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Am I Failing My Daughters by Trying to Lose Weight?

Photograph by Twenty20

I've had three babies in four years, and with the process has come some significant weight gain. Now that I'm done having babies (at least for now), I'm ready to spend some time taking better care of my health—and this means losing some weight. This morning, I stepped on the scale and cracked a grin. I dropped 15 pounds since January 1. Still, it's weird for me to say out loud that I'm working hard to lose slim down this year.

I have a difficult time talking about my weight or my body because it's a complicated topic for me. I've taken a strongly body-positive stance for several years now. After struggling with a lot of insecurity and falling into disordered eating as a teen, I've worked hard to take care of my body in a different way. I've also accepted each change my body has experienced since becoming a mom.

More importantly, I've worked hard to be an example of self-acceptance for my daughters. I don't talk negatively about my body in front of them because I never want them to think that they are anything less than exactly who they should be. I never want them to believe their value is tied to how they look or how thin they are (or aren't).

Will they understand that I am doing this for me, not because I need look a certain way or to impress certain people?

And so, I've found myself in a strange spot. It took a lot of work to get to a place where I believe I have value, no matter my size. I saw counselors about it. I swore off dieting and scales. I wore whatever I wanted to wear without apology. The last few years have been defined by healing and acceptance.

Once I reached that place, however, I realized it was possible to take a more nuanced approach to body positivity. I came to learn that I can love myself, exactly as I am, and lose weight. I realized that loving myself is looking in the mirror and seeing beyond how my clothes fit. Instead, loving myself is seeing into my soul and who I really am. It's about moving more and eating healthier foods. It's about being honest that I feel physically worse since gaining weight and that I have real concerns about the future of my health if things continue as they are.

But I can't help but feel like I am failing my daughters in some way. Will they understand that I am doing this for me, not because I need look a certain way or to impress certain people? Or will they remember this as the first time they saw someone on a diet?

I know that I can work really hard to be careful about what I say in front of them. I can avoid talking about the number or what I can and can't eat in their presence. I can keep the scale out of sight. I can talk positively about who I am. But will the things I say be undermined by my actions? Will my choice to change my eating habits and intentionally lose weight overshadow the body positive message I preach?

I don't know the answers to these questions, and that bothers me. Like so many of the choices I make as a mom, I have no idea what the long-term impacts will be for my children. But I'm learning to lean into that—the not-knowing, the faults and imperfections I may have. I'm reminding myself time and time again that my babies don't need perfection. Instead, they have a mom who's trying her best to raise strong, brave girls.

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