Learning to Love My Flawed Body

June 14, 2012 in Categories: by

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The title of this post is such a misnomer.  Really, it should read “trying not to hate my flawed body”.  The fact is that even after losing 120 pounds, getting into a “normal” weight range, and getting fit and flexible through regular yoga classes, when I take the time to look at myself, I don’t see how far I’ve come but rather, all the things about my body that I wish I could change.  I see the stretch marks on my thighs, abdomen, back and arms from being obese (and being obese when I got pregnant with my oldest daughter).  I see the baggy skin on my abdomen that makes me look heavier than I am and is the reason I still wear spanx.  I see the saggy skin under my arms that makes what most aging women complain about look minuscule in comparison.  I see the saggy skin on my thighs down to my knees that make my thighs jiggle so much when I walk that you’d think I was made of jelly, even though my legs are quite lean now.  I see the deflated-looking breasts that were once an H cup and now manage to be a D only by virtue of the extra skin there too.  I see the rolls of stubborn fat that just won’t go away no matter how I eat or how I exercise.  I see the healing, but not completely healed, patches of lichen planus that remind me of how tenuous my health is and of the many foods that I must continue to live without.  I see the bruises remaining from varicose vein treatments, bruises that have already taken a year and a half to fade as much as they have (the ones greater than two years old are finally gone).  These bruises mean that I have to be careful of sun exposure on my legs lest the iron in the bruise react with UV rays to permanently discolor my skin.  I see all the spider veins that appeared as a reaction to the varicose vein treatments.  I see the evidence that I was once extremely overweight, the evidence that my first pregnancy was when I was nearly at my biggest, the evidence of being pregnant or lactating for nearly six straight years, the evidence that I am getting older.  I don’t have body dismorphia.  What I see in the mirror is what is really there.  I just don’t love my body.  I don’t even really like it.  I like how I feel, but not what I see in the mirror. 

I don’t want to give you the wrong impression.  It’s not like a little storm cloud of hate for my body circles my head at all times.  I am not negatively obsessed with what I look like.  Funnily enough, even though I don’t generally like what I see, I’m not really bothered by it.  I’m not sure I can explain that very well.  I guess that really, most of the time, I don’t think about it anymore.  I just live my life and work toward better health and what I look like is just what I look like.  Even though I don’t like what I look like, I don’t attach feelings of self-worth to it.  I still love who I am and where I am in my life.  I still feel happy.  But, I do think that liking what I look like would be good for me.  After all this work to get healthy, I really want to love my body, including loving the evidence of my unhealthy past because it shows how far I have come.  One of my Facebook followers hit the nail on the head with this statement: 

“Celebrate your health, share it with us, focus on the positive, and if there are negatives or reminders leftover from being heavy, let them be just that, a reminder (a battle scar if you will) and warrior on to the new you :) “  ‎

Yeah, that’s what I want to do.  I just need to figure out how.

I know that other people don’t see those things when they look at me.  They see how great I look in comparison to before.  They see that I can run with my kids, hike up a steep hill with a 40-pound child on my shoulders, that I can do a pretty awesome full wheel yoga pose and can manage a handstand with a spotter.  They see that my skin has cleared, that my hair is shiny, that I have tons of energy, and that my mood is better.  They see me smile and laugh.  They see that my enthusiasm for this way of living has inspired me to create a blog that has touched the lives of thousands.  I see those things too and I appreciate them.  It’s actually very easy to focus on how I feel instead of all that other stuff.  I really do appreciate the view.

Regardless (or perhaps because) of how I feel about my body, I have decided to make a BIG change.  I am going to stop being anonymous (at least in terms of my appearance).  I am officially announcing that I will be posting actual photos of ME on my blog.  Saturday’s post will be dedicated to beforeand after pictures of me (with some commentary by yours truly).  Not only will you see how I look now, but you will see the 120-pound journey I made to get here.  As it this isn’t enough, I will also be posting an actual headshot of me with my bio in the right sidebar of my blog (instead of the sketch of me).  AND I will even let YOU chose which photo you like best (poll will be posted Saturday morning in the blog sidebar).  But don’t worry:  the stick figure paleo mom and my blog sketches are not going away!    

I think that showing you all what I look like will be good for me.  While it certainly makes me more vulnerable to criticism and asinine comments, I think that in a funny way, it will actually lend my blog more credibility.  And I hope that it will help me look at myself more objectively (and positively).  I also hope that you will find inspiration in these photos, find your own inner warrior, and also learn to love your battle scars.  Are you excited?  Because I’m terrified.

Comments

I swear you are in my head. All of this is stuff I’ve been trying to explain to those around me. Thank you for doing it so well! I haven’t lost 120 lbs… just 55, but I share many of the other “battle wounds”. Thank you, thank you.

Did you just say “I haven’t lost 120 lbs… just 55?” Because 55 pounds is A Lot to lose so that’s Awesome!

I’ll ditto that reply! I also lost 55 in 2011 and have plateaued for about 8 months. I’d like to lose 40 more. I share in almost all the Paleo Mom’s complaints. I do taekwondo 5x a week, I’m strong and can kick and punch, do pushups and even run a little. I’ve come so far from where I was 2 years ago but still, those thighs! My belly! My flabby arms! Sigh.

We are what we are. Since I no longer worry about impressing anyone other than my husband (and he doesn’t need impressing), the ‘weight’ of worry has gone. Truly, as you say, the health benefits have made me happy. The mirror just reminds me of the need for clothing, LOL. I’m still overweight but managed to keep up with my almost 4 yo GD this past week. Big difference from last year. You go! I’m looking forward to meeting the real you!

This is by far my favorite post. The wonderful thing about being a woman is that unlike men we go through far more dramatic stages and changes throughout our lives. I am so glad you are finally owning it at every stage and every change. You own it, it doesn’t own you. If at some point you can make positive changes that will improve your situation then be open to it otherwise just be kind to yourself because each stage and change is the beautiful gift of you that was given to this world. I have reached my 100 lb loss mark recently and there are things that I cannot change but those very things are what make me a better human being and in the end that is all that matters.
Sincerely,
Roxana S.

I am so excited!

For selfish reasons I want to see you because I need to know there are other people like me out there.

I’m on a weight-loss journey that I’m convinced will be life-altering. In order to reach my goal weight I’ll be losing 120 pounds as well. I began at 264 and my goal is a solid muscular 140. I’m down 21 pounds so far, but have a long way to go.

My biggest fear is the loose skin. We haven’t got the money for cosmetic surgery to remove it later on and at my age (44) I can’t imagine that I’ll lose the weight without being left with excess skin. I can easily handle the stretch marks since I’ve had them in one form or another since I was a kid.

I’ve been trying to keep the weight loss pretty slow thinking that maybe, just maybe, if I go slowly then the skin can adjust on its own as I lose the weight.

Like you, I’m doing this for health reasons, not vanity, but yet some part of me wishes deeply I had found this way of eating decades ago when I had a shot at being pretty. Now I look for other ways to feel good about myself and just try not to put too much value on appearance.

Sarah, I love your stick figures! I am so glad they are not going away!!!!

I have spent my life losing and gaining weight. I never really appreciate how good I look until I gain weight and look at the lower weight pictures of me and wonder what I was belly aching about and how I would love to look like that now.

I lost 70 lbs in 2005 and then was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, so I stopped exercising and gained back 45 lbs, I am slowly losing it again and have lost 20 lbs with the help of your awesome Blog and recipes. I am much more appreciative this time around of each lost inch and pound. I try to celebrate every little positive step I am making and not dwell on the negative and beat myself up when I am weak. Having a chronic illness has taught me to be much more gentle with myself and concentrate on the positive. I also have learned that it is how I feel and what I can do that is a much better measure of who I am than what I look like.

Your Blog is amazing. Your accomplishments Awesome. I know that your photos are going to be extremely inspiring to all of us and I hope a huge boost to your ego :)

Way to open yourself up there and live out on the edge, and most importantly to love yourself. You are not just your body, you are so so much more and it is beautiful! Know that, and you hold the world in your hands. :)

Thank you for your willingness to be a brave, kick-ass warrior. It may feel like vulnerability to you, but it’s inspiration to the rest of us.

I heard a speaker recently comment on body image. For February this year she challenged her readers every day. By far the hardest challenge was to name five things the readers liked about their bodies. I think the vast majority of us have issues with body image. I keep getting told I have a nice body especially since I have had five children and still weigh the same as I did in university. When told this, I start thinking “It’s a good thing bras cover up lopsided, saggy breasts!” Glad to hear that you are becoming more accepting of yourself. BTW, I think your stick figures are fantastic!

You go girl! LOVE LOVE LOVE the stick figures, but I am also excited to “meet” you “in person” (sort of). :)

While my weight loss doesn’t even BEGIN to compare to yours (a mere 28 pounds over the course of a year – 15 on paleo), I found it hard to post before and after pictures of myself — but I did. I was amazed at the encouraging comments I received. I applaud you for doing this!

Sarah,
I recently found your blog and was struck by how smart, informative, and inspiring your work is. Whether you show your face or not, please keep up the good work. You are making an important contribution and are impacting people’s lives, probably more than you know.

…just from reading your blog, i can tell you are a beautiful, generous, and authentic person! i am inspired and moved by your work no matter what!! thank you for all you do and for sharing so much of your journey!

I love you for being the strong person that you are.

You progress is greater than any NBA championship ever won.

Thank you. You strongly inspire me. And yeah, I’m a man.

But one who understands to some extent your journey. KUDOS to you!

Sarah,

You’re awesome – and not alone in your feelings. I LOVE your stick figure drawings. They ALWAYS make me smile. Love your smart, informative blog. Thanks for all of it! I look forward to putting a face to a stick figure…or something like that :^)

I’m SUPER excited! I read your blog all the time. It will be nice to put a face to what I am reading. Not that I don’t love the stick figures! :-) And I agree, that flaws are reminders of how far you’ve come, and why you’ll never go back. My flaws are that my skin is acne/rosacea-scarred and aged (more than is normal for my 26 years) from years of eating unhealthy (tons of grains & refined sugar). More upsetting, I also have abnormal (but so far, no loss of vision,) retinal optic disk/cupping similar to that seen in diabetic glaucoma patients, which I attribute to my former high insulinemic diet causing extreme juvenile on-set myopia. I highly recommend meditation and training the mind to help stay on an overall healthy (Paleo) path, and to eliminate focusing on flaws. I know you are a scientist (as am I), so I recommend the book: “Why Meditate?” by Matthieu Ricard. Ricard is a cellular geneticist turned Buddhist monk, who explains “training the mind” very well. I was surprised how helpful this book was.

:) I am a scientist but I’m also REALLY granola. I am a dedicated yoga practitioner (so guided meditations a few times per week) and have some meditation experience through hypnobirthing training with my second daughter (20 hours with pitocin and not even a tylenol!). I tend to do simple breathing exercises throughout the day rather than full meditation, but it is definitely an important part of my day. :)

Oh, my gosh, your photo is now up, and you’re beautiful! Seriously. Beautiful…AND you have all those “path to wisdom” reminders on your body! Lucky one! :-D Thanks for the photo. It does help us blog followers feel more connected. BTW, I’m referencing your blog on my own very soon! Post is written, but…pacing them.

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