Ali Wilkinson lives in Portland, OR with her husband and three children. She blogs about parenting, monsters, and how messy her house is at www.runknitlove.com.
I bent my head toward my outstretched legs as sweat dripped into my yoga mat, then groaned, relieved at finishing a particularly grueling workout. During the cool down, the instructor told us a story. When she was twelve, she went to the mall to get her first “real” pair of jeans. It was a big moment for her. She felt grown up and glamorous as she tried them on. But after tutting and tsking, the store clerk finally said to her “Well, it’s just hard to find anything that fits you because you have such a wide waist.” My instructor was devastated, and for years afterwards fixated on her “wide waist.”
Another woman spoke up about going to the beach and playfully being called “thunder thighs” by her friend. The next tearfully recalled her father telling her she would be so pretty “if she would only lose some weight.” Overweight in my preteen years, I had opened a jean skirt on my tenth birthday, and my brother laughingly said “she can’t wear that.”
The instructor also emphasized the importance of reclaiming that body part by recasting it in a positive light. For her, she shifted her thinking so that rather than telling herself she had a wide waist, she decided she had narrow hips. I love this idea. Even beyond empowering us as individuals to reclaim our body and move on from the negativity, it sets a wonderful example for our children—especially our girls.
As a thirty-something mother of three, I don’t find myself thinking about the way I look as often as I once did, for better and for worse. (Although I like to pretend black flannel pants can pass for dress pants, they just can’t.) But I actually love my body. It is faster and stronger than it has ever been. It birthed and nourished three healthy children. I can do push-ups without having to go on my knees. I recently PRed in a half marathon. And, the biggest feat of all, I’m able to keep up with my three kids. Well, usually. And with excessive amounts of caffeine.
But writing this, I realize that I focus more on what my body can do rather than on how it looks. My legs are strong and well-defined. My back is smooth.
But there are certainly parts of my body that are not as attractive as they could be. My feet are wide. My stomach is far from flat. My breasts are not only saggy but also completely different cup sizes thanks to three years of breastfeeding.
Okay, so here goes. My attempt to recast and reclaim:
My feet absorb hundreds of miles running by myself, with good friends, and with my children. They carry me over mountains. They pad softly as I peek in to check on my baby. They balance children while roughhousing. They have been good to me. I love them.
My stomach has been through a lot. It has been pushed from the inside out for 122 weeks through three pregnancies. It has been a reliable source of stored fat during breastfeeding. The muscles underneath are strong, and help me run faster, carry my children, and stay balanced. It has been good to me. I love it.
My breasts. Well, that’s tough. I guess their asymmetry is Picasso-esque. They give visual interest to a horizontally striped shirt. But in all seriousness, I wouldn’t change them. They provided nourishment for my children and kept them healthy. They have been good to me and my children. I love them, too.
All right. Your turn.
Photo credit: “Yoga @ dusk” by Chris Preen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License/