Covered head-to-toe in spaghetti sauce, my toddler was in dire need of a bath. Her infant sister, who somehow managed to get her dinner between her toes and down her diaper, was also in need of a good scrub.
Into the bath they both went. Plunk. Plop. Splash, followed by an eruption of giggles.
“Look at my big fat tummy, mommy,” said the proud toddler, her little protruding belly covered in bubbles.
“I’m such a big girl, now.”
Mirroring her older sister, my younger girl patted her stomach and let out a squeal of delight. I couldn’t help but admire her perfectly plump baby flesh, all soft, alabaster and dimply.
It was a moment I wish I could freeze for all time. Both of my daughters so happy and healthy — naive to society’s unrealistic standards regarding body image.
And completely oblivious to their own mother’s descent down a dark, dangerous road, not long ago.
I was a child myself when I decided that I hated my body.
While I was never actually overweight, my prepubescent body disgusted me.
Every time I looked into a full-length mirror, I picked myself apart — a ritual I learned from my mom. She is a beautiful, intelligent woman who has never been at peace with her body, a trait passed down from her own mother.
I lapped up every detail about the latest fad diet or workout routine she was on, and I did 150 sit-ups a night.
I was nine.
Looking back, I now recognize the signs of what was to come. But at the time, nobody noticed, myself included.
In my early 20s, my obsession with having the “ideal” body reared its ugly head, coinciding with my upcoming wedding and my grandmother’s death.
I began to focus on improving my physical appearance — I was just a few lost pounds and laps around the track away from happiness. Or so I thought.
When excessive calorie restriction and exercise didn’t produce the dramatic results I sought, I resorted to purging everything I ate.
I was successful the first time I shoved my fingers as far down my throat as I could manage, violently heaving up the muffin I’d eaten earlier that morning. I was hooked.
And so began my destructive dance with disordered eating.
By definition, I didn’t have bulimia nervosa, nor did I have anorexia. I was lost somewhere in between, wasting away —quite literally.
Very few friends and family knew what was going on. It was so easy to slip under their radar.
While my weight was at an all-time low, so was my sense of self worth.
A trip to the dentist revealed seven cavities — likely a casualty of excessive purging. I was weak, constantly light-headed and unable to focus on anything but the number on my bathroom scale. Just the mere mention of food was enough to trigger a full-blown panic attack.
Deep down, I knew I was destroying my body and, possibly, my relationship with the man I was about to spend the rest of my life with.
Luckily, I managed to muster up the courage to reach out for help. Even more fortunate — I got it.
Back in 2005, while reading the classified section of The Langley Times, I came across a listing for an eating disorder support group organized by a Langley woman named Andrea Roe. Roe had overcome a six-year battle with her own eating disorder and had just published a book documenting her journey to recovery called You Are Not Alone.
Joining the group proved to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.
There were six of us — women of various ages and backgrounds — who met at Roe’s Brookswood home. We clicked right away as we purged ourselves of our fears and anxieties.
Slowly but surely, I was able to recover. I am one of the lucky ones.
While I still struggle to appreciate the reflection staring back at me in the mirror, today I am at peace with my body. Maybe not 100 per cent, but I do appreciate the remarkable journey it has taken me on, including my two pregnancies.
When I do get the itch to scrutinize myself or ask my husband: “Do I look fat in these jeans?” I try to remember that my two young daughters are like little sponges, always close at hand, listening and soaking up every comment I make.
That’s just my two cents, but I want to hear from YOU!! If you have struggled with body image issues in the past and/or do in the present, do you worry your child will eventually pick up on your way of thinking?