I never heard my mother complaining about her body. She never stood in front of a mirror picking herself apart. She never saw food as her enemy. She exercised because it felt good, not because she felt guilty about eating treats like ice cream and pizza. After her pregnancies, she stayed active, as she always had been, and allowed her body to change at it’s own natural pace. I have no doubt she had her moments of insecurity (as we all do), but they never consumed her thoughts enough for her to discuss them or dwell on them.
I am the eldest of three children. My mother had an unbelievably healthy relationship with her body, and with food and exercise. That healthy mentality was exemplified in her parenting, as she never taught her children to think too much about our appearances. Weight was never something I thought about. Food was never something I counted or associated with being “good” or “bad.” As a child, I was never conscious of the shape or size of my body. I ate when I was hungry, and my parents filled my life with a beautiful balance of healthy foods and fun treats. My brothers and I were always active, playing outside all summer and playing sports throughout the school year.
As I grew older, throughout my pre-teen and teen years, I lost touch with that mental and emotional freedom I had had as a child. I went through my many ups and downs with my body image. Now, as I grow into adulthood, I am slowly but surely beginning to find my balance. One of the greatest reasons I have been able to find my happy place is because of everything I have learned from my mother. In my mind, there are three crucial body-positivity guidelines that I have learned from my mom.
1. ALWAYS focus on the positive parts of your life. Life is about so much more than your body. At a time as beautiful as, for example, the birth of your child, the last thing you want to do is ruin your own happiness by focusing your energy away from your happy little baby and onto your lack of a flat tummy. Emotional health requires mental focus on whatever makes you smile.
2. It is more than okay to have insecurities, but do not let them consume you. Having insecurities does not make you weak. What makes you strong is how you react to them. My mother has been feeling that her body is changing a bit, and she occasionally wakes up feeling less than confident about her body. What sets her apart from most women I know is that she never dwells on those feelings of insecurity. She never allows those complaints about her body to grow and consume her. My mother gets up, puts on an outfit that she feels confident in, and moves on with her day. She doesn’t deprive herself of the food she wants, or think about calories when she heads off to her Pilates class. She never avoids going out or interacting with her friends. My mom feels her moments of insecurity, and then she lets them go and moves the hell on with her life.
3. Health and fitness are not mathematical equations. My mother is a healthy woman who has raised healthy children. She does not count calories, nor does she force herself to exercise a certain number of days per week. If she takes a day off, or eats pizza and ice cream, there is no punishment or restriction afterwards. My mother is proof that all you need to do to be healthy is listen to your body, eat healthy (but do not deprive yourself), and exercise simply because it feels good. Mental, emotional, and physical health are all connected, and you most likely won’t have all three if you are obsessively counting.