This weekend was the official start of summer and the official start to something most moms dread – bathing suit season. Whether you think your legs are too large, your belly sticks out too far or baby got back, the idea of summertime swimming creates an impending sense of dread over showing off our bodies to the world.
Most days, my body and I are at odds with each other – me thinking I can eat all the things I love, like ice cream, and my body laughing at me the entire time. I swear, I might as well slather that ice cream straight to my thighs because that’s where it will end up.
When I grew up, all the women in my life were always on diets. I knew exactly who Jenny Craig was by the time I was 7-years-old and I knew I didn’t want to be her BFF.
Throughout my teens and my 20’s, I was lucky. I was able to eat pretty much whatever I wanted and still not gain much weight. The 30’s have been a different story.
After having my daughter, I was able to lose the baby weight by the time she was 9 months and I was determined to do it in a way that was healthy for my body and my mind. I hated the idea of being on a diet so instead, I ate right and I exercised.
A few months later, I dropped a few more pounds and I landed at a weight that I was truly happy at. I weighed more than I did in high school and when I got married, but I was in shape. I was running several days a week, weight lifting and I thought I looked good.
This time around, it has been so much more difficult. My son turned 9 months almost two months ago and I am still 10 pounds up. I haven’t been able to work out as much due to a knee injury and that has killed some of my motivation. I’m finally getting back to it, but with bathing suit season upon us now, I had been feeling a bit defeated.
I remind myself that I’m working now. I’m three years older than I was last time I did this. I have two kids to chase now. I’m still breastfeeding. It doesn’t really help the way I feel about the way I look.
Still, this weekend I packed up all that self-loathing for my body, put on a one-piece swimsuit that looks awful on me and took my kids to the pool. It was beautiful out and I didn’t want to miss a fun day with them because I was concerned over a number on the scale.
It was not my most-proud body moment. My cellulite was on full display, my reflective thighs jiggled and rubbed together and my belly rounded out like I was nearing the end of a first trimester pregnancy.
As I watched my daughter splash around in the pool, I watched her kick her sweet, little legs that are built exactly like mine. I thought about how perfect they are.
I watched her little belly poke out from her pink swimsuit and thought about how one day too soon, it will be flat and probably on full display while “swimming.” More importantly, I thought about how I want her to feel even if that belly isn’t flat. I never want her to feel bad putting on her swimsuit.
As her mom, I know I am responsible for ingraining those ideas about a woman’s body image in her head and teaching her to have a healthy relationship with food.
I’ve been very careful to never use certain words around her. I try really, really hard to strike words like, “fat,” and, “diet,” from my vocabulary. I don’t want her growing up thinking those words are synonymous with being a woman. I don’t want her growing up knowing who Jenny is.
I want her to grow up and have a happy life – whatever shape her body ends up taking. I want her to know that those legs will always be beautiful whether they are completely toned or covered in cellulite. I want her to know that living a balanced life is more important than living on either end of the extreme. I want her to know that missing moments because you are concerned over the way you look, isn’t really living.
I want her to know that to the people who are important in life, it won’t matter how her legs or tummy look. It will matter that she was a part of the moments – whether those moments occur while in a swimsuit at a pool or in a parka on a mountain.
As I watched my daughter be a brave girl and climb the ladder for the water slide, I decided it was time for me to be a brave girl too. I decided there would be no more self-loathing over putting on a swimsuit this summer. I decided that no matter how long it takes to get back to my ideal weight, that I would be joyful at this weight so I could show her that happiness is about so much more than size.
To my kids, it didn’t matter what I looked like in my swimsuit yesterday, it just mattered that I was there for the moment. They didn’t need me to look like a model. They just needed me.