‘They’ say that women become most comfortable with their bodies in their 30’s. Over the years I’ve read this countless times in magazines and online articles and having reached aged 32 and now post pregnancy, I’ve been reflecting on this lately.
I’ve given myself a hard time over the years in terms of my body image – at 5ft3 and being naturally curvy (read: a few more wobbly bits than I’d like, and specifically quite a little pot belly) I’ve struggled when comparing my body to the typical ideal. Throughout my teenage years I’d spend time doing sit-up’s on my bedroom floor trying to achieve ‘that perfect flat stomach’ that the latest magazine promised if I just did these few exercises. I would start crazy diets where I basically didn’t eat anything, which I’m sure did nothing good for my metabolism, and certainly didn’t result in any weight loss.
In my 20’s I discovered that the only way my body really got the message to shape up was through exercise. And not just a few sit-up’s: through proper, sweat-making exercise. The quick results this produced was really motivating and I quickly got caught up in tracking my food intake online through calorie counting websites and daily weigh-ins. The constant tracking of calories and the visible results appealed to my need for control and I developed a pretty unhealthy attitude to food, exercise, and my body image. I actually dropped to a size 8, which was quite a drastic change, having hit a size 16 before starting the exercise program and being naturally a size 12/14. Looking back now, I can see that I was that bit too thin for my frame, my head was starting to look quite large on my body for a bit there! And yet, despite all of the exercise and control of my diet, I still had a little belly.
I managed to catch myself before this unhealthy attitude developed any further, and I feel pretty comfortable with my body these days. Is this shift in attitude just down to age? In a somewhat ironic twist, given the stretch marks and the fact that my little pot belly is ever present, I think that pregnancy has given me a different kind of respect for my body. Our bodies are miraculous things, capable of so many amazing achievements, and are so much more than just aesthetically beautiful. By the time we reach our 30’s, many of us have achieved great things with our bodies – having children, running a marathon, finding a sport you love – and I think it’s this acknowledgement that our bodies are functional rather than simply beautiful that brings this sense of ‘comfort’ that I’ve read about so often.
It’s this realisation that has changed the way I look at my body and, despite the fact that I can see all of the little flaws, I’m able to look at my slightly protruding stomach and smile, knowing what came as a result of it. I’m able to look at exercise as a way to look after my body and mind rather than a means of weight loss; a way to stay healthy, strong, and happy. I’m also more easily able to shrug off the judgements of others; I feel less of a need to conform to someone else’s ideal, and that’s a whole weight taken off of my mind.