Like most women, I’ve had my fair share of yo-yo’s of weight, and the associated self-deprecating thoughts. I’ve stared at the changes my body has gone through over the last decade as I transitioned from cute college co-ed to mom of two (my dad would say “you’re still cute!” So, thanks dad!). I’ve seen my belly change from flatter than I ever believed it was to stretchmark-ridden and pudgy. I’ve seen my butt and boobs go from lifted and perky to, well, the opposite of that. And what is up with the whiskers on my chin that were a lovely gift from pregnancy hormones?!
But the truth is… each of these changes happened because my body did what it was designed to do – grow from girl to woman. I was blessed to have children in the process, but for the plenty of women out there who have chosen not to or cannot conceive, their bodies have undoubtedly also gone through the similar transformations and maturation that occur somewhere between the teen years and the mid-thirties. With that comes the maturation of mind, as well, to accept and eventually embrace these changes.
Of course, that’s not always easy. A few weeks ago my husband and I decided to join Weight Watchers to get our eating in check. We’d used WW before our wedding and had been so successful that we thought we’d give it another go. After my first week, I lost six pounds. I was floored, and on cloud nine. That is, until I got on the subway to work and someone eyed my stomach and offered (almost insisted) their seat. How was it that when I WAS pregnant, even at the end, it was rare for someone to offer their seat, but now 16 months after delivering my second baby and six pounds lighter than I was last week, someone was clamoring to do so? Of course, I appreciate their kindness and awareness of the possible need. But it was also a stark reminder that my relationship with my body is deeper than a number on a scale or a calculation of my dinner’s worth.
Lately, there have been so many postings on Facebook and in online articles about moms’ bodies – working out and toned, not working out and content, and somewhere in between. And somewhere deep in the center of that is the “mommy wars” debate. When will we, as a society, recognize the beauty and complexities of our bodies and embrace our own, and each other’s, bodies? When will we, as women, stop sizing each other up, longing for someone else’s toned arms or flat belly?
Earlier this week, I was at a professional conference where I made a new friend next to the cookie table. No, not like we met by the cookie table and then moved on as we swapped stories and shared a few laughs. Rather, I made a new friend while we stood firmly planted next to the cookie table and sampled each of the cookie varieties (with witty commentary) as we bonded over a deep love for chocolate and sweets (and a pretty intense sugar high to boot). As I developed a fast (and hopefully lasting) friendship with this new woman, I forced myself to push away the thought that the cookies would easily melt off her tall and lean figure, while they would likely set up permanent camp on my thighs (and belly. And ass.). Instead, I focused on the uncontrollable giggles we shared as our colleagues came looking for us, only to discover that we had attached ourselves to this other cookie-loving woman.
This was a big feat for me, as I’ve been challenging myself lately to try to respect different women’s attitudes about their bodies rather than comparing my own physicality to theirs. Instead of thinking “I wish I could fit into a dress like that,” I’ve been consciously thinking, “she is rocking that dress!” Or, instead of thinking “she must work out like crazy to look like that,” I’m now thinking “I’m so impressed with her commitment to taking care of herself.” It’s not always easy, and does take consciousness and some practice. But, it’s also incredibly freeing and is giving me space to find peace with my own body. With practice, it allows me to use the same thought process when I look in the mirror and give myself the same respect. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?
How have you found peace with your own body?