I'll Be Writing More in a Week or Two.

(song: Paperback Writer/artist: The Beatles)

I wrote the following article about my struggles with body image - particularly during and after my pregnancy(s) - for Seleni Institute. My first paid writing assignment!

{Reprinted with permission from seleni.org}

Learning to Love My Formerly Fat Self

One mom's journey to self-acceptance
By Alison Donnelly, mom to a 5-year-old son in Brooklyn

Because I was a chubby kid since the age of 10, I've heard every possible euphemism to describe my body: "pleasantly plump," "Rubenesque," "carries weight easily." I always understood what those words really meant. And I never disagreed with them.

Nope. I believed them all, and I punished my body for it. I ate too much (and when I got older), drank too much, smoked, and even did drugs with little concern for the consequences. I hated my body, so why did it matter how badly I treated myself?

Flash forward to 2006 and my first pregnancy: At 5 feet, 9 inches and 175 pounds, I was a size 14. And when that pregnancy ended in miscarriage, I felt like the body that had failed me in its appearance had also failed me in function. So I returned to punishing it with a vengeance. By early 2007, I was 193 pounds, size 16, and (luckily) pregnant again.

Like most women, I was desperate to get through the first trimester so I could feel more confident that I had a viable pregnancy. But I had another reason: I couldn't wait to announce my condition to the world, so people would start thinking "pregnant" instead of "fat" when they looked at me.

Caring for a developing baby meant caring for me
This time around, something amazing happened because I cared about the life growing inside me, I began to care about my body. I opted for healthy meals and logged my calories to make sure I stayed within my doctor's guidelines for gaining weight. And even though I felt heavy, I also felt beautiful and energetic (to the extent a 200-pound woman can feel energetic during a New York summer). For the first time since my wedding day I felt strong in the present and excited about the future. And then, at the peak of joy from my son's birth, everything began to unravel.

Back to my old ways
The surge of confidence I experienced during pregnancy seemed to have been left on the delivery room floor. For the better part of my son's first year of life, I felt like I had been placed in the wrong job.

Some mothers made it look so easy, while I struggled with every aspect of being a new mom. I couldn't breastfeed because of a breast reduction I had when I was 18, so I felt like a failure in La-Leche-League-loving Brooklyn. At "mommy and me" music class, I defied inspirational posters by dancing like everyone was watching. The milk-filled breasts of bikini-clad moms in baby swim class mocked my mammary inadequacy. I was not the natural-born mother I had thought I would be. I felt like a fat, useless stay-at-home mom.

Then one afternoon while watching TV in my nightgown, a fitness infomercial inspired a revolutionary thought: Wasn't I worthy of the kind of love I had shown my body while my son was growing inside it? I got online, ordered the DVDs, and started exercising soon after. "A year from now, I'll be healthy and fit" became my mantra as I sweated and grunted through those first weeks, unable to do much more than 20 minutes of moderate cardio. I also reduced my calorie intake (especially the kind that came in a lovely stemmed glass), and the weight slowly started coming off. Within six months, I had slimmed down to a size 12 and began to feel the occasional twinge of self-worth that characterized my pregnancy.

Learning to love me
As the ball dropped on 2009, I had lost 19 pounds and was wearing a size 10. A year later, I was another 20 pounds lighter thanks to a personal trainer who made me believe that we all have the power to transform our body and mind. Understanding that is the sole reason I have kept off those 60 pounds.

When being super fit was new, I felt enormously guilty about the slightest setback. But I've learned to forgive myself for my slipups like the occasional ice cream binge. 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.

Yes, I started to love myself when I saw a skinny body in the mirror, but that was superficial. The meaningful love came from allowing myself to be human and forgiving myself for human behavior. I have the confidence to stay fit and healthy. I have the desire to enjoy my life. I finally know how to do both.

Alison Donnelly writes about her struggles and triumphs with weight, motherhood, and everything else as Formerly Fat Mom.

{Reprinted with permission from seleni.org}