In 2005, I stepped on the scale at the doctor’s office. 201 pounds. 9 months pregnant. 82 pounds on my 5’4” frame in 9 short months. My pregnancy was the first time I had given up my eating disorder in years. No diet pills or purging left me with no control. My body rebelled from years of abuse by holding onto every calorie I put in my mouth. It didn’t trust me and the feeling was mutual. I vowed to get back to my original weight once the baby was born, in a healthy way of course. After all, I was going to be a mother. No more of this eating disorder BS.
Less than 2 years later I stepped off the scale and stared half-heartedly at my reflection in the full length mirror. Tilting my head to the right I began analyzing the many parts that made up my body. Hovering around 100 pounds, I ran my fingers gently over the bruises that were scattered across the sharp tips of my hip bones. With little-to-no-fat, even wearing a seat belt caused me to bruise. Heart racing, thighs no longer touching, collar bone and ribs protruding, I placed one hand on each side of my waist, squeezing my insides until my fingers and thumbs touched. Maybe, just maybe, I was thin enough.
Disconnected from anything real, I was days away from treatment; about to end the game, drop the crutches and size 0 jeans. I was going to give life a trial period. At my core, I knew I wouldn’t be sick, thin, and depressed forever. I knew my thinness, along with my all-or-nothing mindset, was not sustainable. Although slowly dying was the easy way out, and there were days I welcomed death, recovery beckoned me. The responsibility I felt towards life was reflected back to me daily in my one-year-old daughter’s eyes.
So, I fought like hell and I recovered. Or so I thought. I realized today that even 5 years into recovery, I still struggle with my body and the shape it manifests when I am “healthy.” This morning, halfway through hot yoga, I made my way into child’s pose, and I cried. While others wiped away sweat, I quietly wiped away tears. For the first time in a long time, I hated what I saw in the mirror. How could I, the girl who was supposed to be empowering women to love their bodies, be so vainly filled with disgust? After yoga, I came home and cried some more. I told my husband maybe I did need a tummy tuck, and a boob job, and lipo, and yada yada yada. While my girls did not hear my thoughts, I know they could feel them.
In this moment, I’ve snapped back to my truth. Sure, I still want to look like the petite kidless nineteen-year-old who wears her bikini to hot yoga, but that comes at a price for me. I’m not naturally built like that, and forced acceptance trumps desire in the recovery process. I know I cannot teach my daughters to embrace all aspects of who they are, while forcing my body to look a way it’s not meant to. I want them to realize that beauty, power and fierceness is not determined by a pant or bra size. I must first consistently believe that myself and this is not an easy task in our society.
You see, until you really pay attention, you don’t realize how women use food and weight to connect with one another; how they speak to one another as if food is the enemy and our bodies are the battleground. This is a bit discouraging for me. On one level or another, all women play this weight game, not just women with eating disorders.
Although right now I feel inklings of despair, I must choose to be different. I will get to the bottom of why my body was the enemy this morning, and I will deal with it differently; head up and heart open. I do realize that for me health does not look like six-pack abs and size 0 jeans. These days, it’s a solid size 6, imperfect breasts and the acceptance of stretch marks gracing my thighs. Health is having womanly hips, and thighs, and a butt, because that is how I am built. No matter how healthy I eat, or how much yoga I do, I will have cellulite and stretch marks and imperfections. I must accept that my body is okay despite what the mass pictures of photoshopped bodies on Pinterest may tell me.
After I wrote this, I realized it had been 5 years EXACTLY since I entered treatment. Significant or not, it was a rude wake-up call that my work on this earth, and with my body is never done. While my moments of weakness are far and few between, they do exist, and they suck. They always carry blessings though. Today I realized my job is not to empower women by being a perfect example, but to be brutally honest with my own struggles. Oddly enough, I can do that, despite the occasional shame and fear of being judged.
My wish is for all women everywhere to embrace their own body’s version of health and beauty; not society’s, or Pinterest’s, or the childless girls in hot yoga who wear their bikinis to class. Our bodies are our physical connection to the greater source of knowing. We’ve lost this truth. Although it’s a person-by-person project, collectively we can change. We can be honest and forgiving and accepting of our imperfections and the imperfections of others. We can stop the negative body talk. We can appreciate another woman’s beauty. We can change our experience and most importantly, we can change the experience our children will have in their bodies.