Our Keepsake Journal is Here! 🎉

We stopped for ice cream on the way home from your last day of kindergarten. As chocolate ice cream dripped from your cone and melted onto your hands and smeared across your face, you talked excitedly about how we would spend the summer weeks that stretched out in front of us. The sun had already started to lighten your hair and send rows of freckles marching across your cheeks. My newly minted kindergarten graduate, the little girl big enough to order her own ice cream, but young enough to still ask politely for sprinkles.

This morning, you said something to me that brought back memories from a time in my life I don’t think of often and rarely talk about to anyone but your daddy. Today, you told me that your thighs are chubby.

I don’t know what caused you to say something like that—no doubt you heard it on the playground, another little girl parroting her mother’s insecurities.

I know for a fact you have never heard me talk about myself that way, because as soon as the ultrasound tech told Daddy and I that the little creature squirming around on the screen in front of us was a little girl, I made a promise to you that you would never hear me talking badly about my body.

Now let me tell you why.

When I was 15, I had an illness called anorexia nervosa. If you were to read about this harsh-sounding name on nationaleatingdisorders.org, you would learn that anorexics have an “intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight” and suffer from a “disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.”

You’re a smart girl—you can read for yourself how anorexics “maintain an excessive, rigid exercise regimen” experience “dramatic weight loss” and, yes, “make frequent comments about feeling ‘fat’”.

But let me tell you what it’s really like to intentionally, deliberately starve yourself.

I was a freshman in high school when I decided to stop eating. It wasn’t a sudden, impulsive decision; my eating disorder was a long time coming, and, in some ways, a rather inevitable result of genetics mixed with my early love of cross-country and distance running.

I was always a very intense, goal-oriented people pleaser—the trademarks of an anorexic in the making. In middle school, I was skipping dessert and wearing one-piece bathing suits because I hated the way my stomach looked. The stress of high school—being in a new school where I didn’t make friends easily and running varsity cross-country as a freshman—brought my eating disorder to the surface.

Also, I didn’t know it at the time, but there was something different about the way my mind works. There was something electric, something wild, about how quickly my thoughts went racing around in my head, and I was desperate to find a way to tame the energy and anxiety that sent my brain spinning. And starvation did just that.

And so, I starved.

I restricted my diet until it consisted of only flavored water, ice chips, and gum, but soon even the pieces of gum had too many calories.

I starved until my pants became baggy and my cheekbones sharpened. I became a master of deception; I knew how to trick my parents and coaches into thinking I had eaten, and I learned how to hide food and lie. I starved until my weight became dangerously low and I was forced to stop running. I was starving when the bloodwork came back that showed that my body was starting to break down my muscles because it so desperately needed something to digest.

And then, when I couldn’t starve anymore, when I finally realized what my lies were doing to my family and understood how much danger I was in, I had to recover and learn how to care for myself again.

That, dear girl, is the thing about anorexia: you either recover or you die.

Eating disorders are the most lethal of all mental illnesses, and that’s why your comment about your thighs worries me so much.

My first reaction when I heard you say your thighs are chubby was disappointment. I try so hard to model self love and how to have a healthy relationship with food. I try to teach you the importance of exercise and cook you healthy meals, but I also make a point to let you see me enjoying a donut or a cookie. Yet, here you are, a 6-year-old who looks at her thighs and sees them as anything less than what they are: healthy, strong legs that help you do things like chase after your brother or ride the big girl bike you were given for your sixth birthday.

But, I understand. I understand that no matter what I do, no matter how many times I tell you you’re smart and beautiful, your genes might render you vulnerable to a dark voice inside your sweet mind that tells you you’re less than worthy. One day, that horrible voice might drown out all the behaviors I try to model for you and all the love that I give, and it might convince you that you aren’t the thoughtful, creative, compassionate daughter I know you are.

Let me tell you what will happen if you let that voice win. You will lose, and you will lose so much.

Months and years of your life that should be spent chasing your passions, enjoying friendships, and simply being happy will instead be spent counting calories and hiding food as your body wastes away to nothing. You will never have those years of your life back, and I promise you when you do eventually recover, the years you have lost to anorexia will be one of your greatest regrets.

I promise you that if you find yourself on the path of self-destruction that I will never give up on you. I will hold your hand through your darkest days until you are able to treat yourself with kindness again. Please, sweet girl, always try your best to see yourself as I do. That ugly voice that might be stirring inside your head is a liar and comes from a place of pain and loss.

Please remain strong, please forgive yourself for what you view as imperfections and flaws, and please know that you will always have my love.

You may also like:

Defeating My Eating Disorder Through Motherhood One Day At A Time

I Kept a Diary While I Starved Myself

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Emily Collins

Emily is the mother of three, including a new NICU graduate. She writes the blog With Love from the NICU

Dear Teachers, Thank You For Believing in Your Students

In: Kids, Living
Little girl wearing a backpack looks into a doorway

When I was in sixth grade my English teacher, Mr. McMain, left a note on one of my completed assignments. “You have a gift for writing.” I honestly don’t remember how it felt to read those words. Maybe I felt a rush of pride, or maybe I just shoved the paper into my folder and went back to passing notes or whispering with friends. It was a well-received compliment from a favorite teacher, but it meant little more at the time. Here I am, though—twenty-ish years later—and I can honestly say I think about that comment often. As fate would have...

Keep Reading

The Ravages of Schizophrenia: A Mother’s Perspective

In: Grief, Grown Children, Living, Loss, Motherhood
Hands holding dandelion fluff

Our bright, beautiful, beloved son was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his late 20s. Although the manifestation of his illness surfaced in his late teens, it took an excruciating 10 years to receive a formal, medical diagnosis. As a child, Mike was a delight. He was a popular kid who loved his family, his friends, wrestling, and basketball. He giggled sometimes and acted silly, which just made him more endearing. His life was filled with joy, happiness, and promise. After Mike’s 17th birthday, behavioral changes began to surface. He smoked marijuana. He drank alcohol to excess. His friends disappeared, one by...

Keep Reading

Sisters Know When to Step In and Step Up

In: Friendship, Living, Motherhood
Two young girls, older color photo

She didn’t have to do the dishes. She was there to give us a break while my husband and I went out for our monthly date night and my birthday dinner. The dishes weren’t a part of that deal, but she did them anyway. That’s the beauty of sisters. They know just when to step in and step up so you don’t completely lose your mind. They can see it on your face when life catches up to you and you’re close to breaking down. They know when you’re drowning, and without a thought, they dive in to save you....

Keep Reading

As a Mom with ADHD, I’ve Learned to Be Kinder to Myself

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother and toddler next to elaborate birthday cake, color photo

At 2 a.m., I put the finishing touches on the three-tiered birthday cake. It was perfect. My 2-year-old would certainly know how much I loved her when she saw this cake, I smiled. This, of course, was a lie. Although I had convinced myself it was for her benefit, my 2-year-old didn’t measure my love in cake tiers. Thirteen years in, I know the truth. I now understand why one cake took two weeks to plan, one week to prep, and all night to create. This is where ADHD thrived—the 2 a.m. slot where the discontent met the creatives, and...

Keep Reading

Friendship in Motherhood is Beautifully Unique

In: Friendship, Living, Motherhood
Three mothers sitting on lawn watching kids on trampoline, color photo

Friendships in motherhood hold a unique and treasured place, distinctly different from any we’ve experienced before. The ones we meet in the trenches of parenting, as we nurture our kids and rediscover ourselves after becoming mothers—these are the relationships forged amidst the chaos of early morning T-ball practices, the joy of trampoline birthday parties, and the occasional playground meltdown. Motherhood friendships have a distinct depth that sets them apart from the rest. Of course, the friends from our youth are treasures—steadfast companions through the awkwardness of adolescence, through every scraped knee and heartache. Then there are the friends of our...

Keep Reading

Dear Graduate, I Love You Forever

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Kindergarten grad

I never imagined these days of preparing for graduation, senior prom, senior photos, and you actually moving out would come. A few weeks into your life, friends gifted you a 6-month sleeper. I remember the cuddly white footie pajamas well. But I swore you’d never get big enough to wear it. How could this 8-pound human grow to fit into 6-month clothes? Impossible. And then somehow they did fit, and then they didn’t anymore. Just like that. Everyone says the days are long but the years are short. Everyone, that is, who has had a lot of years. When I...

Keep Reading

Always Choose Adventure

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Two children looking at aquarium exhibit, color photo

Here’s the thing about traveling with little kids. Is it hard? Sometimes. Sometimes it looks like a whole carry-on dedicated solely to snacks, activities, and emergency treats. Sometimes it looks like buying a drink for the passenger next to you as a way of saying sorry and thank you all at the same time for the airplane kid chaos they endured. Sometimes it looks like altering your picture-perfect itinerary that you meticulously planned on account of missed naps finally catching up. Sometimes it looks like washing a car seat off in a hotel shower because your toddler got carsick, then...

Keep Reading

These Family Recipes Feed My Soul

In: Living, Motherhood
Old, messy, recipe book, color photo

There’s a recipe in my cookbook so caked with flour and cinnamon that my mother’s handwriting struggles to be seen. It’s for sweet roll dough, a recipe both my maternal and paternal grandmothers used and passed down. There’s just a difference in how many eggs and flour you choose to use. From this dough, meals that memories are made of take the shape of pizza, cinnamon rolls, Runzas (for us Midwesterners), or simple dinner rolls. For our family, it’s a Sunday night tradition of homemade pizza and a movie and Monday morning cinnamon rolls to start the week. Not much...

Keep Reading

There’s No One Who Gets It Like a Mom Friend

In: Friendship, Motherhood
Mom friends in the park with strollers

I made my first mom friend at six weeks postpartum. I was pushing our son in his brand-new stroller not yet stained by sunscreen or covered in cracker crumbs. My husband spotted her first, gesturing to a woman who looked my age pushing a similarly unblemished stroller with the same bleary-eyed look. “Go talk to her,” he encouraged, sensing what I was too tired to realize at the time, which was how badly I needed a friend who understood what I was going through. We hit it off immediately and discovered we lived just seven doors away from each other....

Keep Reading

She’s the Friend I Hope You Have

In: Friendship, Living
Two women smiling, selfie

Good friends are hard to come by. Life is busy and friendships take a backseat. I’ve never had a large circle of friends, there have always just been a few I’ve kept close. But the ones who stick around, the ones who stay with me when the waves of life are high and when the waves of life are pummeling me, those are the ones to treasure. You don’t talk every day. You don’t see one another every week. But she’s your go-to no matter what because . . . She’s the walk through the grocery store or an early...

Keep Reading