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Body Image Makeover

April 20, 2012

From the Heart – Share your Story

Over the past six years, many of you have so generously offered your valuable wisdom on our site that we are now asking you to go one step further by contributing a short story From the Heart. This new column offers an opportunity to share with other members of the Mamasource community what is in your heart, and on your mind.

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In this touching story by Mamapedia community member Brook Easton, she recounts her lifelong journey to discover that a woman’s self worth is not measured by the number on a scale.

I stare into the mirror to examine my reflection. Turning left, then right, I slowly extend each arm, watching my skin mold itself over my biceps, back and shoulders. This muscular body is new to me. It’s strong and fierce – ready to tackle any obstacle thrown in its path.

I’m grateful for this new body because I haven’t always been kind to it. For almost 40 years, I’ve abused it and berated it for not living up to my standards. We’ve traveled rough roads together in my relentless need for perfection. Here is my story, and it just may be your story, too.

The voices in my head started telling me I was fat before I even knew what was happening. Some would attribute it to watching too many episodes of Charlie’s Angels or Dynasty, but it was really me doing it to myself.

By sixth grade, I was dieting and exercising excessively. Each day after school, I’d pull on sweatpants and grapevine my way through a workout video, and then reward myself with carrot sticks. I lost myself in a world of imaginary flaws, believing something that wasn’t true. My body was a horror to be hidden, fat and ugly. No one would want me. I was in a relentless tug-of-war, my body the rope.

This went on for years until I hit bottom. A horrific relationship brought me to a desolate place of nothingness, and I finally saw the results of my abuse: 90 pounds, ribcage poking through translucent skin, hair falling out in clumps. People seeing me would think I had a serious illness. I did — poor body image. This was one illness, however, only I could cure.

Not until that relationship was fully purged from my system did I begin to care for my body again. I ate. I slept. I began a healthy exercise program. As my body healed, so did my heart. I found love and love found me.

I was joyful when I found out I was pregnant. Devouring chili cheese fries and French toast combos, my weight started to increase dramatically. I added sixty pounds to my small frame; justifying my poor diet to the fact I was growing a human being. Halfway through my pregnancy, I would hear, “Wow! You’re huge!” and, “Are you having twins?” Ouch.

After the pregnancy, I wasn’t prepared for my postpartum body. Life was slower, and I felt trapped in a body that wasn’t mine. Years passed before my found myself again. I decided to compete in my first triathlon. Training for triathlons gave my body purpose. I wasn’t exercising for the sake of losing weight or attaining six pack abs, I was doing it to be strong, fierce and invincible. With each lap in the pool, spin of the bike, and footfall on pavement, my confidence grew.

Then another pregnancy, only this time it was different. I knew what to expect, and my mind and body worked in tandem, each knowing what the other needed. There was no rushing, anxiety, just healing.

When my mind and body finally found the perfect synergy, it was time to silence the voices forever. I joined a ten-week kickboxing and resistance band program. With each punch and kick, I let go of the weight in my heart, the need to be perfect. As the weeks passed, I grew stronger and healthier. The voices that told me I was fat and unworthy quieted, and then finally disappeared. I had shed the weight not just from my body, but also from my soul.

After almost 40 years of abusing and berating it for not living up to my standards, I can finally celebrate my body. It is time to know that being healthy is more important than any number on a scale. Time to eliminate the s-word (skinny) and f-word (fat) from my vocabulary, so my children will only know the words ‘strong’ and ‘fit.’ Time to love my body — at last.

Brook Easton resides in Iowa City, Iowa, with her ‘one true love’ and sons, ages four and one.

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