I'm not going to lie: I struggled with sharing this most recent picture.
It might seem silly to some, it might seem vain, and it may not even be noticeable to anyone else, but it doesn’t make it any less “real.” The ongoing commitment to overcoming dysmorphic views of our bodies and the dangerous paths it can take us down if left unaddressed is beyond important to talk about: we are not alone, and it can get better.
I started this photo series when Isla was six months old - our first trip to the beach, June 2017. I was proud of the progress I'd made with my postpartum body, and I felt comfortable sharing this sweet beachy moment with my girl.
Fast forward one year - 18 months into breastfeeding and burning a LOT of extra calories feeding my daughter, I weighed less than I had since years before she was born. I still worked through insecurities, feelings of wanting to “improve," but I felt pretty good.
This year? Isla is two and a half, and nurses so infrequently that my breastmilk is essentially gone. The "free" calories burned by breastfeeding slipped away before I noticed it, and I put on a little weight as a result.
My relationship with my body image is something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. There's the logical side of my brain that understands I don't look bad, that our bodies constantly change, that the small changes I see so clearly aren’t as visible to others…but there's also the side of my brain that led me to struggle with eating disorders for years, the side that in recovery, I have committed years of personal work to keep at bay.
The side of my brain that really cared when people made fun of my weight in school, the side of my brain that made obsessively losing 80 pounds at the start of college the most important thing in my life at the time, the side of my brain that latched onto the positive attention that smaller version of my body brought me in some of the darkest times of my life.
Becoming a mother changed the way I view my body. Its much easier for me to look at myself and appreciate the amazing gift of life I can create. The wonderful human I grew and brought into this world wouldn't be possible without this body. The value really changed for me.
Those old patterns of thinking still strike me, though, when I least expect them. Despite the fact that I actively encourage my friends of all shapes and sizes to understand how beautiful they are regardless of what society may tell them - words I truly, truly believe when sharing them with those that I love: it is so easy for me to see just how beautiful they are. It is so much harder to apply the same standards to myself.
In spite of all of the growth, all of the hard work that I am so proud of, those moments like today still hit me. “Shame” that I carry more fat on my body than last year this time, that ugly voice that tells me it means something about me. A sense of “failure” that depending on the time I commit to it, my body can easily (yet still, healthily) fluctuate within a range of weights.
So today, I'm fighting back against that voice of shame, and sharing the next photo in the series with the things I know are true about it:
My daughter is joyful, laughing, having fun in my arms. I love seeing how she has grown in three years.
It is evidence of yet another year making memories with my little girl, whom I am beyond grateful for.
I am in good health, and my body allows me to do so many amazing things.
The percentage of body fat that I carry on my frame has no correlation with my value as a human being.
I have been beautiful in every state that my body has been in - whether I recognized it then or not - and now is no different.
In this online world, its easy for us to share the best times, the best of our thoughts, the highs rather than the lows of our experience and contemplation. But because I know there's another woman (or man) out there who might be struggling with these same thought processes, I want to make sure that I speak it aloud, instead of retreating behind the visceral reaction - the urge to hide behind that fear, that socialized, internalized shame.
Its okay to have goals, its okay to strive for your best health - but what is not okay, is to allow yourself to believe that your worth ever changes during this process, or to sacrifice your mental health for your appearance.
We're so much more than our bodies, and our bodies are beautiful in every form they take in this journey through life.