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Somehow after I had kids, I was thinner than I have ever been in my adult life. With the breastfeeding, the stress, the no-sleep, the no-time for feeding myself and the separations from baby-daddy (times two), the baby weight dropped faster than you can say "child-led weaning." After my first child, within two years I was down to my high school weight.
After my second kid, and yet another cycle of my body growing in ways I never thought imaginable, I was so dead-set on being a skinny mom ASAP that I went straight to the diet doctor after I finished nursing. A few months of diet pills, weekly weigh-ins and B-12 shots, and I was thinner than I was in junior high. I felt triumphant. Powerful. Accomplished. I felt like I had won the Olympics. Look at me in my 40s, two kids and size 2. It was awesome in some weird, crazy way.
Los Angeles, the epicenter of striving and starving starlets, is notoriously brutal on female self-esteem. If you've walked into Equinox or dropped into a Pressed Juicery, you'll soon learn that everyone here is perfect. The motherhood contingent is not exempt from this next level of physical perfectionism. L.A. moms-to-be have known to keep their current spinning and Pilates schedule on point until labor. A pregnancy gain of 15 to 25 pounds is the norm, as is sashaying out of the hospital post-delivery wearing skinny jeans from high school. Even if you do your best not to subscribe to this insanity, it's impossible not to let it infect you on some level.
I used to be one of those those moms.
But somewhere after the beginning of 2014, something clicked. My oldest was almost 9 and my little one close to 5. I just stopped caring about being skinny. It was too much—too much to think, too much to worry about. Isn't trying to be a decent mother enough? Now we have to look amazing in adolescent skinny jeans too? Fuck. That. I decided to pick my battles. And I did.
I wish I could say I feel amazing in my normal mom body. But I don't. I feel funky, off and awkward.
Dieting was no longer on my radar, and by dieting I mean the endless cycle of restricting after "bad" days and earning after "good" days. Food as a reward and punishment system had grown exhausting, especially since I had been doing it for close to 40 years.
My nine-year reign of super chic motherhood thinness came to a slow and creeping halt. I guess you can say, (like most Angelenos), I went into recovery. Recovery from low-self-esteem. Recovery from striving. Recovery from seeing myself through other people's eyes. Recovery from thinking I'm too big to make it, to be loved, to be a somebody.
So what happened? What you might expect. I got "fat" (for L.A. standards). Fat is a newly adopted Midwest mother's body. Fat is a size 8. Fat is the rare breed of Angeleno who does not fit the mold or size 0 or 2. She is short and stout. Her hips are wide and she sports plenty of junk in the trunk. Thickness surrounds her. Fat looks sad. Fat looks weak.
And I got here by eating—just eating. Simply eating and not starving.
I got here by working out six to seven days a week and teaching weekly fitness classes. I got here by hardly eating bread and not drinking. The weight came on because I took something off my plate: worrying about food. It's been a year of not dieting, letting go of the least of my problems, saying "screw you" to the pressure, eating the kids' leftover chicken nuggets and quesadillas and not feeling like I blew it.
How do I feel? In all honesty, not great. I wish I could say I feel amazing in my normal mom body. But I don't. I feel funky, off and awkward. I feel like I might appear sad or like something is wrong. "Wow, Emily must be in a deep, dark depression," whisper the imaginary voices in my head. But I am not. I am the same as I was when I was thin. If anything, I am bummed that I am not fitting into my skinny mom clothes. I have a boyfriend who thinks I look hot just the way I am. So what is the problem? I know I want to be a mother whose main focus is not on how many calories I put in my body. I want to snack on granola in bed after 8 p.m. if I'm in the mood. I want to focus on what's important.
I couldn't wait to share the strengths I derived from it and how I grew as a person. But all that grew is my circumference.
My "fuck that bullshit" feelings are real when it comes to anything dieting-related, but at the same time I hate my size. I want to be smaller. I guess the question is "why?" What is it about being "thin" that feels important to my story or to the story I want to tell the world? What are the semiotics of Motherhood Slim? Is being slim a cheap way to show the world I have my shit together when I most certainly 100 percent don't?
I so wanted to end this article waxing all sorts of post-feminist theory about "our bodies, our selves," but all I got was this stinkin' extra large T-shirt. I couldn't wait to unpack this year of not caring about the least of my, my family's or the world's problems on weight and body image, to share the strengths I derived from it and how I grew as a person. But all that grew is my circumference. Yes, I feel around 20 percent OK in my body, but it's mostly when I'm sleeping.
Every day now, those Old World voices make their way into the new frontier. They poke around my body, "What the hell is this? Um, you can't wear those amazing, sexy jeans anymore? Are you kidding? Are you a Fat Mom now, or what?! Time to get to work, sister."
And that is the part that bugs me: "Time to get to work." I have enough on my plate and enough to work on as a single mom raising two kids, working in the freelance world, juggling two baby daddy schedules and trying to carve a minute for a boyfriend and 30 seconds for myself.
Time to get to work? I suspect I need to sit with what this really even means. I need to sit in this body, as it is, for a little while longer. I need to do a deeper intake with my priorities. Maybe then, I will have the enlightenment I was so hoping I would find and share with you all.
Maybe then, I can get to work loving myself exactly as I am, at any weight.