Most mornings these days I am barefoot on a yoga mat or pumping hand weights to an overly excited video instructor. I can’t do the splits or run a marathon, but I can balance, flex, lift and stretch way beyond what I thought possible a few years ago. Back in the day, I was an awkward, non-athletic teenager. I mostly preferred to stay indoors due to debilitating allergies and I battled constant feelings of insecurity. Whatever confidence I gained during my college and newlywed years, took quite a beating when the childbearing season arrived. I loved being a stay-at-home mom, but years of feeling physically weak and tired really took a toll. It was a long road, full of lots of trial and error, but through the process, I discovered I actually needed to change the way I thought about myself before I could successfully change my physical condition.
For me, like most women, it was never just about the weight. My journey involves much deeper themes: identity, beauty, worth, acceptance, overcoming lies, discipline, and growth.
This is my story. Maybe you’re a fellow fitness mom too, and you’re reading this as encouragement on your journey to wellness. Perhaps though, you’re more like I was once upon a time…
Postpartum with a newborn, with three other children under the age of five.
Lethargic, squishy, utterly overwhelmed.
Bitterly rolling my eyes at every airbrushed supermodel splashing her oversized boobs all over the magazines at the checkout.
Often, I felt like I didn’t have a sense of self anymore because four tiny, dependent and demanding tenants had moved in. They trashed the place, and didn’t even pay rent!
I remember vividly what it was like to wish for change, but feel helplessly unmotivated–too exhausted to do anything other than survive. Resigned to basically feel like frump-girl forever, I wallowed in plates of cookies and Netflix binges, and tried to put my focus on raising my children and putting semi-balanced meals on the table. At least I can cook, I reasoned. I struggled to justify my shortcomings in the areas of fitness and self-care and held on for dear life to all the things that brought validation.
As the years went on, I made a conscious effort to accept the state of my body. I didn’t love the way I looked, but I didn’t really have the time or energy to dwell on it, let alone do something about it. Furthermore, I did have to give my body a little credit. My husband and I had conceived five children, and my own body had developed, labored, delivered, nurtured, and begun the task of raising these breathtakingly beautiful human beings. The longer I watched them grow, the wonder of it all exploded inside my soul.
My stretch marks and flabby skin became my battle scars, decorating my body with the reminder that I had accomplished a truly heroic thing–five times over. This body didn’t deserve criticism; it was a gift, a miracle, and need only be given praise for being so greatly blessed.
Thus, with a little self-appreciation and gratitude for the healthy body I was given, I stepped out of frustrated resignation into acceptance.
It was my husband who helped me take the next steps in my journey to transformation. I am exceedingly grateful for his unconditional love along the way. Unexpectedly, it was in our bedroom where I experienced some of the most profound validation of my true worth. Through some wise advice I received early on in our marriage, I decided that presenting myself as beautiful (whether I felt that way or not), was the key to sexiness. I determined to not let my extra rolls and squish inhibit the way I loved my husband. I must have stumbled onto a secret, because as I experienced my husband delighting in me, I realized that he was not seeing the woman I often criticized in my reflection. He didn’t see past my saggy belly; he loved me for my saggy belly, that had stretched out to bear his sons and daughters. He didn’t love me if or when; he loved me now and forever. Through His loving eyes, my longing heart glimpsed a reflection of how my Creator looks upon His creation–me–perfect, as is, lumps, bumps, weaknesses, and all; unique, and fashioned with purpose and loving attention.
Relieved of such unfair self-criticism, I made another step on my journey. This time beyond mere acceptance and into a healthy self-love for this body I have, even while in my weak and flawed state. I am ravishingly beautiful and worthy of affection, and I don’t need affirmation from anyone to acknowledge that wonderful truth.
Coming up in Part 3, I’ll share about the fitness part of my journey, but my transformation began long before I pushed play on a workout video or tweaked my nutrition.
Transformation only truly begins for the woman who places high value on her worth.
It is extremely difficult to properly strengthen and feed our bodies if we don’t first honor the worth and beauty of the woman within–because if we despise her, no amount of pounds lost or sizes down or exercise regimens or plastic surgeries or fad diets will help. We may look better in a bikini, but it will never be enough because we never valued our beautiful selves to begin with.
Who is that woman deep inside? Is she worthy of love? I emphatically submit that the answer is yes. I encourage my fellow kindred mamas to explore that reality before hopping on board with the next fitness trend. Surround yourselves with people that build you up and call forth your true identity. Pray. Journal. Verbally affirm the woman you are and want to be. Write down those defeatist, discouraging lies that play on repeat in your mind every day, then stick that paper through a shredder. Take the first step of your personal transformation.
You are worth it.
(Continue reading this series: Part 2 here.)
Marilynn Song Harri is a happy wife, mom and homemaker in the small town of Walla Walla, Washington. While she keeps very busy raising and teaching five children at home, she pursues a life of simplicity, laughter and loving Jesus.