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This is for you. The one who has found me here. I see you.

I grew up among beautiful women who didn’t know they were beautiful. They walked and talked with an underlying anxiety…a collection of thoughts that amounted to unworthiness. The conversations floating in and out of my young ears centered around diets, size and food. Food, I learned early on, was an enemy to whom it was inevitable to weaken. It was an enemy that drew you in and made you fat. Fat was bad. Very bad. The worst.

It confused and saddened me. I liked food. I liked love too though, and it seemed that eating too much food made you fat which meant you didn’t get as much love. What was a girl to do?

I decided I must be weak. I could starve myself, but only for so long. So deep in a corner of my conscious mind, I devised a plan: I would eat, eat, eat and then get rid of it. I would hide out. I would lie. I would pretend.

This got out of hand in a heartbeat because, for a time, it worked. I lost weight. I lost pieces of myself too, but more importantly (at the time), I lost weight. Being thinner meant being more visible, more desirable, more accepted. My teenage mind liked it, but I still struggled with my desire for food that had now shifted into something more sinister.

Food became a weapon. I used it to hurt me.

As I lost bits of me pretending to be someone I wasn’t, it became harder to love myself. I lived from the neck up, breathing shallow breaths, trying to please others and saying only what I thought other people wanted to hear. I was hollow; I was thinner, and I was miserable.

In truth, I was hungry. I had denied myself nourishment, but this was simply a symbol of the real denial: I was starving for love.

For today though, let’s focus on joy. Let’s do that for our girls because joy (of love) is just a thought, a shift, away.

We take this all so seriously and by doing so we make it real. As if someone could mar your magnificence by calling you fat. As if someone could deteriorate the love that you are. As if you could ever be anything but beautiful.

My daughter is tender. She’s a sponge of wonder, of hope and of insecurity. She wants to be happy and loved. She wants the same for those around her, but she doesn’t always know what to say or do. When she messes up, she tends to stay in the pain of that. If I’m not there to help her swing her focus, she’ll beat herself up; she’ll tell herself she’s bad.

“But sweetheart,” I”ll say. “Did you forget what you did for your cousin yesterday? Or how you made your brother laugh when he was sick?”

And sometimes she’ll dwell upon the ‘bad’ things that others do as a way to shift that hurt in her heart.

“Baby girl,” I’ll say. “Everything that a person does is either out of love or out of a call for love. We need each other. You don’t have to tolerate unkind behaviour, simply try to remember we’re all in this together and set your boundaries from there.”

So when I think of the women around me when I was young, I focus on love. They were reaching as I have reached. They were longing as I have longed. We all want to remember the love we came from. When I forget, please remind me and I promise to do the same.

I’ve been you. This is for you. I remember what it was like: that manic panic to fill and to empty. The frantic thoughts, the obsession, the judgment, the pain. To think of only food and body: How to starve, how to thin, how to be better. It was my call for love- fifteen years long.

And for our girls, I will never forget. But for our girls, I will always come back to the love.

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