Author’s note: This was written and published to honor National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
I wet my hands in the bathroom sink.
Her hair drips in fluid spirals as soon as I lightly pat it.
Sometimes I look at her during this morning ritual—and the perfection of her little-girl body—and I wonder when she’ll realize that legs are for more than just walking on and that some torsos are long, like hers, and others short, like my own.
I began to question the shape and size of my body as early as first grade. I remember vividly the feelings of comparison and, more importantly, this comparison with me as the “loser” in some sort of perverse contest. I then spent the next majority of my life as an eating disordered individual. (At one point, it was absolutely one of my top three personal characteristics—okay, it came in first.)
Because an eating disorder not only destroyed my life, it destroyed the person who I was. Actually, for many, many years I didn’t think a real recovery was possible—but it is.
I’m not writing today, however, to share how I recovered. What I’d like to offer is that even though I do consider myself recovered, I’ve come to think about it as almost a sort of remission—because, in my humble experience, the largest contributing factor towards wellness is the realization that we could slide back into illness at any moment.
An eating disordered individual always has to be on guard—I say time and time again that we’ve got more in common with alcoholics than is often talked about.
And food is something that we come into contact with every single day—multiple times a day—so are photographs and media images and sexism and trauma and everything else that contributes to turning an ordinary girl into an eating disordered one.
In my current life, though, I am no longer an eating-disordered young girl (although sometimes she comes back to haunt me, like an opaque ghost). Instead, I’m a full-time mom; I write, yes, but I’m a mother first and foremost—and I’m raising two daughters.
I believe that my own wellness speaks volumes to giving them a fighting chance of not becoming eating disordered—and this is exactly why I’ve been tackling this awful “new” phrase: “get your pre-baby body back.”
This string of words is a sinful degradation of the glorious experience that is birth and new motherhood. Rather than celebrating the giving of life to another human being, women are often more focused on how quickly their abdomen looks like it did “before.”
So, lately, I’ve been finding myself drawn to starting a revolution, one dedicated to helping women not only love and accept our bodies, but also one where we are mindful of how this acceptance will help to shape our next generation.
Children really are our future, and we have the power to help our daughters and our sisters’ daughters.
This is my new mission: to try my damnedest to raise healthy girls who appreciate their bodies and those of the women around them, without comparison, without judgment, and with love.
It’s a grand vision, I know, but I’m starting small—I’m starting with the two tiny bodies cuddled around me as I write.
Photo: Author’s own.