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Skinny or die?...

Well, this is sure to get some feed-back.(no pun intended) Where to begin?...
I was 5 and a beautiful child, and I was praised for it. I was 8, 10 14, 17 and I was molded with my beauty as 'my special gift.' Was that all I was, my insecure self asked time and time again, only to be haunted by this curse for years and years to come? Let me be clear, I have never looked in the mirror and thought, "Hey you...God you’re just so damned beautiful!" Far from it! I had my good days and my insecure bad days, just like everyone else, I imagine. Was I blessed with some extra perks, sure. Full lips, good facial structure and thick long hair are very sought after attributes in beauty. But was I more than the sum of my looks and figure? I grew up thinking and believing through my constant contact and intake of information, that this was it, and I'd better run with it, cuz it was all I got! 

So I began modeling at 14 and made some decent bucks through high school. I also had my ultimate fear cemented during those years of focus from photographers, designers and my mother, of course! Brooke Sheilds and I would have been close mates with tales of our mother's dysfunctions; vicariously living through us. But I digress, I had photographers wanting sex, teaching me how to exude sex, use it for power and love, and at the end of the day, I went to the bathroom filled with all that(LOVE?) and used a tooth brush to make sure I never lost that power! After all, it was all I had, right? I covered up my pain with a very extroverted, gregarious personality and I fooled them all. But the joke was on me and at a high price.

I spent a rough senior year, fraught with loss and stress and got down to 98 pounds. I was so weak I couldn’t walk and didn’t leave my bedroom for a few months. I had to leave school and was tutored at home. My mother has no memory of this time. I wonder now, as a healthy mother of three, how a mother could miss her child looking like an Auschwitz victim, while not going into full panic mode as to how to save her. I didn’t lose weight because I wanted to be thinner; I lost weight from depression and anxiety. I lost it from a family that neglected me and left me vulnerable to being abused in my own home by an older boy that was living with us. I was not lovable, was the message. I am nothing, repeated in my head daily. I was broken and I was neglected by those who should have protected me. 

So I finally shattered from it all and couldn’t eat. Here’s the kicker, when I finally got the strength to leave my room for a few hours, all I heard from my friends and family, was how great I looked. “Hey skinny!” cheerfully welcomed me into my livingroom, the local stores and back to my high school. What a message, I had never been called skinny before. Add that to the repertoire of healthy self images and messages of love! I didn’t know better than to eat it up!It felt like love and I needed it.  

"Wow, I’m skinny and beautiful, I silently thought as I held the walls in my hallway for balance from feeling so faint…cool, I kind of half whispered to myself." I was eating one hardboiled egg and one packet of oatmeal a day. Not so cool but I was too sad to eat. I lost 42 pounds from May 24th to my graduation day, June 18th. I was bruises and bones from head to toe, and still no one saw.
The only person who had the accurate response was one of my sisters. I was at her house and I was cold, so I asked if I could borrow a sweater and a long sleeve shirt. I was rooting though her closet with only my jeans and a bra on when she came in; she shrieked and covered her mouth as tears filled her eyes, " oh my God, Tara". YES! I cheered with hope inside, Finally someone had seen I was not well. Sadly, nothing was done to fix me. 

I slowly got to a healthy?... 116 and found that life was good when you were one of the beautiful people. Wow…weight really did matter in this world of love em and leave em. I was riding a rocket fueled ego trip that shot me into many lovers arms and beds, only to be left with a consistent feeling of emptiness. The man I first fell in love with, said he could never marry me because I was too beautiful, That he would be too jealous and worried to have a wife that looked like me. I was broken hearted.

Where was the right man that would love me for who I was on the inside? Why could they not see past my face, my ass, my smile? Again the fear consumed me, so I decided to marry a man that wasn’t right for me, that wasn’t… “The one”, but he was the only man that did see me for who I was at the time and loved me for it. In fact, one night, being so upset with my withering health; he picked me up and carried me out of my house. Brought me to his home and fed me eggs and English muffins. He was caring for me like I was a baby bird with no mother, and I needed that. I suppose, I was that.Why wouldn’t I marry him? This was the first person who loved me and cared for my welfare more than anything is his world.

Three children later, 50 pounds gained and lossed with each pregnancy and I was finally fading into the back ground a bit, as far as the 'beauty train of power'. But youth was on my side and at 23, when my last was born, my body snapped back in only a few months. Five years later, I was divorced and pushed into the dating pool. I was almost thirty and single, the trademark tagged me,‘you’re about as sure to get struck by lightning than find a man at your age’ and it will only get worse, they cooed.

I spent the next ten years feeling a bit weight obsessed, even though I was tiny and curvy, a killer combination. One that kept car line mother’s at bay and close girl friends sparse, especially after my divorce. You do truly find out who your real friends are during and after your divorce.

I did have four long, deep and meaningful relationships with men that I loved and who truly loved me. I was engaged three times, but the control of looks versus substance seemed an uphill battle. Until life threw me a curve ball in my mid- thirties with a medicine called,Paxil. Paxil put 60 pounds on me that year. I could finally walk into a room and no one looked at me. I was off the radar and it was a mixture of relief and sadness. Now who the hell was I?...

I of course got off the meds, but that first weight gain began a battle that I am still fighting. Up, down, goes the scale yearly. Back to feeling good through brutal South Bitch diet restrictions of all that is white flower or sugar based cut out. To a full-on blaze of carbs to fill the void of three decades of unhealthy body image messages sent, not only from the people that know you and love, but from media and Hollywood.  Vogue,Us, People, etc shoving down our throats what is and is not beautiful. Ugh. So I spent my higher tipped scale time under cover and recoiled from my life as a yoga teacher and artist.  Finally finding myself, learning to love myself and disconnecting some of the wires from ghost’s past, that had unhinged me. 

Today, I am on the high end of the scale again from stress and the loss of my children; all having grown and taken flight into their happy lives. This year, I ate to survive it, I ate to comfort it and I ate to numb the pain. Today I need to learn to eat well to save myself and love my life, to soak up this new chapter of freedom, and the love of a man that is my best friend and biggest champion.

I don’t want Jennifer Aniston’s 14 year old, boy-body, nope, I’d prefer a more realistic and womanly, Selma Hyak or Scarlett Johannson type. I have no lofty ideas of what a 43 year old woman should aspire to be in order feel beautiful inside and out. I just know that I want to feel healthy, strong, and that I don’t care what the scale reads anymore, I will know where I want to be by how my body feels. By being strong enough to do yoga with my daughter, bike with my beau, and go for a run at the end of the day with my sons. I see who I am now…I just need to live it.

I am learning to embrace my stretch marks from birthing three amazing kids, welcoming my silver hair that is peeking through the brown and blonde. I am looking forward to small boobs again and to just feel comfortable in my own skin. I don’t need the power or control or the drug of attention; God that was exhausting! I just want to be at home, in me. I think after all of the years as a mother and as a growing spiritual person who has sought help, friendhip and love through healthy people; that showed me love, unconditional love, for just being me. I know now; I am more than the sum of my parts. “I am not my hair, I am not my eyes, I am not this skin, I am the soul that lives within.”

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Comment by Maryanne Mesple on May 3, 2012 at 7:40pm

Wow, very revealing of how society can poison our perceptions. Congratulations on your successes in life and may you continue to be empowered ... it is good to be in love with who and what we are

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