I’ve never been besties with my body. You could say we’ve had somewhat of a dysfunctional relationship. For most of my life all I’ve seen when I looked in the mirror is flaws: all the imperfections in how my body looked. At 13 it was the flat chest and the ‘pancake’ nickname from cruel seventh grade boys. At 17 it was the extra padding around my middle, the embarrassment in a bikini, the holding arms over my stomach at every beach outing. At 21 it was the spreading spider veins in my legs, the self-consciousness in shorts, the worry about impending cellulite.
Over more than fifteen years I punished myself for every one of these imperfections (and so many more). The punishment was mental: a constant internal barrage of reprimands over food eaten and calories not burned and disappointment at never looking a certain way. And when the mental punishment wasn’t enough there was the physical: the obsession with exercise and the salad-only diets. And finally there was the psychological punishment: the two years of binging and purging and hating myself for every moment of it.
Then, three years ago, things started to change. I began to see my body for what it did rather than how it looked. Because in the last three years it has done some pretty amazing things. That stomach with the extra padding round the middle, it grew my son for 39 weeks. The flat-chest (which wasn’t so flat for a while there), for 15 months, it nurtured and comforted my baby with milk. And those spider-veined legs, they have had enough energy to keep up with a highly active toddler as well as maintain a well-loved home (most of the time).
So these days, I’m learning to look past the flaws. I keep the self-punishment to a minimum: and try to replace it with respect. I do my best to look after this body that has given me so much. I nurture it with exercise and good food (and a good dose of chocolate) and more than anything some love for all that it has done, all that it does, and all that it will do.
Now when I look in the mirror I see strong legs that can run after a two year-old known to sprint toward a road at a moments notice. I see hands that have stroked my baby’s soft head and held my husband’s hand and made the food my family eats. Mostly though I see someone finally happy in their own skin.
**The photo above is from our family holiday to the Whitsundays earlier in the year. The little one in the pink stinger suit is Lachie, don’t ask.**