I feel silly writing this post.
I feel like I’ll be judged or people will roll their eyes at me for struggling with body image.
I’m thin by society’s standards. I don’t have trouble finding clothes and I can move through this world easily.
People don’t mock me or tell me how I should eat so I don’t struggle like many others unfortunately do.
And that makes telling my story feel silly.
But this is my blog so I’m going to tell it. 😉
Because I want to remember feeling like this. In 10 years, I want to look back and remember working through this struggle.
The Tipping Point
I’m not really sure when it happened. When the need to feel better became the quest to look perfect.
I distinctly remember wanting to get healthier. I had just delivered my first daughter and I felt like a shell of a person. Sure, I was carrying extra weight, but I really just wanted to have energy again and take better care of myself. So I got healthy and felt excited about the changes.
Then I started following social media accounts to motivate me on this new health journey. Back then, Instagram was full of #fitspo and bikini competitors and not so much postpartum bodies and body confidence.
Suddenly, I got a glimpse into this “wellness world” and I wasn’t healthy enough.
Not fit enough.
Not lean enough.
I led a healthy lifestyle by working out 2-3 times a week with some girlfriends and truly loved it. I ate healthy foods, fell in love with vegetables and also enjoyed dessert if I wanted it. But when I looked in the mirror and saw my soft belly and love handles, I felt like I was doing something wrong. I was doing all the things – why didn’t I have a flat stomach?
After a few years, I became hell bent on getting the body that I felt like I deserved. I was finally healthy… why didn’t my body mirror those fit girls? What more did I need to do?
I learned how to count macros and I finally did it. I achieved my *perfect* body. I convinced myself that it was worth all the measuring and weighing and eating cold tuna on the road and working out at 11 pm.
Then, I was blessed to become pregnant again. A healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
And soon it was time to “bounce back!!”
I think back to that time and feel sad for the pressure I put on my body to be “perfect” again. Because now it was so much worse. I knew that I had done it before, so I didn’t have those doubts of whether I could do it. I knew that with enough determination, I could do it.
I lost all the baby weight (breastfeeding definitely helped) and thought “Now I can be happy. I got to my goal weight and “skinniness” and life was good.”
The Second Tipping Point
Until I couldn’t sustain it. I couldn’t track my foods in an app for the rest of my life. I couldn’t look at foods and mentally count the calories anymore. I just couldn’t.
I would look at my daughters and think, “What if they get to high school and think they need to mentally track their lunch or calorie intake?” “What if they go through life thinking that they, too, aren’t healthy unless they look perfect?”
I just couldn’t anymore.
But instead of just, you know…not dieting (duh) and going back to the healthy lifestyle I lived before, I stopped everything.
I had to separate myself from all forms of media that equated thinness with worth, beauty and acceptance. I couldn’t go to gym classes where they talked about working off the food they ate. I couldn’t follow food bloggers who talked about calories or macros or even used the word “healthy.”
For months, I just ate what I wanted, lived off coffee and cookies and watched all my weight come back.
Now, I’m not saying that is an ideal lifestyle. 😉 It’s just how my story went.
Instead of fighting the weight gain, I bought bigger shorts. I discovered the miracle of high waisted leggings. And I just ate food without analyzing it to death.
After the cookies and coffee diet, I slowly made my way back to my version of healthy.
I eat well and I enjoy dessert. I love a good salad but also won’t pass up a donut with my girls.
I’ll be honest, I could exercise more consistently. 😉
My stomach rolls over my waistband and that’s okay.
My pant size has gone up 2 sizes and that’s okay.
I feel more comfortable in loose fitting workout clothes because of those two things and that’s okay. I don’t have to be totally confident in my body to decide that my body is still good.
I was recently weighed at a doctor’s visit and I’ve put on about 20 lbs from my leanest. I’m exactly the same weight as I was when I started to diet.
I look in the mirror now and I’m not met with thoughts of “Wow. I look good. This is what I’ve been working hard for and it’s totally worth it.”
But I’m also not (always) met with thoughts of “Wow. I need to lose weight.” (I’ll be honest, sometimes a thought of “Ugh, my stomach is outta control today” will sneak in. I’m a work in progress.)
But mostIy, I just look in the mirror and think “That’s my body. It is a reflection of my lifestyle and you know what, it’s still a good body.” <3
I am beautiful and healthy, even at a higher weight. I am not “less than” the Pam who was fitter. I am still the same person and because I live a far more relaxed lifestyle, my weight has gone up. And I don’t need to diet myself into leanness to inspire other people to live healthy lives. <~~~ This has taken me years to learn.
The Comparison Trap
On a grander scale, when I take a big step back and look at the privilege of my life, I realize that my obsession over being ripped and “perfect” can feel like a slap in the face for someone who desperately wants to be a societal normal size. I try to be sensitive to that and it’s why I don’t share a lot of my inner struggle. I mean, even when I look at the picture above, I want to roll my eyes at what my mind tells me.
But I want to speak to the mom who compares her post-partum body and life to the fitness person on Instagram and thinks that something is wrong with them.
Look, you may never look like that chick. But that’s not because you aren’t healthy. It’s just because you are not her.
You are YOU.
You can be the healthiest and fittest version of you and there’s nothing wrong with striving for your personal best. If you are on a weight loss journey, I hope this doesn’t make you feel judged. That is not my intent at all. There are plenty of wonderful reasons to want to lose weight and there are plenty of sound methods to do so.
But don’t compare your body to someone else’s who doesn’t live your life. They may not have the joy of eating ice cream with kids or need the escape of a few glasses of wine on a mom’s night out. They don’t live your life and you don’t live theirs.
I’m not here to tell you how to fix your body image. I’m struggling right along with you.
But the thing that is helping me every day is hearing more stories like mine. Share your story with someone you trust. Talk about it. Write it in a blog post for the world to see. 😀
But don’t silently struggle on your own. We live in a society with some pretty messed up beauty standards. By talking about it, we can fight against the trap of comparison and the pursuit of perfection.
Thanks for listening, friends. This was really hard for me to write but I feel better getting it all out there. Let’s see how this journey evolves over time. <3