This morning, as I was weighing myself half-naked like I do every single morning of my life, my five-year-old daughter crept around the corner of the bathroom door and stood watching me as I stared down at the rather large number.
“Mommy, what are you doing?” she whispered.
I froze, not because I was startled by her presence, but because I was startled by her question. I mean, I knew eventually one of them would see the scale, would see my morning ritual and ask questions, but I was stunned because, despite months of dreading this very question, I was completely unprepared as to how to answer it.
Mommy’s weighing herself honey because her self-esteem is wholly dependent on a number. Mommy’s weighing herself because if she doesn’t, she will grow really, really fat again and Daddy will go away. Mommy’s weighing herself because Mommy is an addict and if she doesn’t check in with her “sponsor” every morning, she will become overtaken by her disease once again.
All of these thing sound ridiculous in my brain, yet I believe them as truth deep down in the middle of me. This self-sabotaging dialogue is a train track running down the center of me, charging through and blowing to bits any healthy infrastructure I have erected. Yet…My daughters are untainted. They are like cotton: malleable, soft. My problems with body image are a deep dark canyon, and right now, they are on the precipice of self-loathing. My answer can either push them over, or save them from this agony.
“Mommy is weighing herself because I want to make sure I stay healthy and strong.”
She wrinkles her nose for a second as if she is sniffing out the validity of my statement, and within minutes her attention turns to the dogs and she is gone, chasing them up the stairs and into the ripples of her sister’s laughter.
I don’t know if I said the right words. I don’t know the truth myself. I don’t know if anything I say can make a difference. When I think about it, my parents never said anything about weight. They set a good example and exercised and took care of themselves. So, I guess the question then becomes, how did I get here? And how do I keep my own daughters from this place?