When I was in 7th grade, I was afraid I was fat. I had always been a skinny kid but I ate a lot; my mother started making comments because I grew out of my jeans and needed a bigger size (never mind that I was finishing up growing, getting taller, with my hips were just getting rounder as I was becoming a woman). I was a size 10. And I wished I was a size 8 again.
When I was 14, I thought I might be fat. I was 5'8" tall; I was rounded and voluptuous, but I thought I had "thunder thighs." When I went to the beach I wrapped a towel around my waist and sucked in my gut. My mother put me on a diet that her friend was on where you ate 1 meal a day and swallowed vitamins and water the rest of the time, and after a couple of weeks of this she went bullistic on me when I kept falling off the wagon because she'd spent hundreds of dollars on supplements. But I couldn't help eating, and I thought it was a sign of weakness (never mind that she stocked the fridge with things like ice cream, soda and cake because "you can't have it now so I can finally keep it in the house"). I was a size 12 and I longed to go back to a size 10.
When I was 17, I thought I must be fat. I had a full face, and I would spend hours in front of the mirror, using all of my artistic sensibilities and make up tips, giving myself contours and highlights and lowlights to make my cheekbones appear higher, my jaw appear slimmer (never mind that I was of Eastern European descendence and just had a full face). My mother, who was not genetically related to me, was 5'2" tall and weight 100 pounds-- and almost killed herself as a teen trying to get down to it by drinking vinegar-- would say things like, "wow, you're really getting big." I was a size 14 and would have done anything to be a size 12.
When I was 23 I was a single mom, I was working 3/4 time, going to school taking 18 credits a semester and raising a child on my own on very, very little sleep. I was depressed and eating poorly, and I just knew I was fat because I was a size 18... and I hated myself, I was embarrassed of myself, and my mother and her family pointed out at every opportunity that it was "such a shame because you have such a pretty face." I would have given my left arm to be a size 14.
And I kept eating, and sleeping poorly, and had a lot of pretty bad problems, like nursing my dad through his cancer while his family held a big drama about me being a terrible daughter because I was 2 months from graduating and my dad would encourage me to go to school; and a cousin was threatening to kill me and sneaking around to steal from me and sabbotage things (like cutting the washing machine hose in the middle of the night and causing a flood, then telling me how he was going to shoot me as I mopped up the water in the basement) because I was trying to help my mother get the alcoholic bum out of her house; and because I was a single mom, exhausted, doing an internship, on the virge of graduating, trying to support a family, and had a guy who loved me that my mother hated and was trying to break us up. And the stress was setting off my genetic brain problems with making neurotransmitters so I was starting to get sick... and I was eating poorly and severely sleep deprived and depressed, and I ballooned to a size 24, and I hated myself. If I could only get back down to a size 18 again I would never complain again, I told myself.
And when I was 35, I'd had 2 more kids and was laid up for a year after being rear-ended, and went up to a size 28... 30... 32. Wouldn't it be great to go back to a size 24?
What did I learn? I learned you can't beat yourself up over things. You have to learn to love yourself and accept yourself as you are, instead of getting worse, pining away because you're not what you had been. I learned if you want to make positive changes, you have to love and accept yourself as you are, not as you wish you were-- keeping up that regret and resentment for the mistakes you've made just keeps you powerless against making changes in the future.
I also learned how deeply people we love, people in our family, whether they think they mean well or they're just too involved in being petty and small, can effect and affect our lives and it's course. How hard words and accusations and threats can hit, how deeply they can wound, how a callous attitude and saying the wrong thing can cut you like a knife, and how difficult it can be to overcome some types of pain and scars.
I also learned how much someone loving and accepting you can lift you up and teach you to love and accept yourself-- which is my husband, the boyfriend at 27; the one who loved me no matter what size I was, thought I was sexy and beautiful, and never thought I needed to change the outside because he always saw me for who I am and not what I weighed or what size I wore.