Growing up, I can remember my mom having a complicated relationship with food. She adored desserts, went out of her way to make special treats for me, concoct special cakes for our birthdays. At the same time, though, I remember her doing the “Cabbage Soup Diet” and Weight Watchers® and trying meal replacement shakes or cookies. She went to a diet doctor in the 90’s that actually pushed her thyroid to the breaking point…and I went with her. At 15.
I spent all of my teens and early twenties hating my body and alternating between diets and binges. I would eat meal replacement bars and water for lunch for a week, and then polish of a bag of dry cookie mix over the weekend. I was never more than a somewhat “average” weight during those years, but that didn’t ease my sense of self-loathing.
Once I was old enough to recognize how harmful this type of behaviour was, I swore I would regain a healthy relationship with food. I cultivated a love for vegetables and a love for being active that helped make me into a fit and healthy 30-something. Even after my first child, I was able to find balance, eating healthy and staying active.
Now, though, as I face down the beginnings of middle age, complete with my morning hot flashes (hello, perimenopause), coupled with a busy working a ‘momming’ schedule, I’m having serious problems. I’m 30 pounds heavier than what I feel comfortable weighing. My diet has deteriorated, as has my metabolism, and my activity level has diminished. It’s not as simple as cutting out all sugar and working out consistently; those efforts barely budge the needle.
After trying to lose the weight for more than a year, in a million different ways, I’ve realized something: I’ve become exactly the mom I swore I wouldn’t. The yo-yo dieting, the “turning over a new leaf” at the beginning of every new week, the restricted diets and complaining with friends about our problem areas…all while little ears are listening and little brains are absorbing the messages that I don’t mean to send. The message that, as their mom, I am not good enough, not happy with who I am.
How can I tell my children they are perfect as they are, when I keep implying that I’m not perfect as I am? That the tummy roll my son loves to lean his cheek against is something I want to get rid of? That I need to stand at a certain angle when there’s a photo taken of me, so that I don’t hate myself when I look at it?
Please understand, I have tried putting away the scale and just eating healthy. I have told myself that as long as I am happy and active and doing my thing, the numbers don’t matter. It didn’t work for me, for whatever reason. I gained 10 more pounds in that phase of self-acceptance, so that’s not my answer. The fact is, I feel uncomfortable in my body at this weight. I find it harder to run with my kids, and I get winded quicker. My goal isn’t some crazy, unattainable number; I don’t even need a specific number. I just want to fit back into the clothes I used to wear, before my second child.
The challenge, though, is figuring out a way to do it that doesn’t negatively impact my children and their own body image. The last thing I want is to find out they’ve started to secretly loathe their own bodies by the time puberty hits, just the way I did, perpetuating this terrible cycle. I believe it’s possible, but I’m still trying to determine how. I will, though.