Seventeen months ago, I gave birth to my two amazing children (twins), and just over two years ago, I found out I that I was pregnant. Up until that point, I had been working on my body image for years, making small steps forward (and often large steps backward). It was a difficult battle, as you probably know and relate to the struggle. Then, once I became pregnant, something incredible happened… I realized that I had no control over my own body. At 34 weeks, I went into labor and my boys were born. Immediately after having them, I actually lost quite a lot of weight and felt relatively “normal” within a matter of weeks. I pumped milk the for the first month, so I while I was eating and nourishing my body very well, I was also burning a number of calories. Then I stopped pumping (I had no milk supply whatsoever.) Slowly, but surely, my weight crept back up again. My boys are now 17 months old, and my weight has remained relatively stable within a certain range. But also, my body has changed… A LOT. Since having my kids, my body composition if different…everything is just different. And I’m not special; this is what happens to most women following pregnancy and birth. What you realize during this time, is that your body image issues aren’t just a nuisance of negative thoughts… it will one day soon begin to impact your children’s lives. You’ll spend less time focused on them when your preoccupied weighing yourself, critiquing your flab and sag, body checking, comparing yourself to others in real life and on social media, and counting calories or overthinking and feeling guilty over your meals/snacks. Personally, I know that I don’t want to be the mom who refuses to play on the beach with her kids because she’s too scared to wear a bathing suit in public. I don’t want to sweat my a$$ off in this ridiculous Florida heat because I’m too embarrassed to wear shorts and a tank top when I take my kids to the park.
Emily Fonnesbeck says it perfectly and truthfully in this awesome post: “When negative body image feels overwhelming and suffocating, it’s probably because you believe appearance to be most important.”
While you may be disagreeing with her, vehemently insisting that you do not believe appearance to be most important, chances are, you’re lying to yourself. It’s hard to admit it, but it’s okay, I’ve been there, too.
But what can you do when you have kids now and you feel like your negative body image is impacting them? How can you stop this wild fire of negativity from spreading to them? (Whether they are girls or boys.)
- Read the above mentioned post by the wonderful Emily Fonnesback, RD, CD, CLT regarding putting body image into perspective.
- Fake it til you make it. Act like you love yourself even when you don’t. This is MUCH easier said than done, but really give it your best shot (especially when you’re in front of your children). Go out of your way to say something positive about yourself around your kids (physical things and otherwise). For example, when you get a new dress, say something like “how cute do I look in this!?” And when you make a delicious dinner one night, comment on what a great cook you are and how proud you are with your self-taught skills.
- Just wear it! Wear whatever fits the day and occasion without fear of what your body might look like or what someone else may think. So what if your thighs have cellulite or jiggle; so what if your arms aren’t toned; so what if your tummy is soft, feminine, and has rolls.
- Focus on the most important things in your life… your children, your spouse, your career and pursuits, faith, friendships, experiences and new adventures. Whatever brings you joy, keep focusing on that. On your last day of life, you’ll look back and remember all the amazing moments, not what your belly looked like in a bikini on the beach that one time.
- Disconnect from all the negative social media that’s out there and replace it with body positive, fat positive people. There’s an INCREDIBLE community of supportive body positive people out there. You can find a bazillion blogs, sites, articles, podcasts, Facebook pages, and people on Instagram and Twitter.
You can do this – you can improve your body image. Expect that it will first be extremely hard work, combating negative thoughts and actually having to remember that you’re working towards having positive body image. Then, you will feel more neutral about your body. You won’t hate it as much, but you certainly won’t love it. And hopefully eventually, you’ll learn to appreciate, respect, and embrace your body with positivity and warmth. But know that it’s a process that takes time and work. Keep reading my posts for more positive thoughts and join in on the body positive community 🙂