Skinny Versus Healthy, Part II: Leading by Example

>> Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Over the weekend, I re-read my Skinny Versus Healthy post from a couple years ago. So much has changed about my body image since I wrote it, especially after my pregnancy. Becoming an athlete, seeing my body's worth as more than just looks, is what first snapped me out of the disordered eating and treating-myself-poorly cycle.

You'd think having a baby would pretty much erase all my negative thoughts.

I created life. Within myself. Within my own body. Conceived, carried, birthed, and -- now -- sustain. I'd like to say I haven't had any issues with my weight and general shape, but that would be a total lie. Gaining almost 30 pounds in 9 months, no matter the reason, and then losing it again, though not quite all of it, surely has its mental ups and downs. I've tried my best to stay positive. And I know I'm doing well slowly but surely getting back to where I want to be.

But then there's this whole question of what "back" really is these days. Is it feasible for me to be in the same kind of shape I maintained in my mid-20s? As a child, I heard many, OK, MOST women talk about how they "used to be fit" but "then had babies" . . . so I always learned to equate having children with getting heavier and stopping activity. It was one of my biggest anxieties with getting pregnant in the first place.

As much as I've carved an identity for myself as a runner, in the back in my mind, a small part of me was scared that those days would forever be over.

But back to expectations. Of course I'd like to fit into all my old clothes. For the number on the scale to dip to where it used to rest for so many years. My "happy weight" as I hear it so often referred to. Now that I'm a mom. Now that my body has gone through this incredible transformation . . . what is reasonable?

Will my stomach ever flatten again? (Maybe?)
If it doesn't, will I ever get over it? (I hope so.)
As a mom, should I really care so much anymore? (Yes? No?)

I'm still trying to figure it all out. There will certainly be more to write on this topic.

What I DO know is that I have more to think about than just myself these days. I sometimes worry that my disordered past will somehow rub off on Ada. Having a daughter is a huge responsibility in this respect. Of course, all children pick up on things/habits/etc. from their parents, but statistically girls are much more likely to develop negative body image, eating disorders, etc.

The last thing I want is for my own troubles to influence how Ada someday sees herself.

It seems silly to worry so early about any of this. But I keep reading about children as young as 8 years old (and even younger) who suffer from eating disorders. My own struggles started with anorexic tendencies when I was 12. As hard as I try, I cannot pinpoint exactly where it all began. Or why I ended up binging/purging in my later teenage years. Or continued to struggle with food and body image for years and years after that.

I know for certain my parents couldn't have done much about it. But having gone through my own issues, can I help Ada?

I want to do my best to lead by example. To help Ada by cooking healthy foods for myself . . . and now for her (she had her first meal tonight!). Moving my body each day and sharing my love of sports/running (among many, many other activities). But there's got to be more I could do.

This is another one of those posts that has no real takeaway. But I'd love your thoughts on bringing up children with positive body image, especially if you have a sorted past of your own. I think all parents want a better life for their children. For me, this is just one of those areas where I don't want history to repeat itself.

Speaking of Ada Mae: Today is her half-year birthday. You can check out her 6-month update over on Writing Chapter Three!

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