Participating in NEDA (National Eating Disorder Awareness) Week is something that I started in 2013 when I was a middle school teacher. I wanted to spread awareness that an eating disorder can look many different ways and isn't always super obvious...even to YOURSELF. I wanted to bring awareness to young girls (and boys for that matter) that they don't have to live in a body hating cycle that has been perpetuated by media and our culture. I want every girl to know that they can cultivate positive body image and they can rescript their thoughts. No matter how old they are.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
My story starts back in elementary school. That was when I began to become aware that our culture really glorifies certain body types. I was called things like "solid" and "athletic" which wasn't what I wanted to be called. I wanted to be called "skinny" and "thin". See... I had been scripted that skinny = beautiful. I believed, even at a very young age, that my body was my enemy...and it had to be punished.
Once in middle school I reached a new level and started controlling what I ate. Somewhere I "learned" that calories was what was important, so I ate as few calories as I could. High school came and I was OBSESSED with having a flat stomach. I didn't know the impossibility of that. (I have a food intolerance that I wasn't aware of that causes a whole host of issues, including bloat). I found out that if I didn't eat anything at all my stomach would stay flat. So that's what I would do. I was stuck in a dreadful cycle.
When I looked in the mirror I only saw my stomach. (Body Dysmorphia). I didn't see any other part of my body. I would stare at the mirror and tear myself apart. "Try harder" I would tell myself.
When I got to college I hit an ultimate low. I counted every single calorie I ate and then punished myself by working off every. single. calorie. I kept a precise food and exercise journal. Every time someone would tell me "you look so good!" or "you look so skinny!" it would only reinforce everything that I was doing, and I would try harder.
Skinnier, Lighter, Thinner.
Seeing my ribs was exhilarating. Everyone unknowingly affirmed me. Skinny = Worthy.
But...I was unhappy. It was miserable. But I felt like I couldn't stop trying.... I might get fat. That was too high of a price to pay to stop. I was caught in an awful mental spiral.
After college I met my husband and it got a bit better. Ebbed and flowed for a while. I had seasons where I would obsessively weigh myself. I HAD to be a certain number or I wasn't valuable, regardless of what anybody said.
Fast forward more than a decade later to today. Two pregnancies. I learned that my body wasn't my enemy but it was capable of growing and sustaining life. A baby. I also lost a lot of weight breastfeeding. At a point I was lighter than I had ever been in my adult life and I still didn’t think it was good enough. That is when I had my epiphany. I learned that it doesn't matter. The number on the scale doesn’t actually matter. It is a mental hurdle, a psychological battle.
In the past decade I have gained insight about my food intolerance. I have learned how to eat right for my body. I am now aware of what triggers my negative thoughts about my body. I have drastically decreased my media intake and am now very intentional about what I consume.
I now have a daughter…
I feel an enormous responsibility as a mother. To equip my kids for what they will one day be bombarded with. I have worked hard to rescript myself. When I look in the mirror I refuse to say negative things about myself. I have taken control of my thoughts. I have never said a negative thing about my body in front of my children, and I never will. I often meditate on the fact that God created me, in His own image and I am fearfully (great reverence) and wonderfully made. I take care of my body and I no longer punish it. The generational cycle of body hating stops with me.