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The One You Feed

Originally written for The Huffington Post

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between 2 “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

- Cherokee Proverb

My friend and I took my 2-year-old twins to the pumpkin patch last month. We had a great time, mostly because I think we both experienced the day through young eyes. They shrieked, ran up and down the aisles, and patted the pumpkins. They held onto little “baby” pumpkins like they were treasures, and sat on top of the giant overgrown ones like they were on top of the world. They rode in a wagon full of pumpkins, threw pieces of hay into the dirt, narrated (loudly) every single thing they saw, and we purchased our carefully selected pumpkins.

They resisted when we left. “More Halloween,” they begged. Evidence of an afternoon well spent.

Back at home, I unloaded our newest pumpkin additions and gave the girls a bath. My friend sent me a picture she took of me and my girls, and my immediate uncensored reaction was this: my face looks fat. Is this what I really look like?

I looked at that photo several more times before I could finally see it clearly, for what it was. I looked at that photo several more times before I could silence that nagging, overbearing voice inside that is notorious for tricking me into creating false images, imagined experiences, and inaccurate information. I looked at that photo several more times before a new truth slowly emerged. And that truth was beauty. It was beauty in a way I wasn’t capable of seeing, just moments before.

In that photo, I began to see my good fortune. I opened my eyes to see the beauty: two beautiful, smart, funny toddlers standing by my side — their happiness seeping through the stillness of the snapshot. Me, with a pregnant belly and a healthy pregnancy, captured in a perfect moment of time. The giddy thought of my little family growing and expanding. The power of three (almost four) women standing together. The celebration of one of my favorite holidays, and the expectation and exhilaration of the quickly approaching holiday season. A quiet and fun afternoon spent with a dear friend, who stood behind that camera.

These are all beautiful things.

The size of my body (pregnant and all) kind of seemed irrelevant now.

And so I posted this picture — the photo that I initially wanted to erase — to my Instagram feed to be shared with everyone. I posted it to challenge myself, and to challenge my own definition of what it means to feel beautiful. I posted it in hopes that other people would see its beauty too, that my inner critic would be put in its proper place, and that this special time in our lives would be carefully documented and cemented in time. I posted it to remind myself that my work is not yet done.

Every day I come closer to being the most authentic version of myself. I come closer to putting more time and space between my eating disordered past and my self-loving future. I take deliberate measures to care for myself — to love and appreciate myself — so that my girls will learn to do the same.

Although that pesky voice sometimes rears its ugly head, I now have the capacity to silence it, challenge it, and defy it. I have the power to decide what’s worthy of my time, I have the power to decide what’s beautiful, and I have the power to shape and mold the young women that follow behind me.

There are so many things that make me feel beautiful now, and my children are a huge part of that.

Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, and I can finally see (and feed) mine.

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