(Warning: This is long. I began this as a post about origins of self-perception. Somehow it turned into a history on my body/eating issues more revealing than I would have planned. These are details that I have shared with very few people. I debated deleting this entry and writing about something else, but maybe my experiences can help someone else. Or maybe they will inspire you to evaluate how you handle your daughters. Maybe it will just better help you understand me. Just please don’t judge me.)
I have come to believe that the habit of criticizing yourself develops and grows based on those around you. A bit of background:
My mother is beautiful and always has been. She is one of those women who can pull off any look and look fantastic regardless of weight, weather or whatever. She receives compliments day and night (too bad my looks take after my father’s side!). She is also too critical of her physical “flaws”: her pear-shaped figure that has given birth to five children.
My father is the guy who thinks a woman can only be beautiful if she is a certain size. When watching TV, he will judge each woman based on her looks. “Ugh! She’s too thick. Nasty,” he’ll say.
Growing up, I was always tall. It was hard for me to get used to my body when I was bigger than all of the boys growing up. I was never overweight, but I also was never very petite. I remember the day my father’s comments on my weight first began. The family was out to eat at a Greek restaurant. I ordered a salad and was buttering a piece of bread. “You know, Ashley, if you just stopped eating those things, you could trim down. And with your height, you could look great.” He made these comments all the time after this. Between his comments on other women and about my own appearance, I always felt ashamed for how I looked. I never felt skinny enough for him.
A few months before my 16th birthday, a string of traumatic events happened in my family. I absorbed myself with school as a way to cope. I began to grasp on to the few things I could control. Over the period of a few months, I developed an eating disorder. I lost about 20 pounds in 1 1/2 months. I went from a healthy, energetic 146lb., 5’9.5″ 16-year-old to a controlling, lethargic 122lb., 5’9.5″ teenager. I would eat half of a banana for breakfast. I’d pack 1/2 cup of black beans and a few slices of tomato for lunch. My dinner each night was a small plate of grilled vegetables. I would exercise for a minimum of 1.5 hours each day.
I remember walking into American Eagle and buying a pair of size 2 jeans. They were loose. On a day I was wearing those jeans, my Dad came out and told me, “Wow. You really have lost weight. You look great.” I looked sick. Bones were pushing out of new places. I stopped getting my period completely. Hunger pangs were victories. It really was sick.
My mom tried to intervene all the time. She encouraged me to go to doctors. People from my church confronted my mother saying how sick I looked. My madness slowed down a year after I lost my period when my gynecologist told me that if I didn’t gain weight, I might do enough damage to never be able to have children.
The months following were challenging. The very last thing I wanted to do was gain weight! I went on medication that brought a few pounds. Every meal was a struggle. My self-confidence wavered as I watched the scale slowly climb up.
I got better. It is not something that I deal with now on a daily basis, but I do hear its voice creep in sometimes. It challenges me to get smaller. smaller. never small enough. It’s disgusting. But during that time, I felt proud when I would see my bones through my skin. (That is hard to admit.)–But those bones eventually got covered up by fat and muscle. I fight that voice when it does creep up. It says I am too big, but the ‘right’ part of my mind is afraid to lose weight and digress into that terrible cycle.
That is part of this blog. I want to shape an overall healthy mindset, lifestyle and body. I’m getting so much better!