Oooo boy, body image. A content warning for body image, weight loss, and all that jazz.
Back in 2011-2012, I finally lost all the baby weight. I was running 5K’s and almost at the time I was at pre-pregnancy, which was a decent, average time. I was still not at my “ideal” weight (I’ll get to that concept later) but I was feeling fairly good about myself. I just wanted to lose a bit more.
In that time period, we received our son’s diagnosis of autism, we decided as a family that we needed to move, as southern Oklahoma did not have supports in place, and we had no family or longtime friends there. In the spring, as my husband accepted a call to Washington and we began to pack and sell our dream home that we had only purchased a year before, I put on some weight. No big deal. I was still running and exercising and feeling great.
The move was stressful. The call I accepted ended up being more stressful than I imagined. My son grew (my husband and I are both tall, large people) and he could no longer fit in the jogging stroller we had, plus our neighborhood didn’t have sidewalks, making it hard to jog as cars zipped around. At some point over the next year or two, I stopped jogging, even though I was still walking as much as I could. I gained more weight. I had to go up a size in jeans.
It got to a point that last year I was within a few pounds of my fullest pregnancy weight. My clothes didn’t fit. I was scared for my health, because I had bought into the idea that being overweight = unhealthy. Even though I was a proponent of “health at every size,” internally I did not accept that for me.
In December, I had my first ever anxiety attack. I had tingling in my fingers and toes and felt numb on one side. I was certain I was having a stroke. My husband was certain it was stress. I called my doctor. My symptoms subsided and I had no other indicators of a stroke or heart attack, so I did not go to the ER. Instead, I made an appointment and went in. My doctor did all the tests she could: she ordered an EKG, she had bloodwork done (and I usually pass out when I have blood taken, but I did not this time), ran all my tests.
Surprisingly, nothing came back. In fact, my blood pressure was well within normal (it had been just on the high side the last two times I was in—I chalked that up to having coffee right beforehand, and this time I did not). Blood sugars and A1C were all good (diabetes runs in my family). In fact, every test showed that I was healthy. At my highest weight, and I was healthy!
That was enough to snap me out of things. If I was healthy, then I had nothing to fear. I didn’t need to scare myself into changing my lifestyle habits. I only had to change them if I wanted to change them. I looked at my wardrobe and decided I did (because I didn’t want to buy up a jean size again).
I took it slow and started back on a couch to 5K program that has worked for me, and I began on December 27th. I am now about 41 weeks into the program. Here’s the thing:
–I haven’t run a full 5K (I ran a virtual race in March but walked most of the second half).
–I haven’t lost much weight (At one point I had lost twelve pounds but have put about half of that back on)
However, I have:
–Gone down a size in jeans and now have comfortable clothes.
–Walked, hiked, and jogged weekly and feel better about myself.
–My resting heart rate has continued to drop (it was fine before, but it’s even better now).
–Made more conscious choices about the food I’m eating.
That last one doesn’t mean I eat always what is considered “healthy.” But I’m conscious about what I’m eating—do I really enjoy it? Does this satisfy any cravings that I’m having? Have I made sure I’ve had enough protein and fruits and vegetables (along with fats and carbs because you do actually need those, too). The biggest change I’ve made is that I want to enjoy my food, and sometimes what I think is enjoyable is not, it’s just quick. So I work to make conscious choices that will make me feel good.
I’ve hit some low points, though. There was a time where, within a few months, I had gained back all the weight I had lost, and I mentioned to others that “I hate my body.” I want to say to myself that’s okay that I hated my body in that moment. There are times when this meat sack doesn’t work the way I want it to. There are times I am bloated and a dress I love doesn’t look right.
But I also love this body. It’s becoming stronger. It’s softer. Even with “maskne” my face rarely breaks out and I’ve always had good skin, though sometimes it’s sensitive to certain chemicals and I have to watch for that. My blood clots well and I heal fast. I have a wicked scar on my lower abdomen from my C-section that still pulls when I laugh too hard, a reminder of how much this body has sacrificed.
Embracing failure for me is embracing that the “ideal weight,” the ideal body that the health industry and society has placed on me is not acceptable. I’d rather fail those measures and accept who I am. I’ve noticed lately, since embracing myself and my aging body, that I’ve started to hold my head higher and stand taller.
My grandma Lois used to always comment on my slouching, and I hated it. But she was just shy of five feet and one time told me that she always wished she could be tall. I hope that at some point she was able to embrace who she was, fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God (in fact, when I think of God in the feminine, I always think of her).
So now, I work to hold my head high, to stand up straight with my shoulders back, and embrace who I am—a tall, large woman of God who loves herself and loves what she is capable of doing as this beloved body.
Thank you for writing this piece. I believe many people struggle with body image, and especially with the ideals culture holds up for us. Your honesty is refreshing, and no doubt empowering for all who read it, freeing them to share their own struggles.
At some point, we all need to recognize that in order to love our neighbors as ourselves, we need to love ourselves. Every part of us, including the parts we might wish were different. Thank you again for writing…