Today is the nine year anniversary of the first date that my husband and I went on.
In the time that we have been together my weight has fluctuated both up and down. I have weighed fourty pounds more than my current weight at my heaviest during pregnancy and weighed twenty-five pounds less.
My self-esteem and sense of self-worth seem to be tied to the little red number appearing on the scale each morning. After I stepped on the scale and saw 176 this morning I instantly felt disgusted and sad and angry with myself. Why is this? I don’t know. Perhaps it is that I have been bombarded by images of what our society considers to be “normal” (read: thin) women on TV or in movies my whole life. Perhaps it is because almost any women’s magazine you pick up has photoshopped pictures of actresses, models, and athletes, endless articles about “how to fight holiday fat,” “lose your love handles,” or “lose five pounds fast.” Maybe it’s because I hit puberty before most of my classmates as a kid and was always the chubby girl. In middle school and high school I felt like I always stood out from the rest and had a woman’s body while most of my friends were still tiny.
I have never felt comfortable in my own skin. From an early age I had stretch marks from body changes in puberty, which have just compounded over time with the loss and gaining of weight and pregnancy. Even at my thinnest weight of 140 pounds and size 6 jeans I never had a flat stomach or a body resembling anyone on the cover of a magazine. I haven’t worn a bikini since I was a young child. I have never really felt attractive.
Sometimes it is mind blowing to me that in the nine years of dating and marriage that my husband is attracted to me. When I step on the scale and see that number that somehow translates to feeling good or feeling good bad in my brain, I amazed that somehow he doesn’t feel all those bumps or cellulite ripples. He doesn’t see those stretch marks or boobs that are still enlarged from breastfeeding. He still snuggles up to me in bed and touches me with desire. Even when I weighed fourty pounds more and felt like a pregnant whale, he wrapped his arms around me and told me I was beautiful.
Why do I let it affect me so? Why does it have to power to? How many times have I avoided being in photographs or tried to hide in the back row of a group picture? How many times have I felt like not going to a party or event because I felt uncomfortable with the way I look or because I didn’t feel like I didn’t have any clothes that I looked good in (compared to someone else that I knew would be there)? How many times have I not had fun at the swimming pool or the beach because I was too preoccupied with how fat I felt in my swimming suit? How many times have I been in bed with my husband and totally been taken out of the moment because I was worrying about how dimply my butt must look or how much my tummy jiggled? How many times have I refused sex because I felt fat and so unattractive that I just didn’t want to be touched?
It’s not like I hate my body, I guess. I mean it made another human- that’s pretty awesome if you think about it. My body has made milk and provided sustenance for my baby for seventeen months. I am pretty proud of that.
After my pregnancy I lost fifty pounds and felt pretty good. I had been trying to lose about twenty more to get to my “goal” weight, you know, that magical number we all have in the back of our minds. I don’t know if it has been my anxiety and the eating I so often use as a coping mechanism, the medication I started two weeks ago to manage it, poor food choices, not enough exercise, laziness, or a combination of all of the above, but my weight loss efforts have backfired and I have actually put on about fifteen pounds. As a result I have felt so negative and bad about myself lately.
This morning as I was getting ready for work in the bathroom I was looking in the mirror- sucking in my stomach, turning side to side assessing my body when I happened to look to my right and saw my daughter in my bedroom. She was standing in her Pack and Play watching me. How often have I mindlessly done this in front of her? I was horrified thinking of the negatively example I am showing her. Instead of judging myself and my self-worth based on what I see in the mirror and by the number on the scale, I should be teaching her that those things are irrelevant. I should be providing a body-positive, self-loving, living breathing example for her. I don’t want her to ever feel shame and negativity about herself and her body.
So where do I go from here? How do I change this mindset, this pattern of thinking that has followed me my entire life? I’m not sure, but I will definitely keep working on it. Someone is watching me and I can’t let her down.