Friday, December 17, 2010

Body Images

Not everyone these days wants to talk about body images. When they do it seems to become a very heated debate. For once I'd like to offer what I feel is a view from both sides of the fence so to speak. It's not often you'll find someone who has been plauged by the challenges of both spectrums of the body image side but I hope that this will help open some eyes. I by no means have ever had an eating dissorder. I simply have undergone the struggles of being a teenager with a "slimmer than average" body size who has now, at the ripe old age of 26, become a mother to 1 and is plauged by the challenges of regaining a "picture perfect" body back.

Let's start from the beginning. When I was a teenager. In middle school. I won't deny it. I was thin. Really thin. Back then I use to think it wasn't that abnormal. I mean we all look at pictures of models and everyone says "That's perfect". I thought my body was what it was suppose to be. That was until about 6th grade. When I started being called to the counselors office. It started with, what I thought at the time, was a harmless session. Just me and the counselor asking if I was comfortable with my body. She asked if I ate regularly. Which, surprisingly I did. I ate like a horse at school in fact. We didn't get the "perfect" meals at home so I ate ever last crumb on my plate at school and anything I could at home. I went through the phase of thinking meat was awful (after I learned it was from animals) and doing the "vegan" scene. Yes, I was a vegan at the ripe old age of 13. I still ate like a horse. Then the insluts started flying in class. People started asking me if I puked after I ate. I didn't know what they meant until the school nurse handed me a flyer on eating disorders. I read it and thought to myself "I'm not one of them. I don't have a disorder. I love food." It was true. Every word of it. I never once had an eating disorder. That, however, was when I started to inspect my body in the mirror everyday. I would see the skeleton that everyone else saw. I looked in the mirror and saw my ribs sticking out in such an akward fashion that I thought to myself "Maybe I do have an eating disorder". I started to eating anything and everything I could in hopes of putting on a few pounds.

After a few years passed, and no change in my body size, I started to realize that maybe there was something wrong with me. The other girls were blossoming. They began to get, in my eyes, gorgeous womanly figures. At home, when I would change, I saw nothing but a skeleton in the mirror. I saw, what to me, what was a grotesque skeleton of a person. I would scrutinize my body in the mirror. Every inch of it. My collar bone. My ribs. My hips. My back. My arms. My legs. Everything. All I could see was bones. I'd continue to eat what I could but nothing helped me put on weight. Everyone else continued to get more "womanly" and I stayed the same. I didn't grow in height. I didn't grow in width. I just....didn't grow. I stayed the same. As my male friends began to get hormones they assured me my body was perfectly fine. In fact, many started to hit on me. I found myself disgusting though. Every inch of me. Time flew and found myself in high school with the same mentality. "What if I'm doomed to have this skeleton forever?"

I want to pause right here because at this point many of you are thinking "Why couldn't she be happy with herself? She had this skinny figure and could eat whatever she want." Looking back, I wish I had realized this and embraced it for what it was. Not everyone got what I had. Not everyone was able to have the hourglass figure I had. Not everyone was able to be as skinny as I was. I realize that now.

High School came and went like a short novel. The time passing so quickly that you could blink and was over. It wasn't until a year after graduation that I began to become comfortable with my body. Despite my activity level staying the same, I was able to put on a few pounds. Finally my hips no longer stuck out like an armor plating. My ribs no longer stuck out like that of a sick Ethiopian child. I was finally putting on a few pounds in, excuse my terminology, "all the right places". I began to get, what I felt, womanly curves. I had a waist, hips, a chest, and a shapely set of legs. My knees were no longer boney knobs that stuck out. My ribs no longer stuck out through my shirts. I could buy pants not based on how big around my hip bones were. I felt comfortable. I felt sexy. It was the first time since beginning to get a "womans figure" that I felt like I was finally growing into myself. I loved myself. Everything about me. I found myself in more ways than one.

It wasn't long after that, that I met the man who was destined to be my soul mate. The perfect match for me. He loved me for not only what I looked like but who I was. He made me feel sexy for the first time ever. He made me feel like a woman. A real, honest to god, woman. I loved that. I loved the feeling that no matter what my body looked like, he found it incredibly sexy. Just like any woman, I put on a few pounds between meeting him and marrying him. He still loved me. I loved that about him. He was in love with ME....not the figure of me.

Let's fast forward to a few years down the road and we decided, after having been together for 4.5 years, that it was time to expand if you will. Something was missing. A child. Just like any woman I was extatic. Beyond joy. I couldn't wait. Once we got the positive I changed in so many ways. I had a life growing inside me. I didn't know then that my whole life was about to be turned upside down. In more ways than one. Emotionally, mentally, and most importantly....physically.

You see, every woman hears the stories of how motherhood changes you. We sometimes hear about the physical changes. Most of us shrug those stories aside in hopes of it being nothing more than a horror story. It's not until you're actually pregnant that you start to realize the changes. In my case, it wasn't until after the birth of my daughter that I truely noticed them. Yes, we notice the gigantic round thing in the middle. How can you miss it? It's so joyfull that we forget the horror stories of the physical lingering aspects of motherhood. We get so wrapped up in that tiny life inside of us that nothing else matters. When we begin to notice stretch marks, we tell ourselves, they're battle scars. Stories of what we've overcome. We're women. We have a greater purpose in life and those stretch marks and any other inperfections are just letters to the world of what we've gone through. We wear them proudly.

Well, at least for a short while we do. I wore them proudly for several months after my daughters birth. I didn't LOVE them, but I didn't hate them at first. They were my battle wounds. My story to the world that I had fulfilled my greater purpose in life. I wore them proudly. That is until Christmas of '09 after my daughter was born. When I recieved our family Christmas pictures back I stared at them for hours. Trying to figure out who that was with my daughter and husband. I had changed so much. I was no longer the person I use to be. I then stripped down to my undergarments and stood in front of the mirror. I inspected every inch of my body. I criticised every stretch mark, every sagging piece of skin, every little flaw. I began to feel sick to my stomach. I told myself "No ma'am. There's no way you could have let yourself go like this. You use to be so gorgeous. So........thin. What happened?" Even though the answer was didn't comfort the fact that I hated every inch of myself. I hadn't felt hatred towards my body that great since Middle School when people began to pick on me and ask me what eating disorder I had. There wasn't an inch of skin that, given endless amounts of money, I wouldn't have changed in some way.

From the stretch marks that now wrapped from hip to hip horizontally and from belly button to pelvic vertically to the sagging stomach and breasts. I hated all of it. I then made a promise to myself that I would, in fact, get back to the body that I loved. The body that made me feel comfortable. The body my husband feel in love with. Of course it took me seeing NO changes at my daughter's 1st birthday to finally take it seriously. I made a promise to myself and I stuck with a diet and exercise regime. I began to see changes. Drastic changes. However, those changes weren't helping. In fact, they were making matters worse. They made me feel even more disgusting and want to work even harder. No matter how hard I worked towards it, no matter how much I wanted, the more I worked the more disgusting I got. When I lost weight, yea, I'd go down in pants sizes. However, it wasn't that easy. I didn't just go down in pants sizes. I went down in pants sizes and my stomach began to sag even lower.

I hit rock bottom when I finally lost enough weight to fit back into my pre-pregnancy pants yet, my body looked NOTHING like it did pre-pregnancy. My stomach sagged so much it was disgusting. I won't go into details here, because to be honest I still find it disgusting, but let's just say it wasn't pretty. AT ALL. No matter how many Ab workouts I did. No matter what kind of diet I did. My stomach continued to get worse and worse. One day, I sucked it up and asked my doctor about it. I was in for a consultation for chronic migraines and I confessed my hatred towards my stomach. I explained how I had lost so much weight and she commented and commended me on my efforts. I then showed her my stomach. I begged her, no pleaded, to give me the magic cure-all to the ever growing sagging stomach skin. I explained that no matter how much thinner I got, it continually became saggier and wrinkled. It was then that I heard what I had hoped not to hear. "I'm sorry to say but if you've done ab reps and changed your diet there's nothing you can do without surgery." Surgery? Huh? I didn't get it. She explained that no matter what you do, once the skin is stretched beyond it's limits, you can't shrink it without removal of the skin.

Yup, a tummy tuck. There's nothing I can do but have it surgically removed. Wait, she was kidding right? Yea, that's what I asked myself the whole way home and for at least 3 more days. She just doesn't know what she's talking about. There has to be something else. I did research. I tried to find an alternative. None. Nothing. My only hope of even getting a flat stomach like I use to have was to spend THOUSANDS of dollars, which might I add we don't have, on plastic surgery. That was the point of no return. The point in which I began to hate everything about myself. Every single inch of my body. There wasn't a part of it that I didn't think was the most disgusting thing to look at. I began looking at pictures of myself back when I was a skeleton and unhappy before and wondering "What in gods name was wrong with me to think I was ugly then???"

I sit now writing this not for a pitty story. I do so in hopes that maybe, just maybe, someone will sit and read it and realize that there ARE, in fact, people who have lived at both spectrums. While, yes, it may suck to not be able to gain, there are those living at the total opposite side. Those who have tried to no avail to just feel sexy or even just semi attractive again. Those who would give life and limb to feel like they have the body they deserve. There are some who understand what it's like at the skinny spectrum AND the "obese" specturm. No, it's not fun to look at your body and hate it in any aspect. No, it's not fun to want something different. No matter which side of the preverbial "fence" you are on, know that there is someone on the other side fighting a battle VERY similar to yours.

I sit today with joy to say that I've begun to come to terms with my post baby body and understand that it is not an easy fix. I understand though, that there IS a solution to the problem. There is a way to rectify it all. I currently have gone from a size 18 to a size 12/14. I'm currently in between right now with 14's being too big and 12's being just a tad too small. (Before you ask, no juniors 13's don't work lol.) Learn to love yourself no matter what your body looks like. Remember that if you don't like it, there are ways to change it. Even when the problem is that you feel you're body is "too small". Always talk to your doctor if you are uncomfortable with who you are and find out what could help you out. Remember that you're not along in your struggle with your body image. You are, however, beautiful just the way you are!!