Wednesday, September 9, 2009

fat cat

I have conflicting thoughts about my cat's weight.

You see, when we rescued her, she was so undernourished that we thought she was only 6 weeks old when she was actually 3 months old. And I didn't know anything about feeding a cat so I accidentally underfed her for the first few days. In my guilt and pity, I decided to always make sure she had more than enough food. We "free fed" her by overloading her bowl with food and leaving it out for her. When we saw it was getting low, we'd load it up again and let her have at it.

Flash forward a year. I notice how much she has grown and that she is an actual CAT now. So we switch from kitty food to adult cat food. But because of all the vacations and traveling (which I know I still haven't blogged about... sorry), it was just easier to have somebody stop by every few days and load up her bowl, so we kept up the free feeding habit. But I noticed she kept growing and I could no longer easily feel her ribs...

When our traveling was done, just before school started, we took her to the vet. He weighed her and then, as polite as possible, suggested a feeding plan. I wasn't surprised, but I did feel the conviction of being a bad mommy. We have since put her on the regulated food plan, which is still more than enough to eat, but just in small portions so she can't just eat when she's bored (which proves eating habits are LEARNED and not just genetic!).

She has been on the plan for a month and in that month, the conflicted feelings have overcome me. Am I a bad mother? Should I lessen her food more? Have I allowed her to become lazy?
Those are the predominant feelings.

But then, I thought "Isn't she beautiful no matter her weight?" "Should I really be concerned as long as she is happy" and all the other thoughts on self-image and confidence that we are forced to consider in our culture.

And I realized that self-image concerns can only go so far. For instance, they really shouldn't apply to a cat. I could be wrong, but I doubt she really cares that I call her fat cat. But also, I realized that they shouldn't get in the way of the overall health. Yes, I should love her no matter what and I will always think she's beautiful. But the fact is, she would feel a lot better if she lost some weight. She can't even enjoy playing anymore. She stops after just a few minutes and just lays down.

I wonder if we realize our concerns about self-image go too far.

I believe it's essential that everybody learns to love their inner-self. I believe that we should be looking at the qualities that make a person unique - their personality, sense of humor, intelligence, problem-solving skills, etc. I believe that people that are within a healthy weight range should absolutely believe they are healthy and beautiful. I believe growing boys and girls should be encouraged to keep growing. I believe anorexic models should not be promoted as ideal but instead fed a hamburger. I believe we should never call somebody ugly or insult them.

But I also believe that when we tell somebody they are perfect just the way they are when they are overweight (or underweight), we are denying them a better life. They are not their healthiest.

I am not my healthiest. I am denying myself a better life. I can't play too long without getting tired. I sit out way too much. I just need a doctor at a check up to politely suggest a diet plan. To simply suggest "these are good foods and good portions." I need to make more of an effort to push myself to play just a few minutes longer. Because I'm really not perfect just the way I am, physically speaking. If I lost some fat, gained some muscle, worked on endurance and ate the right kinds of food, I could actually experience health in a way my self-image could never give me.

And I bet I'd feel a lot better about the way I looked in the mirror if I wasn't sweating and panting from walking up the 2 flights of stairs to get to it.


Anonymous said...

i have a letter that runs through my head most days, written to my 113-lb sick, self-esteemless self. it usually says "life goes on without you. i'm glad i'm healthy again." but lots of times it says "i wish you'd come back..."
i think telling people they're perfect isn't beneficial, because it's not true. but if you really, truly think someone is beautiful the way they are, i don't think that is something that should be held back. i've become a big fan of giving more compliments... we get enough criticism during the average day, no?

TenaciousT said...

Oh yeah, I'm definitely NOT saying to criticize at all.

We should compliment at all opportunities. Tell people just how beautiful they are. Because no matter what, people are beautiful.

But I just think when we believe the perception that we're perfect, we'll stop working at becoming better.

And the same applies whether people or overweight or underweight. Or even if they're at weight, but out of shape. Or they are in the healthy weight range and are in shape, but have good hygiene.

The goal is to be healthy, inside and out. Healthy on the outside but not on the inside is a problem we have been addressing (and still need to), but we quit talking about people who are healthy on the inside but are ignoring the outside. It has to be a balance.

Kate said...

I love this, T.