I still am amazed that I can write those words and mean them.
Like many of us, I worried about my weight. However, my normal worry slowly turned into an unhealthy obsession. When I went to college, my goal didn’t involve doing well in my classes or making friends–my goal was to not gain the “Freshman 15.” I was proud if I could get through the day eating less than I did the day before. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when I was able to resist the cake my friends enjoyed at Hillel’s Shabbat dinner. When I came home, I heard people’s worried comments of, “You’re getting too thin!!” as compliments.
My friends helped me realize I had a problem during my sophomore year and I began the treatment program that saved my life.
However, while years of therapy helped me normalize my eating and find better ways to express my feelings, I couldn’t shake the distorted image I had of my body. No matter what the numbers on the scale said, I saw myself as “fat.” I finally accepted that I couldn’t trust my own view of my body and I had to rely on others to keep me on track.
My husband was my high school sweetheart and has been one of my biggest supports through my battle with anorexia and body image. He stepped up to the plate again when we decided to start a family. We struggled to conceive for several years, during which I berated myself over what role my eating disorder may or may not have played in causing our difficulties. Fertility treatments and hormone injections tend to cause weight gain, and I was no exception. There were definitely moments I completely hated my body. When my favorite dress didn’t zip up the morning of our good friends’ wedding, I burst into tears. My husband gently reminded me that he loved me no matter what dress I wore, but that didn’t help my situation–not only was I not pregnant yet, I was now “officially” fat. I hated my body and felt it was betraying me in every possible way.
This all changed in February 2011 when our doctor said those magic words, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant.” All of a sudden, my body was no longer something to be ashamed of because it didn’t look like the models in the magazines. I was no longer mad at it for not fitting into my dress. My body was the most important and amazing thing there ever was, because it was creating my children.
While we were struggling to conceive, I was worried about how my “eating disorder brain” would handle the weight gain and body changes that accompany pregnancy. I struggled so much with the few pounds I gained from fertility treatments–how on earth would I handle a pregnant belly? No one was more surprised than I at my reaction. I wasn’t ashamed of my growing belly. I was proud of it! I definitely saw “baby,” not “fat.” Every bit of food I ate was nourishing my growing twins. Every additional inch my belly grew meant that they were growing bigger and stronger. My whole outlook changed. For the first time I could remember, I loved my body.
After my babies were born, my body continued to change. The flat chest I used to have became a milk-producing C cup. My once-tight belly became floppy as it recovered from the C-section. Yet, amazingly, I still loved my body. It was providing my twins with the nourishment they needed to grow. I ate more while nursing than I ever did before–and that was OK, because it was what my babies needed me to do. My body was wonderful because it was taking care of my children.
My twins will turn 2 years old next month. My body is different than how it used to be. My belly is no longer tight, my breasts have lost their perkiness, and my thighs touch when I walk. But my view of these “flaws” has changed. I am no longer scared to look at myself in the mirror.
After nearly two decades of struggle, I can finally trust my own view of my body again–I look at my body and I see a miracle.