I have a confession to make: I have fat-shamed. Never to someone's face, but behind the safety of my computer screen as I've read blog post after blog post about mothers who can't lose their baby weight when their last child is well into his/her teens, I have sat back in my size two pants and self-righteously told myself that these people were just lazy.
My pride resulted in a tattooed Cheshire grin on my lips and I told myself that I would never sport the dreaded muffin top. Although I never begrudged others their body types, I would never accept the excuse from anyone that the weight gain and subsequent failed attempts to lose said weight was due to a busy lifestyle.
After all, I have four children and work full-time doing shift work as a nurse. My youngest is 11 years old and as an infant, well before he was even crawling, I was already back into my pre-baby body -- actually that's not true. I looked better than I did pre-baby. It seemed that with each child, I got thinner and discovered faster, harder and more extreme exercise methods to get that lean, striated, muscular look only seen on Oxygen and Shape magazine covers.
I'd like to say that when my children were little and required more immediate care, that I had no choice but to be present. But this wouldn't be true. Although my first two children were 20 months apart, I never skipped a fanatical beat to buckle them into their double stroller and while my 20-month-old pointed to birds and flowers, wishing to stop and smell them, I plowed along, pushing my children around the town we lived in. I found the steepest hills to run up and the straightest, flattest streets to sprint down. I was so consumed with the need to hear my footsteps alternate their pounding on the pavement beneath me, that I shut out the sound of my 20-month-old asking to play at the park we had just zoomed past or my new baby's cries.
A few days ago, I came across a blog post in which the blogger made a comment about how each roll of skin on her tummy represented a happy moment with her family in which she enjoyed that chocolate cake at her child's birthday party or had skipped the Jillian Michael's exercise DVD that morning so she could sit on the floor and colour with her daughter. For the first time in my life, the realization of my sick mindset entrenched in the lost, wasted, hungry hours I chose in order to be the thinnest mom on the block finally beat me over the head with a barbell.
I know and have known for years that I battle a demon who shrieks in my ear about what a piece of shit I am every time I open the fridge or a cupboard, or look at my naked body in the mirror. Although my eating disorder is still in full-fledged force -- cheering with glee when my hunger pains can be heard by passersby and ecstatic when the emptiness in my chest is more prominent than the one in my stomach -- even the realization of this is not enough to stop me from uncapping the laxatives and swallowing as many as I can handle before I'm gagging at the tablets' dry, chalk-like taste.
After reading that mother's blog post, for the first time, I understood how that mom was the fortunate one, muffin top and all. As I struggle daily to maintain, or even worse to lose more weight, I feel like my window of opportunity to fight this beast and hold it down -- a pitch fork pinning it into the dark soil beneath my feet -- is closing. I know that each passing moment since my teen years has not only delayed my healing, but has increased my odds of losing my grip on the pitch fork.
I look on in envy at those mothers who perhaps don't like that they've gained weight since having their children, the fact that they are mentally healthy enough to eat that extra piece of pizza without fear of mental retaliation in the form of insults and expletives aimed at fragmenting the smooth surface of their self-worth. Their attitude makes me both envious and fearful -- fearful that after 35 years, my eating disorder has become such an intrinsic part of my identity that to unravel it now would not in fact make me more accepting of who I am.
I might leave me floundering in a world where starvation and laxatives were actually the tools helping me to function as a mother due to other psychological issues. And yet, the irony is that despite the minimal amount of calories I eat and despite the vigilant control I have over my weight, I worry more about my body than any one of those mothers who complains about her weight gain. And these women are the ones who are providing their families with solid, healthy memories, while my children will remember a mother who sat at the kitchen table with an empty plate.
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