Sometimes I wonder what it must be like for men who’ve literally never thought for a second about the food they’re eating. EVERY time I eat something, I’m thinking about it.
Sometimes I’m thinking, “Well this is super unhealthy. But I deserve it. I’m stressed. I’m gonna pack myself full of food and not care a bit.”
Sometimes I’m thinking, “This is super unhealthy. I kind of hate myself for eating it, but I’m too tired to care.”
Sometimes I’m thinking, “This is so healthy! Good for me! I am amazing and basically an Instagram fitness model!”
But I am ALWAYS thinking. There is never a meal or a snack to which I don’t ascribe some sort of value judgment.
This is not to say that I have an unhealthy relationship with food in any kind of catastrophic, life-altering way. It’s simply to say that I am female. And this is what we have been taught to do.
When I was pregnant, I loved so much about the experience, chiefly how delightful it was to bare my big giant belly with PRIDE. A lot of pregnant women I know choose to wear loose, blousy tops or dresses, but not me. HELL no. Every chance I got, I was wearing something snug and form-fitting. It was both a treat and a relief to have a completely socially acceptable reason to be straight up overweight. It was a dream I’d had for years and boy, did it deliver.
On the back end, after Mac was born, things were a little different.
The cute little boobs that I’d always been proud of looked quite different (AKA deflated and sad) after nursing a baby for 11 months. The strong legs that I’d cultivated through months of Pure Barre classes had a solid layer of fat from my hipbones to my ankles. And then there’s the obvious midsection trouble: flabbier, softer, and looser-skinned. My hair fell out and regrew, which means short tendrils sprouted from the corners of my hairline and the nape of my neck and have now grown into inches-long-but-still-not-long-enough chunks of weird hair that has to be tended to specifically or else it sticks out. OUT. Straight out of my head.
It occurred to me during this season of body insecurity that I had never really had any body insecurity before.
I mean, yes. Obviously I’d been self conscious growing up about certain things - my nose is big, the hair on my legs is so black and stipply and even when I’ve just shaved, you can see the little pores where it grows (like if any boy ever touched my legs I was secretly freaking out). But real body insecurity that’s based on being overweight or something I couldn’t control immediately - that was new.
And it kind of rocked how I perceived myself. For the first few months of Mac’s life, I was doing my hair and makeup every day just to counterbalance the weight of my appearance. I didn’t hate myself, but for the first time in my life, I dreaded passing a mirror between the moment I got undressed and the moment I got in the shower.
Now, things have settled a bit more. My legs are mostly back to where they used to be, through the wonder of genetics. I’ve lost the baby weight and am back in my pre-baby clothes. But I still struggle to feel “beautiful” unless certain boxes are checked: my hair is freshly colored, I have self-tanner on my face, I have undereye makeup on, and I’m under 145 pounds.
You can add in your own list of things here that you don’t feel pretty without. We all have them.
Jordan and I are going to Mexico tomorrow, and as I started dreading being in a two piece, I started thinking about how incredible the journey my body has been on actually is.
I’ve grown a baby to term and endured the physiological trauma of labor and a C-section - one of the very few major, non-laparoscopic surgeries that is still routinely performed. I’ve made food for my new baby and gotten it to him for almost a full year. I gained a little over 50 pounds and lost it again. And this is just pregnancy stuff.
I’ve endured two rounds of stitches to the left knee and a gnarly high ankle sprain. Wrist sprain. Busted lip so hard my tooth almost popped through. Pink scar on my left shoulder from a bike wreck in 7th grade. Exercise-induced asthma for the first 10 years of life. Caffeine, alcohol, repeat on countless weekends. No sleep. Stomach bugs. Junk food. No food. Too much food.
Those aren’t traumas by any means, but they’re the things we all put our bodies through. Every day, our bodies serve us in ways that we completely take for granted. This is to say nothing of people who have chronic disease, illness, or pain.
When I sat down to write this post, I couldn’t decide if I wanted it to be a “Who gives a shit about your stretch marks? You’re fabulous!” post, or an “Okay yeah, we can acknowledge our flaws. But life is about more than that!” post. I couldn’t really land on one or the other.
So here’s what I’ll say instead. When I board the plane tomorrow for our vacation, I’ll go through about 11 cycles of, “Okay - don’t look too bad! Way to go, me!” Followed by a spiral of “I really wish I’d worked out more before this vacation,” followed by, “I deserve to eat EVERYTHING AT THIS RESORT AND I PLAN TO, DAMMIT!” Pepper in some “Oh my gosh my, my thighs are sticking to this chair,” and “My legs will never be smooth,” and “Did I remember to shave my underarms this morning??”
But what I’m really hoping for is to quiet my mind and enjoy myself without being my own constant hall monitor of body talk.
Maybe the important thing is to have a check on your thoughts and reign them in occasionally. Body mindfulness, maybe? I’m no authority on this subject, because I struggle with it in some capacity every day, like many women do. I don’t have wisdom to extol.
Except to say, at the risk of being trite, that our bodies are actually pretty incredible. And that if we’re doing things right, maybe we can move past a bit of the obsessive self-talk about food and body image and just live our lives. I guess I do have a point to this post, after all. It’s about presence. We only have one life, so maybe you oughta go live your best one in your shorts or your bathing suit or your tank top or your skin tight dress or your caftan or your suit - I’m going to, too. My body has worked so hard for me, so this upcoming week, I’m choosing to celebrate where I am and not fret over the things I find imperfect about myself, like the little bit of extra skin above my belly button that will never seem to go away. I’m channeling pregnant Mary Catherine on vacation for the next 5 days (and maybe beyond!). ‘Cause that girl?
She didn’t give a damn.