“Sometimes, I’m OK with what I look like. Sometimes, I’m disgusted and hateful…”

1SaraPthbp (8 of 26)

“We should be eating well and exercising regularly to feel our best. NOT beating ourselves up about our appearance is just as critical.

Now ask me if I have that. Nope. But I’m trying.

I’ve always been extremely self-critical, definitely harder on myself than I am to others. And harsher about my appearance than how others view me, I suspect.

In fact, I’m downright vicious with myself.  I’ll bemoan my cottage cheese thighs, big floppy stretch-marked belly, and boobs that look like sand sifted into tube socks. I’ll call myself a sea cow, frumpy, a hog beast.

I’m ashamed of myself for thinking these things. I don’t hold other people to these standards. I know better. But I just can’t cut myself the same slack.

I have played the numbers game for more than two decades now. I’ve squirreled away my “stats” in my mind just as long, earmarking life’s moments with the numbers my scale has barked back at me.

How is it that I remember I hit 100 pounds at age 12? (Oh yeah, there was a public sixth-grade weigh-in at school.)

How do I recall that I hovered around 140 as high school graduation closed in?

Or that I shot up into the 150s when I had my heart shattered for the first time?

The numbers continue to ratchet up: I dropped into the 120s during a bad breakup. I weighed 126.5 pounds the day I walked down the aisle. (Yes, that .5 matters, dammit.) I gained 45 pounds during my first pregnancy, hitting an all-time high of 185 by the time my daughter was born. I was able to get back down to a normal weight, only to get back to 180 when my son entered the world. I joined Weight Watchers after the kids and was able to get down to 125, breaking my wedding-day weight. (That all came right back on as my marriage crumbled and I eventually divorced, leaving me again hovering in the 140s and 150s.) To this day, I continue to hang around the low- to mid-140s.

Funny, isn’t it? I can’t tell you what I did a week ago, but I can tell you approximately what the scale said if you bring me back to a particular moment in time.

I’m not sure if that’s impressive — or sad.

As I have gotten older, I have eased up a little on myself. I’ve never been an exercise fan but have forced myself to do so in my quest for the perfect body. That is, until I found yoga. I have to go the DVD and YouTube route to cut costs and fit it into my single-working-mom schedule, but that’s fine with me. It’s my happy place. I like the peace and the strength the practice brings me, and continue to be amazed as I see shoulders strengthen, obliques begin to form, muscles pop. I feel leaner and more at peace since getting hooked on yoga, and I begin to fret when I can’t squeeze a session in.

I have such a tortured relationship with my body image. Sometimes, I’m OK with what I look like. Sometimes, I’m disgusted and hateful. I do feel ashamed with the latter. I applaud women who are at ease with their physiques and don’t let society dictate their self-worth. I want that for myself but can’t fully embrace it.

There’s always that tiny voice telling me I can look better. And need to. I would undergo a Mommy Makeover (that’s a boob lift and tummy tuck) in a heartbeat if I had the money. And I wouldn’t even deny it. Because I want it for me. Not anyone else. Me.

As a divorced mom, I’ve seen a whole new side of this post-baby-body pressure. It’s one thing to shed clothes in front of your husband after you’ve had his babies. (“Yes, hon, I know you miss my svelte, ripped body. But you did this to me.”) What about when you’re back on the dating scene after kids?

Never did I think I would would pray, “Please, God. Don’t let my date weigh less than me.” Or that I would be forced to contemplate whether midday alone time with one guy I was dating was worth it, considering he had no blinds on his bedroom. (Would it be bad to toss bleach in his eyes before disrobing? Because these stretch marks, saggy boobs and muffin top are really best experienced without the screeching Florida sunlight.)   

Why am I all or nothing? Like my mom says of herself, I can be the best dieter in the world — and the worst.  I’m either working out and calorie-counting to the point where my stomach starts eating its own lining. Or I’m goin’ whole hog. To hell with down dog and eating a salad. We’re takin’ down this meatball sub as we sit by the pool with a drink. Right. Freaking. Now.

Sigh. Why can’t I just get it together and stop obsessing?

But I don’t want my daughter to beat herself up like me, so I watch myself around her. Sure, I’ve slipped here and there, but I do my best to not let negative self-talk come out around her. She’s 13 and already seeing how hard girls can be on themselves, especially with social media offering a new conduit for self-loathing. I tell her she is beautiful as she is. Don’t get sucked up in that. And then I text my friend that I look like a sausage crammed into its casing.

Yes. I’m a work in progress.”

1SaraPthbp (6 of 26)

I’ve looked a lot better. I’ve also looked a lot worse. Considering I’ve had two children, I guess I’m OK.

But I absolutely hate my belly. Hate hate hate it! (I’m having heart palpitations over these photos as I type.) It’s floppy. It’s stretch-marked. It just needs to be contained. (And it needs a time machine, so Sara can go back and convince her 25-year-old self NOT to get that belly ring during a girls’ road trip.) I poke at my stomach all the time, kneading the flesh, pinching a wobbly chunk of my midsection as I look in the mirror and visualize what it would look like if that flap of flab was trimmed off. It drives me nuts that my postpartum figure is forever captured in my sister’s wedding party portraits. I’d had my second baby three months before and was still sportin’ an even-larger gut. I hate that everytime I see those pictures of myself, all I can think is that I look like an apple with arms.   

Yes, I have issues. Some, I’m not proud of. But, as a journalist in Central Florida who covers parenting issues and writes a column on being a mom, I felt it was important to admit that I, too, battle with self-esteem demons. I fight the same emotions that my readers, friends and plenty of other American women do.”

1SaraPthbp (14 of 26)

I have had issues with depression and anxiety much of my life. It’s intertwined with my weight issues, too. (Some meds can bring on weight gain, something I have personally experienced. That’s always a fun game, debating whether the meds are worth it: What do I want to be? Fat or crazy?) I am definitely a proponent of modern medicine and its ability to help us. Why suffer needlessly when there are things out there that can make life better? I wish this sense of shame, this shadow that hangs over the issue of depression/anxiety/mental illness in general would go away. People aren’t berated for taking medication to control arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, you name it. But when it comes to mental well-being, the same comforts and concessions are not afforded to those of us who could use a little help. We’re nuts. Off-balance. Unstable. Comic fodder. And so on.

I hate it when people are quick to cast those who turn to meds to manage such symptoms are weak or looking for a quick fix. (Sorry, Tom Cruise, but I know vitamins just don’t cut it.) Clearly, they don’t get it. Or they’d put a sock in it. Finding a med that has helped me get a grip (and doesn’t add to my weight woes) has been critical to my life. It pains me to think how I fought it for years, in part, because I didn’t want grief from those around me. I didn’t want to be judged. I didn’t want to get shit for putting a so-called Band-Aid on the problem. It’s not like that at all.  I’m almost embarrassed to write this and am only doing so in the hopes that another woman out there, who might be very much like me, will read this and see herself. And recognize it’s OK to not be 100 percent perfect. It’s OK to utilize what helps you live your best life. I have — and I am in such a better place.”

1SaraPthbp (23 of 26)

“I was stricken early, by fourth grade, with bad, bad skin. It continued into young adulthood (actually, I still deal with it, wrinkles and all) and made me feel ugly. I remember being in seventh grade science class. This boy kept teasing me, riding me that I needed Clearasil. He wouldn’t let up. So I cried. Right there in the lab, amongst the beakers and microscopes. I guess that broke him, because he quickly apologized.

I never felt good enough because of my skin. I knew guys didn’t like me, in part, because of my acne. I would walk the halls at school, looking down at the ground. I hated eye contact because I felt so unattractive, unworthy. I was diligent about cleaning my face, but nothing seemed to help, until I turned to hardcore drugs. Accutane eventually put me on a path to clearer skin.”

1SaraPthbp (9 of 26)

“I can remember being in fourth or fifth grade, sitting at the lunch table at school, and a female classmate eating nothing for lunch because she was on a diet — despite being a rail. And that was pretty much my intro into the pressure to be perfect.

My family has had their share of weight struggles. I remember my mom losing a ton of weight back in the early 1980s on the Diet Center plan, which meant a lot of chicken breasts, Wasa crackers and Richard Simmons workouts. But, damn it, she shoehorned her ass into those Chic jeans — and then had to unbutton them behind the wheel because she couldn’t breathe.”


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