I suffered from anorexia and bulimia for years and it makes me shirk certain responsibilities (namely dietary suggestions for our blossoming preteen) to my husband.
Like most girls her age, my stepdaughter is growing into her body. As we discuss wanting her to make healthier choices in food and exercise, I’m quick to let her dad take the wheel.
I was a size 14 my senior year of high school, and when the pressure and anxiety of moving away to college, needing to make new friends, and be on my own for the first time set in, I felt like the only thing I could control was my food intake (or lack thereof).
I started skipping meals. When I did eat, I almost always gagged myself to purge immediately after. Sometimes I would binge eat. I remember eating a whole row of Girl Scout cookies and making myself vomit immediately after.
Every night that I went to bed with the pain of hunger felt like an accomplishment.
My best friend at the time and I had professional pictures taken in our matching graduation dresses as a present to each other.
Her still size 14 frame sitting back to back with my size 2, emaciated body (collar bones clear as day through my skin in that strapless dress) was a juxtaposition I didn’t understand until after years of therapy.
I looked like a skeleton. I was killing myself.
When I hit rock bottom with the illness, my parents took me to a therapist and nutritionist (and I went like a toddler having a tantrum, kicking and screaming). I started making appointments for manicures or some other frivolous activity while they waited for me at the therapist’s office and would get (understandably) furious phone calls from them, asking what the hell I was doing. How could my nails be more important than my life?
When I did start going to my appointments, I was made to step on the scale backwards as doctors tracked my gradual weight gain, so I didn’t freak out over the (needed) change to my body.
I drank Ensure protein shakes for meals as my body slowly learned to accept routine food again and my stomach expanded.
I began taking medication to offset how my mind was tackling all of the changes.
Over the years since my eating disorders ended, my size has fluctuated.
I’m 5’9” and have a broader frame than most women, so I’ve found being around a size 10 or 12 suits my body best. (I’m currently at a 14 but that’s post-baby, post-30 and lack of time to exercise, frankly, due to a highly demanding toddler).
I have a goal weight in mind to get back to that 10 or 12, but I know myself, and I need to be very careful in my approach. I have an addictive personality and I’ve gone too far before.
This is why when my stepdaughter asks for a snack she probably shouldn’t have, I allow it. When she asks for seconds at dinner time, I gladly accommodate that request. But I shouldn’t. I should push healthier options her way.
“Instead of a third chicken taco, maybe try some carrot sticks,” is the type of thing I often want to say.
I. Just. Can’t.
I worry her already self-conscious little mind will do a complete 180 degree turn and begin telling her to starve herself as I did more than a decade ago.
I know the signs to look for, so we have that peace of mind (if you can call it that) in our back pocket. But I never want to have to look for them.
My stepdaughter is a beautiful young lady, who, yes, like me, has curves. She’s been teased for it and it fills my heart with worry to think she’d ever betray her body the way I did mine.
Hopefully, as I begin my own plan of action to get more toned and healthy, she’ll see and follow suit.
We already take long walks together, which is a great start. Our new house is much more open and will easily accommodate the elliptical machine that had been collecting dust in the basement at our old one, so that will be a “go-to” for me as well.
Everyone can benefit from being more active, right? The endorphins that exercise releases are a high.
This wild journey of parenting and wanting your children to make better choices than you, to not fall into the same traps — it’s one hell of a ride.