I kind of can't believe I'm writing this. If you've been reading for a long time, you know I've struggled to lose weight and have a positive body image. Also, it feels weird to admit that I love my body. As women, I feel like we're almost trained to hate our bodies, and to say otherwise would make us conceited. But I think we all just need to love our bodies a little bit more!
It all started when I became pregnant with Grayson. At first, I worried that I might gain too much weight (okay, I worried about it pretty much the whole time!). But as the weeks went by and Grayson grew and my body changed, I started feeling differently about my body. I no longer thought of my body as this thing I'm trapped inside, this curse of extra flesh and ripples and folds and any other number of imperfections that may or may not really be there. I started to see my body as this miraculous thing. I started to appreciate just how amazing my body is!
My body was specially designed, not only for me, but to grow my baby as well. The intricacies of it are nothing short of spectacular. My body housed this tiny ball of cells as it grew and developed into a little person! My body fed Grayson and gave him the nutrients he needed to form a skeleton, a nervous system, and each and every finger and toe. The skin on my tummy stretched and expanded as my uterus grew along with Grayson. My legs grew stronger as I supported the weight of my ever-growing belly. And even with its aches and pains as I progressed in my pregnancy, I had a newfound respect for this body of mine.
Then, as if that weren't awesome enough, my body birthed that baby it had spent all that precious time growing! The process of labor is so perfect. I'm surprised anyone can think it's anything short of a meticulously planned design by an all-powerful creator. I think as an American culture, in general, we've really shorted our bodies in the respect and honor they deserve when it comes to labor and delivery. We fear labor and see it as a terrible, painful process that should be dreaded. We work to numb the pain with epidurals and other medications and unnecessary interventions just to make it less scary and "easier." Meanwhile, we're not experiencing the full wonder of what our bodies are doing! When you lay flat on your back and are numb to the pain, I'm sure it's easy to lose sight of just how incredible the process is. But when you're pacing the floors, rocking on exercise balls, and sitting in hot showers while you literally feel your body urging your baby further and further down, and when you're pushing with all your might to give your baby that final push into the world, you can't help but notice how much work your body is doing!
I have never felt stronger in my life than I did after having Grayson naturally. I mean, physically in that moment, I felt exhausted, but I imagine it's similar to completing any other physically taxing challenge. You may feel tired and sore and completely worn out, but you also feel a surge of pride in what you've accomplished.
I spent the next several weeks caring for my frazzled, torn, and swollen body. I was so grateful to my body for giving me Grayson, I began to give myself more grace. It was okay that my belly had loose flesh where a tight, round bump used to be. How could I hate something that did so much for me?
My body didn't stop there. It continued to feed Grayson, and still does, through breastfeeding. For the first 6 months of his life, he did not eat or drink a single thing other than my milk, made from my body. Again, I was able to sustain the life of another with just this body God has given me. Not only was I providing nourishment, but also building his immune system with antibodies. I was his every meal, his multi-vitamin, and his cough syrup...all in one. These breasts that I spent years and years padding or pushing up or squeezing together, all in an attempt to make them appear bigger, were now giving life! Now, at times they're bigger than others, and sometimes they are lop-sided, but I love them still. How could I not? They feed my precious baby!
Now I know, I know, what you're thinking. Sure, it's easy to love your body when you're fitter and thinner than you have been in years. I'm not bragging; it would be naive of me not to admit this in this post. Yes, it's true. It's easier to love my body when I'm at my ideal weight and pleased with how I look. I like to think I would still feel this way even if I still had some stubborn baby weight hanging around or massive stretch marks across my belly, but it's probably easier to love myself in my current state. That said, I don't think I love myself BECAUSE I'm healthier. I think I'm healthier BECAUSE I learned to love myself more.
As my respect for my body grew during pregnancy, so did my efforts to take better care of it. I worked out throughout my entire pregnancy. I paid more attention to what I put in my body. Yes, I still eat ice cream every night (seriously!), but I'm also more intentional about eating lots of healthy foods. I also knew that I would need to be in shape to pull off a natural labor, so I kept myself busy with prenatal yoga, pilates, and other workouts.
Even now, I try to be a healthier version of myself. I limit processed foods and eat more fresh foods. I've traded frozen low-calorie (but high sodium!) lunches for homemade sandwiches with fresh ingredients like grilled chicken, hummus, avocado, tomatoes, spinach, etc (thanks to Scott for making my lunch every day!). :) I limit sodas and other sugary drinks and drink plenty of water instead. And when given the choice, I almost always choose to take the stairs and walk across campus to my destination rather than drive. This has been especially helpful during SOAR season when I'm walking back and forth across campus several times a day!
I also would be remiss if I didn't note that some of my body type and shape is just genetic. Some women have a harder time recovering a healthy body after pregnancy than others. I also breastfeed which burns a ton of calories, helping with the weight issue.
But that is not the point. The point is, my body is awesome because of what it was designed to do! And I LOVE it for that. And because of that love, I want to take better care of it. I just believe that if you truly love yourself first, you're going to feel better about yourself, and have an easier time living a healthier lifestyle. We're reading a book called The Happiness Advantage in my office book club, and the author discusses that many of us strive to get to a certain place in life, whether it be weight, career, family, etc, so that we can be happy. We think, if I can just do this then I'll be happy. But the truth is, those who are already happy and have positive attitudes are the ones who achieve more. Happiness isn't something to earn, you have to find happiness where you are, and then you'll move forward. I think it's true with body image too. You can't work your butt off with exercises and diets so that you can finally love your body. Chances are, your hatred of your body will cause you to grow frustrated and give up. Or, even if you become healthier, you'll probably still find reasons not to be content with your body. You have to love your body first!
My body's ability to grow, deliver, and feed a baby is just one example of the amazing things our bodies can do. There are women who cannot or choose not to have children, and their bodies are no less worthy of love. Same goes for men. Taking a moment to just revel in the intricate design of our bodies to think, move, and pump blood to all our organs is enough to grow reverence and respect.
Take a moment. Just a moment! Think about your body. Think about what it accomplishes on a day to day basis, and maybe what it's capable of that it hasn't yet accomplished (whether that be childbirth or running a marathon or climbing a mountain...). How can you not love it?