After Aaron decided to go away on a church retreat this weekend, I decided that Lauren and I would attend a two-hour seminar Saturday afternoon at Epic Yoga entitled “Living in Grace.” It was led by Katherine, a guidance counselor at a local private school who also happens to teach yoga at the studio. The workshop was advertised on the studio site: “In this media crazed world, we are often told what parts of our body need fixing but seldom are we told what parts of our body deserve celebration.”
You may or may not be surprised that it is National Eating Disorder Awareness month (February certainly has become a partying, indulgent month with Groundhog day, Super Bowl, President’s Day, Black history, Valentine’s Day which also happens to fall on National Condom day…hmmm..go figure) I had grandiose plans that we would attend this workshop together, Lauren would learn to love the body she was given and we would have a nice shopping trip afterward, followed by a heartfelt talk over a healthy dinner.
It was a great workshop, and one of the things that I struggle with as a parent is modeling an acceptance of my own body to my teenage daughter. I feel there is a very thin line between making healthy eating and exercise a part of your life and not becoming obsessive about it. When Aaron and Lauren reach for something unhealthy to snack on or one of them wants to make a late night run to Sonic for ice cream, I ask them to check in with themselves on whether they’ve had enough fruits or vegetables for the day. Is this Mommy Dearest parenting? I am not sure, but what I do know is that my kids have both heart disease and cancer in their immediate family, and they have no choice but to be aware of how they treat their bodies. As I told Lauren tonight at dinner, there is no magic pill to swallow or a secret two-week plan; it comes down to eating mostly healthy, energizing foods, and everything else in moderation. I make exercise as much a part of my life as brushing my teeth or taking out the trash. It’s part of my routine. For many people who don’t exercise or eat mindfully, this may look as obsessive behavior on my part.
So, here’s what came up for me today during the workshop. I’ll admit that there is a part of me that still feels like that short, insecure,chubby little seventh grader who was sometimes mistaken for a boy. I admit that I remember every negative thing that was ever said about my appearance, including a comment from one boy who turned around at the water fountain in middle school one day, looked at me and declared to his friends that Sarah was an “ugly skank.” I’m glad he didn’t see the tears welling up in my eyes as I slipped into the bathroom to have a good cry. I think all of us, at some point in our lives, would have to admit that we have some deep insecurities, whether it’s over body image or something else. The insensitive comments that others make maybe are intended to strengthen us and to help us be mindful of our own words to others.
What I did tell Lauren is that eating healthy foods and keeping in shape keeps me feeling energetic and young and when I feel this way, I’m a better Mom and have the energy to give more to others in all aspects of my life. What I didn’t tell Lauren is that I check my weight a few times a week. If it’s creeping up, I adjust my eating, cut out wine, but I never starve myself. I also didn’t tell her that I sometimes jump up on the bathroom counter for a closer inspection to make sure I’m not getting a flabby behind! Do I like it when people compliment me on my appearance? Absolutely. But I think I carry myself with a positive aura which stems from me feeling good about myself. That’s what they are really seeing, not the fit Sarah, but the mentally healthy and happy Sarah who loves herself. I truly believe you can’t love someone else unless you love yourself first.
Was this the monumental day that I hoped it would be? Time will tell. While I had her attention, we even talked a little about how she’s doing dealing with the loss of her Dad. We both got a little teary, but these are private conversations between us, and I’ll keep it that way. All in all, this was a good day to be a Mom to Lauren, but tomorrow we may have to do some behind-the-wheel practice and today will all be for naught!