By CATHERINE RODIE BLAGG
“I’m going on a diet.”
I was twelve years old when I wrote those words into my diary. Twelve. I remember it. I remember trying on new clothes and needing a bigger size and feeling ashamed and embarrassed and wanting to go home and not get anything new.
PE was the worst. I would change into my gym kit as fast as possible praying that no one caught sight of my monstrous body.
“She is so fat,” I heard them whisper.
My face flushed, tears stung my eyes. I concentrated hard on the chips in the faded yellow paint and willed myself not to cry. I could tell you every one of their names, those girls that said things.
The comments went for years, the other girls caught up and developed curves of their own, but I was still ‘the fat one’. It was all I saw when I looked in the mirror.
I was ‘on a diet’ for most of my teens. I knew the calorie content of everything in the school canteen. I skipped meals. I weighed myself almost every day. Hormones raged, chocolate soothed, ‘I’ll start again tomorrow’.
I was sixteen when I first rammed my fingers down my throat. I was caught in a classic cycle of comfort eating, guilt and self loathing and it somehow seemed like the perfect solution.
It makes me so sad when I look back now. Why did I let a couple of throw-away comments drive me to such a lonely place?
My mother was always a positive role model. She constantly reinforced the idea that eating well and taking exercise were the key to good health. She always told me I was beautiful, although I never believed her… ‘she’s only saying that because she’s my mum’. I don’t think there is anything she could have said or done that would have changed the way I felt about myself. Maybe it is just a rite of passage?
When I reached my mid twenties I finally found the confidence in myself that I’d previously lacked. I realised that loving myself was a choice, not a feeling. Over the years my weight has been up and down… but I’ve chosen to love and accept my body regardless.
Ironically, when I was at my heaviest I was the least self conscious I’ve ever been. The extra weight just wasn’t an issue… I guess with a new baby to take care of I had other priorities.
I wish I could go marching into those changing rooms right now and wrap my arms around that self-conscious twelve year old. I wish I could tell her not to listen…
I wish I knew then what I know now…
That we’re all the same really.
I hope I’ll be able to convince my daughters.
Catherine Rodie Blagg lives in Sydney with her husband and two small daughters. In her free time she writes a humorous and honest blog about the challenges of modern motherhood. She drinks an alarming amount of tea. Find her Twitter here, her Facebook here and her blog here.
Did you struggle with body image as a teenager? How do you talk to kids about body image? How do you tell a 12-year-old not to listen?