Thoughts on Body Image and “Skinny Fat”

Let’s talk about body image for a second. I saw something posted on Facebook recently that used the term “skinny fat.” I think it was trying to sell “health” (i.e. crash diet) shakes or something. Honestly, I was so irritated that I scrolled right past it. I don’t know if I can adequately explain how much I loathe that term and all it implies. It’s supposed to reference people who appear to be skinny, but actually have a lot of flab on their frame. On the surface, I believe it’s meant to point out that the number on the scale doesn’t paint the whole picture and there are many aspects to health. I actually whole-heartedly agree with that thinking, but I find the term itself offensive. The term is a term of vanity, not health. It’s saying “hey skinny people, even you should feel bad about your body!”

What I wish is that we would all stop aspiring to have the “perfect” body and really take a step back and honor our own unique beauty. Instead of fad diets and unhealthy pills, I wish we could listen to what our bodies are telling us, and focus on how we feel from the inside out, not the number on the scale or the measurement of our waist.

Our unhealthy obsession with weight was never more apparent than in the months after I had L. I resented society’s pressure for women to bounce back to their pre-pregnancy weight, as if any woman who doesn’t make it back to that exact number is a failure, as if all the changes her body saw needed to be undone. And instead of kindly telling me “you look great” after I returned from maternity leave, one co-worker boldly asked the loaded question “are you back to your pre-pregnancy weight yet?” (What I wanted to tell her was not HR approved)

I hate the women who feel pressured to be a certain way and try to drag you down with their insecurities. I recently had one woman asked me where I bought jeans, but once I engaged in what I thought was going to be a simple fashion discussion, I was quickly dragged into a conversation about sizes and how she’s frustrated that she can’t fit into her 4’s anymore and she has to wear 6’s and “isn’t it awful?” She referenced me somewhere in the conversation and I think I was meant to hop on the bandwagon and complain about my size too.

I wanted to laugh in her face and tell her that I don’t think I’ve ever been a 4. Maybe for like a day in high school. But my body wasn’t built to be a 4, I would probably look sickly at a size 4, and last I checked, being a size 6 (or larger) doesn’t make you fat. I am proud of my body (I like to refer to my figure as “athletic with curves”), and it always surprises me when someone seems to imply that I shouldn’t be.

I am a firm believer that being healthy requires nourishing your body, stimulating your mind, and honoring your soul. I believe that happiness requires you to love yourself, and I think that overall well-being requires a bit of indulgence. Translation: I need bread in my life. And cupcakes. This is my version of “perfection.”

Thoughts on Body Image and “Skinny Fat”

Let’s talk about body image for a second.  I saw something posted on Facebook recently that used the term “skinny fat.” I think it was trying to sell “health” (i.e. crash diet) shakes or something.  Honestly, I was so irritated that I scrolled right past it.  I don’t know if I can adequately explain how much I loathe that term and all it implies.  It’s supposed to reference people who appear to be skinny, but actually have a lot of flab on their frame. On the surface, I believe it’s meant to point out that the number on the scale doesn’t paint the whole picture and there are many aspects to health. I actually whole-heartedly agree with that thinking, but I find the term itself offensive. The term is a term of vanity, not health. It’s saying “hey skinny people, even you should feel bad about your body!”

What I wish is that we would all stop aspiring to have the “perfect” body and really take a step back and honor our own unique beauty.  Instead of fad diets and unhealthy pills, I wish we could listen to what our bodies are telling us, and focus on how we feel from the inside out, not the number on the scale or the measurement of our waist.

Our unhealthy obsession with weight was never more apparent than in the months after I had L.  I resented society’s pressure for women to bounce back to their pre-pregnancy weight, as if any woman who doesn’t make it back to that exact number is a failure, as if all the changes her body saw needed to be undone. And instead of kindly telling me “you look great” after I returned from maternity leave, one co-worker boldly asked the loaded question “are you back to your pre-pregnancy weight yet?” (What I wanted to tell her was not HR approved)

I hate the women who feel pressured to be a certain way and try to drag you down with their insecurities. I recently had one woman asked me where I bought jeans, but once I engaged in what I thought was going to be a simple fashion discussion, I was quickly dragged into a conversation about sizes and how she’s frustrated that she can’t fit into her 4’s anymore and she has to wear 6’s and “isn’t it awful?” She referenced me somewhere in the conversation and I think I was meant to hop on the bandwagon and complain about my size too.

I wanted to laugh in her face and tell her that I don’t think I’ve ever been a 4. Maybe for like a day in high school. But my body wasn’t built to be a 4, I would probably look sickly at a size 4, and last I checked, being a size 6 (or larger) doesn’t make you fat.  I am proud of my body (I like to refer to my figure as “athletic with curves”), and it always surprises me when someone seems to imply that I shouldn’t be.

I am a firm believer that being healthy requires nourishing your body, stimulating your mind, and honoring your soul.  I believe that happiness requires you to love yourself, and I think that overall well-being requires a bit of indulgence.  Translation: I need bread in my life. And cupcakes.  This is my version of “perfection.”

Postpartum Body Image and “Bouncing Back”

You wanna know what REALLY makes me mad?

This.

 

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And it’s not just celebrity gossip magazines.  It’s everywhere.  All the time.  Losing all of the baby weight in 2 months is NOT NORMAL, and we’re sending an unhealthy message to new moms.

Minimum recovery time before you’re cleared by a doctor to go back to the gym is 6 weeks, and that timeline is longer if you had a C-section or complications.  I had a healthy pregnancy, worked out regularly until the 9 month mark, had a complication-free delivery, and I can tell you that at 6 weeks, things still hurt- a lot.  I eased myself back into the gym, but it wasn’t like I was going full intensity like I used to.  I did struggle with my body image for a while, which I wrote about here.

Instead of encouraging new moms to rest, recover, and enjoy their new babies, we’re pressuring them to prove how quickly they can “bounce back” by setting unrealistic postpartum expectations.

Nursing moms especially should not be stressing about weight loss, they should be concentrating on getting enough calories from nutrient-rich food to feed their babies.  There’s so much focus on how nursing will “help new moms lose the baby weight” but not enough focus on the fact that nursing moms actually need MORE calories (500 extra per day) than they did while pregnant (300 extra per day).

It can take up to a year to take off the baby weight, and a healthy goal is to lose 1-2 pounds per week.  Realistically, not all moms will return to that exact pre-baby weight.  Post-baby, your boobs may be bigger, your hips may be a little wider, and that’s okay. You created a life, your internal organs completely rearranged themselves, and your body’s purpose for nearly a year was to grow a person and prepare to bring that person into the world.

So please, let’s stop this obsession with bouncing back, and shift our focus to rest and recovery.  One look at a face like this, and the number on the scale shouldn’t matter.

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The Day I Stopped Dieting

I had L February 2 and as I recovered from childbirth, the weather warmed and I was reminded swimsuit season was right around the corner. I was determined, desperate even, to get “my body back” in time for my summer vacations.

In general, I eat healthy and have never had a real problem with my weight. Part of that is my own healthy eating and exercising habits, and part of that is just good luck and good genes. But, even with all that, I still had a few of those pesky pregnancy pounds that hung around. My postpartum body felt unfamiliar to me, uncomfortable.

So, I dieted, I cut calories, I turned down desserts and let myself be a little hungry at the end of a meal. It was torturing, but also working, at first at least. I lost a few pounds, then plateaued, and was irritated that my hard work stopped paying off.

Then, July came and I had a trip to Myrtle Beach with JD’s family, a trip home to Ohio for a wedding, and a vacation in Hilton Head with my family. I put the calorie counter aside so I could enjoy these trips without stressing about my eating. After nearly a month of not worrying about what I ate, I had a Zen moment where I realized that I was happy and I felt good. What have I been torturing myself for? I wondered. I was 6 months postpartum and although my body wasn’t quite the same (is it ever the same after a baby anyway?!) I felt good, I looked good, and geezus, I should not be battling myself over a scoop of ice cream once in a while.

So, I stopped counting calories, I stopped weighing myself, and it was so, so freeing. Does that mean I’m going to let myself go and have no regard for what I’m eating? No. All it means is I’m going to base my eating on my own health and happiness, not an obsession with what the scale says.

I am healthy, I am happy, and I made the most perfect, beautiful, joyful little baby. Look at this face.

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I couldn’t think of anything my body could do that would be more beautiful than that.

I think one of our biggest problems with food is the perception that food is the enemy, that it’s something working against us. Food is not the enemy. Our attitude about food is the enemy. We should be looking at food as a way to nourish our bodies and fill it with the things that will make us feel and perform at our best. Calories, fat, carbs- all the things that are considered “bad” are actually vital for a healthy body.  What we need to remember is that we need to be eating the right calories, fat, and carbs.  As long as you eat well most of the time, you shouldn’t feel bad about the occasional sweet treat or french fry. That kind of stuff is part of what makes life good.

After I’d finished writing this post, my friend serendipitously sent me the link to this blog post from a woman who used to work at a weight loss company.

She put this picture at the beginning:

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My thoughts exactly.