Moms’ Body Image

I started to count calories when I was nine.

I’d gained some extra weight and could only buy pants that had a stretchy waistband.

And since many women I admired regularly counted their calories, I started a little journal and tracked my own in secret.  I didn’t know what number to shoot for, so I aimed very low, sometimes only eating 700 calories in a day.  It breaks my heart to look through these old journal entries now:

I had all kinds of ups and downs in grades five through eight, and I remember feeling a little panicked about starting high school with a body I tried to hide under baggy t-shirts.  So the summer before my freshman year, I hardly ate anything–and lost about 20 pounds before the first bell rang in September.

During high school and college, I lived a healthy, active lifestyle, and I learned to value myself for who I was inside.  Though my weight fluctuated 10 pounds or so over the years, by the time I got married, I felt comfortable with my weight, maintained it pretty-much effortlessly, and could wear anything I wanted.  No more stretchy pants.

But then I had my first baby.  And my second and third.  We moved nine times, and I endured years of painful health problems and five surgeries.  We had a fourth baby.  And now I run Power of Moms while trying to maintain balance and care for a busy family, and though it took me awhile to realize it, I’m carrying around some major body-image problems.

My mirror-talk is full of thoughts that need to be replaced.  Whenever I need to put on a swimsuit, I cringe. Whenever I look at a photo of myself, my eyes immediately dart to my “problem areas.”  I’m a generally happy, healthy, hopeful person, but the dialogue going on inside my head (in relation to my body image) is crippling. It’s painful. And I’m determined to eliminate it.

I remember one experience back in 2004 when I overheard my four-year-old talking enthusiastically to her siblings about the movie she’d been watching:

“And then Winnie the Pooh got stuck in the door to Rabbit’s house . . . because he had a huge bottom . . . just like Mommy.  It was like . . . [stretching her arms as wide as they could go] THIS big.”
Yeah, I laughed at that one.

But later, as I completed another exhausting day of folding laundry, wiping spit-up off the floor, washing dishes, and trying to create some order in our small student apartment, I looked at the unused treadmill in the corner, and I had to blink back the tears.

Writing this post is hard for me. I feel like I’m exposing one of my biggest weaknesses for all the world to read. I was even tempted to leave the author as “Anonymous” because I know that my problems pale in comparison to many others, and it’s much more comfortable to write about my strengths.

But as I’ve spoken with other women about this over the past couple of weeks, I know that I’m not alone. And I know that these issues plague women of every body size and body type.  So I’m here to talk about it today and ask you to answer these questions:

How does a mother learn to feel love and appreciation for her body–for what it can do, what it can create, and how it is the means for her to live a beautiful life?

And how does that same mother simultaneously put caring for her body as a priority?

Let’s talk first about the love and appreciation:

I’ve read lots of books about accepting the squishy-ness, and they do help.  When I’m pregnant or nursing, I’m pretty gentle with myself because my body clearly isn’t about me. (But now that I think about it . . . is my body ever only “about me”?)

Growing up, I didn’t care one bit if my mom had abs of steel or toned legs. I valued her smile, her warmth, and all the energy she put into taking care of me.

I know that my value isn’t dependent on my waist size or the extent to which I jiggle when I run into the waves at the beach. (My children simply squeal, Mom’s coming in!)

My babies like to snuggle into my softness. And I honestly love and admire women of all body types. I’m hard on myself, but not on anybody else at all.

So what kind of mental shift do I need so I can stop worrying about this?  Honestly, it is totally irrational, but it holds me back every single day.

But I don’t just want to talk about one side of the equation.

I also want to talk about how we take care of our bodies.

What I too often find in the “accept yourself for who you are” books is a sense that it’s okay (and almost noble) not to exercise, eat well, or devote time to making your body beautiful.  It’s almost as though we should just “let ourselves go” and love it.  But that doesn’t feel right to me.

I think about my daughters and what I want them to know, feel, and do when they become mothers.  It hurts my heart to think of them looking at themselves in the mirror the same way I do.

So what can we do to achieve optimum health and demonstrate through our actions that we honor, love, and respect ourselves?

I think the root of my problem is that somewhere deep inside, I doubt that I deserve the time required to really take care of my body.  I somehow think that my happiness in this area doesn’t matter.

I already go through a lot of effort to make sure I get 8 hours of sleep in each 24-hour period. I make the time to do my hair and put on make-up just about every day.  I sit down and eat my own meals, and I prepare healthy foods for myself.  I give myself time to read, think, worship, and breathe.  But when the day gets busy (and it usually does), quality exercise is usually the first thing to go.  And when I get overwhelmed or stressed by my circumstances, I eat more than I need.

The hardest part about this is that I know that there are much more important things to worry about in life.  There are people who are starving.  Families that are falling apart.  Children who are desperate for love and affection.  There is more good to do in the world than I can possibly do in a lifetime.

But I (and millions of other women) need to learn to solve this body image problem–so we can move past it and on to the real purposes we have in life.

Fortunately, I don’t struggle with serious eating disorders, but I know mothers who step on the scale more than 10 times a day, starve themselves, binge, and/or hide behind food. Some have simply learned to numb themselves to the point of not caring anymore.

And something inside us is begging for that all that energy to be directed toward a more deserving cause.

Wouldn’t it be great if we, as women, could stop being obsessed with the scale, resist the power of mainstream media, stop those crazy diets, and get on the same page as far as building strong, healthy bodies?

And wouldn’t it be great if we could teach the next generation to do the same?

This post has a lot of questions, and my hope is that you, the mothers I trust, can provide answers in the comments area.  Then I’ll write a follow-up post in a couple of weeks with my “game plan” . . . based on the encouragement and resources I know you can give me.

One thing Saren and I both believe is that when mothers unite, we can solve any problem.

So I’ll repeat my questions:

(1) How do I get to the point that I can really love and appreciate my body?

(2) What are the key principles I need to learn to help me put my physical care as a priority?

I’m looking for sound advice, good habits to develop, favorite books on the subject, excellent websites, nutrition education, workout routines that work with motherhood, and thought processes that help mothers consistently make good choices.

I want to know how you have learned to ignore the photo-shopped images in the media and how you teach your children about their own body perceptions.

I’m also looking for additional questions or observations you might have.  Are you struggling with this, too? Do you have an experience or a story you need to share?  The Power of Moms is a safe place.  

This is a hard subject, but it’s important, and I’m feeling quite hopeful that this weakness (that many of us have) can become our strength.

Thank you, in advance.

 

***For Part Two, please click here.

 

Illustration of Winnie the Pooh by the Walt Disney Company.

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Comments

  1. K says

    Have you reached into my thoughts and put them on paper? I keep waiting for it to get better…with age…with marriage…with motherhood. But the same old negative voices creep back. I will definitely check back to read the other comments. Thank you for your bravery in posting this.

  2. Adele says

    April, you are going to get hammered with advice!! Most of us don’t like advice when it comes to our bodies and fitness… good luck!! And some of us feel so passionate about ‘our way’. You are a very brave woman.

    “How do I get to the point that I can really love and appreciate my body?” That is the million dollar question that we all need to ask and answer ourselves isn’t it? Reading the question itself over a few times itself is quite liberating… a very effective weaving of love, gratitude and body image. Having had the chance to meet you and ‘follow’ you a bit, you are the epitome of love and gratitude, you don’t need advice in that area! You give it to strangers all the time.

    Isn’t it odd that we think (not necessarily you April) that a great looking body will make us happy, yet happiness research tells us that two of the things that make us happiest are having sex and eating dinner with friends! (not at the same time). Apparently Shape magazine did a poll… 68% of women would give up sex for a month for a perfect bikini body (I don’t think it was a forever bikini body…). Yes, media has messed us up a bit.

    My method:
    1. Meal planning for the week (Sandi Richards, http://www.cookingfortherushed.com/new/). New for me.
    2. protein+healthy carb + healthy fat equation for snacks and meals
    3. a personal home workout program created by an amazing cross fit coach done MWF mornings. The trainer is a luxury but I give up most of what I would spend on clothes. And I am worth it.

    My motivator:
    I used to be a university varsity basketball player but at 39, over a year after my last c-section, I had to crawl to the couch to get off the floor. My biggest motivator was wanting to be able to play with my kids when they were older. I don’t have a bikini body… but that’s not my goal.

    Final comment:
    I believe we have ‘decision fatigue’ in our culture. When I realized I was no longer able to make confident decisions I went searching for why… and I read the book ‘The Paradox of Choice: Why more is less’ by Barry Schwartz… he’s got a good clip on TED talks for a shortened version. Bottom line… make rules, in this case about what you are going to eat and do for activity… so you are not making a decision every time you are faced with a decision about food or activity… just follow your rules. Probably not all that different from implementing family rules…

    Good luck!!

  3. GretchensGreens says

    Amazing! There was an article on chastity a while back on this blog, and it really upset me, because these are the issues that worry me the most when I think about teaching my daughter to value herself. I actually wrote an essay about it I got so bent out of shape at the time. I am right there with you, honey. I am a vegetarian and I work out almost every day. Why is it so hard to just love that I am healthy and beautiful and not critique, critique, critique myself. It’s pathological, and I don’t want it to hurt my daughter.

    That was my freak out for the day. Here is my advice: my exercise is, chronologically, my top priority every day. I get up half an hour earlier and spend half an hour exercising. I rotate running intervals, lifting weights, and practicing yoga. I run out my door before I have brushed my teeth or made my bed. I just make it happen and it makes my whole day easier. My body and brain feel more alive, and I feel better emotionally because I took some time for just myself.

    Thank you so much for this article. You just really nailed it.

    • Adrienne says

      I love what you said about “running out the door without brushing your teeth or making your bed.” I love that because I have to do the same thing- mentally anyway—It’s easier for me to not make a big deal about exercising and pretty much not think about it and just do it. Do it before I can make an excuse, example I need to get ready or brush my teeth. I pick a few things that I need to get done that day to make me feel like I accomplished something that day- for most women it’s getting ready, hair and makeup act, but I put exercise before getting ready- Since I am a stay at home mom most days I am home with my young children- so it’s ok if my hair is pulled back in a ponytail and I have no makeup on–but I do feel like I need to exercise. It’s about making it a priority, but not a big deal. Thanks for your words- nice to feel like someone is on the same page!

  4. says

    Thank you for this post, April. I think many many mothers will relate. I know I do!! This struggle is ongoing in my life. It can become almost debilitating at times. And like you, I have a mother who did not obsess over her body–she had breast cancer for 13 years and was often swollen, bald, and bruised, but she was SO beautiful and she never complained about her physical looks–so where did I learn to obsess over this?? The only thing I can think of is our modern media and culture.

    I don’t have any brilliant solutions, but one book I’ve been reading lately that has been helping is called Intuitive Eating. Though the principles of the book seem pretty self explanatory at first, the more I delve into them, the more I realize that our society does not teach us these basic tenets of health. I feel like the book is changing the way I think.

    I have also found that it helps me to commit to jog every day, even if it’s just a mile. I am an “all or nothing” goal setter, so in the past, if I didn’t have time to exercise for an hour, I didn’t exercise at all. Now I am learning that even a 15 minute jog makes me feel accomplished and healthy and in control–and there’s almost no day that is too busy for a 15 minute jog.

    I look forward to reading the rest of the comments on the post and of course your follow-up posts!!

      • Rachel says

        My life was completely changed by the principles of Intuitive Eating and therapy that accompanied it. I didn’t have a “big name” eating disorder, but didm”t have a good relationship with food and had body image issues like you, April. I think a lot of people feel that professional counseling is for people with super major problems and they’d be ashamed to go to therapy…but after seeing how much light, peace, and joy it brought me I know it is a heaven-send that a lot of people (if not all) could benefit greatly from. Don’t wait til your negative thinking (even if it’s only your body you’re negative about) gets too out of hand before getting some professional coaching. Even just a couple of months can help so much!

  5. Janalyn Owens says

    I love that you tackled a subject that is difficult, but in the thoughts of so many of us. How do I develop self-love and how am I content with the way I look/and the way my body looks? Well, I will admit that I have my ups and downs. I think it’s important for all of us to remember that this kind of work is a process, and it may feel very gradual at times. Maybe one of the keys is to be on the right path. I think it’s wise to live your life in the light, and not hide things. We can start there. We eat what we eat, in front of anyone. Eating right and exercising takes courage too. I have had co-workers try to sabatoge (or in their minds) tease me if I bring a healthy lunch. I’m not sure why. There were days when I deliberatly brought some junk food with me, so I could feel like I would connect and not stand out. But over time, I am learning (still a process for me) to be brave and be proud of trying to be healthful. I have also become aware over time of my “trigger foods.” Foods that once I start eating, I can’t stop and that leads to more unhealthy choices. I couldn’t possibly stop eating all of these foods, but I wrote down my personal triggers. I try to moderately eat them, and think about it when I am eating. Any food that almost feels “addictive’ to me is something that I have to be careful with.

    Another tip I have is about exercise. None of us question if we are going to brush our teeth in the morning. We see it as so essential that we do it. Over time, I have tried to see exercise that way. I try not battle it out in my head every single day. Should I or shouldn’t I? Instead, I sacrifice a little sleep in the morning which is not easy to do. Trust me! But then the exercise is done, my kids are still sleeping, it is peaceful and it is out of my brain for the day. Any thought that is held in my brain for the entire days tends to wear me out. So when I think, “Man, I need to work out… What type of exercise should I do? Oh no, it’s 5:00pm and I still haven’t done it.” all day long, those thoughts lead to beating myself up. I don’t even feel good about myself and I haven’t even started the workout. Maybe this is just me. But I like feeling free the rest of the day. I try to be okay with working out 4-6 days a week and taking a couple of days off too. I tell myself “Good Job.” when I try.

    One last approach I have to being mindful of my health is to be thankful as you already mentioned. My father-in-law is battling stage 4 cancer and he currently isn’t able to be active. These days, I think of him so often and I am thankful that I have my body to use, to run, to serve others, and to enjoy. If I really push myself in my workout, I think of my father-in-law and I almost feel like I am doing it for him. I thank God every day after my workout for my body and it seems to clear my head!

  6. Heather says

    April, I had a dear friend who struggled with anorexia from 5th-8th grade. She was critically ill, and spent about a year and a half of that time in the Chilren’s Hospital in my state. I got to know her thought processes well, and I watched her starving – I remember being shocked that her body literally grew a soft fur (called languo) because her body fat was so low. Somehow, around high school, all the help started to work and she started to get better. When I had my first daughter, I swore that she would never ever feel negativity about her body if I could help it because the results can be so horrible.

    So….here’s what I do.

    1) I don’t let media enter our life unless it’s something we choose. We don’t watch TV, but we occasionally watch shows and movies on Netflix (usually something from PBS or an old movie). We don’t watch princess movies, or anything commercial – I have memories of crying about how fat I was after watching The Little Mermaid as a girl, so that’s a personal choice.) :) If my husband watches a football game or something with the kids around, we mute the commercials. When I watch commercials now, I’m so surprised at how quickly I start thinking about my own deficiencies – they make a lot of money by making women dislike themselves.

    I don’t bring any women’s magazines or catalogs into the house. If I go through the checkout lane with my kids, we look at a magazine like O or something without half-naked women on the cover and we talk about photoshop and how it makes women feel. I point out true beauty I see in women of all sizes, shapes, colors and ages.

    2) I lie. I muster up the effort and I tell my girls how much I love my body parts. I talk about my beautiful tummy that held babies, my strong strong legs, my lovely hips. It is painful, but I do it until I half-believe it. You should see my 7 year old beam with pride as she hears me talk about myself that way. I never ever let them hear me talk disparagingly about my body. I put on my bathing suit and jump in the pool with confidence – like cellulite is the latest fashion. :)

    3) I trust God/nature that if I eat all natural, healthy foods and work hard, my body shape will take care of itself. I am not something to look at – I am way too busy to try to look like someone else (and the one man who is supposed to be looking already likes what he sees!). This life is too short for me to “target problem areas”. :)

    Here’s what I’m trying to add to that:

    – Active playing with my family. I think our bodies are designed to enjoy moving, and I want to do more of that with my kids.

    – Adding stretching/yoga to my routine because I think it’s important for my brain and body to get that quieter active time.

    – Eating fruits and veggies at every meal and snack – my kids do well at this, but I know they need to see me doing it for it to stick!

    Thanks for bringing this up. It is super important. I know it’s always easier to see from the outside, but I do hope you can let go of some of the anxiety and see yourself for the beauty you are!

  7. S says

    I have no answers, because this is my struggle, too. It’s something I think and obsess about every hour of every single day. I don’t like having pictures taken of me because I hate looking at myself. I always feel like everyone else looks wonderful, no matter what shape or size they are, yet I look like a fat slob. I was a size 7 when I got married, a 10-12 after my first 2 kids and am now a size 14 after having 3 more kids. I exercise and watch what I eat and have a hard time losing more than 5 pounds or so. The lack of results cause me to stop trying until I can summon up the courage to start again. I feel like everyone must think I’m a lazy overeater who hasn’t “kept herself in shape”, when in reality I actually do try.

    It’s very common at church for women to walk up to other women and say things like “You’re so skinny” or “You’re a skinny minnie” or “You look like you’ve lost weight” or “You have 4 kids and no one would ever know”. Many times these comments are made right in front of me and I feel so awkward and hurt. Aren’t we as women about more than how we look in a dress? I let it totally eat away at my self worth, even though I know I shouldn’t. It seems like being thin is such a conversation starter, and I feel like a loser for always being passed over when it’s discussed among groups of women.

    This is such a painful subject for me. I don’t want my daughters to feel the way I do, I don’t want the teenage girls I know to feel the way I do, yet the culture around me values being thin so much that I have a hard time accepting and loving myself. My mind is constantly telling me that until I’m a size 6, I’m not good enough.

    • Karen Hansen says

      For starters, you could get rid of your scale. After all, you don’t need an instrument to tell you if you are feeling strong and healthy.

      • Sarah says

        I think I need to do that. After all, it should be more about how I feel. If I lose weight, I’ll notice it in the mirror and by how my clothes fit.

  8. Brooke says

    Regarding exercise, I have found I am more consistent if I get it done early. It is an “appointment” I keep with myself every morning. When my children were smaller, that meant saying no to girl friends who needed a babysitter before 10am. It meant never making a doctor/dentist or other appointment before 10am unless absolutely necessary. I also find that if I put on my gym clothes when I wake up, I am ready to go the minute the kids are out the door to school and less likely to talk myself out of going to the gym.

  9. willow says

    I have about 40 more pounds than I would like on my body. But I have developed a habit of exercising 4-5 times a week in the past 6 months and I feel so much better about myself even though I’m not really losing any weight (health problems complicate my weight issue). I also feel so much better when I am feeding my body healthy food.

    I too put on my swimsuit and jump in that pool with my kids because I know they don’t care what I look like, but I want them to have memories that their Mom played with them and loved spending time with them.

  10. Wendy says

    My journey is similar to yours with one large exception. When my oldest was 11 (and I was 36), he was diagnosed with severe restrictive anorexia. Everything about the way I looked at myself and others changed that day. I became so keenly aware of how much everyone talks about weight. It’s everywhere and it’s all the time. Now at our home, we don’t talk about weight. We do talk about being active and we do talk about choosing a variety of good foods, but we don’t count calories and we don’t even own a scale. And I’m better because of it.

    As I researched eating disorders, I inevitably stumbled upon many articles about obesity. In a nutshell, and despite commonly held beliefs, the most healthy people are those who are active and eat a wide variety of good foods – not those who are skinny. I have skinny neighbors who have confessed that they eat terribly and are never active. Research shows that their life span will be severely shortened, and for those who diet, it’s even worse.

    Honestly, we think negatively about our bodies because that is the stigma that the world has put onto weight gain. I would say a major starting point for you is to walk away from weight and shape being important. What you weigh is as much a part of you as your eye color. Break the cycle of another generation that judges others because of weight. Teach your daughters that how they act is more important than what they weigh. You can begin to stop the cycle now and help to end the society-judging shame that they will likely feel someday.

    We don’t do diets at our house because of my son. Instead we try to lead active and well-nourished lives. Learn from our experiences and don’t let your personal changes be about weight. Let those changes be about becoming strong and well. Be active. Eat well. But don’t define your success with the scale or tape measure.

  11. Allyson Reynolds says

    April, you are such a rock star for being so honest and bringing up this topic. I don’t have anything new to add here. I’ll just second what many others have already shared: 1) I totally avoid the kind of media that makes women hate their normal bodies.(I even turn those nasty magazines at the grocery checkout around when I’m going through so my kids won’t see and read that stuff. And I rarely take my kids into a mall. Heaven help me if we have to see one more pair of big, fake, larger than life Victoria’s Secret breasts . . . 2) In our home, we talk about being healthy and strong and feeling comfortable in our clothes, not being skinny. 3) I put on my exercise clothes first thing in the morning so I’m sure to do it. Sometimes it’s just 20 minutes on the treadmill, but once I exercise no matter what else happens in the day I feel pretty darn good about myself and am also more motivated to eat healthy throughout the day. 4) I try to avoid complimenting other women on their looks and downplay other’s compliments on MY looks, trying to focus instead on things that are really meaningful and important to women. It sounds to me like you know what’s going on, you know what to do about, but because your brain has had years of “training” to get to this point, it may take some time to retrain it. At least you know you have a HUGE support group! Thanks for bringing this up. I think you’re perfectly beautiful inside and out!

  12. Mary B says

    I don’t know that I have any secrets for having a more positive body image, except perhaps less mirrors around the house! (No, really. The less you look at yourself, the less you’re caught up in thinking about your body’s flaws).

    But just over the past 5 months I’ve made some big strides in healthy living. I’m one of those who stays slender without trying, which is both a blessing and a curse. I’m very happy to not have to worry about my weight, but it’s too easy to equate being thin with being fit, which I most definitely was not. And so I’ve been making concentrated efforts to cook more healthful food and make exercise a part of my life. The website wordofwisdomliving.com has been helpful, as it stresses just eating good, normal, healthful food. And actually, eating better was the easy part–I make dinner every day, so it wasn’t too difficult to find some new recipes and change what I buy at the store. Exercise, on the other hand, is a different ball game.

    Exercise is always the first thing I drop when I have a busy day. Always. Getting up early doesn’t work for me, both because I’m not a morning person and I have a one-year-old whose eyes pop open at 6:00 a.m. far too often for my liking. The only real thing I’ve been able to come up with is to find ways to kill two birds with one stone. For example, going on a family bike ride: family time–check, exercise for me–check, showing my kids how fun an active lifestyle can be–check. (Note: this is NOT the same as multi-tasking, which I have tried before with exercising, and let me just say that trying to do yoga while your baby crawls around you really just does not work.)

    Obviously, every mother is in a different stage of life with her children. Maybe you have very small children who nap a lot, and you’re stuck at home most of the day. Maybe your kids are in school and you spend all afternoon shuttling them between soccer practice and violin lessons. In any situation, I think you can find ways to kill two birds with one stone in regards to exercise. You can couple exercise with several different things. Some things I’ve thought of are doing physical activities with my children, like hiking, playing basketball, going swimming, or, my personal favorite, dance parties around the house after dinner (the added bonus of doing this sort of thing with your kids is that they see that it’s good to be active, without perceiving in you an obsession with exercise or weight-loss). If date nights with your husband are something you make sure happens on a regular basis, then you can play tennis or go indoor rock climbing together. If spending time with friends is important to you, you can organize a walking/jogging group or sign up for a fitness class with a friend.

    My point is simply that there are SO many things that we as mothers want and need to do with our time. Finding ways to accomplish two things at once even though your focus is only in one place? That’s golden.

  13. awesomemomkim says

    I think its totally normal for people, women especially, to want to improve the fitness of their bodies without going to extremes. Even without the media, and images we receive in our culture, there has always been a driving force inside me to be healthy. I think that goal striving mechanism inside all of us drives this desire. Just like motherhood and life in general, the area of health and fitness will never be finished. The principle of progress, not perfection keeps me from giving up on myself and letting everything go to pot. Focusing on my progress in this are, no matter how slow, keeps me going in the right direction and helps keep me more balanced in my hectic life with five kids, two dogs, and a husband (who is very low maintenance, by the way.) Two books that I refer to again, and again are; The Life You Want by, Bob Greene, and Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, by Wendy Watson Nelson. I look forward to more on this. Kim Lewis

  14. Annonymous says

    My husband sent me your link as I have been intensely struggling with this for about 6 months now. Perhaps I have always struggled with it and never dealt with the underlying issues so when my world got turned upside down I allowed this weakness to take over my thoughts. I am presently in counseling for anorexia nervosa. Thoughts of food and body image have controlled me. There were times I would not allow myself to eat more than 300 calories and then I would exercise until I had a negative caloric intake. The weird part is that I was never technically heavy to begin with. I have four beautiful children and I do not want to mess up their perceptions of food or their body image.

    And so all that to say…it is a huge trap and will destroy you and your family if you do not change. Thank you to sharing your hear and I will continue to follow your posts on this much needed but avoided subject!

  15. Meredith says

    I actually just watched a dvd last night that my husband encouraged me to order. It’s about a program called “Mama Wants Her Body Back” and it had several key points that were inspirational to me.

    For example, we determine our attitudes about food. It is fuel for our body, so we can train our brains to choose good fuel. The speaker recommended not dieting at all, but making a better choice – not “the best” or perfect choice, but a better one…as a perfectionist, I’ve often felt that I had to do everything correctly or “a plan” wasn’t going to work. I’ve also found that dieting makes me obsess about food, which is the opposite of what I need in life!

    The speaker also has developed workouts specifically for moms that target strengthening the areas most affected by pregnancy and are 10 – 20 minutes long. I work full-time outside the home, try to maintain a decent home, am active in church, help my husband some with his business and try to maintain relationships with family and friends, so time is a big deal to me! I’m just starting this, but am so excited about the thought of winning this battle of maintaining a healthy weight and feeling like I can participate in fun with my kids without being exhausted. I am looking forward to being healthy!

  16. Tiffany Sowby says

    Bravo for you sharing such personal thoughts. I have a lot to say about this very subject–too much for a comment here. It would be the perfect conversation to have with you if we ever take a long detour to the SL Airport again.

    I will say this though, having two daughters of my own has surely made me think twice about trying to change my own negative inner-dialogue and doing my best to make sure theirs never start.

  17. Angela says

    Thank for for a great article and your honesty. I think many woman struggle with this. Personally, I embrace this dialogue in my head and try to use it to my advantage. It sometimes gives me that extra push when I need it to eat more healthy and stay active. I refuse to allow it to control me though or make me feel bad about myself. I instead concentrate on asking myself.. is this valid? Am I not doing the things for myself that are important to my health right now? Have I been slipping and allowing too much on my plate? Can I control these things or is it just a busier time? Then, if I can do something about it, I take the necessary steps. If I feel I’m being too hard on myself I force my brain to stop thinking about it by concentrating on what I have been doing to stay healthy and which is reasonable under the circumstances (balancing work, kids, household chores, children’s activities and so on).

  18. PerfectTiming says

    I come from a line of negative self-talkers. Despite all that my Mom has lived through (major car accident, nervous breakdown, a stroke, life-threatening blood clot, and lastly, Stage 2 breast cancer that ended in a double mastectomy & 6 months of chemo), she cannot see the amazing woman she is. All she sees is the ‘fat person’ she is. My sisters are the same. I am a mother now. I have a daughter of my own. One of my worst fears is not breaking this chain with her and her life beautiful life being consumed with it as ours has been. THANK YOU for this post. I’m reading and re-reading the post AND every comment. It’s amazing that I read this today when I just stepped on the scale this morning after a long period of unhealthy “not caring anymore”. Devastated to see what I’ve done to myself thinking I was learning to love me how I was (as you mention so many self-love books lean to). I see now that I’m not loving me…not one bit. Thank you again.

  19. Jenny Hullinger says

    April…I REMEMBER the days you would keep track of your calories!! It made me sad…I was probably eating air pop popcorn and drinking diet coke everyday! With a little Katy’s Kitchen fat free ice cream as a treat once in a while…we all seem to go with body image issues at one time or another. I read THE BEST book EVER!….it’s called “Does This Life Make Me Look Fat?” A Eating Disorder Memoir…”How Culture Contibutes To Low Self-Esteem and Addictive Behaviors”…by Jenny Harrop. I bet you could even invite her to one of your retreats. FANTASTIC book!

  20. Laurie M says

    I’m an older mom with a teenager, so I have a different perspective than some. When I was 40, I started taking ballet. I had always wanted to do it, but never gotten the chance. My daughter, 4 at the time, was the impetus for me pursuing a long forgotten dream. I’d spent 20 years at full-time sedentary jobs, and was very out of shape when I started. It’s been 10 years, and I’m dancing 4 to 5 days a week with my daughter. We’re both in pointe shoes now, and she has really blossomed into a beautiful dancer. I even taught dance for 4 years. There have been plenty of challenges for her and I, but it’s given us an opportunity to be very close. We don’t hide from the media and it’s images. Instead, we talk about them openly & in detail, but then she’s at a point in her life where it’s appropriate to do so.

    My advice, based on my personal experience, is to find an activity that you love. In my case, it happened to be something that I can share with my child. The changes in my life and appearance were gradual. I don’t worry about my weight the way I did when I was younger. I think age is a blessing that way. I’m also more fit now than I’ve been in decades. I don’t know what role ballet will play in the future for me or my daughter, but for now, it gives us strength, keeps us fit, and brings us a degree of happiness together.

    I hope this inspires someone to try doing something that they never thought they’d get the chance to.

    • says

      Laurie — I LOVE that you started ballet at 40! I’m just a couple of years from that, and I have always thought that if you didn’t start in elementary school, you could never do it. But you have given me hope that I too (a very out of shape and mostly sedentary for the last 15 years or so) could consider taking dance lessons again and not let my age be a factor. I love it! My kids and I have dance parties in the afternoon sometimes where we dance like crazy to Michael Jackson or something in the living room, but I never thought I could really use dance as a way of developing a talent AND getting some exercise. Thanks.

  21. says

    Thank you for a very real and honest article. This is a topic that is so dear to my heart. I have been a professional in athletics and fitness fields for 12 years, I understand the principles behind wellness and the science behind health, I have helped others feel good about themselves, yet still I have gone through periods where I too felt like I didn’t deserve the time to take care of myself. Even though I worked steps from a gym, I couldn’t waste the time to workout because I needed to hurry home to my children and at home I was so focused on doing what needed to be done and taking care of them that my time just never happened. Over a period of about two years I have been learning how to integrate wellness more into my schedule so it doesn’t take ‘extra’ time. Becoming more active in every task and getting the whole family involved with me so that the business of living becomes more engaging. And I can honestly say that I am much happier for it. I’ve started sharing some of the key principles with others and they have noticed changes too.

    Soon (hopefully – I’m still working full time) I will be releasing my ebook and launching my blog about how families can be active together making moms and kids healthier. I really hope that someone will see it and find something there that will help them. Because the truth is that you are loved and beautiful and it is evident in your writing. Thank you again for sharing.

    • April Perry says

      Shannon, thanks for your wonderful response to my post. I can’t wait to read your ebook and your blog. Good luck with your launch!

  22. Donna says

    April, thank you so so much for your post. It was incredible and I so needed to read and also learn from the comments of others. What amazing women are out there and what examples of fantastic, beautiful moms all around us.

    Reading this makes me feel so much less alone and wierd. I could have quoted “S”‘s post word for word, even down to the size of clothing. I have wasted so much time and energy in my life feeling like I am fat. Most of the time, I haven’t been either. My issues started well before high school and in high school I developed an eating disorder, but no one knew. Although I have conquored a lot over the years, I still have thought patterns that I’m still working on. My nutritionist tells me to get out and walk 5 days a week – not to be thin or lose weight, but for my mind and emotional well being. I have to say that since I have been doing that, I actually am so much happier. I don’t always make the 5 days, but the goal helps. No, my body shape and size is not how I would dream it to be, but it works, I am moving, and I am feeling happier.

    Since the birth of my 2 daughters ,like many previous posters, I do all I can to NOT put myself down about my appearance in front of my daughters – this has been a huge change for me. We don’t talk about anyone being “fat” or things making people fat. We only talk about choices that makes us feel healthy, happy, and energetic. Thanks again for your candidness and for all the loving and helpful comments. Can’t wait to read more.

  23. Chevon Bayless says

    This is exactly how I feel too. Most days I get upset with myself because I know there are way more important things that should be on my mind other than “is my stomach sticking out too much?, why are these pants so tight? what are people thinking when they see this fat body of mine?” so dumb. I agree that you have to find the balance of taking care of yourself but not obsessing but it’s so hard. I love to exercise but feel really guilty letting the tv baby-sit so I can work out. I love to eat too, way too much and way too greasy food. The only thing I find that works for me is setting small goals. First goal: no eating out for 1 month. That’s it, no counting calories or stressing about what I am eating at home (while keeping it reasonably healthy of course) then see what the results are and adjust the goal for next month. Myself and a few friends exercise three days a week at our church. I don’t feel so guilty doing this because my kids are playing with their friends and being active too. I also believe it is so good for them to see their mom exercising so they know it’s important to be active an healthy. I hope someday I can find that comfortable place with my baby image.

  24. Jen Lewis says

    I highly recommend checking our MissRepresentation, a documentary and social action campaign focused on the mischaracterization of women in the media. Their monthly tips have helped me be more aware of things like complementing people on things other than appearance. I have found exercising with a goal to really motivate me. I run 5ks and if I don’t have one that I’m training for, I am much less likely to run. I also try constantly to remember that everything I am doing is a model for my children- what messages do I want them to take away?

  25. exceptionalsimplicities@gmail.com says

    Thank you so much for sharing. It can be so difficult to change our deep-seeded perceptions, and it’s encouraging to me to see you trying to do just that.

  26. Angela says

    This isn’t really advice but two things changed my body image (but I still struggle with the negative thoughts): 1. My husband thinks I’m sexier now since he witnessed what a miracle it is to have a baby! 2. He was trying to lose his “sympathy” weight and I was cooking a low grain diet for him. He lost 35 lbs and I lost 7lbs.

  27. kate says

    I desperately… DESPERATELY needed someone to say these things to me. Pose these questions that you have today and think of how I would feel if my daughters thought the things I think or say the things I say to myself. It’s just me so it’s no big deal- if it were them, how I would surely have failed as far as teaching them about positive body image and positive mental thinking.
    I feel like I was supposed to read this today. At 5am this morning, I texted my babysitter to let her know I would not be needing her at 5:30 – the planned 45 mins to go to the gym- but I was just so exhausted from babies up in the middle of the night. ALL I have done is punish myself this morn.
    SO grateful for your perspectives, questions, thoughts and looking forward to the feedback you receive. Also passing on to my mommy friends dealing with the same thoughts, fears, issues.

  28. says

    Great article. I agree with the idea of exercising first, so you aren’t constantly agonizing about it throughout the day. I love the idea of having a much shorter routine to fall back on when time is short (pushups, lunges and jumping jacks even for 5 minutes in the morning energize me and help me make & keep the habit). Even just stretching during that time when I’m sick is doable and avoids the daily decision of whether to exercise or not.

    I also love the idea of doing double duty by choosing active family activities. We love walking to the library or park together.

    I am thin and fit but I am not immune to negative thoughts. I focus on fueling my body with healthy food (I eat a whole, plant food diet so I never have to worry about portion control or counting calories) and make a point of telling my kids how grateful I am for a healthy body that lets me be active and bear children. They know that working out and eating veggies helps make our bodies strong… We don’t talk in terms of losing weight or clothing sizes at all. Just in terms of treating our bodies well.

  29. says

    When I think about the happiest I have been with my health I think of a time a few years back when I did a 12 week “Healthy Habits” challenge a friend invited me to join. I was exercising 30-60 min. a day, no junk food and avoiding sugar, eating at least 5 fruits/veggies, drinking 8 glasses of water, getting at least 7 hours of sleep, and writing in my journal daily. I did it for the 12 weeks- it was really hard at first, but I felt the difference quickly. I was happy because I was doing things that mattered to me, were health promoting, and I was able to set a goal and gain confidence in reaching it. I continued most of those habits for a long while. The only reason I stopped was because of some very challenging life events, but I felt that I was better able to cope because I came to those events physically and mentally more capable.
    This is obviously a very hot topic that most women can relate to in some form. I’ve loved reading everyone’s responses and wanted to share a few thoughts.

    1. Be careful with your media. For various reasons I gave up TV watching years ago. Then a sitcom came around that my husband was really interested in and I would sometimes watch with him. Around this time I noticed a lot of negative thoughts about myself- my body size, how I dressed, etc. It took a few “episodes” before I realized that whenever I watched this show with my husband I paid a lot of attention to what the actresses wore and how they looked. I was comparing myself to women who weren’t real- they had a team of paid workers to perfect their outfit, hair, make-up, and they looked great physically because in Hollywood that’s how you get a job. I stopped watching the show and over time those concerns diminished. I am glad that TV images weren’t in my normal mental “diet” because I think it helped me to rather quickly recognize the damage it was doing to my thoughts.
    I too turn around magazines in check out lanes and prefer stores that have the black magazine covers. I avoid the mall- and any route that passes by flashy lingerie stores. Looking like those models isn’t real for me- my body build, my lifestyle, and attempting to look that way doesn’t fit in with the goals I have for my life. I don’t want to devote that much energy to something that doesn’t bring proportional satisfaction.

    2. Focus on what you CAN do. I have had times where my body couldn’t do what I take for granted normally, and it sure helps me appreciate when I can do normal, active things. I think setting goals helps me to gain confidence in my abilities too. I ran races of various distances and come to appreciate (not my speed!) that I can train properly and then reap the benefits of being prepared. Hike a longer hike, play a sport you used to play, or just try something new to you.

    3. Don’t diet- instead learn to eat right. Learn about nutrition. There are so many directions to go- and many of it depends on personal preferences- and it changes with time. I am enjoying the greensmoothiegirl right now, at the recommendation of some friends (my boys like to say we’re drinking a “compost smoothie”). The quest for nutrition education has been long and frustrating- there is so much conflicting information out there and I wish I had the answers! But I continue to study and be moderate in my approach. Food shouldn’t be so confusing!?!
    Also- either get rid of the scale or put it in a place hard to get to so you don’t jump on it every day. Numbers don’t mean much and seeing them regularly doesn’t seem to help- even if it’s a “good” weigh in, you are letting yourself feel good for the number- going against the better belief that numbers aren’t the goal- good health is.

    4. Exercise! This (for me) does the most for my mental health. I feel good when I get it done because I am following through on a commitment to myself, and it just feels good (when I’m all done!). I like the advice to go for whatever amount of time you have- even if it’s just 10-15 min. You will still be glad you went- and you will be more confident in yourself for the follow through.
    I know there are tons of great ideas out there, but over the years (and stages of motherhood) I have had success with:
    a early-early morning walking buddy or group (nice to get to socialize and solve the world’s problems before the sun comes up!), walking groups at the park (where we would take turns with walking and watching bigger kids play on the equipment), indoor walking at the mega mall before it opened with babies in strollers, exercise group with an instructor or videos at the church building, running groups (love Jeff Galloway’s walk-run method), and in bad weather or no friends to go with- Jillian Michael’s 30 day shred (an under 30 min. workout that works), and lots of audiobooks on long walks alone. My boys are now big enough that they can go with me on decent runs or bike rides- they are energetic workouts partners with lots to say! My husband and I alternate running 5k’s with each of them individually and they love it when it’s their turn (not sure if it’s the running, time alone with a parent, the race’s “goodie bag”, or that we get matching t-shirts!).

    5. Take care of yourself. I am not the best at this but I know it makes a difference when I do it! Take a minute to put on make up (if you wear it), get dressed for the day, do your hair. Get your hair cut regularly- it doesn’t have to be fancy, but doesn’t it feel good to have hair cut and the split ends off? Paint your toenails. I’m not talking about going to expensive spas (that’s not in my budget financially or time-wise), but just doing the small things that for YOU will help you to feel confident in how you present yourself to the world, your family, and even yourself.

    April- I think you once again hit on something that is deeply important and relevant to women. We live in a world that defines the worth of a person in so many different and conflicting ways- which is confusing and destructive. I want to help uphold a definition that is positive and enabling. I want my sons and the next generation to have a better perspective of health, body image, and self-worth.
    Thank you for being open and sharing- you think things through so well. I am excited to read your follow-up and hear your plans!

  30. Amy Oliver says

    April, I SO appreciate you addressing this! I haven’t taken the time yet to read all the comments yet (I will though, because I want to hear other’s experiences too), but I KNOW you taking the steps to verbalize and share what goes on in your head about your body, is HUGE.

    As women we need a ‘platform’ for discussion~not some celebrity (though that’s good too), but REAL LIVE EVERY DAY I CAN RELATE TO YOU WOMEN opening up kind of platform!

    As a Health Coach my awareness of these issues has heightened and as a mother of both boys and a girl, I am acutely aware that my attitudes, behaviors and energy influence how they perceive these issues.

    My battle with feeling comfortable in my own skin has been a long one too and daily I find new ways to win it. I believe that so much of it is in coming to the TRUTHS about the nature and design of our bodies and about the influences in the world that tend to distort these truths.

    My FAVORITE book to illustrate the issue of beauty is called “Captivating: Unveiling the Mysteries of a Woman’s Soul” by John and Stasi Eldredge. It is told from a Biblical Christian perspective, but in a very universal way captures and articulates the nature and design of women.

    I felt SO much gratitude for the privilege of being a woman after reading (and re-reading, I have it in audio form) this book. They tackle the issue of beauty in a way that liberated my soul! I believe (wether in agreement with the Christian belief system or not), any woman who reads it will feel the truths explained resonate in her.

    I do hope the conversation will continue and that I can contribute my own experience in some way that will help us do battle with the root of the problem! Thanks again!

  31. apcoaching says

    April-I applaud your bravery in opening up about this dirty little secret most of us carry around. I’ve spent the past year in a Coach Certification Program and the over-riding theme for me is to love myself courageously. When I am compassionate and loving with myself I create the inner peace I so desperately crave as a busy, mother of four. Each one of my clients tell me that learning to cherish themselves and put themselves at the top of their to do list has transformed their lives. So here I am modeling self-care for other women, personally and professionally, and inside I’m constantly beating myself up over my weight.
    I’ve had four children and with the first three, after 18 months of hard work, I’d put on those pre-pregnancy jeans and they’d slide right on easily, buttoning over my once protruding belly. I had that feeling of returning to self. After months of handing my body and soul over to creating and nurturing a new human life (willingly and joyfully), I was back!
    With my fourth child, who is now three, the story is different. I’m still holding on to that extra five pounds. I could use the excuse of being over 40, or that I don’t have the time I once did to workout, both true statements, but what it REALLY feels like is that my inner-child, who has never had much of a chance to shine, is having a temper tantrum and wants me to love myself enough to let go and enjoy my life. I know exactly what I need to do if I want to loose 5 pounds, yet every time I start some weight reducing regime I feel a revolt from within.
    My struggle is how to make peace between the roaring internal voices. Is there the possibility of accepting, and even loving, my stretch marks, loose skin, sagging breasts, as blessed evidence of the amazing children whom passed through me, transforming me body and soul? These changes in my body are evidence of the power of the feminine, the awe-inspiring ability to bring fourth life. Society likes us feel weak at our inability to maintain a certain size or weight, but my body’s changes are rooted in my power, not weakness. Instead of seeing my body as betraying me, what is the possibility in celebrating how it has served me in my purpose as mother?
    In the shower the other day I had an epiphany. I am struggling so hard to get back to a woman who no longer exists. For the first time I’m living an authentic inspired life, why am I clinging to an outdated sense of self? Souls change and bodies do too. I had resisted buying new clothes, kept boxes of pre-pregnancy clothes, subtly punishing myself. I decided it was time for re-invention, time to embrace my light.

    • I went shopping. The spring colors are fabulous, I let go of my judgments around size and bought things that made me feel good. Bright yellow shorts, a rocking maxi dress, even a couple of swimsuits! No more “this will be perfect if I loose a couple of pounds.” If it doesn’t fit NOW it’s not coming in the closet.
    • I got rid of all those pre-pregnancy clothes. They’re out of style now any way.
    • I get up and exercise at 6 am. I’ve found a boot camp class I like. It’s hard getting there, but it’s worse if I don’t go.
    • I am careful with what I eat, but not militant.

    I can’t say that I’ve been successful at really loving my body yet, but I do know that awareness is the first step to change and I am building that. I recently attended Mamacon, a conference for and about mothers. This was one of my first times showing up as a coach for mother’s of reinvention. I took the time to put on clothes I loved, did my hair and make-up. I felt good about myself. The evening went well. I met up with friends later, and when I walked in they commented on the shining energy I brought to the room. I hadn’t thought about being “fat” once that night and, to be honest, I’d rather be that woman lighting up the room than the thinnest woman there.

    • Suzanne Christensen says

      I LOVE your response and the thoughts about loving your body for what it has done- and celebrating how our bodies have served us and allowed us to be mothers! I am really thinking about “souls change and bodies do too”. I wonder if it’s part of aging that we let go of unneeded concerns and better appreciate general health and this “shining energy”. The most beautiful people I know are real women- not airbrushed or put on display, and their beauty is in who they are. Your comments really struck me- thank you!

      • apcoaching says

        Suzanne,
        I’m glad my words resonated with you. The funny thing about all this time and energy we waste around worrying about our bodies is that the physical is transient. We’re all going to age. Yet our soul or spirit is eternal. If we, as women, paid more attention to cultivating their spirit and less attention to worrying about our bodies, where would we be?

  32. Katie N. says

    I have just finished doing Jillian Michael’s 30 day shred, and though I am not “shredded” I have really enjoyed doing her workouts and will continue with this DVD. I do it while my children are napping :)

    Highlights:

    1) It goes on sale on Amazon regularly (I think I got it for $6.95)
    2) It’s 25 min total (with stretching before and after)
    3) All you need are some simple hand weights easily found at wal-mart or any other large store.
    4) I have actually SEEN results, AND it makes me feel much better!!

  33. Alexandra says

    What an amazing gift this article is for me today – seriously, it’s worth is enormous! Thank you, thank you. I am a single mom of 4-year-old twin girls and a 6-year old girl. I am a former yoga instructor. After my divorce I had to go back to work and I’ve been beating myself up about all of it so much that I gained about 30 pounds this year. I needed to hear/read all of this – the insightful comments included.

    As far as the war the media is waging on women and girls – I just got back from a conference at which the director of the film Miss Representation spoke and I am totally with her! If you haven’t seen it, please check it out. I also do not watch things like the Housewives of…, the Kardashian nonsense or anything that shows women objectifying themselves. I do not read fashion magazines or go to R – rated movies, either. I just try to keep a close watch on whatever I allow to come into my consciousness.

    Also, I recently started talking to a therapist about my ongoing body image issues and she had me read Women, Food and God by
    Geneen Roth which is just an amazing, life-changing book.

    I immerse myself in things that make me feel good; pray for the awareness to be vigilant about the little voice in my head telling me bad things about myself and my choices; I sometimes juice fresh fruit and veggies for breakfast; and ride my bike/practice yoga/walk every chance I get. I also have an affirmation on my mirror that says, “My body is beautiful and whole. Today I love my body just the way it is.”

    So far all of this is really helping. Today this article and the wonderful comments really helped, too. For that I am very grateful.

    • Donna says

      Alexandra- LOVED your comments. My nutritionist recommended that book as well. Now I just need to read it!

  34. Heather says

    I’m 37, mother of five and I too am wondering when the heck this silly insecurity about body image is going to fade away. I’m healthy and fit, but want to be 10 lbs less. I wince daily at my “problem areas”. The most disturbing thing to me is that I know it’s INCREDIBLY ungrateful for me to focus on what I’m not when there is so much that I AM! I’ve been blessed with a healthy capable body, and that’s not good enough??!
    I ran my first half marathon a couple weeks ago and when the pictures from the race were posted online, all I thought about was my “fat” arms or butt. Here I am, able to finish 13.1 and beat my goal time and instead of feeling accomplished, I feel critical about a superficial vanity issue, that does not affect my ability or health status at all. And I’m not alone. Why?! It’s really sad, and frankly quite pathetic that so many of us otherwise non superficial, non shallow good women and moms are hung up(to the point of hurting our self esteem) on something so trivial.

  35. aaririe says

    I absolutely love this post, because I need the same answers you are seeking. I do not have a good self body image and it is embarrassing for people to even know that. I didn’t even realize how bad it truly was until I read the part about how you look for all your trouble areas in pictures and when I read that, it just hit too close to home for me, I do the same thing and it helped me realize that I struggle with it more than I think I do. From the moment I gave birth to my first daughter, I too wanted to make sure that she was raised with a healthy self image, but knew that it would be almost impossible to give her that until I had a healthy image of myself, she is five now and I am still struggling with how to have a healthy image of myself. When I was pregnant with my 3rd child (another daughter), I had some major health problems that kept me down for the majority of my pregnancy and for a few months following. I wanted so badly to be healthy enough that I could enjoy my kids because I felt like I had missed out on so much during that time that I was laying around. I started cycling and eating better and I felt great! I did not have a model body, but I felt good about myself and I had energy to do the things that I wanted to do. However, I slowly began to get caught up in it all and strive for that body image rather than just trying to be healthy and as I didn’t reach that unrealistic goal, I became discouraged and reverted back to a less healthy lifestyle.

    I struggle to find the balance between making time for myself to be healthy and getting wrapped up in extreme exercising. I struggle with not being jealous of those women who do marathons every couple of weeks and are extremely fit…and when I am around them, I begin to feel less about the way my body looks. I have participated in a couple of fun cycling events to give myself a goal to work towards and I think they are great for that purpose and I know that women who do those things have worked very hard to accomplish what they have and to look the way they do…it is not easy and I don’t mean to put down anyone who does marathons or other major sporting events. It is just my own inner struggle when I see these women and I want that for myself but I don’t have time (or maybe I just don’t want to take the time) to look that way. It is not that I don’t exercise, I do, but my time is precious and I have to be very careful that I do not spend too much time exercising at the expense of time in spiritual study, time with family, or household responsibilities. I know that others have said media plays a big part, and I think it does for most families, but media isn’t a big thing in our home…I compare myself more to other women that I see on a regular basis like friends and family (other moms who have the same daily responsibilities that I have) than I do to women in the media.

    I cannot stand fad diets. As much as I wish I could lose a lot of weight really quickly, I know it is NOT healthy and will not stay off. I am far from being perfect at being a healthy eater but I know that it is the only way that you can really slim down and actually keep it off. I believe having a treat every once in a awhile is not a bad thing, but most of the time once I start eating the delicious treat, it is sure hard to stop.

    Thank you so much for putting your personal thoughts out there. I am sorry I don’t have any wonderful advice to give, but I am looking forward to your follow-up post that will give me some more insight on this matter. =)

  36. Anne Brandenburg says

    Great article and these themes are universal among women. I have been struggling a lot with this lately and the best thing I can do is look at myself the way God does, cultivate the love for my body that God has. Once, when I was looking in the mirror and hating my body, He told me, “Don’t hate what I love. Don’t despise what I call holy.” We are all loved more than we can fathom and our bodies are a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God!

    • April Perry says

      Anne, I sat with my mom yesterday, and we were looking through wedding pictures from my brother’s wedding. She remarked that she didn’t like the way she looked in the photos, and she wanted to cut herself out of them. I talked to her about this article and encouraged her to see the beauty in herself. She didn’t seem convinced. But then I read her your comment here, and she got choked up and said, “Yes. That’s right. The Lord wants me to love myself.” Just wanted to let you know your words made a big impact on her (and me). Love, April

      • Anne Brandenburg says

        Thanks for letting me know! I had a grandmother who literally would cut herself out of family photos. She felt like the photos were better without her in them, but I loved her so much and thought she was beautiful. To me, the photos were ruined without her! I think you are just gorgeous and I am sure your mom is too!! Bless you!

  37. Beth M. says

    It’s amazing that as successful, accomplished, joyful women, we can be so unkind to ourselves! You got it right April – we look at other women and see their STRENGTHS, but when we look at ourselves, we see our WEAKNESSES glaring. I’d always noticed this about myself, but never more so than when I quit smoking six years ago and went from a size 4 to a size 14 in the blink of an eye.

    I tried EVERYTHING to get the weight off. From Weight Watchers to a Biggest-Loser-style Personal Trainer I tried it ALL, and failed at it all. I was bitterly disgusted with my body, yet felt powerless to change it.

    It’s those times in my life…when I’m banging my head against a brick wall over and over, meeting nothing but failure…those times are the ones when all of a sudden it dawns on me, “Hmmm, maybe there’s a reason none of this is working? Maybe there’s a lesson I have to learn before I can move forward?”

    And that is what finally led me to break out of the negative self-image paradigm. I had to let go of the self-loathing to reclaim the joy I wanted in my life.

    Step one was to admit the problem and to make peace with the fact that I will never completely eliminate the negative self-talk. But what I *CAN* do is employ strategies similar to the “Negative Thought Replacement” we learned at the Las Vegas retreat. I can catch myself when I’m being negative and try to look at myself through the same positive lens I use to look at others. And I can get busy recognizing and eliminating the things that block me from living the positive self-image I want.

    First on the list was dealing with my closet. It was full of clothes in the wrong size that made me feel squished, pinched and downright ugly. I found a fabulous silhouette that works for my new body type. I’m an apple. I pretty much look 4 months pregnant at all times. Empire waists are my nemesis. But blousy tops that have an elastic at the bottom, paired with skinny pants are my best friends! Nobody needs to know that underneath that blousy top is a blousy body, lol! And I use bright colors and fun accessories to draw attention away from my trouble spots. I am the queen of the ‘statement necklace’, and jokingly tell my friends that the statement my necklace is making is “DON’T LOOK AT MY TUMMY!! LOOK AT MY NECKLACE INSTEAD!!”

    Next was taking a long hard look at what I felt able to do with my diet. I didn’t have the fortitude to cut calories, but maybe I could make a commitment to always eat fruits and veggies first when hunger strikes? And maybe once and for all I could curb my nighttime eating by making it a priority to get to bed at a reasonable hour?

    Next up is my lack of physical activity (not counting chasing after three kids every day). It’s a toughie. But I’m going to chip away at it until I figure out a solution that works.

    Through all of this, I have learned to value myself no matter my size, no matter my shape. And as I suspected (and hoped and prayed!), once I changed my HEAD, my body followed. I’m down 40 pounds and though I’d love to see the last ten come off…I’m going to love myself regardless because I only get to live this life once and I’ll be doing myself and my family a disservice if I let my own negativity get the best of me. It’s still there…but I don’t have to let it run the show!

    • April Perry says

      I have felt so loved and supported with all these wonderful, thoughtful comments. It is such a sweet feeling to know we’re not alone! Thank you for sharing your story, Beth. I had to smile about your necklace because that’s the first thing I noticed about you when I met you. (“What a cute necklace!”) You are such a solid woman and an incredible example. I’m thrilled we got to meet in Las Vegas. xoxo

  38. Dawn Wessman says

    Women of all shapes and sizes struggle with this- including me! I’m a group exercise teacher, and even I look at the athletes around me and think I’m dog food. Or cry after having a baby and catching my reflection in the bedroom mirror. However, I find that when I learn about how to strengthen my muscles and heart, and then try workouts (apply the true principles) consistently then I get a lot of inner peace. It really does get easier over time. The results were so worth it- increased energy, better sleep, more patience with the kids, decreased appetite, desire to cook better meals.
    Here are few “thinking and writing” exercises to help treat our bodies like a close, life-long friend (instead of comparing it, criticizing it and cutting it down.)
    1. Make a list of all the things you love to do with your body. Detail each part- how the eyes, ears, limbs, skin- allow you to enjoy these things.
    2. Lovingly take care of your body. When you lotion, do it with kindness. Pretend you are in a commercial! Smile as you lather, buff and shave.
    3. Verbally thank your body after workouts.
    4. Avoid ALL negative thoughts and talk. Immediately replace any such conversation with positive words. It does not work to beat yourself forward. FLYlady (FLY=Finally Loving Yourself) always calls her workouts “15 minutes of loving movement.” Approach exercise as a reward and not a punishment.
    5. Think of the service that has made the lives of hundreds of people better because of and through your body.
    6. Accept the compliments of others. Just say “thanks!” after a nice remark and believe it.
    7. Learn about the human body. Your respect for your body will skyrocket as you learn the miracle of your blood, cells, and tissues.
    8. Take your body out on a date! What makes your body happy? Maybe it would like yoga class, a meal of greens, a run, Zumba, a stroll on a new path, or push ups and a big drink of water.
    9. Be loyal to your body. Don’t compare it to other bodies or wish you were with another body!
    10. Write down what makes your body unique and perfectly suited to your personality and needs. It will become clear to you that your flesh and bones is like a soul mate- no other would be just right.

  39. Jen says

    You’ve had lots of great comments here and it’s late so I’ll just point out a workout I didn’t see mentioned but I’ve been trying it the last couple of months and really like it. It’s called T-tapp and is great for toning and even rehabilitating poor joints, posture, etc. You can do as little as 15 min, it takes no extra equipment and the better you get, the less you have to do to maintain your results.

  40. Melanie Vilburn says

    The church I go to offers an interview every 2 years that asks some really important questions. One of the questions is regarding my family relationships and how they’re doing. When asked this, I would refllect on my relationship with my husband, report that it’s going pretty well there, and that I’m doing the best I can. Then I’d reflect on the relationship I have with my children, report that that’s going pretty well too, and that I’m also doing the best I can. However, as everyone knows, a good stool can’t stay balanced with just 2 legs (think of your spouse as one leg and your children as the second) Who then represents the third?

    Amazed, I realized I hadn’t been including the relationship I have with myself in that interview. I’m supposed to be one of the three legs! I’m a part of my family as much as they are! WIthout including myself in that interview’s question, I had left myself completely unaccounted for!

    That realization changed my whole focus. When I’m keeping track of all three legs, it gives me the power to FINALLY balance my life! I cannot wait for the upcoming interview this December. I want to answer that question with gratitude and a good report. YES, I’m taking great care of me too!!!!!!!!

    So, I asked my husband about the answer he gives for that question in the interview. He said the same thing, he leaves himself out and only answers about us. We had the most amazing realization pass between us. How can families climb out of the polarization pits of co-dependency (trying to be each other’s consciences) and independency (being emotionally and/or physically seperated) to the higher ground of interdependency (incredible synergy) if they’re missing one leg to their stool?

    For us, realizing that has made all the difference. I’m aware that lots of churches do interviews, yet for anyone interested in the specific interview I’m referring to, it’s done for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is well worth contacting.

    • Alexandra says

      I am LDS, too, and I have always found that same interview to be a touchstone for me. A really good time to take a look at the status of my relationship with myself. I am grateful I have that gentle reminder that I need to make myself a priority – even if I forget it now and again.

  41. Kristi Burns says

    Love Natalie’s comments. We can’t compete with something that isn’t real – like photoshop. I really like the idea of not criticizing yourself. I think it is almost trendy to do so. I’ve been a dancer my whole life and when I had kids I gained about 70 lbs each with them. So I am no stranger to getting weight on and off. I do feel better and am a better mother when I eat healthy, get enough sleep, and exercise. Exercise is also therapy for me. It’s a time away from the kids, and a time to work on myself. That said — when I focus too much in that direction, I become too tired to be a good mom. I do think we should take care of ourselves so that we can take care of others. My mom had 8 kids, but didn’t exercise and now she has illnesses that make it hard for her to be a good grandma. My sister who has 3 tiny kids was asking me about it and I asked her if she had just 15 minutes a day to walk on her treadmill. Then we added drinking water etc. etc. Start small, work up, but please take care of yourself as you go.

  42. Kristi Burns says

    oh – I had one more thought that has REALLY helped me lately!
    I have started making friends with all the happiest people in my work out classes. I have found that makes me compare less and now I have a great group of people of all ages, shapes, and sizes with whom I can’t wait to see every time I go to the gym.

  43. Brooke Miller says

    In a college women’s health class our instructor taught us her definition of health: “the ability to physically do what you want to do.” So if you WANT to be able to hike a certain mountain, prepare and exercise to the point that you can do it, and consider yourself healthy! If want to get down and scrub your toilet, but you can’t because it is too uncomfortable, or too hard on you physically, then you know your level of health is probably not to the standard you would like. She was a caretaker for her elderly mother, who was not in good health. She brought a bed pan to class. She had bed pans all over her house decorated with flowers to remind her that she never wants to have to become dependent on them! I have always loved her definition of health. It’s not a size or weight, it is the ability to live your life the way you want to.

    Thank you for your courage in sharing such personal thoughts and feelings. That is why I love you, April. That is how you are able to contribute so much good to so many lives.

  44. rachel ream says

    For a long time I referred to my body as “the body”. It wasn’t working right and I just wanted to separate myself from it. “The body is doing…” I would tell my doctors. Eventually, I had a realization (like so many posting here) that this body of mine helps make me who I am. Because of my body I understand infertility, fatigue, disease and pain. This has made me more patient and not so quick to judge. When I was finally able to verbalize why my body is important to the woman I am, taking care of my body didn’t seem like such a chore. I still don’t love to exercise, but I found a friend who does and when we exercise together her enthusiasm is contagious. Not to mention my 16 month old thinks lunges are the funniest thing on earth, he howls with laughter, which makes me do more.

    Also, I really feel like we could all do ourselves and each other a favor by not assuming the person who appears to “have it all” really does. Just because some people’s challenges are not as visible as we may feel our own are does not mean they are without troubles. I try to do regular community service to remind myself of this. There is nothing like helping others to keep my own troubles in perspective.

  45. Natalie says

    I started to become comfortable in my own skin around the age of 25. Of course I didn’t have children then, but this comfort level carried over during my pregnancies and after all three of my kids were born. I realize that I don’t have what the world would consider a great body. It’s also not completely horrible either. I can walk. I can run. I can breathe. Yes, I have a giant, ugly scar from my C-sections, stretch marks, etc, but they are reminders that I was selfless enough to bring three kids into the world and give them a chance at life.

    In those moments when I get down on myself, I always try to keep a long-term perspective. This life isn’t forever. All the plastic surgery in the world isn’t going to “fix” me. In the end, it’s not really going to matter.

    I find it sad that so many women try to change who they are to fit this ideal mold. Not for themselves, but many times, for their men so as to “hold on to them” or be some sort of trophy wife. Sorry, but in my experience with the opposite sex (I’ve dealt with a porn addict and wandering eyes), all the surgery and makeup in the world isn’t going to help you “keep” your man interested. In a world where women are constantly objectified (and objectifying themselves), it’s hard for many of us to compete with those worldly images and women. In my experience, you’ll only be disappointed when you try and don’t succeed. Its best to just be happy with you who are, better yourself in healthy ways (physically, emotionally and spiritually) and try to set a positive example for your kids. My husband and I NEVER criticize ourselves in front of our kids. Especially being the mother of all girls, I know that Moms have such a strong influence on how their kids see themselves.

  46. Natalie says

    I started to become comfortable in my own skin around the age of 25. Of course I didn’t have children then, but this comfort level carried over during my pregnancies and after all three of my kids were born. I realize that I don’t have what the world would consider a great body. It’s also not completely horrible either. I can walk. I can run. I can breathe. Yes, I have a giant, ugly scar from my C-sections, stretch marks, etc, but they are reminders that I was selfless enough to bring three kids into the world and give them a chance at life.

    In those moments when I get down on myself, I always try to keep an eternal perspective. This life isn’t forever. All the plastic surgery in the world isn’t going to “fix” me. In the end, it’s not really going to matter.

    I find it sad that so many women try to change who they are to fit this ideal mold. Not for themselves, but many times, for their men so as to “hold on to them” or be some sort of trophy wife. Sorry, but in my experience with the opposite sex (I’ve dealt with a porn addict and wandering eyes), all the surgery and makeup in the world isn’t going to help you “keep” your man interested. In a world where women are constantly objectified (and objectifying themselves), it’s hard for many of us to compete with those worldly images and women. In my experience, you’ll only be disappointed when you try and don’t succeed. Its best to just try to be happy with you who are, better yourself in healthy ways (physically, emotionally and spiritually) and try to set a positive example for your kids. My husband and I NEVER criticize ourselves in front of our kids. Especially being the mother of all girls, I know that Moms have such a strong influence on how their kids see themselves.

  47. says

    Thank you so much for putting this difficult topic out there! Like so many others, I felt you were writing my exact thoughts. I struggle every single day! I am a mom of two. The part where you said when you look at a picture (or pass by a mirror) your eyes go to your problem spots! That is so me and it tears away at all of my self concept so bad. People always tell me how confident I am, but in my head I tear myself apart. I feel guilty about that because I know it hurts Heavenly Father when I do that.

    I am linking this to my health and fitness blog…my blog is exactly about topics like this.
    Another topic that I think about, which is highly sensitive is those of us who have daughters. Mine is 14. I know, despite me trying SO HARD, am passing my issues down to her in small ways. Also, she is chunky already and I don’t want her to go through life with this burden. How do I help her without making it worse? I want her to be as healthy as she can be. With girls it is such a touchy subject. My son is rail thin which adds to the equation…I guess what I am trying to say is as women we all are dealing with body image issues and how do we parent in a way where our girls are not affected by it?
    Anyhow, check out my blog too:) http://www.behindtherefrigeratordoor.blogspot.com
    Thanks again!
    Jen

  48. says

    I have dieted off and on during my 17 years of marriage. I have tried every diet out there. I learned that diets are temporary, and unhealthy. I had always felt that dieting and excersise were punishment for my being over weight. Now I eat healthy and excersise because I deserve to be healthy and happy. I do it because I love myself, and I am worth it!

    As others have said the Media plays a huge roll in our doubting our value. It is important to spend at least as much time loving ourselves as we do engaging with the media.

    I run a company called “True You” it is a self-worth program for young ladies. We have tea parties where we discuss topics that matter to girls. Body image is a big one. One of the activities the girls do is to write their bodies a love letter. We thank our bodies for all the amazing things they can do, and have done for us.

    I also encourage the girls to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk. If they are tempted to say “I hate my nose!” They will stop themselves and say “I’m glad my nose is working properly today!” Sometimes we sound so silly we can’t help but laugh.

    Another important skill is to compliment things that matter. They learn to lift other girls by complimenting their talents, traits, and accomplishments rather then physical apperance. As they lift others and help others see their worth, they can’t help but begin to trust their own worth as well.

    http://www.trueyougirl.com

  49. Danielle Taylor Porter says

    In high school it hit me pretty hard how images in media can be so unfair. I remember having subscriptions to teen magazines and being obsessed with the styles and the looks. Yet it was depressing and frustrating to never be what I saw. It was a new day for me when I was able to cancel subscriptions and throw them out. Since then I have learned how photo shop and makeup art can truly be deceiving.I have been much easier on myself realizing how fake it all is.
    As I raise my own girls I want them to see me smiling- not obsessing. As I realize I will teach them by what I do, I want them to see me take care of my body through good exercise, eating, sleep etc. and I want them to see me be happy with the physical body that I have.

  50. says

    Hi April, I admire the honesty of your post and relate to you not wanting your daughters to struggle with the same body image issue you do. I’ve decided to start a Girls Circle on body image in my area, that is my way of helping the next generation of girls see that their value is not only in how they look. I can’t take on the juggernaut of media advertising and punishing beauty standards but I can help girls see the truth about the images around them and help them feel that it’s what’s inside that counts. I agree that fitness and healthy eating are necessary components to well-being, not for weight loss but for health and happiness. This is the link to my Girls Circle page where I just added your article as a resource. http://mygirlscircle.com/

  51. Tracy McDiarmid says

    When my children were young I found time to exercise elusive and searched—sometimes in vain–for healthy kid-food and sometimes ended up eating my portion and theirs. I gave into societal messages that told me I needed to bake high sugar, high fat content foods to show love for my family but I no longer fall for that. Now, desserts–if they are present at meals–are berries/fruits, not baked goods or frozen treats.
    I have no children at home, empty-nesting now. Back in the day, I discussed media messages with my family, emphasizing how far from reality portrayals of females are. While society’s expectations for female body images were hard on my daughter, who is NOT tall, thin and long-legged, they were also difficult for my son. He was often confused by photos of ideal women and the expectation that real men were supposed to desire that. I was grateful he had a father and a slew of male role models at church that communicated to him what real women are about and that the beauty found inside is way more important than what is seen with the eyes.
    The message I have tried to live and send to everyone I meet, including my children, is that we have a responsibility to our families, to God and to ourselves to be as healthy as humanly possible, that through living a healthy lifestyle we can find the joy that God has promised in this life, and as in every other endeavor, the best in life comes only through hard work. When I work out I work as hard and as intensely as I have strength, knowing that my hard work is never in vain. I want to hike with my grandchildren and be able to keep up with my family whatever they do. I don’t want to be dependent on pharmaceuticals nor do I want to spend money on doctor and hospital bills. I’ve watched family members suffer the consequences of poor diet and low activity and their poor example has motivated me in the other direction. Watching every bite I put in my mouth won’t guarantee my health, but it’s the only thing I CAN control, so I will. Videos like “Forks Over Knives,” and “Supersize Me,” among others have inspired me to give up certain categories of food that just don’t live up to my standards. Because of things I’ve learned in these videos I am moving toward eating less meat and dairy, and I have also stopped eating wheat products for other reasons. These diet changes have helped me increase my energy and decrease my volume.
    At 52 I recently clocked myself at a 7:30 minute mile, can make it through a p90X workout and can still, or again, fit in clothes I wore 30 years ago. I have signed up to participate in a triathlon with some friends. Setting this type of fitness goal helps me get a better idea of what strong women are capable of and I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to. These examples aren’t lost on my kids who have a better idea of what THEY are capable of as well and are striving to live more healthy, productive and happy lives, finding ways to increase their activity and looking at ways to improve what goes in their mouths. Someone once told me they “eat to live, not live to eat” and this has become my mantra.

  52. says

    One of the things that really helped me in the early months (and by early months, I mean more like 24 months, than 3) of my post-pregnancy body, was to say, out loud, “thank you” to my various body parts. The thought of it felt so strange, but saying it out loud felt very different. It felt hard. Really, really hard. It might sound silly, but saying “thank you” to my sagging belly, to my sagging breasts, just brought me to tears. So I kept saying it. I would look in the mirror at my body, and instead of saying, “I hate you” I would say, “thank you for holding my child” or “thank you for letting me nurse my son” and it started to extend to the rest of me, until I started saying “thank you for allowing me to bend down today a million times, knees. I’m so thankful you’re still working” and “thank you hands, and feet, and mouth, for letting me smile, and make cookies, and walk through the woods.” That was the mental part.

    The physical part, I started asking myself if I was eating because I was hungry. I put little mental notes (although sticky notes might work too) on foods I was likely to snack on when I was bored, or wanted a break, and I also started replacing them with snack foods that I enjoyed, but that were better for me. Crunchy things, like sugar snap peas, and baby carrots, and really, really good hummus. I drank more water, and less alcohol. I got out of the house more, for walks in the woods with my kid, and swimming around in the pool as much as I can. Mentally shifting from the idea of my body as a “failure” to the idea of it as something in process, as less of a thing, and more of an embodiment of my spirit–and how best to care for it as though it was holding something precious, and vital to my own well being and the well being of those around me.

    Also, I’d been living with chronic pain for about ten years, and decided, finally (after a bit of a physical meltdown that left me without control of my body) that it was time to take care of myself, not just in an emotional sense, but in a physical way. It has helped to imagine how I would treat my body, my being, if it weren’t mine, because like you, I have no problem seeing the worth and beauty in other women, but when it comes to myself, the negative self-talk, and the relegation of my own needs (to the point of unimportance) is a bad habit that’s hard to break.

    One thing that has emerged out of the changes in the way I think and act on my own behalf, is this sense of selfishness and guilt that I have had to reconcile with my role as a mother. But I find that when I take care of myself, which includes making time to be away from my children and nurture my self in an autonomous way, makes me better able to bring positivity to my family. Giving myself space and time and care have allowed me to deal with the stress of toddlerhood and the daily responsibility of being primary caregiver most days with more ease and laughter. Because I’m able to get some distance from the here and now of being at home, I can see the bigger picture a little more clearly.

    This kind of distancing from my experience, physically and mentally (looking at myself, my life, my body, from a distance, and making decisions outside of my experience, as though I were deciding how to care for someone I loved) have allowed me to quiet the “I hate you” voice that I’ve spent years reinforcing. It takes a conscious creation of new habits to shut down the “do you last” mentality and turn on the “I care about you too” state of mind.

    Thank you for talking about this.

  53. allison.stringham says

    I’ve blogged about this in the last 6mths and thought you might like the read:
    http://behindourscenes.blogspot.ca/2012/03/weighty-discussions.html
    http://behindourscenes.blogspot.ca/2012/04/mind-body-spirit.html
    http://behindourscenes.blogspot.ca/2012/05/bikram-kicks-my-butt.html

    I don’t work out too much outside of the house but I have found a few good dvds that I actually like (Jillian Michaels Frontside and Backside for beginners) and I’m a huge fan of momsintofitness.com Great workouts for moms because they’re fast, 30-45mins a day is all I do, some days I just take the kids for a walk and count that as my workout. It’s not all about losing the weight but since March I’ve lost almost 15lbs without once going to the gym. I’ve just started going to Bikram yoga again in the evening after my kids go to bed, and I find that not only do I love/hate it, but I get a really nice amount of quiet time all to myself and I sleep amazing after. I think for some reason I hit a wall where I thought it was so hard to fit anything in just for me- besides binging on ice cream while sitting on the couch watching The Bachelor/Bachelorette. I feel way better about myself as a whole person now that I’m taking a bit of time to actually do something proactive for myself instead of just constantly telling myself that I’m not measuring up in whatever area. I’m putting in consistent effort to be a healthier person now and my kids are benefiting from it for sure. They even know that in the morning when their breakfast time is over, Mommy works out, so they go play nicely- most of the time- some of the time I end up with a monkey on my back while I do some push ups, or a spotter when I’m lifting weights, but it’s fun for them and I hope that they remember even though I was busy with all their stuff, I took time for me too. I also don’t ever want to be the mom that looks at her kids and says “you ruined my body, after I had you it was all down hill”, because I have heard people say it and those kids will carry that weight with them forever.

  54. aeahobbs says

    I didn’t have time to read ALL the responses, but wanted to tell you about two books I just ordered from Amazon. They are called “Run Like a Mother” and “Train like a Mother”. These two books are based on a website (runlikeamother.com). They also have a Facebook page. I didn’t do any of the races, but the idea of just running even 20 minutes a day has helped me get the exercise into my routine. Sometimes, I just walk for 20 minutes and even that helps. This is not just necessary for my body, but also for my mood. I feel like a better mother when I can exercise.

    I will say that the act of exercising and taking some control over my body has increased my love for my body. It helps when you feel good about how your body looks, even if you are not as slim/muscular as you were in high school.

    This is a great article. Thanks for high-lighting something we all live with everyday.

  55. Laini says

    April, you brave and beautiful woman! I am very passionate about all this and also cringe when I think of my 3 daughters having negative self-talk about their bodies. I’ve been on a mission to gather all the best resources and develop it into a presentation for schools here in Australia. I have some big ideas (maybe dreams) about igniting change and shifting the focus. I’d be happy to pass on a TON of resources for you and your readers if you would like. I’m in the process of organising them so it’s not quite ready yet.

    There IS one particular book I HIGHLY recommend you read. It’s amazing. THINK by Lisa Bloom.

    There is healing in hearing other’s stories. I’m reading a book called ‘The bigger the better the tighter the sweater’ at the moment. It’s a funny collection of anecdotal essays from women with all types of body shapes and sizes. It makes you realise we’re all in this together.

    I love what you do April. And again, I have so many wonderful resources about how to teach our girls (and ourselves) to put things in perspective. Far too many to list here. I’m happy to share.

    Laini Oldfield from Aus.

    • April Perry says

      Laini, it’s so great to hear from you! SO glad we had the chance to meet at the Gold Coast Retreat! Yes, please send me your materials. I would love to see what you’ve put together, and I’m so excited that this is a project you’re working on. You are incredible.

  56. says

    April,

    Thank you so much for your honesty and openness. It’s so important for us to share with each other, to find solace and work together to find solutions.

    I am a person who has always loved people of all sizes and didn’t really worry much when I started to pack on the pounds, because my wonderful husband of 20 years loves me unconditionally, and even loves my body unconditionally.

    However, since both my parents had type2 diabetes, and because my body began to hurt me every day, I decided finally, to do something about it. My Uncle in NC, had found some products that worked extremely well for him, and so my Mom and I tried them.

    That was almost a year ago. Since then, I have gone from a size 14 to a size 6. I lost 33 lbs. and 7″ off my waist. I look great, which is of course a real boost for me, but more importantly to me, I don’t hurt every day from joint aches. I don’t need a nap every afternoon from fatigue, and I have so much energy for my life, that I am getting the weight of all those “someday projects” off of my to-do list.

    My Uncle has been taken off all his medications for heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

    My Mother lost 38 lbs. and 9″ off her waist. She has been taken off both her diabetes meds, that she’d been on for 17 years.

    My Step-dad lost 35 lbs. in only 3 months. He looks like a different person.

    My Aunt lost 31 lbs. and has been taken off one of her diabetes medications, and had the other dose lowered.

    Two of my cousins also have lost over 30 lbs. each.

    I started a blog so I could show people the Before & After photos of us here:

    http://myshrinkingfamily.blogspot.com/

    April, I would love to share this with you, so if you contact me, I will get you some to you.

  57. Patty says

    I have two thoughts to share. The first is how to fit in exercise (and I also struggle with this greatly!) – I try to walk or bike to my errands whenever possible. I know that living in a very small town makes this a reality for me that it may not be for others, but it really makes my day to load my groceries in the back of the bike trailer. My second thought is in regard to what we teach our children. I am very concerned about what goes into our food. We have taught our kids that there are many food additives and chemicals that are not needed and can even be harmful to people. If you choose simple, basic foods you will almost always be healthier for it. Then body weight will balance itself out. This means that I am not extremely thin or heavy – just smack in the middle where my body likes to be. The same with my family. One day my oldest daughter wanted to have a tea party with my husband using a new tea set. He checked it out online and the manufacturer was known to use lead based paints – so he said it was for pretend tea. She called me at work quite upset and I remember telling her to be mad at the companies that don’t care about poisoning us just because it is cheaper for them, not at her father who is trying to keep her healthy. It is hard at first to get past those advertisers, but now she happily asks if a food is ‘healthy’ and is so accustomed to the possibility that it may not be that she doesn’t even seem to mind a ‘no’ answer. I am by no means always perfect about this (sometimes food/time/sanity trump), but I try hard and I think it will pay off.

    • April Perry says

      I’ve thought about this over the past couple of days, and I just love how you’re teaching your children about being more healthy. It’s not easy, but it’s so important. Thanks so much for your example!

  58. says

    Sparkpeople! It has a menu option or not. It has support boards, a place to blog, a workout tracker and every imaginable kind of activity, calorie counter, calorie burning activity and group. Groups are fun and awesome. We ought to start a Power of MOMS group there!

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