Let’s get real and talk about body image. It’s a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve struggled with body image for most of my life. For most of the years, my body image was poor-poor to the point of making me sick. I now consider myself somewhat of a body-positive, body image, self-esteem activist; but for a long time, I needed to distance myself from those… “titles,” if you will. Now that I have healed myself in many ways and continue to heal in other ways, I feel even more connected to the body-positive activist world.
That being said, I’m a new mom with a body that is rather different that it was a year or 18 months ago. I gained some weight prior to becoming pregnant, as I was attempting to balance my hormones in a healthier way through the addition of higher fat ratios (perhaps we can address this in another post sometime). Then, I became pregnant! Obviously, I didn’t gain weight right away, but I was very bloated in the beginning stages of pregnancy. Later, I learned that that may have been partly due to the fact that I was pregnant with twins. And throughout any pregnancy, a woman’s body image changes in some way (positively, negatively, neutrally, or all three). By the end of my pregnancy, I was as bloated as a water balloon and felt like a waddling duck. Though, I have to say that it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Lets face it, I was growing 2 human beings, what did it matter what size my body was?!
The first few weeks after birth were difficult. The fluid retention was insane. But once the water weight finally diminished, I felt human again. Then, unlike what we’re taught to think about post-pregnancy, my weight went up instead of down. Initially, I lost some weight. Then I re-gained a little weight. And since then, over the past 8 months, my weight has been stable within a 5 pound range. Regardless of whether or not I work out, eat more, or eat less, my weight hovers around the same place. “What?!” you say. “Aren’t you supposed to drop the baby weight?” “Aren’t you supposed to get your body back?” And perhaps you’re thinking that, especially as a dietitian, isn’t it my job to bounce right back into my skinny jeans, my way-too-tiny tops, my small bikinis? My answer to you is this…
Nope. It’s not my job or any woman’s job to lose weight. We don’t need to bounce back or get our bodies back. I believe I have a body, and it’s the one I’m in right now. I nourish my body, I move it as much as I have time for right at this point in my life, and I enjoy my time with loved ones and my beautiful baby boys. That is the key to life. Having babies is not about finding the perfect workout routine to get your abs back or lose the arm flab or the muffin top or any other part of your body. Rolls, cellulite, jiggle, wiggle, and whatever else is perfectly healthy, normal, and oh so beautiful, regardless of what you’ve been taught or read on the Internet or your social media feed.
There’s something called Set-Point Theory, which I whole heartedly agree with. Basically, it’s a homeostatic feedback control system that fights to keep your weight within a predetermined range. Meaning that even if you fight against it, your body wants to be a certain weight. It’s also important to know that your body’s set-point range may not be what someone else considers to be healthy, perhaps even your doctor, and especially the latest issue of whatever weight-loss, fad-diet magazine or TV segment.
I think most of us want better body image, but it’s hard to actually achieve. It’s a process, and a long one at that. What can we do to work towards improving our body image and respecting ourselves?
- Really work on stopping the fat talk, body bashing, and body checking. When one friend or co-worker says a negative statement about themselves, don’t chime in with your own negative statement about your body. In addition to what you say, work on what you think. When your mind goes to that place of hateful, hurtful thinking, do your very best to think of something positive regarding yourself. This can be incredibly difficult to think of in the moment, so it’s best to have a 3-5 positive attributes planned ahead of time that you can think of and remember in those moments. And as far as body checking goes, refrain from measuring yourself in any way or comparing yourself to anyone else, including your past self.
- No more fueling the fire. Clean out your Instagram, Facebook, and any other social media accounts you have. Un-follow and un-friend the accounts/people that create more negativity and fuel that self-hatred fire. We need more love, positivity, and self-acceptance! Women who build each other up go much further in life.
- Find things to appreciate about your body. Do you play sports or have physical activities that allow you to enjoy life? Be thankful that your body is strong enough to allow those joyful experiences. Perhaps you are a mommy, like me, and you can appreciate how your body was able to grow life and build your family. Do you have a dog that you walk? Be thankful for the energy your body has to spend time with your beloved pooch.
- Be real. Know that imperfections are real! Even those who we think are “perfect” are not. And whether someone else is perfect or not really doesn’t matter, to be honest. You will see other women that you envy. You will see another woman on the beach with a body you think you want. But she is not you and you are not her. You can’t change your body composition and shape, no matter how hard you try. To live this life to the fullest, you have to live in the body you have, jiggles, rolls and all.
- Read and follow news that matters. Immerse yourself in healthy messages, such as HAES, mindful eating and intuitive eating, love your body, a beautiful body project, the honest body project, and the body image movement. And that’s just to name a very few.
The moral of the story is, our body image is ever-changing and evolving. Strive to move to a more positive place with your body. Start working with it rather than against it. It’s been a long and winding road for me, and one that I continue to travel. But I am thankful for this body. This body that brought life into this world, this body that allows me to follow my dreams and passions, this body that lets me dance with my babies, this body that has forgiven me for all that I have put it through over the years.
Love and be loved, first and foremost, by yourself ❤