When I was a child, I was skinny. I was nine-years-old and I remember my aunt Mary Jo telling me:
“You eat like a bird!” It’s just the way I was. I drank more than I ate. I never thought much about it.
I did, however, observe my mom on many diets. She struggled with her weight and I watched this as I grew up. In my mind, I was determined to be the opposite of my mother. I didn’t want to care about weight. I ate and drank what I wanted and I purposely tried not to acknowledge what my body looked like. I didn’t love my body, I literally just ignored it. Probably because I knew if I acknowledged it in any way, I might find flaws.
Of course, when I went through puberty, I learned to critique different parts of my body. My nose was too big and I wished I didn’t have freckles. But everything from the neck down I intentionally ignored. I didn’t want to analyze and find imperfection with my body.
When I turned 11 I started to grow breasts. Before my chest developed, I used to sleep on my stomach. When I started growing a chest, I couldn’t sleep comfortably on my belly anymore and I resented these new annoyances.
Before I knew it, I was 16, had big boobs and I was self-conscious about them. My insecurity about my chest made me hunch over when I walked despite my mothers attempts to get me to stand up straight. She told me when she was in school, they gave out grades for posture. She’d always gotten C’s and now she had back problems later in life.
Also at 16, I fell in love, got my heart broken, stopped eating for two weeks and got mono. Over those two weeks I lost a lot of weight and didn’t recognize my own body. It was a terrifying experience. When I finally got well, I vowed that I would pay more attention to my body. I would stay healthy and never allow myself to get sick like that again.
I became neurotic with food. I was overly concerned that I wasn’t eating enough. I obsessed all day long about the next time I would have to eat again. What would I eat? Would it be healthy enough? Would it fill me up? Feeling hunger pains felt like a failure.
When I started to gain weight back, I wasn’t skinny anymore. My body was curvy and more like that of an adult woman. I looked in the mirror a lot, studying the contours of my body. After years of ignoring what I looked like from the neck down, I finally gave myself a chance to really look. Whenever I glanced at my stomach in a full length mirror, I was reminded of Sandro Botticelli’s painting, The Birth of Venus.
In Botticelli’s piece, Venus has a full round belly. When I stared at my stomach in the mirror, I would imagine her belly in this beautiful painting. I would remind myself that despite what the outside world says, what the media tells us, bellies are beautiful.
Over time, I went to therapy and worked through my issues with food. But it took over 15 years for me to have a “normal” relationship with eating.
After many years and a lot of introspection, I’ve learned to love my body. After I had my two children, my body changed again. I became even more curvy than I was before. Now when I look in the mirror, I remember that Venus has a big beautiful belly and so do I.