My curves are an outward symbol of my inner stress. Contrary to how the Dove ads would like me to feel, I’m not in love with them, and I certainly don’t want to show them off this summer.
I know that in this enlightened, feminist-rising era, curves are symbolic of powerful women who aren’t ashamed of their bodies. My story is not one of shame, but I do feel uncomfortable in my expanding waistline and chaffing thighs.
My growing size is a manifestation of mounting pressure, my struggle to cope, and a reliance on mindless eating. Self-care is on the back burner, and it shows in the tight grip of my jean shorts.
“The more I hear 'flaunt your curves' and 'love your body,' the more I want to stay in my air-conditioned house, in my elastic-waist pants, and lament.”
I remember my first diet. It was in preparation for prom. On that unmemorable prom night, I do recall scarfing down a savory In-N-Out double-cheeseburger (animal-style). I had slipped into my tight red dress and then gorged.
This marked the beginning of a weight-loss game that I’d play for the next 17 years (and counting). My weight peaked in 2002 while studying abroad in Siena, Italy. I absorbed the idyllic culture, and all of its calorie-dense pasta and gelato.
Once back in the states, I rebounded, joined Weight Watchers, and reached my thinnest weight. But at my heaviest and at my thinnest, my mental state remained burdened by an obsession with what I put in my mouth and how much I weighed. Food was rapidly becoming a substitute for comfort, self-love, and acceptance.
Since those two extreme times in my life, I’ve nurtured three babies in my womb and resumed a healthy postpartum weight. Currently, almost four years after my last baby, my weight is rising—and my attitude toward my body and health is plummeting. I long for the comfort of my patterned leggings and chunky sweaters. But the summer heat keeps demanding swimsuits and scant beachwear.
The more I hear “flaunt your curves” and “love your body” this summer, the more I want to stay in my air-conditioned house, in my elastic-waist pants, and lament. I’m brooding over a sorrow deeper than my flesh.
It’s one that many parents face — endless responsibilities, obligations, and tasks, with little overt rewards. The rewards are nuanced, like the soft, squishy hand of my child as I protect them when crossing the street. Or when I catch my child’s eye during gymnastics class, and they give me a warm, carefree smile.
These are the rewards, but often they’re flickers of light that are missed when preoccupied with life’s storms. When drowning in the stress of it all, self-care is often the lifesaver just out of reach.
“It’s OK to not love the extra pounds. Feeling uncomfortable in mind and body is a great catalyst for change.”
I’m not writing for sympathy about how hard parenting is or to create a stir about body shaming. I’m writing to say that it’s OK to not love the extra pounds. Feeling uncomfortable in mind and body is a great catalyst for change. It’s a reminder that I’m not taking care of myself, and my health (mental and physical) suffers.
Prioritizing my self-care is the first step. Like many caretakers, whether parents of little ones, nurses by profession, or the caregiver of a sick parent, it’s easy to give too much of ourselves. Before becoming a mom, I was a social worker. I’ve always loved to care for others; it comes naturally to me. However, I never learned how to first care for myself.
I recently read Julie Burton’s book “The Self-Care Solution.” She outlines ways to achieve self-care in all facets of life. In her chapter on honoring your body she writes,
The real goal for your self-care solution in this area needs to be focused on how you feel — your energy level, your mood, and your level of acceptance, love, and appreciation for your body.
I want to feel invigorated about life and to beam with self-love. I know junk food and overeating won’t lessen my overwhelming responsibilities or relieve me of my feelings of sadness and anxiety. Emotional eating is a quick fix with no means to a solution. Digging into a bag of peanut M&M’s or skipping breakfast only to later splurge on potato chips is not helping me get closer to living a more serene life. Choosing balanced, nutritious food and consistent exercise can help.
But I also need to dramatically shift my attitude about self-care. I have to put myself first and not feel guilty about it.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or 22 as long as you’re taking care of your body, working out, and telling yourself ‘I love you’ instead of taking in the negativity of beauty standards.
I’m teetering between practicing self-love by embracing my current body and hating the extra pounds, because they represent my lack of self-care. When I think of times that I felt good about myself, I think of moments when I finished a great run, had fun with my husband and kids, or when I’m writing — to name a few. These are moments when I felt strong, brave, and proud.
I may have felt fleeting joy when I was at my thinnest and fit into my skinny jeans, but that joy was superficial. What brings me happiness isn’t weight loss, but rather spiritual gain. To feel fulfilled I have to harvest a healthy relationship between my mind and body. I have to connect with myself by doing the things I love.
If I can find time to think nasty thoughts about my expanding thighs, then I can find time to make a cup of tea and meditate. It’s not going to be easy. There are no quick fixes to becoming my best self. I will work on kind self-talk and loving my body. That means eating consciously, exercising regularly, finding time to be still and reflective, and letting go of negative thoughts.
I hope that at some point this summer, regardless of how snug or loose my bathing suit fits, I can play in the pool with my kids and enjoy the moment. Perhaps, over time, when I’m blasting Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” I can belt, “I’m in love with your body!” and believe it about myself.