Loving Every BODY

Found via Pinterest

 Last summer as we waited for our food to arrive in a restaurant, Ms Action noticed a very large woman sitting in the booth across from us. “Mom!” She said, “That lady has a big belly!” I gently shushed her and said “It’s not nice to talk about how big people are.” I hoped that the poor woman across from us hadn’t heard my 4 year olds observation.

But it didn’t feel right. I sat there and felt like I had just taught my daughter to be ashamed of fatness. I had told her to be quiet, that being fat wasn’t something we talked about. Did the silence imply that there was something bad about being fat? I wondered why I had been so quick to shush her, and the only reason I could come up with was my own shame. In my mind, despite how badly I wanted to teach my children politeness and acceptance of others, it was not OK to be fat.

I decided then and there, that I was done being quiet. I was going to be open and unashamed about all types of bodies. From then on when my kids would notice something about someone’s body, I would talk about it. Yes, that person is very tall, some people are tall, and some people are short. Yes, that person has green hair, isn’t that interesting? What other kinds of colors could hair be? Yep, some people have big bellies and some people have small bellies, both kinds of bellies are nice.

But deep down, I’m not sure I really believed it. It was fine for other people to be fat, but it wasn’t ok for me to be fat. People of all shapes and sizes and colors should be accepted and loved, but I wasn’t ready to accept and love myself.

**********************************

“You have a big tummy mom” The first time my 3 year old said it to me a few months ago my heart sank a little. Yeah, that was me, the pudgy round mamma with the big belly that I didn’t exactly love. But my determination to model celebration of all body types for my children won out and I replied enthusiastically “Yeah, I do have a big belly don’t I.” She smiled and ran off to play again.

It happened again every now and then, she would run up and give me a hug and make her pronouncement on the bigness of my belly, and I would acknowledge my largeness and we would smile at each other. Slowly I found myself less hurt by the idea of having a big belly.

Early one morning a few weeks ago, Ms. Drama crawled into my bed to snuggle. Part of my belly was peeking out from under my pajama shirt and she began to pat it gently. Then she traced her fingers along the many stretch marks that make a map-like pattern all over my stomach. She smiled at me and said predictably, “You have a big belly mom.” I giggled. She smiled even bigger and said loudly “I have a big belly too! Just like you mom!” and she pulled up her pajama shirt to show me.

My heart warmed, not only did she like that I had a big belly, she wanted to have one too. Suddenly all the effort it had taken to say the words “I have a big belly” was worth it, because she thought she had a big belly too, and how devastating it could have been to her if I had critiqued my own belly without realizing that she was comparing herself to me. She put her head on my belly and said “Your big belly is so soft and squishy, it’s just like a pillow.” Never before have I wanted so badly to embrace my body and love every line, sag, bulge and stretch mark.

Ms Drama is so proud of her body right now, she loves how she can do summersaults and ride her bike. She loves being tall enough to reach things on the toy shelf and strong enough to scramble up onto the bathroom sink to peer at herself in the mirror.

So often I look into the mirror and see a short fat woman. I critique the saddlebags and muffin top, I wonder what I would look like without that double chin. I wish my boobs didn’t sag from the after affects of nursing 4 children, and I try to remember what it felt like to have a small waist line.

But lately, spurred on by my desire for my daughters to love their bodies exactly the way they are, I have been wanting to see my body through new eyes for the first time. How can I expect my daughters to love what they have, if I can’t love what I have. This is the body I’ve got. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty dang amazing. I have carried and birthed and nursed four children with this body. I clean, lift, cook, stretch, cuddle and walk with this body. It serves me pretty well.

These days when I get frustrated with how my body doesn’t measure up to whatever ideal I’ve created in my head, I’ve been trying to embrace each physical quirk and “flaw” with just as much love as my daughter has for my big belly.

I want to catch each negative thought and turn it into a celebration.
I have a big belly. I have thighs that rub together. I have stretch marks.
And they are mine to accept and love.
If I want my children to accept every body,
I need to start with my own.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16232186225573312896 Incongruous Circumspection

    Welcome back! Hey…check out http://incongruouscircumspection.blogspot.com/2012/03/important-goog-hit-on-this-blog-that.html. Funny stuff.

    And, it indirectly pertains to this post, which was downright stupendous, by the way.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06233321050691782148 Michael Mock

    Can I share my own "My Kid Has No Tact" story? It's here.

    And, in response to your post, I find myself thinking that there's a hugely sexist element in this, too. As a guy, not only do I essentially never worry about whether or not I'm still attractive – of course I am! – but I essentially never have people pointing out that, yes, as a matter of fact, I'm carrying a bit more weight and slacking off on the cardio a lot more than I probably should. Not even by way of oh-so-subtle "helpful" advice. It's just not something that happens to me… and as far as I can tell, that's entirely because I happen to be male. Which is stupid. Or, rather, the part where it does happen to women, just because they happen to be women, is stupid.

    I wish I had some way to fix that. Just being aware of it seems like a good place to start.

  • lisbet

    It's so hard, isn't it? I had a doctor's appointment recently during which I could hear the doctor talking to the med student who had taken my information, berating her for not noticing that I'd put on 8 lbs and asking me about it. The med student talked about how she was pretty sure it was all in my middle.

    Since then, I've been noticing my belly more and more, and wishing I could suck away the chub. Anyway, bravo to you for modeling the attitude I too wish to have!

    I still remember a friend of my sister's asking my dad if he was pregnant when we were all little. He laughed like crazy.

  • Anonymous

    I have a big belly too!
    Leigh Ann

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04701078537900767775 K

    Learning to love my body is an ongoing challenge (frankly, so is learning to love myself) but I am working on this because it makes my husband happy. He loves me so much and is sad when I am down on myself.

    Your post comes at a time when I needed a reminder that even though I want to work to be healthier, I am beautiful just how I am.

  • http://secularwings.wordpress.com/ … Zoe ~

    I love this post. I've been thin my whole life and it has its challenges as well. Having inflammatory bowel disease, my tiny frame would often bloat in the abdominal area and I spent so much of my life looking pregnant with the bloated tummy and boney skeleton everywhere else. If I had boobs that stuck out as far, it might have balanced it all out but, I had tiny boobs. :-) You're ahead of me in accepting your body. I don't know if I'll ever get there but I know I didn't start dealing with acceptance until I was 50! Then after that I had to start with all the age spots and wrinkles. Aaaaaccch! LOL!

    Our daughter use to tell me I have a big bum. I'd say to her, "Yes I do and one day you'll have a bigger bum too." :-) She's in her mid-20's now and every so often we laugh about that.

  • Liz

    I'm not sure it's not a little condescending to tell a perfect stranger you're proud of her, so if it is then I'm sorry, but I'm just so damn proud of you! The world needs more parents (and ladies and wives and sisters) like you. Thanks for questioning so much that gets taken for granted and then being brave enough to talk about your process on the internet. I'm glad you're back. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17285825751301910324 frogla

    i love the pinterest words to the picture. in the last 5ish yrs, my body inside and out has been morphing & i'm hating it. like Zoe up there i've also been really thin all my life but in the last 5ish yrs being on & off birth control (gaining & loosing), surgeries galore, hypothyroid (gaining & loosing) i'm so so tired of trying to get to the "image" i once was. now, i don't even know what my body is supposed to be anymore.

  • http://tanitisis.wordpress.com Tanit-Isis

    Awesome post and I'm so happy for you—and your daughters.

    My husband (yes, husband) has body-image issues to do an anorexic proud (and I don't mean to make light of eating disorders—what he sees in the mirror is literally not what is actually there), and while I'm sure there are other compounding factors, he absorbed a lot of it from his mother—not from criticism of him (she would never do anything like that) but because she always hated her own body.

    I like my body well enough, but then it's a fairly easy body to like. I hope I'll have the strength to keep on loving it regardless. My daughters are a little older than yours, the eldest entering adolescence, and I'm torn between marveling at the changes she's going through and worry over how she's going to feel, the next few years, as her friends are already beginning to fret over their weight and hate their legs and all those negative things teenage girls can do.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05598890631695015818 Pippi

    I love that you have made this such a priority for your daughters, and I enjoy reading the journeys that your parenting takes you on. Keep up the good work!

  • Anna

    I love your blog so much!

  • Anonymous

    Awesome post!

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Great post ^^

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14992035575697178972 Andrea

    Hey! I found your blog and just think its so great!! My belly is not the flattest and I too have stretch marks!! Its an awesome thing!!! We have to be comfortable in our own skin or else we will teach insecurity and embarrasment to our children!! Well done great post!!

    Andrea

  • Anonymous

    This is beautiful. Truly. Thanks.

    Amanda

  • http://tinybluelines.com Tiny Blue Lines

    Incredible. I've been struggling with the same thing lately, and despite my best intentions, it really is hard to accept my body and teach my daughters to do the same. Working on it every day, thanks for this post!

  • Anonymous

    New reader here, and enjoying this blog, thank you. This post speaks to me. The thing that helped me to learn this lesson was learning to use what I call "the eyes of love" as my mirror. (Which I think is what your daughter was looking at you with).

    Mirrors are unsettling if you pay them too much heed, but when someone loves you, and that shines through their eyes at you, why shouldn't you be able to regard that as being the truest reflection of who you are, and of your own true worth?

    scotlyn (who cannot find a useful profile for signing with)

  • Anonymous

    "I hoped that the poor woman across from us hadn’t heard my 4 year olds observation."

    Me, too. Nothing at all wrong with celebrating and accepting and acknowledging differences; plenty wrong with commenting on other people in their earshot, even if it's to celebrate and accept that they have a big belly, different skin color, unusual clothing…

  • Anonymous

    What a beautiful post to precede the story of you and your spouse figuring out your own bodies together. Thanks for the reminder about all the good these bodies of all shapes and sizes can do.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11386360053710474266 lucifermourning

    such a wonderful post. though i am curious how you balance self-acceptance with motivation to be healthy. i also have many body-image issues but struggle to make myself exercise properly (even though i have back problems that mean exercising is really important, not to mention a family history of weight-related health problems).

    one of the best ways to motivate myself is to watch my weight. but that leads to cycles of hating my body…i don't really know how to resolve the dilemma.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    I don't know if I agree. If there wasn't such a social stigma attached to certain types of people, would anyone be hurt by a child's observation? After all, no one feels offended if a child loudly says "look at that lady's pretty dress!"

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    I had so much trouble with self-loathing tied to weight, that I got rid of my scale and no longer keep track of what I weigh.(I can tell if my clothes are getting too tight without keeping track of a number.) I try to balance the health side by eating healthy unprocessed foods, and going on frequent walks with the kids. I am sure I could do more to improve my health, maybe I'll figure out how to fit that in more as time goes on.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01730868663379749634 Lotta

    This is so much what I try to do as well. I also struggle with accepting my body after stopping dieting for good 2-3 years ago when I noticed how much it affected my children ("this is just 2 spoons of milk, mummy!") I now just try to focus on healthy habits and accepting that people are different.

    (Found you yesterday through Jezebel, btw and habe been browsing through the archives. Thank you for sharing your journey!)

  • Anonymous

    I once had a child in the elevator tell me I had a big belly and I said "yes I do". His Dad was embarrassed and explained that his wife was pregnant and they had been talking about big bellies. I told him not to be embarrassed – it was true and kids notice and talk about things. I also had a woman in an elevator ask me if I had seen the baby. I told her I wasn't pregnant and she apologized immediately. I said it was a reasonable assumption – I was leaving the Ultrasound lab and I do carry my weight there. I hope she felt better.

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