When I think back on my late teens and early 20s, I can’t help but focus on the challenges and difficulties I experienced with regard to my body image. It makes me sad to think of the insecure, unhappy person I was during that time of my life. I was constantly on a diet letting five (or ten) pounds up or down on a scale dictate my happiness. And I measured my self-worth and happiness based on how many hours I logged on a treadmill. I think many teens and twenty-somethings, particularly women, struggle with body issues and insecurities during this time in their life. But now that I am in my thirties with two children under my belt (and a third due in a few months), I wish so much I could go back and rewind that time and tell my then-20-something self what I know now: you are so much more than a number on a scale or size in your closet.
I think the most ironic thing of all is that it took me having children and becoming a mom to arrive at this realization. While I always looked forward to having children someday, I immaturely and selfishly worried that I would gain lots of weight after having them. I look back now and realize what a simplistic and naive way this was to think about my body and myself. But as I reflect on how much my perspective has changed over the last couple of years, I attribute becoming a mom to helping me overcome my body issues and here is why:
- I have a tremendous appreciation now for the body God gave me and what it is capable of. If you’ve had the privilege of experiencing pregnancy and childbirth for yourself, you know what a truly life-changing journey and gift it is. Our bodies are nothing short of amazing and the little miracles they bear are just that: miracles. It now seems so vein to me to beat myself up about the size of my thighs or extra weight on my belly. Who really cares? My body has expanded and contracted two (and a half) times to bear and bring these beautiful children into our life. Whom am I to not be grateful for everything this body has given me?
- I am no longer consumed with just myself. That’s right: I now have two other people that depend entirely on me (and my husband) to take care of their every need. I can’t spend hours beating myself up about each cookie that goes into my mouth or that third piece of pizza I didn’t need. My priority and focus is elsewhere and that has helped my previous obsession with analyzing and worrying about every piece of food that went into my mouth or calorie I burned at the gym. And you know what? The weight suddenly came off the less I focused on losing it. Who knew?
- I am moving. A LOT. Although I haven’t technically belonged to or attended a gym in about four years. Chasing two kids all day is no joke. I never sit down. Not even for 5 minutes. We walk to the park at least once a day. Go for a wagon ride around the block at least twice. I pick up toys. I vacuum. Bottom line is this – I do everything but sit still.
- I share my food all the time. These days if I want to enjoy a cookie or piece of cake I seriously have to sneak into the bathroom to eat it. There is always at least one little person eating with me off my plate. And I wouldn’t have it any other way but it certainly helps to keep my portions under control.
I can honestly say that now, for the first time in my life, I am happier and more content with my body than I have ever been before. Do I weigh more or less than I did in my twenties? I seriously have no idea. I ditched the scale a few years ago and that is how I intend to keep it. I am grateful to my children for the many gifts they have given me over the past four years, but helping me overcome my body issues is certainly an unintended gift. Sure, if I want to take the time to dwell, compare, or nit-pick my body I could come up with a whole list of things I would change or people I rather look like. Who wouldn’t? But my time these days is so much better spent investing in the lives of these awesome little people. So I choose to focus on them instead of my shortcomings. Here’s to embracing ourselves as the strong, beautiful women we are rather than dwelling on the size in our closet or number on the scale.