The Journey to Health: Part Two

You'll want to read yesterday's post before you dive into this one.  These are my memories as they come to me.  Seen from my point of view.  The things that have stuck with me and created this mindset.

I was the skinny kid.  All arms and legs and knobby knees.  For the most part, I was a happy kid with a happy childhood.  But, for as long as I can remember, I've never felt comfortable in my skin.
I think I was maybe seven in this picture

My earliest memory of body hate was an offhand comment by a ballet teacher that I was too tall for ballet.  I remember feeling awkward next to all the other, shorter, more graceful little girls.  I remember always being one of the tallest girls in school, taller than several of the boys until they finally passed me in middle school.

I remember sitting on the bus in elementary school and hating the way my thighs spread out across the seats when I wore shorts.  To say that I was skinny growing up is an understatement.  Yet, I had these thoughts.

Sixth Grade

As I got older, and taller, I could never find pants that fit right.  I couldn't shop at regular stores and buy any pair of pants.  They were always too short for my long legs, and too baggy for my shapeless hips and lack of a butt.  I had to buy my pants at the department stores.  I remember having to buy Arizona Jeans.  The slims.  Everyone else was wearing the super baggy jeans that were the style back then and I was in school in my slims and my white canvas tennis shoes.

For the most part I stuck with my friends, who didn't care what I wore.  But I remember the jeers and comments I got from the few on my attire.  I remember hating being so thin for many reasons, but mostly because everyone thought it was really funny to tease me for it.  Most of them didn't know for years and many still don't know, until maybe now, that the teasing gave me a complex.  How is a young girl to feel comfortable in her changing body when she gets teased for her tiny boobs and gangly arms?

Seventh Grade
Once I entered high school, I finally gained a little bit of weight, but was still teased incessantly by well meaning friends.  I played it off well.  I pretended to love myself, to present a confident front.  Mostly I was unsure of myself and eager for the attention of boys- the only thing that seemed to make me feel that I was desirable.  I had a series of boyfriends.  I kissed them all too early. 

I remember never liking my body shape, even when I was thin.  I wasn't athletic and didn't have a lot of muscle.  Back then it was merely good genes.  I wasn't healthy.  I liked to run, but didn't do it regularly.  I ate nachos and soda for most of my lunches.  I had what I would call a boyish shape when I was thin, and an apple shape now that I carry some weight.  My waist and hip measurements have always been very similar, and my shoulders always seemed too wide for my body.  When I was young it wasn't as noticeable.  Now I can't help but see it every time I look in the mirror.  In my face I can recognize my beauty, but not anywhere else.

Senior Portrait

I remember hating the way several of my pants fit in high school.  Trying to fit my butt, my pants were always so tight around the waist the front button tended to roll downward.  For some reason pants were made for people with hips.  For the most part they still are.  And if I managed to find some that fit me in the waist and hips, they were usually too short.  I have never enjoyed shopping for pants.

My confidence didn't get any better in college.  I gained the "freshman fifteen".  Looking back at those pictures, I just looked healthy.  For a girl who had been rail thin all her life, this was a hard thing for me to deal with.  Never having gained weight, I didn't really know what to do about it.  Many who knew me then never knew I struggled with confidence.  More than once I had a guy reassure me that I was beautiful...or sexy.  I never fully believed them.

When I met Matt it was the first time I have ever been with someone who was equally infatuated with me.  All my previous relationships had been off balance in that way.  I knew he was the one simply because it was the first time I felt loved and appreciated just as much as I loved and appreciated him.  No more, no less.  I built my confidence through him.  He was sweet and complimentary. 

October 10, 2003

I, of course, married him.  We spent several years in (mostly) marital bliss.  Still, I never felt confident or sexy in my skin.  In the beginning he reassured me often.  But, as is the case in many marriages, when you deny what they say enough, when you won't take it to heart, when you feel like "he's just saying that because he has to", eventually they will get tired of having to tell you all the time.  He never stopped completely, but it slowed and my confidence waned.

Christmas 2006
As the years went by, I slowly gained weight.  I weighed 115 pounds when I got married.  When I got pregnant with Zoe four years later I weighed 152.  I was 157 when I got pregnant with Paige.  Forty pounds to me, who will forever have my thin frame in mind as the "right frame", was quite a lot.  For too many years, I hated it, complained about it, came up with all sorts of fantastical ways to do something about it.  For too long, nothing worked quick enough for my impatient, perfectionist mind.  Not to mention the fact that I now had numerous stretch marks from carrying two babies.  Gestational diabetes during my pregnancies made me feel even worse about the state of my body.

Two months before conceiving Zoe.
Still, I always depended on the fact that he would love me no matter what.  I set my confidence on that foundation and kept going.  I didn't love myself.  I didn't feel sexy.   But as long as he loved me and thought I was beautiful, that was enough.  Until it wasn't.

Zoe's first birthday.  The picture that made me realize how out of shape I really was.
When we went through our rough patch last year, that foundation crumbled and I found myself face to face with all that body loathing, along with all the self destructive thoughts I had tried to push back for too many years.  Initially my thoughts were that if he couldn't love me, then no one could.  Especially a 28 year old nursing Mom with two kids. 

Just after having Paige.  The next one was two months later.
Then, due to the stress, under eating and nursing a baby I dropped thirty pounds in several weeks.  For the first time in years I was able to find reasons to appreciate my body.  I fit into clothes without bulging in places.  I noticed people checking me out when I went places.  I had my confidence back, hooray!
My lowest weight in years.
Unfortunately, when you drop weight that quickly it's rare to keep it off.  When Matt and I got back together I had recently quit nursing because I wasn't producing enough milk.  Then I got on birth control.  Then I relaxed a little and my eating habits went back to normal.  Twenty of those Thirty pounds came piling back on.  All my confidence still residing in my thinner body.

Easter, just starting to gain the weight back.
With trust, intimacy and love in rebuilding mode it was imperative to me to get back to that thinner body.  I had to get my confidence back.  And so I started my journey to health.  Gratefully, I learned a few things while on my own.  I learned that being a perfectionist all my life didn't have to define me, that I could change.  I learned that I needed to work towards what I wanted out of life and stop letting life pass me by.  So I set goals.  I got excited about life!  And I tried to tackle everything at once.

You can see the weight in my face.
And I failed to accomplish much of anything.  The goals that were supposed to help me build myself up and help me achieve my dreams were suddenly crushing me.  So I took a step back, evaluated which goal was the most important to me, and I went for it.  I am proud of my accomplishments in regards to my health last year. 

Yet, it is so easy for me to sink back into self loathing.  One month of falling off the wagon (much of it out of my hands) and there I was hating myself for my choices, hating my body for what was happening to it, yet being unable to find the drive to fix it.  Hating getting dressed in the only jeans that fit my hips and butt- low rise- which I am constantly pulling up and they let my Mommy-pudge and back fat hang right over the top.  (The alternative being purchasing jeans that sit higher and either cut me in half, creating worse bulges and discomfort or give me a baggy butt.)  Then I remembered, again, that my life is in my hands and got back to work.  The progress feels good.  Just working towards my goal and being relatively close makes me feel better about myself.

I hate this picture

But what hit me, what disturbs me, what I can't get out of my mind, is that this last episode of self destructive behavior made me realize that I need to learn to love myself. 

Myself NOW. 

Not the self that lives in a 125 pound body.  Not the self that finally learned to ALWAYS speak calmly to her children.  Not the self that figures out how to cross off everything on her list.  Not the self that finally learns to balance everything. 

Not she who is the perfect wife.  Not she who doesn't get nervous in front of people.  Not the girl who never messes up musically- or never buries her talents. Not perfection in any way. 


ME.  M.E.  Me.

A couple weeks ago, still had some muscle definition. When I look in the mirror, all I see is that middle part.
The me who has trouble getting in the shower at a decent time everyday.  The me who will probably always have at least saggy skin on her belly.  The me who's clothes never fit quite right.  The me who yells at her kids sometimes.  The me who is the perfectionist.  The me who is not.  The me who is trying hard to get her talents back.  I want to love the me in the process.  Because really, I will never be perfect in every way.  I don't want to be.  I am not Mary Poppins.  I am me.  And I need to learn to not just be ok with that, but to be happy with that.  To be confident in that. 

I'm not sure how to get there.  I do know that I have this goal on my list for the year.  "Be happy with myself."  Now that I've realized just how self destructive I have been.  I want to change it.  I want to have the kind of confidence in myself to know that I'm strong, worthy and beautiful no matter what behavior I exhibit and no matter what weight I am.  I don't want anyone or anythings else to have to carry my confidence and happiness for me.  I want to haul it myself.

Because a journey to health, I've discovered, doesn't just mean physically.  It also includes the mind.  I need to collect my thoughts, and please, your ideas, on how to accomplish this goal.  When I do, I will write part three of this series.

My feelings are a bit raw right now, I'm a little afraid to actually click that "publish" button up there.  I have tried a few times in my life to express these feelings just to be told that I shouldn't feel that way because I have a thin frame.  Looking back at all those pictures of my youth, I see nothing wrong with that girl.  I'm not sure why I ever had the thoughts I did.  Other than many offhand comments.  Perhaps we should all be really careful about what we say to those with impressionable minds.  Obviously I've realized that I shouldn't feel that way, but these feelings are real to me.  They hurt and they run deep.  I decided to go ahead and write it out because I think there might be others with a similar story.  I think that even if the story is different, so many others can relate to these feelings.  I think this needs to change, and the first step to change is admitting the problem.   So here goes...please be nice.

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