Think Like a Thin Person: A Tale of Two Thin Women

My mother is a very thin person. She always has been. Except for two pregnancies, her weight has been stable her entire life. She credits that consistency, in part, for her exceptional health at 77 years old. She has a natural high energy level and is most comfortable when she keeps busy and moving. She worked for many years in a major medical center and eschewed the elevator; she spent her days climbing the stairs in a 10-story building. Now retired, my Mom is up at dawn to walk four miles around their community. She usually follows that up with water aerobics, an activity she enjoys largely for the social aspect.

My Mom doesn’t have “issues” with food; she simply doesn’t care all that much. She doesn’t deny herself anything because she’s worried about calories or fat. She honestly does not care. It was maybe because of this that she’s never had a “forbidden” attitude about any foods. I did not grow up being told I couldn’t eat anything in particular though she did not want me to get macaroni and cheese AND mashed potatoes when we’d go out to cafeterias for dinner (used to be a Southern thing). Growing up in the sixties and seventies, people still ate real food they prepared at home and my house was no exception even though my Mom always worked. She’s never been a fancy cook and I would attribute that to her generally indifferent attitude about food in general.

Today my parents live in one of those “55 and up” gated communities. It’s in my hometown. They didn’t have to retire to Florida; they were already there. As you might expect, people give my twiglet of a Mom a bit of a hard time frequently making an issue of how thin she is. People tend to assume that any thin person is living this admirably ascetic life of denial and discipline. But they’re probably not.

Everything my Mother is and does is in her nature. She’ll admit she’s no paragon of good judgment and discipline. She does nothing that isn’t simply her own natural preference. I SWEAR TO YOU my Mother’s favorite evening treat when she’s watching TV—and I viewed this with my own eyes last summer—is to put a little red wine in a glass with ice cubes and suck on the ice cubes. Seriously, my Mom considers ice cubes like a treat. This is not because she’s making some effort to “think like a thin person.” She makes no effort.

My parents live next door to a very nice couple. The lady is one of those women who will not allow herself to be seen unless she’s perfectly dressed and made up. She works out at Curves every day and she counts calories obsessively. She has a small nutrition bar and a Diet Coke for lunch every day, no exceptions. She is very thin. My Mom believes she’s somewhat anorexic. Yes, my Mom believes her friend has unhealthy eating habits. She DOES deny herself. She DOES have a fear of eating food she thinks is “bad;” bad as in it will make her fat and she’s terrified of being fat.

Considering both of these women, they are an interesting study in contrasts. One has been naturally thin all her life and eats whatever she wants. As it happens, what she wants is a fairly nutritionally-sound diet in rather small portions. She also has a natural high activity level. The other is unnaturally thin and she is obsessed with what she eats—and what she won’t allow herself to eat for fear she’ll gain weight. She exercises just as obsessively and looks almost a bit anorexic because of it. This woman lives like this by conscious choice. Is she demonstrating some kind of superior judgment and discipline? I’m sure she thinks she is.

The neighbor probably admires my mother and thinks she’s emulating habits that keep my Mom so thin. But she doesn’t know the truth. Naturally-thin people like my mother are at the foundation of my primary contention that some people are thinner by nature and some people are larger by nature. We are what we are programmed to be by our genetics, by our physiology, by our brain wiring. A Bell Curve MUST have two ends and if we accept that there are people with a naturally-low drive to eat and thinner bodies then we must also accept that there are those of us with a naturally higher drive to eat and larger bodies.

Fighting to be something you’re not is a futile battle you can never win. Yes, we can change certain things about ourselves through persistent effort over time. But will my mind ever work like my Mom’s? Could I ever “think like a thin person”? My thin Mom doesn’t even do that! I won’t. I don’t want to. It’s an insult. It’s based on the assumption that thin people demonstrate high discipline and superior judgment in caring for themselves. How many times have you heard that the key to managing weight is to “think like a thin person”? Think about it while you consider this “Tale of Two Thin Women.”

My Mom and Dad

My Mom and Dad


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    • JoAnn on April 19, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I read an interesting take from a guy who’s lost 143 lbs. He’s gained and lost significant weight a few times. He Rejects the idea of lifestyle change or even that he’s changed. He talks about adopting a lifestyle. He knows he has to remain vigilant and still prefers pizza to vegetables. I know I could still easily eat half a pizza or more. In three years that hasn’t changed. It wouldn’t matter if it hurt my stomach. I choose not to because I like this body better and what it can do. Doesn’t mean I’ve stopped thinking about food or that I have a take it or leave attitude.

    1. Oh good lord I’d eat doughnuts and drink Pepsi EVERY FREAKIN’ DAY if I could. And I will always wish I could do that if it wouldn’t KILL ME!!!

    • Eileen on June 25, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Hi Dagny! I got here by following a comment you made on another blog. I don’t remember how I got to this post, but are you sure we’re not related? :=)

    I grew up in Florida (still live here) in the 60’s and 70’s, and my mother is also thin; I am not. I think you may be referring to Morrison’s Cafeteria in your post where you mention macaroni and cheese AND mashed potatoes! :=) Oddly, my mother also did not ever bother me about my weight. I wasn’t terribly overweight as a child, just kind of chubby.

    I just wanted to say hello! I will be looking through your site in the next few days. It seems lately that everywhere I turn I’m getting a message about looking inside myself to make some changes.

    1. Hello Eileen!
      Thanks for coming by! Perhaps you clicked over from Holly’s blog at MORRISON’S, you are right! My mom didn’t want me to have too many starches, she’d say. We actually never had rolls with meals in our house so she REALLY did not want me to have mac n’ cheese, mashed potatoes, AND a roll! But that’s exactly what I wanted! With salisbury steak. All things my mom never made.

      Looking inside yourself is the best thing to do. I believe we fail because we keep chasing after what worked for somebody else and it’s not the right fit for us. We have to acknowledge our own triggers and weak points as well as our own day to day routines. When you think about it, what we consider going on a diet is usually a dramatic and sudden change in our daily life so we’re doomed to failure again and again. Instead of blaming a method that wasn’t going to work for us, we blame ourselves and believe we are failures.

      We also try to blame some flaw or personal failing. We believe what we’re told that we’re weak and emotionally broken, that there must be some “reason why” we’re fat. Some of just have brains that love to process thoughts of food and bodies that want to be larger! After losing a LOT of weight, my body is certainly fighting me every single day to put some of that weight back on! I’m holding on to the 180s these days. It seems to be where my body is willing to stay without extreme measures. I was 340 at my highest weight.

      Please write me anytime and I read and respond to every comment!

  1. […] written many times, including this recent post, about how observing my mother throughout my life has influenced my beliefs. I saw first-hand, up […]

  2. […] you’re full.” Oh that’s a lovely dream! But very few people truly live that way. People like my Mom and not really anybody else. We’re just not made that way. It’s the fantasy of […]

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