It was another one of those “fat days.” I mean, my weight didn’t really change at all. It was more of a confidence thing. There I stood, in front of the mirror pulling at the edges of another new shirt. It didn’t take long before the poisonous thoughts came creeping in.
Gross. I look like a busted can of biscuits.
My tunic hit the floor, and I rummaged around the closet for a cami that would make it more flattering. Did this shirt shrink? It was perfect when I bought it! Long enough to cover my hips, but not so long that it looked like a dress…but now?
I look like the before picture in one of those weight loss commercials.
I continued obsessing, posing side to side, trying to find a flattering angle of my reflection. A few minutes into my self-loathing, my husband hollered up the stairs.
“Are you ready yet? The doctor’s appointment is in 30 minutes! You’re gonna be late!”
I yanked my pants up and took one last look in the mirror.
Skinny jeans. Ha. You can hardly call them “skinny” at size 16.
With a groan, I slammed the closet door and rushed down the stairs for my baby.
At the doctor’s office, a confident brunette strolled into the room. The pediatrician met my eye, smiled warmly, and began asking questions about my child. I couldn’t stop my arms from crossing over my stomach. I couldn’t help the constant tugging at my clothes. And as much as I hated myself for it, I resented Dr. Hottie Pants for being so…hot.
She tried to make small talk about warm weather and swimsuit shopping, but her endorphin-laced happiness annoyed the crap out of me. Who enjoys buying a swimsuit, anyways?
Just give us the vaccine, Dr. Hottie Pants. I don’t have time for this.
I walked out of her office and immediately called my best friend for lunch. She could tell I was having a day, so she agreed to meet at our favorite Mexican joint. Time to drown emotions in a huge bowl of queso.
I was throughly enjoying myself, munching on chips and prattling on about my daughter’s annoying new pediatrician.
“I mean, who talks about bathing suits when your baby is getting shots, right? She was the worst! I definitely need to find a new doctor. So annoying.”
Best friend dropped her fork. “Sweetie, I need to be real with you for a second. Can you deal?”
Her stern expression indicated I wasn’t going to like what followed.
“Yeah, I can deal. What’s up?”
“All right. You’ve been complaining about your weight a ton, lately. I get it. You’ve had a baby, so things feel weird. You are beautiful, of course, but that’s not really the point. The thing is, your weight isn’t your problem. Your problem is that you’ve gotten kinda, well…petty. You’ve gotten mean.”
All of a sudden I didn’t want chips anymore. I wanted stretchy pants and alone time.
If my best friend doesn’t love me, Netflix will. Screw this, I’m going to be a hermit. A fat, happy hermit.
“Like that pediatrician,” she continued. “You went on for 10 minutes about how awful she was. Best I can tell, the only issue you had is that she was skinny or cute or something? This isn’t like you. What is going on, for real? What is the actual problem?”
She sat there with one eyebrow arched, waiting for me to respond.
“I just,” I stammered a little. “I just feel so…ugly.”
There it was.
Her face softened, but best friend wasn’t letting me off that easy.
“Okay. I love you, but here it is: Your weight gain isn’t making you ugly, sister. Your attitude is.”
I paid my check, hugged her, and left the restaurant in tears. I just couldn’t. What was there to say?
It takes a real friend to drop a truth bomb like that.
I knew she was right. The mean girl in my head never shut up. She was the narrator of my life, and she’d completely taken control. The truth was that Happy Me didn’t hate beautiful doctors. Happy Me didn’t hate swimsuit season. Happy Me loved warm weather — for goodness sake, it’s why we moved to Florida!
So my actual problem wasn’t an unhealthy body; it was a sick, miserable heart.
How do I even fix that?
I got home, put the baby down in her crib for a nap, and found myself back in front of my closet mirror. I stripped off my clothes and kicked them to the side. I stood there for a second, examining my body. The body I spent so much time scrutinizing, criticizing, and hating.
Then I looked myself in the eye, and the floodgates opened. I stood there in front of myself, sobbing.
Why am I so damn mean to myself?
For too long, I placed a premium on my appearance. As if beauty made me lovable. As if a svelte figure would increase my worth as a human being. I mean, my head knew better, but my heart bought into so many lies.
You are undesirable. Everyone judges you. Everyone is looking at you. Everyone is disgusted by you.
Over time, the fuller my figure got, the smaller my confidence shrunk. There I stood — 40 pounds heavier, but a skeleton of the person I used to be. I could lose all the weight in the world, but the self-loathing wasn’t going to decrease with my pants size.
It was time to stop hating myself.
No. More than that, it was time to start loving myself. Just the way I was. Right then. The “before picture” version of me. No exceptions.
I traced my fingers over the stretch marks that lined my round tummy. Mean Girl whispered something, but I told her to shut up.
I’ve earned these stripes, dangit. And they’re awesome.
I turned around and looked over my shoulder. I ignored Mean Girl again and found kind words to speak of my body.
Your skin is beautiful. Your body is strong.
I examined the shape of my hips. The place my inner voice criticizes most harshly.
You’ve given birth to two little souls. What a freaking miracle you are!
A smile spread over my face, and I walked out of that closet for the first time with a light in my eyes.
My journey to self-acceptance started that hour, three months ago, when I realized that the ugliness I feared so much was never on the outside. It was within. A voice berating myself and everyone else, constantly. Sure, that mean girl still pipes up now and again, but her voice is weaker. Insecurity rears its ugly head, but I squash it too (as best I can).
I’ve discovered that the kinder I am to myself, the kinder I am toward others.
I have lost a few inches since then, which is nice. But most importantly, and perhaps the only thing that matters is this: My heart is healing. I have learned to love “before picture” me unconditionally. And by exercising grace for myself and others, a huge weight has slowly lifted from my shoulders.
Funny thing is, that was the first weight that needed to go.