I have an odd habit I picked up sometime throughout my adolescence.
I would stand in front of a mirror and lift my shirt, exposing my midriff. I would then inhale as much as possible, searching desperately for any signs of muscle tone. I would turn to the side, observing my profile, trying to determine if that day would be an “OK to eat food” day…or not.
I’ll go ahead and admit this wasn’t exactly the healthiest habit.
Although I’ve (thankfully) abandoned most of the unhealthy habits I had as a girl, I still find myself, on occasion, standing in front of a mirror with my shirt raised. Very rarely am I aware I am doing it until it’s already started. Old habits die hard.
But, the other day, I found motivation to fight this habit.
I was standing in front of my body-length mirror, staring at my profile, observing the myriad of ways my stomach has changed in the past six years of multiple pregnancies, when I noticed my 17-month-old daughter behind me, shirt raised, smile on her face.
Suddenly, this mindless habit from a season littered with unhealthy habits had greater implications. A little girl is now looking to me for the standard on body image. Rolling up my shirt and sighing in disgust at the cavern of wrinkles I received in exchange for my children is uplifting to no one. I’m not one to say that we as moms aren’t allowed to express dissatisfaction with our bodies…but how are some ways we can work to improve ourselves, in a way that honors our bodies and encourages the tiny people around us?
- Admit you aren’t where you’d like to be. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with stating the fact: “My body isn’t as healthy as I’d like, and here’s what I’m going to do about it.”
- Aim for health, not vanity. This is tricky for me. No number of planks or pull ups will erase years of pregnancy and labor and delivery. But…do I want it to?
- Don’t shy away from a desire to improve. I think there’s been a backlash against women admitting they want to change their bodies. Give yourself permission to want to improve your body and your health, but recognize in what ways the media is influencing what you want to change, and examine if those changes are beneficial to you and your lifestyle, or if they will actually make life harder.
- Try not to fixate. My habit of (literal) navel-gazing was born out of a fixation. Getting healthier is something I fit into my life. My children will know if I am trying to fit them into my workout schedule, as opposed to fitting a workout schedule into my life with them.
I want my daughter to be healthy, yes. But I don’t want her to be a slave to a number. And that has to start with me.
Kara Garis is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to two active boys and a baby girl. She lives with her husband in Oklahoma and loves running, cooking, traveling, reading and teaching herself how to braid. She blogs at karagaris.com.