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Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, good mother, good looking, good tempered, well groomed and unaggressive. ~ Leslie McIntyre

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Story: Body Image Issues - Am I Alone??

     I'm not going to lie. I have had body image issues my ENTIRE life. I never thought I was thin enough. I never thought I was pretty enough. I never thought my teeth were straight enough. I always thought I had too much hair (everywhere) and I ALWAYS felt like my hips were too wide.
     My grandmother always told me that I was beautiful. "I have the most beautiful grand daughters in the world," she would say. I would tell her that she was biased and HAD to say that. I was always looking for something wrong with my body. Something to be dissappointed or disgusted by.
     February 7, 2001 changed everything for me. I had a daughter. I instantly began to struggle with the fact that my disordered eating and feelings about my body were going to be passed down to Linsey if I didn't change them in myself.
     I gained 60+ pounds during my pregnancy. I felt disgusting. I felt exhausted and I felt ashamed. I was 200 pounds and only 5 feet 4 inches tall, but I was too lazy to get off my butt and do anything about it. I would plan out exercise schedules, but never do them. I would figure out how many calories I had to eat each day to lose weight, but never stick to it. Finally I decided (for reasons that still escape me) that I HAD to get up off the couch. I had to get healthy for my daughter if for no other reason. I DID NOT want her to EVER feel bad about herself for how she looked, or how much she weighed or how wide her hips were.
     I began to use the Weight Watchers program and I started dropping pounds instantly. If my memory is correct, I lost 5 pounds in the first week! I was STOKED. After that I continuously lost 1 to 2 pounds a week until I was down to about 135 pounds. Still not really happy with that weight I started walking before Jason went to work. The pounds kept coming off, but I wasn't getting that toned look I saw in the magazines.
     When Linsey was about 18 months old Jason and I packed her up and moved 2,000 miles away to Portland, OR so he could go to culinary school. While we lived there I became very interested in organic foods and really exercising. I was still only doing cardio, but I was getting faster and faster every day.
     By the time we moved back I was still at 130 pounds, but my body looked different. We moved to St Louis at that point and I began working in a health club where I got a free membership as a perk! I started going into work early so I could work out before hand. Now, 5 years and one more child later I'm weighing in around 115 pounds.
     I still feel jiggly some days or like my stomach could be firmer, but I don't make those comments out loud. I work very hard to push those thoughts out of my head when they sneak in. I remind myself that I eat for nourishment and I exercise for my health. I still want to fit into my size 2 Gap Jeans, but (most of the time) the scale doesn't define how I feel about myself.
     I have decided to live by the Three A's from the book BodyLove: Learning to Like Our Looks and Ourselves by Rita Freeman, Ph.D.

Attention -- Refers to listening for and responding to internal cues (i.e., hunger, satiety, fatigue).
Appreciation -- Refers to appreciating the pleasures your body can provide.
Acceptance -- Refers to accepting what is -- instead of longing for what is not.
    I have also learned that I am not alone in this fight against Body Image Issues. While reading Shape Magazine I found out that famous actresses (who seemingly have the PERFECT body) have body image issues of their own. That surprised me because some of them were the picture perfect specimens that I was aspiring to be like. I would compare myself to pictures I saw of them in magazines or while I watched them in movies. To hear that they had body parts that they wished they could change or just wanted to get rid of really made me aware of how NOT alone I really was and still am.
     At least I know that I have (and continue to) do my best NOT to pass these traits onto my daughters. I tell them everyday how beautiful AND smart they are. I never tell them they are perfect because I feel like that is a dangerous comment to give to someone. No one is perfect and if we all really knew that we would be much happier with our WHOLE selves.


Courtney Reed said...

This may as well have been my story! Except for the losing weight part, though I am on my way. I have had the same body image issues and weight struggles, combined with medical problems and years of prescription steroids. I would even venture to say that at different times in my life, I have battled body dysmorphic disorder, because even at my thinnest, I always saw an overweight, disgusting person in the mirror. Now I really am overweight, and want to kick my own butt for not appreciating my health and physique when I weighed 140 lbs and wore a size 6/8, which is my ideal size. Now that I'm a mother, I will do my damndest to ensure that my girls don't repeat that cycle. I was never taught self-value, appreciation of body, and functional eating and health habits, but I am making sure that my daughters are being taught those things so that they can avoid the self-destructive battles that have taken me years to work through.

Anonymous said...

I too made some changes when I had my child. For me it was the fact that my weight was causing my knee problems to be even worse. I also didn't want my son to do what I did and go from a tiny kid to being obese. Still have a way to go but am getting there.

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