Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Body Image

I’ve been thinking a lot about body image lately. Most specifically, my body, and how to get back into shape after having a baby. I don’t know if you know this, but having a baby does a number on your body. I think there is a pretty good reason humans are supposed to have babies in their late teens and 20s rather than in their late 30s – bouncebackability.

Don’t get me wrong; my body actually fared well. I exercised throughout my entire pregnancy. I only stopped doing yoga when I could barely touch my toes and I worked out on the elliptical until just 24 days before I gave birth. After that I walked, a lot. So I was in pretty good shape before baby H. was born. But after, well that’s where the problems began. First it was recovering from birth and the c-section. Then it was napping while the baby napped. Then it was going back to work and all my extra time was spent pumping milk instead of iron…and then suddenly it had been almost a year since I had baby H and had regularly gotten to the gym.  Actually, that’s not true. I did manage to run a half marathon in February, so I trained for that all through December and January. But not as much as I would have liked to and it took my sister dragging me to the gym every Sunday to do it.

So even with a body that can manage to run (OK, jog) 13.1 miles, I’m still not happy with my body. And to be truthful, I’ve never really been happy with my body. It seems pretty much every woman in the industrialized world is unhappy with her body. It’s the unhappiness when I step on the scale, even when I know that the numbers say I am an acceptable weight. It’s the unhappiness reflected in the mirror when I look at my thighs and my butt and wonder why they can’t be slimmer, smaller. This unhappiness doesn’t really come from inside me. It comes from the outside. It comes from 39 years of looking at thin super models, and more recently, models who aren’t even realIf only I could Photoshop my body in real life. I wouldn’t go overboard. I’m happy with my waist (even my bigger post baby waist since it means jeans fit better because I’m not as out of proportion with my hips as I used to). I’d just take a little off the hips and thighs and butt. I wouldn’t give myself a little non-existent butt. I’d just tighten it up a bit.

But I can’t do that. So I have to (a) learn how to be happy with the body I have and (b) learn that even though working out is good for me, the goal should be to feel better, not necessarily look better. Because, damn it, the way I look now is perfectly acceptable. I’m not an idiot, I know that there are probably a lot of women out there that would be overjoyed to wear a 6-8 jean, be 5’4” and weigh  126 lbs (of course my driver’s license says I still weigh 110 which hasn’t been true since the late 80s). I know there are a lot of women who would be happy to have lost the 30 lbs gained in pregnancy in three months (the wonders of breastfeeding!). I just wish the women’s magazines and ads and fashion industry would get on board and stop showing us women who are unnaturally thin and women who lie about their weight (really, every actress is 5’10” but weighs only 115 pounds? I think not.)
So, this year I am going to be happy about my body and my weight and learn to ignore all the screwed up crap media throws at us. I encourage you to do the same.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop working out, stop trying to be in shape. But I’m going to stop looking at all those girls in the gym and comparing myself to them. I’m going to be happy with my body for once!

In the spirit of full disclosure, here's a look at me and my measurements (feel free to leave yours in the comments):

Height - 5'4"
Chest – 32”
Waist – 27”
Hips – 39.25”
Thighs – 23.25”
Weight – 126.4lbs
Body fat % – 23.5

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