Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank you, my pooch.

Having a baby changes everything:
  • I still haven't slept for more than 5 hours straight
  • I can't manage to watch TV without doing 3 other things at the same time
  • my husband and I communicate more via text and IM than live
  • and now I have a pooch.
Prior to my pregnancy my DNA had provided me a cultural privilege gifting me a body type that fit in with the thin ideal. I never dieted and always did physical activity for fun or challenge and not to change my shape. My way included considering what my body needed and I trusted my body’s mechanism to maintain its heath. I never felt tempted to diet or exercise to change my shape...until the birth of my daughter.

The first few days after giving birth, I had a floppy belly and it freaked me out. I still had a pregnant-like stomach only now it was more like a birthday balloon skimming the floor the day after. A few weeks later it transitioned into a more common pooch. Although common I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb.

Giving birth gifted me a change to my shape that looked different from that thin ideal. Faced with the difference as well as the social pressure to get back to my pre-pregnancy shape exposed my brain to different messages. Maybe it is time to start eating less? Or exercising more? Maybe my intuitive eating approach is not going to work for me now? These thoughts led to new experiences including taking way too long at the yogurt section at the grocery store (real yogurt or the low calorie saw dust version?) and sucked into the check out line’s diet messages on the magazine covers. I noticed my brain being seduced by the diet culture which was really me being seduced to an old life that was tamer, balanced, and filled with abundant self care.

Getting into this trap took my attention away from something important: this droopy sagging stomach was the vessel that created the most amazing human I have ever met. It protected my daughter for 40 weeks and looked over as she went from a few cells to a person with a brain, heart, and ovaries with my future grandchildren safely inside. It is truly a reminder of my body’s power.

I feel lucky I noticed my negative self talk before I started dieting and stopped trusting my body. This awareness allowed me to start reframing the negative body image approach to something more accurate.

Old self talk: Stomach, you look so way I am getting into a bikini...can others notice the roll over my pants...why? why?

New self talk: Thank you my pooch. You have given me the greatest gift and please know you did a wonderful job in holding her during her creation. Every time I notice you, I am reminded of my gratitude.


thegreatkitts said...

Wow! I didn't know you had never had an eating disorder or problem with dieting. Reading this kinda makes me cynical of the work I did with you. Nonetheless, I think I owe you a ton of credit for helping me get my brain in a better space about food and self image. It *is* really hard to stop thinking about dieting and other measures when you know you don't live up to your and other people's ideals. Even if I were thin, all of my clothes would still label me as large... It's natural to want to be physically attractive, and it's hard to change what you think is physically attractive. America is a "youth culture" and adult features don't always meet the mark. So, with your baby bearing belly skin (that will probably still be flatter and toner than anything I'll ever have) you might have to remember that showing that in a bikini and being confident that you are beautiful, no-matter-what, means that you'll be helping other people to love themselves as well. (Great post!)

Julie Duffy Dillon said...

Thegreatkitts--Thanks for your post and reflection. I am glad our work together was helpful for you. I am sad to read you feel a bit cynical learning that my brain has negative messages sometimes too. The thing about it is that I live in the same world as you and I hear the same messages promoting the thin ideal. I feel lucky that I have never been on a diet or acted on these messages. But to promote an idea that my brain has never experienced negative body image is like saying I don't put my pants on one leg at a time: it would be like I was super human. Nope. I am just like everyone else! I hope this helps clarify some things. Take care, J

thegreatkitts said...

I think you've misunderstood me, and I apologize for not better explaining what I meant. I'm not cynical towards you having the same messages in your head towards negative social body image. I am a little cynical that you have preached Intuitive Eating without ever having the strain of being fat, flabby or even concerned that you'll gain weight. If this has been correct and you haven't needed to watch your weight all your life, until your baby flab, then it's makes it really hard to believe somebody who doesn't actually know what it's like to struggle with this particular problem and all the issues that go along with it. I hope this clears up the confusion. :)

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr