My mom did a lot of things right when raising me and my sister. Her strengths, like not yelling, not over-indulging us, teaching us how to cook, and always speaking frankly about scary topics like sex, addiction, and abuse far outweighed any inevitable lapses in judgment she might have had occasionally (like letting me watch midnight Cinemax and eat Oreos for breakfast).
But when I look back at my childhood, I have one big regret about the way I was raised. Mom made one mistake, and long before I had my daughter, I swore I’d never do the same thing.
My mother loved food and she was an incredible cook. My best memories were stirred together in mixing bowls, baked in the oven, and spread out on our kitchen table. But my mother struggled with her love of food, and after all of our delicious fun she’d slump into self-loathing and guilt about what she’d eaten and how she looked.
She talked about her weight all the time. Every day, really. My sister and I watched her torment herself for years trying to get skinny, but she never came close to her goal weight. On the other hand, we couldn’t care less about what she looked like or what pants size she wore. We wanted our mom to live her life in spite of her size, but back then she wasn’t able to do that.
My mom punished and deprived herself of meaningful experiences based on her size. It was her biggest mistake as a parent.
“When I lose weight we’ll go to Hawaii,” she said.
“After I lose 30 pounds I’ll start going to the gym. I can’t go in there looking like this.”
“The day I hit my goal weight I’ll take you girls to the city for a big celebration.”
“I can’t take you to the park as fat as I am,” she’d sigh.
She wouldn’t buy herself anything new because she was too big and she planned to lose weight anyway, so once that happened she’d get a whole new wardrobe. She wouldn’t even consider a vacation until she lost 50 pounds. There were so many things I wished we could do and I vowed that when I grew up, no matter what, I wouldn’t let my appearance dictate my fun.
But I didn’t realize how much easier that was said than done.
Pregnancy, thyroid disease, stress, the new fancy doughnut shop down the street, the fact that brie cheese exists – all these things added up to me turning 40 and not having Gisele’s miraculous post-baby body. I’ve become extraordinarily self-conscious about my clothing size now too, how I look in a swimsuit, how I feel like my gigantic butt is trying to consume my yoga shorts. I compare my body to other women constantly, and I realized that I sometimes feel the same guilt and shame about my love for good food as my mother did when I was growing up.
Recently, I caught myself putting off buying a new outfit. “Oh, I should wait because it’s New Year’s and now I’m finally going to go Paleo, or old school Atkins or maybe Slow Carb, and I’m going to lose all the weight, so I’ll get the outfit when I’m skinny again,” I heard myself saying.
But no. No way. I nipped this kind of thinking in the bud, because I am breaking that pattern and I’m doing it not only for my 4-year-old daughter’s benefit, but also for my own.
We are all entitled to fun, enjoyment, pleasure, and happiness regardless of our size. I am never putting conditions on what experiences I am allowed to have based on how much I weigh or what I look like. I will not miss out on life and adventures with my daughter because of some arbitrary number on a scale, because I want to wear a size 2 instead of a size 10.
So I will take those trips and I will hop onto roller coasters. I’ll be the curvy mom in the yoga class (I’m in good company, trust me). I will wear my bathing suit on a crowded beach and I will run and dance on the sand and teach my daughter to body surf and build drip castles with no thought about my cellulite or my belly pooch. I know that I will be uncomfortable at times, that this will be difficult, but I will fight my self-consciousness anyway. I will teach my child that our true beauty comes from how we embrace life and interact with our world rather than how small we can whittle our bodies.
One day, I know when my daughter looks back she will never say, “Gosh, my childhood would’ve been a lot better if only my mom had been 20 pounds skinnier.”
Life is right now, in this present moment. It’s not reserved for the few who can obtain the perfect appearance. We are all deserving. Don’t let the scale tell you when you can start to live.