Can I love my fat body?

It’s midnight and I’m hooked up to the breast pump. I turn on the TV to keep me awake, too exhausted to load up Netflix. Three commercials in a row target my body.

Lose weight fast. Look good in a bathing suit. Feel good about yourself.

I look down at my stomach rolls, the extra heft of my thighs, the way my calves bulge with fat and I’m instantly disgusted and angry.

I should not have gained so much weight during this pregnancy.

I should not have banked on pumping to take off the weight.

I should have done better.

I grab my phone and google the Keto diet, price the latest Weight Watchers program and research what Sono Bello does to resculpt your body. I download two new food tracking apps, open a note file and make myself a workout schedule.

Time to get serious again.

No more eating carbs or sugar.

No more fruit. 

Stop being fat and lazy.

You are gross.

Maybe you need weight loss surgery so you can’t enjoy food anymore. That will teach you. 

You should punish yourself for being weak.

You’re disgusting.  

You don’t deserve anything good until you get the weight off.

I say all this to myself as I’m pumping milk for my sweet nephew who, as a surrogate, I successfully grew and birthed only a few short months ago.

I say all this to myself as I tell my daughter to love her body and to stop comparing herself to others.

I say all this to myself…and I believe it.

All of it.

For a moment, the hate for my body is so intense I wish I could rip the fleshy fat off with my bare hands. It would be worth it to not look and feel like this.

I go to sleep with all the plans and all the hate.

When I wake up the anger has faded, but the disgust lingers around me like a sunburn. I shower and step on the scale. I know the number, but it hits me like a bullet between my eyes and I stagger away from it. The towel, the one that doesn’t quite fit around me anymore, falls to the floor.

This is the heaviest I’ve been in my life.

The anger prickles, goosebumps down my arms and legs, focusing daggers at my swollen middle.

My core.

The center of my being.

The place I grew three babies.

The place of my deepest breath.

I hate it.

My daughter walks in and I focus all my energy on taking air deep inside and holding it. I stand, naked, shaking slightly, and take slow, gut-filling breaths in as she talks to me about the dream she had. She’s in her underwear and I’m keenly aware of the curves of her body and my emotions are complicated and ugly.

A vile snake built of guilt and shame slithers around me and stings my skin all over.

My daughter keeps talking. I can’t hear her, but I see the light in her eyes and the way she lounges on my bed. Her beauty is an undeniable force. I continue to stare at her until she is in focus and I can hear the words she is saying. I get lost in her dreams and her voice until everything else fades away.

It’s been several weeks and the sting of that hate still remains. To fight back, I found several body-positive Instagram accounts to follow. I look at their images daily; bikini-clad on a bicycle, doing yard work in cute shorts, eating food and kissing their spouses. I read their words and I want to believe.

Is it possible to love me at this weight? Do they believe what they are writing? Are they happy?

In two days, I leave for a trip with my husband to Paris. Instead of joy, this is what I’m thinking: “I’m the stereotypical fat American,” “what can I wear to not stand out” and “I wish I had more time to lose weight.”

I want to be excited, but this fat on my body feels like it’s holding me back.

It’s all I can see.

It’s all I can focus on.

Weight issues are complicated. It’s not simply a matter of calories in and calories out. I put on this weight because I was pregnant, yes, but also because I had anxiety about being a surrogate. I was scared because my sister and brother-in-law, the beautiful people I grew the baby for, had lost my sweet niece and we were all still grieving. I gained the weight because I had a bleed the first time I went to the gym after the embryo transfer and I convinced myself I’d lost the baby because I was vain and didn’t want to gain weight. I tried water aerobics but had a panic attack because I feared the water would suddenly be filled with blood and it would all be my fault. I ate because I wanted the baby to grow big and healthy and I was terrified all the time I’d do something wrong.

I gained this weight by eating calories, yes, but it’s more than that.

It’s all mixed up with emotions and the history of my body. It’s so much more than food.

Yes, I’m overweight. Yes, it’s not healthy.

But this is also the truth: This 42-year-old fat body grew a baby and birthed it. This 42-year-old fat body produced nearly 5,000 ounces of milk. This 42-year-old fat body cleaned up a very messy garage, took several loads to the dump, cleaned out every closet in the house, cleared a year worth of weeds away, chopped down a tree and daily drives her kids to all their activities.

Even with the extra weight, this body is doing all the things I love.

Isn’t that worth something?

Yes, I want to lose weight and be stronger. I want to feel better in my clothes and not be as winded when I run up the stairs. I want to chase after my little nephew when he starts running around. I want to do everything I can to reduce my risk of heart disease and injury.

But is it OK to love this fat body right now?

Can I?

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Exposed by my children for what I really look like

Flipping through the pictures on my phone, I see it.

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My first reaction is shock. Who took this hideous picture of me?

Self-loathing and disgust swell up and threaten to bring me to tears.

Just as I am about to hit delete, my boy walks in the room.

“Do you know anything about this picture?” I ask him.

I turn the screen so he can see it. He smiles huge.

“I took that of you in Tahoe,” he says. “You looked so beautiful laying there. I couldn’t help it mom.”

“You need to ask me before using my phone to take pictures,” I say.

“I know,” he says. “But mom, seriously, look how pretty you look?”

I look at the picture again and try to see what he sees.

My daughter walks over and takes a look.

“That could be a postcard mom,” she says smiling. “You’re so beautiful. I love it.”

I take a deep breath.

This is exactly what I needed.

My default mode is to see and focus on the flaws and imperfections. I’m starting to see a bit more.

I still see my dimply, fat thighs.

I also see a mom collapsed on the shore that just explored the lake for hours with her children.

I still see chubby arms.

I also see the arms of a mom that just helped her kids across the rocks and hot sand so their feet wouldn’t hurt.

I still see a fat woman wearing a black dress bathing suit to try to hide her weight issue.

I also see an adventurous mom that loves her children something fierce.

Like many women, I have struggled with my weight most of my life. It’s not something that will ever go away for me. I don’t have a naturally slim body. Never have.

Right now I’m the heaviest I’ve been in 10 years. Yet…

I have not let my weight stop me this time. I am wearing tank tops, sundresses and bathing suits in public. I’m running around playing with my kids this summer and I sometimes even feel attractive.

Yes. You heard me.

“I feel pretty. Oh so pretty. I feel pretty, and witty and bright.”

Well…not exactly. But something like that.

Is it because I’m getting older? Is it that I have more to worry about than just how I look? Or maybe it’s because my kids look at me with such adoring eyes.

Really, it doesn’t matter.

I don’t hate my body anymore.

That’s huge for me to admit and hard to even wrap my mind around.

I’m not giving up on exercising and getting healthy. Those are things I will continue to strive for because I want to be around awhile.

Right now though, I just want to love my body where it is. I want it to be OK to see myself the way my kids do.

Thank you kids.

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* Here is another “secret” picture the kids took of me on our day trip to the beach.