Something that has been on my mind the last couple weeks is body image.
Body image and I have a very long and complicated, but beautiful history together. I have been on all sides of the spectrum, hating my body, loving my body, feeling too fat, too thin, too soft, too wide, too…
This is something I think does not get talked about enough. It’s become taboo to talk about our bodies, and especially if we like our bodies, but not so much if we dislike our bodies. This phenomenon has me constantly intrigued and infatuated with body image.
At a very early age, I realized that skinny was the goal. I grew up in a home that was very weight conscious as my sweet mother struggled with her weight over the years. This could have been a curse, growing up in a home with a dieting mom and a house full of older sisters who were thin and beautiful but always strived for more. But actually, it ended up being a blessing. Somewhere along the lines, I realized that no matter how much weight my mom lost on her diet, or how much she gained back, no matter how much my sisters bodies grew and changed as they blossomed into womanhood, their lives never changed. Their happiness was never directly related to their weight. Their sense of humor, their personality all stayed the same no matter what. Their weight had nothing to do with how beautiful I thought they were.
In junior high and high school, I was at constant battle with my curvy frame. It was in the years of “the thinner the better”, and in a school full of little girls, my body seemed to be racing to womanhood and it was winning first place. My hips were wider, my bum was rounder, my breasts were larger than any one of my friends. To say I hated my body was an understatement. I seemed to just be bigger, softer, rounder, lumpier than everyone. I dreamed of being a size 2 but no matter what I did to force my body into cooperation, my size 8 hips and thighs were not budging. I struggled with this and many other aspects of self esteem as my teen years drew to a close.
When I was 18, I moved to Austin, Texas. I had a wonderful time there and my life truly, truly changed for the better the moment I landed. One aspect though, is I met a woman who was so different than any other woman I had ever known. She wasn’t the thinnest or most glamorous, but she loved herself anyway. She loved and appreciated her body and had no problem talking about these acts of self acceptance. At 18 years old, it was the first time I had ever heard any woman – ever, in my life – tell me that she loved her body. The wheels immediately began to turn. Maybe I didn’t have to hate my body. Maybe, even though it looked different, I could love it anyway.
One move, one marriage, and one pregnancy later I had a completely new outlook on my body. As my body grew and changed each month, I learned to accept it all the more. At 22 weeks when I glanced at my back side in the mirror and noticed what looked like tiger scratches down my bottom, it only took a few moments of panic before I said, “ya know what? I’m a mom now. Moms have stretchmarks.” As my body reached full capacity of growth and my labor started somewhere around 38 weeks (don’t worry, I wasn’t so lucky the next time around) MY BODY, this naturally size 6-8, curvy, healthy body of mine successfully delivered a perfect 6 lb 14 oz 20 inch long baby girl. We named her Harlo and I was in love. Both with her and with my new appreciation for a body that had done me well. Really well, as a matter of fact.
As Harlo grew I loved every inch of her little body. I wanted to nourish it to the best of my possibilities. Those pesky breasts that I was once ashamed of came fully equipped with all the milk and nourishment she needed. As we introduced solids, I made sure she had only the best, because I loved that body so much. I wanted it to grow up on all the best this world had to offer. I quickly realized I should be treating my body the same way. The more I took care of it, the more I loved it.. the more I loved it, the easier it was to take care of. My body began to look better, perform easier and feel better than it ever had. The love for my body only grew as I became pregnant again, and again my body grew and stretched and accommodated another growing baby. My stretch marks reached higher, sank deeper, and spread a little wider on my hips and thighs. I wore them with all the pride I had. To this day, my stretch marks are possibly my very most treasured feature on my body… and I tell my girls that often.
As my girls grow up in this home, I have made it my personal goal to tell them how much I love my body. That their very first example of body image is a wonderfully positive one. It is quite possible that they’ll never hear another person talk positively about their body, but as they grow up in my house they will often hear “I love my round hips! I’m so glad I have these curvy, beautiful hips!” or “yep, those are my boobies. Isn’t it amazing that I was able to feed you for an entire year with these boobies? Someday you’ll have some that do the same thing.” or “Aren’t our bodies amazing? Look at all the things we can do with our bodies. Each one is so different and beautiful. Isn’t that wonderful?”
“I will tell them about heaven. One day I will stand in the presence of my Mother in Heaven. As will they.
We will see her shape, the glory of a million creations–breasts that give, a belly that bears, hair that shines with splendor–and we will embrace Her and thank Her for co-creating us in the likeness of Her.
What will I do for my daughters in that tub each day, besides let them discover my wavy, water-loving body? Prepare them to meet Her again, and recognize Her face, Her body, Her sensuality–because it echos their earthy mother–because it echos their own.”
Today for Fashion Friday, I wanted to talk about the importance I feel in a healthy and positive body image. I challenge each of you to stop any “fat talk” or unhealthy talk about your body in your home, especially in front of your children. Sometimes just silencing out the negative helps you to see the positive. For anyone who is struggling with body image issues, I sincerely pray for you. I wonder if we could all change the way we see our body, how beautifully that could impact the world.