Body Image has always been a touchy subject for me.
From a very young age I started to gain weight and noticed my body changing. I always compared myself with the skinny girls. I was fat and the other kids were good at letting me know it. What used to hurt the most was if I received a compliment from another kid at school, I'd turn and find them laughing with the others.
Then there were times where they just called me fat to my face.
Being fat meant you were the odd one out. As an adult I’m not happy to admit that I still feel this way sometimes. My self-esteem has had a fair share of blows. I have tried to overcome this weakness and feel like I have moved forward a fair bit, but I still have long way to go for inner peace.
During my school years, I hated the beginning of the year when I would have to organise my uniform. It was worse in high school ,when the size I had to go with was wrong on the top half of my body, because it had to suit my bottom half. Some people say a pear shape is attractive. I agree in some instances. But for me wearing a uniform that was loose on my arms and chest, just so it would fit over my legs, was embarrassing.
I was fat and terrible at sports. The physical education teachers in both Primary and Secondary school, didn’t bother with me. I remember sitting on the sideline a lot during those lessons. Some teachers even showed how fed up they were when I wouldn’t try harder. They couldn’t see that I actually was trying. I never gave up. But I was always left until the end. That sometimes meant missing out on my turn for whatever the activity was. My opportunities to participate were reduced because I wasn’t encouraged enough. I always felt shattered and my self-esteem was constantly crushed.
As I gained weight over my childhood years, my legs developed a strange shape. I was very self-conscious about it and tried hiding them as much as possible. In high school, back in the olden days of the 1990’s, I was glad we followed the fashion to wear knee high socks. Not only did they hide my hairy legs that my mum wouldn’t let me wax or shave until the age of 16… But they also disguised the extra fat bulge that I have below my knee.
Then there was one day where we had some activity that involved water. I don’t clearly remember the activity but I remember my legs getting wet. May have been an excursion and we dipped our feet in a river or something. Anyways, I rolled my pants up because they were soaked and annoying. As I was standing against a wall in the classroom at the end of our day, waiting for the bell to go, I look over to the front of the room. We had two teachers supervising. They both looked down at my legs, then at each other, and one whispered to the other loud enough for me to hear; “have you ever seen a pair of jellies like that before?”
My gut wrenched. I wanted to become invisible. I wanted to cry. But I just went home that day and cried to myself in my room. I didn’t tell anybody. Rather, I let it get to me and just kept thinking of myself as fat and ugly.
In my twenties I lost a lot of the weight I had carried as a teenager. I felt like there was a lot more to lose but I reached a point where I could buy clothes that fit me a little better. I was still smaller in my upper body, but I began to believe that if I could get this far, then I can go further.
When I met my husband I was at the ‘almost happy with my body image’ point. He made me feel perfect and beautiful. It encouraged me to be happy with myself and accept my body image. I still wanted to lose more weight, but I was happy that I found someone who accepted me the way I was. I even lost a little bit of weight that I didn’t expect just before our wedding.
Then we got married.
I became so content, that I ate my way into more happiness. Aaahhhhh! I can’t believe I just let go – just like that. I put on a whopping 10 kilos in just over a year *crying*. Then we wanted to try and start a family. I desperately started diets that never lasted. I couldn’t be this fat and get pregnant.
Conceiving took a little longer than we expected. So when I felt down about that, I ate more. Meh! I’m a comfort eating, binging kinda person.
When I became pregnant with my first baby, I was at a weight that I wasn’t happy with, but I was ecstatic that I was having a baby. I went on eating and obeying the cravings. As the pregnancy progressed, I didn’t gain too much weight. But then the swelling in the legs began, and continued, and increased, and got worse.
Thinking about my mum-to-be status helped me get through the sad thoughts about my overweight body. I was so focused on having a baby that I just let nature take its course. My weight gain wasn’t too bad. But that was because my body was already carrying a lot of extra weight that it didn’t need.
After becoming a first time mum, I did what a lot of mums do and kept wearing my maternity wear. Some of it was just bigger size clothing. I had a baby that liked to vomit…a lot - so I had many sleepless nights. My baby wanted me to hold him all the time, he wanted to be attached to the boob all the time. Even though the lightness of the breastmilk may have made him vomit more, I persisted and avoided formula. Taking care of my baby and doing everything I could to beat the reflux was my only goal. My fitness, my weight, my health and my wellness were neglected.
By the time my first boy was one, I started to feel like I needed to care for myself to be able to care for him better. I tried dieting without success. Then I tried again. And again. I lost a little bit of weight before I became pregnant with my second boy. But it wasn’t enough, not anywhere near my goal. However, once again I found myself content as I was pregnant again. That was my focus, as well as my almost 2 year old toddler…and my hubby of course. My family became everything. My issue with accepting my weight, or doing something about it, was put aside again.
In the early stages of this pregnancy, we had a loss in the family. Then the baby decided to be breech. I had a heap of stress to deal with this time. My weight fluctuated and I was solely focused on having my baby safely and coming home well enough to look after my children. All was good and my wish was granted…he came out naturally, it was a spontaneous birth, with bum first out! I didn’t need that caesarean after all.
I spent 6 weeks after birth, taking care of my babies and myself the best I could. After that I started to think about getting fit. When my baby bear turned 3 months, I got active by starting off with light treadmill work at home. I increased my exercise once a week with Kangatraining – a postpartum group fitness exercise. Eating well was on and off. For some reason after giving birth – with both of my boys – I found myself still craving certain foods, especially chocolate!
My body transformed from a pear shape before pregnancy to a warped butternut pumpkin after pregnancy. Anything I wore made me look like an upside down hot-air balloon. I’ve lost a little bit of weight with the things I’ve been attempting to get fit, and eat well, but it’s made my body way out of proportion again.
This is the part of the body image that I’m struggling with the most now as a mother. I don’t go shopping for clothes as much as I used to. It’s very rare actually. I just can’t handle the whole exercise of finding pants I like in a store, going into the fitting rooms, only to have them either pull up and be too big on my waist, or not even go past my knees.
My lack of acceptance of my body image and failure to self-love, is still very evident in me as a person. I sometimes get relief from overthinking it all. My husband listens to me complain a lot. He puts up with it so well. He encourages me when I say I want to do something about it. But I know I need to push myself from within.
There are also moments from my children that help. My oldest boy compliments me when I wear something different (I think he is already sick of the same clothes I wear every day). When he sees me in something new, it surprises him and he gets a glow on his face. My younger boy can’t say it yet, but the hugs do. Also, the way he wants me to hold him all the time tells me he loves me for me. Or he loves to tire me. I’ll go with the former for now.
I’m a Curvy Mummy.
I do like this status but I wish it came along with a curvy body of nicely defined curves. My curves are all out of whack. I accept that I may always be larger than other ladies, but I would like to be a large that can wear the same size top and bottom. I don’t mind my wrinkles around my belly button that I acquired after the stretched out pregnant bellies I had. I’m not too keen on my saggy breasts that have also reduced in size due to breastfeeding. But I chose to provide my boys with breastmilk and I know that it’s more important to watch my breast health and not my breast image.
I’d like to be fit enough to run around with my children as they grow up. Most of all I want to lead an example for them so that they don’t go through the same body image issues that I have.
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