What My Radio Flyer Wagon Has To Do With My Body Image

My family has just returned from our first real vacation — a trip to sunny Florida to spend an amazing week with my parents and brothers and their families in a big house by the beach. It was a perfect vacation….that ended at 2am on Monday morning when we pulled into our driveway after the long drive home to snowy Wisconsin. I was reminded of this as I was driving to my doctor’s appointment this morning as an unidentified rattling squeak coming from the far back of my minivan was interrupting my singing with the radio and really annoying me.

Then I remembered that we had been too tired to finish unpacking the car and had left the Radio Flyer wagon in the far back of the van. I made a mental note to lug it out later. This morning I was going back to my doctor because after finally being diagnosed with a rare endocrine problem, I had gained 23 pounds in 10 weeks from the steroid medication I had been put on to control it. My doctor and I were going to come up with a new plan for treatment. But this wagon constantly rattling in the back was really putting a damper on my singing with Kelly Clarkson while I made my way across town….

Then I had a little epiphany as I drove: That wagon in the back of my van was like my extra pounds. Rattling around and being obnoxious and there for no good reason, but the wagon being there didn’t affect the efficiency or value of the van. I didn’t love the extra weight, but I did still love me. My value had not changed. Whether the weight was there or not there, my worth remained unchanged. Body image is about loving yourself, even if you don’t always love where you’re at. A good friend taught me that.

My mom had noticed the moon face, it appeared four weeks after starting the new pills and completely changed how my face usually looks. My husband noticed the much bigger boobs and that I had put away all of my jeans and was wearing yoga pants all of the time. My kids noticed that I was “getting big and cushy”, and suggested I watch a weight loss commercial they had seen. Amelia said she loved me no matter what. My four year old asked where my muscles went. We talked about how the medicine was changing my body and that my doctor was going to help me be as healthy as possible. We talked about health being about what goes on on the inside of your body and doesn’t usually have anything to do with how big or small or in-between a person is.

The extra weight scared me because heart disease and diabetes run in my family and I wondered if it was a symptom of something more serious. I could deal with the weight if I had to, but I didn’t want to jeopardize my health. As someone who is usually active and fit, I didn’t like the feel of my current body. These extra 23 pounds….and right before the trip to the Florida beach…..I would not be honest if I said it didn’t bother me just a little. I was anxious about seeing what I would look like in vacation photos. My family is spread across the globe (my brothers live in Madagascar and Costa Rica, so complete family photos don’t happen often and have to last for years). Our first big family vacation, and I was at my heaviest weight I had ever been in my life. My face didn’t look normal and I was puffy everywhere. But I bought a new swim suit and said hell with it, I was going to have a blast on vacation because I’ve been working myself to the bone for nearly four years and I deserved a week off with the kids and my husband. The only person who cared about what I looked like was me, and I wasn’t going to let this get in the way of all of the fun and the memories we were about to make.

During these weeks while I could feel my weight going up, not once did I complain about it in front of my children or sigh in the mirror or talk about “looking fat” with the other moms after school in earshot of the kids. I confided in a couple of friends and my husband, but not a word of Fat Talk was uttered in front of my kids. I was adamant about that. Through all of this, I loved myself and that is what my kids saw. I was bothered by my face not looking “right” and my clothes not feeling comfortable, but not one of these extra pounds changed how I valued myself. At the risk of sounding incredibly arrogant, I love me. I adore me. I really, truly do. I think I am fantastic. Full of awesome. Even if I have an extra 23 pounds right now. My weight is not my worth.

So I don’t love my extra weight, none of my clothes fit, and I don’t feel strong or healthy right now.ย  My doctor agreed this morning we needed to switch medications immediately, and assured me the weight would slide right off once the steroids were out of my system. She promised the moon face would go away within a couple of weeks. And she confirmed that my immediate health was not in danger from the extra weight or medication switch and that we would just watch my liver carefully.ย  You only have one liver, which always helps with perspective when you need it.

So taking the wagon out of the van will be easy enough this afternoon, and then I’ll have my Nissan Quest back with stereo rocking and me signing *just like* Kelly Clarkson and P!nk.

So it will go getting my healthy body and comfortable weight back. I’m still the same on the inside, the outside will change a little, and I’ll still be rocking.

And the same will be true tomorrow night when my daughter’s school holds a Family Fun Night — I’ll put on my swim suit and not care that I am one of two moms in the pool while the rest of the moms sit along the edge and talk about the weight they need to lose, like they did last year instead of having fun in the pool. I’m up for a cannonball or two. And I’ll dance with the kids in front of the DJ because who can hear “Party Rock Anthem” and not start jamming?

23 extra pounds or not, this girl likes to party. So here’s pictures of me from vacation, at my heaviest weight ever and a big ol’ moon face and…..HAVING AN AWESOME TIME. My kids are not going to remember what I looked like. They are going to remember the fun we had. Who wants to miss out on that? Not me.

These photos are going to be seen by a couple thousand people. They are not the best photos of me, but I’m willing to make myself vulnerable if another mom out there feels more comfortable about her imperfect body because she read about and saw my imperfect body and decides to join me in saying “The Hell With It!” and looks forward to having fun with her kids. A little self love can go a long, long way.

What I wish moms everywhere could know is that your kids are not going to remember how thin or fat or in-between you were, they will remember how fun you were. Don’t miss out on that, no matter what the scale or tag inside your jeans say. We only get one shot at this, don’t miss the party.

 

Me, my niece, Amelia, and Ben at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in front of Winter's tank. If a dolphin with no tail can feel good about herself, then I can get over a little moon face.

 

My family dressed up and prepared to go on a night-time hunt for buried treasure on the beach after Amelia found a treasure map "hidden" in our rental house. It was so much fun!!

My husband, children and I on the beach in Florida. Medication has caused me to be the heaviest I have ever been. I don't love this photo of myself, but I do love myself. My weight will be changing significantly with a change in medication, but my self worth remains unchanged. We had a great day on the beach, which is what my kids and I will remember 20 years from now.

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this Melissa – you look like a shining star and full of awesome as always…and beautiful of course ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hear hear sister! You are totally right on there! And you look beautiful. You have the glow of happiness ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. You are beautiful in every way. And totally full of awesome! Thanks for sharing these vulnerable feelings. I think we can all learn from this.

  4. Lisa Yancey says:

    Great post. And you look fantastic, and happy. Over the past year I’ve also had medical issues leading to huge jumps and falls in my weight, and surgery that left a huge scar on my neck. It can be really hard accepting that don’t look the same, especially when it’s something you can’t help or control, but once you get your health under control and start feeling like yourself again it’s all worth it. Hope it’s a quick process for you!

  5. You are right, Melissa. Your kids will not remember nor do they really care about your weight. I grew up with a mother who always thought she was fat, and I am amazed when I look back and see the photos proving otherwise. In my memory I see my mom’s hair, I see her smile, I hear her laughter or singing in the car, I remember how soft the skin on her arms was when she held me in her lap, I remember the smell of her Merle Norman cold cream. I don’t remember whether she was a size 10 or 22 at whatever given age I was, though she was both and every size in between. I’m thankful that she worked as hard as she did to reverse her negativity for my sake, and never allowed anyone to criticize my body the way hers was criticized by her family. You don’t have to be perfect; neither your body nor the way you handle your insecurities around it, to be a good mom. You just have to love your kids–and like in my own family photos, that’s what I see in yours. A mom who loves her kids.

  6. Way to go! I’m so impressed. 14 years ago I had a heart transplant and was put on steroids to prevent rejection. In 10 months I gained 100 pounds (OUCH!) and although I’ve lost much of that weight now, I can certainly relate. I’d do it again in a heartbeat (literally) since my life has been so wonderful since then. I am indescribably grateful for this second chance.

    I’d love to borrow your closing sentence for my facebook status today (We only get one shot at this, donโ€™t miss the party.) and link to this posting. Is that ok? BTW, your blog has been great for this dad of two AWESOME girls! I truly appreciate your sharing.

  7. you look happy and great-totally full of awesome!

  8. As someone who has struggled with her weight her entire life, I have to say how moved I was by this. I know all the right things to say to myself about what matters is what’s on the inside etc. Yet I still hate the look of my soft tummy & jiggly thighs. But your reminder of how much I am missing in the short time I have with my kids made a huge difference this time. I have missed SO much in my life out of fear of looking bad/fat/ugly. What a waste. Although I never talk about weight or being fat etc. in front of my kids, I am going to stop thinking about it too. Thank you!

  9. Russelle Adams says:

    Thanks for sharing such a vulnerable story…I had much the same experience last year, when my weight just started going drastically up (no matter what I did, or how little I ate)..I do have a problem with diabetes if my weight gets too high, and I was trying to be very brave and calm…

    but I prayed constantly, because I also felt sick and tired

    I was led to start learning about alkaline Ph diets, and read the wonder stories of recovery of illness and weight loss stories…so I started there…

    eventually I became 50% raw vegan, and slowly went up to 80% raw vegan, then I easily lost the 30 pounds (in 5 months) that were pushing me closer to diabetes problems, and many many problematic symptoms …went away…

    I have felt such a relief that it is worth the lifestyle change,….I just wanted to throw you a life preserver….in case you were willing to consider this for yourself.

    <3

  10. Sarah Barnard says:

    You are awesome and beautiful all the way through! It’s not arrogant to value yourself…it’s vital to mental health!

  11. Kelly Morgan says:

    Melissa, This made me cry. I have battled weight all my life and grew up with a mom who regularly said ” You love pretty clothes, IMAGINE how good you would feel if you could wear the pretty clothes. ” The result has been a very distorted body image and weight that has yo yo’d significantly all mys, life. Most devastating however, has been the effect it has had on me as a mom to my son and daughter. I have been one of the parents on the sideline but who desperately wanted to join the party in the pool .I NEVER talk about losing weight though, because to do so brings me back to being the 13 year old whose mom put her on a powder shake diet so I would feel better. I swore that I would NEVER harm my children by making them feel less than because of the way they look and I’m proud to say that I haven’t. BUT I have done them a disservice … I am always consciously aware of being the FAT mom. I am affecting their view of weight, body image and perception of self by my inability to love myself fully. They think I am beautiful and tell me so often. I so often reject their acceptance by countering with “But Mommy needs to lose weight ” … I have made some lifestyle changes in the last 6 months and am seeing some positive results. Melissa, your piece reminds me that I have to make some mental changes as well. The next time one of my kids tells me that I am beautiful , I’m just going to smile and say thank you. I am going to teach them about self acceptance in a more profound way going forward … by loving myself. Oh at at the next pool party ? I’m getting in the damn pool <3

  12. I’m one of the Mom’s in the pool. My kids think I’m awesome, most of the time and that’s what matters. My weight goes up and down, but I am the one living this life. Thanks for being awesome too and sharing your stories.

  13. You look great Melissa, but you’re right – does not matter how you look, what matters more is how much fun you have with your family. I think you look great because you are having fun, and I bet one day you will look back on these pictures and love them! ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. You look so happy! I need to remember a lot of this, but especially, “don’t miss the party.”
    Thank you for putting this…and yourself, in many ways…out there.

  15. What a wonderfully touching story. We all have struggles, they all have the ability to change our lives if you just give them the opportunity. Your blog reminded me of when I lost my 46 day old son. It was a horrible time in my life, but someone dear told me that through all the struggles i would find the positives. I thought to myself, really how could losing a child could ever be seen as a positive experience. Well, 13 years later I will say that I would still do anything to have my child here, but also that so many positives did come out of that day. I learned to love my kids with no care as to what others thought of us. Yes, we will be silly, yes we may have sang silly songs up and down the grocery store isles, yes I have been told my family is weird because we laugh too much, but you know what, I don’t care. I can say that my children know my husband and I love them. My husband has been a very involved father, he has coached the girl scout baseball league because they did not have a coach, he talks music with them, he taught my daughter to drive his car, which is a stick. Nothing can compare to the moments you have with your family. We talk of my son who passed, his name is not taboo in our house. I have to laugh when I recall my kids trying to blame my son,who passed away, for things they did at home. Yes, somehow they included him in the avoidance of chores. Even though he is not here, he binds us and brings us closer together. As I read about how you just jumped in headfirst to the fun of the moment with your family and it made me smile. It remind me of how I was always told that things should not make you happy, happiness should come from within and sharing yourself with others. The weight is merely a thing, things come and go, so will weight, but those memories will be talked about forever. Your kids are lucky to have a “fun” mom, the type of mom that wants them to bring friends home, who will know them for who they are as people and in turn, you give them the greatest gift which is to really know their mother as a person as well. So often people fear the parent who is their child friend, it’s not about being a friend it’s about being present and if they call it being their friend, then Amen I will be their best friend, a best friend who still tells them to turn their light off and go to bed, to be sure to wear their seatbelt when they get into the car, but also the one right next to them laughing at thir stories and sharing their life. So, do a cannon ball for me, I will be dancing it up with my 17 yo daughter, a big kid at heart, whose favorite performer happens to be in town.

  16. Melissa- I just recently found your blog. And I find it fabulous! I have a 10 year old son and 2 retail stores, but think about getting in to the world of “girl counseling”. We all need to love ourselves, but it doesn’t hurt to get a little lovin from others!! YOU are beautiful. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for being you. Keep rockin on to my girls Kelly and Pink!! (Christina’s also my girl to groove to!!)
    Take care,
    Tracy

  17. Great post. I was really struck by your comment, “the only person who cared about what I looked like was me.” That is so true. So many times, I’ve been stressing out about weight, gray hairs, or other body issues, and I’ve caught myself checking out other women who are older, heavier, different than me, and thinking to myself, “Wow, she is so beautiful.” Why are we so hard on ourselves? I’ll remember this lesson, thanks.

  18. When I was a child I used to bathe with my best girlfriend who lived next to me. We were both proud of our mothers and wanted to have exactly the same boobies as they had. Only years later I realized my mother was about twice the weight of her mom, but that simply did not matter. We both had awesome moms and I never heard any fat talk from my mom.

  19. Nothing gives you a little perspective like steroids, huh? I hated that moon face and the sudden weight gain, I hated that I wasn’t warned that it could happen, I hated that my doctor dismissed my concerns. But I am thankful for the photos taken during that time, because some funny funny stuff happened, and I was on camera. Because i’d rather be in a picture than forget a memory! A couple extra lbs can’t slow me down!

    Longtime facebook follower, first time commenter. HI!

  20. Thank you for sharing this story and for being willing to be vulnerable and honest on your blog. I hope that you can go on different medication and still feel better soon!
    My mom has always been critical about her weight, though never mine, and I still developed an eating disorder in high school. I’m glad that my mom has always told me how wonderful and beautiful I am and I want to build on that one day with my own children and be able to tell them that I feel wonderful and beautiful too.

  21. Beautiful inside and out!

    Thanks for sharing. We could all use the reminder.

    Jess ox

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