A lot of my life involves pictures. Pictures I take of Ivy. Family selfies of me, Ryan, Ivy and Owen Otter. Pictures to publicize races and events. And pictures others take of me. A few weeks ago, we had our #OwenOtter fundraiser at the Hooker Brewery. The event was a huge success and we raised over $2,500 for the Adirondack Medical Center. Unfortunately there were a lot of pictures taken at the event — pictures of me that reminded me just how fat I currently am:
While I “know” that I had a baby and that I’m working to lose weight, I also “know” that Ivy was born seven months ago, that lots of women don’t have any issue losing baby and pre-baby weight and that I’m a failure and a loser to be struggling so long and so hard. The narrative that goes through my head is that if I just ate less and exercised more, I could lose weight. As I’ve told Ryan over and over and over and over again — Fat Otters don’t need food. Normally I do a pretty good job of recognizing that I do eat well, that I don’t consume sweets, junk food, soda, added sugar or a variety of other “offensive foods” (I hate the concept of good foods versus bad foods but so much about food is ingrained into my head), I do train and that my body, unfortunately, is not willing to give up its current excess fat. Other times I get triggered. The pictures from our fundraiser did just that.
Eating disorders are pernicious. They lie in wait. Like addictions, you are never truly cured; you are only in remission. Seeing those pictures brought every insecurity, every negative thought, every bad habit rushing back. While you would never guess it from my size, I’m really fantastic at not eating. Coffee for breakfast. More coffee at work. Maybe some broth at mid day. Decaf coffee in the afternoon and then early to bed. The control of not eating can be a source of pride and accomplishment — at least its one thing I can control. I’m also really fantastic at ripping myself apart. Identifying and magnifying every fault — my fat thighs, the chaffing from running with shorts, the belly that sags like a useless joey pouch, the bingo wings that were once my arms, the seventeen chins hanging down on my neck, the limp hair, the weak nails, the aching joints as a result of my obesity. You name it and I can relate it back to being fat. It also doesn’t help that as a woman, my weight is a very public thing. I don’t think I go a day without some comment about my weight or appearance either good or bad — “oh you look like the baby weight is just falling off” / “why don’t you want to have a cannoli, one won’t hurt you” / “do you have something you could wear that, well, fits better?”
The worst part of all this is that I know its bad for Ivy. Having a mother with an obsession about her weight is a recipe for a daughter with body image and disordered eating issues. My mother dieted during my entire young life — Weight Watchers, Carob Cookies for breakfast, frozen meals, more Weight Watchers and on and on and on. I remember going on my first diet at 10 or 11 years old. I found a book that explained that the proper weight for a female is 100 lbs for the first 5 feet and then an additional 5 lbs per inch. Some quick math led me to the conclusion that I was outside those parameters and I needed to do something about it (a coach encouraging me to lose weight didn’t help either). As young as junior high school I was counting calories (less than 1,200 per day). In high school rather than experimenting with drugs, I experimented with over the counter diet pills. In college it was Atkins (bologna and heavy whipped cream). In law school it was Weight Watchers. In my adult life its been one RD after another. It never ends. I always end up feeling like a failure — it doesn’t matter if I’m 155 lbs or 205 lbs., I’m never good enough and I’m never small enough (or fast enough). I don’t want this for Ivy but I also don’t know how to end the cycle.
As I try to navigate being a mother to a tiny person who loves me very much, I don’t know how to teach her to love her body. I don’t want my size and my weight struggles to be an embarrassment to her (I know children can be cruel and I truly fear that Ivy will be ridiculed because of me). I don’t want her to copy my behaviors. I don’t want Ivy’s self worth to be connected to a number on the scale. I want my happy baby to become a happy toddler, child, teenager and adult. I hope that by recognizing my own issues, I can help Ivy avoid following the same path. If I can’t always help myself, at least I can hopefully (hopefully) help her. Because all otters, even fat otters, need food.