This marks the beginning of a series on body image. Like most American women, I've been battling my body and my weight for as long as I can remember. There is not one person or incident to blame; it is a combination of influences we are bombarded with on a dialy basis in addition to my early involvement with ballet and theater.
I recall going on my first diet at age 9 when I began getting more serious about ballet. I had upped my lessons to 3 x per week and my friend who danced at a different studio had been promoted to pointe. My teacher was right not allowing this for us, as 9 is too young to be destroying your feet and toes, which is what pointe does. But the more weight you have on your toes, the worse it is. I was not a fat kid, but I was not skinny either and I did NOT have a ballet dancer's body. I'm a pretty strong-willed person though and I was not going to give up without a fight, so I stopped eating. Of course this didn't last long. My parents were not about to let me starve. They had to begin assuring me that certain foods were healthy and would not make me "fat." They tried to get me to be "okay" with not having a dancer's body, but that was very ineffective and just made me angrier. I HATE things that I cannot control!
As you can imagine, puberty was a total hell for me (I suppose it is for everyone). I was dancing 5 days a week and in an intense performing arts program where weight was a constant issue. I still was not fat, but I went through a semi-chubby (not really, but for a dancer, yes) stage during 8th grade and was told to lose weight fast or be cut from a show. This was the start of the crash diet and my ongoing mantra, "food is poison" that I would repeat to myself when I felt hungry. I should say I have only recently given up that mantra and noticed myself slipping into it the other day in the car.
At 19, I had this terrible boyfriend who would make me tell him everything I ate each day and then criticize me for my bad choices. He was such an ass. And it wasn't just my weight...he complained about my skin and my hair too. Reality check--my hair was not in the best shape, but I weighed about 110 lbs and wore a size 7 in juniors. NOT overweight in the least. In fact, I looked pretty good. Thankfully, that relationship was short-lived with little harm done.
This brings me to the present. I am heavier than I have ever been. I am truly, medically overweight by 30 lbs for the first time ever. Childbearing and age have taken a serious toll on my body, not just my weight. I now need to lose weight for my health, but I also need to gain body strength. I am now trying to shift my thinking away from the scale and focus on the appearance and feel of my body. I no longer have the desire to be paper thin and am striving for a more athletic build with minimal body fat. I have a long way to go.