I’m kind of nervous to put this “out there,” because I’ve always kept my struggles with body image and weight very quiet. But I realize that I’m not the only woman with this inner battle, so I’ve decided to just own it.
I’ve never been one of those women who can eat anything she wants and not worry about her weight. I’ve never worn a bikini – not that I never could have, but because I was too self-conscious. I even hate shorts.
Ever since elementary school, I’ve always been the athletic, muscular girl. I could kick some serious butt in phy ed class, and that also meant that I wasn’t as thin as many other girls. It’s just my body type: strong, athletic, muscular. I think part of me always struggled with the fact that most of my friends could pull off the bikini and the size 0 jeans. It made me feel fat, even though that wasn’t the case during most of my life.
Fact: I love to cook and bake (to create!), especially when I’m stressed…which leads to eating more when I’m stressed…which, in turn, means gaining weight during stressful periods of my life.
In my second year of college, I had finally reached a point where I was feeling confident in my body image. Then I experienced domestic violence and it threw me into an emotional tailspin. I started putting on weight that was nearly impossible to work off. And why was it impossible? Well, a couple years ago I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS not only makes it difficult to get pregnant (surprise to the doctors, I had C!) but it also makes it “nearly impossible” (in my doctor’s own words) to lose weight. Oh joy.
When Hubster and I moved away for grad school, I finally felt comfortable with being somewhere that the person who harassed me would no longer know I lived. I joined Weight Watchers, worked out like a crazy person, and lost 10 pounds within a month. Then I found out I was pregnant with C. So much for weight loss.
Honestly, pregnancy provided me with a healthy body image (in regard to my burgeoning belly, anyway) for the first time in my life. After all, this bump was to be celebrated – I was growing life!
But then…postpartum. To the women who are able to escape pregnancy with flat stomachs, no c-section scars, and without stretch marks – I applaud your genetics. I also envy you to no end.
I’m left with many battle scars – from being stretched to the limit by my 8-pound baby and having a surgical scar from an emergency c-section. It’s been 10.5 months and I’m still desperately trying to view these as proud battle scars that resulted in a beautiful, perfect little boy. I’ve dieted since coming home from the hospital. I’ve worked out 4-7 days per week since my OBGYN gave me the clearance to exercise. I’ve trained for a 5k, done boot camps, P90X and more. Honestly, I’m probably in the best cardiac shape of my life. To date, I’ve lost 30 pounds.
I still have 35 to go. The spare tire around my waist that I’m left with is grating on my self-image. I know I should celebrate that I’m almost halfway to my goal, especially since PCOS makes weight loss so incredibly difficult for me. But I haven’t been able to be proud of my progress. PPD has ravaged my self-image even further. It makes me lie to myself with things like, “You’re not strong enough to ever reach your goals,” “You’ll never be good enough,” “You can never be everything that you want to be.” Even though I struggled with my body image for years, these thoughts had never crossed my mind. Rationally, I know it’s just my PPD talking; but it’s so difficult not to believe it.
I stumbled upon a website that seeks to empower women. It’s called The Shape of a Mother and includes pictures (not suitable for work!) of real, un-air brushed, un-touched up women. While I don’t feel empowered yet, I do feel like I’m not alone after perusing the c-section category.
Revelatory truth: Real women have flaws.
The most important thing for any woman with self-image issues is to realize that truth. Real women aren’t like women in media. Real women struggle. Real women have scars. Real women who have carried babies have loose skin. Real women are not perfect.
Now that’s something I can raise my glass of water to!