Body Image Woes

Sometimes it feels like growth and freedom in one area comes with discontent and frustration in another. This has definitely been true in my mental health/emotional healing journey so far, and I’ve been experiencing it pretty strongly in the area of my physical health lately.

I am LOVING Intuitive Eating and flexible carb cycling. It gives me freedom with structure and if I wanna have a cookie (even on a lo carb day) I’m gonna have a cookie- eventually even without second guessing myself. If I find myself having dieting menatality or restrictive thoughts, or feeling frustrated that it’s a “low carb” day, I am more able to make a decision weighing my options and walk away confident in it. Not every single time, but more often. I do still have to convince myself to eat more some days, and that’s okay. I think with time it will all become easier and more ingrained habitually.

A big part of what I’ve been learning by dipping my toe into the community surrounding I.E. is learning to love your own personal body. I am REALLY struggling with what this means. I’ve wrestled with a lot of questions and a lot of shame, in the opposite way I’ve been conditioned to:

  • Am I vain to want to reduce my body fat?
  • Is it wrong to have goals that involve losing fat?
  • Am I supposed to just be happy with my body and not want to get to a place where it looks and feels more how i want it to?
  • I think the answer to all that is NO. I believe that my goals are not unreasonable or vain, and that they are achievable. I know that the way to attain them does not and should not include anything that involves restriction or training harder than I am. I am pretty confident that what God wants for me in life in general is not to drive myself into the ground, and that applies to over-exercising and obsessing about food. For me, that’s what it would be. I eat extremely healthy about 85-90% of the time, and work out about 8 hours a week. By all math, I should have lost at least 20 lbs this year so far, and instead, the lowest weight I’ve seen is a loss of about 4 lbs from my New Year’s Day weight. It’s ridiculously frustrating.
  • But, like a broken record, let me say again that I DON’T CARE what I weigh, really. I only weigh myself to get some sort of data as to whether the external is changing at all. What really matters to me regarding the external results, (which is definitely not the only thing that matters) is how I feel in my body. This is tricky and subjective, and I know that I’ve had some pretty epic dysmorphia in the past, but I am just not there. I have been there, and I know how it feels, so it’s not like I’m stuck in a “I’ll be happy when…” with this unrealistic ideal. I don’t need super flat abs and legs that are stick thin-I love that my legs are muscular! I don’t need my butt to look like the peach emoji. All I really want is to feel good and comfortable in my clothes- specifically jeans and a cute top. I know this is possible, because I was THERE, less than an handful of years ago.
  • And I do want to love my body. Even though it’s weird.
  • My cheeks will always be chubby.
  • My rib cage points straight out, making my torso look much fatter than it is, and, combined with my larger breasts, requiring me to get much larger dresses than i otherwise would need to.
  • I’m very short waisted, which does not complement my funky torso well at all.
  • My hips are just slightly more narrow than my shoulders, but less so since having Declan. This has always given me an athletic look when I’m fit, but slightly less feminine than my ideal. Not a big deal, but something I have disliked in the past. since Declan has been born, they, along with my butt have seemed to keep their fat layer in a way that is new to me.
  • My legs are long and strong, but for whatever reason, my upper thighs have decided to hold onto fat while gaining muscle, and they are thicker than ever.
  • Some of these things bug me, and maybe they would still, a bit, but the ONLY significant thing between me and body confidence -by which i mean comfort in my clothes and my skin- is (and always has been) my belly. I do not need it to be rock hard, and I’m ok with the fact that there will likely always be some loose skin, because I’ve had two babies! I celebrate that fact! I just don’t want it to be such a literal distraction.
  • The “goal jeans” in the size I was wearing when I got pregnant with Declan fit me beautifully, except for my belly, which muffin tops over in an extremely uncomfortable and unflattering, and, if I’m honest, depressing-way.
  • I would like:
    My arms to be better defined and more lean and muscular looking
    My hips and thighs to be leaner and more muscularly defined
    My butt to be a little rounder.

But, to just feel like myself in my skin, I NEED my belly to get out of my freakin way.

Obviously I cannot spot reduce- that’s not a thing- and so all the “would like” things will likely come alongside the progress required to get to what I NEED, which is a bonus. And, Y’all, it is a need, and I won’t feel ashamed or guilty for standing by that.

But what can i really do about it that I have not done in the past three years? That’s the hard thing. Last Christmas maybe I’d have said I needed to be more consistent, but… I’ve been nothing if not that over the past 7.5 months. What I actually can be more consistent about, though, is moving forward with grace and less pressure. I can pursue loving myself with good food, good exercise, good rest, lots of fluids, and doing everything i can to keep stress levels low. Scott and I fully believe that stress is a HUGE contributor, and that the constant over analyzing and obsessing about food and tendency to overtrain is impeding my progress.

I can and will continue pursuing a leaner and healthier figure, but it won’t happen overnight, and I am not going to wait “until” to feel beautiful. So, here’s the plan:

  • I have bought a handful of knit sundresses for our vacation next week so I can feel pretty and comfy and relaxed and unselfconscious while we are away. I don’t even think I’m packing shorts, because I don’t have any that fit well.
  • I am going to bring my yoga mat and some sneakers on vacation and practice yoga and walk each day, giving myself a gentle active recovery week.
  • After vacation I will return to my simple training plan and flexible carb cycling.
  • I will also continue prioritizing recovery equal to hard work and keeping myself from overtraining.
  • I’m going to continue growing out my hair, and sometime this fall, get a new cut and color that suits me and complements my face!
  • When cooler weather comes and i feel like it’s the time, I’m going to go to the mall and get a couple pair of Madewell Roadtripper jeans in whatever size fits and wear them until they are too big, and have no more “goal jeans” to get into. That’s what I did in 2013/2014, and it worked really well. There were no “too small” clothes to squeeze into and be disgusted by how I looked in. When I got new smaller clothes, I knew they would fit and was able to celebrate and feel accomplished *then*, but I never had the shame of clothes that were too small. Bonus: these jeans are sized differently than any I’ve ever owned, so there will be no comparison to my past size!
  • Something just clicked for me as I typed those words- while I haven’t been playing the comparison game as it relates to other people, I have been playing it with myself. While it’s totally reasonable to think I can be as fit and lean as I was 4 years ago, it may not be possible to wear the exact same jeans. My body shape underneath the layer of extra pudge may be different after Declan, and that’s totally okay. This is not and shouldn’t be about changing my shape, but honoring and celebrating it and pursuing its best- an external reflection on the internal work i’m doing. I’m not trying to change th “shape” of my personality or who God made me in my heart, but to learn it, celebrate it, heal it, and grow it to be the best it can so i can be more free to live my life. THIS is a while other blog post…. *frantically makes notes*
  • My body is beautiful. It is strong, it has done amazing things. It has carried four precious babies, two of them all the way to term, and fed both those babies until both of them were close to two years old. It has been with me through every type of trauma and heartbreak. It has been the gateway to helping me discover its own strength and beauty and the joy of moving it in ways that move me. It has given me a dream and a goal. It is the inspiration for the first and second books I’ll ever write.
  • I don’t love and celebrate my body like I want to, and I’m making it one of my main goals the second half of this year to pursue that, from every angle of how I care for it. I want to wear clothes that make me shine from the inside out and that I feel beautiful and confident in, celebrating the shape God gave me, instead of trying to fit in a mold of my former self or anyone else. I am going to rest and relax and feed my soul more instead of agonizing about if I’m eating enough or too much, or the right macros or any of that. I am going to train smart and sometimes hard, but not harder or more. I’m going to set fitness goals that will build upon what I’m able to do, and success will come from that, even if my body takes longer to change on the outside.
  • Full disclosure: all this internal agony comes from the fact that i am hovering between 1-1.5 pant sizes away from the smallest I’ve ever been as an adult, in case you’re a new reader or I haven’t mentioned it recently. The size i am currently wearing is six sizes (12 numbers) down from where I started in 2011, and I won’t name it here, because y’all’s eyes would roll out of your heads, and the point isn’t the number, it’s the comfort and confidence I feel in my body and wanting to feel like the results match the effort. My best analogy is that I feel like I’ve gone to work faithfully every day for over three years with only a few short vacations, and have received pay equivalent to one hour’s work. That’s frustrating no matter how you look at it.
  • I’ll leave you today with this truth: Scott told me the other night that I am most beautiful and sexy to him when I am feeling accomplished, confident, strong, and happy. None of that has anything to do with the size of my belly or how soft my thighs and bum are.

One thought on “Body Image Woes

  1. THIS! This right here! This is beautiful!!! Thank you for the beautiful reminder that comfort with ourselves, our beauty, our strength, is not dependent on a number! Thank you for the reminder to let our souls shine bright! And that is what makes us beautiful ♥️

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