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Friday, March 15, 2013

Overcoming Poor Body Image

It's been a long time since I've written anything. I guess I'm just not much of a blogger.
Why would anyone want to hear what I have to say!?

My friend Evelyn is so amazing! On her Jolly Green Giant blog she has challenged her readers to write a journal entry or a blog post about "...your current health situation. What do you hope to achieve in the future? What do you like about yourself right now?"

Before I get started, I don't want to hurt any feelings. I have just found that I really appreciate other blogs, like Evelyn's, where the author is so candid, honest and open. I want to be a little more like that. Perhaps to the point of "over sharing" this time around. So forgive me.

Three months ago I gave birth to our fifth son. That being said, I have some weight to loose.

I don't think I have a very healthy concept of my weight or my body in general. I love my parents dearly and look up to them but I think that certain things about my upbringing have given me some serious misgivings where my body is concerned.

My Mom was always concerned with her weight. My little ears heard her calling herself "fat" all the time. She'd say this little rhyme as she patted her stomach, hips or thighs: "Fatty, Fatty two by four, can't fit through the bathroom door." She was always exercising. She'd get up at 6am so that she could do aerobics before going to work. Then as we sat down in the evenings to watch a movie together instead of sitting and watching she would do leg lifts or sit-ups. She kept trying new things like resistance bands and the ever popular "thigh master." I never thought my mom was very big, but she never seemed satisfied or happy with the way she was.

My Dad is a great guy, I love him to pieces, and it could be for that reason that I value his opinion so highly. My Dad has always been one to speak his mind, and hasn't quite mastered curbing that. He'd say things about other people's appearances all the time. Things like, 'Man, when sister-so-and-so leads the music I bet the front row can feel a breeze.' Or 'Wow, that lady is sure a looker.' Hearing all of these things from a very young age made me put a lot of stock into one's outward appearance and give them some sort of unconscious rating based on what my eyes could see.

When I was in high school some of my friends and I had spent a day swimming and my Dad was giving us a ride home. We stopped to drop off two of my friends that were sisters. My Dad stopped at the end of their long driveway and one of the girls asked, "Could you take us closer to the door?" My Dad obliged but as he did so jokingly said, "You bet, I wouldn't want you to walk any of those dimples off your thighs." These two friends of mind were a little heavier and I'm sure that even in high school they had dimply thighs. At the time I hadn't thought anything of it, just because that was the way my Dad talked, but a year or two later that friend told me how much that comment had hurt her.

When I was a sophomore in high school I was at home having a lazy Saturday when my dad came home from work, took a look at me and said, "What's wrong with you? Are you sick?" The look of concern on his face made me worry and I put a self conscious hand to my face. Then my Mom walked in and said, "Nothing's wrong with her, she just hasn't put any make-up on today." My Dad then smiled, nodded, and said, "Even an old barn looks better with a fresh coat of paint!" To this day I have made sure that I'm never around him until I've put on my "coat of paint."

When I was little, as far back as I can remember I'd wish on stars, eye lashes and birthday cakes that I would be "pretty" when I grew up. There were slight variations in these wishes, "I wish to look like a Princess when I grow up." "I wish to be beautiful when I grow up," "I wish to look like ____________ some day" (Insert whatever good looking singer or actress comes to mind.)I don't know what other kids wish for, 'cause you're not supposed to tell, but I'm pretty sure that that's not normal!

When I was 12 I though it was pretty neat that I was the same size as my 16 year old sister! I could borrow her clothes (often without asking) and people actually got us confused sometimes. We'd go shopping and get asked if we were twins. I thought it was great, 'cause my sister was SO cool! But I kept growing and she didn't. Pretty soon I surpassed her in height and size. I had to buy bigger shoes (when we'd been sharing shoes for so long) and I now had to wear a size medium when she was still in a small. I felt enormous! In pictures you can see me slouching, trying not to look so tall. I am now 4 inches taller than my perfectly petite sister.

In Jr. High and High School I had an unhealthy relationship with food and would go for days without eating (but if there was a plate of cookies I'd eat them ALL!) During that time I would faint occasionally. School nurses would be quizzing me about epilepsy and possible pregnancy, then my Mom would come and knowingly ask, "When was the last time you ate?"

These issues are probably the only reason I am glad that I don't have any daughters, I would hate to pass on all of these insecurities! I am hoping that my boys haven't been effected much by them and that I can soon put on a better face and stop any further damage. I am now a 29 year old mother of 5 and want to find my "happy place" as far as my health and weight are concerned.

Last night I went to a meeting with a group of ladies from my church. As I sat there eating a fabulous dinner I looked around and saw women of all shapes and sizes. They were talking and laughing. I saw a lot of women who are considerably bigger than I am, yet they seem so comfortable, confident and down right happy.I wondered what makes the difference? I know that I can't reach into someone else's heart or mind and see how she really feels about herself, but as far as I could tell, these are women who are truly comfortable in their own skins. I want to be one of them!

I'm not saying that I want to settle for my current weight or fitness level. I want to loose weight, I want to eat healthier, I want to be more active, but in the mean time I want to be happy! Life is too short to spend it wishing for something else. An "I'll be happy when..." attitude never did anyone any good!

Now to address the last question in the challenge: "What do you like about yourself right now?" This is a hard one for me. I love my boys, they are great kids and I'm proud of them. I think they must have a pretty awesome Mom to be as great as they are. (But I guess that's not really something about ME.) I'm proud that I have stuck to my daily work out schedule for about 8 weeks now and am down 10 whole pounds. But that is weight related. Maybe I'll have to keep thinking on that one.

What do I like about myself!? What a great question! What do you like about YOURSELF?


Raree (RAH-ree) said...

Oh, my lovely, beautiful friend. What a brave post! Good for you. Your parents (particularly your mom) are lovely people. And I know they're not the only ones who have inadvertently passed body image issues on to their children. I'm grateful to say that I'm an exception. My mom did diets, and she did exercise programs to lose weight, but I never heard her utter any negative self-talk either in seriousness or in jest. What a blessing! A blessing that sadly few women have. Great job on losing ten pounds, but it's even more impressive that you've recognized this tendency in yourself. That's the first step in overcoming it. You are awesome and you are beautiful. Right now. Extra weight and all. Work hard on loving yourself right now, because that's a more effective mind frame for making any weight loss attempts successful! Check out the dressingyourtruth website (start with the free stuff). It's really neat and it will help with this; it's not just about fashion, it's about body image and loving yourself. Anyway, I just want to give you a great big hug. You're a fantastic person, and I'm sure when your boys are old enough to reflect on it, they'll give you all the credit for their awesomeness. Though I imagine your husband will deserve at least a little, too. ;)

Sally said...

Yes we are back in town. Kelly is working at the family practice residency.

Alayna said...

Oh my sweet, wonderful, amazing sister. I love you so much. Thanks for being brave enough to post this. Trust me, you're not the only one in our family with body image issues. I remember Mom saying that if she was heavier than 120, she was fat. That number is still stuck in my head, and now that I am no where near that small, I have a hard time not feeling fat. (I don't consider myself "perfectly petite")
There was at least one year of jr. high when I would skip breakfast, and have 1 apple, or a yogurt for lunch, and only eat enough dinner to not draw attention.
When I first started college, I only ate maybe once a day. When I first met my inlaws, I was under 100 lbs, and my mother-in-law insisted on feeding me. (A Lot) When I came home a few months later, the first thing Dad said to me was, "Boy, you really porked up."
Yeh, I know where you're coming from...
Now that I'm the mother of three girls, I have to make a concious effort every day NOT to pass those same issues on to them. Ady and Ainzlee are two different body types. I know that Ainzlee will be bigger than her older sister. I don't ever want her to feel inferrior. I try to never use the FAT word to describe myself, or anyone else... But I have to remind myself every day.
Anyway, I think that you are awesome, and beautiful, and I love you.

Caranna said...

Thanks for your kind words and understanding.
Rachael I'm looking into that "dressing your truth" site.
Alayna you're such a good Mom! All of your kids are great!
Being a parent is so hard. I catch myself saying things all of the time that I really wished my kids hadn't been around for. I really am trying to do better.
I need to break the cycle!! I want my kids to grow up to be healthy physically, but it's important that they are healthy mentally too.

Lisa said...

Oh Caranna! This post alone makes me so happy to have found you as a friend! Let me share a little secret with you. When I first met you (what... 2 measly weeks ago??), my first thought as I browsed your pictures on Facebook were "I wonder if Paul would have been happier with her? She's so much prettier and skinnier than I, even after 5 kids!" Yup. True story. Also, I AM one of those ladies you described at the RS dinner. I try so hard not to feel inferior and make a conscious effort to be fun and outgoing and try not to let my hugeness get in the way of having a good time. From the outside, you would never know that inside I am DYING because I am not as thin and pretty as those other girls. And I NEVER put makeup on. You are an amazing woman for putting such a personal post out there and I hope to see more so I can get to know you better!

Nellie said...

Caranna, my dearest friend, thank you so much for you beauty and bravery in post! You are amazing and I am so grateful for your willingness to share!