Babies and Body Image

We are living in a time so focused on self-love and having a more positive body image. While there are still many that criticize for being “too fat” or “too skinny” and whatnot, many women and men are trying to promote loving ourselves, no matter what we look like. I love this! However, it’s something I personally struggled with for a long time. Even going all the way back to my high school days, I was pretty insecure with the way I looked. I was quick to pick myself apart and see the flaws. This went on years beyond high school.

After having my son, all I wanted was to lose that baby weight (a.k.a. cheesecake and Casey’s pizza weight). I thought if I lost weight, I’d get rid of the stretch marks and that one little varicose vein. I needed a super flat stomach and a thigh gap to be happy. Then I hit a weight loss plateau. For months I was so frustrated with myself, convinced I wasn’t giving up enough ice cream, that I needed to find more time to workout. Then I got pregnant with baby #2.

I worked so hard to reach the lowest weight I’d ever been in my adult life and suddenly it was slipping away. I’d never achieved the super flat stomach or the thigh gap, but I was in the best shape I’d ever been. I was seeing more muscle tone and was wearing smaller sizes. But that’s not how pregnancy works. When you have a human being inside you and gain at least 20-30 pounds, those size small clothes don’t last too long. I didn’t gain 20 pounds, or even 30 pounds. I gained over 50, just like my first pregnancy. You can just about imagine what this did to the view I had of myself. There were many times I cried throughout my pregnancy because of the weight I’d gained, but that I was just too tired to exercise or that I caved to yet another deluxe bacon cheeseburger. Instead of enjoying the experience, I planned all the ways I could lose weight once my daughter was born.

And I did lose weight. I breastfed this time around, which worked wonders in those first few weeks. I watched what I ate and was so gung-ho about working out. Unfortunately, that motivation didn’t last as long as I thought it would. It wasn’t long before I could see the numbers on the scale weren’t shrinking as fast as I thought they would. Right after my six-week postpartum check-up, I started getting bladder infections. I had four within four months. By the time I saw a urologist, I no longer had an infection, but the pain I had was so bad that my mom would travel and stay to help me take care of the kids while my husband was at work. It was just too tiring and painful to do it all by myself. This greatly hindered my exercising/weight loss efforts. If it hurt to walk more than a block, it definitely hurt to do jumping jacks, let alone an entire 30 minute workout. It took 5 months of medication and cutting out caffeine to get back to (mostly) normal. To say it was all a bit discouraging is an understatement.

Then something inside me changed. I’m not sure the exact moment, but suddenly I realized that my weight and how fit I looked didn’t matter. My health? Yes, that was important. I didn’t want to be at a weight that could cause further health issues. Exercise and eating better has helped with the bladder issues tremendously. But the extra fluff around my mid-section? Abs and a thigh gap? None of it matters anymore. This is where having a baby girl really changed me.

I realized that I am her example. How I speak to myself is how she will learn to speak to herself. If I pick myself apart and look for the flaws and only focus on all that I want to change, she will learn to do the same. I couldn’t do that anymore. My mindset shifted dramatically and I started taking a new approach to the example I wanted to set for her. I want my daughter to feel strong and beautiful. Always. I want her to value healthy habits, to learn to nourish her body with good food and some movement, but I also want her to learn the importance of resting and how a bowl of ice cream or the best pizza can nourish the soul.

I let go of my goal weight. This was huge for me. I’d had a goal weight since I was a freshman in high school. I let go of my worries that others were judging how I looked and critiquing me because, let’s be real, I was truly my worst critic. I started thinking less about weight loss and more about just being healthy. I didn’t like the lower abdominal and pelvic pain and fatigue that came along with the bladder issues I had. When I’m stressed or eat way too much sugary foods, I start to feel those symptoms again. That stands as a reminder to indulge occasionally, but eat healthy food most of the time, not because I need to be stick thin, but because my overall health depends on it. I workout to get stronger physically AND mentally. My kids have already seen this example set and will workout alongside me. They see it as time we can spend together, and that it’s fun to be “big” like mom and lift weights.

I hope my daughter (and my son), take these healthy examples I’m trying to set and hold onto them as they go through life. I hope they see how silly it is to stress out over the number on the scale or to deprive themselves of food. Life is unpredictable, eat the dang ice cream! Most of all, I hope my kids always see all the positives of their bodies. Instead of picking apart the flaws, I hope they focus on all the things their bodies can do, to not take for granted being able to move and eat healthy food. I’m so thankful God finally opened my eyes to see my worth is measured by more than my physical appearance. I’m so excited to teach my kids this lesson every day.

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