This is a photo I would have never thought I’d publish. Or even consider publishing. Or even take. A photo that strips me not only of my clothes, but of my confidence, as well.
It is not a before/after transformation photo. This is same day, same body, difference confidence.
The dressed body is a body I recognize. I can deal with the couple extra kilos when wrapped in fitting clothes that look good on me, that highlight the best and hide the worst.
The body in underwear is a body I appreciate. It’s a body that grew two babies and underwent a mind blowing transformation. Twice. In two years.
That’s not my body. My body has a small waist. Round, hard buttocks. Fit arms and a flat stomach. My body was like in this video the year I got pregnant with Oliver, four years ago (not because I did anything special, only because I ate well, I ran, I danced, I worked non stop, and I did stuff like in the video ;-).
I showed this picture to two friends, and they see a good body (I love you, too!). My husband sees beauty. You might see an OK body.
Me? I see a pear-shaped butt. That skin roll on my back. An inexistent waistline. I see cellulite, which is more than you can appreciate in the photo. And then I turn around, and I see raisins when my boobs used to be. A bloated belly that replaced my ever-flat stomach.
I see all the imperfections. The stretch marks on my hips from the pregnancies. The scars from the unexpected surgery. The double chin when I look at my belly. The chicken wings under my arms. Even the grey hair that increased tenfold in the year and a half of sleep deprivation.
For four years now, I’ve kept thinking of getting back my fit, pre-children, hourglass body, but I could never find the motivation to do what it takes to get there.
Motivation. I always thought motivation was the problem, and a very understable problem—hello new mom life, two babies, then toddlers, terrible twos, threenagers, a job and no sleep! Duh!
Then I found Sarah @thebirdspapaya and even if she wrote about bodies that I objectively couldn’t relate to, she touched some deep chords inside of me.
She made me realize that the problem had nothing to do with motivation, and everything to do with acceptance. Even though I wasn’t unhappy with my mommy body, I never truly accepted it. Even though I didn’t take the gift of life for granted, I never really stopped to appreciate what my body did to look the way it looks today—it expanded and stretched in every direction to give life to two PEOPLE.
Little by little, one Instagram post at a time, she helped me start a new inner dialogue with my body. She introduced words like body-positive, self-love and self-worth in my dictionary. She taught me the importance of normalizing bodies that don’t fit into the impossible standards we’re all faced with in the society we live in.
Little by little, one Instagram post at the time, I started connecting the dots: I couldn’t change my body starting from a dialogue of hate—I hate my hips, I hate my cellulite, I hate my buttocks, I hate my belly. No positive change can come from hate.
I had to first change my inner dialogue. I had to start from a dialogue of love.
So I took action. I threw away the scale—I think I weigh between 64 and 70kg, but who knows! I started looking at my body in the mirror, instead of ignoring it because I don’t like what I see. I started focusing on what I like about it instead of what I hate about it. I like my shoulders, my back is sexy, I love my long neck, my tummy is not that bad, my eyes are big and deep, my mouth is full and rose red. Even my raisins are kinda cute.
I started saying to myself, “you look great” leaving out the “for having two children” part. I look great, period.
And then something unexpected happened.
I stopped eating sugar. I started running again.
For the first time in my life, the reason was NOT to lose weight. NOT to look more fit. NOT to be in shape for the dance show. NOT to be bikini ready. But to give my body LOVE. To feed it RIGHT. To see its WORTH even when it’s not at its best—whatever “best” means.
My spontaneous reaction to my newly-found love for myself was eating healthy and exercising, because I believe that’s how we show love to our body, how we take care of it. The same way we show someone that we love them by hugging them or dedicating our time to them. Only a dialogue of love can generate healthy behaviors: when you talk to your inner self with love, healthy choices are not only a lot easier, they are the only possible way forwards.
So that’s where we, mothers, start after a pregnancy: from our dinner dialogue. We change the words we tell ourselves in our minds. We accept ourselves, we appreciate ourselves, we love ourselves, we value ourselves, we forgive ourselves. We train our mind first, our body later. We take action from love, not from hate.
We don’t hide behind big sweaters and baggy pants to hide our body. We don’t feel ashamed of taking our clothes off on the beach—even if we feel insecure inside, we stand tall, shoulders back and head up. We don’t criticize every little inch of our body in front of the mirror, we try hard to find something that we like. We push away all the thoughts about everything we need to change in our body. We bend forward without worrying about that belly roll that we won’t be able to hide. We mentally slap ourselves when we change our sitting position so our thighs won’t look so big.
And we take care of ourselves. We get a haircut every two months, and a manicure once in a while. We apply some natural oil on our skin before going to bed not to avoid wrinkles in the old age, but simply to show love to our skin. We put on a nice dress, especially when we feel down. We leave the kids with daddy and have lunch with a friend, join a yoga class, read a book on the beach, take a weekend away alone.
We show love to ourselves the same way we show love to our children, because at the end of the day, only love can teach love.