The Ripple Effect: How My Body Image Issues Influenced My Daughter (Part 1)

Growing up, I never worried about my weight. I was naturally thin and incredibly active. I participated in extracurriculars and spent a lot of time doing physical activities. You can imagine my surprise when I got to college and I started gaining a little bit of weight. 

And I do mean a little bit. I certainly wasn’t overweight, but I didn’t look the way I looked in high school. Around that time, weight loss clinics started popping up on every corner, and after seeing my friends (who were also not overweight) drop a significant amount of weight very quickly without changing anything about their diet or exercise routines, I decided to check it out myself. I weighed about 125 when I stepped into the medical weight loss clinic. Still, I spent two weeks pay from my part time job on a bottle of pills and started restricting my calories to about 500 a day –easy to do with pills that make you feel like you never need to eat again.

I lost weight. I lost a lot of weight. But when the bottle was empty, my weight slowly crept back up. I knew the pills were dangerous, but more than that – they were expensive and I just couldn’t afford to keep taking them, so I moved on. For the next few years my weight would go up – approaching 130 – then it would go back down. It was a predictable pattern and had accepted it, but after I had my daughter, that pattern didn’t resume. My weight was up and it stayed up. I was 140, then I was 145, then I’d count calories and exercise hard for a few months and I’d be 140 again, but nothing I did would make the scale move past 140.

But life goes on, right?

It wasn’t ideal but I didn’t dwell on it. Sure, I’d make remarks every once in a while in the dressing room at the mall, taking off my cover-up at the beach, or slipping out of my clothes at the end of the day, but I wasn’t obsessed over it. Life goes on;  I had a baby – who became a toddler – who became a little girl – who became a young lady.

And then one day my young lady saw a photograph of herself and smiled wide. She was proud of the way she looked, and for a moment I was proud too – proud that I had raised girl who felt confident in her own skin. Until she said something that knocked the wind out of me. “I mean look how thin I look!  I love the way you can see my bones sticking out!” She said it so matter-of-factly that I could barely believe my ears. I asked her to repeat it, and she did. I recognized this as a teachable moment, but truly I was so shocked and afraid that I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t say anything.

Later than evening when she was tucked safely in her bed, I showed my husband the photo and told him what she had said. He looked at me and raised his shoulders in an “I-don’t-know-what-to-tell-you” gesture and stared at me. 

“What?” I asked him.

“I mean you can’t be that surprised.  Think about how often you talk about your weight.”

Continue reading in Part 2…available tomorrow. 

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