Letting Myself Go

This weekend I had found the denim capris I have been looking for for over a year. I was at Walmart shopping for bleach and made a detour when my eyes spotted the $14 jeans. Now, I had never thought of buying clothes at Walmart before but apparently something happened to me over the last six years. That same something is, apparently, what also resulted in the horror that was my reflection in the fitting room.

“Oh. My. God. I am disgusting. I am absolutely disgusting.” Like looking at a car wreck on the side of a highway, I couldn’t leave well enough alone; instead of going straight from my shorts into the capris I chose to pause, turn around and look at my butt in the mirror. I did a double take and then a triple take out of pure shock. I swear I could model as a Before ad in diet commercials.

“Why do you say those things?” piped Fred, who had scurried into the fitting room with me. “Why do you say mean things to yourself?”

Oh, the wisdom of children!

Yes, why do I say mean things to myself? Would I ever, ever in a millon years say to a girlfriend, “Oh. My. God. You look disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.”?

I’m sure that my first model in making friends with my body came from my mom, who for all the years I have known her believed that she was fat. So much so that in the first grade when I had to make a sentence with the word “fat,” I raised my hand and said, “My mother is fat and weighs 200 pounds.” This resulted in an explosion of guffaws and a prolonged argument with my teacher who refused to believe me. Now I understand why; my mother was about 125 lbs. at the time.

I had hated my body growing up. Unlike most girls and women I knew and knew of, though, I wasn’t worried about being fat. I was the opposite: I desperately needed to put on weight. As a teenager I looked skeletal in jeans and I always found excuses not to accept invitations to the beach. I longed to look like Cheryl Ladd and Christie Brinkley and, later, like my best friend Jennifer who at 13 was already turning heads in junior high. I carried around Catherine Bach’s (Daisy from Dukes of Hazzard, of course) famous words, “I was a total stick until I was 16!” like they were a Mark Twain quote, praying and praying that I would experience the same fate.

And sure enough, at around 17 I started to fill out. I began to look feminine. I dared go out in mini skirts and form-fitting dresses. At 27 I hit a peak, when in the midst of a major life overhaul I took up yoga, ballet, hip hop dance, skating, aerobics and weight lifting. A major crush on a trainer landed me in the gym 4 times a week rain or shine and the results were fantastic.

“What are you staring at?” I remember snapping at a male friend at lunch.

“Your arms. They’re frickin sculpted! They’re amazing!” He was tranfixed, on a totally non-sexual part of my body. This made me happy.

“Oh yeah…you’ve got a tight body,” a male friend of the non-platonic nature once said in a making out session. This, too, made me happy.

Little did I know I should have bottled those moments, because those days are gone forever.

I had once believed that I would be one of those women with a spring-back body post-birth. After all, I had been thin my whole life, and there I was in my late 20s and early 30s with my sculpted arms and sleek stomach. But by month 8 of my pregnancy I began having doubts. The first dimples appeared on the back of my thighs and I wondered where all that skin was going to go once my belly had nothing more than my stomach to hold.

And trust me, I mourned after I gave birth: I cried about the breasts that became machines, the waist line that was no longer there. In my mind I had crossed a fundamental divide: from carefree to responsible, from hot thing to matron.

My son is now heading toward double digits, and so I’ve had plenty of time to get back into shape. But I know I will never get my old body back. I weigh the same as I did before I was pregnant, but what the number doesn’t show is the changed size of my hips, the loose flesh around my mid-section, the increasing jiggling of my arms. But as I settled into my identity as a mother, I’ve also made a home in my mind for this new body. I have come to think I look pretty good, even if my hey day is gone. One could perhaps say that I’ve lowered my standards; I prefer to think that I’ve come to better understand the real meaning of beauty. I now think of what my body can do rather than what it can show, and I know that loving life can do more to fill out those lines and radiate youth than any lipstick or diet fad can.

But, I do need to get and keep myself moving. Not so I can look like a celebrity mom, but so I can be around to cry at Fred’s graduations and to play tag with my grandchildren. Who knows? With all that exercising things may fall into place, and I could end up looking like one hot grandma :-)

Art work by hersheydesai

17 comments on “Letting Myself Go

    • Cecilia says:

      Thanks! The reason I have been on the hunt for these denim capris is that they *all* make me look fat!! It has to be the pants! ;-) And thanks for the link.

  1. Cheeseboy says:

    The Walmart dressing room mirrors are imported directly from hell.

    Despite the fact that I am positive that you are being much too hard on yourself, this was still entertaining and funny as could be. Bravo.

  2. Terry says:

    I just love this post. So well written. I could I ever relate to it.

    I am so past you. I am 52 now, clinging to any beauty I once had. I didn’t I appreciate it then?

    I hate going in those dressing rooms. I am sure it is those lights. I couldn’t possibly look that awful! Or could I>

    My Mom always was on a diet, complaining about her weight too. If I have to step on a scale at the doctors I step on it backwards.

    OYYYYYYY!

    • Cecilia says:

      Imagine if I were trying on bathing suits?? I may not have lived to write this post. So glad you can relate :-)

  3. Alexandra says:

    Absolutely tremendously written!

    The world needs to see this post, not just the blessed ones here.

    I hear you. I was always tall and thin and could eat anything and still bare my belly in the smallest of swimsuits.

    Now, my bottom is so big that when I caught sight of it 2 months ago I actually burst out laughing. I posted about that, b/c ..what else can you do but laugh?

    My waist is gone, and so what. I’m a mother of 3, and that’s where it went.

    I don’t need to be sexy, I just need to be healthy. I eat the right foods, I exercise aerobically for 30 minutes a day, and do light weights for 30 minutes a day. That’s an hour of doing something vs doing nothing.

    I just had a physical exam, and I’m within normal limits for ht/wt/bp/cholesterol/blood sugar.

    I don’t have to turn heads: I just have to stay alive (there’s 3 counting on me).

    I LOVED THIS POST!!

    • Cecilia says:

      Thank you Alexandra! I love “b/c what can you do but laugh?” It’s so true – because I can’t seem to get the motivation to work those extra inches off…good for you with the exercise – an hour a day is alot!

  4. Aging Mommy says:

    Another brilliantly written, heart achingly honest post. I relate to many things in it. I exercised like crazy before my daughter was born, hiking whenever I could too, because I enjoyed the exercise and enjoyed the results. I lost all the baby weight but I no longer have the time to exercise and things just ain’t what they used to be. The only way to get a flat stomach after a baby is to get a tummy tuck I am convinced (I would never do such a thing personally) because all that extra skin stretched so far will never disappear no matter how many crunches you do. As for boobs, don’t get me started…..

    But you know I am on my Momgroove mission and getting my hair colored and cut, investing in some new clothes that fit and bras that actually give me shape is making a hell of a difference to how I feel about myself. So I feel good.

    Now I just have to get back to exercising, I miss it, but cannot with my husband’s work schedule figure out how to do it right now. But I must.

    • Cecilia says:

      Thanks! I love that you are on your Momgroove mission. As for exercise, how about incorporating something with your daughter – maybe dance, or even get on the jungle gym with her? I often look at my son and imagine that if all I did was follow him around for half an hour outdoors, I’d be in such great shape.

  5. Mrs.Mayhem says:

    I exercise, but it’s the way my body feels afterward that motivates me. I’ve had four babies, so my stomach is (and always will be) flabby, even with near-daily exercise. Let’s not even discuss my thighs.

    I’m just not willing to go hungry in order to look good.

    It is my policy to never comment on my weight in front of my kids. I really want my daughters to feel comfortable with their bodies.

    • Cecilia says:

      You are smart not to talk about your weight in front of your children, especially your girls. We learn so much about how to treat ourselves through our mothers. I also love how I feel after exercise, and am amazed at how much it changes me when I think I am hopelessly depressed. If only I can get myself to just move…

  6. Cecilia, this had me laughing to tears – the kind of tears that represent really missing you! What a great chat this would have been over one of our all you can eat lunch buffets with the kids (oh the irony in that activity that ‘fed’ this post)!

    Didn’t you explain to Fred that Walmart has talking mirrors (bad, bad language) and you weren’t saying mean things? By the sound of it, you totally should have bagged the jeans idea and worn the crate! I know I can say that because I know you don’t look disgusting and I also think I could tell you that if you did…did I mention I missed you?

    It was tough post birth to realize that all of my body parts had a purpose. Then it was beautiful to adjust to the fact post birth that all of my body parts have a purpose.

    Turn the Let Yourself Go into letting yourself get some exercise that is all about you. It doesn’t have to be a walk with Max, or chasing Fred on a playground, but back to you and just something you do in your day (start 3 days a week) for ONLY YOU.

    • Cecilia says:

      My goodness Kathryn, your comments on my blog could be blog posts themselves! I’m so glad this was a happy memory trigger. And para 3 – beautifully said. What was once so unsettling for us then became something precious. That is probably why I do think of anniversaries now as a family celebration. You do have to be a mom to know. Any and all exercise tips are welcome. To be honest, I love solo time at a nice gym, but finances are the issue. Well, there is always belly dancing on FIT TV!

      • Cecilia says:

        PS I meant my first sentence as a total compliment – I mean your comments are so eloquent! (Wasn’t sure if it had come out the way I intended)

  7. Justine says:

    Oh I can so relate here. I had a moment like that last week when I stepped on the scale for the first time in months and gawked. What I’ve been suspecting, with the ill-fitting pants/jeans, was staring me right in the face in the form of numbers (oh how I hated them).

    It was time to do something. I no longer could revel in the ease at which I maintained my weight all due to the fact that I was still nursing my daughter. Post-weaning, I can no longer eat ice cream, be sedentary at my computer all day and still expect to stay thin. And those numbers were my wake up call.

    My renewed zeal to do my body good, so to speak, is not only for the sake of my vanity but also because I need to model a healthy behavior for my daughter. I do not want her to suffer the insecurities I did growing up in a country where everyone was naturally thin and STILL all they ever talked about was how fat they were (perhaps similar to your mom’s behavior). I was never one of the fortunate “skinny Asians” who “could eat anything” – I had to work hard, which I stopped after having my baby. But I realize now that this, more than ever, is the time that I should pick it back up. If not for me, then I have to do it for my little girl. She needs to know that being healthy is a lifelong commitment – not just a quick fix to look smoking hot in skinny jeans. Although that certainly helps :)

    • Cecilia says:

      I agree – so critical to set a good example/model for your daughter. I have a boy, but I need to think about what he hears me say too. I don’t want him to begin having expectations of how women “should” look, nor do I want him to excessively worry about his own appearance. You are so thoughtful with your comments – thanks so much!

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