How do you feel about your body?
I went naked sunbathing the other day.
Now there is a way to start an article. Don't panic I have not got arrested for public indecency. I was solo at a cabin, on a hill, in the middle of nowhere in Scotland.
I put on suncream.
Why do you want to be reading this and forced to imagine my wobbly bottom surrounded by heather? Because it was an achievement for me, as is being this frank about my own body.
I have never been comfortable with my figure, prior to having children I have been unnecessarily unkind to my body and self. Struggled in my own skin. At times, I have felt so gratingly self-conscious, have wept in changing rooms amongst piles of brightly coloured clothes.
Body confidence is something I have never had.
Now I look back on the pre mummy size six pictures of me, with boobs that did not need industrial scaffolding, no sign of a stretchmark in sight and wish I had worn more miniskirts.
It was not vanity that drove my dislike, more self-doubt. It is hard to put it into words. I knew I wasn't fat but I just saw disappointment staring back at me in the mirror. I was not pretty enough, not good enough, those negative thoughts surrounded me until that was all I was and all I could see.
Don't let negative self image eat you up.
In my teenage years this persistent dissatisfaction with my body spurned an unhealthy relationship with food, although I don't think I realised it at the time. Nowadays I munch through three meals a day, plus the leftovers on my son's plate and a snickers for good measure. Then, I would get through the day on a diminutive salmon stir fry. I avoided dairy and gluten. It sounds healthy but it was not. Because of my negative thought processes, because of the reasons why I ate what I ate...or did not eat. I wouldn't have labelled it an eating disorder, but I would now, and that is difficult to face.
Life is too short to waste time berating yourself, but such negative voices are a desperately hard thing to move past.
Your body and pregnancy
Weighing just under 8 stone I recall the midwife discussing the possibility of taking some build up shakes. I immediately resolved that I would shelf all of my preoccupations, the guilt, shame and anxiety, to ensure my baby was healthy. I put on four stone whilst pregnant. Yes that demanded some very stretchy leggings.
For the first time in years I enjoyed eating and wanted to do it. I did not count calories and I think I gained so much weight because my body held onto it like a sponge in fear that I would restrict it again.
Post birth I was shocked by how jellylike my stomach was, goodbye muscle definition. I looked like a beige dollop of playdough that was pretending to be a zebra. Darn stretchmarks. My traumatic birth meant walking was difficult for months so attempting proper exercise was an impossibility.
I breastfed for a while and ate healthily as I needed to have energy and to be healthy for my son. It is something I have maintained since and I am proud of that. As time ticked by I did not diet, I ate well, returned to work when my son was eight months old and he was a tornado toddler so the weight came off naturally. Well most of it, I am happily teetering around a size 10.
Not that numbers matter anymore.
Look in the mirror and be PROUD.
We as women are flooded by pictures of 'perfection'. As mothers we are met with comments such as 'when are you planning to lose that baby weight?' and images of celeb mums in size six leather hot pants two days after having their children.
I had yet to have a shower or brush my teeth two days after my son was born!
When you are an emotional wreck from a thousand hormones singing through your veins you DO NOT need that extra pressure. That said I also won't berate those who do want to lose the baby weight. I hope they are doing it for them and no one else. And those that bounce back to looking uber svelte after having little ones, you amazing women you.
But for those of us whose body will not look the same again...you look beautiful, you carried and nurtured another human being.
Respect you body for that.
I don't foresee myself as someone who looks in the mirror in the morning and whoops at my reflection, or does not care, just a little, that my hips like to poke out over my jeans...but I will embrace it.
It took four stone, stretchmarks and a little boy for me to be happy with my body.