Don’t Call Me Fat. (Or How I Learned My Body is Worthless)

First of all, let me say that I have spent a lot of time thinking about this blog and the tone I want it to take. After much thought, I decided not to decide, and to simply write about what’s on my mind. I created this blog for myself. I hope that it might touch others in some way, or just spark an idea that you hadn’t considered, but it’s primarily a tool to express my thoughts, even if it’s just to a few people. I also decided to be okay with letting a bad word slip out (fair warning) and to not always proofread. Deal.Now that that’s out of the way…body image is what’s currently on my mind. Or maybe I should call it body respect? I have always been a big person. I don’t mean overweight, but just big. I’m 5’9″ and have been referred to as “thick” on occasion. When I was younger, I had the same ideals most girls do- to be desirable you need to be thin. I knew the difference between inner beauty and physical attraction. I have always tried to have a beautiful character, and I knew the value in that. When I started dating boys though, I also felt like I needed to be thin for them to like me. Skinny=sexy. Like a lot of girls, I went to extremes to make myself thin. (Thankfully I snapped out of it without much damage.) Soccer try outs saved me. I used to put my lunch on the middle of the table and whoever I was sitting with would grab what they wanted. I remember very distinctly the day I said, “Sorry Daniel, but I’m eating lunch today. I need the energy for soccer.”

Athletics weren’t new to me. I’ve always been active. I took dance and soccer from a young age. Gymnastics too, but I didn’t graduate Tumbleweeds because I talked to much. (Yes, me.) This moment was pivotal in my relationship with my body. It was the point that I decided the way my body functions is more important than how it looks.

Fast forward to adulthood. I still struggle with needing to feel desirable. Don’t we all want to be sought after? With age comes wisdom, and with experience, confidence. I hold truer the ideal that my body is beautiful, despite its flaws, and sometimes because of them.

Like maybe women, that process began when I started planning my wedding. Being front and center, I wanted to look perfect and feel beautiful. I started working out with a personal trainer to get ready for the day, and started getting into running.

Virginia Beach half marathon, my first. The woman who finished in front of me pooped herself. No shit.

I remember posting this photo on Facebook, even though I thought my arm looked fat. I got comments like, way to go! And, look at that smile on your face! Did anyone notice my fat arm? I don’t know, and I don’t care. That fat arm girl is running a half marathon. (well, walking some of it)
A little later on I discovered CrossFit, and developed a love affair. Here’s a community who embraces strong, muscular woman! I was hooked on the endorphins and empowered by the heavy weight and barbells. I still love CrossFit. It’s the most effective program I’ve followed for mind AND body. I looked awesome and felt great. The focus of this community is on your capabilities, and challenging and stretching your potential. It’s not based on how your body looks, it’s based on how it functions. Well, kind of.

Disney Princess Half Marathon

That’s my 500 m row PR, 1:38. Being an Amazon has it’s advantages

Two days after I set this PR, I found out I was pregnant with my son. I did not know how much this would test my security. Like any good cross fitter, I exercised throughout my pregnancy. I read up on physiological changes women experience, so I was “ok” with my thighs gaining fat and my ribs expanded. My hips widened and loosened so much that it hurt to roll in bed. I started to see another side of my capabilities; something my body could do other than lift and run. I’m a little ticked at myself now that my son is almost two. I think I was doing in utero endurance training because the kid doesn’t stop!

This is me 38 weeks pregnant at a CrossFit competition. I’m pleased to say my team did not finish last.

My son was born via cesarean at 42 weeks, (the first sign that he would do everything his way) and this is where things went downhill. I assumed I would be able to get my body back through hard work, but didn’t realize how difficult it would be to make that happen. Breastfeeding monopolized my time, and soon realized when I started pumping after my leave was over that I was making just enough milk. A few weeks later and I was no longer making enough. Going to the gym meant pumping an extra bottle on top of the bottles he got at daycare. I was waking up during the night to pump, even though my son was asleep. With the help of domperidone I got my supply back up and successfully nursed him for 16 months. I’m very proud of that! I even ran The Bourbon Chase, a 200 mile team relay, while I was nursing, pumping in the van during stops.

Me and Q at one of the stops during the race

I was carrying some extra weight, but I was doing so much! I remember a team member said during the radnar, “That’s a very busy body you have there.” I was ok because I was so proud of my achievements. Then this popped up. I’m sure you’ve seen it.

Ugh.

It struck a nerve with me. It implies that I must have a lame excuse if I don’t look like her, which I don’t. My son isn’t an excuse. He’s a reason. Being a working mom meant that I could see him for an hour before he went to bed at night or go to the gym. That’s hardly an excuse, that’s called prioritizing.
Several months later I became pregnant again. I wasn’t starting out as fit as the first time, and of course gained more. We lost that baby boy at 19 weeks pregnant, two weeks before the close on a new house. (Someday I will have the courage to write about that experience) It’s a challenge to become accepting of a postpartum body, but it’s nearly impossible to accept the same when you don’t have the reward of a baby in your arms. A loss, a move, and soon after, a separation…another move. My life was upside down.
So here I am, looking at Miss Maria up there. What’s my excuse? Sigh.
The development of babies and toddlers is very interesting when you compare one to another. Moms get worried when their child isn’t saying words yet, walking, pulling up, or growing at the same pace the other kids are. The interesting thing is that when babies are making a developmental leap in one area, the other areas take the back seat. For example, a baby who’s taking steps might not be speaking as much, and vice versa. Something as simple as cutting a tooth can push back a mile stone. Our bodies and minds are connected and can only do so much at one time! My body, mind, and spirit was broken. Excuse isn’t the word.
During this time something odd happened. I’ve never paid attention to it before, so I can’t say it’s a new trend, but it’s a discovery for me. Self depreciation has been a defense mechanism for ages. It’s a way of breaking the ice and insulting yourself before someone else does. Just like Eminem in 8 Mile. (1:40 is where to start watching the badassery) We know the damage of speaking badly about our bodies in front of our kids, especially young girls. This group deprecation is new- I’ve had a few run ins recently where people included me in their insult…maybe to create fat camaraderie?
One instance was during my brief stint as a professional Elf. Wanda had brought in these tall, skinny trees to tuck back into a few tight spaces. They worked great! A guest in the home mindlessly commented, “Don’t we all wish we looked like that?” Wait…you didn’t just call yourself fat…you just called everyone in the room fat! And no, I don’t particularly want to look like a fake Christmas tree. (Not even Holiday decor can escape the challenges of living up to a sculpted, plastic aesthetic) I like my body. It’s been through a lot and is coming out on the other side. I value it’s abilities. But now I’m second guessing myself…
Part of healing my mind and spirit comes with healing my body. My hips are still out of whack, which causes back pain, and both pregnancies left me with a weak core. I’ve started a Whole30 and have joined the Y so I can get those endorphins going, strengthen my core and regain my endurance so I can keep up with my son. I have some accountability partners along the way. This is awesome! But wait…it happened again.
Anonymous friend: I saw you at the mall yesterday.
Me: Oh really?
AF: Yes. We saw a girl who had your exact body type from the back, all decked out in Lululemon. I told my husband, “There’s skinny Whitney!”
Me: silent face palm. (so what does that make me now?)

I know full well I looked great just before I got pregnant the first time. I also know right now I look, well, not like a crossfitter, that’s for sure. Am I ok with that? No, not really. Just like anyone else, I want to look in the mirror and feel sexy and attractive. I know the dedication it will take to get there.

I started this post with the thesis that the body’s function is more important than it’s outward appearance. But I’m now seeing the value of my body, form and function, for what it is. Worthless. It’s a vessel, only capable of what the heart and mind will.

I ran a race. Or two, or three.Anyone who runs will tell you it takes determination, commitment and mental fortitude to get though it. That 1:38 500m was not won purely by strength either. It hurt, and I had to fight for it.

I grew a person. Mothers know babies are built by love, not by blood vessels.

I nourished that child. Lord knows my body didn’t want to cooperate. Sheer willpower.

My body failed me. It feels like a shadow of who I was. I have dark circles from sleepless nights, those extra pounds from pregnancies, and aches and pains brought on from stress and life in general. I can lose the weight, regain the strength…maybe concealer is the only thing that will fix those circles. My body will come back, and I’m sure I’ll feel attractive again. When I look back at my journey these past several years, I realize that the price I paid was not a debt but a wealth of growth. I’m a tenacious person- I was before all this happened. Now, I guess you could say I’m forged in steel. With pointy spikes. So don’t try to come up against me, because I will come out the other side with a fresh coat of paint.

And don’t call me fat.