I’ve always been taught not to start conversations, posts, essays or talks with stating what “this is not.” Yet, I want to be very clear about my intent for this post. So, here’s to breaking some communication rules…
This post isn’t about pity or shame. It isn’t about looking for affirmation or fishing for comments.
What it is is just a post — a post that I need to write, that I hope, maybe, somewhere, someone also needed to post, but just couldn’t.
I no longer set an alarm clock. Because, every single morning, once daylight hits the windows, my two youngest children — ages 4 and 7 — crawl into my bed. Most kids curl up along side a parent, or find a way to snuggle under the crook of an elbow.
Not my kids.
My kids put the Lord of the Rings to shame. My kids battle. For a spot similar to Middle Earth.
for “Flat Tummy.”
Now, if you know me, or even if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you can probably guess that I have anything BUT a flat tummy. At nearly 200 lbs, There is very little of me that is flat. Hell, even my pin straight black hair manages to have some bounce.
But, Flat Tummy has become this obsession with my two little ones. They divide the space on my tummy — my son gets left of the belly button; my daughter gets the area to the right of the belly button. And, the moment someone creeps over across the line of demarcation (which, thanks to stretch marks, actually has a friggin’ line), the other child yells, “that’s MY flat tummy! Mommy!! I just love your flat tummy!”
That’s how I start my day. With two children professing their love for my Flat Tummy.
It’s a damn good way to start the day, honestly.
And, when my kids are having a bad day or feeling sad, anxious or nervous, they ask for Flat Tummy. When I see them after a long day apart, they run up to me, hug me, and rub my belly. Before they go to bed, they end with “can I just have some Flat Tummy?”
Now, I know that my tummy isn’t flat. But, each morning, my children affirm for me that they love me — bumps, bulges, jiggly parts and all. It brings them happiness, joy, comfort, and peace. And, even though they fight in the early morning bed, they are fighting over wanting to be closer to me, to touch me, and to feel safe.
For the past two weeks, my children have not been home. I have been woken up by the alarm on my phone rather than the familiar warmth of my children. And, for the past two week, I have noticed something different about myself. I have noticed that it’s been harder to fight the body image demons I have fought since I was a teen.
Life as a big girl and woman isn’t easy. Though I manage to build myself up through positive self-talk; a belief that I’m beautiful, strong, smart, talented, and worthy; and knowledge that I am a good person, I am constantly fighting years of negative thinking, negative eating and negative body image. I read diet ads in magazines. I gaze longingly at highway billboards proclaiming that “The Weight Is Over! Call now!” I see photos of friends who have gone through weight loss surgery and physical transformations. And, I think, “Why not?”
On really bad days, I would calculate how much weight I would have to GAIN in order to qualify for weight loss surgery. Or, how many pills I would have to take to reduce my appetite. Or whether I could go up a size in my implants so that my stomach won’t look so big. Or how many training runs I would need to do so that my ass looks more like 2 bumps instead of 2 pancakes. Then, I would crave pancakes….
But, that’s the daily struggle of someone who has lived with eating and body image issues.
Thankfully, I no longer use destructive behaviors when my thoughts begin to spiral. I have learned tools to recognize when these thoughts and behaviors are creeping up on me. I have therapy, a supportive and loving husband who has stood by me through many of these episodes, and a fierce feminist bend to thank for that. I can recognize triggers and do my best to minimize their impact.
But, each day is a struggle. Each day and every day.
I am writing this because in this week alone, I have had close friends post openly and bravely about their bodies and struggles. I have felt like a failure as I accepted I am not ready to run a 1/2 marathon in 3 weeks. I have also realized that the reason why I seek achievements in my work, school, speaking engagements, writing, and parenting is because I need them to overshadow my failures in my body.
And, I needed you to know you weren’t alone. No one specific, really, but I felt this needed to be written. I needed you to know that others struggle — others who seem like they have it all together. Who seem like they take life by the horns and shout with joy. Who seem like they have a positive attitude, an organized life, and a great outlook.
And I remember my kids. That somewhere, we all have Flat Tummy — that part of us that we think is ugly, embarrassing, shameful, and imperfect. That part of us that makes us feel weak, invisible, and yet so noticeable.
But, what if that thing we think is most ugly about ourselves can be the very thing that helps others with their every day battles? What if we believed we actually weren’t ugly? If we actually weren’t invisible? What if we were actually stronger than we thought, or more beautiful that we let ourselves believe, or more precious than we ever felt?
What would it mean if our every day battles were already won?
Peace, love, and picking myself up again,