Sunday, March 01, 2009

Last month was eating disorder awareness month. 
An "incident" today made me think about how difficult it is sometimes to be female.

In 6th grade, I had a friend named Elizabeth. I think she was foreign and she was very skinny and blonde. Every day after we ate lunch together, I would faithfully guard the bathroom doors while she threw up her chocolate milk and potato chips. That was also the year I noticed all the "popular" girls eating only a lollipop for lunch.

In 7th grade, I realized I should start watching my weight because all of my friends, either dancers or runners, did. I continued wearing a baggy L or XL t-shirts because I liked them, even though they weren't as cool as the form-fitting Abercrombie everyone else wore.

In 8th grade, my best friend brought a chocolate powdered drink to school every day for lunch that she convinced me was a chocolate malt. I believed her. I found out years later that it was Slim Fast.

In the summer between my 8th and 9th grades, I lost a few pounds, probably 15 or 20, and not really on purpose. It was just a hot summer and I lost my appetite all the time due to heat. I also started running. When I came to high school, everyone commented on how much weight I lost, and that I looked SO much better than when I was FAT. I was fat?
High school I ate one or two things for each meal and that was it. Lunch was either three cookies or 2 slices of bread and an apple. I had finally restricted my eating like how I had seen my friends do for years. I was obsessed with never gaining the weight I had before and being FAT again. I remember last Christmas looking through one of my diary entries that read "I cannot believe I weigh 95 pounds. I am so fat. I need to lost at least 5 pounds. I am so disgusting."

In college I gained the "freshman 15", lost it, and gained a "married 15", losing that through much more educated means. I had three close friends who had various stages of serious eating disorders, one of whom I fear will never fully recover from Bulemia.

I don't think I ever had an eating disorder, but I do know that I struggled with body image for many years, not necessarily because I thought I was fat, but because of my surroundings: my friends and the society I grew up in, where "Thin is in."

This is real. And I know I am not the only one who has been through something like this. Looking back at those awful 7 years, I am fearful for my daughters' (assuming I have any) future. I hope they can learn from my struggle, teach them how to love themselves and care for (not punish) their bodies. I don't want them to grow up looking at pictures of themselves and the only memories coming to mind being "Man, I was so fat/skinny then..." Will this societal obsession with weight get any better? Worse? 

It is so hard to be a girl.

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