The good, the bod, and the ugly

A couple of months ago, Brooke wrote an awesome post about body issues and self-perception. It was something that I’d been thinking about a lot post-baby, for obvious reasons. This was part of the comment I left on her post:

This is very top of mind for me, for obvious reasons! I have been lamenting my post-baby body for months. I’m softer in a lot of places and my jeans are kind of tight right now, and when I sit down my belly flops over the waistband a bit. I have a nice little handful there where I didn’t before. It’s really hard getting used to a new body on top of getting used to a new human being who is yours forever.

I wish it wasn’t something I thought about so much, though. When I think about my body from a less critical place, I realize that I take it for granted. It has been good to me; it gets me from point A to point B (and C and D and…) every day. It is generally healthy and allows me to pick up my son and cuddle him and follow him around on all of his little crawly adventures. It saw me through the trauma/miracle that is childbirth! It has done nothing up to this point for me to look at it with anything but love and appreciation.

I know that when I’m scowling into my mirror, I am buying in to the media’s perception of what is beautiful or perfect. Hey, no one’s perfect, least of all me, but also the photoshopped-to-death celebrities in magazines. There’s really nothing wrong with a little cellulite or extra cushion. Are you healthy? GOOD. Count your lucky stars! This is the kind of stuff I have to tell myself so I’m not crying about the number on the scale. 

Fast forward to last month when I watched a documentary called Miss Representation, which explores how women are portrayed by the media and how that affects us in our everyday life. It was a total eye-opener. Not because I didn’t already know that the media’s representation of women is absolutely skewed, but because I saw so clearly the havoc it’s wreaking on us. According to one of the statistics shared in the documentary, 53% of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies. That number increases to 78% when they reach 17. Insane, right?

The message that the media is putting out is that we’re only as good as our bodies and/or faces. And we’re listening. What’s worse, we’re believing.

But even as I became more aware of how I was buying into that idea, I still found myself nit-picking at my body. I’m sure my weekly consumption of People  and Us Weekly didn’t help. And by didn’t, I mean doesn’t because I cannot and will not quit them.

Every week I noticed there was at least one article about how quickly celebrities were getting their body back after baby, or how Kim Kardashian was holed up in her house and chained to her treadmill so that when she finally made her first post-baby appearance she would be acceptable.

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Don’t even get me started on the articles that came out after Kate Middleton gave birth. People were commenting that she had a baby bump one day after delivery.

Um, hello. She looks perfect.

Um, hello. She looks perfect.

So you get where I’m going with this. I was thinking a lot about my body and my relationship with it. I was aware of how effed up it was to have this constant inner dialogue of what was wrong with me and how I should/could fix myself, and yet I couldn’t stop.

Then a few weeks ago I got sick. It started out as a cold and morphed into a sinus infection, which then turned into bronchitis. I was miserable. As silly as it was, when I got into week two of still feeling totally crappy I started to forget what it felt like to be healthy. I thought to myself, “if I ever get over this (note: I am prone to dramatics), I will learn to love my body.” And, oh how I meant it.

Because when it comes down to it, this body is the only one I’ve got. It allows me to do anything I want and need to do. I’m able to climb the insane hills of San Francisco and chase after Bug on all of his adventures. I’m able to run and dance and full-body laugh. I don’t have to deal with chronic pain. It’s a blessing that most days the worst I can say about my body is that my thighs jiggle. Who gives a shit what some middle-aged white dude sitting in an ad agency office thinks I should look like? I am more than a face and a body.

Does that mean I’ll never lament over my imperfections again? Of course not. But now there will be an asterisk attached to that negative thought to serve as a reminder that I’m healthy and I’m happy. That’s the good stuff. I’ll take the cellulite along with it.

Thumbs up, bod!

Thumbs up, bod!

How do you feel about the media’s portrayal of women? Does it affect the way you see yourself? Do you know how awesome you are? Let’s chat in the comments! 

6 thoughts on “The good, the bod, and the ugly

  1. I find it interesting that after pregnancy women “get back” their bodies, as though they have somehow lost control/ownership over it to this new and temporary tenant that eventually moves out after 9 months or so and I’m sure that that can easily develop into a comment about much more controversial issues surrounding women’s bodies and ownership but still, it’s a language choice I find interesting.

    • I agree, I don’t think there should be so much pressure to get back to what you were before. At least, not so quickly. I will admit that it has been disorienting for me to have this different body, but I try to remind myself that it took nine months for my body to morph during pregnancy, so it will take at least as long for it to get back!

      I just hate the tallying. “Oh, so and so got her body back in four weeks” and how celebrity moms are put under the microscope. If you look at articles about Kate Middleton’s first post-baby event, all anyone can talk about is how she was in skinny jeans. Just shows you where the emphasis lies in the media when it comes to women.

  2. This is a subject that resonates quite soundly with me. I have struggled with my body since puberty, and it has only gotten worse since having children. I am about 9 months post my last baby, about the time that I start to get really antsy about the lingering changes to my body and the weight. This time around, I have been trying to remind myself that mine is a body, that after being told couldn’t have children without a fight, has had a beautiful set of twins and another beautiful girl besides (our bonus round!), all in the space of 2 years. I also try to focus on how much I can accomplish now: how I can keep up with my children, how my strong arms and back can carry 2 of the 3 at a time, how my soft belly continues on the outside to provide comfort to them when they snuggle. But every time another story comes out about yet another Hollywood star or model so quickly losing the weight, my thoughts are derailed. I wish that the media understood how quietly destructive this focus is. My own personal struggles with body issues are now magnified by my worry of how I can raise my 2 girls not to share my negativity, something that hits home every day that I come home from work and my 2 yr old daughter puts my shoes, jewelry, purse, sunglasses on and parades around the house in her imitation of me. So, I will continue to strive to teach my girls that the images that the media sends out are meant to be representations of a narrow idea of beauty, and not the entirety of the whole spectrum. Maybe someday, I will be able to believe my own words and give myself a break, too. Until that day, I will simply continue to try to see myself in terms of strength and endurance and wit and intelligence, and beauty to a lesser degree.

  3. Love this! I fall into this trap all the time and it drives me crazy. I always forget what my body is capable of and focus too much on the number on the scale. Thank you for posting this today!

    • You’re so welcome! I’m glad it resonated with you. I think we all focus on the number. Human nature to want to measure ourselves in some way, but I’ve really tried to shift my thinking more to how I feel rather than how I think I should feel based on useless outside factors. It doesn’t always work, but it definitely helps!

You’ve heard my thoughts! Would love to hear yours here.