Learning Self-Acceptance

Levi and I pose for the Feb 7 cleanup.
Levi and I pose for the Feb 7 cleanup.

22 pounds, as of three weeks ago (3rd week of March). This is significant for a number of a reasons. I made some changes that I hadn’t previously considered in my diet. I added essential oils to my daily healthcare regimen. And, I am learning, with more awareness, to accept me for who I am.

My whole life, I have disliked my body image. I was never a size 2, and that’s mostly who I compared myself to. I come with baggage that puts me in a statistical category where body image is harder to deal with. A statistical category that says being overweight is more common. I come from central European genes where sturdy people seem to be the norm – with my Polish and Slovenian heritage – read, not a size 2.

Finally, at the age of 27-28, I was learning to love my body and appreciate its curves. I was okay with my D cup and, then, size 12-16 pant size. This change of heart is relevant because growing up, I hated that size. I only viewed it as fat, and I only compared it to the relatives, whom I loved, that also struggled with their weight.

Struggling with weight! What a concept. There is so much in our world, and that we judge each other on this outward appearance is disgusting and shallow. It’s horrifying to consider that we judge health based on someone’s size, and despite the “skinny” backlash when curvy women display themselves unabashadely, skinny isn’t always healthy and curvy isn’t always unhealthy.

Growing up with this stigma, though, that a size 2 is health, and anything over is not, and knowing I could never get back to a size 6, which I only saw during a growth-spurt at age 13 and 14, hung heavily for years, for decades.

I grew up and learned to accept myself in ways my teenage self never could, during my twenties. I started to care less what others thought of me, and I tried to pay attention more to how I showed up. I started to appreciate those hips and arms and other curves.

And, just as I was on the cusp of self-acceptance, I got pregnant. I got pregnant when I was in a new relationship, in a new house, with a new job, trying to finish school. Then, I never gave myself credit for the stress that induced.

Levi was born on time, but with learning to take care of a new family, I was not able to finish that school term. I gained 50 pounds while pregnant, and by my 6 week check-up, I had lost 40. What I didn’t consider was how awful I felt. I was shaking all the time. I couldn’t sleep. My eating was erratic. I was stressed trying to learn to manage everything within this new life: the new home, new husband, and new baby. I am slow, often, to identify what was wrong, and I had no idea an auto-immune disease was wreaking havoc on my body.

In September of 2007, I learned I my thyroid was hyper active, and I self-diagnosed with the help of a 60s nursing textbook that I have Grave’s Disease.

Shortening the timeline, I went from being on the cusp of self-acceptance to completely crashing with struggling to take care of my new son, my new husband, finishing my bachelor’s degree, and maintain a job. The job went away, with the argument the contract ran out. I never asked for help, so I never admitted to my boss how much I was struggling to balance it all.

After the hyper-thyroid diagnosis, more doctor visits, and the addition of medication, my squishy frame that had gotten closer to my pre-pregnancy weight but never as toned or fit as I was in the fall of 2005, the weight gain began. I gained anywhere between 10 and 20 pounds every time my medication changed – slowing down my thyroid, controlling symptoms, and otherwise mucking with body in the name of health. 3 years later, I finally got a paying job. And, again, the weight gain continued. Every time my job got more sedentary, I gained another 10-20 pounds.

Pre-pregnancy, I was 185 pounds. I was a size 14, most of the time, and I felt good even if I hated the weight.

August 2014, I clocked in, again, at 262 pounds, a size 24-26, a size I never wanted to be, hating my body every time I look in the mirror. Hating my body every time it’s uncomfortable to sit down. Hating my body every time it hurt to walk. Hating my body every time I felt passed over for some recognition. Every day, despite the cheery attitude I might have showcased, I was full of hate for myself.

I knew what the lesson was. But, I wasn’t learning it. The lesson is self-acceptance. The lesson is while not being a glutton, while trying to maintain health in the ways I can, that I need to learn to love these unsightly curves.

I have not learned this lesson. This is an ongoing lesson. This could be a lifetime lesson for me.

So, how can I do self-acceptance in a body I am conditioned to hate and have grown to hate with ebbs and flows of growing up to an adult woman dealing with the effects of an auto-immune disease?

First, I recognize, or try to remind myself that my husband doesn’t hate my body. Second, I try to appreciate or accept the things this body can and still does for me. Even though it was hard to walk, I could. Even though it was uncomfortable siting down, I managed. Even though… Mostly, I might find myself intervening if someone else says something about how they hate their own body. Usually it’s a woman, but sometimes it’s a man. No one is satisfied with how they look. We don’t often talk about how our minds work, it’s more about how our bums look in a pair of pants.

And, I really think we need to accept how our bums look, no matter what our conditioning has told us. Lesson: learning self-acceptance.