I looked into the mirror as another wave of frustration and anger rolled over me. I was nine months postpartum and at the most awkward stage. I returned to my closet for the 11th time in search of something to wear to my friend’s birthday party.
I couldn’t keep wearing maternity clothes but my pre-pregnancy wardrobe wasn’t working either. Nothing hung on me right — too snug in some places and too loose in others. As I thumbed through my wardrobe, I couldn’t help but think back through the previous years and the dissatisfaction that seemed to shadow my feelings toward my body. I’ve been angry with it for as long as I can remember. I couldn’t help but wonder, is it even possible to be happy with my body?
The grievances I held toward my body started young. I learned it would take work if I wanted to mimic my slim sisters or the models I saw in the media. Despite my faith in Jesus and the teaching that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I battled anorexia in high school and abused laxatives in my early twenties.
Eventually, I began working with a counselor who was able to pair my faith with practical tools. By my mid-twenties I was able to find some freedom. Yet the feelings of frustration and the critical eye towards my body continued to surface off and on throughout the years.
I expected my body to change during pregnancy, but I felt sure that with exercise and healthy eating it would be back in no time. Boy, was I wrong. Turns out, the process was taking much longer than expected and my resentment — and dare I say embarrassment — toward my body, began to surface anew.
As I searched for an outfit, I felt that familiar anger begin to rise up in me. I was angry because my body didn’t look a certain way and wasn’t responding the way I wanted it to. Angry because I gained too much weight during pregnancy and couldn’t deliver my daughter naturally. Angry because it was an easy target for whatever else in my life that felt out of control. The list continued.
For almost fifteen years I have been constantly disappointed with this body.
I turned to see my daughter happily playing on the floor as she watched me reject outfit after outfit. Suddenly the thought of her being angry with her body, just as I am with mine, completely broke my heart. Change needs to happen if I’m to set an example of what it looks like to love and honor this body that I’ve been given.
The word struck me. My body is a gift the Lord has given me. To equip me to walk in the various roles he has called me to. My body is a gift, not my enemy. It was time for me to stop treating it like an adversary and begin to treat it like a friend.
We live in a world that discourages us from being satisfied with our bodies. From photoshopped models, to supplements and diet trends that push perfect health. There is always something you can be working toward. Since that system was clearly not helpful, I began my journey by releasing expectations.
I gave my body permission to change and shift as it continued to find a new, post-baby normal. I let go of the expectation that it’s going to fail me and instead of critiquing myself in the mirror, I began to thank my body for the awesome work it’s doing.
Do I work out? Yes. Do I eat healthily? Mostly. Not so I can fit into a specific size. No, my motivation became the years in front of me. I want to chase my daughter on the beach one day, to hike with my husband well past our prime, to honor this gift I have been given by taking care of it.
It’s been astonishing to see how my body has responded when I made these changes. It has begun to let go; of the swelling and water weight, of the frustration I carried in the pit of my stomach, and of the fear that shadowed me. I am not at my thinnest or fittest, but this is by far the most comfortable I have been in my body.
This process has taught me that nothing thrives under abusive words, even our own bodies.
We can eat the right things, work with amazing counselors and have the best quiet time on the planet, but as the word says “if you have not love…” freedom will always seem just out of reach.
Maybe loving your body feels like too big of an ask, or you might feel ready to let go of expectations and dive in. Wherever you are, we can all set an intention to be a friend to our bodies instead of its enemy. Sometimes the simplest step is the most effective one.