For January 2018, Kindred Mom is kicking off a Self-Care for Moms series that explores various facets of how mothers might invest in the health of their whole family, beginning with themselves. This series is comprised of engaging essays and podcast episodes, and we hope it is an encouragement to you.
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“FINE,” I said, with malice stored up for years, “I guess I don’t completely hate you. Today.”
I kicked the scale back to its place. It remains unclear whether the words were to the scale or my body. The numbers had shown a pound or two lower than I’d seen in a long while. I hit and passed this number on the way up as I was cooking the littlest baby. She’s now a toddler, so it seems I’d be glad to finally see this progress.
It wasn’t enough.
I’ve fought with my body for my entire life. I’ve hated it for most of that. In the last few years, I thought we’d come to an understanding, my body and I. I would no longer punish her with exercise and restrictive eating- they’ve never been effective for me anyway. Instead, I’d be kind. I’d move her in ways that felt good, feed her nourishing food. She would keep schlepping me around, and I’d stop glaring at her.
I had hoped this kindness (or what passed for it, anyway) was something I could hold onto, that I could cross this line away from the self-hatred and abuse and never step backwards over it. Sure, some days I’d be unhappy with my shape- I’d love to feel good in my skin and my clothing, but surely I would never go back to the misery of hating this body and punishing it for my insecurities.
Yet here I was, in my underwear in the bathroom, kicking the scale and cursing my body after (what should be) a victory.
It’s time for a change. I don’t need to try anything new; I need to regain some ground. More than joining a gym or eating kale or cutting out pasta and ice cream, I need to return to some compassion for my body. This body has, in various ways, provided nutrition for one, two, and occasionally three babies at a time without a single day’s break for nearly eight years. This body can lift itself, a toddler, a baby in a car seat, and a diaper bag up a flight and a half of stairs. In return, I have given it habitually minimal sleep, chronically high cortisol, and no small amount of disdain.
Here’s my plan:
I’m going to go back to referring to my body as “her” rather than “it.” This seems like a small thing, but talking about my body like I’m talking about a friend helps me be a little kinder and more understanding. I know how to be a friend, so I’m leveraging that to find compassion for myself.
I’m going to bed earlier. I need more rest than I’ve gotten. I’m in a season right now where sleep is a real possibility most nights, but I have to give up some of that late-night alone time. It’s a bummer, but while this body continues to do the things I need *her* to without much complaint, I’m aware that if my body isn’t at her best, neither am I.
I’m going to eat and move as if I like myself. You’ll find plants and protein in my kitchen because I feel better when I get plenty of both. I’m picking my strength training practice back up, because I’m less prone to soreness and injury when my core and legs are strong. Weight loss is not a primary goal for me, and will never again be my bottom line. If it comes along with health? Awesome. I hope it will. But when I’m focused on weight loss, self-care becomes self-punishment and self-loathing. I can’t make that trade again.
I’m going to work on renewing my mind. Again. When I catch the negative thoughts about my body, I’m taking them straight to Jesus. He made my body and he lived in one, so I’m pretty sure he’s not cool with me hating what he gave me. This is the hardest part, because it’s so, SO easy to spiral into all I wish I could change. My goal is to be specifically thankful for whatever part is causing me grief at the moment. For example, my current least favorite spot is my belly: due to years of near-constant gestation, it reminds me of a not-quite-deflated sumo suit. It wasn’t small to begin with, but now it’s really looking squishy. Every time I see it in the mirror, every time my husband or one of those babies touch it, I cringe. So now, when I catch that twinge of self-contempt, I will turn to Jesus in gratitude for THAT belly. The one that I have, not the one I wish I had. It grew babies. It houses vital organs. Right now, it is hanging on to energy stores because my poor body wants to have it available- she doesn’t know I’m planning to give her some rest from feeding children soon, that releasing those stores would actually help. Even this hoarding is well-designed protection for me from Jesus.
It’s not easy. Honestly, I feel like throwing away all the sugar in my house and consuming only wheatgrass juice for a year might be easier. But for me, any true self-care has to stem from self-compassion. It’s time to feed THAT again.
Robin Chapman is a full-time imperfect Jesus lover, wife, and homeschooling mama to four babies, ages one to seven. When she isn’t buried in children or hiding from them, she enjoys reading, photography, and sharing stories on her blog, where she’d love to connect with you! You can also find her on Facebook or Instagram… or perhaps holed up in her bathroom with some coffee.
>> Episode 30 of the Kindred Mom Podcast on Self-Care for Moms is now available! <<