Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fat and Happy

I know all 2000 of you that avidly follow my blog also check in routinely for my posts on Deseret News, but just in case, I thought I'd give you a sneak peak of what's going to be up tomorrow:

As I was sampling the left over Christmas cookies, peanut brittle, candied popcorn, and Godiva truffles at a recent family gathering, my father-in-law said something that caught my attention. He read “somewhere” that a new study showed slightly overweight but active women who don’t obsess about their weight are happier than thin, active women who do. (Was he trying to suggest something? Because I did feel a sort of warm fuzzy feeling--was that happiness?--while consuming my weight in cinnamon rolls during December.) Since I don’t have a source for this, and I’m skeptical about pretty much everything I hear, I thought we could take our own little informal poll right here on the Motherhood Matters blog.  
Are you happier when you have a little weight on you, but are physically active and not obsessing about your weight OR when you already look pretty good, but are actively pursuing a size 2 and keeping track of every calorie you eat?  
Thinking about The Power of Acceptance this month, here’s another way to phrase that question: Have you learned to accept your physical self? Extra maternal fat and all? I’m not talking about morbid obesity here. We all know that’s bad for your health and doesn’t make anyone feel good. I’m talking about your run-of-the-mill mom who is in perfectly good health but would never make it as a swimsuit model.
I’m certainly one of those mothers. Even though I’m more than three years out from having my last child, I’m still hanging onto those last ten pounds. (Maybe it’s more like fifteen this month!) I was warned of the perils of “holding weight” after the age of 35, and considering it was also my fourth time around the block giving birth, bouncing back didn’t exactly happen naturally. But is it really such a big deal? Like I said, I’m not morbidly obese by any stretch of the imagination. I just have a little extra padding for my kiddos to rest on at the end of the day.  
Yes, it’s no secret that mothers in particular have a higher hill to climb when it comes to keeping our girlish figures. The weight gain from pregnancy alone is tough to counter balance, but then there’s the stretched out skin (on top too), the widened hips, the hunger that accompanies nursing, the fatigue that follows the sleepless nights (making it tough to get motivated to exercise), and of course trying to exercise with a child hanging onto your leg. And don’t even get me started on a mother’s typical daily diet. Most of my thighs are made from the crusts of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 
Living in Japan in my early twenties, I’ll never forget the time I reunited with a friend I hadn’t seen in several months. It was near the end of winter, and apparently I had put on some weight, because this Japanese woman greeted me with (and this is a loose translation), “Oh! You’ve gotten fatter! You must be happy!” I was shocked. I had never heard someone say something so blunt and equally incongruent! Fat and happy? Is that possible? Happy being the cause of my fatness? 

I was totally confused and didn’t know if I should be insulted or, well, happy!  Seeing the look on my face, she laughed and explained that in Japan they believe when you are healthy and happy you put a little weight on, while people who are unnaturally thin or suddenly lose a lot of weight are suspected of being sad or depressed. Isn’t this ironic coming from a country full of relatively thin people? My American brain hardly knew what to do with that information. 
It is interesting to contemplate. Perhaps as the years go by and we are busily engaged in our full and happy lives as mothers, it is quite natural to put on a few extra pounds. Why let that destroy our happiness? Why let the celebrity moms with personal chefs and personal trainers tell us how to feel about ourselves? 

Consider this: most mothers over a certain age looked better ten years ago than they do today. And the mothers that told themselves they were fat and unattractive back then are probably still saying the same things to themselves now. Do you know what this means? In another ten years, it is entirely possible that you will look back at pictures of yourself today and wish you could turn back the clock. The moral of the story: love and accept yourself as you are--today. 
As we all come off our holiday sugar highs with a little more of us than there was before, if we must make resolutions that revolve around our weight, let’s resolve first to do it with an attitude of love and acceptance toward ourselves. Who knows? Maybe some of us will even want to make a conscience decision to surrender the battle of the mini bulge and just be fat and happy!

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