Do you remember the day you watched, “What`s Eating Gilbert Grape” with your mom and sisters and you ran away into your room, smashing your face into your pillow while tears uncontrollably streamed down your cheeks? I think you were eight or nine at the time. The people in your life love you, but they didn`t understand how much those comments hurt your feelings. When they compared you to the obese mom in that award-wining film with Johnny Depp, or told you, you belong on a farm with the fat cows and pigs, they didn’t have the empathy, or emotional maturity to understand how deeply these words affected your self-esteem. Instead of telling them how much it hurt your feelings, I watched as you wiped away your tears and then walked to the fridge for a large bowl of strawberry ice cream. The ice cream’s rich flavor gave you an instant, emotional, gratifying fix. You felt better in the comfort of that ice cream, until someone saw you eating your second bowl, and giggled while asking how many bowls you had.
Years later I watched you cry again. This time you had just given birth to your first daughter. You were only nineteen at the time. You sat in a room alone trying to figure out how to breastfeed her. Your in-laws who speak another language came to visit the new baby with so much love and excitement, but your insecurities in yourself and first day as a new mother got the best of you. Some of the first comments you heard from these relatives were about your weight. “Don’t worry you lose soon” these words although were meant to make you feel better, only made you feel worse. So, you sat in the bedroom alone while they spoke a language that’s completely foreign to you thinking they were talking about how horrible of a mother you are, and you silently dripped salty tears onto your new baby girl.
I watched you restrict everything from your diet in the upcoming weeks. You put on layers of clothes and walked your baby girl in the stroller everyday for an hour and then you came home, put in a work out VHS, blasted the heat, and worked out as if your life depended on it. You envisioned all of the people in your life who made comments about your weight. You pictured yourself showing them the brand new HOT, SKINNY, you! You ate tuna out of a can for lunch and a piece of chicken breast with some steamed vegetables for dinner, EVERY DAY. When the 60 pounds came off, you received praise for looking like a HOT mom, otherwise known as a MILF but you also received comments from people telling you to go and eat a burger, and that you were so skinny you looked like a hunchback skeleton.
A few years later you gave birth to your second daughter. When she was four months old you decided to plan your wedding. During the planning process your main objective was “looking good in the dress”. You didn’t work out like a maniac, but you did restrict yourself yet again. You would have black coffee for breakfast, half a sandwich with turkey breast and mustard only, and meat and veggies for dinner. You wouldn’t dare touch a french fry! You heard from a pharmacist once people use high doses of Synthroid to lose weight. Although you were taking a small dose for your thyroid, you began to cave closer to the wedding, and decided to take two of your thyroid pills in hopes to look skinny in the dress. You didn’t have any knowledge about the negative effects this could have on your body, nor did you care.
The day of the wedding you put your stunning, champagne, lace, heart shaped halter dress on and then you looked in the mirror and sighed. You told yourself you should have worked out. Although the dress was loose in the waste from losing so much weight it somehow still wasn’t enough.
The wedding day was impalpable. A day full of love, laughter, and celebration. However, the day you received your wedding photos, you dissected every photo of yourself scrutinizing the way you looked. It was one of the best days of your life, (aside from the fact you weren’t very happy with the way you looked in your wedding dress)!
The weight slowly crept back on, and a few years later you gave birth to your third daughter. I watched as you worked out to Jillian Micheals at home DVDS in your living room. Her piercing voice would scream through the television set, “Do you wanna look good in those skinny jeans??!!!” “Do you wanna wear that tank top?” And eventually, after a lot of hard work, and Jillian Michaels voice screaming through your television screen, you became stronger. You could do push ups, chin ups, and squat like a fitspo pro. Every other day you would get on the scale and notice the numbers weren’t necessarily decreasing but your clothes fit better. You had muscle, and a flat tummy and yet you still judged and compared yourself. Man, you were so hard on yourself.
All the while your daughters were growing up, and watching every move you were making. You were modelling the importance of exercising but you were also chasing an ideal. Something that was unrealistic to obtain. It was leaving you feeling unfulfilled. You kept searching for fulfillment on the outside.
Over the next few years, I watched as you slowly became more forgiving of yourself. You became a bit more gentle every day. You began to speak to yourself the way you would speak to your daughters. You stopped bullying yourself into thinking that you needed to have the perfect body, and began to love and accept it for the amazing vehicle it is. You started to fuel your body with nutrients, and green smoothies. You began to try different physical activities with your body, like running in a half marathon, yoga, and hiking. Best of all, your new found love for these activities had nothing to do with the way your body looks. Instead, it had everything to do with the way they made you feel.
Today I watched you wake up at 6 am, you were tired, but you forced yourself out of bed to get to a 7 am fitness class. You’re motivated because you don’t want to feel lethargic, or snappy with your kids. You also want to build your strength, stamina, balance and most importantly, you’re addicted to the mental clarity you feel after a work out.
During the extra hot class, you wanted to give up countless times, but you didn’t. You didn’t compare yourself to other people’s ability or stamina, you just kept going. You went at your own pace, and when the hour was up, you lay on your mat to catch your breath, closed your eyes, put your hands to your heart center and whispered, “I love my body.”
Today, I’m writing this to you to tell you that… I love you too.