July 11, 2014

Dear Frannie Friday--Body Image After Baby

This installment of Dear Frannie Friday is kind of a personal one, to be honest.  But I feel it is so important--especially (but not exclusively) for women.  And even more so for mothers.  I know that the issue of positive body image has been all over the place for some time now, but it can't be preached enough.  This is because it is so much easier to think about, read about and talk about positive body image than to actually feel or practice positive body image.

A very brief background for my personal struggle with body image--I've struggled with it for as long as I can remember.  Sometimes verbally with little quips and jokes and more so silently.  My younger sister was always rail thin growing up.  I had a round face and was, well, not rail thin.  I wasn't heavy or anything, but compared to my sister I always felt . . . bigger.  The first time I remember really comparing myself to other girls was in elementary school when one of my best friends had toothpick legs.  I was always so jealous of her.  The comparison of my body to other girls never went away.

After I had Kaden at 18 I remember realizing, after the haze of new motherhood wore down a bit and I actually found myself clothes shopping, that I was a certain size in jeans and freaked out.  I immediately started an extremely unhealthy ritual of habits to try to get my size down.  I remember eating pizza one day and feeling so bombarded with guilt and failure that I punished myself by not eating anything for the entire next day to "make up for it".  I bought a Sports Illustrated swimsuit magazine, cut out pictures of women and taped them on all the things in my house that I wanted to avoid eating.  Through the years I found a few other methods.  When those ephedra pills were legal, I would eat a sandwich in the morning, take two of those pills and then not eat for the rest of the day.  This resulted in some concern with my friends at the time as I would get lightheaded and dizzy at parties or work. 

The crazy thing about it is--although I've always seemed to have ins and outs with my weight, I've always been super accepting of all body types.  I've always been an advocate for loving yourself and your body and your size.  I would never call someone fat or even think about a person in terms of their weight.  I think women are beautiful.  All women no matter what size they are.  If you look at my style board on Pinterest, you'll see women of all colors and shapes and statures.  I know the struggles of body acceptance and weight loss and pregnancy and I am able to convey empathy for those struggling with it.  So why don't I give myself this break?  Why am I so hard on myself?

I had a baby nine weeks ago.  A baby.  My fourth baby.  And I can't tell you the tears I've wept, the fits I've thrown in front of my closet, the defeated head hanging I've had leaving dressing rooms and the amount of times I've obsessively pulled out the scale in the bathroom.  I've scoured blogs and Pinterest and Google looking for comparisons of baby weight loss.  But recently something kind of incredible happened . . .

Last week I saw that one of my outfits was repinned on Pinterest . . . under someone's board titled "Extra Size".  And I had a total meltdown.  I cried and cried and was in a glum mood to say the least.  I was upstairs pouting and trying to find something in my closet to fit me when my daughter came in.  As I threw rejects this way and that and tears welled up yet again in my eyes, my daughter asked me what was wrong.  Typically, I would not say anything or find something totally new age parent to suffice like that I stubbed my toe or something but in my fit of emotion I blurted out that I was just trying to find something to cover my fat.  My daughter looked up at me, kind of confused, and puts her hand on my arm.  "You're not fat mommy," she says, "Your belly is going away."  And in that very small instant I realized something.  This child, this amazing, empathetic, beautiful, smart child, came from me.  From little ole me.  And so did three other little perfect children.  And why do I not give myself credit for that?  And equally as important--what am I teaching her by acting this way?

Here's the bottom line: I have enjoyed being healthier--the eating healthy, the water drinking, the healthy exercise--and I do plan on keeping that up.  I still want to be back to my pre-pregnancy size.  But I'm no longer going to let it totally control me.  I'm going to let it happen as it happens.  I'm not going to weigh myself obsessively.  I'm going to embrace the inability to wear certain clothes at the moment as expanding my creativity with the clothes I can fit in.  I'm going to celebrate being able to explore other areas of the thrift store and saving money by not buying a bunch of clothes.  I'm going to try to stop myself whenever I start to think negatively about my body by reminding myself how miraculous it is and how blessed it has made me.  The most amazing people and things in my life I owe to my body.  And I'm going to stop taking that for granted.  It will take some time and practice, but I'm going to try.  And I urge anyone else dealing with these issues to do the same.  And if you need any support, please feel free to contact me.

Polka Dot and Floral Dress-thrifted; White Blazer-Ann Taylor, thrifted; Red Heels-Worthington, thrifted; Earrings-Charming Charlie's; Sunnies-Target

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