My little man is quite a character. The first time I held him, I knew he was an old soul. He was a healthy eight-pound boy and stretched my belly to its limit. Now, at almost five years young, he speaks a sweet, funny, brutally truth. He is wise beyond his years. I envy this quality about children and love the no-brain/mouth filter!
My favorite time of the day is just before bedtime, when I tuck him in and cuddle with him until he falls asleep. These are the moments when he opens his heart and shares his thoughts and feelings about life.
There have been some funny conversations, like when he told me how much he loves his penis and wants to keep it safe. Serious talks about spiders, monsters, and the importance of keeping his closet door shut so they can sleep peacefully and not bother the little man. And there are the nights when we have to talk about divorce and why his dad and I don’t live in the same house.
The conversations are not always easy, but they are insightful. I love that at my son’s young age; we have a strong bond. So when he told me that he loved my fat belly and was sad that it was going away, I was caught off guard. The comment was innocent and genuine, out of the mouth of a babe. Leave it to my little man to give me the best body image perspective.
You see, I have struggled with my body image for as long as I can remember.
I have never really felt super comfortable in my skin. Now, some significant events have occurred along the way that contributed to my discomfort, but I am super self-conscious about my belly.
I am an athletic girl; this served me well growing up because I played sports, and my solid frame continues to serve me very well in my profession of firefighting.
I am healthy, strong, and fit. Most of the time, I put good fuel in my body, exercise, and live a healthy lifestyle. I do this because I want to grow old with grace, and I want to see my son grow up. However, the world tells me I need to be thin, tan, and perfect.
Then I see a picture of myself when I thought I was fat, and I think, “Damn, I looked amazing, I was not fat!” After my little man had told me he loved my belly, I wanted to know why I didn’t and what steps I could take to start loving my body.
But first I want to give you some perspective. I weigh about seven pounds more today than I did at six weeks pregnant.
And that is exactly the point.
I GREW A HUMAN.
I grew, carried, nurtured a beautiful boy, and delivered that sweet 8.5lb boy after a long 24 hours of labor. My entire world changed when I met him for the first time, not just my body.
When my son looks at my belly, he sees a safe and comfortable place to lay his head. He can use it as a shelter when he is shy and wants to bury his face. He loves to give me a “zerbert,” and his laugh fills my soul.
I may not see my belly the same way my little man does, but I have been working hard to accept my belly. I am learning to give myself grace and gratitude.
Here are four steps I have been taking to make peace with my body:
I figured out my “why.”
First was accepting that my love/hate relationship with my body has deep roots. I spent a lot of time reflecting and figuring out at what point I started to feel self-conscious. When I hit puberty, my body and hormones took off before my mind could process what was going on. So I became mad at her.
The first thing I did was apologize to my body for hating her for so many years and not appreciating her. Every morning I say affirmations, and I now include a positive body affirmation. The universe has given me this body for a reason, and I need to treat her well.
Eat Healthy (most of the time)
The second was admitting that I love food. Finding new restaurants are one of my favorite hobbies! The older I get (thank you 40), the slower my metabolism is, which means I need to be mindful of the food I use to fuel my body. Most of the time, I try to eat clean, which is no sugar or bread. However, I still eat pizza and mac and cheese. Just not every day. I have never been a dieter, I don’t count calories, and I HATE the scale.
Third, our bodies are made to move. A few years ago I was in a car accident. My lower caused me pain for over a year. Moving and exercising made me feel better. Staying active to play with my little man and be a role model for him is a priority for me. I take him to the gym with me whenever I can so he can run around and see his mom taking care of herself. Last month I competed in a CrossFit competition, and he was my biggest fan; how can I not love my body that keeps me active?
Fourth, the most challenging step is to make time for my body every day. I start with deep breaths when I wake up, say affirmations then I start my day. At the end of the day, I usually take a bath with Epsom salt and bubbles. I will read or just lay in the tub and unwind my brain. This only takes about 20 minutes, but the payoff is priceless. I sleep better, I am less sore, and I am happier.
But Diane, I don’t have time…
There are only 24 hours in a day. And we are usually at the bottom of our priority list. We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders to make sure we keep the kids happy, food on the table, and find meaning at work. We all juggle a lot of balls and feel like nothing gets done well.
And how much time do you spend worrying about what your body is not? I’m too fat, too tired; legs are too big, my boobs aren’t big enough? My hair isn’t long enough; my hair is too curly?
What would happen if you dropped some of the balls? What would happen if you took time out to get a pedicure? If you started to treat your body as a precious gift? What if you focused on what your body can do?
Give yourself a break and start small; tell your body you love her and see what happens. Look at your body through the eyes of your children.