Tuesday, May 13, 2008

reflection: our bodies, our selves

when i found out i was pregnant with my 3rd child, i was initially devastated. it wasn't because we couldn't really afford a 3rd child (who can?). it wasn't because i was afraid of going through childbirth again (i am proud to say i labored with all 3 babies without medication, and i didn't really think it was all that terrible). it wasn't because we didn't have a car that would seat 5 (thanks, honda element!). it wasn't because we had already given away all our baby stuff because we thought we were done. no, it wasn't for any of those (more practical) reasons. it was because i did not want to gain weight.

this might seem very superficial to you. just bear with me; i promise i'm going somewhere with this. i had just lost weight, was working out regularly, and generally felt happy about the way i looked. ok, actually, if i'm honest, i wasn't happy. i was finding my happiness in the way i looked. the sizes i could wear. the obsessive working out and not eating. but in reality i was NOT happy. which brings me to why i'm writing this blog.

so here i am now, weighing about 12 pounds more than i want to, and starting down the road of trying to get my body back (again). i have been doing pilates (by denise austin, which i know doesn't really count as pilates...) and it's been kicking my butt. i hope it kicks my butt really hard and makes it disappear.

ok, i digress. the issue i am having is that i really desperately long to have a disconnect between how i feel about my body and how i feel about my "self," or who i am as a person. i hate that as a woman these things are connected.

i have a friend who had a baby just a month after i did, and while i hang on to those last 12 pounds, she is super skinny. i want to hang out with her, but i have avoided it for a long time because when i see her i feel sick inside. sick with jealousy, sick with self-loathing, more sick with jealousy. and i am ashamed of these feelings. i don't want to have them, but i do.

i have friends who have admitted similar struggles with how they view their bodies. for instance, one friend told me before we met at the beach on vacation: "don't worry; my stomach looks like a busted-open can of biscuits when i sit down." ok, this is probably the most creative and funny way to describe how a post-baby belly looks, and it did make me feel better, but this friend--let me tell you, her tummy is NOT like that. it's just fine! and honestly she is so beautiful that even if she did have a tummy no one would notice for her other virtues and beauty would overshadow any flaws she thinks she has.

i have another friend who tells me, "i have eaten so many cupcakes that i've gained 4 pounds and won't be able to fit into my summer clothes." 4 POUNDS. i'm not making light of how she feels; in fact, i'm saying this illustrates just what a struggle we face. and by we, i mean mostly upper middle class women in america; i don't know about other countries.

(as an aside, this brings me to a point: i feel ridiculous enough worrying about my body when there are millions of people all over the place who are struggling in REAL ways and don't have time to worry about how they look to those around them. but as i say this, it doesn't help me really face these worries, so i continue...)

i have yet another friend who had a baby about a year ago and is super thin but says, "i won't be caught in a two-piece because my tummy looks like i'm a burn victim." now, i haven't seen her tummy, but i would put money on the fact that it's not as bad as she thinks it is.

i don't want to lay in bed at night and think, "be skinny. be skinny. be skinny." (which i do, incidentally, among all the other worries i have floating around in my head.) i don't want to look in the mirror and be disgusted with my reflection. i don't want to be so wrapped up in being afraid to wear shorts that i sweat to death in the florida heat. or worse, i don't want to avoid going places with my kids on the weekends because i KNOW i will be the flabbiest mom i see that day, while all the other moms gleam and glow in their skinny tanks and short shorts.

i want to be free from this oppression i feel about my body. i want to celebrate who i am as a person instead of being so worried that i have grandma knees (how the heck do i gain weight in my KNEES?!) or a crooked nose or a double chin.

and i know if i work out (most of the time) and eat healthy (mostly) that it will make me feel better about myself. so for now, that's what i am doing. but somewhere deep down i know that there has to be more than this, because one day i'll be old and no amount of working out or eating healthy is going to make me look young and vibrant again. so what then?

a friend once told me that i need to strive to be at the point where i don't need to hear the approval of others around me about the way i look and that instead i need to try to be that for myself: my own inner cheerleader. maybe by the time i'm old and gray i will have reached that point...

8 comments:

Pixie said...

Old & gray....
When I was in college, the local free swim started just as our class was ending. It struck me as ironic even then that here were these young, firm bodies all shy & covered up and trying to hide our flaws while the old wrinkly stretched out grannies shed every piece of clothing without shame.

mel said...

Good for you posting a picture of yourself and talking about the process of coming to love yourself!

I am deeply convinced that how a (white North American) woman feels about her body has absolutely nothing to do with how her body objectively appears. Even most of the women we idolize see only their flaws when they look at their naked bodies.

May you experience healing in this area and as you give yourself permission to love that body of yours!

P.S. Got here from your comment on Emerging Women.

kristi said...

hi mel, thanks for stopping by--i agree that the women we think are so amazing and gorgeous still feel just like we do when they are naked. AND they get the benefit of airbrushing. how awesome would that be! :)

thanks for the encouragement!

Amelia Plum said...

I agree wholeheartedly with mel's comment. Even if you don't have an eating disorder, which I had for far too long, this country's relationship with food and body image is extremely distorted. Look at all the completely insane diets that are pushed in this country. And I hate the focus the tabloid rags give to bump watches and how quickly celebs get back to being painfully thin again. No one can measure up to those standards and, honestly, no one should have to. I'm waiting for that day of shedding clothing without shame as well but I think I could whittle myself to skeletal proportions and still feel I have huge thighs. There's an exercise they do with a lot eating disordered patients where they have draw an outline of how you see yourself and then you see what you actually body outline is, which is always thinner. I've never done this but would think it would be helpful in erasing the negative body mindset.

amy said...

i wish i had the perfect thing to say on this subject. unfortunately, like most women, i struggle in this area, too. i have seen you in a bathing suit, and honestly you look great. not to mention what a beautiful person you are both inside and out. as a side note, i got several inches cut off of my hair two weeks ago and as he was cutting it, i was thinking, "i hope it looks more like kristi's when he is finished." argh, why is tampa so far from here?!

asti said...

Oh Kristi, I can really relate to this sadly...I'm a little heavier than I'd 'like' to be, even though I know I'm fine really. It just struck me that these size zero women are smaller that my 10 yr old daughter. She fits a UK 8. How CRAZY is that ??? And these are the women we think we want to look like....it's so poisonous and its so ingrained. We have such a job to make sure our daughters are not sucked into it all.
You know as I'm getting older (36 in June, not OLD I know ...but..), I'm getting closer to not giving a S**t.
You look great to me by the way, honestly but I know you're not going to believe me!

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