The paper liner on the table made a crinkling noise every time my feet swung back and forth. I was a young teenager, and it was my first appointment without my mom in the room. I stared at the jars of cotton balls and tongue depressors, and then she caught my eye. Her breasts were both perky and round. She was perfection.
Dear Jesus, please let me grow perfect breasts like hers.
I said my silent prayer in the office while I waited for the doctor. I stared lovingly at the poster of the internal diagram of the headless lady with impeccable breasts at the doctor’s office. I wanted my body to look like hers.
She ran along the water unapologetically in her swimsuit. I remember the soft Florida sugar sand under my feet. We coasted along the edge of the waves crashing, and she splashed the water on me. My mom. I loved her tall frame, long legs, and big bouncy hair. I held the photo, remembering the vacation and thinking about why my body wasn’t skinny like hers. I wanted my body to look like hers.
When she got out of the water, I could plainly see all parts of her. She was curvy. I stared at my aunt for too long and thought about how my body frame finally made sense. It was my first realization that a non-skinny frame could be beautiful. I wanted my body to look like hers.
I was back at the doctor’s office. Swinging my legs like I did when I was a young girl. I stared at the diagram of the uterus on the desk wondering how both my children ended up growing inside my own version of the diagram. The problem, I told my doctor, was that I really loved myself but I wanted my body and mind to feel better. “That’s the best starting point,” she told me as she spun around in her chair.
I was scared to reveal that I wasn’t feeling good. I loved who I was, yet I also felt frustrated with my body. I was tired, anxious, and emotionally spent. My body wasn’t to blame. There was no real blame — it was just the season of motherhood I was in. I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t remember the last time I exercised. Later, I figured out it had been three months.
I didn’t want to diet. I had tried it all at some point in my life. I made breakfast shakes, I obsessively counted calories, I did weigh-ins with other people, I gave up carbs, I quit sugar, and I deprived myself and binged. None of it ever helped me love myself. Instead, it all left me feeling like I could never be “fixed.” It all made me feel like I couldn’t fit the mold of the bodies I wanted to look like.
What changed my whole philosophy of who I was and how I could love myself was becoming a mom. I was a new person, and I had a new body. I was committed to learning to love myself so that I could teach my children the same. It didn’t happen overnight. Each new step brought me closer to body positivity:
I engaged in new sports that I was told my body could never do.
I stopped obsessing about losing the “baby weight.”
I wore my damn swimsuit.
I believed that my body was beach-ready as it was.
And I started talking to people about how my body is not open to their commentary.
These are lessons I learned over time, not overnight.
I sat in the doctor’s office and talked about my next steps for using exercise as a foundation for my mental and physical health, not a way to lose weight. This concept was something I had misconstrued my whole life. I was always so concerned about the number on the scale and the size of my jeans that I missed the importance of what feels good for my body and mind.
Feeling good in my body was for me and my doctor to define. That conversation with my doctor was the perfect example for me that there is no one body type. The conversation we had and the plan for me to feel good only made sense for me. My body is my own. My body is the only one of its kind, and I want to love and honor it. So I’ve started to do my best to do that, and it doesn’t include a diet, self-deprivation, or obsession. It includes being mindful about food and exercising regularly, for the health of my body and mind.
I’m on a journey to understand, accept, and love my body in motherhood. I don’t wear the same size clothes I wore in high school because my body isn’t the same as it was then, and frankly, neither is my heart or mind. I haven’t given up on my body. My body has changed and will continue to change. My body doesn’t need to be “fixed.” We walk in different seasons of motherhood, some overwhelming and some filled with self-care. These times in motherhood teach us how to take care of our bodies to feel good, not to be a certain size or to have a body like anyone else’s, but just how our own body should be and feel. This isn’t giving up on our bodies — it is lifting them up to be loved and appreciated.