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.  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.  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.

 

Water Slides and Body Image

I wrote this on Saturday before heading to a birthday party for a good buddy of my kids. Happy to report, we all had a blast:

We’re headed to a swim birthday party this afternoon, which means I have to be in my swimsuit helping the kids in the pool. Normally this wouldn’t be a big issue for me, but a recent health issue has made me gain some weight despite a day to day healthy lifestyle. This is hard for me because I’ve always been athletic and fit and my own body doesn’t feel “right” to me right now.
But I never considered not getting in the pool with the kids, or hiding myself under a t-shirt. I plan to “Whooop!” when I go down the water slide. Because while my kids know I have to wear a special bracelet now and take medicine and work hard at getting my body strong and healthy again, they’ll never see me ashamed of my body.
The message me and my extra 20 pounds will be giving my daughter and my son and the two little friends we are taking the to the party is that it is not how your body looks that is important, but rather how you choose to live in it and what you choose to do with it that makes you full of awesome.