I was talking to my dad the other day in a leisurely conversation, me in my empty house (!) and he in his car with many minutes of commute time in front of him. Since my mom is a life coach, she has given me several tools in my personal tool belt to “get my eyeballs out of my head and look at my life from outside of my own head,” as I put it in my own eloquent words. And at this time I was thinking about guilt. (Lots more on that some other time.)
I asked my dad, “Is there any guilt you have experienced recently?”
His answer surprised me. Starting with an audible pause, he slowly began, “I see these very accomplished women, very nice-looking women, and I hear them complain about their body-image,” he said. “I can’t understand it and frankly, I’m glad I was born a guy so that I don’t have to worry about any of that,” he continued. “So, yeah, I feel a little guilty that I was born a male. I wake up, wash my hair in the sink, and five minutes later I’m ready to go.”
I laughed and replied, “Yes, I hear what you mean. Only, I’m the no make-up-wearing female type,” I chuckled. “If I skip a shower, I can be ready in ten minutes!” I brag. “But I hear what you are saying.”
Surely part of my body imagine confidence comes from my parents in bits in pieces from what they’ve said over years and what they ingrained in my sister and me of what is important. In my elementary school “pudgy year” I remember eating a meal at my grandma Jack-Jack and Grandpa’s house and he made some comment that my tummy matched his. It was said out of love, but since my Grandpa had a big ol’ belly, next I heard a female voice, either Jack-Jack or my mom counter with “it’s just a phase” or “no, she doesn’t want to be your twin” or something of the sort. I felt no shame, but at the same time I was aware that my pre-puberty stomach had grown. Later in middle school or high school my sister and I heard words from my mom, “your body is not a piece of meat!” My sister must have had on MTV or else some vile commercial was on, subjugating women.
I’m a size 12, y’all. Saying that doesn’t make me cringe or gasp, in fact I’m only one size up from my pre-pregnancy size; two (?) sizes up from my wedding day size. My kids are now seven and five, so I’ve been this size for quite some time. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me. I have clothes that fit and bathing suits that don’t cause harm. And I have a husband who practically drools when he checks out my legs. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating. But I notice him check me out; it’s hard to miss because he usually lets out a quiet “damn.” Naturally I have no time for such compliments early in the morning when it is rushing around time. But I hear them.
On the other hand I am aware of my shape. I certainly feel no need to rip off my shirt and have my skin exposed to the world. But even in college, in my single-digit sizes, I never ran in a sports bra.
The most embarrassing thing to admit is that I’ve taken on half a dozen diets over the last decade. I never, ever considered myself a dieter and god forbid a yo-yo dieter, but I look at the collection of diet books in my room, and think, “eeeek.” I blame it on my wedding. My sister and I stood in front of the dressing room mirror at Frederick’s of Hollywood, trying to pick out some wedding lingerie. With the lingerie on, I jumped to see what wiggled. A lot wiggled. My sister and I laughed and then I grabbed a handful of my own stomach and said, “man, I should try on clothes more often. Maybe it would help prevent Jiggly Tummy.” Then I went on my first diet. I was probably in decent shape before my wedding, but I went all-out on Atkins before the big day. I was totally OCD about it and it certainly proved results during that time frame. I think I went down a size and shimmied into a new size 6 pair of jeans that I adored, and loved pairing them with a Youth T-shirt since it was pre-women’s Tees era. (Those Youth Tees are now appropriately in my kids’ dresser drawers.) But after the wedding, I was left with two tiers of a three-tiered wedding cake and I ate a lot of it. Carbs after Atkins is not good.
Yes, despite having a good body image, it was still exciting to be able to control what my body would do through diet. After the wedding came South Beach, and after the first baby, I bought the Flat Belly Diet book. A few years ago my husband and I began getting annual check-ups at which I learned I had high triglycerides. (Wth?!) Whole 30 and Wheat Belly were good inspirations, so was Martha Stewart’s New Year’s Cleanse. Maybe I don’t have any OCD left in me, maybe I have no will power, but nothing has “stuck.” Maybe I know how much my hubs adores me just the way that I am.
But I believe it is time to try the un-diet. I’m sure Dr. Oz would grin ear to ear hearing this. It’s like I’ve lost all sense of balance over the years, and I think to some extent post-pregnancy hormones do indeed play a role. In college I ate well but indulged in five (ok, six) chocolate chip cookies in a row if Jack-Jack sent some home with me. A three mile run later I had no worries about those cookies. I’d like to find a similar balance now at age 39. I don’t need to be a size X or fit into any certain item of clothing. But I’m ready to eat food without giving myself a thumb’s up on the kale salad with fried egg and ready to eliminate guilt on my afternoon indulgence of four Reece’s cups – maybe I can learn to stop at two!
And if you are upset that your go-to jeans are not fitting properly, what I learned from my husband recently is that, “it’s all about the eyes.” So, slide on your favorite active wear and make sure your eyes can shine. Apparently locking eyes is the new hip-strut.