Monday, November 17, 2008

it's in the water.

i seem to be surrounded by pregnant women lately. glowing, ebullient, beautiful pregnant women of all shapes and sizes. i know there are many pregnant women who spend the entire nine months hating their bodies and the changes it goes through, but what i've heard most lately is how so many of these women feel like they've been let out of body image jail for nine months. guns-a-blazin', they eat without feeling guilty, they don't punish themselves with excessive exercise, they don't feel like they have to hold their stomach in because, sister, there just ain't no holding it in.

i once had an older woman friend say to me (a woman on Weight Watchers), "when i was pregnant, i just ate whatever i wanted when i was hungry and i stopped when i was full, and i didn't really gain much weight. i wish i could eat that way now."

"why can't you?" i asked her.

"well... i mean. i just can't."

that broke my heart.

we actually can.

and it's probably one of the healthiest things we can do for our bodies, our minds, and our children. maybe we grew up in a diet culture, and got our ability to intuitively feed ourselves ripped out of our tiny, little hands like a forbidden cupcake. maybe we grew up believing that love is conditional with one of the conditions being that we be thin and beautiful. that doesn't mean our children have to. we must educate them. we must empower them by letting them make food choices. most importantly, we must love them unconditionally and be a good role model. we can't just talk the talk; we have to walk the walk. feed ourselves. enjoy ourselves.

they are watching.

even if we don't have children and never will.

they are still watching.

nieces, nephews, friends' children, students.

you don't think those 13-year old girls trying on Valentine's Dance dresses in the next room heard you bemoan the size and texture of thighs? you're wrong.

children of the world aside, what about you? what about me?

i have decided:

i will not wait until i am pregnant to eat without feeling guilty.

i will not wait until i am pregnant to not punish myself with excessive exercise.

i will not wait until i am pregnant to not feel like i have to hold my stomach in all the time.

i will not wait until i am pregnant before i start letting others take care of me.

i will not wait until i am pregnant to take care of myself.

i will not wait until i am pregnant to love myself.

i might not be birthing a child in nine months, but there is one inside me all the same.

she is watching.

if you've been pregnant, did you experience freedom from body image angst during those nine months? did that carryover at all into your life once you gave birth?

if you haven't been pregnant, are you scared of the changes your body will go through or can you not wait?


MelissaS said...

Amen. i often don't know what to do or think about my own eating disorder, but i would like to make it all less painful for younger girls and women. i like your ideas. my disordered beliefs run really deep. time to start challenging them. very thought-provoking post.

Cathy Adamkiewicz said...

What a beautiful post.
I've been pregnant seven, yes SEVEN times. I did feel exhilarated when I was pregnant, when the scale could inch up and I wasn't a failure.
When my first child was born, I felt so powerful... sadly, I allowed that power to diminish. It is so easy to give in to what the world expects us to be.
Now, as I await the birth of my first grandchild, I rejoice while I watch my daughter's belly expand! There is so much joy to experience! That's what we need to focus on. Our bodies are powerful and amazing.

Sara said...

Holy crap M, this was a fantastic post. I'm 28 weeks pregnant with my second child, and I am almost the exact same size as I was while pregnant with the first, but I see myself in a totally new and ACCEPTING light this time around. I'm going to go blog about this, actually!

It's crazy what a difference three and a half years can make. In the time since I had my first kid, I was dieting, dieted, over-exercised, lost a ton of weight, gained most of it back, dieted again, and then, upon finding THIS VERY BLOG, decided to give dieting up FOR GOOD last year. Now, pregnant again, I look at my thighs and my protruding belly and actually MARVEL at what this body is capable of. I'm able to look at my naked self without judgement and criticism FOR THE VERY TIME EVER. And I'm eating without guilt, only exercising the way I want to and when I want to... I don't think I have ever been this kind to myself, EVER.

It took about a year of non-dieting self-therapy (many self-help books and many binges and many frightening moments) to get to this place, and there were many times when I decided it was simply IMPOSSIBLE to get away from the dieting mentality, but I finally did it. I finally feel FREE. And I'm so glad to be able to show that to my children.

Thank you, Margaux.

hope505 said...

Pregnancy grosses me out. *hahaha!* But it has been my theory for a little while now that the "rash" of celebrity pregnancies may be due to the fact that it is the only time a woman is CELEBRATED for her bodily must be a huge relief for women in general, not to mention celebrity women, to be able to reject that public scrutiny for 9 whole months...

Mummy Dearest said...

When I was pregnant, yes, I felt freed of the typical body image issues we women suffer so often.

I loved my expanding body.

Then, surprisingly, out of the aftermath of all that change, after the baby was born, after my stomach became flabby and the stretch marks stayed -- during a time when I could have easily looked at my body with disdain, I discovered a new depth of sexy.

I discovered a feeling of being sexy on the inside even when the outside ain't so great. This lesson is easy to forget -- just as Cathy above commented about the power one feels from giving birth. This feeling of sexiness is something, like that power, that we have to hold onto tightly -- and remind one another of as often as possible.

I am stronger now because I understand better that sad mindset we adopt so easily -- that down-on-myself mentality. I understand it is a choice in each moment to be kind to ourselves instead of berating our bodies.

I feel like that time after giving birth is a very vulnerable period that the media sees and seizes with fervor. They try to prey on our position by urging us to diet quickly, workout like mad, and return to our pre-preggers body in 3 months flat. The thing that I feel most powerfully is that there is no returning to that body. A woman's body after giving birth is neither physically nor spiritually the same.

My body is different forever -- sexier, more interesting, and totally fascinating. I don;t think I'll ever again reduce it to just "chubby" or "thin" or "muscular" ever again. That would be selling myself and all the women around me short.

seeleelive (for the love of peanut butter) said...

This is a GREAT blog. In my treatment center, our RD was actually in recovery from an ED herself, and had just had a baby a few months prior to meeting her! It was SUCH an inspiration to see her happy and healthy and starting a family--really motivating for me.

thanks for blogging about this. I did a similar post,, speaking how pregnancy and how it can motivate one to be and stay healthy!!

SuzyJones said...

Thanks for sharing that post, it's informative. Hope to see more updates from you.