I think of myself as a healthy person. I do exercise, eat right, and I’ve managed to lose 50 pounds. But even so, I still feel fat. Loving my body has been a challenge all my life, but I’m determined to make it happen. If you feel this way too, keep reading.
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Although I hated exercise for most of my life, I’ve been working out almost every single day for five years. I’ve been getting up and moving my body through the hard times, the disappointments, the depression, and the life crises. If there’s one thing I’ve learned to love, that’s exercise.
After so many years of sweat sessions, you might think I look like an Instagram fitness model, but I don’t. I have fat rolls, cellulite, and a jiggly tummy. I’m not about to take pictures of myself modeling workout gear anytime soon.
This doesn’t mean all those years of exercise haven’t paid off. I may still have belly fat, but I also lost 50 pounds after my last pregnancy through exercise and healthy eating. It’s truly been a rewarding journey.
I feel guilty for being fat
I love working out, but I don’t have six-pack abs or a Jen Selter butt. And I used to feel guilty about that like I should have more to show for all my hard work. I wanted to have a tight, toned body. Like all those Instagram fitness models.
That’s when I started feeling depressed. When I started writing this blog, I got a lot of comments congratulating me for having lost so much weight. Other women even wrote and asked me for advice, but I couldn’t be honest with them. I still felt ashamed of my body.
Of course, this guilt and shame eventually took a toll on me and I went back to one of my old habits. I’m prone to emotional eating, and it didn’t take long for me to start stuffing myself with chips and cookies again.
Because the truth is, to my eyes I look like a jiggly ball of blubber when I work out. When I do sit ups, my fat rolls bulge out, and my little round belly shakes like a bowl full of jelly when I do jumping jacks. Not like an Instagram fitness model at all.
I feel healthy and strong
In spite of fat-shaming myself, I’ve never once stopped working out. I’ve kept at it. At first, it was because I wanted that toned, hard body. But now, I do it because I can’t stop doing it. After all those years of avoiding exercise, I have to admit that I’ve learned to love it.
So if I’m not toned and tight, why do I exercise? Because it makes me healthy. And also because it makes me feel happy, it makes me feel strong, and it makes me feel like a badass. Above all, it makes me feel empowered.
Did you know I can do one-hundred burpees in a row? I found a challenge online, at 12-Minute Athlete, and although it took me months to work up the courage to try it, I now do the challenge every month.
I can also do full sit-ups, and push-ups, and ass-to-the-grass squats. I can do deadlifts and kettlebell swings, and I can do jump squats and jump lunges.
I can feel my abs working beneath that layer of fat when I’m doing V-ups. That six-pack may not be showing, but it’s there and it helps me do many awesome things.
I can chase my kids around the playground without getting tired, and I can pick up my three-year-old with one arm and my fourth grader’s heavy backpack with the other. I can lift my own weight with my arms.
So if I feel so good about myself, why do I still feel so fat?
I’m not fat, I’m beautiful
A couple of months ago, I saw this video about model Ashley Graham’s lingerie show at New York’s fashion week, and I was stunned.
Honestly, I’m really not as big as Ashley, but she totally rocked those curves. So I thought, maybe I shouldn’t be so ashamed of my body.
I’ve been married nearly twenty years, and my husband has always told me I look beautiful, even when I’ve gained 20, 30, or 50 pounds after a pregnancy. And you know what the sad part is? I’ve never believed him.
Or at least not until now. I think now I know how I look like through his eyes. When he looks at me, he doesn’t see a big ball of blubber. He sees a beautiful woman. And that what I am.
I’m proud of my body
So why is it so hard for me to see myself like that? I know I’m healthy, I have the labs to prove it. I also know I’m fit and strong. So why can’t I love and accept the way I look?
I have a jelly belly with stretch marks because I’ve had three kids, two of them by C-section, and I love that I’ve given birth to them. I have big thighs and arms because they’re strong. And I have cellulite because I’ve enjoyed a glass of wine and a piece of chocolate cake more times than I can remember.
I love that life, and my body is a reflection of it. I should love my body and the way it looks. I should be proud of it.
Loving my body doesn’t come easy
I know accepting and loving my body is a journey. I love my body today, but I will probably hate it again tomorrow. Learning to love myself is not an easy task.
But I can make a habit out of it, just like I made a habit of working out. I can think I love my body every single day, even if I don’t really believe it. I can think it many times, and then I will start acting like I do. And maybe one day, I’ll realize I genuinely love my body at last.
One day I’ll stop thinking that I’m a big ball of blubber and I’ll stop comparing myself to a sea lion.
But right now, I think I have a long way to go.
Do you struggle with body image and self-love? You’re not alone!
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This post was originally published on my Medium publication, The Word Tree