Breaking the Bad Body Image Cycle
I grew up with a very negative body image. It was deeply ingrained in me after years of my mother commenting on my weight.
I was a small baby, my mother’s first and a bit of a guinea pig for both my parents. My dad used to feed me extra formula, because he didn’t think the recommended amount looked like enough and, in years to follow, my mom would feed me dinner twice a night. Needless to say I was a chubby toddler and became an even chubbier child.
Remember that Friends Thanksgiving episode where Monica’s mother has no room in the fridge for the pumpkin pies so she asks Monica to finish them? That was my life. At the same time, though, I was blamed for my weight problem; my mom would constantly comment on my body, telling me that I was fat and should try to shed some pounds. Both the children at school and the ones in my building teased me and called me “fatty.” Needless to say my self-esteem was non-existent. As a result, I became more and more introverted, and found it difficult to fit in.
My mom, although incredibly bold and confident, also had crippling body issues despite being extremely thin when she got married. She put on a lot of weight with my pregnancy and has jokingly blamed me for her weight gain ever since. I spent my life watching her try different diets and when she tried Slim Fast and couldn’t bear the meal replacement bars, she asked me if I wanted to try them. So, for the first time, at age 14, I willingly went on a diet, lost weight and went down to a comfortable size 12. My mom was so pleased she took me to an expensive boutique and rewarded me with some new clothes. Compliments at school came flooding in, but inside I still thought of myself as “fat.” The damage was done.
At the same time, when I dieted, my mom would push food my way telling me I wasn’t eating enough and that “one more bit wouldn’t hurt.” This yo-yo attitude went on my whole life. When I was overweight she would tell me I should diet, but when I’d start to diet she’d try to boycott it.
Needless to say, I have a very bad relationship with food. I binge in secret and then feel guilty. Food is my emotional support for everything: If I’m stressed I eat, if I’m bored I eat, if I’m sad I eat. You get the point.
It wasn’t until I met my husband that I learned to love my body and make the most of my curves. This was because he truly, honestly loved me the way I am. So the yo-yo dieting stopped (mostly) and I started wearing clothes that flattered the body I had, not the one I wanted. I made peace with the fact that I would never be able to wear a crop top or look good in dungarees, but I also discovered the wonders of the wrap-dress.
When my daughter was born, I couldn’t care less how much I weighed. I was a mom! I vowed to my husband that my daughter will NOT grow up with the same body issues I have. Not once, has she ever heard that she is anything other than beautiful and smart.
I love that my daughter enjoys her food as much as we do, and because of it she has also taken an interest in cooking and baking. I’m looking forward to passing onto her my cooking skills—not my body image issues.
Flora Lamanna-Gibbons, a born and bred Italian, snuck into England 12 years ago. The mother-of-two is working on a degree in English literature, while also reading anything within reach.