I’ve struggled with some form of disordered eating since elementary school. I remember being in 5th grade, comparing myself to the “skinny” girls. I would wonder what it was like to look like they did and to have my clothes fit like theirs did. That’s when the skipping meals started, and continued for a few years. When I was in the 8th grade, the binge eating started. I would eat so much so fast I felt absolutely sick, trying to eat away the bad feelings I had. That’s when the bingeing and purging started and went on for about a year. The restricting continued until later in high school. I saw how dangerous the behaviors were getting and I didn’t want to end up in the hospital. I fought it, hard. Doing my best to not think about food, my body, or what I wished I looked like. I actually managed pretty well until my freshmen year of college. The anxiety and stress of being far away from home and starting over triggered those thoughts and fears. The restricting was at its worst and I spent hours in the Rec center, on the elliptical.
I felt completely out of control and it scared me. I didn’t think I could get myself out of the darkness I was in, so I opted for “treatment”. I began going to therapy twice a week and accepting an accountability partner to keep my urges in check. With the strategies I learned in therapy, I started to love myself and heal my relationship with food. Eventually, my behaviors were under control and I could ride the waves of temptation without drowning. However, the thoughts and anxieties that surrounded my relationship with my body lingered. I still struggled daily and had an extreme relapse my junior year.
When I got pregnant with Winifred, the anxieties heightened. I knew weight gain came with a healthy pregnancy; it was expected and encouraged for a pregnant woman to gain a moderate amount of weight to grow a human. In my heart I knew that, but my brain panicked as soon as I saw those two pink lines. “You’re gonna get HUGE” I heard, “Your body is going to be wrecked”. The darkness came and the battle begun between what I knew to be true and what my disorder was telling me. In the first trimester, I developed horrible morning sickness that lasted all day. It made it almost impossible for me to eat anything besides crackers and I felt myself starting to wither away. In 14 weeks, I’d lost almost 15 lbs. The battle of my brain continued. My disorder was SO happy that I was losing weight without “technically” having any disordered eating behaviors. That part of me overjoyed to be growing a human and getting smaller. In a twisted way I felt like I was getting the best of both worlds! Then, there was the part of me that was freaking out wondering if my baby was getting the nutrients they needed to be healthy.
My parents came to visit when I was 14 weeks pregnant. My mother walked into the kitchen while I was cooking and her jaw dropped. The sight of me made her audibly gasp. My jeans were falling off, my legs and butt had diminished significantly, and my eyes were sunken and dark. She said “Um, how much weight have you lost?”. “I don’t know”, I muttered, lying. I’d know exactly how much weight I lost due to the morning sickness. For 2.5 seconds, I felt proud that she’d noticed my weight loss. Then, I was crushed by guilt. How on earth could I feel proud that my body was disappearing when it was supposed to be creating a healthy baby? For days, I was sick at the thought of how proud I was. I called my doctor to get checked and to talk to him about my weight loss. I had to take back control for my baby.
Through the rest of my pregnancy, I stayed off the scale and prayed every time a “dark” thought came into my heart. I asked my doctor not to tell me how much I weighed unless I needed to know for health reasons. He continued to support me and only told me I was well within the “healthy” range for my weight. That’s all I needed to know. This didn’t stop me from being extremely sensitive to every word someone said about my pregnant body or what I was eating. I was extremely easy to trigger with words and I dissected every single thing someone said about me and my belly. My moods were completely dependent on what someone did or did not say about the way that I looked. I know how unhealthy and unfair that was to this body that was working so hard to create a little life, but I couldn’t stop. Will got the brunt of it. I would snap every time he made an innocent comment about my cravings or when he encouraged me to eat healthy for the baby. It came to blows one night when I realized how negatively this was affecting him. He was walking on eggshells around me wondering if he was going to say something “wrong” and receive aggressive comments in return. I was blaming him for my insecurities and anxieties when all he was doing was making sure I was eating stuff that was good for me and the baby. I was making my self worth his responsibility and that was completely unfair. I had to put myself in check and realize that my disorder was twisting Will’s love and turning it into criticism. I was making it his job to not trigger me instead of hearing his words for what they truly were; love.
The next 7 months I spent on my knees praying for God to soften my own heart. I prayed to put the baby before myself and to view my body as a temple that was creating life. I didn’t want these thoughts and triggers anymore. I didn’t want to see food as a problem and my body as a number on the scale. I wanted to be able to see my body for what it was; strong and capable of creating life. Slowly but surely, I began to give myself grace and enjoy my changing body as the baby grew. Soon, I was even grateful for the extra pounds and stretch marks. It meant that my baby was growing. I’d prayed for a baby for years…why had I been so focused on the superficial parts of my body changing?
After Winnie J was born, my body wasn’t mine. I was breastfeeding and going back to work while trying to navigate motherhood. I avoided mirrors at all cost, knowing I wouldn’t be happy with what I saw. I wore baggy clothes and fastened my pants with hair ties. My mind was on Winnie J and keeping her healthy and happy. I know felt like I didn’t even have time to think about the mush that was my stomach or the insane jiggle in my thighs; don’t even get me started on the complete unevenness/”saggyness”. of my boobs. When Winnie was 4 months old, I felt ready to take control back and work to build a new version of the body I was proud of.
As we know, a wrench was thrown into my plans. The week I began to workout after Winifred, we found out I was pregnant with Daphne Grace. As the shock wore off, I couldn’t help but have the thought, “What is going to happen to my body now?”. I had gotten to a healthy place mentally, but my body was nowhere near recovered from my pregnancy or Winifred’s birth. I was overwhelmed with dark thoughts. How much more will my abs separate? How many more stretch marks will I get? Will I jiggle even more? Will my breasts get even more saggy? What the hell with this body even look like after 2 babies in 2 years?? I gave myself a day to wallow in the darkness, then get my ish together. History would not repeat itself with this pregnancy.
I’m proud to say that it didn’t. I was stronger mentally and did my best to fuel the baby belly with great food while indulging in my cravings. For 15 weeks, I felt strong and in control of my triggers and anxieties. Then, one day after school a coworker approached me, rubbed my belly and said “wow! Are you having a 17lb baby? You’re HUGE”. She did not mean any insult with her comment, I know that. It came from a loving humorous place; I was showing very early and very hugely. I wish I would have taking the comment for what it was, but I let it fester. It ate at me for days and I let it sink into my soul. I began to suck in as much as I could in the presence of others and wear shirts that made my stomach look smaller. I couldn’t wait to be further along, as if to justify the size my belly. I faltered in my strength.
At my next appointment, I asked the nurse to weigh me and tell me if I was gaining at a healthy rate. Instead of avoiding looking at the scale, I wanted to tackle the anxiety in a healthy way. When I asked, my nurse laughed it off. Triggered. I know she wasn’t laughing to make me feel silly or stupid, but my disorder told me that’s why she laughed. When I asked my doctor the same question, he brushed it off, saying I didn’t need to worry about that. Triggered. Being shrugged off made my anxiety spike. As calmly as I could I explained about my past and why it was important for me to know I was healthy while still gaining weight. He pulled out a chart and showed me my starting weight and we discussed what my goal weight should be and what was considered healthy for me as my pregnancy progressed.
I knew I was stronger, because the old me would have taken that chart and made sure I hadn’t gained an ounce over the “goal”. But I didn’t. I lived my life and loved my baby. I ate when I wanted and what I wanted, just making sure I was eating food that was fuel. I was stronger and better for my babies.
The disorder wasn’t winning, I was.
I’m now two weeks postpartum with Daphne Grace. My skin is saggy and I still have a “bump” that takes me look 5 months pregnant. I’m struggling with clothes and how I feel about this new me, but that’s ok. I’m so proud of this body and the two beautiful humans it created. I’m grateful that it can now supply Daphne with the food she needs. I now have the desire to keep this body strong and healthy so I can be my best self for my family. The dark thoughts are there, don’t get me wrong, and mirrors are still difficult to face, but I’m not a slave to the disordered behaviors anymore. Each day, I decide what voice I’m going to listen too and I’m doing my best to choose the voice of the Lord telling me I’m strong and beautiful. I like that voice.
I now have two daughters; two girls whom I want to love every inch of themselves. My daughters will not see me step on the scale and cry. My daughters will not see me refuse a cooking on account of “calories”. My daughters will not see me pick apart my body in the mirror. They will see me eat fuel, working out to celebrate my body, and love this body that created them. I want my daughters to have a healthy relationship with food and their body, and I now have the opportunity to be an example of that.
I look forward to the opportunity to embrace what my body is now. I get to love myself through these changes and show the girls that their mommy is taking care of her body and is grateful for all it has done.
One thought on “Eating for Two, Healing for One”
Thank for sharing your story. The Lord is so good! It helps me to know that other people struggle with mental health. I felt what you said about dark thoughts that you know aren’t true and your struggle to not let them control you. Your truth gives me encouragement!