I don’t hate my body. It doesn’t disgust me.
It just feels not mine.
When I look in the mirror, I see lopsided breasts, folds of skin laying on each other like tired seals lounging at the beach.
Thighs with stretch marks. Hips that somehow tripled during my pregnancy and have just felt comfortable staying that size. A double chin. Age spots and alligator feet that look like my grandmother’s. Skin that’s always parched and a scalp that’s perpetually flaky.
When and how did this happen?
Ever since I got pregnant, I stopped seeing my body as a compilation of perky breasts, taut midriff, toned arms, and luscious eyelashes. My body became a vessel of nourishment for the life growing inside me.
When the OB told me not to worry about my weight gain and eat whatever I wanted, I did just that… gave in to all my cravings, didn’t deny myself that fourth scoop of ice cream or third helping of butter chicken. I ate heartily.
I also exercised an adequate amount, but mostly, I relished in the freedom that came with eating without judgment.
I’ve always been a “healthy” weight for my height.
Even now, with all this excess skin and stored fat, I am by no stretch of the imagination overweight.
My doc says my BMI is “perfect” (for what little that’s worth).
But my mind says I’m anything but.
I’ve always struggled with the amount of body hair I have… It pokes through socks if allowed to grow wantonly, attracting sneers from classmates in tweenhood and comparisons with my dad.
I was convinced at one point that I suffered from hirsutism, until a doctor showed me photos of what that really looks like.
But even my excess hairiness was a fixable problem. Body waxing took care of the body shaming.
But this… this collection of love handles and torso bulges seems obtusely resistant to any kind of easy fixes.
I’ve never believed in fad diets, and I dare not put my body through a “detox” regimen when I’m still nursing my toddler. I bike everywhere instead of taking the car. I hike three times a week, with my daughter hitching a free ride on my back. I walk whenever the opportunity presents itself. I try to eat intuitively — not just for myself but also because my daughter is increasingly becoming aware of how our society links portion sizes to dress sizes.
And it worries me to think I might be giving her the wrong message.
I don’t want her to grow up concerned about her looks, her weight, or which Spanx underwear to buy. I don’t want her to think that beach bodies need to be different than street bodies or home bodies. I don’t want her taking stock of her appearance in every show window down the sidewalk.
I don’t want her looking at mannequins and wishing she were one.
But I can’t stop myself from sighing inwardly every time I disrobe.
I can’t stop my eyes from welling up when I spot a dress in my closet that used to fit like a glove. I can’t stop catching glimpses of myself and loathing what looks like a six-month pregnant belly.