I am 37 almost 38. This body has birthed two beautiful girls and kept up with a wonderful man for almost ten years of marriage. I’ve never been an athlete, but I’ve always tried to be mildly active. I am strong, beautiful and healthy.
I know all this, so why then when my sweet husband decides to sneak a peek at me in the shower do I yell at him to get out?
Because, I am a woman and when I look at myself naked all I see are stretch marks and extra years of weight that continue to follow me around. He still sees his younger bride. Love is blind.
It’s easy to hide under clothes, layers of make-up or a great haircut. I’m not even that much over weight, maybe 10 – 15 lbs, but it doesn’t matter if you are a size 4 or a size 14. When you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin your attitude about your body sucks. You find ways to change clothes in the dark or in another room. You try to slide into bed after your spouse has gone to sleep and you definitely try to shower when no one is home. Feeling bad about your body robs you of intimacy and leaves you anxious and guilty.
And unfortunately the people in my life that strongly offer their unsolicited advice about losing weight actually do more harm than good. I struggled with an eating disorder for about ten years, from the teen-age years until I was in my mid to upper twenty’s. Urging me to diet is like offering alcohol to a recovering alcoholic. There is a fear that once I start dieting, I won’t stop.
I remember being constantly consumed by calorie counting, finding ways to avoid meals with others, exercising non-stop until I burned every calorie I had to consume and at times turning to laxatives or vomiting to get rid of everything else. The scale got used everyday, sometimes several times a day. It was a full-time job to keep my 4 ft 11 1/2 inch body at 90 lbs.
It doesn’t sound that underweight for someone my height. In fact, many websites offering suggestions on body weight based on height, suggest that the ideal weight for someone my height is 95-100 lbs. The problem is that my body doesn’t want to naturally stay there. At 90-95 lbs I rarely had a period, my hair was thin and lacked luster. Like I said, maintaining that weight was a full-time job. It became my only identity – to be the skinny girl.
Eating disorders are one of those things we avoid honestly talking about with one another. Sure, we joke and chatter about weight loss, dieting and exercise all the time. But what would you do if you were really struggling with an eating disorder? Would you ever tell anyone? Or what if you suspected one of your friends or family members? We tend to look the other way, or justify their actions. We justify our own actions because it feels too good to wear a smaller size or catch a compliment here and there. As the mother of two girls, it is imperative that I not only pay attention to their bodies, being aware of any unhealthy weight loss or eating habits, but also important that I don’t draw too much attention to my own. It’s a game of balance.
Life is full of uncontrollable variables. I can’t control my children’s behavior, my family’s health, my husband’s job, people’s moods, or sometimes even our schedule. As a stay-at-home mom I struggle with finding my value during the day when I am all consumed with laundry, housecleaning and family management. When I introduce myself to people, I cringe when I’m asked “What do you do?” Sometimes it is hard to block those childish and defensive voices in my head saying, “I might not have a job, but at least I’m thinner than you.” I forget that I am more than what shows on the surface. If I was a working mom, I’m sure that I would struggle with feelings of guilt for not being more available. My weight is greatly effected now by my age, lifestyle, hypothyroidism and medication. When so much seems out of our control, we tend to gravitate to the few things in our life that we do feel like we have control over, like our weight.
I’m going to just put it all out there – I’m hovering at 115-117 lb these days and wear a size 4. I’m sure I’ve just lost a few readers by divulging that personal information, but like I said before, not feeling good about your body happens whether you are a size 4 or a size 14. And when those negative feelings start effecting your everyday life and intimate relationships, it’s time to make a change. Just be sure it is for the right reasons and not because some person, magazine or article told you that you are overweight. The change might not even need to be a change in weight, but a change in attitude.
I feel driven to write this because so much of our self-esteem as women comes from how we perceive ourselves. Every day I’m either faced with my own struggles or see the struggles of others. It makes me sad to think we haven’t evolved more or that we still struggle to support one another more effectively. I also worry about my children’s personal perceptions and self-esteem.
We need to talk more honestly with our family and friends.
We need to be more honest with ourselves.
And obviously if you find yourself ,or someone you care about, struggling with a suspected eating disorder, you need to seek help.