Knowing Your Naked Body (and Naked Face)

1blog1
Selfies with the 7x magnifying mirror

I recently had the opportunity to experience that most rare and exotic of situations: solitude.

Not the kind of alone time you get when your toddler is napping and you finally collapse on the couch and look at your emails, and not the kind of alone time you get when you’re driving between errands or managed a solo trip to Target to pick up diapers. No, this was real solitude, or at least the winter 2014 version of it (It was more ‘fireplace suite for one’ than Thoreau’s ‘Into the Woods’).

I drove four hours one way to visit my mom last Sunday. My husband and I agreed I would go alone since I was going to do the return trip the same day, and our two-year old wouldn’t enjoy over eight hours in the car. I knew a snow storm was coming, but I still decided to give in to temptation and make an IKEA run…and late that night, while I was still 175 miles from home, I grew incredibly sleepy and started driving over ice patches. I decided to be sensible, and I checked into a roadside motel in a tiny town off the interstate.

I woke up the next morning to nearly a foot of snow. The entire hotel was abuzz at breakfast, talking about how no one was going anywhere that day. I dug my car out and took a test drive to the grocery store. I had to help a lady push her car out of a snow bank which had formed while she was shopping.

I quickly returned to the hotel after stocking up on food and checked in for another night while the storm raged outside. For the first time, it hit me. I was totally alone with nothing to do. No errands to run. No people to talk to. I sprawled out in the bed and ate Cheetos (bad, I know). I went down to the pool and sat in the hot tub in my pajama shorts and a tank top, hoping no one would tell me off. I went back up to my room and showered and as I hung my pajamas in front of the fire I realized I had nothing clean to wear. Oh well, I thought. I’ll just be naked for now.

This hotel room had a lot of mirrors all of a sudden. A LOT.  There was even 7x magnifying mirror above the sink.  I realized I was audibly going ‘Ahh!’ when I caught sight of myself.

1blog2
The endless, makeup-less face. The 7x magnifying mirror strikes again.

I hadn’t looked at my body in a long, long time. I loved my body while pregnant, but as soon as I gave birth I felt uncomfortable with it. So much of my shape had changed. My stomach had a new, looser jiggle, and my midriff harbored stretch marks over what used to be smooth, youthful skin. I’d read all of the memes about being a tiger who earned my stripes- but I still didn’t want to look at them.

I breastfed for 11 months and my breasts became something else to me. Beautiful, but in a different way. They were functional. That was it. I only saw them in the context of feeding, or pumping, or trying to fit into new bras, unsuccessfully.

And maybe that’s how I came to see my post- baby body. Different, functional.

Ignored.

My husband says I wander around naked, but that’s just because I can never find  clothes I’m happy with to cover  this new body of mine. When I find them, I cover up and certainly don’t do what I used to do- preen, change outfits, compare how my butt looks in certain jeans.

All of a sudden, in this hotel room, I was faced with something I’d been avoiding: what I really looked like naked.

I didn’t stand around naked all day– that 7x magnifying facial mirror was my next project. Whoa!  The pores. The unplucked eyebrows. The nose hair. I could see it all, so so clearly.

I took the above photos in the magnifying mirror as this blog post took shape in my mind. I was getting to know my body, my face.  And why hadn’t I done it earlier?

I love my son. He is absolutely worth every mark, scar, tear, stretch, and hormonal shift. He is my world.

But my body is mine alone. My face is unique to me; it tells my story.

I feel we need to honor ourselves more, inside and out. My body deserves more than the shameful covering I’ve been quick to toss on while never acknowledging  what’s under those clothes. My face deserves a closer look.

I need to learn to love my body again- to nourish it, to know it, to treat it how it deserves.

Day One: History of a married chocolate fiend

The background is telling of an age...
The background is telling of an age…

One thing should be clear from day one of my blog: I am not a proponent of the ‘fat acceptance’ movement. I’m a proponent of a healthy body image movement, and I’m against fat shaming. But I am not a Confident Fat Woman. I won’t buy and post a picture of myself in a fat-kini. I believe we should love ourselves no matter our size, but I don’t think it’s healthy to accept and embrace obesity.

I chose the above photo of myself as a representation of the weight I strive to be. I think of it as my ‘skinny’ self, but really, I’m still curvy in this photo. I like being curvy. I didn’t like being told I had ‘child-bearing hips’ by boys when I was in middle school. I hate bra shopping since the smallest my boobs have ever been is a DD. But being curvy is good.

Being obese is not.

I was a skinny child. The gangly type, all arms and long hair and no coordination. When puberty hit, and it came early for me, I was faced with ill-fitting clothes and general wonderment at the flow of my new figure. I discovered the Juniors section and make-up and from that point on I became pretty, well, vain (it was a phase). The story my best friend and I like to rehash is how ridiculous our grooming rituals were- up at 5:30 to make sure we curled our hair and did full-makeup. Half a bottle of Victoria’s Secret body spray before entering the school halls and a reapplication of lip-gloss at every opportunity. Lunch meant a make-up touch-up and a hair check, and some extra body spray.

I would sit in the bath and hunch over and make sure I didn’t have a ‘roll.’  I could handle my wide hips and my muscular calves. As long as I didn’t have a dreaded stomach roll!

I got married when I was twenty. The photo above is a year into married life – the giddy, super sexy phase where no one gains a pound. But since I have been married for ten years, the phases of marriage have crept into my diet and exercise plan- you know, the I-don’t-give-crap-right-now-because-you’re-a-jerk phase. The he-loves-me-whatever phase. The I-have-no-one-to-impress-right-now phase. The lets-sit-around-and-binge-watch-TV-and-binge-eat-too phase.

I’m not blaming my husband. I’m not blaming marriage. I’m saying it’s made me look in the mirror less and made me lounge around more.

As I mentioned before, I have no will-power. I am good at justifying anything from deserving a piece of cheesecake to deserving a night off from the gym. I’m also good at procrastinating.

There are three other more serious aspects to my weight gain. I’ll keep them brief.

1- Pregnancy and childbirth. Gestational diabetes and my tendency towards meticulousness while pregnant meant I followed my diet to a T. I hardly gained any weight while pregnant. But once I gave birth, I ordered cheesecake right away. The diabetes was gone! I was freeeeeee! And then I was so busy breastfeeding and eating and working to keep up my supply – in addition to sleeping for only 2 or 3 hour stretches- that the last time I stepped on a scale post- partum I weighed 165 and things were looking good. In the three years since I stepped on that scale post-partum, I’ve gained FIFTY POUNDS. It’s not pregnancy’s fault, it’s just a host of factors related to the post-partum period which meant I lost complete control of what I was doing and what my body was doing. I had no idea.

2-Stress. I have quite a stressful life. My OBGYN has said it’s likely stress hormones have contributed to my weight gain.

and on a related note

3. Insulin Resistance. Last time a doctor took a good look at my bloods and scans, I was told I don’t have PCOS, since my bloodwork wasn’t consistent with it, but it was possible I was PCOS-ish (they are very noncommittal about this). But since then I have discovered I am probably insulin resistant. My OBGYN, just last week, said it’s like I have to do twice as much work to lose weight for half the result of a ‘normal’ person. I already knew I had the metabolism of a reptile, but this put it in perspective for me. Hormones are not on my side.

But I shall not be deterred. Day One of my weight loss journey is over and I went to Body Jam today. I drank a protein smoothie but I also had a bowl of ice cream and some Halloween candy. Tomorrow is a new day.