“They” say a lot of things about breastfeeding. “Breast is best,” and “You won’t get your period as long as you breastfeed!” I’ll be honest, the one that made me the happiest was, “You’ll lose so much weight breastfeeding!”
See, I’ve had this thing since I was young. It’s not a very nice thing. But it’s a thing that has made me obsess about my body, specifically my weight. This is a thing that has sent me to the hospital. A thing that has turned me to skin and bones, and at other times a blimp. A thing that, after years of therapy, still creeps into the back of my mind and whispers terrible things in my ear. A thing that I’ll never conquer, and can barely control. A thing that made me hate myself and how I look. A thing that can make me cry or rage when I look in a mirror or see a picture of myself.
This thing? Eating disorders. Anorexia and Bulimia and Body Dysmorphic Disorder, all wrapped up together in a Monster I seem to have caged most of the time, but manages to escape on occasion. My own mental bully that has grown up with me from age 10, when my thyroid (unbeknownst to myself or my doctors) stopped working like it was supposed to.
I’ve been “overweight” most of my life, “obese” according to the BMI charts, which I try to tell myself is bull shit because my mom says I have an “athletic build” and I don’t look good at what they consider a “healthy weight.” Sheesh, that’s a lot of quotation marks.
Last summer, I finally figured out everything that was wrong with me. I found an exercise routine that worked, ate healthy, cut out gluten, and finally got on the right thyroid medication. In just over a month, I dropped 25 lbs, and was only 25 lbs away from my goal weight. I would have kept going, but I found out that I was pregnant with Bean.
Pregnancy has been the only time I have been truly happy with my body. I managed to continue eating healthy for the most part, and it didn’t bother me to gain the 35 or so lbs I did. I did not keep a vigorous exercise routine, but Bear and I took walks all the time. I loved watching my baby bump grow in the mirror. I was grateful that I didn’t seem to gain much anywhere else. I didn’t always feel great, but I felt great about my body. I would have walked around without a shirt on at all times, if it were socially acceptable.
I did miss exercising like I used to, though. I was looking forward to Bean being born and getting back into it a few weeks later, as soon as I had the go-ahead from my midwife. I imagined hitting it hard with Jillian Michael’s while Bean watched from his swing or bouncer. I wanted to be at my previous goal weight by Christmas of this year, and I just knew between breastfeeding and exercising, I’d get there.
So much for that. I’m currently 4 ½ months postpartum and I still can’t even walk for too long. And I’m not talking fast-paced, supercharged power walking. I’m talking about an evening stroll through town like Bear and I used to do while I was pregnant. It hurts too much to walk for long, much less even thinking about real exercise. I can’t even do yoga for more than a few minutes. I look in the mirror and all I can see is that c-section shelf, something that I will probably always have, a flab of skin to hang over the top of my mom jeans (jk, I’ll NEVER wear mom jeans…). And the numbers on the scale, they haven’t gone down since a week after Bean’s birth.
The pain, the physical pain, is still excruciating some days. Some days, it’s all I can do to cart Bean around. Chunker. It’s also frustrating. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. It’s another thing that didn’t go according to plan. And the physical pain is a constant reminder, something that I carry with my constantly, making it feel like nothing went right. It translates into emotional pain, which is excruciating, too.
So, on top of the postpartum anxiety and PTSD that I am working through, the Monster comes back. Taunts me. Makes me obsessed with the numbers on the scale. Makes me justify when Bean doesn’t want to be put down so that I don’t have to make something for myself to eat. Makes me angry when I look in the mirror. Makes me avoid having my picture taken (we still don’t have a real family picture).
I know I can’t live like this. I can’t keep stepping on the scale multiple times a day. I can’t keep skipping meals. I cannot obsess about my now-matronly body. And I need your help.
I’m sharing this to make myself accountable to you, my reader. I’m putting away the scale. I am making an effort to plan my meals and have healthy snacks available for myself. I will tell myself, out loud, affirmations any time I look in the mirror. I will do my best to live a healthy lifestyle without obsessing about my weight or shape.
This is hard. This is very, very hard. But I know that I am not the only one out there who feels like this. If you feel the same in any way, I would like to invite you to join me. Let’s take this journey together, to learn to love our bodies, stretch marks and scars and all.
Mama Bear of one Baby Bear, Bean, who both love Papa Bear, and live in a crafty, gluten-free cozy den.