As much as I’ve worked to love myself and relearn to love myself over the years, I haven’t always loved my body. That’s been something I’ve struggled with quite a bit, more than I’d like to admit. Having babies changes your body. Aging changes your body. Eating habits, exercise, so many things change your body and you won’t always like it. There are things you can change to get your body to wherever you want it, but it’s not always easy. And some things are completely out of your control and you have to find a way to live with them.
I have always been a fairly small person. I have a small frame. I struggled with my body image after I had my daughter. I gained 79 pounds during her pregnancy. My body did not bounce back like it did after having my son and it took a lot to get used to. Gaining weight wasn’t the worst thing because I was underweight to begin with, but the changes to my body were a shock. Stretch marks. Loose hanging stomach. 70 pounds heavier than I was before. I hated it. The reality was, I had just had a baby. I grew a human being within myself. Of course my body wasn’t the same and it may never be. That’s okay. I really began to struggle with wanting to get back in shape, but I was also cautious because I was breastfeeding and so worried about eating enough or eating all the right foods. It was a very bad time in my life where I thought my body was everything. It wasn’t.
The picture on the left was taken by my sister on a whim while playing at the park nearly 9 years ago. That body was the body I was still working on. My stomach still overflowed from my pants when I sat down. My legs still touched when I stood. That was the body I saw so differently than what I see now in the picture. The picture on the right was taken by my mom 3 years ago while hiking. I wanted to recreate this photo because it was my favorite, so I asked her if she saw us holding hands walking together to take a picture. That was the body I was still working on. My stomach still overflowed from my pants when I sat down. My legs to me looked bigger to me than what they were. That was the body I saw so differently than what I see now.
During the time in my life of the picture on the left, I wanted nothing more than to lose the weight I thought I needed to lose. I wanted to tone my body. I wanted to feel good in a bikini. I wanted to wear shorts and look good. What I failed to realize was, I was healthy. My body to me looked so different than what it actually was. I was seeing myself as bigger than I was. I focused on what I thought were my flaws. I didn’t love myself enough to realize the damage I was doing not only physically, but mentally as well. I was destroying myself because I convinced myself I wasn’t good enough.
During the time in my life of the picture on the right, I still wanted to lose weight. I had been in the mindset that something was wrong with my body for so long and focusing on the flaws that I didn’t see what I was doing to myself. People were always telling me I needed to eat or that I looked so skinny. I took it personally. I hated people for making those comments. How dare they mention my body like that. What I failed to realize was that they just had my best interest at heart. They were worried about me and my health. They had no bad intentions in what they were trying to say or do, I just took it the wrong way.
When I look at those pictures, it makes me sick. I was so skinny, so unhealthy in the right picture, and I didn’t even see it until now. I have recently gained 10 pounds and I celebrated the crap out of that. Looking back at these pictures, I realize I am on my way back to a healthier weight. To being a healthier person. To being a better role model for my daughter. How am I suppose to look in the face of my daughter and tell her how to love herself and her body when I myself have struggled to do that for years? Maybe that’s why we do it. Because we don’t want our kids to feel like we did? The battle to love body for everything it is capable of and all its flaws has been so hard, but I am in a better place now than I have been in years.
That’s the thing about body image. You see yourself in such a different way than everyone else sees you. You see every flaw you think you have and dwell on them. Others see everything they think is perfect about you. But if you look on the outside, through a picture for example, you might just see something different. You might just see the strong legs that carry you everywhere. The stomach that protects your organs. The stretch marks that show the growth of your body through life or pregnancy or both. The scars that show you have lived. There’s so much to love about your body, you just have to get passed the flaws you think you see.
Loving my body hasn’t always been easy. I get to control how it looks through the foods I eat and the exercise I do. I get to appreciate it for all the it’s capable of. I get to decide I love my body and that no one else has to. It will always be something I have to work on. It won’t happen overnight, but I’m happy I had the wake up call I did and realized the damage I was doing to myself. I was unhealthy and underweight. Although I do have some progress to make, I am well on my way to a healthier weight and loving my body for all that it is, flaws and all. Your body is always going to be changing, you have to learn to love it for everything it is.