“I’m Scarlett, with the chubby cheeks!”
My three-year-old daughter beamed the self-compliment she’d so often heard me bestow on her, and it caught me off guard: So far from the way I speak unkindly about my own perceived chubbiness, she believed– because I told her– that her feature most readily distinguishable from her identical twin was her chubby cheeks, and they were delightful and beautiful. And they are.
But I reeled at the thought that I was speaking this word to her, this word that would some day not come so kindly from her sweet face, and I reeled at the thought that I cannot delight in my own body the way she still can. She will learn from me. And it occurred to me that none of my daughters has a single female role model around who really loves her body and delights in its beauty. We lash ourselves with mean words and harsh diets. And they will hear and see.
And so I decided to stop. Or at least to mightily try.
I kept in my medicine cabinet a bottle of diet pills that my doctor gave me when I went to see him about fixing the mess twin babies had made of my middle. I had wanted to discuss the saggy skin and blown-out muscles, but he convinced me it might just do the trick to lose five to ten pounds. And I was within the normal weight range for a woman my height, but that hit to self-confidence was all it took, and I took the awful pills.
They made my heart race, and I felt like fat, ugly shit. But they were my last resort. So I stopped the pills but I kept them close, and I threatened myself I’d bring them back out if I couldn’t get it together.
But Scarlett, she has gorgeous chubby cheeks, and hell if I’ll teach her to hate them. And from my grandmother to my mother to the ones I love like sisters, we’re all messed up about our bodies, and we are handing our legacy to our girls. So we made a trade, my dear friend and me, emptied our tight fists of last resorts so that we could hold hands and walk toward health together.
And we will make a new legacy.
I am thrilled to announce today’s release of my friend Emily Wierenga’s important book, Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a loved one battling an eating disorder.