(by Anna-Rosina Bunk)
I’ve gone through many different body shapes in my life. Even when I was as thin as I felt society pressured me to be, I wasn’t the perfect shape my mother wanted me to be. But her idea of that “perfect” shape would change, both for her and for me. Her words mirrored her mood or perceptions at any given time.
When I was 16, she took me to a doctor because I was gaining weight, then straight after this appointment, to the supermarket. I wanted to buy my favorite chocolate, but she said, “I think you shouldn’t eat chocolate; you will just gain more weight.” It brought tears to my eyes. I had gotten used to that kind of comment; no one wants to admit that her mother is being so hurtful. But there were mixed messages: My mom spent a lot of time traveling for her work as a jewelry designer; she felt guilty for leaving me alone and left me way too much money for meals. I had food without limit, everything I wanted, and it made me chubby.
By the time I was 18 and living on my own, working and studying, I suffered from depression. Our family had been through enormous grief because of my father’s suicide, but I cried secretly so that I didn’t have to talk about it with my mom. I developed a very toxic relationship to food, eating a little bowl of oatmeal or a salad or nothing at all, running for hours at a time, feeling more whole as my body got thinner. Friends and family were worried, but sensing their worry just felt like more pressure. My mom would come by to look in my fridge and to check if I’d eaten, and asked my neighbors to do the same. I felt like I was losing control over my life, and I began the habit of leaving a piece of food on my plate, feeling like I was the one controlling what I ate. Now the message from my mom was: “You’re too thin.” It felt like another situation where I was not good enough for her standards.
One of my best friends was the angel helping me out of depression and anorexia, teaching me how to spice food to make it tasty. We developed a tradition of cooking together, talking about our life plans, and it felt wonderful to fill my surroundings with tasty bits and have a social life over dinner with friends. I stopped blaming my mother or others for my situation and took the control I so desperately wanted. If my mother says something hurtful to me now without realizing it, I make her aware and stay above it, still loving and respecting her. It’s a big step for both of us.
I also started cooking for my mom every time I visit her. It’s the time when we talk about everything, and we are now like best friends, trusting each other more than ever before. I love when she still wants to bake Christmas cookies or our favorite apple pie, the one she made every year for my birthday. The warm sugar on the ripe fruit, perfect with some ice cream from the gelato shop next door, sitting in the garden with Mom—nothing more was needed to make me smile.
Unfortunately, my mom also developed anorexia. Her tortured relationship with food probably started with her own mother, depression, and punching down her true feelings. But she is much better at acknowledging the issues, and that makes me a proud daughter. I do hope one day she will understand that positive body image is important, and body shaming is dangerous. We may try to convince ourselves that we’re different than our parents, but we most likely copy some of their attitudes and behavior. It may be the most important lesson from a daughter who experienced the wrong influence. I hope when I have children, I can teach them to believe in themselves, and to believe that they are beautiful.
Anna-Rosina Bunk is an actress in United Kingdom. She can be found at LinkedIn.
German Apple Pie
(First rule: Keep changing the ingredients to make it exciting.)
For the pastry:
12 oz. all-purpose flour
1 oz. sugar
1/2 t. salt
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 large or 4 medium eggs
1 t. baking soda
For the filling:
3 1/4 lb. red apples
2 T. lemon juice
6 oz. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
2 oz. unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Grease an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan.
In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, and salt.
Cut the butter into the mixture with a pastry cutter or two knives.
Mix in the eggs and baking soda.
Divide the pastry in half, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate four 1 hour.
Peel and core the apples, and cut each in half.
Cut each half into 6 wedges.
Mix with lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon.
Melt the butter over medium-low heat, and add the apples, cooking for no longer than 4 minutes.
Remove pastry from the refrigerator, and roll each piece out to about 11 inches.
Press one half of pastry into the greased pan.
Fill with apple mixture.
Place second half of pastry on top, tucking in and crimping edges.
(Alternatively, cut the top pastry into strips and form a lattice design.)
Bake for 40 - 55 minutes.
(Last rule: Eat all at once.)