By: Anna Folkes, Project HEAL North Carolina Chapter
One of my earliest memories is of my mom giving me a bath. I’m not sure how old I was, but it had to have been before the age of five. Mom pulled me out of the tub and began drying me off. I remember running my hand over my swollen toddler belly and silently reassuring myself that my baby fat would go away once I got older. I’m not sure how many toddlers know what baby fat is, or how I even came to know the term at such an early age. But somehow I did know what is was, and it bothered me that I had it. As I got older, my baby fat did go away, and throughout elementary school I struggled to find clothes that fit my stick straight body. Somehow, this bothered me just as much as my baby fat did.
During middle school, my friends began to go through puberty and develop curves. I remember looking at fashion magazines and Victoria’s Secret ads and thinking that once I got older I would have a body like theirs, and then I would be happy. However, puberty didn’t bring the happiness I thought it would. I seemed to be getting curves in all the wrong places. I had hips but no boobs, braces that my gums had an allergic reaction to and swelled up like a hot air balloon for two years, no fashion sense, and no idea what to do with makeup. I looked about as much like a Victoria’s Secret model as a rock does, and I hated myself for it. That hatred for my body continued even after the braces came off and I discovered how to use a straightener. It continued no matter how many times I threw up after weighing myself for the sixth time that day or how many pounds I lost. It continued until I went to treatment over a year ago, and there are still days when I can’t stand to look in a mirror.
When those days come, I think of Charlotte, the three-year-old girl I nanny twice a week. She’s about the same age I was when I first noticed my baby fat, and every time I give her a bath I pray she doesn’t have the same thoughts I did at her age. I plan on having children one day, and I don’t want them to have their every thought consumed with how much they weigh and what they look like. I want to teach them to see the beauty in everything, especially in themselves. There is beauty in everyone, but you won’t find it by spending hours in front of a mirror. You find it by discovering who you are as a person; you find it within.