Nalgas. Whenever I hear that word I cringe. In English it means ass, butt, rump, hips. But when I was a kid and heard that word it was interpreted in my mind as, “Girl, your ass is too big.” No one talked about your nalgas unless they were saying something bad.
In elementary school when my nalgas got too big, I was put on a “diet.” No one called it a diet; it was just that all of a sudden everything was gone. No more soda. No more cookies. No sugar at all. I was the youngest of four by 7, 9, and 10 years. So when the diet happened, it hit them the hardest. Why should they be punished? They were all athletes playing tennis, basketball, softball, track they were fit and could eat anything they wanted. Not only was I chubby, but everyone was mad at me.
Not that we talked about it all. For this “diet,” there was no declaration in Vogue Magazine. There was no talk about body image or obesity or anorexia. There were just conversations between my parents in Spanish that I could understand bits and pieces of, like the word “gordita,” which means chubby.
When I read about the controversy surrounding Dara-Lynn Weiss putting her 7-year-old daughter on a diet I had mixed feelings. I have two boys who never stop moving and seem to have my husband’s metabolism, which means they have a metabolism at all. I don’t know what I would do if I had a girl who had my shape at 7. I wouldn’t want her to be made fun of by other kids like I was, but I wouldn’t want her to focus so much on what her body looks like.
And looking back, I don’t know that my childhood “diet” helped at all. I managed to get around it any way I could. We had bread, butter, cinnamon, and sugar for coffee in our house, so I made cinnamon sugar toast every day. We also had peanut butter. When no one was home, I would eat it by the spoonful (just like I would decades later when I was pregnant). The love/hate relationship I have with sugar today is probably because it was forbidden then, something I would have to sneak some of at friends’ houses or buy with my allowance at 7-11 on the way home from school and finish before I walked in the door.
Eventually, my body worked itself out and I wasn’t the biggest girl in class anymore. But it’s hard to shake the image of the gordita with the big nalgas even as an adult. Currently, I’m on a very public fitness program with a trainer and a dietitian not so much to lose weight, but to be healthy. But I have to admit that even though I work, have a beautiful family, friends, and plenty of interests, the weight is often on my mind.
The question I wonder now is, “Would I care so much about my weight if it hadn’t been such an issue as a child?” I’ll never know.
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