Friday, June 27, 2014

Body image

When I was 11 yrs old, my mother told me about a nightmare she had. We were on a family vacation, eating breakfast at one of the restaurants. Looking right at me, she told me about how in her dream I was older and overweight (I think the number she gave was 250 lbs). In her dream she was crying and she asked me how I could allow myself to degenerate in that manner. My supposed response? "But Mom, I'm eating healthy. See? I'm eating a banana."

For as long as I can remember, I've hated how I've looked. I remember as a young girl thinking I was ugly, with all the girls at school being so much prettier than me. Looking back, a lot of this had to do with feelings of rejection from my parents and being unlovable. Hence it wasn't a surprise that I was overweight as a teenager. Both my parents were very critical of my weight and what I ate, to the point that my parents purchased a lockbox to control consumption of sweets. Yet, just like anything is life, the more I stressed about my weight and appearance, the heavier I became. And the heavier I became, the more unlovable and ugly I felt to all the world.

A lot of that changed when I left home. Specifically when I moved to Seattle and into the Mint House. One day I came home to find all my roommates staring at my side of the cupboards. "Why are you eating that stuff?" they asked, referring all the low-cal and processed foods. Within a few weeks, I found my eating habits had changed, with me ditching the diet foods and instead embracing butter, eggs and full fat but less-processed foods. In addition, we ate as a community, cooking for one another and sharing what we made. It was also around this time that I met Grey and he included me with his roommate as they explored cooking.

Wouldn't you know, with the pressure off of calorie counting and limiting food, I found myself not obsessing. And with that, the weight dropped. Later on, as my dabbling into rock climbing became more consistent and I found myself focusing less on how I looked and more on developing my core so that I could climb the harder routes, I found also that how I viewed my body changed. The hatred melted away and, dare I say it, I got to a point that I actually liked how strong I felt and what it could do.

And then Grey and I decided to start a family.

Like many, infertility made me doubt my body. Where as before I had a trust in its basic function, I found myself soul disconnected with the flesh and bone cage that was continually failing me and Grey. With this disconnect grew hatred and criticism. A shattered body image where I found myself torturing this vessel in hopes that somehow it would behave. Even after I became pregnant, I continued with the pain, gladly administering shots of PIO and Lovenox to keep my body at bay from harming the Beats. All the while hating it for threatening my babies. Holding it at bay for as long as I could.

11 months later, this dysfunctional relationship still exists. In a way, breastfeeding has actually exacerbated this as I struggle to make sure I'm not only producing enough milk for the Beats, but also because I've actually gained weight. At my heaviest in December, I weighed 190 lbs, which on my 5ft 6 inch frame was quite a bit and made it not only difficult to move but also made me ache. Starting back at work helped with this, as I've shed a number of pounds because I'm focusing on pumping and getting work done. Still, I'm not back at a weight that I want to be at. Add in the sagging boobs, the fact my stomach is still pudgy and the wider butt, and I'm far from where I'd like to be body wise.

So, like many, I've been trying to rectify this. Grey bought me a Fitbit and has been so supportive of me getting in my daily quota of steps. He's also been amazing with being the family cook and providing healthy meals. But I've been finding that the old dialogue I abandoned so long ago has been running through my head. That when I see myself in the mirror, I've been focusing on the fat that has accumulated and how distorted my body is. That the self-hatred has been coming back.

Frankly, it's fucking exhausting.

Two weeks ago, I decided I had it. Taking a mental health day, I enlisted a friend to accompany me to a local Korean spa where we spent a couple of hours in the saunas and heated baths. For the first time in a long time, I allowed myself to stop with the negative dialogue and just be with myself. And it was so nice. Nice not to criticize or be comparing. Nice to finally just be one with myself. An additional moment of clarity came with the Fremont Solstice Parade this past weekend, where the Solstice Cyclists reminded me that people indeed do come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Not only is that okay, but it's something that should be celebrated.

So here's the deal. I've decided that its time to stop warring with my body. To stop the criticism and hatred that manifested itself over the past 4 yrs. It doesn't mean that I'm throwing out all my good habits and resigning myself to being unhealthy. Actually it's quite the opposite. But the current dialogue needs to end, not only for myself but also because I don't want to teach the Beats to view themselves this way. Thing is, I need help. And I'm asking for it.

Here's my current situation: I currently weigh 168 lbs.  For being 5'6" that's still too much (and I do feel it as I don't move as fast and smoothly as I would like). But I also need to acknowledge that 11 months ago I gave birth to twins. In addition, a lot of this weight is due to fertility treatments (I started this pregnancy at 163 lbs) and the emotional turmoil. Though there are a few cases of people losing weight after injecting themselves with hormones and managing all the stress, the overwhelming trend is usually the opposite.

The other thing is that I need to reset my definition of body image. That contrary to what society would like everyone to believe, bouncing back doesn't happen magically, if ever. It's very likely that my boobs will forever be saggy, my belly slightly pudgy. That my hips will stay wider and my arms more flappy than what I care for. But these same boobs are also currently feeding my babies. They also have this magical ability to calm a screaming Beat and even a stressed out Grey. That pudgy stomach once held two babies and now functions as a great landing pad for a bouncing infant. My hips may be wide, but they also afford me the stability to carry two infants up a flight of stairs (or two). And though there are many pockets of cellulite and scars, there's also stories behind all of it.

In short, this body has been more than a cage for my soul. In many moments, it's been a vehicle for life. And remembering that, celebrating that is the key that will help me lose those 30 lbs. Not the self-deprivation, negative talk and criticism.

Now I need help remembering it. 


  1. We'll remind you! It's a great way to view it!

  2. Breathtaking Cristy. Just absolutely beautiful. The whole story - from where you started, how you learned to love your body, how infertility wreaked havoc on your perception of your body, to pregnancy and birth to now - the awesome, lovely present. Congratulations for making it through and for embracing it all.

    One thing that really resonated with me here is that you know you need to have a healthy body image for your children. I watch Moonbeam take in the world and it is obvious that she is developing a perception of beauty and self-worth at such a young age. I try so hard never to comment negatively about myself now that she is in my life - because I know that although I am certainly not the most beautiful woman in the world, to her, I really truly am. I am her benchmark for beauty and define what it is to be a woman for her. The buck starts and stops with us, doesn't it? I feel so responsible for shaping how she sees herself in the world.

    As a side note - thanks for nominating my post! Funny - I went to the roundup specifically to nominate your Decade post as well. Thinking of each other this week! Hugs to you, the Beats and Grey. xoxo

    1. That's the thing, though. I struggle with this. I find myself daily having to stop the inner dialogue and move away from the negative aspects. So I'm still learning (and relearning) how to handle. this.

      But just as you said, a major motivation is that I don't want the Beats to learn this from me. After all, I know I learned it from my mother and I know she struggles with body image too. It's not that I want to give myself an excuse not to live healthy, I just don't want them to repeat a cycle that has been so destructive.

  3. Thanks for writing this. I have some of the same feelings as you, but towards different 'imperfect' areas of my body. I am constantly obsessing and beating myself up because of it. Even though it is totally ridiculous, I find myself constantly striving to look perfect and I am finding that this just isn't going to happen no matter what I do. My body endured 3 miscarriages and finally made/housed a rather large, but healthy baby. I just don't think that there is anyway my body could go back. I think the norm is actually to not ever be exactly as you were before. It is sad that society makes us think that we should all look perfect and 'bounce back' and berates us when we don't. I'm right there with you, girl. You have such a great and positive attitude. I need to let some of it rub off on me! :)

  4. Love this post, Cristy! (Actually, I've loved all of your recent posts, but for some reason, haven't been able to comment from my phone.) I can't imagine anyone comes through infertility with a positive body image still intact. Good for you for remembering (again and again and again if you have to) the amazing things your body has done and continues to do for the Beats. It's a great reminder for all of us to model healthy habits and positive self-image for our kids. Thank you!

  5. I'm going to bookmark this and read it when I'm feeling down on myself. Thanks, Cristy. :)

  6. Wonderful post C. I am so happy to read this right now. I too struggle with my perception of myself. That is part of the yo-yoing weight I go through (& the PCOS). We are in this thing together, as I too have a past of body negativity from my years of IF and loss. Birthing a baby gave me something amazing, but it also changed me. You have inspired me to pick-up my healthy eating and gym habits again in the hopes of losing more weight. I have a ways to go, like you, but there really is no timeline. I will live happy and for my son. And hopefully get back to a super healthy place.


  7. You're so unbelievably strong and honest, Cristy. Love this post and I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with our bodies. I know you'll lose those 30 pounds. ;)

  8. oh yeah I know the feeling well. I'm 5'6 1/2" and weigh too much. I looked great at 155 lbs but my self image was horrible. I used to pass a mirror and think that it couldn't be me because I knew I was fat though others told me I looked great. After I have the baby I'm going to work on becoming a healthy weight which for me will be one that I can maintain whatever the number.

  9. Ugh I think my comment just got eaten again. The gist: I am WITH you on this. I've had a love/hate with my body since I was 10 and I don't want to pass this on. Keep up the positive work!

  10. That second to last paragraph, that is what I want my future clients to remember. I want us to celebrate what our bodies did and do while we work on making them stronger and healthier. I wish we were closer. I'd love to work with you and help you program an exercise program that you could do while still taking care of the Beats. Big hugs as you work to meet your goals. I know you can do it!

  11. You are singing my song, girlfriend: the family influence, the turn away from dieting toward health, the impact of IF and emotional trauma vis a vis weight gain. I have written my own posts like these, and it's true that infertility has an uncanny way of resurrecting those old body image demons I had thought I'd laid to rest. Here I am, trying to control a body that continues to fail me, the disconnect between flesh and spirit, and the exhaustion of finding myself ever at odds. I have never sustained a pregnancy, but I can see how the struggle stands to continue through birth and postpartum. Lots of love and solidarity!


Design by Small Bird Studios | All Rights Reserved