Loving this body is a work in progress

I need new clothes. My pants are too loose and practically fall off at work. Shirts do not fit well.  My bras are threadbare, and my workout clothes gape and stretch from overuse. 

I need to buy new clothes. I recently lost a significant amount of weight, so my clothes do not fit. My energy levels are higher; I am better physically and mentally; I feel strong and flexible again. This weight loss was a good thing for all those reasons.

I need to buy new clothes. I hate the dressing room mirror. Even if the numbers on the scale vary or the person staring back at me changes, I can still see every imperfection that was there before. 

So I need to buy new clothes, but I will not. Why? Because even though I try, I still do not fully love my body. 

Loving this body has always been a work in progress, and it is still work.

I have never loved my body the way I should. My battle between what I see and what others see is one that I am continually fighting and often losing. I have been unkind to my body by overeating and starving it; by exercising too much or refusing to move at all; by finding its failures and overlooking its successes. I have punished it for simply surviving.

More than anything, I want to love this body, exactly as it is.

I want to look in the mirror without fear. I work to see the beauty and the positives in my face, my muscles, my skin – in all of me. For so long, I subscribed to the ideal that beauty is defined by society and media. My walls were covered in pictures of models and actresses in my teen years, a daily inspiration of how I wanted to be. I wanted to be thinner. I loathed my round face and cheeks. I constantly labeled myself as “fat” and “not quite pretty.” I thought everyone else was more beautiful and therefore better than me. I let the expectations of others and society get into my head.

Then I became a mother.

My body has changed so much with pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. My skin has stretched and scarred to accommodate my babies. My hair has fallen out and grown back. My body has swollen and accumulated some extra layers through the years. I bear wrinkles from age and stress. My time has been devoted more to my children and less to myself, and if I have to choose between exercise and a snuggle from one of them, I choose them every time.

My body has done some things. It has birthed four children, including one that topped 9 pounds and another without a working epidural. It has been through surgeries and medical procedures. This body grew up playing and succeeding in sports and music. It grew this beautiful brain that creates words and essays for women and readers across the country. This body has traveled around the world and experienced foods, sights, and places I could only imagine. Most importantly, this body continues to let me live and thrive everyday.

A rare gym shot

I want to love this body – this beautiful, capable, and healthy body. I should be able to love it after all it has and continues to do for me.

It was my daughters that gave me perspective. I want them to grow up feeling secure and confident. My three girls are unique and beautiful, each in her own way. As I worked to instill them with positive self-esteem and love for their bodies, it became abundantly clear that I was a hypocrite. How can I encourage my teenager to be happy with how she is if I never am? Why should my daughters believe my compliments on their beauty if I always deny theirs to me? Am I showing them a good relationship between food and the body? These children love me no matter what shape or number I am – and so should I. Unless I can find beauty and fulfillment in my own body, I cannot truly be an example to my three daughters.

So I work on loving my body. Everyday. 

It is still a work in progress. Undoing decades of chastisement and negative body image takes time. I focus on healthy eating habits and exercise not for weight loss but for overall physical and mental health. I try not to beat myself up if I eat junk food or donuts, my weakness. I wear clothes that I feel good in. I love yoga because it makes me feel strong and empowered. I encourage my girls to be expressive and confident in their style, hobbies, and choices. I tell them they are beautiful, and I am trying to be better at accepting that same compliment from others. 

I am far from perfect, and neither is my body. Loving this body is hard but necessary work – for myself and my daughters.

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