fathering mothering PARENTING

Is This Really My Body?

I can safely say I have never not been aware of the space my butt takes up in a room. That includes right now (both when I’m writing this and when you’re reading it).

There was a short pause to this way of thinking during the nine months of being pregnant. I am firmly in the camp of pregnant body=beautiful body. I absolutely loved having an excuse for why my tummy was swelling. I wore maternity pants long before I needed to because, HELLO, not wearing elastic waistbands when it is socially acceptable is truly a wasted opportunity.

But now it is almost eight months past the birth of my son, and I still have a fanny pack made of skin that I’m carrying around my middle. I look at myself in mirrors or store windows and I do not recognize what my body has become. Is that me?

I was reading an article about women and body image in which Kristen Bell is quoted as having said, “I’m not a woman whose self-worth comes from her dress size.” She was responding to questions about her post-baby body. I wish I could write here that upon reading this my first thought was, “Go Kristen! Way to represent a healthy body image!”

But my real first thought was, “Whatever. (Expletive).” And then I imagined the giddy lightness of squeezing into a pair of jeans one size smaller. In those pants I could step in dog poop on the way to work, put curdled milk in my tea, be told I wasn’t getting a pay raise, and I’m pretty sure I’d still end the night with my head on the pillow thinking, “I am SKINNY!”

But seriously, what am I going to do about the fact that my body is still twenty pounds above my pre-preggo weight, which was twenty pounds more than my wedding weight, which was twenty pounds more than the weight I wanted to be? If you’re not a math person, we’re up to sixty pounds.

Everyone says that breastfeeding melts the pounds off your body. I’d say my post-pregnancy weight loss (with breastfeeding) has been more along the lines of the slow trickle of frozen pipes.

I went to the doctor yesterday and told her that I was a little concerned because, since giving up sugar and white carbs in January, I have only lost about 10 pounds. I was really hoping she would tell me I have a rare disease that makes it very difficult for me to lose weight. But fear not! This disease is easily cured by these tasty pills.

Instead, my doctor informed me that first, this was an appropriate amount of weight to lose, and second, if I was wanting to lose weight more quickly I should start counting calories.

And it dawned on me that I am never going to count calories again. I refuse.

My body has grown a human in it. It can run for long distances. It can dance and breathe and move and sing. And I am over counting calories. I won’t do it. I can’t bring myself to that place of stress and shame again. Ever.

Which means I have to be patient with the slow and halting weight loss that has defined the last eight months (twenty years) of my life. Uggggggghhhhhhhh. I believe in the cumulative effect of healthy lifestyle change. But wow does it take a long time. And wow am I not patient. (Pills. Pills. Why aren’t there pills?)

Right after our baby was born I would jokingly add “I’m a bad mother” to the end of any comment. My husband put the kibosh on that. He believes that words have power, and even joking words can be internalized and then believed. There is now no “I’m a bad mother” talk in our house.

Recently I was looking in the mirror and I found myself saying over and over again, “You are beautiful, you are beautiful, you are beautiful.” When my husband came home, I asked him over and over again, “Aren’t I beautiful? Aren’t I beautiful? Aren’t I beautiful?” (He’s a smart and good man and said yes.)

It’s not that I believe it. At least not all the time. Especially when I am contemplating the square footage of my butt. Or my mommy tummy. But I want to believe it. And thank God for the times when I do believe it.

If I had a magic wand I would drop sixty pounds. Today. But in the absence of the magic wand, I’m stuck on this long road toward self acceptance, a road of a life time. A road filled with detours with flashy promising signs that all lead me back to the road, sometimes worse for wear. And I know that inhabiting and loving my fourth trimester body is what the road is filled with for the next few hundred miles. So I keep putting one foot in front of the other.

When I get discouraged, when I find myself avoiding eye contact with the mirror, it helps to look in the adoring face of my beautiful baby boy. He is worth this.

And I am worth this, too. Even with feet sore from walking. And a big butt.

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261755_10150290602379874_2436766_n Rachel

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32 Comments

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    April 3, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Hey, Rachel
    Reading your blog always makes me smile, shake my head, and feel ever so slightly at peace. I’ve been struggling with similar issues for the last several months, well, less pregnancy and more weight loss stuff. I walk about 5 miles a day (between working in a warehouse, and running to classes), eat very little sugar/junk food/empty calories, and I still haven’t been able to drop the weight that I should/want to.

    It’s better to do it right though, trust me. Even though the magic pill would be nice, the self hatred, shame, and disgust that comes with calorie counting isn’t worth any results that one could achieve. I’m glad that you reminded me of this, because it’s so very tempting sometimes.

    Keep trying, you’ll get where you want to be eventually.

    • Reply
      Rachel
      April 3, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment! I know (in my best moments) that I’m doing this the right way. But not without struggle. 🙂

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    April 3, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Hey, Rachel
    Reading your blog always makes me smile, shake my head, and feel ever so slightly at peace. I’ve been struggling with similar issues for the last several months, well, less pregnancy and more weight loss stuff. I walk about 5 miles a day (between working in a warehouse, and running to classes), eat very little sugar/junk food/empty calories, and I still haven’t been able to drop the weight that I should/want to.

    It’s better to do it right though, trust me. Even though the magic pill would be nice, the self hatred, shame, and disgust that comes with calorie counting isn’t worth any results that one could achieve. I’m glad that you reminded me of this, because it’s so very tempting sometimes.

    Keep trying, you’ll get where you want to be eventually.

    • Reply
      Rachel
      April 3, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment! I know (in my best moments) that I’m doing this the right way. But not without struggle. 🙂

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    April 3, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Try eating more raw foods. It will make you feel and look healthier. My uncle recommended eating raw until 2pm.

    • Reply
      Rachel
      April 3, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Oh, I eat plenty of raw foods!

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    April 3, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Try eating more raw foods. It will make you feel and look healthier. My uncle recommended eating raw until 2pm.

    • Reply
      Rachel
      April 3, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Oh, I eat plenty of raw foods!

  • Reply
    Karen
    April 3, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    My dear co-blogger: First and foremost: You are beautiful – your husband is absolutely right.

    I, too, have searched high and low for those tasty pills. For 30 years longer than you have. I’m thinking they are next to the Fountain of Youth. I’m with you on the counting calories. And this new personal trainer I know says ditch the scale. Makes no sense to me even though there are days I’m so obsessed and worried that I weigh myself 3 times a day.

    I think our society’s screwed up definition of beauty gets stuck in my mind. Big heads and underweight bodies. There are times I am so afraid of food that I don’t relish the thought of a meal even when I’m hungry. I yearn for a pill so I don’t ever have to think about putting food in my mouth. And then I remember to think clearly, to take care of this temporary form in which my soul resides I must eat food dense with nutrients – love my body as I love my child.

    You’ve heard my lament about working out daily and wondering why the weight hasn’t just dropped off my body (after 4 weeks, in my mind, I should have dropped 40 pounds). My butt still needs its own zip code. I know some of this is our belief that we can perfect anything: right food, right exercise, right surgery = perfect bodies, quickly. Misplaced energy. I know I am better off at my age working that big booty of mine through exercise and feeding my mind and body nutrient dense foods.

    Loving our human form (by definition imperfect), and our messy humanness is the best idea for seeing our beauty – without that love, we never see the beautiful amazing creatures God created: souls with bodies that support life within it and nurture the life around us. Each with different strengths. Nurturing and loving that body – I think a 10 lb. weight loss is something to celebrate – seems to me the way to go. I think looking into and seeing the world through your beautiful child’s eyes, and loving your body with good food and great exercise (you have run a half-marathon, my friend), is the best way to go in the long run. Life is a never-ending marathon. It’s the not the pace, but the steadiness of the pace that pays off in the end.

  • Reply
    Karen
    April 3, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    My dear co-blogger: First and foremost: You are beautiful – your husband is absolutely right.

    I, too, have searched high and low for those tasty pills. For 30 years longer than you have. I’m thinking they are next to the Fountain of Youth. I’m with you on the counting calories. And this new personal trainer I know says ditch the scale. Makes no sense to me even though there are days I’m so obsessed and worried that I weigh myself 3 times a day.

    I think our society’s screwed up definition of beauty gets stuck in my mind. Big heads and underweight bodies. There are times I am so afraid of food that I don’t relish the thought of a meal even when I’m hungry. I yearn for a pill so I don’t ever have to think about putting food in my mouth. And then I remember to think clearly, to take care of this temporary form in which my soul resides I must eat food dense with nutrients – love my body as I love my child.

    You’ve heard my lament about working out daily and wondering why the weight hasn’t just dropped off my body (after 4 weeks, in my mind, I should have dropped 40 pounds). My butt still needs its own zip code. I know some of this is our belief that we can perfect anything: right food, right exercise, right surgery = perfect bodies, quickly. Misplaced energy. I know I am better off at my age working that big booty of mine through exercise and feeding my mind and body nutrient dense foods.

    Loving our human form (by definition imperfect), and our messy humanness is the best idea for seeing our beauty – without that love, we never see the beautiful amazing creatures God created: souls with bodies that support life within it and nurture the life around us. Each with different strengths. Nurturing and loving that body – I think a 10 lb. weight loss is something to celebrate – seems to me the way to go. I think looking into and seeing the world through your beautiful child’s eyes, and loving your body with good food and great exercise (you have run a half-marathon, my friend), is the best way to go in the long run. Life is a never-ending marathon. It’s the not the pace, but the steadiness of the pace that pays off in the end.

  • Reply
    Amber
    April 3, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    You are beautiful! You’ve got these amazing sparkling eyes and a crazy infectious laugh. (I know a laugh isn’t technically part of one’s appearance, but character and spirit are such an overlooked part of beauty, so I thought I’d mention it.)

    Anyway, feeling squishy is so not what I love about a post-baby body. I’ve always liked being strong and I don’t feel strong. I’m really proud of you for putting in the hard work to build your strength and your health. I went for my first solo run (no jogging stroller) in 9 months and it felt… terrible! But you’re inspiring me. I’m going to put in the work, not for appearances, but for myself and the body God gave me.

    • Reply
      Rachel
      April 4, 2014 at 1:22 am

      Thank you, Amber. You’re beautiful, too! It has been weird to feel like I am not as strong as I once was (though in some ways I am superwoman–holding my little chunk for hours has built some muscle tone). The running thing has been really rough. Felt a little like my whole body was falling out and apart. But I’m starting to feel like myself again, little by little. I wish the same for you. And let’s keep inspiring one another. 🙂

  • Reply
    Amber
    April 3, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    You are beautiful! You’ve got these amazing sparkling eyes and a crazy infectious laugh. (I know a laugh isn’t technically part of one’s appearance, but character and spirit are such an overlooked part of beauty, so I thought I’d mention it.)

    Anyway, feeling squishy is so not what I love about a post-baby body. I’ve always liked being strong and I don’t feel strong. I’m really proud of you for putting in the hard work to build your strength and your health. I went for my first solo run (no jogging stroller) in 9 months and it felt… terrible! But you’re inspiring me. I’m going to put in the work, not for appearances, but for myself and the body God gave me.

    • Reply
      Rachel
      April 4, 2014 at 1:22 am

      Thank you, Amber. You’re beautiful, too! It has been weird to feel like I am not as strong as I once was (though in some ways I am superwoman–holding my little chunk for hours has built some muscle tone). The running thing has been really rough. Felt a little like my whole body was falling out and apart. But I’m starting to feel like myself again, little by little. I wish the same for you. And let’s keep inspiring one another. 🙂

  • Reply
    Beth Saav
    April 4, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    You make me laugh and recognize myself. Thank you for your honesty in the struggle – and as a friend recently wrote, “God is honored in the struggle.” You are so through and through beautiful, and I’m proud of you for the journey you are on (both toward being as healthy as you can be and toward being accepting and loving toward your self!). I think your husband is wise to stop your negative self-talk about mothering and I would suggest that stopping negative self-talk about our bodies also helps (at least it has for me. Plus finally having a daughter has made me more vigilant against diet/negative body talk around her tender ears). My husband also requested that I not look at women’s mags (People, Cosmo, etc) because they make me feel like trash. Wise man, no? Finally, it helps me – when I’m feeling down about my body – to think of some of my favorite women in the world (you are included!) and to gain the perspective that comes from seeing that their bodies come in such a beautiful rainbow of sizes and colors and shapes and ages. Beauty is broad and I want to pass that knowledge along to the next generation.

    • Reply
      Rachel
      April 6, 2014 at 3:21 am

      Thanks for your comment! I do think that beauty is broad and one of the ongoing thoughts I have had about all of this is that I want to at the very least model and honest struggle toward health for my son, even if it does always look like “struggle”. I read once that the way we talk around children becomes their inner voice, and therefore yes, I agree with my hubby that words have power. For ourselves and those around us.

      So thankful that you’re on the journey with me. 🙂

  • Reply
    Beth Saav
    April 4, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    You make me laugh and recognize myself. Thank you for your honesty in the struggle – and as a friend recently wrote, “God is honored in the struggle.” You are so through and through beautiful, and I’m proud of you for the journey you are on (both toward being as healthy as you can be and toward being accepting and loving toward your self!). I think your husband is wise to stop your negative self-talk about mothering and I would suggest that stopping negative self-talk about our bodies also helps (at least it has for me. Plus finally having a daughter has made me more vigilant against diet/negative body talk around her tender ears). My husband also requested that I not look at women’s mags (People, Cosmo, etc) because they make me feel like trash. Wise man, no? Finally, it helps me – when I’m feeling down about my body – to think of some of my favorite women in the world (you are included!) and to gain the perspective that comes from seeing that their bodies come in such a beautiful rainbow of sizes and colors and shapes and ages. Beauty is broad and I want to pass that knowledge along to the next generation.

    • Reply
      Rachel
      April 6, 2014 at 3:21 am

      Thanks for your comment! I do think that beauty is broad and one of the ongoing thoughts I have had about all of this is that I want to at the very least model and honest struggle toward health for my son, even if it does always look like “struggle”. I read once that the way we talk around children becomes their inner voice, and therefore yes, I agree with my hubby that words have power. For ourselves and those around us.

      So thankful that you’re on the journey with me. 🙂

  • Reply
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