Learning to Love Yourself

 (song: Greatest Love of All/artist: Whitney Houston) 

“Pleasantly plump.” “Rubenesque.” “Carries weight easily.” I've heard all the euphemisms polite society employs to avoid hurt feelings. But I never misunderstood what those words really meant. And I never disagreed with them.

I've always hated my body. Since childhood. I hated my saddle bags and mycrooked legs that bow in at the knees. I hated my flat, narrow feet and my flat, wide butt. This attitude was manifest in my behavior;food, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs – I did it all, with little thought of the consequences. I hated my body. I hated myself. 

At the time of my first pregnancy in mid 2006, I was five-foot-nine,weighed 175 pounds and wore a size 12/14. Sadly, this pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage. The body that I hated for its appearance had failed me in its function. It did, however, provide me with all the excuse I needed to revisit a litany of past behaviors. By early 2007,I was pregnant again, but this time at 193 pounds and a size 16; in yet another betrayal, my 31-year-old body refused to grow taller in order to maintain my proportions.

I was desperate to get through the first trimester so I could 1) feel more confident that I had a viable pregnancy and 2) announce my condition so people could start thinking “pregnant” instead of “fat”when they looked at me. Something amazing happened, though; I actually began to care about my body, hyperaware of the life growing inside. I opted for healthy meals and diligently logged the calories in my pregnancy journal to ensure I was within my OBGYN's guidelines, which she had adjusted to reflect the extra bounty I had brought to the pregnancy table. And although I always felt heavy, I also felt beautiful.I felt energetic, to the extent a 200-pound woman can feel energetic during a New York summer. I felt strong in the present and excited about the future. And then, at the peak of joy, it all unraveled.

September 2007 - 212 pounds and blissfully unaware.

After giving birth to a healthy baby boy, I quit my job to become astay-at-home mom. But not just any old stay-at-home mom, I was convinced; a fat stay-at-home mom. A fat and useles sstay-at-home mom, unable to breastfeed my son thanks to a breast reduction 14 years prior – a particularly harrowing condition in LaLeche League-loving Brooklyn. I carried this fat-and-useless mindset with me for the better part of my son's first year of life. I carried it with me to my former office's Christmas party, where it was as if the great confidence surge of '07 had never happened. I carried it with me to baby-and-me music class, where I defied inspirational wall hangings the world over by dancing as if everyone was watching. I carried it with me to baby swim class, where the milk-brimming breasts of bikini-clad moms mocked my mammary inadequacy. 

I hated myself the most during Baby & Me classes!

It's been said that transformative moments occur when your strategies for denial collapse under the weight of accumulated experience.Apparently I had constructed a teetering tower of afternoons watching TV in my nightgown, because shortly after my son's first birthday a random fitness infomercial inspired a thought: Wasn't I alone also worthy of the kind of love I had shown my body while my son was growing inside? I bought the DVDs on offer and in January 2009started exercising. “A year from now, I'll be healthy and fit”became my mantra as I sweated and grunted through those first weeks,unable to get through much more than 20 minutes of moderate cardio. I also reduced my calorie intake, especially those sourced via liquid,and the weight slowly started coming off. By summer, I had slimmed down to a size 12 and began to feel the occasional twinge of self-worth that had dominated my pregnancy.

As the ball dropped on 2009, I had lost 39 pounds and was wearing a size10. I maintained this level throughout 2010 via my home-fitness regimen before enlisting the help of a personal trainer. Beyond whipping my body further into shape – I lost an additional 20pounds in 2011 – my trainer also helped get my mind on track,simply by believing in my capacity for success. Not only did he force me to do squats until I thought I would puke, he forced me to accept that I – that we all – have the power to transform body and mind. Understanding this, is the sole reason I have kept off those 60pounds.

I've learned to forgive myself for my human slip-ups—like the occasional ice cream
binge. When being super fit was new, I felt enormously guilty over the slightest setback. Part of the maintenance process has been finding balance. I don't succumb to guilt when I enjoy too many carbs or have more than two glasses of wine. I acknowledge it and then return to my commitment to be healthy. I have the desire to enjoy my life. I finally know how to do both. I have a confidence that I never could have imagined. I'm no longer afraid of the mundane, whether it's planting myself in the first row of an exercise class at the gym or strolling into a parents' event at my son's school. And it's not just because I lost 60 pounds.  Yes, I started to love myself when I saw a skinny body in the mirror, but that was superficial. The meaningful love comes from allowing myself to be human and forgiving myself for human behavior, while knowing I have the confidence to stay fit and healthy. 
I am overjoyed with the possibilities that life has to offer. I now believe that I am worthy. I finally love being me.

The boobs are still defective, but being a "mom in a bikini" totally makes up for it!