Today’s society is so image driven. We are hyperfocused on how we appear, how we are perceived, how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves. A time not so long ago I struggled with these same obsessions, the engrossment in unhealthy thinking and self-deprecation. My struggles with body image were skewed; when I was thin I thought I was too fat, when I was heavy I thought I was the heaviest woman on earth. After many years, I have come to love myself, my body, all my flaws and imperfections.
The love of self did not come easy.
Many a days I spent gazing into the mirror picking out each flaw and adjusting the flaw to perfection. Stretching my face, lifting my cheeks, pushing the tip of my nose. Lifting my arms above my head to make my boobs appear like they were their former perky self of my 20s. Then I dove farther down my body to address the damages there.Â The most obvious flaw of my stomach and midsection.Â Pulling the skin, down, to the sides, sucking in my stomach and holding my breath till I thought I would pass out. Looking into the mirror I despised how my stomach looked now after twins. Some days I would cry and feel sorry for myself. Struggling to accept that this flaw was a result of a beautiful event, a miraculous result of two gorgeous children. Pulling my skin tight, lifting, stretching, pulling and adjusting to make it look like it was that of a 25 year old again. I hated how it looked. I hated how I looked.
After a year of sadomasochistic behavior I changed my thinking. December of 2008 was the year I decided to stop being a victim. Over 200 pounds and the heaviest I had ever been while NOT pregnant. Miserable and medicating with food, I reset my brain and reset how I thought about food, my health, my family’s health and my future. Around this same time my family implemented organic foods into our diet as we began to realize the importance of a chemical free diet. At a size 18 and over 200 pounds I did not try to tackle the whole ball game at once, I started small and I started slow, which is NOT like me.
The first problem was food. I was medicating my frustrations, sadness, unhappiness with food. At the time I was weaning my twins from breast feeding, I had to rehabilitate my late night snacking that often accompanied a late night feeding; I would head to the pantry and eat. When I found myself waking in the middle of the night out of habit, I headed to the fridge and grabbed ice water. Boring, bland water and then back to bed. In addition to booting the late night snacks I invested in a food journal with a site called SparkPeople. I could journal everything I ate, even if I had a Dove chocolate snack or teaspoon of peanut butter. Everything was displayed in a tallied calculator for me, listing each calorie, each “cheat” and their journal was great at suggesting what I should eat, the calories, fat, carbohydrates, everything.
Food wasn’t the only culprit. I loved diet soda. Diet Pepsi, Coke, whatever diet, I loved soda. In January 2009 I said goodbye to soda permanently in my home. Talk about detox. Surviving a week of caffeine withdrawals and dietary changes really clears your mind. Dark corners and lurking demons no longer grabbed me and pulled me in to destructive tendencies. I conquered these two huge mountains. Two weeks in and I was down 15 pounds just from the garbage and unhealthy habits. These small victories and the large gain of losing that chunk of weight was motivation to keep going.
Next I evaluated my exercise routine. Saddened by the fact that I used to be able to run two miles at any time and only be slightly winded as a former smoker, I found walking two blocks left me in a pool of sweat and panting like a bulldog who ran a marathon. Fighting through my thoughts of saying ‘Eff this! Exercise is for skinny people!’ I loaded my MP3 player with my favorite 30second dance party music and I got moving. Each night, no matter the weather, I got my butt outside and walking. Two blocks, four blocks, half mile, one mile, each new achievement left me craving more and excited at how my body was changing, responding. I felt better.
One year into my journey and I was down a whopping 60 pounds, weighing in at about 170 pounds! Slowly I added in more exercise that I could do at home like running with my kids while they rode their bikes. Pulling their wagon while sprinting. I got creative. We got P90X too. The Chad saw what I was doing and was inspired, we made the investment in our health. I’ll be honest, P90X was intimidating and we let it sit in the box for a week. Heck, it stayed in the DVD boxes for a while after we did it for a month straight, we were dying and extremely unfit for an exercise plan that is made for semi-fit people. So we opted for walking together and less strenuous activities until we could reach a comfortable level without injury.
The weight held steady and I was okay where I was with my weight and size. Bordering on a size 8 and teetering into a 10 I was comfortable. Selfies and photos taken of me were a struggle, I hated photos, I hated seeing myself permanently ingrained into a memory item like a picture or photo. Dark passengers and demons would still hijack my thoughts and masochism would ensue. Depression did not creep in as much, lingering, quiet moments of sadness reflecting on the skinny broad of my youth. Yet I remained and felt confident, sexy, beautiful. Former feelings of I felt “fat,” “ugly,” and undesirable. I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror let alone naked and naked in a mirror. About this time I am two years into my lifestyle when I went back to work outside the house. Flooded with temptation, stress, peer pressure, all my old habits came back.
Daily Starbucks runs, fast food and being best friends with an Asian that had a metabolism of a nuclear reactor all ran their course. Slowly the weight came back. How easily the demons flooded in my life again. Instant gratification, and demands for quick fixes as fad diets, trends and miracle options had me floundering with my weight again. Exercise was slim to none and I still battled the emotional meal; “I deserve this!” as I stuffed my face with Starbucks low cal, low fat, no whip sugar free bullshit. Despite all the compliments and praise regarding my beauty all I saw was this fat monster. A beast. Not even a pretty or sexy one, just an ugly beast. What I deserved was a kick in the ass for my attitude and lack of gratitude. So I gave myself that kick in the ass after finding I was struggling again, I dusted off the P90X and got to work.
Researching meal plans, meal ideas for busy moms and kids, I dug my heels in again, dragging my family with me. Investing in a lunch pail (well it’s not really a pail) and getting back into the habit of tracking my food. I needed accountability. I needed to hold myself accountable for the crap. This struggle went on for 18 grueling months as I teetered back and forth with “diets” and other ideals. Until I saw how I could really be accountable, photos. My nemesis. The eternal demon that I had been avoiding.
My first Instagram selfie as I showed off my #mombod. I was a size 6 when this photo was taken in 2012. I love this photo. I love it because it shows that my boobs were not as perky but they are still beautiful. The photo showed off my midsection that carried three awesome kids, two of which were at the same time and in my 30’s so my body was not as resilient. I am confident. I am beautiful and I am beautiful with NO makeup on at all. Fearing what I looked like without makeup, rarely would I expose my bare skin for others to see, let alone a photo. That too was a fear factor and contentious subject because I felt my skin was horrible. Letting everything all hang out I embraced and loved this photo, a photo that has helped me to remain accountable.
Last year about this time I made a huge commitment to myself to push harder, fighter dirtier and be stronger. I dug in with my fitness and food lifestyle, until life hit. Falling into a deep funk I struggled emotionally and personally with being fired from my job, the inability to get my dream business off the ground and overall shit that life deals. My health lifestyle came second because I was too funked out to work the gumption to leave the couch for the treadmill.
Slowly I began incorporating the solid meal plan I once had. Slowly I began to feel better. Slowly the weight of life that felt like a strange hold was easing from around my psyche. Little trips here and there to the gym to keep active. Little steps so as not to try to let all the weight come toppling over on me again. Little slip ups happened and I did not let my house come toppling down either, I allowed myself errors, faults, to be human.
This year I was about accountability. No longer did I want to say “I am going to lose weight.” What I did and do say is “I want to be stronger! I want to be fit! I want to one day do a pull up, or two, or more!” This picture was taken on Fourth of July, as a size 6, borderline 4 with a weight of 160.Â Showing off my happiness, my fun with firearms, my fun with food and the ability to eat without feeling a drag of guilt, shame, or the struggle that what I was eating could make me fat or impact my results. I was loving of myself, giving that I enjoy chips and salsa, the occasional beer and or mixed drink.
So that is my goal, to be stronger. Stronger emotionally, mentally, physically; to show off my muscles, to do a pull up or two. The surprising thing when I made this my goal, when my goal was no longer about my weight and what size clothes I had to be, I found that I was losing weight but gaining muscle. Even though the scale did not really move, I was losing body fat and gaining years on my life. I was gaining a freedom over a struggle with a body image I have had since I was a teen. I was conquering a demon.
The recipe was one part growing up, one part conquering that I wanted more for myself, one part accepting who I was, who I am, and who I am to become. Most of all I overcame that I did not need others to accept my outward appearance as a form of validation. While I have always been attractive, no I am not being stuck up, I never saw myself as attractive but relied on the validation and acceptance of others and their opinions and words to determine my beauty, my appearance and at times my worth based on my appearance. When I said to hell with that, my struggles with body issues went by the wayside. My worth was more than just a size of clothing, a number on the scale. I embrace my flaws, my imperfections and my shortcomings each day, these are only temporary as is this body on Earth. I embrace that I refuse to get plastic surgery because I want to show off my hard work and show off how God graced this body for conception of three amazing people. I rock my bikini with a not so flat tummy but a confidence that I am beautiful just the way I am and no longer will I have struggles with body image for the sake of fitting in, being accepted, feeling worth.
5 Replies to “Struggles with Body Image”
Amen…sister! Very raw…and so fitting for us Mom’s! Where did it ever say that we had to remain looking like we are 20 when we are pushing 40 (well atleast I am…ha). I too have had to do some self checking on what this body has done…kids, a lifetime of sports, marathons, etc. Its time we all start focusing more on what we are able to do in the here and now…and not what we used to be (physical appearance wise). Truth be told…I wasn’t as healthy as I am now when I was skinnier. Enjoy life and the blessings that God has given us. Thanks for writing this and making my Monday brighter. I still owe you a phone call. I have had family in town for over a week…ahhh…finally getting back in to the swing of things! But I am super excited to learn about the oils!! Love ya!
You said something very very important to me. We look for our own flaws. When I look at others I don’t see the flaws. I have always sought mine out and then done everything I could eliminate them because maybe just maybe if I were flawless I would be more lovable.
That said when I was in 6th grade a boy constantly looked at me and told me how fat I was. Looking back I wasn’t fat I was going through puberty but I started to starve myself and then throw my food up. Even after I got my first boyfriend who later became my husband who loved me just the way I was and begged me to eat, that thought of what that boy said to me stuck.
Years later before we were graduating I told him how that comment affected me and he apologized and said I liked you. I wanted you to notice me. Hmmm that was really something to ponder but it didn’t stop that voice in my head that made me leave the house with my makeup perfect, wearing baggy clothes and NOT enjoying the small body I had worked so hard to achieve.
Fast forward 5 years I got pregnant and stopped caring about my weight because NOW I had a little person growing inside of me that must be fed. I gained no weight while I was pregnant but after I had my daughter I started gaining at an alarming rate. It was found I had thyroid and low vitamin levels which still plague me to this day at 45 and I sometimes wonder if this didn’t start with a snarky comment from a boy that liked me when I was in the 6th grade?
Joie, I had something similar. I was constantly ridiculed and made fun of saying I was fat, when I was actually a very muscular and thin young girl. But as you know and growing up in the 80s/90s it was the fad of being ultra skinny and the supermodel emerged and she was uber thin.
The other day when I said something in jest as a horrible habit of my old self when I said “If I eat that it’ll make me fat.” My oldest told me, “Mom you are skinny what do you mean?” and I realized how distorted my image had become and still had moments and THAT is why I needed to write this and share my struggles, I still struggle, but I so love who I am now. <3
Karie, believe it or not I’m much happier the size I am now (obese) then when I was super thin. Watching every single thing I put in my mouth. Exercising until I collapsed. Now while I have issues I’m happier and believe it or not my husband is happier and constantly tells me how much he loves curling up to me with more cushion.
I do watch though and try to set a good example for my kids. I’m upfront with my daughter and boys about how unhealthy I was and still am but that I’m happier now.
This article is so me. The older I get the harder it is for me. I am one of those people who love comfort food. Thank you for the great article