I write this cautiously, fully knowing that I have friends and family who have and who are still struggling with what I’m about to write about. I write this knowing, that from time to time, most girls, myself included, have or are struggling with what is on my mind.
I must thank my mom, for saving me from an eating disorder. Growing up in the dance world made me very aware and conscious of bodies and being thin from a very young age. All the “good” dancers were thin and petite. So I myself wanted to be thin and petite too. Regardless of the fact that I grew up in a dance world, I grew up in THIS world, where media tells us that we need to be thin.
These two things started to take a toll on my mind and on myself. I was always told by friends and family that I was “tiny”, “scrawny”, and “skinny”.. but by the time junior high hit, it didn’t matter what they all said. I was starting to feed into the negative body game. I started comparing myself to the other girls at dance in the mirror. I started getting worried about my weight because I was growing and I was terrified to hit 100 pounds. I was terrified to be anything bigger than a size 24 or a 00. I started noticing the pictures and the magazines. I started noticing other girls at school who didn’t eat lunch and how that seemed to be “the cool thing” to do.
I remember asking myself, “Are they just not hungry? How am I starving all the time and they don’t seem to be hungry for lunch? What is wrong with me?” Girls started talking about weight openly and it was all gloating rights if someone weighed basically nothing. I wasn’t sure if they were lying about their weight or not, but I remember thinking to myself, “How do all these girls that are my same age, weigh 30 pounds less than I do? What is wrong with me?”
As I was getting sucked into the game, my mom pulled me into her office one day and bluntly asked me, “Are you eating lunch?” Embarrassed that I hadn’t been, I lied and said yes. I knew that she didn’t believe me, when the next thing she told me was, “It is healthy to eat. You need to eat all of your meals and you need to eat when you are hungry. You need to listen to your body.”
That moment, was a turning point for me. I backed out of the game before it was too late and I took my mother’s advice. I listened to my body! I learned to love my body. I learned about intuitive eating and how to take care of myself. I learned how to tell what I wanted to eat and when I was truly hungry. I learned how to fight negative thoughts and not give into peer pressure. I learned that weight is just a number and that if you eat healthy, exercise, and take care of your body, everything will be okay.
Now I can’t say that this means that this whole body image thing has always been easy for me… Because it hasn’t. But I can say that every time I’ve had a bad thought or had a hard time, I always remember to listen to my body. I’ve constantly gone back to that life changing moment for me and continued to almost literally force myself to keep a healthy mindset.
If you have someone close to you, that you love, that is struggling with anything of the likes, please know that it is not your fault. It is a hard thing to deal with and overcome and I can’t even imagine being in that place. I want to stress that it is not a mother’s fault if her daughter (or son) ends up with an eating disorder. In my opinion, it is the world’s fault.
I highly suggest that if you have a daughter that is starting puberty, you talk openly about eating and her body image with her. Encourage your daughter to love herself at a young age. Help your daughter out about by being a positive example of someone who LOVES their body. Challenge yourself to love your body! Speak positively about your body.. Especially in front of your daughter!! And most of all, don’t make comments about your daughters body. I can not stress this enough.
I also suggest reading: Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. The new edition has a chapter about how to raise your children as intuitive eaters. It’s amazing! This is the book that helped my mom overcome her life long struggle with eating. I start reading again every time I need a reminder to listen to my body and to shut the negative ways of the world out.
I hope and pray that all girls, young and old, can see themselves as the beautiful Daughters of God that they are. No matter the shape or the size. I hope that we all can love ourselves, appreciate our bodies, and recognize the amazing things that they do. I hope that we don’t have to get caught up in the negative ways of the world and that we can be okay with who we truly are and what we truly look like. I hope that girls who are struggling with an eating disorder, don’t feel bad and embarrassed about it, but seek help instead. It is possible to overcome.
My hope is that we can all be advocates for a healthy and happy body and that we can lift each other up.