Can you be a body positive mum and still want to change yourself?

Alice | Letters to my DaughterBlog, Feminism & Gender Issues, Parenting & Family, Personal, Role Models, Support & Mental Health2 Comments

Can you be a body positive mum and still want to change yourself? - Letters to my Daughter

Body positivity is a big thing right now, and it’s wonderful to see. Being a body positive mum is so important to me because I want to set a good example for Dee. I don’t want her to grow up to be uncomfortable in her own skin and striving for other people’s beauty standards. Because she is a beautiful soul and always will be, no matter what the wrapping looks like.

Having said that…. At the end of our summer holiday where I’d eaten whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and done lots of lying around doing nothing, I had a niggle of unhappiness with my appearance.

Crap. So much for body positivity.

So I was conflicted and confused. Could I really claim to be body positive when I was feeling negative about my own body?

But at the same time, I’d been feeling such a change in the last couple of months when I’d stepped up my exercise game. I’d been running and doing boxercise and yoga classes on top of my weekly aerial hoop class. I’d been getting stronger which made me feel good and reduced my aches and pains. It had helped with my mental health too, and yes, it had made me look stronger, and I liked it.

Now I saw a hint of floppy, weak me looking back in the mirror. I felt my joints aching, and my mental health wobbling despite two weeks of r&r, and I was upset at the work that was undone. I didn’t look or feel like myself and it was unsettling.

So I wanted to do something about it and, (please don’t shoot me) part of that was losing the holiday weight.

Not the ‘w’ word?!

I happened to come across Blinkist while I was away and listened to the blinks on “Why we get fat” by Gary Taubes, which talked about how cutting down carbs can help you manage your weight. So I thought, screw this, I’m NOT completely happy with my body right now, so I’m going to do something about it.

And I am.

It’s nothing serious. I’ve not spent loads of money, I’ve not had any scalpels or needles near me, I haven’t eaten anything that I wouldn’t normally eat. I’ve just eaten less of some things.

I haven’t eaten any bread or pasta, or snacked on crisps and crackers. I’ve banned sweets and treats during the week and not gone crazy at the weekends. I went to a baby shower and had some pastry and cake, which filled me up so I had a small dinner. I had really bad PMS this week and felt like crap so I bought myself a custard slice and enjoyed the hell out of it!

But weirdly enough, I’m really enjoying paying attention to what I eat. I choose food more mindfully, paying attention what I really want rather than what I think I want, and I enjoy it more. The changes I’ve made are making me feel positive and proud, and surely that’s part of what body positivity is about?

What does body positivity even mean? Have I got it wrong?

I’m not sure being body positive means the same thing to everyone. Or maybe it does, and I’ve just got it wrong, and what I’m really exploring is self love?

For me, it means feeling positive about myself inside and out. Acknowledging when and why I’m not feeling positive and taking reasonable steps to get back to that place. Be that therapy, yoga, or eating more mindfully.

As mums, we give so much of ourselves to others that we can easily put ourselves at the bottom of the list. But to set a good example to our children, we need to take some time to love ourselves too. It’s not always easy, but here are some things that have helped me to be a body positive mum…

  1. Get a body positive social media feed

You’re reading this, so I’m guessing you’re not a stranger to social media. We all know that most of what we see is orchestrated, and those perfect photos are one of 40 other attempts that looked awful. But it’s hard not to compare when those perfect images are relentless.

There are so many wonderful accounts to follow that have such great, powerful messages if you are on a body positivity quest. Put these at the top of your feed, and you’ll get the right kind of boost every time you check your insta.

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Task!

Une publication partagée par I Weigh (@i_weigh) le

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

If culture shifted to a place where the youth could freely be themselves without fear of being ostracized, think of what that would mean for the way we view our own body image and self worth. Remember back to the time in our lives when we were sexually maturing, and imagine what it would’ve meant for us if we didn’t feel ashamed of the changes our body/self was going through, and we could be confident in the person we are becoming, without the fear of not being good enough in society’s eyes. By having a young person modify themselves to fit into a cultural standard at such a confusing time in their life, puts people into a position to be less accepting of themselves. I hope to create movement towards a new trend for the next generations, so that we won’t have any reason to feel ashamed of who we are as we mature through life. I beat myself up for not feeling good enough as a young girl(for things that shouldn’t of mattered), and I hope by spreading awareness of my own experience, I can help others prevent feeling like they have to hold themselves back from who they want to be/ who they are.💙Do what you want, and do what feels right for you. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about who you are and the decisions you make. You are you, and being you is enough. I love you.💙#havenofear #beyou #iloveyou #namaste #gratitude #selflove #bodypositive #acceptance #weareone

Une publication partagée par Morgan Mikenas (@i_am_morgie) le

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Work can be play when you’re both bananas

Une publication partagée par She’s All Fat (@shesallfatpod) le

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

M O S Q U E K I T C H E N ♥️ Also #HappyFat is me.

Une publication partagée par Sofie Hagen (@sofiehagendk) le

What are your favourite body positive Instagram accounts?

  1. Respect your body – whatever that looks like for you.

Maybe it’s spending some time looking in the mirror with a new perspective and celebrating what you see. Maybe it’s joining that salsa class and letting it move the way you’ve always wanted to. Perhaps it’s paying more attention to what you put in to your body and eating more mindfully to feel more in control. Or maybe it’s throwing out the scales and just paying attention to how you feel… Maybe it’s a combination of things.

Deep down, we all know what we need to do and how far we need to go. We don’t all have to be a certain size to love and respect our bodies.

Think about your child. What would you say to them if they were unhappy with their body for whatever reason? Say that to yourself.

As a mum, your body is so special. It might have carried and grown your child, it might have fed them, it might have been broken in the process of caring for them, and it may be the place where they feel most safe.

See your body through the eyes of your child and feel that love.

  1. Surround yourself with body positive friends

I wear make up for special occasions…if I can be bothered. It’s not something that matters to me much, and the extra 10 minutes in bed makes me feel better than the make up would each day. That’s just me, I respect people that do put make up on every day because they love it too.

But I find, when I hang out with makeup fanatic friends, and I can’t join in with the conversations about posh eyeliner (I get mine from the supermarket and it lasts for years!) I can start to feel… lacking.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to spend time with those friends at all, I love them dearly, but I need to balance it out with some make up free friends who are just as clueless about contouring.

Another example… When I first wanted to stop shaving my armpits, I was too scared of what people would say. But then I met a friend who had stopped shaving hers and she was rocking it. And then another friend stopped for a bit and was so relaxed and happy, and it made me see how ‘fine’ it was.

No one was bothered. It gave me the confidence to do it, and I haven’t looked back.

Simply put, seeing other people being positive about their bodies shows us how to do it ourselves.

Who do you know that seems really comfortable in their own skin, and what can you learn from them?

  1. Expand your horizons and connect with people who aren’t like you

You’re not the centre of the universe. Yes, I know you know that, but when we get caught up in our own heads, we can start acting like it.

Doing the same things and seeing the same people week in, week out doesn’t do a lot to change things up and it can give us quite a narrow view of the world.

I’m a textbook introvert, so I’m not saying I go out challenging my comfort zone every week, but I do make a conscious effort to seek out and listen to the stories of people who aren’t ‘like me’ (as in straight, white, middle class cis female). Books by women of colour, personal stories of refugees, stand up comedy by disabled people, TED Talks by women from ‘minority groups’, campaigns by underprivileged young people, and LGBTQ+ celebrations.

All these things expand my view of the world and help keep things in perspective. They make me appreciate and respect the power of the human body and mind. They help to demonstrate how much unnecessary weight our society puts on aesthetics, when at our core we are all human and all worthy and wonderful.

If your world lacks diversity, there’s plenty out there waiting for you. Show your child how to be a citizen of the world and respect minds more than bodies, and see how you feel about yourself then.

So what’s the answer? Can you be a body positive mum and still want to change yourself?

Body positivity, self love… whatever I’m talking about here, I’m not an expert. I’m watching what I eat but I don’t weigh myself with scales. I weigh my feelings and my health and my contributions to the world. I’m not perfect, but I’m happy with what I am right now.

If it’s not ok to want to change yourself, then maybe I’m not body positive. But I won’t accept the pain and mental instability that comes with my post-holiday body just to be part of the crew. But I’m pretty sure the body positive community wouldn’t kick me out for that either.

We’re all changing all the time, it comes with being human. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to direct that change. The difficulty comes with being aware of why you want to change and how you go about it.

I can’t tell you the right reasons, because they’re different for us all. But as mums, we can be mindful of the messages we are sending to our children. We can use that as a barometer to gauge whether those reasons are really important or not.

What are your thoughts on body positivity? Have you had any conflicting feelings and how did you manage them? How to you try to promote body positivity to your children?

We all want to set a good example for our children, but what happens when we have a good reason to make a change? Can you be a body positive mum and still want to change yourself?  - Letters to my Daughter

2 Comments on “Can you be a body positive mum and still want to change yourself?”

  1. I love this!!! I totally get what you mean. I’ve never had a very healthy self-image but have tried really hard to love my mum body. But there is still a nagging part of me that wants to go out for that run, that wants to feel stronger and a little less wobbly. I don’t stop myself eating things and don’t weigh myself, but can be very strict with myself about portion size, so I can be happy with just a bite of a treat if I’m feeling the need to lose a bit of weight.
    I would like to think I am body positive as I don’t really worry about how I look too much (can’t be bothered with fashion or make up!!) but sometimes I have to keep that little nagging voice inside a bit quieter!

    1. Thanks Jo! It’s a very fine and wobbly line isn’t it, between wanting to love and respect your body, but also wanting to take care of it – and looks different to everyone. I think as long as we’re true to ourselves we won’t go far wrong. x

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