How Do I Love Thee? No, Really…

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Tonight’s dinner: grilled chicken breasts topped with spinach, mushrooms, and provolone with a side of mashed butternut squash. 

How can you both be unhappy with your body but still have body love? That’s a question I’ve been pondering lately. When I have children I want them to love whatever body they end up with and the best way they are going to learn that is by example.

A lot of people have been talking about the importance of a before photo. Take a picture or find a picture that shows how “bad” your body is. You know the picture I’m talking about. The one with all your extra chins showing or you muffin top protruding over your jeans. Or the one in your sports bra with your pale tummy sticking out, poor posture, and a look of despair on your face. In theory I get the point of this picture, to show in your after photo how far you have come and the transformation you have undergone. But does that promote body love? And does that send the message that you can’t be both fat and happy?
Why do I have to be thinner to be happy? I have some of those pictures where I look at it in fright. What angle was this picture take from? Do I really look like that in real life? Yuck. I disgust myself. Most of the time I delete said picture right away to make sure I never see it and that more importantly, people never see it! I do have a few that I have saved for a before picture or for “thinspiration”. But every time I look at it all I do is hate on myself so hard that it makes me sad, angry, disgusted, and discouraged. And that is not the kind of attitude or feeling I want as I go along this journey. It’s not who I am. I am generally a very happy person. I’m coming of age I think. I’m comfortable with the person I am. I’m happy where my life is at right now. My life is brimming full of family and friends that I love. I love my job. I have a husband who supports me. I find it offensive that because I’m fat (scratch that, because I have fat) that I don’t deserve the right to be happy. And the sad thing is most of my life I’ve been the biggest promoter of this myth to myself. I used to think that I should try to be invisible. I hated drawing any kind of attention to me because I was so self conscious of my size and what people would think of me. When anyone would compliment me on any kind of physical level in my head I was either secretly calling them a liar or reading between the lines. If someone were to say, “you have a nice shape.” I knew they really meant to say, “you have a nice shape for a fat girl.”
This became such a problem that it would actually cause conflict in my relationship with M. He would tell me I was beautiful and I straight up did not believe him. Maybe I believed him a little bit when we first met but 9 years and sixty pounds later it’s impossible. I don’t look the same, I’m a lot heavier. How can he still find me attractive? How can he still love me? And he tells me that he doesn’t love me for the way I look that that is just a bonus. He tells me that he finds me attractive at every weight. As my body changes he finds different things that he loves about it. And for so many years I didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t believe him. Until one day he had had enough. He said that it was bullshit that I kept telling him what he thought was beautiful or not and whether I liked it or not he loved me and my body. He was right. How had I become so unbelievably critical of myself to the point where it was actually an issue in our relationship. And I know I’m not the only one that does this.
This is a topic that has recently just started to click for me. I fully believe my husband now when he tells me I am beautiful. I try not to talk nasty about myself both to myself or to others. I’m trying to honestly love my current body. But I also want to change my body. I want it to be stronger, smaller, and healthier. So let’s go back to my original question. How can you both be unhappy with your body but still have body love? Why can’t you be fat and beautiful? Why can’t you be fat and happy? Why can’t you be fat and love your body? (Side note: I say “be” fat as a common term in our society but I personally don’t believe being fat is what you are or who you are. It is something you have, like long hair.) I think the answer is you absolutely can be both. But what does body love look like and sound like when you are actively trying to lose weight? Your advice would be greatly appreciated!
Below is my official “before” picture. They are pictures from December when I was the heaviest I have ever been. In all of these pictures I think I look (and I know I sure felt) happy and beautiful. I hope my “after” pictures are the exact same just with a little less of me in them.
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