I grew up in a family that had a typical view of food: three meals and a couple of snacks per day, plus special desserts and dishes for birthdays and celebrations. I loved helping my mom cook and learned to associate making food for others as a way of showing love.
Somewhere along the way, I hit puberty and started noticing how different *my* body was from bodies that I saw in magazines and in media. Now, mind you, we didn’t subscribe to any of these magazines, I never played with Barbie dolls (my mom called their bodies unrealistic), and I watched no television until age 10, and very little after that. I simply began to absorb images from the world around me, the library, magazines in waiting rooms, and my heightened awareness of how people talked about their bodies.
One day, while shopping for a bathing suit, I tried one on. Looking back now, I can see that I didn’t know my own size and grabbed one that was two size too small. I looked into the mirror and saw bulges and rolls. I remember seeing my face crinkle in disgust and I quietly spoke aloud, “I’m going to lose weight.”
I was 14. I was 5’ 3” and weighed 110 lbs.
So began my journey into anorexia. While I only lost twenty lbs, eventually weighing 90 lbs, my mental transformation into a calorie-calculating, fat-gram-counting machine was much more drastic. Eventually, all I thought about was food and how to avoid eating it. I spent hours reading as much as I could about weight loss, exercised as much as possible (although I eventually got so tired from caloric deprivation that I had to cut back), and ate the tiniest portions I could get away with. When my friends and I went out for meals, I ate as little as possible and then would “playfully” jump up and down on our way out to the car to allegedly help my food settle (but really to burn as many calories as possible).
As is the case in just about every disordered eating story, I got tons of compliments on my weight loss and learned to crave the validation of being “tiny” and “soooo skinny.”
After a year of this, I had an epiphany. I was 15 and had just graduated from high school two years early. I was about to start college, and as I lay in bed I suddenly realized that the world was filled with possibilities and fascinating, beautiful things to learn about and explore. This realization was so intense that my heart felt like it swelled with this knowledge and tears came to my eyes. I thought to myself, “I don’t want to think about food every waking moment.”
I decided to stop losing weight, and I eventually put on a few pounds, getting back up to around 100. Throughout college, I continued to have a very disordered relationship with food, and while I never went back to obsessive dieting, I thought about food and criticized my body and food choices far too often and too harshly.
Fast forward another 14 years: I’m 29 and pregnant with a baby girl.
I learn to fall in love with my body and its extraordinary, life-giving capacity. I learn to be gentle and caring toward the tiny girl growing in my uterus, and thus learn that my imperfect body, too, is deserving of gentle, caring attention.
I give birth and discover that my daughter is the most beautiful creature on the planet. Her stunning cheeks, tiny limbs, and soul-filled eyes are so utterly perfect and heart-rendingly beautiful that I cry when I realize that one day, she may look at her reflection and wrinkle her nose in disgust.
I resolve then and there to have a healthy, caring, joy-filled relationship with my own body so that she won’t see that self-hatred modeled by me.
To be continued tomorrow in Part Two . . .
Miriam blogs at BabyBellies.org, a place filled with holistic tips to nourish and nurture your preemie (or any little one who needs some extra TLC). She is a stay at home mom, a fitness enthusiast, an avid reader, and a Pinterest junkie.