Me at 15. I thought I had the fattest thighs on the planet.
Anyone who has known me since before I turned 50 knows I struggled dearly with my body image. It probably started when I was little, and my mom enjoyed telling me stories about the aunties coming to visit us when I was a baby just see the size of my thighs. I know lots of you have similar stories of growing up thinking you were the biggest/fattest kid on the planet. I was the first kid in my fifth grade class to hit 100 lbs (boy or girl!). I can’t remember how tall I was because nobody cared; I weighed 100 lbs that’s all that mattered! When I graduated from high school, I was 5’ 5” and 118 lbs. Yeah, real fat. But those old stories were so embedded in my psyche that my mirror told a different story.
When I was 23, I had an emergency c-section. They had lost the baby’s heartbeat while prepping me and all hell broke loose in the operating room. Suddenly I was being ripped open from navel to pubic bone (I felt it since they hadn’t had time to knock me out yet) and my 9lb 13oz son was born not breathing. He was resuscitated and taken to NICU where he died 5 ½ days later. The incision was long, the baby large and putting the skin back together was messy. Too much skin, not enough space to make a flat scar without the baby to hold it up. It healed, but it looked bad by anyone’s standards. Every time I looked at my body, I saw a scar that was a potent reminder of how I had failed to bring a healthy baby into the world. Losing Mark Adam was my second loss; Andrew was lost at 19+ weeks three years earlier. Not only did I think my body was ugly but I believed it had betrayed me in the worst possible way, twice.
More losses, another baby in NICU (he survived!), a hysterectomy, constantly yo-yoing weight, and in 2004, I nearly died from pancreatitis and a gallbladder infection. More body betrayal. Was I broken or what? I started wearing baggy clothes and forgetting what I looked like naked. It’s not important if you have a guy who loves you, right? (Don’t buy into that, okay? We look good for ourselves, not others, and we also can look bad for ourselves. I was making myself look bad because I thought that’s how it should be.)
As I hit 50, I began to make peace with my body. I think that’s a common denominator for women over 50. Maybe it’s an I don’t give a rat’s ass mindset or maybe it’s just realizing that life is too short to worry about the size of our thighs! It was a VERY slow process for me but it was progress. In February 2012, I started the Creative Grief Coaching Studio’s certification program. One of our “tools” was to create a body image painting (on our body!) and video the process. It was optional but I felt it would be a wonderful opportunity to really make peace with my body. It was amazing! It was truly life-changing, and I don’t say that lightly. I had a huge aha moment at the end (and making the video was fraught with so many technical issues I nearly abandoned the project several times!). I shared my video with my classmates, and they were so incredibly supportive. I am taking a leap by sharing it here with you now which also shows how much I’ve progressed with my body image. Gulp.
This is the video and the password is markadam. It is a HUGE leap for me to share this video publicly so please be kind. ♥
Since this video was made in March 2012, I have lost over 30 lbs, unintentionally. I posted about my illness here. I was hospitalized again in August, had a surgical procedure on my bile duct, and am doing much better. My intestines and liver were very traumatized by the illness and vomiting for over two months so it’s been a long road to recovery since the surgery. I’m getting there. I still battle nausea and some pain but it’s much better. I’m still detoxing and the medications really do a number on my head. Sometimes I feel like my brain has completely atrophied! I am starting to get some quality sleep finally, which helps immensely with my thinking abilities. I hope to get back to work full-time sometime next week or at least a solid part-time. It will depend on how many mistakes I make the first day 😉
Through this, I thought about body betrayal a little bit. It used to be such a huge thing in my life and it’s not a surprise that it would pop up again. With everything else going on, why did I have to lose my health as well? However, most of the time, I think about how this experience has taught me many things . . . good self-care, patience with myself and for those who are tired of a very slow me (sorry StorkNetters), that there are ways to comfort myself that don’t involve food . . . I have to eat a rather restrictive diet but I’m learning to accept what a gift that is. I can’t put preservatives or poisons or processed food into my body anymore. My allergies are amazingly better when I don’t consume grains! Who knew?! I’ve been on allergy medication for 30 years and now I don’t need it. Maybe my asthma will go away in time as well. I have to be honest though and say I did fight this HARD. I wanted to eat what I wanted when I wanted because food was a comfort and with everything else going on in my life, I felt entitled to that one thing and damned if it wasn’t taken away too!!!! Whine, snivel, moan and COMPLAIN. When that feeling fires up inside, I’ve learned to sit quietly somewhere and just sit with it – no judgments – just leaning into it a bit (not falling into it mind you). It would seem that feeling just wants to be heard and when I acknowledge it without judgment, it quietly moves off into the sunset. It tends to come back, but I just wash, rinse, repeat . . .
In case you’re thinking I’m lucky to have lost 30 lbs quickly, please don’t. I made a very short video on that too . . . meant to be silly. I can be VERY silly. But, this is also a sign of how I’m learning to embrace my body, bitch-slapping arms and all!
Because I have lost so much muscle with this weight loss, my strength and energy have much to be desired. I started a weekly yoga class to start building back some of that muscle. I do my best to keep up but I also honor where my body is at so I don’t overdo – another exercise in listening to my body and good self-care. I tend to sleep for two days after a class! Yesterday while we were in a supported shoulder stand, I looked up at my legs and a few tears started to flow down my cheeks. I was struck by the feeling that I LOVED my body. I’ve NEVER said that to myself – EVER. It was such an overpowering feeling. Despite the losses, scars, illnesses . . . it’s MINE and it has served me well. It’s a beautiful body, warts and all!
And so is yours!
So please remind me of this post when I forget 😉 I would love to hear your body image stories and how you’ve cultivate love for your beautiful body. ♥