OK: confession. I need to edit the title already, because that was kind of a lie. The rest of this post will be filed under:
How I learned to
love accept my muffin top.
And to be honest, even the accepting part is an ongoing commitment, not a done deal. (And in case you live in a cave and don’t know what I’m talking about, yes, a muffin top is a common body issue for women who are larger than a size 4.) It’s really just a catchy phrase to cover all the ways my body is different than it was 10 years ago. It comes with all kinds of padding and softening and having awesome moments like when your three year old pokes your stomach, laughs, and asks if you have a baby in there. To punish him for that snide little remark, I explained what a “vasectomy” is. That’ll teach him.
Ironically, the main reason I HAVE a muffin top and the main reason I’m OKAY with my muffin top are one in the same. She’s the little redhead to the right, running around in the waves in her swimming suit, splashing with glee. Sydney was my second tummy baby, and the pregnancy kind of did a number on my body. She’s also my only daughter. She’s almost 6 and weighs something like 40 pounds soaking wet. We can’t get her pants to stay up because she has no waist or hips. She runs around in Rapunzel undies or a Superman cape and never thinks about how she looks. She wrestles with her brothers and does fake ballet routines with pride. She has no idea that her body will ever be scrutinized and compared, by herself and others. And I already hear her picking up some of my mannerisms and attitudes about life. It’s what little girls do; they mimic their mommies. And although my body image issues are still a work in progress, I REFUSE to pass them on to my daughter. Soon enough she’ll enter the cruel world of of adolescence and she’ll have enough outside influences telling her she’s not good enough for whatever reason.
I recently read this quote by actress Kate Winslet, and it haunted me a little bit:
“As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, ‘I love my body.’ Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend–not one woman has ever said ‘I am so proud of my body.'”
I realized that I absolutely want my daughter to grow up loving her body and accepting its beauty despite any flaws. But how can I expect her to develop that mindset if I’m not modeling it? I actually think my mom and dad instilled in me a very healthy body image growing up, and even despite that positive foundation, as soon as I looked around the “real world” I was schooled in what was desirable and what was not.
In a random coincidence, two Australian women recently had great impact on my resolve. Have you heard about the documentary, Embrace? In the teaser, the director asks women to describe their bodies in one word. What word would you use? Mine would not be positive. Also, this article, also by an Australian, describes the unhealthy way body issues were handled in her family and how it has affected her as an adult. It is a must read, in my opinion.
So I’ve drawn a line in the sand.
I’ve written two basic rules for myself as I live and eat and work and parent. I believe our culture is harsher on girls and women, but these rules absolutely apply to raising sons as well. Boys have their own comparison and body image issues. I may not be able to honestly say “I love my body,” but we will abide by these two rules in our home:
1. NO negative body talk. Even if I have negative thoughts about my body or anyone else’s body, I hold my tongue. I try to hold myself to this rule even when my kids aren’t around. I want to train myself to stop being my own biggest bully! I cannot say “I love my body” out loud to my daughter and mean it [yet?], but she will never hear me berating myself either. This body may not look the way I want it to, but it is healthy and able. I’m grateful for this body.
If you have had more than two tummy babies and still have some proof on your body, you may be thinking, “Well, I’ve given birth _______ times! You should see MY body!” Or maybe you haven’t given birth and still struggle with weight and are about to play “I’m heavier than ______.” And I say STOP IT! We must stop comparing our bodies. Period. Talking about how your body is bigger/flabbier than mine or hers is just as bad as my skinny friends pointing out that their body is smaller/tighter than mine. And none of us would ever stand for that! (I love you, skinny friends. I promise.)
2. Focus on healthy and strong. Here’s the thing: “not hating my body” is not the same as “not taking care of my body.” It means that I should strive to be healthier, but that I will not despise myself or my body between today and the magical day when I decide I am fit enough, which we all know means “thin enough.” It means I will get over myself when family togetherness involves water and a bathing suit, and I will get out there and play in the sand and surf, even if I’m a little more covered up than I was 10 years ago. (It does not, however, mean I will post a full body bathing suit shot on the world wide web.)
It means that I will have seasons where I work harder to be healthy, which might mean losing weight, but I will not use words like “Mommy’s going on a diet.” It means I never use the word FAT to describe anyone, especially myself. It means my kids will see me go on hikes and bike rides and walks with them, and talk about how grateful I am for this body that can do so many things. It means we will sweat together as a family!
I also want my kids to hear me comment on their bodies and what a GIFT they are! Many children have illnesses that prevent them from doing the daily activities that my kids participate in without a thought. I want to be excited and rave when they try something brave and new with their bodies, like going higher on the rock climbing wall, riding without training wheels or mastering the monkey bars. And I want them to see and hear that I’m proud of myself when I work hard physically, reach a goal or try something new.
Sometimes I get giddy with excitement over the potential each of my children has. I see in them hints of things to come, and may I just say, they are very likely going to be amazing world changers. But I’m keenly aware that as their mama, I am co-laboring with my husband and God to lay the deep foundation of their hearts and minds. How they view the world and themselves will forever be tied into how I view the world and MYself. This is so often overlooked! We believe they will only listen to the edification we lather on THEM, but they are not deaf to negative self talk we aim at ourselves. These little people will only be my captive audience for a few precious years, and I’m determined to fill them up with confidence.
I want my daughter growing up believing she is strong and beautiful, because SHE IS.
And she needs a mama who is strong and beautiful too. I’m determined to be that mama, and believe it.