I Don't Love My Body, and That's Okay
It's hard to keep up with all the health and fitness movements that are constantly cycling in and out of popularity. Yo-yo diets, Thinspo sites, conflicting reports on which foods burn the most fat where on your body.
Diet groups, fitness clubs, television shows coupled with media sensationalized images and stories of extreme weight losses/gains: it's nearly impossible to navigate the path to health without stumbling across something that makes you feel as if you aren't doing it "right."
My favorite thing right now is the Body Image Movement. Loving your body, despite its flaws. Seeing your shape/weight not as something to be changed, but something to be proud of at every stage. The message is a wonderful one: You are worth loving.
And yes, we are. Every single one of us. But it's because we are a person, not because of our body, or our acceptance of it.
For those of us on a path to getting healthier, it can feel like no matter how hard we try, we're doing it wrong. Because if I'm still unsatisfied with those five sticky pounds, I'm not loving myself enough, and that's bad. If I'm struggling to accept and love the stretchmarks my kids gave me, I have to change the way I think. If you think your body isn't good enough, you're wrong. It's your thinking that's not good enough.
And having that burden placed on you by someone that isn't you? Is bullshit.
YES, there is a ton of ridiculous propaganda out there to make people feel like if they don't look a certain way, they're less than worthy.
YES, there is a lot to be said about self respect.
NO, you shouldn't base your self worth on how others perceive you.
But in all of these DOs and DONTs, the implied message that If you don't love yourself, you're doing it wrong, honestly just makes me feel worse.
When I was 35+ pounds overweight and trying to get pregnant with our 2nd child, the words "If you can't love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?" were devastating. I was head over heels in love with my husband and my life revolved around our daughter. Was my love for them not good enough, because I didn't love myself, too? Was I undeserving of their love because I just. couldn't. find a way to love my self as a whole? And that made me feel worse. How can you get on the train to loving yourself if everything said to motivate you makes you feel like you can't do anything right? I can't even love myself properly...
Properly. That word means different things to everyone.
When I was at my healthiest just before my last pregnancy, properly meant taking time to eat right, dressing in a way that made me feel good, exercising in a form that I felt confident doing. When I was in that dark place before our 2nd baby, taking care of myself properly was just making sure I ate something everyday. Sometimes, that something was cookie dough. I can look back now and see exactly what my problem was then. But back then? I didn't see a body worth caring for. I saw a young woman marked by pregnancy, unable to control her horrible eating habits, dealing with secondary infertility, and incapable of loving herself enough to get on the right track. Yes, I knew what I should do to get healthier, but untreated depression trumps know-how.
Now, as I'm sitting here three months postpartum, 20 of my 50 pregnancy pounds still sitting around my midsection and thighs, all I can think of is getting back into shape. Because, while I love what my body did on the inside, I DON'T LOVE the outside anymore. I loved my body and my self most when I was pregnant, each and every time. Because when we're pregnant, we get a pass. We can eat what we like, dress however is comfortable, and laze around without much judgement. (That is, until Kim Kardashian came along, apparently.)
Comparison is the thief of joy, as the saying goes. Comparing myself now, three months postpartum after my 4th baby, to when I was at my peak of health just a short year ago, isn't fair. But it's what we've been trained to do. Even when we are barely treading the murky waters that are new or renewed parenthood, we are held, not only in the shadow of our pre-pregnant selves, but in the shadows of all the pregnancy weight loss stories that came before us.