I was right in the middle of running a 10K turkey trot on Thanksgiving Day 2015 when the way I looked at my body completely changed.
It was then that I began to truly love post-pregnancy body for what it was–not just for what it could be on some magcial day when I got my act together and miraculously looked like a fitness model.
MY 3 KID BOD
I had just given birth via c-section a few months earlier to my third child in just 3 years. While I had a full marathon and about 7 half-marathons under my belt, I hadn’t raced since before having children.
Honestly, I was just trying to finish without walking or needing an ambulance. My body was easily carrying 30+ extra pounds from the last few years of perpetual pregnancy.
And like many with the postpartum “mom bod,” I was not particularly thrilled with what I saw when I looked in the mirror. And like many women, I put qualifications on when I could love my body.
I would say and think things like: I’ll be happy with my body when I lose 30 lbs. Or 40 lbs. Or when I fit into a size 6 again.
When I began the race that crisp Thanksgiving morning, just praying that I could finish, I did not feel comfortable in my own skin.
But there I was, lumbering along at about mile 3 when to my surprise, I realized that I was actually passing people—people who looked far more fit than me. People who were not carrying around all this extra baggage.
That shocking realization sent a flurry of thoughts racing through my mind and I began contemplating this ol’ body of mine.
My body had gone through 3 pregnancies and 3 c-sections in 3 years. It miraculously provided food and comfort for my babies and kept up with 3 small kids. My body could pump milk while making dinner and keeping a 2 year-old occupied. It could (and often did) snuggle 3 kids at once.
MY “IMPERFECT” BODY WAS AMAZING
With these thoughts, I couldn’t help but see my body in a new light.
My body was not terrible. My body was actually freaking amazing. It was incredibly resiliant and capable. .
I mean, I was 4 months post partum and running a 10k, for Pete’s sake!
Like a jolt, I was filled with an overwhelming gratitude for this body of mine that was doing so much for me and my family. I was immensely proud of my body for what it was and not what it could be.
That’s when it REALLY hit me:
How could I have anything but love for my body that did so much for me and for my family?
I was immediately ashamed of the past feelings of discontent with my body. How unfair and short-sighted I had been!
Running amidst a mass of people in the Turkey Trot, I was fighting back tears of both gratitude for my amazing machine of a body and regret for not loving my body in every state as I should have.
SO WHY DON’T WE LOVE OUR BODIES IN EVERY STATE THEY ARE IN?
There’s a growing movement to accept our bodies in every state. I’ll admit, I used to think those in the fat-acceptance movement were delusional at best and dangerous at worst.
But you are morbidly obese, I’d think. You are not healthy. How can you be happy with yourselves? You should want to change. Perhaps it was jealousy that these people could love their bodies when I couldn’t love mine. (An interesting read by Lindy West about fat-acceptance and her experience that I recommend.)
But now, I am so ashamed of that line of thinking.
Because no one is saying that fat = healthy. What they are saying is fat/skinny/whatever = deserve to be loved by self and others.
Having a body that is not idolized by the media does not mean one is deserving of public ridicule and self loathing. No matter what unrealistic expectations for society says, our body size and our worth have literally NOTHING to do with one another.
And why shouldn’t everyone love themselves? What good does hating your body serve anyway? When I see people fighting back against fat-acceptance, I get so frustrated. Think about it: how does hating our bodies help us in any way?
Hating your body will not be a gateway to greater health. But loving your body as it is, is certainly a gateway to better health, both mental and physical.
Honestly, once I started loving myself, suddenly making healthier choices was actually EASIER.
WHY WE SHOULD LOVE OUR BODIES, NO MATTER WHAT
But what can loving our bodies do? It can improve our mental health and happiness. I love my post-pregnancy body, stretch marks and all.
And folks, that’s 4 whole pregnancies in 4 years which DID NOT leave this body unscathed (for more on my postpartum health journey, click here).
To be honest, before when I would hear or read about mothers who “loved their stretch marks,” I thought they were absolutely full of crap.
How can a person love stretch marks?
But there I was, in a street full of panting runners, and I finally got it: my body bears scars of love. My c-section scar, my stretch marks, my loose soft skin, all bear the signs of carrying the greatest joys in my life: my children. I would never want to erase the signs my body bears from such beautiful experiences.
Sure, I want to be healthier. I want to be trim and run faster and have firm shapely muscles. But I love myself as I am now. I love and respect the miracle that is my body.
3 STEPS TO LOVING OUR BODIES AS THEY ARE
If you struggle with this, here are just a few ways that you can start to see your postpartum body in a new light.
1) RECOGNIZE ALL YOUR BODY DOES FOR YOU
Get a piece of paper, a pen, and somnversation to be depressie mental juices and start listing.
Don’t focus on what it looks like, focus on what it does.
Think about all your daily tasks over a 24 hours period. Think of what your body means to and does for the different members of your family. When one truly considers how amazing our bodies are and all they do, it’s hard not to be grateful for them.
2) STOP NEGATIVE THOUGHTS ABOUT YOUR BODY
When negative thoughts creep into you head about your body, dismiss them and instead think about something from your list of all your body does for you.
We can’t always keep thoughts from popping in our heads, but do not lay our the welcome mat and invite them for coffee. Send them packing and focus on positive thoughts.
3) CHANGE HOW YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR BODY
How you talk about your body effects how you feel about yourself and how others feel about themselves.
If you start complaining about your body in a group of people, you are inviting the conversation to go down Depression Avenue. You may even invite others to subconsciously start being more del-critical of themselves.
It’s not an uplifting subject. Instead, change that discussion into discussing something you are excited about for improving your health. As always, be very careful how you talk about your body around kids.
National Eating Disorders Association has an extensive guide of more ways to love your body.
WE ALL DESERVE TO LOVE OURSELVES
Your body is a complex and amazing miracle. Your bodies–warts, stretch marks, and all–are gifts.
Learning to truly love my body has not only brought me so much peace and gratitude, but it’s also helped me to make better health decisions. Instead of a blight I want to change, my body is a miracle I want to honor and respect by taking care of it.
I hope you are on a journey to love your amazing body, mama.