As a chubby kid who started developing on the early side, I began dealing with body image issues at a shockingly young age. I was a binge eater and an over-exerciser, and it took me decades to get to a better place in terms of how I felt about my body. Getting pregnant and giving birth were both instrumental in helping me understand what my body was capable of, and why those capabilities mattered more than how my body looked or was perceived. Of course, I still have hang-ups, but these insecurities don’t keep me from being body positive. After all, who cares how my body looks in a bikini? I can grow actual human beings.
Becoming a mother has definitely been a major factor in combatting my body image issues. I have a daughter and a son, and since I know how terrible it feels to hate your body, I am doing everything possible to raise body positive children. I’ll be honest, when I was pregnant, my only wish for my unborn child was that she or he wouldn’t be overweight. I just couldn’t stand the thought of them being ridiculed for their size and feeling that a number on a scale defined them or learning from a shallow society that they weren't as valued or worthwhile as someone skinnier. But once they were born, my attitude shifted: they didn’t have to be thin to love themselves. It was on me to teach them to celebrate their bodies, no matter what size they were.
While I attempt to teach body positivity to my children, I remember that I need to continually be practicing body positivity myself, too. Although I still struggle with them, these insecurities don’t keep me from being body positive. I just have to remind myself how well my body served me when gestating two thriving children, no matter how I interpret my reflection in the mirror.
Constantly Comparing Myself To Others
Every since I was little, I was sizing up everyone around me in an attempt to figure out where I stood. “Is that girl thicker than me? Am I shorter than her?” Maybe it’s from being lined up in size order starting in kindergarten, or getting weighed in front of the class when they had to do health evaluations, but my comparative tendency has been strong for as long as I could remember.
Becoming a mom helped rein in my body image issues. Not only did I not have the bandwidth, with little kids, to be thinking about how I measured up to everyone else around me, but I had lived long enough to realize there is no one way to fit in. Someone is always going to be leaner, or have a cuter nose, or hair that falls in an effortless lob. I’m in the mix, somewhere, and whatever shortcomings I feel I have may be viewed as advantages by somebody else. I want my kids to learn that our uniqueness is to be celebrated, not quieted.
Thinking People Are Watching What I Eat
Lunch meetings used to be the worst. I’d deliberately help myself to much less than what I truly wanted to eat (which would lead to me bingeing later, in private). Guess what? Nobody comes to work meetings to survey my diet. Getting over this issue meant I could enjoy the occasional catered meeting, a nice break from lonely binges.
Being Self-Conscious Of How My Clothes Fit
I used to hate most of my clothes. I despised how I thought I looked in them. I would scrutinize my appearance in the mirror. You know, because everyone else is scrutinizing my body, right? Uh, no. My husband woke me up to the fact that men don’t really care what women have on. We were watching one of those lingerie commercials for a service that sends you a bunch of stuff to try. All of it looked so beautiful to me, but my partner scoffed. “Please,” he said. “If you’re in bed with a guy, he’s not looking at your underwear, he’s just hoping it comes off.”
But what about the clothes? Well, I stopped holding on to items I thought I’d wear “some day,” and that left me with much fewer choices, and much less anguish. My wardrobe has been pared down to the pieces of clothing I truly love, and feel good wearing.
Obsessing Over The Number On My Clothing Labels
After a devastating break-up in my late 20s, I didn’t want to eat. The only consolation for the heartbreak was that I lost weight, something that I was always in the process of sort of doing, since I was eight years old. I got down to a number on the scale I didn’t think I’d ever see as a human adult. Subsequently, I had to shop for smaller clothes. Ridiculously sized clothes. Isn’t it something that my goal was to be a size “0?” I literally wanted to disappear.
Obviously, there are those women whose body types naturally fit into these sizes. And when you think about it, it’s not that women are getting universally smaller, it’s that vanity sizing — calling a dress a “6” in 2016 when the same measurements equalled a “12” in 1960 — is how retailers sell clothes. Women are being preyed upon and shamed for our size insecurities. Once I realized that, it dawned on me that when I loved a piece of clothing, it was because of how I felt in it, not what number was on the label, which no one but me would see anyway.
Having To Reach A Certain Amount of "Calories Burned"
This may be my OCD kicking in, but I hold myself to certain standards when I work out. I don’t short myself on reps, even if I have to take breaks to complete a set, and I like to hit a certain number of calories on the treadmill dashboard, even though those things are probably grossly inaccurate. I work out in the mornings, after dropping the kids at the bus stop, and before getting ready for work, so I have a limited amount of time (we're talking 30 minutes at the most). I try to make the most of it. I do go easier on myself by Friday, though, and lower my numbers goal. So I'm doing my best not to let this numbers obsession get the better of me!
Dreading Swimsuit Season
It’s really hard for me to feel great in a bathing suit, but I’ve come a long way since refusing to remove the baggy t-shirt I used to wear over it when I was a teen. Plus I’m a swimmer, and my kids love the water, which thrills me. I can’t avoid bathing suits. I like playing in the water with my children too much to stop me from wearing one.
Being A Short Person Who Is Not Thin
Everyone thinks I’m taller than I actually am (I am a shade under five-one). That’s because I am far from slight. I build muscle easily and I come from hearty Eastern European stock, not exactly known for our waifish stature. So while I shop in the “petite” section, I don’t always have success. I’m better off shopping in the regular aisle and getting everything shortened.
Choosing A Locker Number No Higher Than My Goal Weight
I’m not the only who does this, right? RIGHT?! Look, I like the geographical location of locker number “2.” Just let me have this one hang-up, ok? I’m not hurting anyone.
Bumming Out Over Clothes That “Fit” But No Longer In A Good Way
My body is in a constant state of morphing, and not just because of what I eat or how much I exercise. I’ve birthed two babies and I’ve lived for a few decades. This year, when I pulled down my summer clothes after winter was finally done pounding us in the northeast, I noticed that some clothes fit me in different ways. I could still zip up the dresses, but I looked different in a few of them. Some parts of me were wider, others less full (I’m talking to you, boobs). I could get upset over this fact, or be glad that it gave me a chance to upgrade my wardrobe with a few new pieces that made me feel fabulous. The latter path is the clear winner.