He's avoiding carbs and I'm not. I love the Spark diet.
    3125 days ago
  • TRABOLD8567
    3125 days ago
    Another great blog.
    3125 days ago
    Another winner here, Joanne! I'm so glad you share the insights you find into your eating habits - you help us look at things in a new light!

    I identified with your story about your Dad -- mine was like that, too -- as his dementia increased, his ability to be "Discretionary" about what he said or did just went away. He was always a ladies' man, and he decided the kindness of the nurses/aides was more than just friendliness -- I got called once about his 'roaming hands'. Oh well -- just deal with it, folks! They work with elderly dementia patients -- Dad wasn't any more of a problem than others, I'm sure! I felt like I'd been called by the principal to discuss a child's misbehavior!

    Celebrate the good times with him as much as you can! Dad passed away 2 years ago (on the night before Thanksgiving) and I really miss our times together! He'd say, "What would I do without you?" and I'd just remind him that he would never have to find out. I'm so thankful God gave us special times! I had also built special memories with Mom through her lung cancer fight -- Now I can look back and not have any regrets about wishing I'd done such & such!

    Have a GREAT Thanksgiving -- and keep making us thinking!!
    3127 days ago
    Sheer gold! emoticon
    Jackie x
    3127 days ago
    I love your blog Joanne! It is always a good read! I especially like hearing stories of others childhood.

    Your blog was an eye opener for me because I never even thought of peer pressure being a reason to eat. It is up to me to stop "perceiving" the peer pressure is there when in fact it is because I use it as an excuse. Good for you in figuring that out and letting me in on the secret. LOL.

    3127 days ago
    I loved this blog. It makes me remember my childhood - the good part. I remember my mother yelling at me because of something that I was doing & my answer was the same as yours. "All of the kids are doing it". Then she would ask me that if my friends jumped off of a bridge would I do the same thing?

    Your father sounds like a real dear.

    3128 days ago
  • LAURIE5658
    And once again, Joanne hits one out of the Spark ballpark!!!! AWESOME!!! Everyone at my office just knows that I will be standing in the back at noon chopping my romaine lettuce and other great veggies for my salad. They just know that breakfast will be oats and agave nectar for sweetener. They just know and they accept the fact that this is me.

    Its funny how that works.
    3128 days ago
    Hi Joanne - you really hit it right on in your blog, something is always going on in our lives

    3128 days ago
  • JAVAJO47
    Hi Joanne~ Thanks again as usual for such an insightful blog. I LOVE how you identified past issues with food and could relate with some of the comments you've received. I decided several months ago to go vegetarian. Just a personal decision that I feel comfortable with. Not only do I have well meaning family members trying to steer me away from it, sometimes my son & husband like to tease me about my non-meat meals. I decided that with or without support on this decision, I have to do what's right for me. It has helped me to lose weight and bring my cholesterol levels to normal, so something must be going right :)

    On another note...your dad sounds delightful! LOL I've noticed as my mother has aged, she has become more vocal about opinions regardless of who it might offend. Sometimes we laugh and other times my sisters and I are appalled. I am sure in time, I will become my mother's daughter.

    Hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!
    Jo Ann
    3128 days ago
    Wonderful blog! Very true and very inspiring! emoticon
    3128 days ago
    You are such an inspiration!! thank you for sharing. I know the pain of being teased...my sister, who was pretty flat chested, used to call me the boobsey twins in the hall in school. and one day i was at my locker..a lowly 9th grader and her a senior, and she walked by and very loudly said..careful dont shut them in there!
    I learned to laugh about them though..i worked as a teller at the drive thru window at the bank...one day as i was putting the drawer out i leaned over at the same time and yeah..you guessed it..the drawer shut on them. of course it was electric...the look on my face must have heen horrid as the man at the window said ARE YOU OK??? i recovered quickly and said yes...just doing a self mammogram...
    the girls at the counter heard me...heck EVERYONE heard me!! and we all had a good laugh. the poor man in the car spilled his coffee, but told me he hadnt thought he would smile that day let alone laugh.
    memories...painful AND funny!!
    3128 days ago
    Great blog. Enjoyable reading.
    3128 days ago
    3128 days ago
    I missed you and am glad to see you back.
    thank you for sharing....it means a great deal to be able to trace the roots of our issues with food. wonderful, insightful blog as usual!
    3128 days ago
  • VXWALL1942
    Finally - I think I've got it! Why I eat. My Mom always told me I could have 2nds of mashed potatoes (or whatever) if I "wanted to be fat". Of course I didn't take 2nds and always saw myself as fat. I realized many years later while looking through the retrospectoscope that I have been trying to make up for lost opportunities. I didn't have many friends growing up, so I made friends with food. Geez Louise - all this time I've been looking for the 'emotional eating triggers' and lo and behold they're firmly entrenched in my history. Thanks for opening my eyes!

    3128 days ago

    Comment edited on: 11/24/2009 12:22:30 AM
    You bring me into your world so vividly with each blog. I love it. Your blogs are like a present that the reader unwraps while reading. A real delight. Thank you, Joanne. Happy Thanksgiving.
    3128 days ago

    I love the way you write, you should put together a book! :D I can so relate to so much of what you write too! GREAT BLOG!

    3128 days ago
    I've been the pioneer at work, always bringing in 3 or 4 fresh veggies everyday for lunch and / or snacking. Folks would ask if I get bored with all these veggies all the time and I always say: "I like boring. It's safe and healthy. I'll save exciting and savory for my special meals at home or dining out."

    Soon I start to see other bags of baby spinach, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and other veggies being hauled in by my colleagues. If they forget they swing by my desk and help themselves. I think my veggies are finally becoming even more popular than my officemates jar of chocolates! :-)

    3129 days ago
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