I shaved my legs and applied the self tanner. I knew my size of large on top, small on bottom. And I even did a few lunges, jumping jacks, and squats before heading out the door. I was ready to tackle this, ready to make the purchase I look forward to every year…buying that bathing suit!
What? There’s actually a woman, mom rather, that looks forward to purchasing spandex material that barely covers her body? Yes, you heard that correctly. I look forward to it. I anticipate the season when the stores line their shelves with brightly colored suits, straw hats, totes to tag along to the pool with, and isles lined with vibrant shades of flip-flops. It gives me such a euphoric sense.
You see, my story of how I arrived to enjoy this season - both in my life and time of year - starts way back. Pull up a chair and have a seat while I explain.Growing up in the early 80’s, I was the elementary school girl who was overweight. I received daily doses of name-calling, what we’d call bullying by today’s standards. I endured years of this verbal torture. My self-esteem about my body image was way below par, far below what any young girl should ever have to undergo. But puberty hit, my eating habits changed, and I discovered a thing called exercise. And wouldn’t you know it? By the summer of 91’ I shed those excess pounds and my days of taunting were over.
Years passed by. I remained a “normal” size. I soon went on to have children. As I gained the 30 pounds plus in my first pregnancy, I worried I wouldn’t be able to ever fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes again, something that bothered this once overweight girl. But after getting pregnant very soon after my first child, the worry really set in. After my second child was born, I went off the deep end. Back in the early 2000’s, diet pills and drinks were readily available. I chewed on those pills and gulped those drinks all while running miles and miles daily on that treadmill while keeping my caloric intake to a minimum. I lost all my baby weight and then some. I had never looked better (so I thought).
But emotionally, I had never felt more miserable. I was chasing that dream of perfection - that dream body. I had that dream body, but it somehow wasn’t enough for me; I wanted better, I wanted more, and I wanted what I wasn’t ever going to get at that moment in time: internal peace and contentment. I struggled for many more years with self-contentment. It wasn’t until after my fifth baby that I realized something. I was scrolling through pictures of my past self when I was at my “fittest” and looked the “best.” I felt defeated. I wondered how I had let myself slip away from that body I once had. I knew then and there I had to change more than just my body; I had to change my mindset.
I now had five children looking up to me to guide and nurture them; I needed to set an example for them, especially my two girls. Instead of being ashamed of the excess on my thighs or stomach, I was thankful...well sort of. Instead of frowning every time I stumbled upon jeans that no longer fit (from ten years ago), I was thankful instead…well sort of. And every time I would glance in the mirror at myself after a shower, I would find something about my body I was thankful for, rather than finding something amiss. Not only did I need to set this example for my own children, but also I needed to set the example, and believe it too, for myself.
Far too many days of my life have been spent scrutinizing myself in the mirror. I wish I could have those days back. I’d live those particular days like I do now: with gratitude for my health and wellness.
My goals today look far different than those darker days that have passed me. My goals now are to appreciate this body of mine for what it has done, what it’s currently doing, and for what it will continue to do for me. My intent is to feed and move it right; take care of it.
It’s taken me many years to be emotionally content with my image. Do I like the fact that my stomach will NEVER look the way it did in my twenties? No I don’t. Nor do I like knowing the stretch marks on my hips will never go away. But by no means am I proud of my stripes or less taut skin. I’m not that kind of gal, but hey, if you are…rock on sweet mamma!
What I am proud of is how content I am with myself. As I approach 40 (right around the corner), I am so grateful for what age has given me. Knowledge, the ability to discern what is really important and what isn’t, and the understanding to realize I’m good enough and I’m doing the best I can.
As I exit the fitting room with my chosen suit in hand, I look off into horizon…
I have a feeling I’ll be that old lady in the pool with her grandchildren, years from now. I know I’ll be teaching them how to dive for colored rings, showing them the backstroke, and even how to do handstands under water. I’ll more than likely be wearing the flashiest suit there is, because that’s how truly content I will be…by then.
*Article first appeared in Idaho Family magazine*