Monday, May 6, 2013

Mommy Style (part 1: Body Image)

I've had this idea about a blog post for months now and have even been keeping notes from magazines or ideas I get when talking to girlfriends. I'm finally making time to sit down and write it. Why did it take me so long? Not because it's profound but because I... 1) have two busy toddlers, 2) work a full time job, 3) help plan a charity half marathon race in April, 4) have a house to maintain (with laundry, cleaning, groceries, cooking, etc.) and 5) let's not forget I have a cute hubby and we need a date from time to time! In essence, I'm just like every other busy mom.

But that's what led me to think about this series. We are all busy but that doesn't mean as moms we should give up our style. And might I preface this by saying that t-shirts and sweat pants ARE NOT A STYLE. At least not a good one. So the next few posts are going to focus on the realizations I've had as a work-from-home mom and style. Think body image struggles, the "why bother" attitude, dressing for your body type, and some basic style tips.

Let's begin with what threw me for a total loop. Having kids. More specifically by how much my body changed. Yes, you get told it will change. Yes, you logically know that it will change. But you secretly keep hoping you'll be like BeyoncĂ© or Gwyneth Paltrow and bounce right back by the time maternity leave is up (or within a few months). News flash: that didn't happen. The first time around (with Charlie)...I know why. I was already pregnant again. Ok. Giving myself some grace there. Second time around - what happened!?

pregnant with Charlie
Pregnant with Cole

For me, I had our boys back to back - as in 10.5 months apart - surprise! I will spare you the gory details so as not to cause you nightmares but that second pregnancy was a doozy. Suddenly I had the legs (hello spider veins!) and metabolism of a 90 year old, stretched skin and let's not forget I hadn't seen the inside of a gym in 2 years. I wouldn't change having my two boys for anything in the world and I love them dearly but it more than took it's physical toll on my body.

So let's talk about post-baby bodies, shall we? For the first six months after Cole, I was just trying to survive. I was "trying" to lose the baby weight but not 100% because I just couldn't manage it mentally. After all, it does take mental stamina to stick to a new routine and I went back to work at 8 weeks post-partum. I was exercising but not strictly watching my diet, and it was all I could do to make it all work. Finally, in March of last year (Cole was 6 months and Charlie was 17 months), I hit a low point. I didn't fit in to any of the clothes I tried on in my closet and no longer fit in to clothes off the rack at all my favorite stores. (I was shopping for something to wear for a wedding).  I was still close to a size 16. For me, who loves clothes and shopping and fashion, that was devastating. I remember crying walking around trying to find something that fit my now changed body.

The next Monday I went on a low/no carb diet for 4 weeks and it was enough to kick start my metabolism and I shed 10 lbs and a dress size...but my body was still askew. My once problem area (stomach) was now even more of a problem area. The cute shirts I used to wear were too tight in the stomach now. The cute pants, skirts and dresses no longer looked as cute. It's almost as if all of the extra weight went straight to my stomach and stayed there. The hardest part of this journey has been not just how my body has changed physically but how I saw myself.

Mentally I felt horrible about myself and I got to where I OBSESSED about my weight. When I say I obsessed. I mean I obsessed. I weighed every morning and the happiness of my day depended on what the scale said. If I lost, it was a good day. If I gained, it was a bad day (mentally). I never felt pretty anymore. I always felt overweight and unattractive. I kept going to the gym but 3 days a week was all I could manage. I was too tired to stick to any serious "diet" but I didn't over do it either. It got to the point where Daniel would say "honey, I'm really worried about you. You've got to stop obsessing over your weight." It was all I could talk about. I brushed compliments off because I thought they were just being nice but weren't true. I no longer wanted to be very social or go out or shop. (cue the record scratch) What? Me not want to go shopping? Yep.

It has taken me almost a year to work through the obsession and unhealthy outlook. Deep down I knew it wasn't healthy but I didn't know how to stop it. It wasn't  until I had dinner with a friend and she said out loud: "This is spiritual warfare". I knew it but I needed someone to say it out loud. Sounds crazy but it was and still is spiritual warfare.

If Satan could define my day by what the scale said, then I stayed in a constant state of negativity. I lost confidence in myself. I no longer approached life in the same way. It was even affecting my relationships, especially with my husband. It had to stop.

I made a promise that I would have a life verse to remember and refer back to whenever I struggled: 1 Peter 3: 3-4

         "3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight."

I now have a much better outlook on my body. It is likely never going to go back to pre-baby status. After all, my belly was stretched out for almost 2 years! But through lots of hard work at the gym and a lot of prayer, I no longer see a lumpy, ugly body. I see a realistic woman's body who birthed two beautiful, rambunctious little boys.

So if you too are struggling with your body image, regardless of what caused it, remember that we aren't supposed to look like the models or celebrities who eat, sleep and live to be a certain figure and get airbrushed. Our beauty truly comes from our heart and who we are in Christ. It took me a long time to figure that out again.

Now I'm back to loving shopping (sorry, honey!) and having a chance to dress up or go out. I don't even weigh very often anymore, but measure my weight by the clothes I wear (a comfortable size 12 by the way). My sassafras is even back. More importantly, I like the strong, more-fit me, post-baby belly and all. 

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