As soon as I saw this custom sign inquiry come in, I knew it was time. Time to start sharing my story. And not to get a “woe is me” or a “you’re so amazing, girl” - absolutely not. I don’t really even want to share this - I’m totally going to cringe and question everything a million times before pressing the post button. My story is to help raise awareness and mindfulness that the words you speak and the actions that silently "speak" can be life changing to the ones around you.
I grew up in a family that was "perfect" on the outside. My brothers and I always won the Bible verse memorization competitions at church, so much so that our church ending up canceling the competition because we dominated it for a decade running and it lost its luster for the rest of the families. We each played multiple musical instruments and performed perfectly is front of every crowd in every situation every time. We got good grades and never had any behavioral issues in public. We didn’t do any of that because we were naturally perfect and gifted kids - we did all of that because there was no choice to do anything anywise. We knew showing an ounce of emotion or rebellion or weakness would come with a set of consequences that just wasn't worth it.
I remember as young as kindergarten being told I couldn’t have another piece of pizza because “pretty girls don’t eat another piece of pizza.” I remember being in 5th grade and wanting to have a pair of boot cut pair of pants so I’d stop getting made fun of - I was told I could get the pair of pants if I gave up dessert for a month. I remember being in 7th grade and being told the only way I could go on vacation to the Caribbean for the first time was to run everyday, skip breakfast, and only eat grapes for lunch. I wish these were the only times. I wish I could say it was just these three times and I was just an overly sensitive kid. But the sad truth is it was every day, almost every meal, and just about every second of my life as kid.
Let’s take a second here to clarify I was never heavy or overweight. I was just a normal kid. I look back at pictures and I just can’t understand the obsession with weight - other than the fact that the one who gave birth to me was passing on her issues with self acceptance and appearance onto me.
I remember worrying over having perfect handwriting, perfect grades, a perfectly cleaned up room, perfect musical performances.....all so I would finally feel loved and accepted. But despite all those, I never was. So in the summer or my 7th-8th grade year, I decided to take matters into my own hands and conquer that acceptance once and for all.
It started with running. Everyday I ran a little bit more than the last day. And then one day I barely ate one of my meals. So the next day I made sure to eat even less of a meal. And then I started in-depth research online about how many calories were in what foods and the best ways to lose weight. The number one tip was moving burns calories. So everyday I moved a little bit more. And everyday I ate a little bit less. Everyday was a competition to beat the day before. Until I found myself obsessing about any time spent sitting down..because it wasn’t burning enough calories. And obsessing about eating a hard candy my dad handed to me because those 15 calories hadn’t been accounted for. I entered my 8th grade year weighing 85 pounds as a (formerly) fully developed 5 foot 3 inch teenage girl.
But the funny thing was, even after all that work, I still didn’t receive or feel any love and acceptance. But the one thing I did feel for the first time in my life was a sense of control. For the very first time, I had control of something I was doing on my life. And it was magical. My entire life I had felt like I never did anything well enough and watching my mom struggle with her weight (even though she wasn’t heavy in the least), I felt like I had finally mastered something beyond her disapproval.
That feeling was so empowering that I kept up the daily competition of more movement and less calories for a five full years till I went off to college. But here’s the funny thing, the second I enrolled in a college six hours away, all that went away. I no longer needed to move every second of every day and I found I could eat some unaccounted for calories and ya know what? I woke up still living and breathing the next morning. 🙌🏻 Over that year, I gradually began to gain back some weight and even gained some excess because my body was SO hungry having been deprived of adequate nutrition for 5 years. This, people, is the power of living in a toxic environment - your entire life can turn upside down into something you were never originally prone to be.
My story hardly ends here but I’m going to stop here for today to take an important second to focus on the lessons here. First and foremost, I’m thankful God was able to rescue me out of something that could have taken my life. I’m grateful for the mind freedom I have now - even when I have down days, it’s NOTHING compared to the prison jail (actually, complete HELL) of an anorexic mind. And most of all, I’m thankful for the unending, full encompassing, and healing love of the Father when our earthly parental figures are unable to show love in healthy ways. My parents loved me, but not in ways that were healthy. And there's deep scars that come from that.
So why write all this and share my story? I want to talk to you about your words and actions. If you are a mom of a young girl, I wrote this for you. Even if this just changes one person’s life, it was worth it. So here goes:
Your words and actions can make or break your daughter. You have the ability to breathe life and educate her about how healthy choices can help you can feel energetic and joyful and give you the best quality of life. Or.... you can breathe insecurity and depression and tell her through your actions that girls who are loved, happy, and pretty aren’t fat. You can look at yourself in the mirror and smile or you can look at yourself in the mirror and melt down. Through all of that, your daughter is absorbing how you react and talk about everything, and she is forming her belief system about life, her self worth, and women’s role in society.
I hesitate to write this next part because the honor your mother and father is still ingrained deep in my bones but here's the cold hard truth about parenting from someone who is still healing from life long scars:
- As a parent, your #1 responsibility is NOT to raise perfect, successful kids - your responsibility is to love and guide your children and teach them to do good. And if they become successful and semi perfect, that’s gravy on top.
- Having children is not your second chance to redo your life. You don’t get the right forcefully live out what you wish your life would have been through your children just because you gave birth to them.
- And most importantly, you need to sit down and identify the issues that you struggle with so that, God forbid, you don’t pass them onto your children.
I lived 5 years in a jail cell in my brain because I believed my body weight was everything. I ran sets of stairs inbetween classes in junior high and high school to burn calories. I felt so anxious everytime we had a class party because I had to replan my calories and activity for the entire day. I missed out on opportunities that every teenager should have because I was afraid if I gained weight that it would be the end of me. And most devastating of all, I lost my period for a decade because my body was too undernourished to support my reproductive system. I have to look my husband in the face after every pregnancy test and sadly see his face fall yet again as I tell him “not pregnant” and wonder if that’s all due to that.
If you are struggling with your weight and self worth, that’s ok! You are clearly not alone in a world that preaches body positivity. But more importantly than making half naked Facebook or Instagram posts about how proud we are of x,y, and z on our body, we need to be focusing on what we’re doing privately around the ones we love most everyday.
Are you saying you look ugly or feel fat in front of your daughter? Are you eating an entire half gallon of ice cream in one evening and then starving yourself for the rest of the week to make up for it? Are you practicing dangerous or extreme dieting techniques in front of her? Or are you taking the opportunity to teach her exercise is good for everybody and teaching her moderation in all things? Are you making a fruit salad for the family to enjoy and educating your kids why healthy choices are good for their body and soul?
Every day you have the choice to breathe life into your littles, and I pray that this painfully honest blog post I just about had a panic attack posting.....well I hope that it helps raise awareness of how the little things we do everyday (that we don’t think matter) can have such an lasting and potentially damaging impact on little minds. I love the quote “the most important thing you can do is go home and love your family.” Because it really is true - they are watching you and they are our next generation. Love on them well in everything you do - you’ve been given a great responsibility to impact each life that you’ve created. 💕
So here's to the strong women who strive to do better so that we and the next generation can be better.