Six months ago, I became a mother to a beautiful daughter. Since then, something absolutely incredible has happened.
After 25 years of beating myself up while looking in the mirror, concerned about every pound gained or lost, focusing on my not-so-perfect hair, worrying about my complexion, and just never feeling good enough for my biggest critic (myself)... I'm finally feeling something new:
I am amazing and I want my daughter to know it.
I don't want the media to influence her body image, as it has for me and most of my friends. I have spent so much energy trying to achieve an unrealistic idea of "perfect" and "flawless" that I didn't realize how badly it was affecting me. I had a bully following me around everywhere. The worst part was, I couldn't hide from my bully, because that bully was me.
I can remember the first time I thought I was fat.
I was in third grade and my class was sitting on the floor cross-legged. I was looking around at the other girls in their spandex leggings, and noticed my thighs were wider than theirs. I was taller. My legs didn't cross as tightly. I immediately started to diet. I grew up in a house where my mom was always dieting and regularly asked me if she looked fat. So I myself began to stare in the mirror, obsessing over everything. I didn't really know what I was looking for, but I knew that I wanted to change it all.
When I was a preteen, I remember overhearing two teenage girls in the dressing room next to me at the mall. That day I learned that if your thighs touched when you stood tall, you were fat. I spent the next 15 years of my life counting calories, doing leg lifts and sit-ups, poking, pushing, squishing and teasing. I often caught myself trying to figure out if my thighs were touching or not.
The truth is, I wasn't fat.
Granted, I wasn't a rail like you see in a fashion magazine or Victoria's Secret catalog, but I wasn't fat. I was a victim of what the media was telling me to believe, and I was only a child. When I was a kid, hearing my mom hating on her own body would really upset me. She was my hero, my role model, Superwoman! How could Superwoman not like her own body so much? How could something that she believed to be so imperfect create me? And now, when I look at my little girl, that's what I think about. She's so beautiful and perfect, it pains me to imagine her thinking about herself the way my mom and I have thought about our own bodies.
I'm fortunate to have given birth and started my own family with my husband. I have gained so much respect for my body, myself, and other women. We are incredible machines capable of producing another life. I'll be honest, though; there were difficult times while I was pregnant. Every day, I had to fight the thoughts that began to grow in my head as I put on weight to make and support another human growing inside me. I had to tell myself, "I am amazing for what I am doing over these nine months, and something incredible will come of it." Even now, I have to remind myself that I'm pretty awesome for having done what I did, and tell myself to wear the extra "baby weight" as a badge of honor, not as a flaw. I look at her and I'm reminded that I am so strong, so healthy, and not heavy or weak.
I will never say "I'm fat" again, especially in front of her.
I don't want her to waste time staring in the mirror or measuring her waist instead of playing outside with her friends. I never want her to think she's not perfect, because I spent nine LONG months creating those perfect body parts! I might slip up, but I will try my best not to ever bully myself again. After all, I created her, and I couldn't have done it without this incredible body!
Today, I've learned how to live a much healthier life, both physically and mentally. I try really hard to tell myself that it's OK that I'm not yet at the weight I was before the baby. Yes, some days this is easier than others. I (try to) get exercise daily and (try to) eat healthy, but I no longer obsess over it. I finally understand that it's all about moderation. I eat ice cream most nights. And it's not the end of the world if I only have time for a 20-minute walk instead of an hour-long one. If the French fries smell good, I'll eat 'em... and boy, do they taste good!
The best part is, I don't have a bully following me around anymore. I now have a lifelong supporter and number one fan: myself.