I want to take a minute and deviate from the normal stuff I write about. It’s still relevant, since it’s about being a mom, so don’t worry. 😉
Every year about this time I start thinking about summer. Since we live right off of one of the Great Lakes our whole summer revolves around water in some way. The kiddo’s love of swimming just feeds that. I decided I would start trying to get into shape earlier since I spend a considerable amount of time on the sailboat and racing and if I start late, it’s a rough season. I have to keep up with the physical demands of it. If you’ve been around you know I’m particularly fond of running. Well, with the spring we are having, it just hasn’t been warm enough. So instead I pulled out some old stuff like this 30 day challenge thing I have (I’m on day 12) and some cardio ballroom type stuff (day 3). My co-teacher is taking a different route, despite her middle age: crash diets and eating very little. It makes me cringe. What’s my point? I’m getting there. I promise.
I’m one of those people who tracks how I look. Am I toning up? How’s my strength? Is my asthma in control? Is this even making a difference? Is this worth the pain and effort of what I’m doing? I’m lazy in the winter and while I don’t fatten up per se, I lose a bit of definition.
So this morning as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror taking a picture to add to the others and thinking about how pleased I was with how I look right now, I started thinking about where this even came from. I certainly wasn’t like this in high school. It hit me that I’ve had body issues my whole adult life. Someone told me my freshman year at college that I was a hot commodity and that all the guys wanted to pursue me. I laughed. LAUGHED. Why would they? I’ve never thought I was anything special or particularly beautiful or anything. They laughed back. Then others told me the same.
And it began… To stay “skinny” I would survive off of iced tea and pierogies for weeks. I would eat so few calories I honestly wonder now how the hell I survived that. It was easier to not eat than to try and work out enough. No one did anything, no one even noticed.
My pregnancy with my son ended that much. Suddenly I had to eat. After I had him he was so hungry he sucked the weight right out of me. I was constantly burning the calories to feed him. Then he weaned. Then it began again but in a different way. Suddenly my imperfections weren’t about weight. It was about the stretched out tummy and seemingly permanent baby pooch (and when you are as petite as I am it is quite noticeable). I felt like a kangaroo. Despite what is a very teeny waist, that was enough to mess it all up for me mentally.
While still in college, and after having my son, I took a nutrition class. Part of the class was to track our diets for a period of time and take it to the resident dietician. She threw up red flags right away over where I was getting my calories from (mostly juices). I still didn’t eat much. I blamed it on being in college with a child to feed, I was making sure he had enough. (Poor excuse, I know…)
For 12 years it’s been a struggle. What I was told in college I have now heard throughout my adult life. I’ve lived this love/hate relationship with my body over what should be easy to be ok with. Sometimes I’m able to convince myself that it’s all ok because this body nurtured and gave me this amazing and healthy kiddo. You would think it would be enough. But when you spend most of your life having your worth tied to how you look it creates this complex in your mind.
In a world where people have put so much focus on how others look (especially women) it’s a small wonder I’m still struggling. Just look at the magazine covers. It’s awful being constantly bombarded with ways to get the “perfect, tight body.” Even in college one of the sororities had the “Sexy Six” and from what I was told, it was a fierce fight to get that honor. The other sisters would take a marker to you and mark everything you had to correct. You also had to fit a certain standard to even get in. Wow…. Some dating websites are even that way. The value is put in numbers as opposed to fitness. The value is in appearances as opposed to healthy.
What makes it even worse is that I get hit from two sides. I get hit from the “You’re too fat” side because of my post baby body. But I also get hit from the “You’re too skinny, eat a cheeseburger” side because I have a tiny 26 inch waist. Every time I go out someone glares at me. Even at the grocery store. Can you imagine what the beach feels like in my bikini? Some days I want to eat burgers and bon bons to get rid of the “skinny” attackers and other days I want to starve myself to get rid of the “fat” attackers. I have grown very weary of this two sided attack.
Can you see what this can do to someone? What a messed up, convoluted world we live in…
I now try to spend my time telling myself that I’m going to be healthy for me and my kiddo. I surround myself with people who put value where it belongs. Some days this is easier than others because the attackers can still get in. I just try to hold firm and remind myself of what matters: being here for Sparky. Staying healthy (including my diet) and moving and hopefully, that will encourage him as well. After all, who else really matters? I just have to keep my confidence up and remember to love myself. So if you are like me and struggling for similar reasons (with either attack) just remind yourself that you have healthy happy children, and it was your amazing body that did it for you. Half the battle with body image is confidence. Each mark on our body is part of our story, regardless of our gender and whether they are from pregnancy or not, and it’s up to us to embrace that.