For most of my life, I’ve struggled with disordered eating. Prior to getting married, I saw a renowned therapist in my area. She helped me understand what healthy eating and a functional relationship with food looked like. But I had little hope of ever feeling “normal” about eating. A few months after our wedding, my husband and I conceived our first child. Through pregnancy and motherhood, I cured my eating disorder.
THE YO-YO YEARS
I was always ashamed of my addiction to sweets. I’d babysit for the neighbors and, once the kiddos went to bed, I would eat all I could from their snack cabinet, stuffing wrappers in my pockets. I knew where my mother hid the chocolate candy and would meticulously wrap each little piece of foil inside the last little piece of foil to hide the number of treats I’d taken from the cabinet. My father is a sugar addict and so am I. My father was ashamed of it and so was I. Hiding what I ate was the first symptom of my disordered eating that led to a diagnosable disorder.
Years later, in an unhappy relationship, I ate my way up 50 pounds. I was being abused by my partner and I felt love from sweets. I found the strength to get out of that relationship, but I found myself out on the street, and ate whatever was cheap.
When my mother finally pitied me enough to let me move back home, I started to diet. Healthfully, I counted calories and started exercising again and got down to a happy weight. Once I reached that goal, I stopped counting calories, splurged on everything I’d deprived myself of, and yo-yo’d for years.
In 2007, sick of losing and gaining, I became even more regimented with my food and exercise. I learned to love to run and counted my baby carrots for months, finally reaching a weight my then boyfriend (now husband) said was a little thin for my muscular build. I ran in the morning and did my yoga teacher training at night. I consumed about 1,000 calories per day, and I loved that I had to buy a smaller size than I’d worn in high school.
One night, before bed, I was inputting my calories into my online calorie counter and realized that I was spending about 20 hours a week planning, tracking, and meticulously eating my food. It was the equivalent of a part time job! I saw how ridiculous I must have seemed to everyone around me and impulsively did a search for the best therapist I could find. I was sick. And I finally knew it.
After months of intense therapy, I had gained a healthy five pounds and felt much more free from food. I was no longer tracking my calories on the computer (although I could tell you how many I’d had because my brain was trained) and I didn’t obsess over my former time-sucking calorie counting program anymore. I felt about as cured as I could be.
Read Related: To Fix Your Body, First You Must Fix Your Soul
EATING FOR TWO
Fast forward a year or so, and I was married and newly pregnant.
With my first pregnancy, I was scared to eat but knew that I would—and had to—gain weight during those 40 weeks. I had cravings that I hadn’t had—or hadn’t allowed myself to have—in years. I wanted burgers, milkshakes, and buffalo wings. For someone who was nearly vegan most days of the week prior to pregnancy, this was crazy! But, I listened to my body (and my growing baby) and went with it. I indulged. I didn’t go nuts eating like a mad person, but I ate, really ate, for the first time in years. I gained 65 pounds.
Everyone assured me that breastfeeding would take all the weight off and that I shouldn’t worry about it. I have news for all those people: Many women (especially women whose bodies have been through the hell of an eating disorder) cannot lose weight while breastfeeding. Honestly. My body just won’t let go of the weight. Once my eldest started solids and was nursing just a tiny bit less, I was able to lose about a pound a week until I (oops!) conceived my second child, while still 20 pounds overweight. Rinse. Repeat.
Now, with my youngest five months old, I accept that I’m 40 pounds overweight. I jog when I can muster up the energy after a night of nursing. I go to yoga when I can sweet talk the husband into hanging out with our two babies under the age of two! I walk a mile or two every single day. And, I’m avoiding dairy for the health of my child. I’m not counting calories or food groups. I’m eating anything I can manage to squeeze into my mouth that will give me the fuel to take care of my babies. I make healthy choices at the grocery store but never obsess about fat grams or fiber content.
I still crave sugar. Admittedly, when I went off dairy, I binged on Oreos (they’re dairy free) simply because I was feeling sorry for myself. The key here is that I didn’t restrict my eating to compensate for that. I didn’t choose to skip a meal because I had too many cookies or run an extra three miles to punish myself for my bad food choice.
I’m human. I eat. Sometimes poorly. And that’s okay. I became a mother and cured my eating disorder. I now have a realistic expectation of eating as a small part of my life, not a controlling variable. I understand that my body is made to do so much more than be a certain size or shape and, to be honest, I don’t have the time to worry about it being bigger or softer than I would like.
I gave birth to two healthy, normal-sized babies. I am currently breastfeeding both of them. I rock them, bathe them, and kiss their foreheads when they fall. I manage to snuggle with my husband and maintain a career once the babes are sleeping at night. I’m a mother, and I’m so much more than the shape of my body.