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The Morning Routine I Didn't Want My Daughter to See

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 on.

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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 performed.

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.

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But then, one morning, it happened.

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 maintain control.

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.

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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 her value.

I am determined to be better for her.

So that she can be better than me.

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