I’ve always had body issues. I have been a giant since I can remember and was very overweight as a child. I was enrolled in dance classes from a very young age and it was always very clear to me that I did not have a dancer’s body. When I was six years old a girl in my tap class told me I should “learn to be skinny.” My mom told me it was just because I was tall, but I knew that wasn’t true.
I have a very vivid memory from the summer before 4th grade. I was imagining what I would wear to my first day of school (a jean skirt with a hooded long-sleeved t-shirt that I was so excited to get) and I realized I was imagining myself as a much smaller person than I was. This was the first time I can remember hating my body and wanting to do something about it.
I was a chronic over eater and then struggled with anorexia and bulimia for over 10 years. I have never liked my body. I’ve hated my inability to find clothes that fit properly no matter what size I am and the fact that even if I get my weight down to a point where I am emaciated, it would still be a much higher number then most people ever need to see on the scale. I hate when people “are surprised” by what size I wear, I don’t see it as a compliment. It feels like a reminder that I will never be an average body type.
When I was pregnant I was careful to make sure I didn’t balloon up but I did not exercise. I knew that I should be active but I was just too exhausted to do much. I walked for miles a day with my dog but that was the extent of it. When I first got pregnant I told myself that I couldn’t go over 200lbs, this meant I could gain up to 23lbs. Very reasonable. The day I hit 200lbs I was heartbroken and told myself I was going to stop weighing myself (I have weighed myself every morning since I was 13). I did not stop weighing myself. I was 208lbs the morning before Cater was born. I was was 188 the morning after.
188 is not a number I’m comfortable with and I would have thought that I would be itching to lose weight but the truth is the right after birth is the most comfortable I can ever remember feeling with my body. I was so overwhelmed with pride in the accomplishments of my body that I saw nothing but beauty. While I had originally been incredibly nervous about being naked during the birth and then exposed during skin to skin time and breast feeding after, I was overly content. I wanted to brag about how awesome my body was and all the things it was capable of. I stood in front of a full length mirror amazed by the strength and flexibility my body had demonstrated. I didn’t care how many calories I consumed and I wasn’t nervous about my inability to move around much. My body was perfect.
These feelings faded slowly and I didn’t lose the baby weight. I wasn’t eating well, I had little time, desire or energy to exercise and I even gained a bit of weight postpartum. I had wanted to be back to my old size by three-months postpartum. I don’t know where this decision had come from but when Carter turned three-months and I wasn’t even back at the 188 number I became a bit miserable. I started feeling insecure all over again. My pride drifted into embarrassment that I had no self-control and no motivation. I decided I would try to cut myself a break and it would all be okay as long as I was back to normal by the time I went back to work at 7.5 months so I could wear my old work clothes.
September 3rd came too quickly and I had made no progress. I returned to work with no work clothes and a lot of shame. I’ve been back at work for almost two months now and I just hit the weight I was on the day I found out I was pregnant. I’m thrilled, don’t get me wrong, but my clothes still don’t fit. My body is not the same. I felt myself becoming so angry and then in a moment of clarity, I remembered what my body did. I remembered that I grew the greatest little thing inside of me and then I managed to push him out. How had I let myself forget my pride in my body? Why had I let that drift away?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few days and it all came together this morning when I read Jenn’s post.
A woman’s body should not be measured by it’s size, it should not be assessed by way clothes fit. The human body is an incredible thing with unbelievable capacity. This is not to say that women who can’t/chose not to have babies (or men) should value their body based on this but rather we all need to acknowledge what is truly amazing about ourselves and the way our body adapts.
I want to walk away from this saying that I can be fully comfortable in my body but I know it is still a work in progress. I’m happy to have gone through such a life changing event that put things into perspective; I just want to make sure I don’t let myself forget again.