Carrie and her son E
I’ve never been thin. I’ve been fit and healthy, but I have to do unnatural things to get below a size 8. And by unnatural, I mean I can’t eat dark chocolate and I rely on a diet of black coffee and salad (no dressing) and must work out 10 times a week.
So, I have a confession to make.
Pretty mind-blowing, right?
I have another confession to make.
I’m overweight and health is my passion.
Okay. I’m sorry. I know I just blew you out of the stratosphere with that second confession. But since we are all gathered around this table, unpacking our stuff and laying it all out for each other to see, I’ll let you in on my journey. I’m passionate about helping people restore their health, vitality and well-being, and…
I’m not a perfect picture of health.
Several years ago, I lost a significant amount of weight. Like, I could have been on the cover of People Magazine’s “How They Lost XX LBS!” issue. Something powerful shifted for me when I turned 30. I decided to stop caring about my weight as a means to measure my success, beauty and worth as a woman. I gave myself permission to care for my body, and to care for the woman inside that body first. Those were the first steps to decoding the destructive message I had been telling myself for three decades, and more importantly, to accepting my worth without attaching my weight to it. I had viewed my body as The Enemy, and the scale just let me know how badly I was losing The War.
I was ready to stop waging The War and start nurturing myself.
The nurturing began with saying nice things. Out loud. To my own face. Things like:
- “You have a warm heart.”
- “You have a wicked sense of humor.”
- “Your blood pressure is PERFECT.”
- “Those upper arms are pretty tight.”
- “Nice boobs.”
I focused on the things I liked about myself already. I even borrowed a couple of attributes my husband and best friend liked about me. And you know what happened? Nothing at first. They were just words. But then the words started to feel true and I gave myself permission to believe them.
Over the course of the next three years, I changed my eating habits dramatically, worked with a doctor to balance my hormones, (which has been my Achilles’ heel since I was first diagnosed with PCOS in my teens), and began learning the value of self-care. I did other things, like choosing to work somewhere for less pay, but in an environment where I thrived and was treated with kindness and respect. We made a major move, even though that meant sleeping on a futon for four months in a couple of different guest rooms in order to save enough money to make it happen. I started taking classes to expand my knowledge of nutrition and health. One nurturing and kind act of self-care began a snowball effect in my life, and weight loss rolled up into it. Don’t get me wrong. I had to be intentional and work hard to reduce my weight, but it felt like a natural step in a series of steps.
I was in the best health of my life when I got pregnant nearly three years ago for the first time. I gained 10 lbs immediately. Sadly, I lost the pregnancy very early on, but the weight stayed. Two months later, I got pregnant with E, and gained a about 25 lbs throughout the 9.5 months of incubation. I lost most of what I gained in the following nine months post-partum. I wanted to lose a little bit more to be in my comfort zone, and felt hopeful. I knew how to do this safely and my postpartum body was agreeing with me.
Then I started taking Domperidone for my milk supply and it shot my hormones straight to hell. The weight stopped coming off and starting coming back on. It was disheartening. I took Domperidone to provide milk for my son, E, who has FPIES. My milk was the only safe thing he could eat for over a year, and I shouldered the tremendous burden of feeding him exclusively. Since it was quite literally a matter of survival for my son, I resigned myself to doing whatever it took to feed him now, and doing damage control later.
I’ve never been thin. I’ve been fit and healthy, but I have to do unnatural things to get below a size 8. And by unnatural, I mean I can’t eat dark chocolate and I rely on a diet of black coffee and salad (no dressing) and must work out 10 times a week. Soooo not worth it for me. In fact, it is unhealthy for me. I’m okay with never being a size 6. In fact, a size 10 is where I feel the best about myself mentally, physically, and emotionally. I feel strong, comfortable, and confident and I don’t have to do unnatural things to maintain it. I can enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and eat the occasional bowl of (gluten-free) pasta. But I’m not a size 10 right now. I’m a size 16. As long as I’m on this medication, my hormones will continue to be profoundly affected and my waist will continue to expand. And guess what?
I’m still healthy.
I exercise. I eat whole foods. I limit sugar and processed junk. I get regular blood work done every six months, and check in more often than that with my doctor. I take gentle, kind, and loving care of myself.
I’m overweight and I can still be healthy and encourage other people to be healthy, too.
When E no longer needs my milk, (which I hope will be one day very soon for many reasons that aren’t weight-related), I know what steps to take to help my body recover. It’s also likely that when I drop a few pants sizes, I’ll have some loose belly skin and stretch marks in weird places. I’ll feel more comfortable in some ways, and less in others. I don’t love the semi-deflated way my body looks at a size 10, or the saggy skin. But I love the way I move. I love the extra energy, and I love knowing that my body doesn’t have to work harder to be healthy. I love that I determine what feels good, most of all. And it has nothing to do with what anyone else deems I should feel or look like.
In the meantime, until my body no longer belongs primarily to my child and for many moons after that, I will extend kindness and acceptance to myself. I will continue to say nice things like:
- “Damn, your hair is luscious!”
- “Your legs are powerful enough to crush beer cans.”
- “Excellent job sustaining two human lives for 30 months in a row!”
- “You chose not to judge yourself, even though you were afraid other people were.”
- “You had a regular period this month. Keep it up, Uterus!”
- “You have everything you need in this moment.”
Because those words are true. Even if I wear a size 16 forever, or grow even rounder, those words are always true.
I have to consciously release myself from perceived judgement. That effing scale and the size of my jeans do not determine my happiness, enjoyment of life, well-being, or level of professional competence. It does not determine my ability to be a connected, loving, and active mom or human. It does not disqualify me from sharing my hard-earned knowledge of nutrition and health.
My weight does not determine my worth. And it doesn’t determine yours either.
I am fortunate. I wake up thankful to be a woman in this world who has a voice and a mission in the wellness field. I wake up thankful to be my husband’s wife. I wake up thankful to be E’s mom. I wake up thankful for the extra weight because I know, for now, it means my son is thriving. I won’t waste a single moment feeling regretful for what my body looks like, or worry about changing it in the near future. It is enough. I am enough.
And so are you.