My Body is a Wonderland

…or so John Mayer told me once, but some days it’s hard to remember.

Well, I did it. The thing I said I’d never do in front of my kids: I called myself fat and ugly.

For years, I struggled with how I felt about my appearance. Being picked on and called names as a child made me insecure about how I looked. As a kid and a teenager I was very skinny, and it wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that my body became more shapely. Then, as I got older, my body changed more as I gained some weight. I noticed my weight gain primarily went to my mid section and I sometimes got mistaken for being pregnant (that’s just the worst, isn’t it?). In my early thirties, I went through two pregnancies, which are basically a roller-coaster for your body. In the nearly six years since I became a mother, my weight has fluctuated. I like to think I’ve finally reached a point where I feel okay about the shape of my body. I can look in the mirror and think the woman staring back at me is beautiful, most days. And the rest of the time, I promised myself I’d fake it till I make it.

As I looked at myself in the mirror what caught my eye was not the pretty colours of either dress or the style of them; what grabbed my attention was my tummy.

That’s easier said than done. What brought me to this low point? What prompted me to speak so badly of myself in front of my kids? I was in my bedroom, trying on a couple of my dresses for a family wedding we’re attending in a couple of weeks. As I looked at myself in the mirror what caught my eye was not the pretty colours of either dress or the style of them; what grabbed my attention was my tummy. I may have shed some pounds since having my kids but I still have a small pouch, evidence of the two babies I grew in there. And while from that point of view I can think of my leftover bump as the beautiful place that lovingly carried each of my sweet children for nearly nine months, when it comes to dressing up for a special occasion, seeing that bump bothers me. Why must I focus on one tiny flaw?

I announced to my husband in front of my son and daughter that I thought I looked fat and ugly … and immediately, on top of feeling unattractive, I also felt like a terrible hypocrite.

It’s funny how when dressing in my regular clothes I feel good, but putting on a fancy dress makes me notice new imperfections. As I tried on those dresses, instead of feeling pretty, I just felt frumpy. I announced to my husband in front of my son and daughter that I thought I looked fat and ugly … and immediately, on top of feeling unattractive, I also felt like a terrible hypocrite. My daughter has especially been into wearing dresses recently and often tells me she thinks she only looks pretty in dresses. I always reassure her that she is beautiful no matter what she is wearing, and have been striving to teach her — and my son, for that matter — that beauty comes from within and is not just about how someone looks on the outside. Yet here I was, practicing the opposite of what I preach.

I want to show my kids that I embrace the body I have, and continue on the path of teaching them to love the body they are in.

After that moment of shame, I considered going out to buy something new to wear for this wedding, but after giving it some thought, I decided against it. I want to show my kids that I embrace the body I have, and continue on the path of teaching them to love the body they are in. I want my kids to learn that there is beauty in all of us, even in the imperfections, and that we should never be embarrassed about our how our bodies look. Their first lesson of positive body image will most likely come from home, and it is important for me and my husband to be mindful of how we perceive ourselves in front of our children.

I’ve got my outfit ready. When I put it on, I will look at myself in the mirror and embrace the beautiful body reflected in the mirror, flaws and all.

Jennifer Traynor

Jennifer Traynor

Jennifer Traynor is a mother of two kids living in the suburbs east of Toronto, Ontario. When she’s not working or spending time with her kids you can find her sitting in lotus pose on her yoga mat, sitting snuggled on the couch with her husband catching up on favourite shows or watching a movie or sitting with her laptop writing and editing her blog Mama @ Heart (www.mamaatheart.com). You can also like and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.