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What I Hope She Doesn’t Inherit

P has been my mini-me almost since birth.  It is the strangest thing sometimes to look at her and see my own, young face staring back at me. She’s a tougher, more self-assured child than I ever was, but she is a girl, so I worry.

I’ve had self-image and body-image issues since my pre-teen years.  I hate it. I hate the control I let it have over my life, my mood. I hate that whatever number is on the scale that day can completely take over my thoughts and how I feel about myself for the entire day.  I hate that I obsess about what I eat, or don’t eat. When I was younger, I obsessed. I could control how and what I ate, so I did. I couldn’t control much else…being moved to a new town when I was 10, struggling to make friends, my parents relationship, our financial struggles. I took control of what I could, and that was food. I needed to be “perfect”, which in large part meant I needed to look perfect – what I thought of as perfect. As a teenager, I constantly measured myself, weighed myself, made rules for myself about food and exercise.  And yet as thin as I was, I still wasn’t happy. I never, ever starved myself, nor did I become bulimic. But I admit, I had something of an eating disorder. I learned how to make myself take half an hour to eat one piece of toast so I would be full before I could eat anything else. I weighed 98 pounds when I graduated from high school, 102 when I graduated from college. (I’m 5′ 1 3/4″)

After college, I was able to put most of it behind me. I still worried about my weight and size, but I was much better able to manage my food/eating issues, and had a better self-image. And thankfully, when I was pregnant with each of my babies, I did not freak out about what I was eating or how much weight I gained.  When my youngest was three years old, I started Weight Watchers with a couple of friends and got down to my “fighting weight”….I was happy, I was comfortable. I did not let food and my weight control my life.

I am not young anymore though. In the past five years, I’ve watched my weight creep back up, two or three pounds at a time. It seems every six-to-twelve months, the threshold I cannot break sneaks upwards two or three pounds. It just happened again this summer.  Now I’m no slug. I run at least twice a week. I go to ballet class once a week. I’m not a couch potato. And I’ve been back on Weight Watchers since we got home from Italy. Nada. Nothing lost.

For the past two weeks, I’ve felt much like I did way back when.  I make all these little rules for myself each day, based on what the scale says that morning. I beat myself up in the middle of the night for what I ate, or didn’t eat, what I drank, or what exercise I didn’t get the day before. I am obsessed. I am unhappy with me.

I think I feel the need to control this as much as I can because there are things in my life I simply cannot control right now. I’m trying to step back from micro-managing for my littlest man, so I think I am trying to take more control of this side of my life to compensate. And I hate that I hate my body. I hate that a number on a scale affects my mood so much. At the same time, I refuse to give in to age and hormones. 

In all of this, my hope is that P doesn’t inherit this obsession/issue. I try hard to keep how I feel about myself and how I look from my kids. They know I exercise. They  know we eat healthy meals. She is a dancer, with a dancer’s body. Yes, sometimes I get ahead of myself in that dancers are notorious for developing eating disorders. We talk about it. Her teachers talk about it with the girls. P seems to have a self-assurance and self-confidence I never developed. I pray it stays that way. She’s healthy and she’s active. As much as she looks like me, I hope she isn’t like me, particularly in this area.

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