A Little Background: Why I am Body Positive

For my first post, I want to give you, my readers, a look into my life and the personal feelings I have had on my body. As a person who is writing to connect with others going through similar thoughts and feelings, it makes sense to be the first to open up and build a connection. I hope that by doing so, I can reach out to other curvy women like myself, and to all women who have had the same struggles. I want us all to know we are not alone, and to never feel helpless during challenges that will make us stronger women.

As a kid, I was a pretty athletic and competitive little sucker. During the elementary school years, I loved playing sports, building forts, and climbing trees. I remember the moment I fell in love with soccer was at one of my brother’s games, the very moment a player came off the field with a bloody nose. Instead of taking up dance, I got a pair of soccer cleats and shin guards. As I got older, my passions in sports moved to swimming as well. Since I was a fairly lean, muscular kid, I excelled in swimming. I loved being competitive, and proud that my body could keep up with all the things I was interested in. I had no concept of beauty or a perfect female appearance, because as a kid if I could play sports, that was all that mattered.

Well of course reality eventually comes in the form of a little thing called puberty, and at least for me it changed my body and how I felt about it tremendously. I went from a thin, wiry little girl, to a girl with breasts and hips that were more than I bargained for. Not just my curves, but I also was becoming more aware of my face and features, which seemed very sharp in comparison to my friends. I disliked the nose that I inherited from my family, and to which my brother referred to as the “Bitterman nose.” I could see my shoulders getting broader, which made me feel bigger. I could tell I was changing, and because of this I sometimes would catch myself comparing my body to that of my friends who were smaller in frame than me. However, although I felt a tinge of self-consciousness, I decided the best thing to do was not let it phase me, and to keep doing the things I loved. So what if my body was changing, I wasn’t the only one, so why focus on it?

What changed my outlook, was a brief smack in life I wasn’t expecting. You might be able to guess what changed my focus, but I will sum it up: Words.

Words that were unfortunately said by someone I saw as a friend. Not directly from that friend, they were relayed to me in the worst way. Through another friend who was amongst the girls who talked about me without me present. What I was told, I have not forgotten to this day.

“When you grow up, you will look fat and ugly just like your mom.”

Hearing this, I was dumbfounded. It was like that moment in the movies where you find out the friends of the main protagonist aren’t really good friends.  I didn’t know what to do. All I could say in response was, “If that is what she thinks.” I honestly wish I could say it didn’t hurt or get in my head, but I have learned that when it comes to matters of my body, I tend to take every word to heart. What made this worse for me was not just that a brand was put on me, but also on a person I love and cherish; my mother.

My mother has always been the most beautiful person in my eyes, inside and out. She has the clearest blue eyes, and amazing dark hair I wish I had. She is kind, puts others needs before her own, and has been there for me in times of strength and weakness. She told me when I was a little girl that I was her beautiful and smart daughter. I was ashamed that I no longer felt I was those things, and as you can imagine I never wanted my mom to discover the painful words that hurt me and that could hurt her.

After that experience, I began to slowly compare myself more to my peers. I felt self-conscious when I put on a racing suit. I felt awkward when I ran during soccer and my chest went everywhere. When we ordered swimsuits for our team, I would feel embarrassed saying my size. I felt like the world kept watching me in my awkwardness and could see all my imperfections. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin, and the remedy for that was to just smile and laugh it off. I would laugh off a comment made about my face or body. If a friend poked fun at my chest or size, I would smile and joke with her/him like it didn’t matter. I would cover up my body and insecurities with sweatshirts, jeans, and smiles. I tried to push down my negative feelings and stay positive, because it would do me no good to admit I hated my body.

I continued like this through high school, until my sister introduced me to a store called Torrid. For once in my life, I managed to find clothes that fit my chest and hips comfortably without being restrained or popping buttons. I still wasn’t comfortable with my body, but it boosted my confidence to dress in nicer clothes that fit my body shape. My experiences got a little better from there. I went out of state to college, and a couple years later met the man of my life. Around my wonderful husband, I felt beautiful and liked myself when I was with him. He made me feel like the most important person on earth, and still does to this day. I still had insecurities, but I at least I knew I was loved and that made me happy.

It wasn’t until after having my two sons that I was confronted with my feelings on my body again. I looked at myself in pictures, and focused more on how much I hated my appearance rather than how happy the pictures were. I saw how much my body changed from pregnancy, and noticed my “mom arms.” I saw how much rounder I looked in my face. It got to the point where I would compare pictures of the old me with the current me, and dig myself deeper into a body image pit. When I would get together with friends or family, I hated when people wanted to take pictures or selfies. Even when my husband or others would say I looked pretty or complimented me, I never believed their words. I didn’t trust in what people said to me, and I could feel those words from the past of “fat and ugly” creeping back.

I was completely unhappy, so I decided to confront my body and feelings in the form of weight loss. For three months, I focused on exercises and the food I was eating. It was awesome and awful at the same time. The first time I went to lap swim, I felt massive in my swimsuit. I had to tell myself that I didn’t care, and that I just needed to start moving to feel better. I liked getting active again, because I had missed the feeling of strength and accomplishment that came from finishing a workout. I focused on learning to cook and paying attention to what foods felt good in my body and which didn’t. By the end of the three months, I had lost 40 pounds and I was in better shape. I felt confident and proud of my body, because I could do the things I loved again.

However, during the time I exercised, I spent less and less time with my kids. The meals I prepared were meals for me, but not ones my kids would eat. My attention towards my family dwindled. I felt confident, but I knew I was giving up something in exchange for total focus on my physical appearance. I wondered if the constant focus on my body was realistic to the lifestyle I committed to in teaching my boys about the importance of loving their body. It was my goal to keep up with my boys in whatever sports or experiences they would have in their life. Most importantly, I wanted to be a good example of health for them and also of loving your body for what it is. But was what I was doing teaching them that, or was it trying to get rid of my physical insecurities?

My final judgement: I personally needed those three months. I learned important lessons throughout that time, that I needed to learn about myself. It wasn’t the weight loss that changed me, but it was the internal change on how I perceived my body that held value. I needed to regain focus on what was most important for me and my body. It was important for me to listen to the needs of my body, and understand what will help me be happy and keep me healthy. Getting in shape was great, and I still strive to stay in good healthy shape, but I needed to make it realistic alongside being a good mother.  I needed to personally confront my insecurities this way to come to the conclusion:

If I can’t be happy and appreciate my body for what it can do no matter what shape I am, then how can I truly be happy?

When I started thinking this way, I realized how much I took my body for granted. As a youth and an adult, I let my comparisons of beauty influenced by those around me, dictate my self worth. Sure I am not what the world deems as physically perfect, but that doesn’t mean my body and self are not beautiful by the things it has achieved. I still have little insecurities that sneak in from time to time, but I don’t let them conquer who I am as a mother and woman.

For the past two years, that has been my mindset. I see myself not as the picture of imperfection that others might deem me to be, but as the person of beauty and intelligence that I have the potential to become. This starts with me not comparing my appearance to others, but instead focusing on what makes me and my body happy. It involves me bringing good things into my life that strengthen my self-worth instead of filling me with doubt. It takes doing what is necessary to make me feel happy emotionally and putting in the work to make my body feel good for the long term. It takes me knowing that my goals in life physically, are more important to me than what others think of my body and what I can do. That is why I created this blog — to be a real person sharing real experiences, and refocusing on what women’s bodies can accomplish. Each woman on this earth has the amazing gift that is their body. It is time we realized how much more we offer beyond physical appearance.

 

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