"No offense, Mom...." she began.
For weeks, she had been begging me to take her running with me. But, with a 4:30am wake up time during the weekdays in order to get a workout in before our morning commute, I simply could not invite her along in good conscience.
But, today was Sunday. And, the wake up call was 6:30am.
The night before, she laid out her running clothes -- a pair of athletic pants, a short sleeve shirt, and a warm sweatshirt. Her matching headband was dangling off the round knob of her dresser.
She grabbed her music player and put on her big, pink headphones. She listened to "Hamilton" on repeat. We walked and ran together, alone in our own world of musicals and podcasts.
We were about two laps into our workout when she peeled back one side of her headphones.
"No offense, Mom. I mean, really, I'm not trying to be offensive. But, how come you work out so much and are... still... you know... I guess you'd maybe call it .... chubby?"
I assured her I wasn't offended.
Twenty-five years ago, I would have broken down into tears. Twenty-five years ago, this was all I ever thought about.
Most of my life, starting at an age younger than my daughter, who, not offensively, asked me the question, I have been obsessed with my body. I remember, at the age of 6, being on my first "diet." By 10, I had already convinced my mom to buy me Jane Fonda and Gilad aerobics tapes. By 11, I was running up the street to the local track where I would repeat lap after lap after lap. By 13, I was consciously restricting my eating. By 16, I had developed problematic behaviors that I had learned from a friend. By college, I made up for nights of drinking, french fries and pizza by smoking to suppress my appetite during the day. By graduate school, I had experimented with weight loss drugs that made my heart race out of my chest and made my hands twitch uncontrollably in class.
But, by my mid-twenties, I was pregnant with my first child.
I was terrified about getting pregnant while, all the while, doing whatever I could to figure out why my body was having so much trouble getting pregnant.
I worried about how my body would change. I worried about losing my tight abdomen, a result of running 3-5 miles a day. I worried that I would never be the same.
And, I wasn't.
My body held on to the weight after I delivered the baby.
But, my body wasn't the only thing that had changed.
Frankly, I stopped obsessing about my body. I, for the first, time, realized that my body was actually a miraculous thing -- something that didn't just burn calories and build muscle; my body could make something. My body could grow, nurture, and later feed an infant.
Thirteen years ago, I let go of "my body as thing" and turned to "my body as beautiful."
I have never been the same weight as I was pre-baby. And, that's been okay for me.
My daughter and I spent the next lap talking about body image. I told her that, for years, I didn't like my body. I didn't like how it looked. I didn't like how it felt. I didn't like how it fit. But, I realized that so many of those messages were fed to me from media, from magazines, and yes, even from family. I told her that relatives used to say, "Oh, Liza, you've gotten so fat!" instead of "Oh, Liza, how are you? Nice to see you!" I told her that people in my extended family were always talking about dieting, while they crunched on white rice and lechon and chicharon. I told her that my life was filled with mixed messages about who I was and what I was worth.
"Yes, I am chubby," I told her. "And, no, that's not offensive to me, anymore." I explained that there were other indicators, beyond the size of my body, that signaled I am healthy: my blood pressure is just right; I don't have any problems with blood sugar levels; my cholesterol is perfect. I get enough sleep. I eat healthy foods.
I shared that I had spent lots of years restricting what I ate, thinking that being thin would make me happy. But, instead, it only made me grumpy and even more obsessed with what I looked like. I told her that I used to wear baggy clothing and hide my body, even though I was trying to make it perfect. That's why, now, I wear beautiful dresses and bright colors -- I want to draw attention to my body size and shape and be proud of it instead of hide it. I wear bold stripes and patterns. Dresses that hit just above my knees. And, I'm not ashamed of my wiggly arms or my pouchy tummy.
And, I'm happy.
I shared that bodies come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. Some of it we can control; some of it we can't. Sometimes, we just need to know that lots of types exist (check out this amazing woman named Jessamyn Stanley).
It was almost our last lap. She asked me, "Mom, what do you think my body looks like? Do you think I'm thin? Do you think I'm athletic? " I simply responded, "What do you like that your body does?"
A smile crossed her face.
We have the same smile.
"I like that it's going to..... beat you to the next light post!"
And, she ran.
She turned back around, surprised that I was just two steps behind her. She began to raise her hands up in a sign of victory.
Instead, she reached out and grabbed my own.
Peace and love,