There’s something I’ve been wanting to talk about here for a while now, but I’ve put it off because, well, it’s hard.
I’ve been on a bit of a journey over the last 8 years in regards to body image, inner narrative, health, and fitness. And by journey I mean ROLLERCOASTER RIDE. Let’s just say, it’s a thin line between (self) love & hate.
But before we dive in, let’s acknowledge that my story is simply that- my story? I recognize that body image talk among women can be like a mine field, so I guess you could say I’m treading carefully but not lightly. My intention is simply to be honest and open about my struggles because who knows, maybe your struggles have been similar.
So can we enter into this conversation gently and with care?
Can we make room for my truth and your truth and for all the nuance they both carry?
Can we hold each other’s feelings in a safe and respectful space?
Who am I kidding? Of course we can.
If there’s one thing you guys have proven over the years, it’s that you clearly don’t scare easily.
Together we’ve discussed sex,
aaaand just about everything in between,
(And by we, I mean me, so on that note, I’m feeling a little vulnerable here and if y’all could just type up a quick essay sharing your deepest, darkest secrets and send them on over, that’d be great. K, Thanks.)
This post is the first in a short series in which we’ll dive a little deeper together into Body Image & Self Love.
It’s fine. We’re okay. We can do this.
I’ll go first.
I guess if I’m going to tell you my story I may as well start at the beginning.
I used to be skinny.
Whatever you want to call it.
I say this only to point out that it fostered years of very bad eating habits that at age 37 I’m still trying to un-learn. As a teen and well into my 20’s I relied on a speedy metabolism and unfortunately this laid a super unstable foundation to my relationship with food, however subterranean it may be.
It wasn’t until I had babies that I actually experienced a real level of difficulty in my relationship with my body.
I loved being pregnant, even though I gained literally twice as much weight as any doctor recommends. I was big and round and jolly. It wasn’t until after 2 dangerous deliveries, 1 emergency C section incision that looked more like a Nike swoosh than a straight line, and an unexpected postpartum sadness that I actually started to feel lost inside my own body.
I remember standing in front of my bathroom mirror two weeks after delivering my youngest, surveying the damage, and crying hot tears that fell all the way down to my empty balloon of a stomach covered in freshly-oiled stretch marks.
This is not a sob story about the loss of my pre-baby body.
I celebrate the fact that it was able to carry and nourish human life.
I do not take it for granted.
I would do it all again because it gave me two tiny tenders.
Please hear that.
I’m mentioning that moment in front of the mirror because it’s the exact point I can trace back to in my mind.
When something inside me fractured just the tiniest bit and a crack formed, between my truest self and the body I no longer wanted to identify with.
I began a slow retreat into myself in a way I can’t exactly explain, except to say that it changed the way I showed up in the world, how I showed up for my husband… and mostly how I showed up for my own self.
This might sound weird, but it wasn’t unlike the way I turned inward during labor. The contractions came on so fast that there was no time for that epidural I’d been counting on. They didn’t even have time to throw an aspirin at me. During labor I panicked and whimpered and retreated into myself in an attempt to get away from the pain. Kind of like when you automatically jerk backwards when you stub your toe or cut your finger.
I saw a body I no longer recognized in the mirror that day and something inside me automatically jerked backwards. Occasionally, that place inside me still smarts from the pain.
In the smallest, most incremental ways, I started to resent from the body I now lived in.
To distrust it, even.
The body that made me feel shame, insecurity, and fear.
I was afraid I’d never get back to that happy place- where I felt good in my own skin. I knew what that felt like. I wanted it back.
So I spent the next 8 years cycling through diets and workout programs. I gained and lost weight over and over, never once stopping to truly examine the underlying narrative. Each time I found myself in that same hole I’d dug for myself, a hole that grew deeper every time I stumbled into it, it chipped away at my inner self. Each time I retreated a little bit further, turning inward in an attempt to get away from the discomfort of being present with my body.
Does this sound woo-woo yet?
I’m sorry if it does?
Except, no, I’m really not. This is my truth and I own it.
To be clear, I never had an eating disorder, I never became obsessive, and on the surface, you’d probably never know the tiny hurt I was covering up. My sense of humor is just self-deprecating enough that it all came across as light and funny. You know, just the usual, subplot struggle to look and feel good.
But can we gently press down on that pain for a second?
Can we acknowledge it?
Because it’s real.
And I don’t think I’m unique in my experience with it.
As women our bodies go through so many changes. Traumas, even. Can we just go ahead and agree that regardless of how a baby gets brought into the world, that mother’s body has been through something. It is a traumatic experience y’all.
Life giving, literally.
An honor and privilege, no doubt.
But it is flat out traumatic.
Not to mention puberty, decades of periods, menopause, and the like.
This is not a sob story about the plight of womanhood.
It is a suggestion that when our bodies go through major changes, our insides usually do too.
There is an aftershock of sorts.
I’m finding that the healthiest way (for me) to re-calibrate during after these changes is to come home to the body I live in. Whatever state it’s in.
To quit trying to get away from the discomfort I associate with it, to be present with it, in it.
To recognize the thin line between self love and hate, and to err on the side of love.
I used to think that when I hit my fitness goals THEN I’d finally be ready to come home to my body. I’d roll out the welcome mat, pop the champagne, and say, “There you are! I’ve missed you!”
But then this weird thing happened.
I changed my mindset and then lost 35 pounds last year but I don’t feel like I’ve “arrived” or whatever.
I feel like I’m just *beginning* to recognize and heal the fracture that formed all those years back. Look, I know that sounds a little dramatic. But that’s because it kind of is.
Health, wellness, wholeness, body image, self love, narrative- all of it is emotionally charged, deeply personal, and REALLY FRIGGIN HARD WORK.
And it has to start with coming home to ourselves.
With silencing that inner monologue that runs an endless loop of criticism, shame, and fear.
With choosing to enjoy the process, because the process is our actual life.
This is not a before & after story about how I’m so evolved or fit or smart now.
I’m, not. I’m just over here figuring it out as I go and sharing it along the way.
That’s why my coaching workshops are called FIT(ish) & FREE. Emphasis on the (ish) and FREE.
Here’s what I know:
The story we tell ourselves ABOUT ourselves?
It matters so very much.
We get to change the script.
We get to choose where the story goes next, even if the last 25 chapters all read the same.
We get to decide how we want this area of our life to look and feel.
I’ll never “hit my goals” (btw, what does that even MEAN? Truly? More on this to come…) until l come home to myself first. Or maybe I’ll “hit them” but I can’t actually LIVE from a place of wholeness and health until I make peace with and learn to love the actual body I live in.
How’s that for woo-woo.
Can I tell you something? This post has been a draft in my computer for over a year. I was too scared to “go there” with you guys because I didn’t feel qualified to talk about this stuff as an expert. Which I’m clearly not. Thank God.
But so often our deepest points of pain and frustration become the exact place we can serve others from.
I hope this *small* part of my story serves you, even if it’s just a reminder to stop and honor your body for a moment without feeling foolish or skipping over it to the same old familiar criticisms- the ones that you would only point at yourself and no one else.
Your body is your ally, not your enemy.
Come home to it.