Little one, love your body. It is the only one you get.

For years I pinched every part of my body that I could get even a pea size grasp on. Was there extra weight on my hips, my thighs, or the back of my arms? I obsessed over every bite that went into my mouth and constantly thought about the food that I wanted so bad, but refused to consume. When I found out I was pregnant with my first child at the age of twenty-eight, I was just beginning to really get comfortable with my body and food of all kinds. Fills the hole inside me

As my body went through the myriad of changes that occur when you are pregnant there was one thought that kept me on track – I will not let my eating disorder affect my child. As a recovering anorexic and exercise addict I feared that I would unconsciously pass on some of these unhealthy habits. Four years later and expecting my second child I think we have done a pretty good job of teaching our daughter healthy habits and acceptance.

So, when I recently found my four-year-old daughter sitting in the middle of her bedroom floor with her shirt lifted and pinching her belly, I had to take a step back and breath before approaching the situation. After asking her why she was doing it I was sickened to hear that she was copying an image she saw on a billboard we had passed on the way home from the grocery store.

I instantly knew what billboard she was talking about — an ad for CoolSculpting body shaping that I had often found myself evaluating. A woman shown bare skinned from the rib cage down pinching at a slight bulge on her waist. A woman who honestly looks like she is at a healthy weight and had to really work to grab that little flap of mostly skin.

DSC_2115But, how to get a four-year-old to understand we don’t judge our bodies in that way and certainly not by comparing it to other people? Would you pinch a friend like that? No, well we shouldn’t treat our own bodies that way either. Think of your body as your closest friend, someone you care about and want to keep around for a very long time.

I may not be able to change the way brands present their messages and get people to pick apart each little part of their body, but I can help my daughter accept every muscle, bump, and curve of her own and love everything that her amazing little body is capable of.

I can praise her for her accomplishments and not what she looks like. When I see an example of a body positive woman in an ad I can be sure to point it out to her. And most of all, I can love my own body and let her see that acceptance and appreciation on a daily basis as I look in the mirror, as I enjoy my workout because it makes me feel strong, and as I hold my head high and work towards the things that are important to me on a creative, professional, and personal level. I can let her know that her body will change throughout her life, but it will always be hers and what she does with it is much more important than how it compares to the artificial image on a roadside billboard.

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Motherhood may have saved my life

This past week I had the opportunity to be interviewed by an author who is writing a book on recovery from eating disorders. In my work I’m usually the one doing the interviewing so I was a little nervous, but also very excited. I know I’ve said before that I have come a long way in the past couple of years, but this was a big reminder of that.

Fills the hole inside meOnly three short years ago I was still living a semi-conscious life. I had graduated college in 2007 weighing less than 100 pounds, constantly dizzy, suffering heart palpitations, and feeling hopeless. All of this from something that many people thought I controlled – how much I was eating. How I got to that point is a whole other story. Three years ago I had improved from this low point in my life, but I still had anxiety attacks eating around others, considered a mini tootsie roll a splurge, and didn’t believe that I could do all the things I saw others accomplishing. It was experiences like these that bind all of the people the author was speaking to.

What she was really interested in were the moments that brought each of us out of this abyss and back to life. When she was asking me questions I realized most of my answers were things that I hadn’t thought about in the past year or more. One thing that she asked me really got me thinking hard about the journey I have taken on the road to recovery – when did you realize you truly wanted to recover?

When I was going through the process it was a constant struggle and battle between what I had known for so long, and letting go of that safety net to live life the way I knew it could be lived. I would half-heartedly agree to seek treatment just long enough to get family off my back; then revert to living life full of anxiety and constant counting.

So what did make me truly want to recover? I found out I was pregnant. For once, there was no denying that my choices were directly affecting someone else. My unborn child had no way to make health and food choices for herself. My choice was her choice. That is when my choice changed. That is when I realized the safety net that was actually dragging me down wasn’t going to work anymore. It isn’t an understatement to say becoming a mother saved my life.

I never really thought I wanted to be a mother . . . as the oldest of four siblings I sort of felt I had already had children. However, I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. Having Olivia has helped make me the person I always wanted to be. But the most important thing about that is I know I changed myself; I don’t rely on Olivia for all of my strength. I always wanted to be the hopeful, energetic, and life loving person that I feel I am today. Now I can say I am who I am for me. And my family and friends enjoy me much more for being that person. Olivia

I am thankful that Olivia came into our lives and I’m thankful I can be a part of her life in a positive way. We can share treats and meals together. I can teach her about cooking and old family recipes. We can travel the world and taste each place with a smile on our face and nothing but love in our souls.

I hope one day Olivia will understand how important she is to my life and I pray that she never has to face the battle that I went through to get to today. And I hope to one day show her my story as part of a project that encourages others to fight their way to recovery; to show her even when it is tough you can make it through and sharing your story can make a difference.

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