In the summer of 2002 I lost a lot of weight. I did it by not eating well (or really…at all), and went from a size six to a double zero in only three months. I got compliments, I got a boyfriend, but mostly, I got lucky – I didn’t do any lasting damage to my body, and with some help I was able to pull out of my unhealthy spiral.

The “Love your body” movement started to pick up steam not long after Madeline died. I hated my body – it had failed my baby. At the same time I heard a phrase over and over in therapy: “You have to love yourself.” I smushed these two ideas together and did everything I could to convince myself I believed them.  I ate anything that sounded good and gained too much weight for my frame. But, it didn’t matter! Because I loved myself!

Strangely, my body didn’t care how in love with myself I claimed to be. It reacted badly to the weight gain. My skin broke out, my blood pressure went up, I had regular migraines and my whole body ached. Still, I probably wouldn’t have changed a thing if I hadn’t miscarried. When I wrote my current weight on my pre-op paperwork before my D&C, I realized that loving myself wasn’t enough: I had to take care of myself, too.

That realization crystallized as I struggled through my pregnancy with James. On the days where I threw up literally everything that I put in my mouth, I would silently swear to take better care of myself – as if hyperemesis gravidarum was some sort of cosmic punishment for neglecting my own well being. But it may as well have been, because it completely changed the way I looked at my health, and the way I looked at food.

I want my children to be healthy, and it’s my job to teach them how to be healthy. I can’t just talk the talk, I have to walk the walk. I have to show them that loving yourself means making good choices with food, and they have to see me make those choices every day. They need to see me being active so it isn’t weird when they exercise through play. They need to learn how to indulge in healthy ways – a spoonful of nutella is okay, an entire jar in one sitting…not so much.

I used to think that happiness was connected to appearance – that if I was a double zero I’d be happy. It isn’t, not for me. Now I’m happy when I have normal blood pressure. I am thrilled when my A1C test results show I don’t have Type 2 Diabetes. I am elated when my body doesn’t hurt and I don’t have headaches. I’m happy because all of these things are the result of taking care of myself.

I wish I’d let myself learn that lesson a long time ago.