I can't tell you exactly when my obsession with my weight began.
I know my eating disorder came first, a nearly decades-long habit of binging
and purging that started more out of a desperation for control than any
underlying belief that my weight was an issue. That belief only came later,
perhaps as I realized just how delicious the control I'd been seeking was.
But somewhere along the line, I began valuing myself based on
the numbers that appeared to me on a scale. It got to the point that every morning,
before I ever did anything else, I would stand on that scale, naked and
prepared to be judged.
It had to be morning, and it had be first thing—before I drank a
sip of water or jumped into the shower—because that was when I convinced myself
the number was most accurate, before the pounds of another day could be added
In my early twenties, I sought out help for my eating disorder.
And I made huge strides in the years that followed. The strides were never all at once, of
course, but in fits and bursts—small epiphanies where I would learn to love my body
a little more, to embrace it, to celebrate it for all the miracles it
Even as it failed to provide me the one thing I wanted most: a
child growing beneath my heart.
But still, despite infertility (and the years of body loathing that
piled back on top of me), I became a mother anyway. I adopted a little girl
with round cheeks and an infectious smile, and I learned to love myself even
more through her eyes.
I recognized my own value for the first time, mostly as an
extension of honoring hers.
Even as so much else changed about my life, I didn't consider the weight I was giving to, well, my weight.
My daughter has changed so much about the way I live my life.
She has changed the way I date, the way I speak about myself and the type of
treatment I now demand from the people around me. I realized early on
that she was always watching, always taking in my interactions with the world
and filing those lessons away for herself, so I wanted to set a better example
for her than I had ever been given.
I wanted her to always know her worth.
And yet, the scale remained. Even as I developed what I believed
to be a fairly healthy body image, and even as I proudly proclaimed my freedom
from body hatred, I continued to step on that scale every morning, still always
before I had done or consumed anything.
Because that was when the number reflected back to me provided
the most accurate depiction of my worth.
I didn't think anything of it. Even as so much else changed
about my life, I didn't consider the weight I was giving to, well, my weight.
But I was. I would adjust what I ate throughout the day based on
that number. I would change how I worked out and how I functioned. I would alter
the way I viewed myself, determined to do whatever necessary to remain within a
certain "acceptable" weight range.
I never spoke about weight or calories in front of my daughter.
I refused to allow her to hear me talking about dieting or dropping a "pesky"
few pounds. I was determined to never allow her to see me obsess over what I
never wanted her to care about.
Just as I was stepping off the scale, I turned to see my little
girl standing behind me. "My turn," she said proudly, a smile spread across her
face. And as I stood there in shock, she stepped up onto the scale herself and
stared down at those numbers intently.
My breath caught. She was still a few weeks shy of 3, too young
to know what she was looking at, or what those numbers meant. But she had been
watching me, even when I had been so sure she wasn't, and she had observed this
ritual of mine—a ritual she now wanted to take part in herself.
In that moment, it finally hit me how unhealthy this was. I
finally saw the scale as the remnant of my disordered past, a desire to still
In the months prior, I had inexplicably put on about 10 pounds.
Nothing about my life or habits had changed, and every medical test (because
yes, I had been harassing my doctor over this spike) showed that I was fine.
"You're just getting older," my doctor had said, "this is normal." To which I
had nearly cried.
My obsession had only gotten more intense after that. I was
determined to get back down to "acceptable." Not "perfect," or even "good,"
(because even through all my self-proclaimed healing, I had never believed my body
to be either)—but "acceptable."
And my daughter had been watching.
I want (my daughter) to know that no set of numbers could ever define her value.
I felt sick, realizing that even if she didn't understand what
she was doing (what I was doing) yet; she would all too soon. She was learning from me. And I had to be a better example.
So in that moment, I threw on a robe and I picked up that scale.
I kissed my girl on her head and whispered, "You are perfect, exactly as you
are," and with tears in my eyes, I marched the scale down to our trash can
outside. And then I walked back into the house and made us both waffles.
It's been almost three months now. I haven't weighed myself
since. When I went to the doctor recently, I intentionally didn't look at the
number when it was time to be weighed. I didn't trust myself with that number.
Not yet, anyway. I was afraid that if I had gained more, it might trigger the
obsession again, convincing me that only a scale could keep my weight in line when of course, realistically, nothing could be
farther from the truth.
I am far from the "healed" version of myself I would like to be.
I still stare a bit too critically at my body in the mirror, and I am still
guilty of running an extra mile or two not because I want to, but because I
deem that to be the punishment I deserve for the piece of cake I may have
indulged in the night before. I still struggle sometimes. I've always been a
curvy girl, and I know now I always will be; it's a constant battle for me to
embrace my body, rather than admonish myself for it.
But I'm trying. Because I don't ever want my little girl to look
at herself in the same way I have long been so guilty of looking at myself. I
want her to be stronger. Happier. Prouder.
And I want her to know that no set of numbers could ever define