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Just Me (Anonymous)

June 2, 2011

I’ve been pregnant twice and have a fantastic “5 and 3/4 year old” daughter. I’m 38, 5’2″, and 140 pounds, which puts me right at the beginning of the overweight BMI category [per World Health Organization]. With my ribcage measuring at 30″ and bust at 39″, my bra size is a preposterous 30-I, or 32-H, or 34-G. How much do breasts weigh anyway?

Alongside many survivors of child sexual abuse and neglect I have struggled with disordered eating, body dysmorphia, toxic self-criticism and suicide attempts. I recently realized that perhaps one of the reasons I feel so shocked and dismayed when I catch an unexpected glance of myself in the mirror is that I am looking out with the eyes of a child and looking back as a media-hazed critic aware of the most minute of flaws.

After a flux throughout early adulthood stabilizing my health and weight I arrived pre-pregnancy at 115 pounds quite consciously, still aware of the imperfections of pendulous breasts and compulsively squeezing into jeans that were a size too small, even though I was smaller than most Americans. I breastfed for 2.5 years and happily, sanely, got down to 125 pounds at 3 years postpartum. Then I started taking a beta-blocker medication to reduce PTSD symptoms and my weight went straight up to 140+. I’ve tried for a year balancing calories in and out after quitting the meds to get the weight to drop, but it really isn’t going anywhere despite my ongoing concerted effort! My best hope is to keep it from going up since I’m teetering on the edge of overweight and my mother is obese with diabetes.

I have searched the web for photographs of actual women my age and size in their “natural” state to help me get a grip on body image anxieties, but I’m sure to no surprise, found very VERY few, even though my body type seems to be pretty common. I did find a lot of porn, some celebrations of anorexia, airbrushed and photo-shopped celebrities, and this website. I also found an energetic youTube video from a 18 years younger woman who is my size and happy as a clam, since she just lost 30 pounds to get there.

For my photograph, I choose to use a pose and location that signified feeling good in my body, which I think should be a true and heavily weighted measure of health. I also wanted to include as many of my body parts as possible, to wander away from the fragmented dissociation that is typical with body dysmorphia and celebrate all of the parts that make me. I also wanted to include my face/head, especially after viewing many youTube documentations of weightloss that cut the subject off at the neck. Ironically, as I watched those headless weigh-ins and self-assessments, my appreciation for each woman was unbounded. If I could feel limitless love for the body of a headless stranger, no matter her size, couldn’t I feel it for myself?

Pregnancy changes: My feet increased by 1/2 a size. My hips spread out and added several inches in that area. My breast cup has increased several sizes. If I gain weight now, it is likely to go into my lovely mummy tummy.

I am very happy to participate in this website and hope that many more women do, so that finding reflective non-sexualized images is not a struggle for others. My husband wants to know, is there a “Shape of a Father” website?

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19 Responses to “Just Me (Anonymous)”

  1. amber Says:
    June 2nd, 2011 at 7:35 am

    gorgeous!

  2. Dee Says:
    June 2nd, 2011 at 9:05 am

    You are very beautiful. Like seriously. Look at this picture of yourself. It’s a sexy, natural, healthy-looking mother. This body has endured a lot, but it still looks great. I also wanna say, I Hate Medication That Makes You Gain Weight! What a stupid side effect! (Unless you’re looking to gain weight, course). Andd, keep up the good with watching calories. I know it’s hard. Exercise is always good, too. But as long as you feel happy and healthy in your body, the number on the scale doesn’t really matter. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Bryana Says:
    June 2nd, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Your body is to die for!!!
    It looks absolutely beautiful and perfect!
    I can not put into words the beauty I see looking at this picture. All I can say is, continue searching for your happy self. Love yourself, and your body. It is beautiful… very very beautiful!

  4. Stacy Says:
    June 2nd, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Wow! Beautiful! You have amazing amazing breasts!

  5. proudmama Says:
    June 2nd, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Beautiful picture! You seem have a very lovely shape.

    I think it’s ridiculous to think that 140 is borderline overweight. I believe it’s all in how and where you carry the weight. People often refer to me as “tiny” but I’m just an inch or so taller than you and my weight fluctuates between 135-140 these days. Sure I’d like to go back to my pre-pregnancy 125-130 but as I’m in my 30′s as well, I find it harder to achieve than when I was a few years younger. You can do a search under “proudmama” if you want to see my imperfect body that created perfection. I’ve come to embrace my shorter and curvier frame, hopefully you can do the same.:)

  6. David Says:
    June 2nd, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Sorry no shape of the Father web site. maybe he should start it?? Your pose is beauitful.

  7. Just Me Says:
    June 2nd, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Wow! I am truly overwhelmed by the positivity of these comments :)

    >>Trigger warning re: following content for sensitive readers<<

    At my nearly adult height and 100 pounds at age 15, the lasting message from the serial rapist who mutilated my childhood was that if I didn't get rid of the slightly rounded flesh that was becoming my tummy I would no longer be attractive in any way. Unfortunately I was raised in a neglectful household by Cosmopolitan and Vogue the way today's children learn about life from television and his message went straight to my heart.

    I had also already been engaged in an exploitative modeling situation for several years and had been chronically undernourished for my entire life. While I have mostly recovered from the unconscious anorexic habits of the past- I still find the thinking-style popping up now and then. I am in treatment for PTSD and so very much want to live and love my life NOW!

    One of my favorite "media-pieces" on self-love for everyone is by California actress/comedienne/activist Joy Nash, and it includes some great tips for turning your back on behaviors that promote low self-esteem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUTJQIBI1oA

  8. Jenna Says:
    June 2nd, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    What an incredible beauty you are! Your body is beyond gorgeous & I am so thankful that you shared your story. I hope you feel that love for yourself and your beautiful body. You’re one seriously yummy mommy. :)

  9. Kayla Says:
    June 2nd, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Haha! Thats funny about theshapeofafather website. Since my husband gained as much weight as I did during “our” pregnancy and went through almost as much emotional stress, i’ll bet he is wondering the same thing.

    What a beautifully written story from a very beautiful woman!

  10. Jess Says:
    June 3rd, 2011 at 5:07 am

    you look absolutley beautiful…you dont give yourself enough credits! i have breast implants and mine flop to the sides when i lay like that and your natural ones look 100 times better and perkier than mine…GOOD FOR YOU your hot! time to start loving yourself

  11. Mina Says:
    June 3rd, 2011 at 8:26 am

    You impress me with your post, photo and your above comment. Good for you!

  12. GenaBoBena Says:
    June 3rd, 2011 at 10:03 am

    We really are our own worst critics. We analyze every part of ourselves with the most harsh standards. I really appreciate your honesty & the guts to share your photo. I agree with all the other woman, you are beautiful. XOXO

  13. Shelly Says:
    June 3rd, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    PERFECT!

  14. Jessica Says:
    June 4th, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Wow, beautiful! Both your story and your picture… I feel I can easily relate to you. I’m 5’4, very petite figure but gigantic 34G breasts while nursing. I have two wonderful kids but I feel so depressed when looking at my body. They are completely worth it to me… but it’s still hard.

  15. Adrian Says:
    June 5th, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Congratulations on confronting your anxieties in such a positive way – I think you’re a great role model. Your photo is a work of art and you look stunning!

  16. Brook Says:
    June 7th, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Beautiful!!

  17. Just Me Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 8:47 am

    We all deserve to love the bodies that we are in and to be loved for being our natural selves. Body dysmorphia is not a healthy state, but in some demographics (such as women struggling to adapt to post-pregnancy changes) it can seem like the norm and obscure the need for help: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/body-dysmorphic-disorder/DS00559. Untreated postpartum depression can exacerbate the intensity of self-criticism associated with body dysmorphia. Even if someone doesn’t fully meet the criteria for a diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder, they can be experiencing toxic levels of negative self-assessment which can be helped with appropriate treatments: http://emdr.nku.edu/emdr3_subject.php?subject=Body%20Dysmorphic%20Disorder

    On the exercise/weight loss front: I have regularly exercised throughout the postpartum period including 15-30 minute abdominal sessions 3-5 times a week, daily walking, rigorous cycling 3 times a week, yoga 5 times a week or more, and daily aerobics of at least 10 minutes. My main fitness targets are increased stamina, flexibility, and stress reduction. After almost 6 years of regular abdominal workouts, my abs still appear as they did at about 5 months pregnant. I even thought I was pregnant a few months ago. Maybe ab separation is the culprit accompanied by contraindicated exercises- but I’m not stressing on it :)

    My life before parenting was extremely active and included 30 mile bike rides weekly, regular 15 mile strenuous hikes with heavy packs while performing volunteer back country trail work, and near constant activity between working 2-3 jobs, volunteering in the community in several organizations, renovating/maintaining our old farmhouse by hand, and dancing my butt off whenever I could. I’ve read that women who have lower BMIs prior to pregnancy are more likely to feel dissatisfied with the physical postpartum changes that may come along with the miraculous package that hopefully changes our lives for the better. That may explain why some of us seem “crazy” to not be happy with our bodies that carry 10-20 extra pounds, when others are struggling to shed 70 or 100.

    The love shared through this website is amazing and has been very healing for me. My wish is that anyone who feels like they don’t want to socialize because of how they look or who experiences heartbreak and pain when they see themselves in their natural state seek professional help, even if it is just for an evaluation. You are too precious to leave the heartless media in charge of deciding if you are good enough for anything. You are exactly the parent your child needs. You deserve to love yourself right now, without changing a thing.

  18. Amanda Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 9:20 am

    You are absolutely stunning. Stay strong Mama, you’re gorgeous!

  19. luckychrm Says:
    June 16th, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Today is our daughter’s 6th birthday. I recall lovingly how purposeful and luxuriant my body felt whilst she was growing inside.

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