-Mary Elizabeth Williams in an article for Salon
I have struggled with my weight as early as fourth grade. The curve of my belly is where it all started. I remember it vividly; pictures of me on our family vacation wearing a purple two piece still haunt me (I was 11.) When puberty started to hit, I looked a lot different than my other classmates (and my tiny, younger-by-a-year sister), though I started to notice before anyone else did. I stayed relatively "fit" through high school with a healthy regimen of cheerleading and teenage metabolism, but by the age of 18, I felt the pressure to be thinner than I was. (If I could have the body I had then, I would be ecstatic.) I did Weight Watchers, and then a low carb diet, and then Weight Watchers again, and then another low carb diet. I would lose the weight, but would always end up in the same place, get bored, gain it all back, and be depressed again.
Part of my depression has always come from this, even at my thinnest (about 40 pounds below where I am now): I love fashion. I love clothes and I love fashion blogs and I love glossy magazines and pretty things. But in that world, very few people look like me (and very few clothes fit me). In the plus-sized fashion world, I occasionally feel represented physically, but being labeled plus-sized is just another small offense against a body that I try my best to take care of. Becoming a mom has added another level to that desire to achieve: I am comparing myself to women who have never gained 35 pounds in three months or pushed out a baby that changed their entire life (and body).
I know I will never be skinny or small or even thin. At best, I will be curvy or athletic. Currently, I am: squishy and husky. I feel my own heaviness. Some days, I come to terms with it, and think that it's okay. Other days I hate it passionately, eschewing all the pretty clothes in my closet for a pair of stretchy jeans and an oversized tee shirt, covered by a scarf to hide any rolls.
I went vegan because I felt tired and blah. I wanted to eat healthier, and I wanted to make better choices for myself (and the world). But also, I had read so many stories about veganism leading to incredible (almost effortless) weight loss and clear skin: two things that have alluded me for so long. Since having Aurora, I just haven't felt like myself. I don't recognize my own body. It seems that no matter what I do--eat high raw, eat a lot of cooked foods, bike 5 days a week, walk 2 days a week--nothing changes. I am stuck.
I see baby bloggers (ew, I hate that term) who have newborns writing about fitting into their old jeans or answering reader questions about how they're losing the baby weight so quickly. I wish they would be honest and answer that it's genes. If you were naturally thin (or "reasonably healthy and fit" as in the quote above), you aren't going to come out of pregnancy as obese. Your body is good to you. Don't try to tell me that doing that yoga DVD once a week is really helping tone you back up (or blame it all on the breastfeeding, which is wonderful, but is different for everyone, and not a magic weight loss cure for mamas).
I am alive. I have no diseases. I can run, jump, bike, play with my daughter. And yet I often feel like my body hates me, and in return, I hate it back. It's a vicious cycle.
I wanted so much out of veganism, and I am not giving up on it. I think I wanted the wrong things. But I don't know how to want the right things. I don't know how to avoid wanting what I'm told I should want: jeans in a single digit size, the scale to read what it did 2 years ago, waking up to a face that doesn't need a single ounce of makeup.
I try, daily, to give myself grace, but there are so many messages being sent my way that I just want to go into my bedroom and shut the door sometimes. Every time I am feeling better or more positive, something (or someone) else knocks me down.
I am so used to dealing with these issues that I don't know who I am without them. But now that I have Aurora, my beautiful girl, I am more concerned than ever about becoming healthy: physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. I want more for her. I want to protect her from this kind of thinking as much as I can.
But how? Where do I even begin to erase years and years of conditioning and hurt and habit?
The only time I can recall these issues almost "magically" disappearing was when I was pregnant with Aurora. It was amazing, focusing on the little person growing inside of me instead of on all the other growing I was doing. I walked because it felt good and I knew it was good for Aurora, I ate well, but indulged in little things I wanted (I was a slushie and Sour Patch Kid fiend!), and I found ways to dress myself so that I was both comfortable and looked cute.
|one of my favorite pregnancy photos.|
I feel stupid for voicing these things, just another girl with low self esteem or body issues. As I write all of this, I feel shame. I feel shame about my body, I feel shame that I think this way, I feel shame that there are people who read this to whom I'm a "thin person." I'm writing this because I know I'm not the only mom (or woman) who feels this way. But I am writing this with no answers.
I want to find that "new kind of beautiful." And some days, I think that I do. I have moments, like this week, when the air was crisp and the sun was bright and the sky perfectly blue and Aurora and I were walking up the street and I couldn't help but sigh...every person and every thing was beautiful then. Even me.