I Love My Body
But I haven't always. Beginning in 4th or 5th grade I remember being conscious of the size and shape of my body and convinced of its "unrightness." Not a word; it is now; change approved.
Looking back of course, I can appreciate its beauty, my beauty, but back then, I just knew it didn't measure up (or down, as the case may be) to what I saw in magazines, on TV, or in movies. I knew I wasn't pretty like my sister. I knew, I knew, it wouldn't matter how smart or funny or all around rad I was, because I wasn't pretty enough, skinny enough, curvy enough, flawless enough. Thanks, society, for that.
Coupled with a struggle with depression, my insecurities turned really quickly into body image issues, and when I was in high school, I became bulimic. I learned all the tricks of the trade, I kid you not, from teen magazine articles that were supposed to be cautionary tales about eating disorders. Instead, they became a tutorial of how and when to binge and purge, and how to keep it a secret. Eventually, to my great shame, my mother found out and confronted me. I still remember the humiliating moment when she came to talk to me in my bedroom about it. I was able to stop the dangerous cycle, but never really developed a healthy eating pattern.
And though I was no longer abusing my body like that physically, I still beat myself up mentally and emotionally regarding my weight. Please note that I am 5'7" and weighed around 135 pounds in high school, wearing a size 6. It is unquestionably astounding that I thought I was anything other than perfectly healthy.
Then I went to college, where my depression spiraled to a whole new low, and I eventually started taking antidepressants. I slept a lot, ate a lot (Bosco sticks, Pop-Tarts, and butterscotch pudding were my jam), and rarely exercised. I put on about 60 or 65 pounds. You do the math. By the time I graduated I was definitely overweight, but more importantly, not very healthy.
It took getting engaged to spur me on to lose weight. I joined Weight Watchers and lost 50 pounds and several dress sizes before my wedding in 2006. But the name Weight Watchers is no lie. I followed the program exactly, but that meant totally obsessing about my food and the point values of that food. I counted my tortilla chips and was very regulated. I watched everything, not just my weight. I was consumed with what I consumed. (Remember how I told you I never really developed a healthy eating pattern.) BUT, I also started exercising more, and after we wed, my husband and I kept this habit and worked out together.
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.
Shortly after our two year anniversary, my husband and I welcomed our first baby girl. We brought home that 8 pound 1 ounce world-changer from the hospital, and I brought about 40 more pounds home with me too. When I was pregnant, it was like my body said, "Yup, I know how to be heavy." I gained a lot. But I lost it all too.
...To gain it all back about two years later when we welcomed another 8 pound 1 ounce world-changing baby girl home. When she was about 6 months old, I joined the local YMCA. The girls went to child care for 1 to 1 1/2 hours and I did the elliptical, lifted weights, and took group exercise classes.
And it was in one of those group exercise classes, smack dab in the middle of a downward facing dog in yoga, that I heard my younger cry out from across the gym, felt my milk begin to let down, and simultaneously had the thought, "My body is worth more than how it looks."
My body, you guys, is a freaking beast.
For more than thirty years, it has carried an intelligent brain, a compassionate heart, lungs that give air to freely expressed opinions, arms that hug and hold and comfort, and legs that walked down a blessed aisle to share my heart with my beloved. My body dances. (Sometimes twerks.) It gave birth, twice, with no drugs or epidural to two healthy baby girls. It MADE FOOD for my daughters, and completely sustained two human beings for months and months. My body lifts babies and children, and heavy weights. My body bends and flexes, and helps me express and live out my innermost beliefs and my faith. My body is awesome. (And so is yours. Your body is different than mine AND super, freakin', amazingly beautiful.)
That thought I had in down dog encouraged me and encourages me still. I continued down my path of fitness. Lost my baby weight again. And though I respected that sad-looking, stretched out bag of skin that was left, I opted to have it repaired and removed with an abdominoplasty. So now I have a giant scar from hip to hip, I have stretch marks, seems like everywhere, I have acne scars, I have cellulite, I have a interesting blotch of pale skin on my right calf that doesn't tan, I have that skin under my triceps that keeps waving even when I stop, and I am beautiful. My body is worth more than how it looks.
I am beautiful, but I am not perfect.
I still work out, pretty much daily. I have fitness goals that I am working toward. I have fitness goals that I have let slide. I have fitness goals that I have had to let go of. I work out for the health of my heart, physically and spiritually. And I still eat like shit. Another goal of mine is to love my body by nourishing it. I am trying.
I still have doubts and ugly thoughts sometimes. I have to redirect my thoughts and remind myself of my beauty. It is easier too, that I have two daughters, who both look a lot like me (and their daddy). I recognize their beauty easily. It shines out of them so radiantly, that I am willing to bet that you have enjoyed a ray or noticed a glimmer, even if you are half the world away. So, if I can't deny their beauty, I can't deny my own.
It also helps to have a husband who never lets me forget how beautiful I am. One who laughs off the idea that I try for a thigh gap (ugh, why is that a goal?) because he loves the softness of my thighs. One who is thankful for my strength that comes in handy when moving furniture and building a fence. One who tells me how much he admires my heart and the way I love God and love others. One who encourages my opinions and wants me to share them with the world. One who holds my hands and squeezes the pads of my fingers in a way that makes me feel like even the smallest bits of me are cherished by him. One who glances at me in the car when Sam Hunt is singing "Body Like a Backroad" and asks me if I hear that song.
But, I am not saying how much I love my body is dependent on how much my husband does. I am saying that it doesn't hurt. ;)
I learned/am learning to ignore the lies of the world telling me I am not enough, and instead listen to the voices of people I love, the voice in my own heart, and the voice of God telling me I am marvelously set apart.