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The Blender Chronicles


by Dr. Nancy Rahnama

Director of Health & Nurition

From time to time, I’m going to share the first-person stories from various patients and customers. My experience is that most people who come to me with significant weight problems also grew up with a significantly troubled parent. Here, my friend Nadje tells her story and its ultimate resolution.  – Dr Nancy

The Blender Chronicles

Finding peace in life in the kitchen

 

When a Dr Nancy-devotee friend of mine suggested I try Dr Nancy MD’s Plant Protein to blend up nutrient-packed breakfast shakes, my response was an immediate, “No way, no how!” The upshot is that I refused to have a blender in my house. Period.

 

First some background. My mother was obsessed with my weight and berated me daily about it – backed up for many years by physical punishment – until I left home at age 17. She would read something somewhere or hear some hairbrained theory that she would then subject me to in an increasingly bizarre series fatwas against my fat.

 

At six years old, I had clocked in at a half pound over ‘normal’ on a height/weight/age chart whereupon my mother put me on my first diet; liquid in a can. By the time I was seven, she announced I was obese and installed a graph paper chart on the back of the bathroom onto which I had to record my weight each day, a ritual that would be enforced for years to come. 

 

By the time I turned eight, she took me off solid food altogether and instead concocted her own variation of 1970s nutritionist Adele Davis’ Tiger’s Milk. My mother’s recipe consisted of one cup of raw skim milk, a half cup of dried nonfat milk powder, a tablespoon each of wheat germ and brewer’s yeast, a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses, a teaspoon of soy oil and a teaspoon of safflower oil, all whipped up in the family Osterizer.

 

The resulting sludge smelled like vomit and tasted worse, cementing my fear and loathing for anything out of a blender. For several months, this constituted my caloric intake for three meals a day and I was responsible for making it for myself. I remember refusing it for a day or two, stumbling around the kitchen dizzy with hunger and begging my mother for food. Firm and resolute, she quickly mixed up a jar of the evil brew and handed it over. “Here,” she said, “Drink it.”

 

Unjust rewards

At the time, I didn’t think any of this was abnormal. I didn’t discuss it with anyone but then again I didn’t not discuss it with anyone either. It wasn’t until I was a few years out of college that I was able to finally identify my mother’s behavior for what it was.

 

Truth and consequences

It is unfair to judge yesterday’s actions by today’s knowledge and standards, of course. Regardless, today we would recognize many of my mother’s views on corporal punishment, products and policies as misinformed at least and medically dangerous at worst.

 

A few years ago while clearing out some papers, I ran across a photo of a tween girl of about 10 in a Santa Claus hat handing out presents under a Christmas tree. The scene looked familiar but for a minute I couldn’t quite place it. Then it hit me. This was a photo of me. To my astonishment, the child pictured there was not a fat kid (as I had been told I was nearly every day of my life) but a petite little girl. All that harping, all that shaming, all that suffering turned out to be ultimately . . . all for nothing.

 

As if by self-fulfilling prophecy however, by high school I was fat, about 30 pounds overweight. But strangely – and I don’t remember consciously trying so I can’t say how I did it – I lost 25 pounds the summer after high school and entered college as a girl who passed for thin.

 

On my plate

All of the above are lodged in my memory as set pieces. But with maturity comes a sense of perspective and proportion. Everybody draws cards and these were some of mine. I can hardly feel sorry for myself about events that transpired over 30 years ago knowing that infinite numbers of traumatized people experience far worse every day.

 

It’s critical to note too that my experiences with a difficult mother and her scorn for my body are neither the most important nor most interesting things about me or my life (nor are they, for the record, the most interesting things about my late mother or her life either.) Yet, while none of my mother’s behavior was my fault, clearing up the debris – both physical and emotional – of my early years was (and is) my responsibility.

 

Requiring mitigation were the entwined, yet distinct, issues of food, eating, weight and size with a soupçon of fear and anger on the side. Whether these were my mother’s doing, the culture’s, my own twisted standards, or a toxic amalgam of all three is impossible to say. But I could no more blame my mother for my failures than I could credit her for my successes. Regardless, if I wanted to live a good life without the exhausting, time-wasting rituals required for maintaining obsessive self-hatred, I’d have to clear up the damage.

 

Cleanup crew

Ironically, the physical part of the equation was the least complicated. As an adult, my weight has fluctuated between scrawny (thanks to Fen Phen back in the day which felt like liberation at the time) and chunky (I’m talking to you, Camembert!). Today, it holds pretty steady at about 10 pounds and a dress size over what I’d like it to be. But I’m fine with that and also fine with being fine.

 

Having done due diligence on my body by way of medical tests and my own observations, I have the information and know the mechanics of what it takes to keep me at my healthiest.

 

Clearing up the emotional fallout proved a bit more elusive but that too was doable with insight and action. Therapy helped as did meds to take the edge off my inherent anguish. Though I’m happier when I’m on the thinner side, I refuse to be unhappy when I’m not. And therein lies the key. I refuse to let the appearance or disappearance of my bikini bridge be the metric by which I judge my worthiness to love and be loved. In other words, I refuse to do my mother’s job too well.

 

Dr Nancy says that many of her patients yearn for freedom. I get it. On the positive end, I am free of eating disorders, food fetishes, obsessive behaviors or addiction problems. And violence has never been a feature in my personal relationships either. On the negative, I’ve got a pretty pronounced case of dysmorphia. But it doesn’t disrupt much of anything anymore unless someone tries to take my photograph because that feels like torture. Try including me in a selfie at your peril.

 

The most significant freedom I enjoy now is that days and weeks can go by where I don’t even think about my weight or size. For this I am profoundly grateful. Sure, just like a particularly sinister earworm, sometimes the soul-destroying fat/fearful/phobic thoughts come roaring back but a few minutes of watching baby goat videos is usually enough to stop them in their tracks. To Dr Nancy’s point then, I’m not certain I’ll ever reach complete freedom but I have achieved a life-affirming equilibrium which is very sweet indeed.

 

A few years ago I woke up and realized to my amazement that I was happy. How did this happen? I had been in the habit of being unhappy so much of my life that this was an unfamiliar sensation. I did an internal review. I have the life I want, the profession I want, the friends I want and a home I love. And, news flash, the size of my thighs has absolutely zero influence on any of those things.

 

Enter the blender

So several months ago at the behest of my friend, it was time to take on my blender demons. Low hanging fruit since I knew (in my head at least) that an innocent kitchen appliance should hold no power in triggering a cascade of humiliating memories.

 

When my new Vitamix blender arrived, I waited a few days to take it out of the box. I subsequently put it on the kitchen counter where it sat there scowling at me and looking like Darth Vader for a few more.

 

Finally, it was Day One of Operation Smoothie. I dropped in Dr Nancy’s Protein Powder, some frozen berries and the coconut milk and let ‘er rip. It felt awkward but it was fine. The next day it went faster and easier and on the following, faster and easier still. Like everything else, pretty soon muscle memory kicked in and it has since become habit every morning to blend it up for breakfast to face my day.

 

As to my Vitamix, it has become a benign and integrated part of my kitchen environment. I walk by it multiple times a day without even seeing it. That’s one more hurtful memory sorted, filed and rendered powerless. Gone, poof!

 

Sometimes a blender is only a blender. Just how it should be.

 

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