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A Little Clarification

I was pretty sure that last post was going to leave everyone quieted but it seems as though many of you have had similar experiences in your lives.

I didn’t write it to express anger or resentment towards my mother.  We were talking last night and she said she felt so awful about that moment.  I look at it more as of coming of age experience and not a moment of wounding.  It was when I went from being an innocent kid to a preteen who was aware of the skin I shouldn’t be so comfortable in.  The thing is, I truly was overweight.  Not just a little, either.  My mom had been overweight as a child and she wanted to spare me the painful experiences she endured as a result.  She really did mean well and I wasn’t so much hurt by her words and startled by the realization that there was something not quite right with my body.

It’s just so hard.  I seem to have a genetic predisposition to chubbiness.  When I was young I was active and never really overate.  Sure there were slurpees and cookies and junk food, but never more than any of my other skinny friends were eating.  We rode our bikes everywhere, we played softball, we swam, we dangled from monkey bars.   I was just always bigger than everyone else.

What if Avelyn has inherited my body type?  How will I deal with my longing for her to be naturally thin and free from worry about food, her shape, and what society views as shortcomings?  Will she be writing about the moment I told her she was fat on her blog 20 years from now?

These are just some of the questions I have been thinking of, as I continue to face my own daily battle with body image.   I so badly want to be free from the struggle and for my daughter to never have to wage this war.

I am not depressed or drowning in sorrow about the thickness of my thighs.  Really, I’ve been pretty happy and perky, so don’t worry that I am wallowing in the pain of the past.  I have just been doing some thinking about my story and the moments that made me who I am.

She Likes Purple - I think sometimes when we have a moment of reflection and we want to share it in an intelligent way that remembers the past but also reminds us how far we’ve come (even if we’re not to our ideal “destination” yet) it can get confused in translation and people can interpret it to mean you’re struggling when you’re not. I have posted plenty of things and people have commented and it seems they misunderstood a little bit. I know exactly what you went through. When my parents divorced I put on a lot of weight and became a chubby 10 year old. I went to visit my grandma and was enjoying a cookie and she said “Your mom wants me to watch how many sweets you eat.” And it stunned me. I didn’t know I needed to watch what I was eating. I thought I was just growing older. About a year later I was in the beginning stages of an eating disorder. And even though I’m not happy now with my body (will I ever be?) it’s no longer that hard to talk about all the things I went through before.

Elizabeth - It was a good reflection. It hurts me to see the struggle media encourages (I think) in my young students. Thanks for sharing your follow up ;)

Stacie - Well you certainly look like one of those women who are naturally skinny. I also have weight struggles and I was absolutely terrified to have a girl b/c of weight/self esteem issues. I’m currently 5 weeks away from having my 2nd girl. It still terrifies me to raise girls. I feel very unqualified as I struggle daily with self esteem issues. But I am determined to not follow in my mom’s shoes and let myself go completely b/c I had kids. I am planning a total body make over after I give birth, starting most importantly with what and how much I eat. I admit to not being very motivated after my first daughter was born b/c I knew I was going to turn around and have another. But we are done, so my body will be mine and I want my daughters to see how to care for a body properly. So if you have any weight loss advice/recipes to share that you used (because I’m totally serious that I have a hard time believing you were ever overweight) I would love to know.

hillary - The fact that you’re so aware of your experience makes me think that Avelyn will never have the opportunity to write about you calling her fat.
Sure, she will grow up with her own set of body issues. Society and the media and her peers will make sure of it. All you can do is show her what it’s like to be comfortable in your own skin (even if you’re faking it for her benefit.)

dawn - My ten year old sounds a lot like you when you were young. She really doesn’t overeat and is active. None the less she has developed a bit of chub around her mid section. She comes home crying because kids at school call her fat and it totally breaks my heart. Frankly, I’m often at a loss with how to comfort her.

debbie - I won’t comment directly on what you wrote, because there is no need. I thought your previous post was amazing. You captured a moment perfectly to which many of us can relate.

What I will add is this: Recently, I spent 11 days in the Colorado Rockies, living in the wilderness, without mirrors. During that time, I felt beautiful. I felt strong and capable and healthy. I felt wonderful. I never once felt fat, unattractive or concerned about my appearance.

And then I came back and looked in the mirror. The person I saw in my mind’s eye looked very different than the one I saw reflected in the mirror. This came as a shock to me. I got over it and (over many years) have learned to be gentle with myself, so I rebounded quickly.

But the experience left me with a realization that when left to my own imagination, and when I am not comparing myself to those around me, I imagine myself as beautiful and lovely and perfect as I feel within. It was a gentle reminder that how I feel inside is far more important than how I look on the outside.

Of course, I don’t live in a world without mirrors, so the reality is I am still learning to love and embrace myself in all conditions. But it was a really interesting science experiment I never set out to discover.

Susan - I know we are not the closest of friends, Amanda, but it is posts like these that make me worry about you. I struggle with my wait, in high school and even now. I will say it is on my mind alot of the time for the mere reason that I AM overweight, and am not really doing anything about it. But you are a stunning woman, who is pregnant. You have a beautiful pregnant belly and a gorgeous face. I have watched you go through one and half pregnancies. I knew you before you were pregnant with Avelyn. And in every stage I have thought you were absolutely beautiful. I may be a little outspoken in saying this, but I think you need to stop thinking about what you look like, and concentrate on how you feel, both physically and emotionally. I hope you know you are Loved by many and we all think you are absolutely amazing, no matter what your size.

And just to add, I like what Debbie wrote and relate to it alot. When I am not trying to squeeze into jeans I wore last year, or checking out how big I look in the mirror, I truly do feel like how I felt in high school. I feel healthy, energetic, enthusiastic. Yes, I cannot run as much as I use to, and I could stand to lose a few pounds, but I wonder sometimes what it would be like if we lived in mirrorless world.

Angella - You know that I have fought (and am still fighting) that same battle.

I love you. Muchly.

Isabel - It seems, to me, that few of us are every truly happy with the body we were given. I’m no exception. I have no idea what the answers are…maybe get rid of all the magazine ads that make us feel horrible about ourselves?

The Over-Thinker - Your own experience will make you just that much better a mommy to Avelyn. I don’t have children, but I’ve already thought about how I’ll address this same issue when I do have a child (or 4). My plan is to emphasize the importance of overall good health. I’m going to try my best to not say the words “diet” or “fat” and for their sake, I’ll keep my sometimes-negative self-image to myself.

P.S. I hope to be as beautiful a pregnant woman as you are!

Michele - I’ve always wondered if I have kids, (especially girls) how I will deal with self image issues. I guess it’s something you have to be aware of, yet not dwell on – which is so hard with all the media crap. I think that because of your own experience, you will be a great support to Avelyn.

Lisa M - I think that as long as we deal with our bodies in a loving and intelligent way, we will learn to love them. Really, I do! I’m not exactly skinny right now, and I am working on losing weight, but I also pay attention to all the things my body can do and I feel blessed to have what I have. I just want to take better care of myself so I’m around for a good long time. A comfortable weight is really a long term goal and a life style, and that’s what I try to teach my kids.