Gift wrapping: why be beautiful when shoddy will do?
Alert! Quinoa PSA! (Also: photography questions.)

Deciding to be FINE with how I look

Yesterday? I think it was yesterday. Monday I woke up and thought: Today is the day I decide to be FINE with how I look. (I wanted to write "happy" there instead of "FINE" but I also wanted to be truthful and maybe the all caps will make up for the lack of fervor.) 

And I'm serious. I'm as serious as I am totally baffled by how I will accomplish this. 

Here are the facts:

I have almost always been several sizes larger than most of my friends (and most definitely my sisters) my entire life. But I did not have an eating disorder or develop any worrisome thoughts or habits in regard to my size. I would guess I was no more and no less unhappy with my body as the average teenage girl and young woman. 

I lost weight for the first time right before I had Jack. I dropped about 20 pounds. I was DELIGHTED. I started wearing the size that I am currently wearing. This is to say: I am not at my heaviest. 

I lost the Jack weight just in time to get pregnant with Molly. 

And after Molly I did Hot By Thirty. I am wondering if this was just a particularly charmed moment in my life. I dropped all the baby weight plus ten more pounds. I was smaller than I was in high school. I was fitter than I'd ever been in my life. I had ARM MUSCLES. Everyone was proud of me, everyone complimented me, it was basically a Three's dream come true. I was STILL bigger than my sisters and I knew a size 8 wasn't going to get me a modeling contract, but DAMN I felt great about myself. I was also more obsessed with my body and my looks and how other people looked than I had ever been in my entire life. Which was not so great. 

I maintained that size until I had Emma. After Emma I dropped most of the weight, though I was never able to fit into my old pants. Even though I was only a few pounds over my goal weight I was light years away from fitting into those pants and felt muffin toppy and dumpy and frumpy and BAD. I felt very very BAD. I won't go into the length and breadth and miserable depth of my disappointment with myself, but it was very bad and THEN I gained most of the baby weight back. 

I am not entirely sure how this happened. (Oh wait, yes I do. Cookies.) But even with the cookies I did all the things I normally do to undo the effects of too many cookies and... it didn't work. I tried other things. They didn't work. I never found the right combination of diet and exercise that would equal weight loss and at some point this summer I think I gave up. I know I've gained weight since the spring. 

I am not at my heaviest. But now I know what it's like to be much smaller than I am, and my inability to get back to that place (and, at this point, my lack of motivation to even try) feels like an exquisite failure. Every morning I get dressed I remind myself that these pants are bigger than my old fat pants. I can't wear that sweater anymore. What won't show the rolls around my middle? Remember when I could wear a tight-fitting shirt and my pants didn't slide down over my love handles? 

But I am not UNHAPPY. My marriage is great. My kids are awesome. I just got back from a fantabulous weekend with amazing, lovely, hilarious ladies. I have wonderful friends. My family is supportive. I JUST STARTED A BUSINESS. 

Why am I constantly telling myself I'm a failure? 

Here are my excuses: 

  • Maybe my SSRI has the dreaded weight gain (or makes-it-hard-to-lose) side effect. 
  • I'm older. 
  • I actually FEEL older. 
  • I don't sleep well. 
  • I'm BUSY. I have THINGS TO ACCOMPLISH.
  • My metabolism must be different. My body is TOTALLY WACKED OUT after Emma, in all different ways. Why wouldn't that be one of them?

But I've been thinking - seriously thinking - about what it would mean to Accept Myself The Way I Am. For the most part I'm not sure what that means. My entire motivation for Hot By Thirty was an unacceptance of the way I am. I don't know how to even TRY to exercise or eat healthy without a measure of dislike for my current status. A measure of disgust with myself. 

I can sort of imagine what it would look like. I would just get rid of those size 8 skinny jeans and buy clothes my current body looks good in. BECAUSE THOSE EXIST. I can see how I might emphasize the positives instead of constantly harping on the negatives. 

And I spent time this weekend with women of all shapes and sizes and colors and every single one of them was one of those Amazing Women of God. (I was at an NDCF alumni event.) And I was sitting there thinking: if that woman were thinner/smaller/taller/younger/wore different clothes/wore makeup/had shinier hair/looked any different - would I respect or admire or want to emulate her any more? 

The answer was no. Every single time. An honest no. Kind of a shocked why-would-you-even-think-that no. 

So I started thinking: maybe people think that about me. 

MAYBE my weight gain this year, my FAILURE, has absolutely nothing to do with how people feel about me, whether they love me, if they want to spend time with me. 

I think I've been in this place where I can believe those things as long as I'm TRYING to lose weight. Because everyone respects TRYING, right? 

But now I am seriously wondering: can I be okay with myself in this season of NOT trying? Of eating yogurt and granola for breakfast instead of eggs? Of walking on the treadmill instead of running? Of taking a nap instead of walking? Of making cookies with my kids, even though I know I will eat at least half the batter because that's JUST HOW GOD MADE ME? 

I don't think I can. I can do those things, but I will berate myself the whole time. Even though I have no intention of doing anything differently any time soon, I make sure to berate myself because then I know I haven't settled. I haven't become THIS person. I can still be the person with arm muscles. I haven't Become Okay With This. 

So... I was thinking about this last night and realizing that in other places in my life, where change seems impossible, or where I can't figure out the right way, I turn to God. Not all the time, and not well, but I mean to and try to and wouldn't you know, many times it works out. 

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

I think this is one of those things that I do not understand and maybe I don't HAVE to understand. God provides a way when there is no way. God parted the freaking Red SEA. 

I cannot part the Red Sea of disappointment with myself on my own. I can't. It's not going to work. In a few days I'll just go back to feeling bad every morning and worrying about what it means that I'd rather nap than run. I don't want to keep doing that. I don't want to see everything through these fat pants-tinted glasses. 

The answer, I know, is to pursue God with my whole mind, body, and spirit, and he will make me more like him, and I'll just stop caring about my pants size!

What's more likely? That as I turn to God every time I want to mentally whale on myself for gaining weight this year, every time I hate what I see in the mirror, he will gently turn me towards whatever it is that he would much rather I be thinking about. That the more times I can say, "God, I know this is not from you" he would respond with, "THIS is for you" and it will be something relevant and real and about who I AM and not what I LOOK like. 

 

 

Comments

Sheila

You are so freaking fantastic, Maggie. I'm going to print out this post to re-read when my (taller, thinner, more fashionable) little sister comes to visit after the twins are born. I love this!

april

You really do look fabulous, Maggie.

All of the chronicled though, is exactly me. I have always weighed more than everyone else. I weighed X in high school. It was X+10 in college, and X+20 when I got married. I had Spencer and then lost the weight plus some, was X+10. Had Henry and subsequently lost the weight, back to X+10. Got really healthy, was X-20 (still more than most of my IRL friends, but I was really happy). Over the last 18 months I've gained back to X. I'm basically my high school weight, and I've been both heavier and thinner but I'm NOT happy.

All of this to say I'm so proud of you for being okay with you. You are wonderful.

Sarah in Ottawa

You are so awesome, lady. It is so hard to STOP the "obsessing about weight/how I look" mindset once you've started; I say that as a former disordered eater. It has taken me eons, and I am so glad that you are feeling better about it.

Hillary

Your epiphany about your friends? Yes, people do feel that way about you, Maggie.

Sonya

Maggie, first off...I've only seen you IRL once and it was recent, and I thought you looked great!

However, I know how it is to struggle with being okay with your body as it is today. For me, I was one of those super skinny teenagers who could eat whatever I wanted in high school and never gain a pound. I'm sure people hated me.

Today, I hate high-school-me for two reasons: 1) Because I didn't appreciate how naturally thin I was at that time (I thought I had big hips) and how it took no effort to be that size (I ate like crap). Ugh. 2) Because today, in my head, I still think I should look that skinny. And the reality is that at this moment I weigh 70 lbs more than I did in high school. The skinniest I've been in my 30s is about 15 lbs less than I weigh currently and realistically I don't think I'll ever do better than that, but the image of skinny little high-school-me still haunts me. Now, I look at bad food and gain weight. It's so hard.

All this to say, I'm trying to make peace with my body as it is today, extra pounds and all. I'm focused on trying to keep my weight at what is healthy for 40-year-old me (mostly to prevent diabetes which runs in my family) and dressing for the body I have, not the body I used to have. And I've tried consciously since Sophie was born not to talk about my weight, or my feelings about it, in front of her.

You are awesome. You are fabulous. People love you for you, not for what size you are. That's a good thing for all of us to remember! I'm glad you are working toward this. XO

steph

Ah! I loved this post!

I was just chatting with a friend the other day about how it's SO easy for me to compare myself to my baby sister, who is thinner, etc. than me. BUT, when I do that it brings out the ugliest part of me. I suddenly become jealous and gross and I don't like myself.

This body is just that a body. It's a tool to be used to do what God has called me to do. I eat (relatively healthy), I engage in moderate exercise, and now it's time to move on and just love who I am.

I'm joining you in this! xoxoxoxoxoxo

Christina

My husband took up running a few years ago and then started "dieting" (which meant changing a few foods and announcing how many calories were in things, but nothing very regimented). The pounds came off, and kept coming off, and now he is downright skinny. I started to feel bad, so I took up running (okay, walking and slow jogging) and changed my eating habits. Nothing happened. Not. a. thing. I told my hippie doctor and she said "oh that's not even a fair competition. Your hormones are working against you and his are working in his favor." So there you go. It really does get harder as we get older.
I think you are fabulous and whether you gain or lose twenty pounds will not change my opinion of you one tiny bit. You'll still be fabulous. :)

Kate E

Do you read Momastery? Great entry this week that is along these lines.

Shalini

I loved this. I loved how you said this. I know you can't see it, Maggie, but trust all the gazillions of us who say that you're beautiful and no one gives a fig about your pants size. And if you had any idea how many times I thought, "If only I looked as pretty as Maggie!"

Michelle

I love all of this. You are so lovely.

Jen

I loved reading this. Loved. Because it's almost identical to the narrative that's been playing in my own brain for the last 5-6 months. Here's to being FINE!!! :)

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