Having a positive body image is a tough thing for most women. I admire the woman who feels supremely confident in her own skin at all times, but I have a feeling those women are few and far between.
As those of you who have been following me for a long time are aware, I have spent the last years few years trying to focus on my body and my health. After being a healthy kid and teenager, I went through a spurt in college of bulimia (though never to an extreme – at my thinnest, I was 5’8″, weighed 148#, and wore a size 8). Don’t get me wrong, I was binge eating and purging and definitely messed up for a good part of my junior year, but somehow I got a handle on it before I got too crazy, and I was able to spend the next few years in my 20s having have a fairly healthy relationship with my body. For me, that means weighing somewhere in the 150s and wearing a size 10/Medium.
Infertility sent me for a body image tailspin again, and suddenly my body was something broken that I resented.
Over the two years that we tried to conceive, I went from being the healthiest I’d been in years (I lost 20# and was weighing in at a fit, toned 151#), to struggling with bulimia and weight gain all over again. When things are tough, I turn to food and beer, without question. The sad (frustrating?) part is that you only need to be having one extra grab bag of chips and a couple extra beers a day to really start piling on the pounds. Throw fertility drugs in the mix, and I easily put on 17# in the final year of TTC for Stella before dropping 7# of that right before my BFP.
Pregnancy – while being something I pretty much loathed for the most part thanks to nausea and fatigue – was actually the best I’d felt about my body in years. I gained just 25# (exactly what my midwife had recommended based on my pre-pregnancy BMI) and was fit and healthy at delivery time. Pushing my daughter into this world was hands down the strongest I’ve ever felt in my life – and it was awesome to know that I had done everything in my power to ensure I’d be physically, mentally, and emotionally strong enough to do it. Also, by 6w postpartum I had lost all of those extra pounds. I was softer and rounder, for sure, but there was something immensely satisfying about seeing that BFP number back on the scale. I know it was equal parts hard work and genetics that allowed me to bounce back so quickly, and for that I’m grateful.
Then I started to let myself go again. I bottomed out at about 5# below my BFP weight at 4 months postpartum before shooting up 15# to my “holy shit that’s my line in the sand” weight just three months ago. There are definitely times I think I focus too much on the number on the scale, but even my husband agrees that I’m a different person at 171# than I am at 151# – probably in large part because I take out my frustrations with myself and my weight on my husband when I’m heavier. 😦
Beyond that, I don’t want my daughter to have this life long yo-yo struggle with her weight and body image. So far she eats healthy, balanced meals because that’s what I make for her. We don’t make her “clean her plate” (because I think that teaches kids to ignore their body’s signals that they’re full), and she is a perfectly healthy, happy toddler. I am dreading the day that she’s told she’s fat or starts critiquing her love handles. I want her to love her body and to know that she is strong and healthy.
Oddly enough, I started out this new pregnancy at the exact same BFP weight (161#), but I am infinitely more worried about weight gain this time around. I’m now working full time at a desk job where I rarely move, I’m taking care of a toddler on my nights & weekends, and I’m currently struggling with debilitating morning (all day) sickness that is causing me to spend my days and nights vomiting – this isn’t exactly conducive to getting in a quick run like I was finally getting into the habit of doing. I’m hoping that the nausea subsides before too much longer, and I am able to get back into a healthy mindset and way of living. Eating Cheetos and puking just isn’t cutting it, but it’s the best I can do right now.
Overall, I don’t think my body image issues have much to do with my ALI journey. Yes, I gained weight during “the dark times,” but I’ve also gained weight during this past year of my life, which was arguably one of the BEST years of my life. I have a feeling this will be a life long struggle for me – finding the healthy balance of food & exercise. I’m blessed to live on the Western Slope in Colorado (basically right in the middle of the Rocky Mountains) with easy access to hiking, rafting, skiing, etc — now I just need to take advantage of it, and show my daughter through example that an active life is a healthy life. We are also blessed to be surrounded by healthy, fit people here. Everyone I know loves activities like mountain biking and hiking and snowboarding – it’s fairly inspiring to realize that yes, we like to sit around and drink beer, but it’s usually after doing some sort of crazy fun, high calorie burning activity for the day first.
That’s not such a bad balance, right? 🙂
At my healthiest – the spring/summer of 2010!