The 'Before And After' That You Never See
That’s what it took to build and grow and care for my two kids.
That’s also the amount of weight I didn’t know I needed to gain in order to finally heal. It took seventy-five pounds to realize that I didn’t have to ride the excruciating hamster wheel of diet culture anymore. My pregnancy weight gain turned my whole world upside down, and I’m still thanking my lucky stars it did.
In fact, I have no plans to lose a single pound of it.
Yep, you read that right.
I give zero fucks about losing my pregnancy weight. I’m quite happy to stay as I am, thank you very much.
And let me be clear, this isn’t some kind of gimmick where I’m pretending to be happy with myself, because I’m a new mom, and I just want to let my body “be” for a while. I am telling you, with 1,000% certainty, that if my body was to look and feel like this for the rest of my life, I would be A-OK with that. And this includes forever embracing all of the pregnancy stretch marks, cellulite, loose skin, and extra cushion-for-the-pushin’ that’s there.
Let’s just say I went from praying for a bigger thigh gap to letting my thick thighs save lives.
Quite honestly, they saved mine.
For far too many years, I’ve placed flimsy bandages on the gaping wounds of my body image struggles. Since I was twelve years old, I’ve gone to tremendous lengths to keep myself as thin as physically possible. I binged and purged. I severely restricted my eating. I dove headfirst into a 4-year diet pill addiction. And I was a regular attendee of weight loss membership programs, despite not actually needing to be at any of them.
Nothing ever satisfied my aching desire to be skinny. And no one ever asked me if I was hurting myself to get there. Not only was I physically damaging my body to make it thin, I was also battling against a mind that constantly told me that my ability to be loved was synonymous with my weight loss efforts. I became so obsessed that I began to see a painfully dysmorphic version of myself every time I looked into a mirror.
I was stuck in my own body image prison, and it seemed like nothing could bust me out of it.
And then I got knocked up.
Sometimes, the most inconvenient moments can be catalysts for growth in ways we never expect. For me, getting pregnant and the weight gain that came with it was unbearably inconvenient.
At the beginning of my postpartum journey, I desperately tried to drop as much weight as I could. I exercised, began dietary cleansing, and basically fell back into old, destructive habits. I also believed anything anyone told me about postpartum weight loss. One mom friend was adamant that breastfeeding alone would help me shed the pounds. Another emphatically shared that when she stopped nursing, she dropped a ton of weight. Neither experience led to weight loss for me. In fact, nothing I did let to weight loss.
No matter how much I dieted or exerted myself, my mom-bod just wouldn’t budge. It was as if my body had decided it was done changing for a while and kept wondering why I couldn’t just let it be.
I remember the endless compliments I used to receive in my bone-thin body and how they always provided fuel for more drastic attempts to keep losing weight. Then when I started gaining weight during my pregnancy, loved ones were so worried that some literally said things like “I just hope she gets her body back.” This led me down a rabbit hole of shame for the entire first year after my daughter was born, when the attempts to “get my body back” seemingly failed.
That is, until I realized something totally profound. It has been my true north anytime self-doubt starts to creep back in.
There is no going “back” in this physical journey, because my body never left me.
My body has been here with me this entire time. It has been showing up for me since day one. Despite my every effort to turn it into something it’s not, my body has continued to be there for me in whatever way it can. It has loved me in the best way it knows how, and it has forgiven me again and again whenever I forget how magical it truly is.
But during my first year postpartum, all I could think about was how much I hated my body for just doing its job. I resented it for everything it transformed into so that I could meet my firstborn, hold her in my arms, and look into her beautiful eyes with so much love. I was fighting against the miracle of my daughter entering this world by blaming my body for the physical evidence left from her journey.
Isn’t it amazing how far we will travel away from ourselves, just because society has taught us to hate the necessary physical changes inevitable in becoming a mom?
I’m so fucking grateful I didn’t get pulled so far away that I couldn’t come back to myself. One photograph was all it took to tip me in the direction of self-love.
I had asked my husband to snap a picture of me just after I gave birth to our daughter, and I found it in an album a year later and couldn’t take my eyes off of it. In the image, I still looked pregnant, my stretch mark game was strong, and my body took up a whole lot of space. And yet, I looked so goddamn happy. I had just done this awesome thing, and I felt so proud of my body for everything it did to get me there.
Then, it happened, little by little. I’d start passing my reflection in the mirror and seeing the extra curves and dimples and grooves. And for just a moment, I’d acknowledge how beautiful I felt in a bigger body. Those moments began to stick with me longer, and before I knew it, I was knee deep in the body positivity movement. Seeing myself take up more physical space felt fucking great, to be honest. I started to feel free, like I could finally breathe for the first time.
I have been breathing fully and deeply for over two years now. My body-acceptance levels have reached epic proportions, and yet I still weigh about as much as I did when I birthed my son last fall. At least, I think I do. I only get weighed at the doctor’s office these days. There are no scales in my home, and I have every intention of keeping it that way.
Of all the things in the world, I never expected my pregnancy weight gain to help set me free. But it did. And now, I’m moving forward in this life choosing to enjoy myself, regardless of how much or little I weigh. I’m choosing to soak up each moment, make some lasting memories, and get into the goddamn picture. And I’m choosing love for every single shred of evidence on my body that shows how I grew and birthed two amazing kids.
I’m letting my fat flag fly loud and proud for all to see these days, and I don’t give a damn if anyone cares. Seventy-five pounds gave me my life back. I couldn’t be more grateful.
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