The Shape of Things to Come

I’ve written here and here about the changes to my body from pregnancy. While I can poke fun here and there about the extra poking that can happen, what it doesn’t erase is that there has always been more of me to poke.

What amazes me is that I have been every shape and size. I have expanded and contracted more than any other 5’3” woman I know. I have done so on purpose, as protection during my college years, and then fought for the removal of that armor. All to be left with some nice padding.

Like most women, I suffered with body image while growing up. People were concerned about my weight and appearance, and what might have been concern for only a few years, has been something that I constantly walk around with: “You’re heavy. You don’t want to be fat.” I’ve done a lot of work to overcome these tapes in my head (thank you Women’s Studies Master’s Degree!), and mostly walk around in my adult life as someone confident in the weight I carry. My husband loves me, loves how I look, and I mostly feel attractive. But obese is a word that I’ve been carrying around lately. It’s a word that registers when I go in for my check-ups, a word that haunts me as someone who wants to be a strong mother and role model for her daughter. I am often the largest woman in our circle of friends.

Scale

I’m not as brave as Not Super, Just Mom to post my weekly weight, but I commend her for harnessing the internet for support. It does take support to work through serious changes. I tried something new when I started training for a 5K this summer. I’ve since completed two, but with the insane Wisconsin weather outside, have fallen off of the running wagon. For seven years I taught Nia and my body loved it. While it doesn’t work for my schedule now, I do plan on returning to it in the future. I remain committed to yoga (it’s indoors!), and my daughter understands what it means when my husband and I leave the house to exercise.

But I’ve been thinking about this more as my beautiful, perfect daughter grows. How do I communicate to her that it’s okay to be whatever shape and size you want to be, but that it will change how people relate to you? How do we share this delicate piece of information with her without it becoming more than it is? How do we show her that you can have control over your body, be strong, be determined, but not be nutso about it? When and where does the scale tip?

–        MD

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  1. Beautifully written, MD. The ugly truth of it all is that most women, regardless of how the world sees them, struggle with how they perceive themselves. You exude confidence and wisdom and I think little C will soak more of that in than you can possibly imagine.

    • firstsmilesandtears
    • December 16th, 2010

    Thanks, Jess:)

    • Jonathan
    • December 16th, 2010

    Marlene: fascinating subject!

    I grew up being ‘the fat kid in the family’ (my brothers were skinny) and I bore tremendous emotional scars from the negative messages I received about my body from the earliest age. So while I understand this is most commonly an issue for women, it happens to men, too.

    I have come to believe in two different (tho compatible, really) philosophies: (1) God makes your body perfect, so there’s nothing to “improve” upon and (2) it’s possible to discover the thin person inside through gentle, careful, supportive behavior change (but not by traditional “dieting”).

    Not being a parent, I can’t begin to imagine how a person could impart this information to a child. But my guess is that by expressing approbation and acceptance of one’s own body, we teach that behavior to those who look to us for guidance.

    Also, this is probably wildly unrealistic, but finding ways to praise and please a child that are NOT food-related might help.

      • firstsmilesandtears
      • December 16th, 2010

      Thanks, Jonathan. I do know that men carry this – literal – baggage with them, and that society doesn’t always have outlets for them to express how they feel about their bodies in a constructive way.

      Everything you point out is so true. And we are very conscious of not feeding our daughter when she’s upset just to make her feel better. I make a point to only have her eat while seated at a table and we do a family dinner each night. With many things, there is no right or wrong answer, but a “wait and see.” Thanks for “weighing” in!

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