I am 5’2 and 222 lbs, according to the American BMI chart I am obese and I struggle on most days to not allow these facts to effect my self worth. It is hard! I am currently struggling with my postpartum body, finding the energy and motivation to become healthier and most importantly LOVE my body, but if I am being honest this has been a struggle for much longer than the past few months.
I was a tomboy growing up, I loved sports, playing outside and was usually the only girl running around with a group of boys in my neighborhood. I played every sport you could think or from street hockey to football, and usually kept up with all the boys. I was muscular and fast. I had larger arm muscles than almost all of the boys, that were just simply natural. The boys that were my friends respected me and my athletic abilities, but always made it clear that we were “just friends”, not that I minded but I was usually the one they talked to when they liked a girl and needed advice. Other boys at school would comment on my body, usually jealous of my biceps and at times wanting to arm wrestle me (I usually won). For the most part it didn’t bother me, I liked being strong, I was confident and proud of my abilities. I still had some “boyfriends”, whatever that really meant at such young ages, but it was always made clear that I was “different” from all the other girls. I usually heard things like “you are nothing like the other girls, you are cool and we can just hang out” but never anything like “you are beautiful and sexy”.
When in college I started to gain weight, I ate different foods, started to drink socially and was injured playing basketball, which led to me not playing a sport for the first time in my life. The whole time I was an athlete, I never learned how to properly take care of my body. I never worked out, unless I was forced to with the team, barely stretched and definitely did not think about nutrition. When my body started to change, people noticed and began to make comments, especially my father. He would often make comments about my weight, telling me things like “You need to loose weight if you ever want to be married”, or just simple comments about if I gained or lost some pounds. It always made me feel uncomfortable. I knew it was not ok. I pushed through, but like most women, these comments stayed in my mind no matter how far I pushed them away.
I was basically single my entire 20’s. I traveled, made friends, lived in exotic places but never found love. This is the time period where I gained the most weight. I tried to learn how to eat better, I tried many different ways to be active, but nothing ever felt right. I was still mostly a confident woman, but it was hurtful to never really be “that girl”, you know the one that is incredibly attractive and can have her pick of a man. Nope, not me… I went on millions of horrible dates, mostly from online dating and my weight always seemed to be an issue. I had guys literally say out loud to me…”Wow you are heavier than your pictures”…I remained the strong woman I am and simply got up and left the date. I do not have time for that, but of course the comments stayed in the back of my mind.
In my 30’s I finally met my husband, it was truly love at first sight and for the first time in my life I felt beautiful in someone else’s eyes. He was the first person to ever make me feel really attractive. He showed me by his actions and told me all the time how beautiful I was. The best part is I truly believe he sees me this way. I gained a lot of confidence during my relationship with my husband. I was healthy, I found The Bar Method, which was the first and only exercise that I truly enjoy. I even had an empowering photo shoot that helped me feel feminine, sexy, beautiful and strong all at the same time. I was making big changes for myself, but those comments and thoughts from the past were still there on some dark days. I even had a freak out on our wedding day that my dress wouldn’t fit and he would leave me at the altar…but it fit, I felt beautiful and he made sure I knew it.
Then Infertility came. I thought I struggled to love my body before, well any love that I had was all lost during the grueling 2 years of trying to get pregnant. I silently tortured myself daily, telling myself it was body’s fault, if I had been healthier my whole life then I would have more, better quality eggs. If I wasn’t so fat then I would be able to get pregnant, I tried everything, I researched fertility diets, exercised, tried fertility yoga but nothing worked and I felt terrible all of the time. I was seriously falling out of love with my body, it wouldn’t do anything right and was always failing me.
When I finally got pregnant via IVF with a donor embryo, I thought ok, I can breathe again, I can be kind to my body, I can show it love and I did for the most part. I practiced a lot of self-care, and had mindful self-talks. I was determined to love myself again and provide a loving, calm environment for my son to grow in. Then I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes at 17 weeks. The nurse that called made me feel disgusting, making comments about how I should quit drinking soda and eating sweets. I tried to tell her I had been eating clean and “healthy” for a long time, but it didn’t matter. I felt like I was failing my son and my body was once again failing me. I worked very hard to control my diabetes with diet, but no matter what I tried it didn’t work. I ultimately needed insulin to keep my glucose in control, but my son was thriving and he was born a perfectly healthy boy. Yet, I still didn’t LOVE my body. It grew a human and I still do not show it the respect it deserves!
I exclusively pumped for my son, I was an overproducer. I was able to feed him only breastmilk for over a year and this helped me gain some appreciation for my body, for once it was doing something right and it was fairly easy for me. However, I am not one of the “lucky ones” that loses weight from breastfeeding, in fact I gained weight. Whenever I did try to exercise or cut calories, my supply dropped… so now what? I chose to focus on my son, nourishing his body while sacrificing my own.
My amazing husband continues to tell me how beautiful I am, how proud he is of my body and most importantly he thanks me for all I put my body through to give us a family, but why can’t I feel these things for myself? I say them to myself all the time, I know it is true in my mind, but I don’t genuinely feel them. I am entirely too hard on myself and I just can’t seem to find the motivation to make changes when it comes to my body, so if this is you… I see you.
I don’t have the answers, I wish I did, but I can tell you that we are not alone, I know many women feel this way.
I continue to practice self-care, I try to be kind to myself especially on my hard days and I continue to try and LOVE my body for all that it is. I focus on my positives and not all the moms I see on Instagram talking about their postpartum bodies and how they bounced right back. I practice respecting my body and giving my body time to adjust to my new role as a mama and I have faith that I will LOVE my body one day.
If you struggle with loving your body, I will tell you what I tell myself.
YOU. ARE. ENOUGH.
YOU. ARE. BEAUTIFUL.
YOU ARE STRONG AND LOVED.
Be KIND and treat yourself like you do to others. Practice positive self talk and forgive yourself.
I wish you the best, Mama.
You got this!