It all started the day I tried my old, trusty skinny jeans back on, a month after I had my first child. Not the skin tight ones, the baggier ones I would wear on my “fat” days. I got them on but I couldn't close them. Not in a â€œoh it's just a little tightâ€ but in an â€œI need a bigger size because this is not going to work ever againâ€ way. I burst into tears, and my other half decided it was time for some new jeans. I had no idea what size to try on so I grabbed a few pairs of jeans that happened to be 2 or 3 sizes bigger than my pre-pregnancy size. And I burst into tears again in the changing room. What was this body that I didn't recognize?! I used to be able to pull clothes off the rack and know immediately if they would fit or not. Where had these huge breasts and large hips and squishy tummy come from?! Why was I not dropping pounds instantly due to breastfeeding like everybody told me I would?!
I can't believe that I used to moan about being fat just because my tiny jeans felt a little tight around the waist. I look at pictures now and wish I could hammer into that silly brain that there were way more important things going on in the world and my life than worrying about being fat. At the same time I have always liked to eat and never deprived myself of anything, and even before pregnancy was more interested in making sure I was healthy and strong rather than running after some kind of â€œskinnier than youâ€ pipe dream. Well I used to tell myself that, but I think it was mainly because I didnâ€™t have the willpower to diet or cut things out anyway! It was always easier to go out for a run rather than deprive myself of crisps for a month. But pregnancy really threw my body out of whack and it was hard to reconcile the image in the mirror with the one in my head.
After another good cry I decided that was enough. Enough of the self-blame, enough of the fat talk, enough of the putting myself down. Enough of trying to meet standards that were completely unattainable and ridiculous. ENOUGH. I was strong and healthy and happy, what else did I need?
I thought a lot about how my body had changed, how Western society often judges women by weight, and came to the realization that not only had my body grown and carried a healthy child for 41 weeks, it was also feeding her and keeping me going, even on no sleep and hastily put together meals. This body was a machine! For the first time in my life I started to look at my body properly, understanding how it worked and what made it work, wrapping my brain around what it needed and what I needed it to do for me.
Every time I heard my voice whine “I'm so fat” I wanted to kick myself. Do I want my kids to grow up hearing their mother say that? NO. I want my daughters to grow up appreciating and accepting their bodies for what they are, not intent on molding them into something that they are not. I want them to be comfortable in their skin.
So, after my second pregnancy, when I was at my heaviest, we decided to “ban” the use of the words “fat” and “skinny” when it comes to talking about our bodies or anyone elseâ€™s body. This means that we donâ€™t even call ourselves â€œfatâ€ or â€œchubbyâ€ jokingly. I know that we canâ€™t shelter the girls from the picture â€œperfectâ€ people that appear in the media or mean-spirited comments from other judgmental people, but we can teach them that there are more important things than size. I don't want my daughters growing up judging people by how they look; I want them to accept people of any shape or size. And I think that this starts at home. Our kids are already different in shape and size and skin colour, and we are already going to be fighting certain ingrained prejudices in this country, so why add to it?
So we are not using the words “fat” and “skinny” and have asked our friends and family to do the same around the kids. Since we started doing this I have had to check myself so many times! I try on a cute pair of jeans that I think fit and the first words that try to come out of my mouth are “oh gosh I'm so fat!”.
The kids hang out in the bathroom when I'm showering and instead of frowning at the skin on my stomach when they point at it I just smile and say “tummy”, so they will see it as a normal tummy. Instead of telling the girls that I am going for a run or a walk to lose weight I tell them that Iâ€™m going to give my heart and brain a good work-out as well as a dose of fresh air. And Iâ€™ve found that with this attitude comes a huge wave of self-confidence and accomplishment â€“ Iâ€™ve finally accepted my body and with that I hope my girls will always accept theirs.
I want my kids to be healthy, to make healthy choices in life and to never feel bad about what they eat and the sports they may want to do (or not). By healthy I mean strong, independent, comfortable and happy. By healthy choices I mean choosing their friends wisely and not doing drugs. I want them to know that there isnâ€™t a set weight that anyone â€œhasâ€ to be, but that if they listen to their bodies and treat them right then their bodies will be the vessel that they need to keep them going, through the tough moments and the easy passes. And I never, ever want to hear them judging someone else based on their looks, or put someone down just because they arenâ€™t what society deems to be physically perfect. No one is perfect, because in reality perfection doesnâ€™t exist. And with that I shall bake us all a cake and buy a pair of â€œskinnyâ€ jeans that make me feel comfortable AND fabulous.
Jade Anna Hughes is a writer and photographer who was born in the UK, grew up in France, called NYC home for a decade before recently relocating to the California sun. She has two young daughters and spends most of her â€œspareâ€ time writing, reading and pulling her toddler off of her baby. Jade commenced her blog in 2007 to push herself to be more open with her writing. You can view it here.
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