I am a skinny girl. That’s just the way I was built.
It has nothing to do with my diet or exercise regime (which doesn’t exist, unless you count daily walks around the neighbourhood with my two-year-old), and everything to do with genetics.
I’ve eaten like crap and I’ve eaten healthfully at different eras in my life, and through all of it my body shape has remained pretty much the same. If I don’t take care of myself I get depressed, bloated, and lethargic, but never fat.
I mention this only to say that I understand if you don’t think a skinny girl has any authority to talk about weight/body image issues. Maybe I don’t. I don’t know what it’s like to struggle with our culture’s ideas of how much body fat a woman ought to have. But I feel strongly about this topic, which crushes way too many of my beloved sisters, and wanted to share my heart.
For the record, my personal source of body-shame revolves around acne, which I’ve had since I was eleven.
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A while back, a few of my friends — all married women, most of us new mothers — thought it would be fun to have a big group photo shoot in our wedding dresses.
I thought that sounded like the MOST FUN EVER. I was practically bouncing in my seat as I responded over Facebook, “Yes! Yes! Sign me up! I want to do it!!”
See, I had the raddest wedding dress ever. My Mom made me a white Eowyn-inspired gown, with the full sleeves and everything. Here, let me show it off one more time. I never tire of it:
But our wedding photos are crap, on account of us having hired a random guy with a camera to take them for $120. (The photo above has been doctored to death on Picmonkey). So I’ve always wished I could have my photo retaken in my wedding dress. (My husband’s photo? Meh. Who cares about him. I want more pictures of meeeeeeeeeeee!) This sounded like the perfect opportunity.
Anyway, back to the photo shoot. Funnest idea ever. The only trouble is, it turns out not all of us fit into our wedding gowns. In fact, quite a lot of us don’t. Most of us have recently had babies, are currently pregnant, or hoping to become pregnant soon. We’re all in various stages of the child-bearing cycle.
When the idea was first brought up, there was talk of using our photo shoot date as “motivation” to lose whatever weight was necessary to fit back into our dresses. One friend even talked about hanging her old dress near her treadmill to keep her motivated. (In other words, to be a constant physical reminder of why she’s not good enough the way she is, and why she needs to change.)
And that’s when I detected the deeply sinister side of this idea. We had set up an unreasonable standard against which to measure our current level of attractiveness, and most of us fell short.
Months have passed. Some women fit into their dresses; most still don’t. Some are pregnant who weren’t before. And I just get the sense that not being able to fit into one’s wedding dress has become a source of shame and a sense of failure for some.
A few months back, a number of incredible articles were written about loving our post-baby bodies, in response to the Duchess’s recent birth. I guess a couple of tasteless tabloids immediately jumped onto the subject of her losing the baby weight. Ugh. It was despicable, and numerous voices spoke out against.
These articles, in conjunction with the wedding dress photo shoot, have gotten me thinking about our culture’s obsession with having babies without looking like we’ve had babies.
It’s truly absurd if you think about it. Why are we so desperate to erase our magnificent history? And why are we so thoroughly convinced that it should be possible, if it were even desirable? And that if we can’t achieve it, we’ve somehow failed — we’ve lacked “motivation”?
I don’t know whether I fit into my wedding dress. I haven’t tried it on. It’s a really forgiving dress, and my pregnancy didn’t affect my body as much as it does many others — thanks to my height, Lydia had more legroom and didn’t have to protrude as much as some babies do. The next pregnancy — if I’m ever blessed with one — might be completely different.
Either way, I’m starting to suspect it’s not a great idea to even try on our wedding dresses after all these years.
Our wedding gowns are pieces of our past — symbols of who we once were. It’s unreasonable to expect to be able to fit into the same clothing we wore before we grew new humans with our bodies. We’re new people. Those dresses were made for different women — younger, simpler, more naive women than the women we are now. We contain whole worlds of new life within us now. Our new, grander selves may not be able to be contained by our old clothes. And that’s okay.
So I say: screw trying to fit into our old wedding dresses. Forget wasting precious hours on the elliptical, sweaty and defeated, trying to become the women we were. Those women needed to grow up. And they did.
Instead, I have a new set of tips for women who want to fit into their wedding dresses. There are a lot easier, more enjoyable ways to feel gorgeous again, if, in growing human babies, we’ve lost our awareness of our physical beauty.
(Note: You don’t have to follow any of them, because I’m not an expert in anything. They’re just some ideas I had to help us feel better about our lovely selves.)
Learn Better Posture
I know everyone says this, but seriously: posture can make a world of difference in how you look (and feel)! And it’s SO EASY!!
I’m not even suggesting you improve your everyday posture to improve your overall health and whatnot. That’s probably great, but I know nothing about it. I’m just talking about improving your posture for photos.
Look what a difference a slight change in posture makes:
Don’t I look so much schlumpier in the first picture? Taken 20 seconds earlier?
Practice in front of a mirror. Just learn to lift the top of your head, push back your shoulders, and relax your arms when someone has their camera on you. It usually helps to bend your knees a little. Presto! It’s what I do and I love the way it makes me look in photos.
Get Rid of Your Old Clothes That No Longer Fit
Is your old wardrobe making you feel crappy about yourself because things don’t fit the way they used to?
Unless you’ve done it before and you absolutely know you will be able to do it again, don’t expect to fit into all your old clothes again after having a baby. It’s not just about fat. Your bones have shifted and changed to accommodate new life. Your hips or ribcage might have gotten wider; your boobs have gone through a crazy metamorphosis.
Just get rid of what no longer fits. Or at least put it into storage. Eliminate the source of bad feelings. Bring them to a thrift store or clothing swap.
(You don’t have to get rid of everything; just the articles that make you feel flabby and squishy.)
If you ever do return to your pre-baby shape, those clothes will probably be out of style by then anyway. Let someone else enjoy them in the meantime.
Go Out and Buy Some New Clothes You Feel Fantastic In
I was starting to feel like I was moving into Mommy Frumptown several months ago, when I decided to update my wardrobe a bit.
I know not everybody can afford to do this. But investing in just a few nice pieces can make a pretty huge difference.
I’m all about being frugal and environmentally-conscious, so I recommend you start with your local thrift store if possible. Fortunately, vintage is totally in style, so you don’t have to get brand-new pieces. I hit up my local Value Village, and over the course of several months I collected a few more updated tops and a couple of cheap necklaces that made me feel all glam.
I also bought two pairs of new jeans that fit my new post-baby butt, which made me feel more put-together. That was all it took to make me feel fresh and stylish again.
Get Rid of Anything In Your Life That’s Making You Feel Like You Should Look Different Than You Do
Right now, there’s a huge explosion of fitness obsession sweeping my community. It’s couched in positive-sounding language — lots of talk about “getting fit,” seeing “results,” “losing inches,” and “meeting your fitness goals.” (Rather than, you know, “getting skinny,” “losing flab,” “dealing with self-loathing through exercise,” and “trying to feel less ugly,” which I suspect would be the more honest but less appealing way of talking.) (Side note: I really get the sense that “fit” is the new euphemism for “skinny.” We all know we shouldn’t strive to be “skinny.” That’s unhealthy and superficial. But fit? Who can object to getting fit?) Fitness coaches post before-and-after-photos of themselves as “inspiration.” (Ignoring the underlying message that if you currently look like the “before,” you’ve got some work to do.) It’s all over Facebook and Pinterest. It’s hard to avoid.
Allegedly, this fitness stuff is helping a lot of people feel empowered and motivated to live a more active lifestyle. If that’s you, then more power to you. But if it’s making you feel inadequate, for the love of all that is holy, GET RID OF IT. Unfollow fitness Pinterest boards, hide Facebook groups that focus on appearances. Pack your scale in the basement and consider putting away your full-length mirror. Keep repeating to yourself, “I am too interesting a human being to waste my time focusing on my looks.” And then go take a nature walk or do something else that invigorates your spirit. Which leads to my final tip:
Have Some FUN
If there’s one thing moms don’t do enough, it’s enjoy themselves. And there are few things more lovely to behold than a woman putting her whole self into something that she loves.
So go make yourself a mocha milkshake or whatever it is that you love (as long as it doesn’t make you feel icky and bloated afterwards) and enjoy a good sci-fi novel. Or make some time to sew, or see a movie, or take a walk at the beach. Whatever makes you feel alive.
When you’re 80 and you look back on your life, are you going to think, “I wish I’d spent more time on the elliptical, so that I could fit into my wedding dress again,” or “I wish I’d spent more time painting/reading crime novels/running through sprinklers/talking with good friends”? I imagine that for many women, it would be the latter.
I mean, if you love jogging or doing squats, then by all means: do your thing. Do what makes you feel amazing. I’m not sure that we can be close friends, because we have dramatically opposed ideas of what constitutes a good time, but I won’t tell you that you shouldn’t.
But if that’s not your idea of a good time, and you’re only doing it so that you can fit into your pre-baby jeans — are you sure that’s what you want to be doing with your time? I know it’s not what I want to be doing!
In all things, be kind to yourself. You are an amazing creature. You are loved just as you are.
Women need to see more REAL post-birth bodies like Katy’s and Kate’s – Milli Hill, Best Daily
Kate Middleton and the Mom in the Mirror – “I’m not sure when it became the highest compliment you can pay a woman to say, ‘You look like you never even had a baby!’ …Because I’m supposed to… pretend this never happened?”
In Which I Thank the Duchess of Cambridge – Sarah Bessey
The Beauty Myth (and Why I’m not Buying it Anymore) – Exile Fertility
Video Interview with Dustin Hoffman — fascinating and moving. “We’ve been brainwashed about female beauty.”