Image via iStock.
I remember the first time I became aware of my weight. It was the summer after year seven, and my mum was getting married. I was wearing a strappy flowered dress and a big hat, and I was finally allowed to wear real pantyhose. These days, I avoid pantyhose at all costs, but at the time they were a symbol of my growing up. It felt like the beginning of an exciting new phase of my life.
In order to figure out what size I’d need, we used the little height and weight chart on the back of the pantyhose package. I remember locating my weight, finding my height, and pulling my two fingers down and across to meet in the middle, where I landed on my size.
I was a totally average-sized kid with a body so typical that nobody ever remarked on it. Not skinny, not fat.
Unlike many girls, I never faced body shaming or had anyone police my food. My size was a thing I never thought about. But watching those two measurements come together to define me as a size, I realized the incredible importance of my weight—and the power I believed I held in determining what size I could be.
By year eight, I was dieting. One of the teen magazines I subscribed to featured an article about a girl who’d recovered from Anorexia Nervosa, listing the extreme tactics she’d used. They probably intended this to be shocking, but for me, it served as a guide on how to be anorexic. This started a nearly life-long cycle of obsessing over calories and exercise. (Post continues after gallery.)
I’m fortunate that I never became very sick from this behaviour, as people would intervene or I would seek help on my own. Not everyone is so lucky. But the cycle of weighing myself daily and trying to reach an ever-lower number loomed over me for another 20 years.
After my second baby was born, having left my career and feeling directionless and unmoored, I became dangerously focused upon returning to my pre-motherhood weight. I never stopped to consider whether this was healthy, or even possible. Cue compulsive exercise, food deprivation, and a few years of feeling truly awful about myself.
When I finally did drop to the weight I considered “not fat,” I started getting sick all the time, and became depressed. When a trusted friend pulled me aside and firmly suggested that I not lose any more weight, and that I talk to my therapist about what was going on, I realized it was time to end this cycle of deprivation for good.
Change, though, didn’t come easily.
It took a while for me to stop hating my body after that. I wanted to be healthy, and that meant eating more and exercising in moderation. But this was a challenging balance to strike. I didn’t have the skills to eat just one cupcake, or just a couple of cookies for dessert. It was all or nothing with me. My therapist helped, as did my amazing husband, and my friends were on call to give me reality checks when I needed them. I also banned negative body-talk from my vocabulary, and asked my friends to do the same around me.