Body Identity and Choosing Myself

A few weeks ago Cortney and I were having drinks with friends and the question came up of how people identify themselves according to their body type/weight.  We were discussing how some people come right out and say “I identify as athletic” or “I identify as fat” and they can mean it in a totally fine-with-it way.  It’s simply how they see themselves. They started talking about how they “identify” themselves.

I was astounded by their answers. They had totally different body identities for themselves than I have for them. While I see them as fit and slender and lean and gorgeous, they saw fat.

When it came to me, I really didn’t know what to say. I wanted to say how I identified, but I didn’t really know.  As a teenager I was a rail.  The joke among friends was that I had the body of a 12-year-old boy.  My OB still tells me that my hips are very narrow (too narrow to birth my giant-headed babies). Up until I was around 24, I wore a size 6 or 8.  I didn’t even get boobs until I was 25.  True story.

After having babies I gained weight and a new shape.  On my narrow hips, I now have padding so a baby can fit snuggly up there while I am cutting up a banana for lunch.  My thighs have filled out and have spider veins.  My feet are continuously dry and cracked from standing on them.  They are also wider.  My chest is larger…and softer.  My tummy is squishy.

I haven’t worked too hard to fix the extra weight.  While I have gotten much better and putting my mental health higher on the priority list, I haven’t done the same with my body.  I mean, let’s face it: I don’t even shower every day when I am home with the boys because I lose track of time!

I do know this: I don’t identify as fat.

Maybe other people look at me and identify me as fat in their mental Rolodex of filing and classifying people.  Maybe they say in their mind, “Katie? Katie Sluiter? Oh yes, she is one of my Mom friends who is average height, has nice hair color, and is sort of chubby.”

Next month I am going to a big blog conference. I am sure people who hug me for the first time will be a bit surprised that there is more of me than they notice online.

That’s Ok.  This is what my body looks like right now.

But I don’t say to myself, “well, I identify as fat.”

I should be clear here.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with identifying as fat.  I am not ashamed of my current size. In fact, I am probably more comfortable in my body now than I have been in my whole life.  Some women are big and they LOVE themselves.  And I love that. They SHOULD love themselves. But for this post, I am just talking about my body and my perception of it.

Anyway, I don’t identify as fat.  But I don’t identify as thin either.  I don’t think I identify as a body type.  It changes too much for me.

I thought about all this a couple weeks ago as I made a decision for myself.  I was in the process of trying to figure out our summer weekday schedule around here since the boys and I have come very close to just Lord of the Flies-ing each other. I figured I needed some alone time in my day.  I don’t get it at nap time anymore since Eddie almost never naps anymore.

I needed Cort to do bedtime more often now that I am home everyday.  I needed that quiet.  In fact, I needed to leave the house during that time because I just couldn’t stand to use that time to start picking up the carnage  remnants of the day.  I also knew that I needed some physical activity.  I was actually craving it.

Now, if you know me at all you don’t believe that last sentence even a little bit.  I am probably the least athletic person on this earth.  The thought of sweating makes me sweat.  I hate it. I hate playing sports. I hate running.  I putting my lack of coordination on display. I hate setting myself up for failure.

But I needed to get my heart going.  So I decided to take a walk four nights a week while Cort did bedtime.  I started doing some quick figuring.  If I walk my entire subdivision, that’s two miles. If I do that four times a week, that’s 8 miles a week.  If I start going further then…well, the math gets hard.  But I did figure out that there is a good possibility that I could walk 100 miles before I go back to school in the fall.

And so it was born.

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I am not doing this because I feel fat (although I do have “fat days”).  I am not doing it with any weight-loss goals at all…in fact, I didn’t weight myself before I started doing this at the beginning of last week, and I haven’t weighed myself since starting.

I am not even going to worry if it looks like I won’t make the 100 miles.  I’m just going to walk.  Four times a week.

My body is strong.  No, I can’t do a push up or a chin up. I can barely do 10 sit-ups.  I can’t run more than 100 feet without getting a side cramp, and I can’t press much more than the bar. I hate squats and I loathe lunges.  If it is meant to tone anything on me, I hate it.

But my body went through four pregnancies and gave me two live babies.

It helped me battle my own brain.

It has changed and softened to be motherly for my children.

I want to identify as “strong”.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. I just started waking again after stopping for 6 weeks. I go a little over 2 miles every time. And tonight I bought new shoes since my old ones make my toes go numb. Not cool.

    Anyway, I agree. I want to be strong. And healthy. I’m not going to be a size 2 & frankly, I’d look sickly if I was. I’ve had body image issues my entire life (thank you dad, but my mom doesn’t help either), but I want to be more active so I can be active with my girls. So they don’t have to feel the way I do. And maybe, one day, I might actually be able to go for a run with my husband.

  2. Oh Katie.
    I want to identify as strong too.

    Before the babies, I never really gave much thought to my body. I never worried about what I ate, whether I exercised or not (although I did because I enjoyed most of it), I didn’t think about my body in the way I do now.

    I saw myself in the mirror a couple of days ago, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t like what I saw. I saw the extra pounds, how my thighs look huge, how my belly looks 5 months pregnant. I don’t like how my clothes don’t fit, how I am still wearing maternity pants 13.5 months postpartum. I don’t like how the weight which melted off after baby #1, is not melting off now. Quite the opposite. I feel slow, sluggish, heavy. It’s affecting my mind, my insides.

    I need to do something about this. I want you to tell me you can help keep me accountable, just as I’m going to tell you now, I will ask you every week how many miles you walked. Deal?

    • Alison – I totally, totally am on the same page. Same thoughts about myself. I’m with ya, sister.

      Kate – I, too, HATE WORKING OUT. I hate it. I try different things, I fail. I don’t know why, but I do. I like your plan, though. It sounds so … doable! You know? I love you want to identify as strong. I do, too. 🙂

  3. i want to identify as strong too! Three days ago I started walking again,,for some of the very same reasons. My kids are out for the summer and i am trying to work full time around their summer schedules and w/o child care. It’s as nightmarish as it sounds. I find myself staying up waaaay to late at night just so I can have the quiet. Now I’m trying to do that in a ore productive way.

  4. Oh katie – You are beautiful and strong. xo

  5. Good for you, Katie. I’ve been getting up at the crack of dawn for the last 2 years to get a morning walk in before the kids are up and the demands of the day have set in. I walk (not crazy walk, just walk) and pray the Rosary for 1/2 hour. It is the breakfast of champions and totally helps my mental state. I think you will grow to love it! (PS–I HATE sweating, too!)

  6. I love being pregnant and being port natal because it is in those times when I identify most as being strong. And that’s why I run, to remind myself how strong I am. (not going to lie though. I also hope running gives me less fat days.

  7. Good for you! Your goal sounds very reasonable & I wish you luck and can’t wait to hear about your progress.

  8. The strong correlates inner and outer and you are strong in both. I am still waiting on my breasts (and could have totally breastfed forever and ever amen just to keep the ones I got when nursing). I am too thin and I identify with slender or thin as opposed to too skinny or Oliveoyl (thank you, high school!) or maybe she has a tapeworm. I love the idea of doing something for you that will give you other benefits but those benefits are not the goal. I can’t run. Cannot. My knees tell me no. But I can walk and I love to. I go out at lunch time and walk the neighborhood (and then I come back to my desk funky and don’t care because the shirt I put on this morning was already dirty).

  9. Strong. Strong is beautiful.

    You are both – strong and beautiful.

    You are going to rock this 100 Mile Summer.

  10. I really think this is fantastic. I think it’s going to make such a difference in the way you see your summer days, whether you change physically or not (and I believe you will be stronger). I think doing this to get your quiet time is so much healthier than a lot of things, and you deserve major props for making that decision and making it happen!

  11. I’m proud of you.

  12. You know I love everything about this post 🙂 I can’t wait to see you in Chicago and I want to walk some miles with you. I hear you on the needing the time at the end of the day – I do the same thing on the days I’m home with the kiddos, it’s nice to just enjoy the quiet for an hour. The miles do add up and make a difference!

  13. I LOVE how you identify with your body. And I love how this post about body image doesn’t carry a negative connotation. You are strong, mama! I know you can do those 100 miles, and more!

  14. I wish I could not identify my body type as anything. I grew up heavy, by college I was VERY heavy. I lost 100 lbs to bring me to the healthy weight for my height. Then, 10 years later, I had a baby and gained 60 lbs, and the past 2 years have been me yo-yoing off 10 lbs and really going nowhere.

    I wish I didn’t care about this. I wish I didn’t think about how I looked when I lost weight and how now I’m in the middle–somewhere between the old me and the “real” me. Yes, I said “real” me, so who the H am I now??

    I’m learning to silence the inner talk.

  15. This is beautiful. You are so an inspiration.

  16. You have THE best attitude about it, Katie. You really do. I envision myself thinner than I am in my mind all the time and then I see a photo or a video and I’m like “WHA!?!? THAT’S ME?!?!”

    But on the other hand, I know that I am strong (because I can run miles!) and I know that I am beautiful no matter what. It is just hard to convince myself of this when I stand on the scale and see some of those photos. I DO think part of the problem is that our society and the media have put this image in our head of what we are all “supposed” to look like and well the fact of the matter is I am never going to fit that “ideal”. And I am okay with that.

    I just wish I could learn to love my body this way and all the time.

    I think you are on your way and SO wonderful that you are taking that time for yourself to walk, it’s so needed to get your heart pumping,AND to have time to clear your mind.

    Proud of you!! xoxo

  17. I am reading this in the car and I want to cry. It’s beautiful. It’s exactly where I wish I could be.

    I recently set a small mileage goal for myself and went too far. Now I need to check myself and focus on my revamped goal. Thank you for this post. I wish I was meeting you this summer. But someday. XO

  18. Strong is good. Strong is universal. No matter what size or shape you are, you can be strong. Body-wise, I identify as petite because I’m short and small-boned. As a teenager, I was a 2×4. Age and motherhood have filled me out and given me curves – some I like, some I don’t. But I still identify as petite. And yet I have my fair share of “fat” days, especially when I’m not exercising regularly.

    I got out of a regular exercise habit over the winter and began to feel achy and restless and out of shape and just plain weak. I decided to invest in a trainer to help me kickstart my routine again in anticipation of an upcoming beach vacation. I’ve been working out with him twice a week for seven weeks, and using the exercises he’s given me to work out on my own in between sessions. I’m only now beginning to notice ever-so-slight definition and toning beginning to form where before there was none. But moreover, I feel healthy again. Active. Strong. And strong is what I like the best.

    You WILL reap the benefits of this walking routine. Physically, it may take a while, but the physical benefits are secondary to the mental and emotional ones. Keep at it, Katie! 🙂

  19. I think if asked what body type I identified with I would have to go with curvy. Whether I’m 100 pounds over weight, which I am, or right on target, I’m still going to have hips and boobs. I have since junior high. I always will.

    I love this attitude of yours though. Love yourself and take care of yourself. That’s what we should all be doing.

  20. Oh, Katie, you’re doing it! You’re doing it! I’m so proud. Now, I need to jump on your bandwagon. Ready – set – go.

  21. I love this Kate – having children totally changed my relationship with my body and I’m finally starting to love it now, and enjoy exercise as a way to nurture and care for it. Which I balance nicely with cake 😉 I’m loving yoga and zumba and just feeling like I’m in my body instead of constantly in my head. And I really like the feeling of being stronger and more able to stretch and move.

  22. Kate… what a beautiful post and what a beautiful soul you are. I want to identity with being strong too. Thank you for being such an inspiration.

  23. I don’t identify with fat either, although I am fat right now (and I’m not saying that in a critical way right now, although there are moments when I am). It was hard for me to “come out of the closet” on my blog and ditch my wedding photo for some more recent ones, where I am a comfy size 16 to 18. I am padded!

    But I also had four pregnancies and three babies. I’m just trying to love up on myself right now. And be a little more active (at the very least, the dog needs to go out).

    Great post!

  24. That’s a great way to look at – and the fresh air and “me” time will likely be a fabulous retreat. I’m kind of an exercise junkie, but I don’t weigh myself. I just like the way it makes me feel and being able to carve out a little solo time. Good luck on the commitment!

  25. I LOVE this. I identify different ways on different days. Like, wildly different. But what I love about this is that you have a goal and it involved activity and alone time. That’s so awesome. And 100 miles? You can totally do it. Or damn close, and that’s just about the same thing.

  26. ashley h says

    Katie you are awesome!

    I have ALWAYS identified as fat…even at 140 lbs….kids tormented me as a child…..leading to huge body dysmorphia….which somehow became a weight gain that I couldnt gain control of…I’ve always been the fat friend, the girl overlooked for dances and parties….I was the nicest, most loyal friend one could ever ask for, but things were uneasy often…….I met a man, married, and continued to gain a little bit more weight, and a little bit more….but non scale? married, bought a house, got a masters, started a dream job….and now? we want children……and I realize the label I’ve wanted my whole life…is Mom…and I wont get there this way….

    40 days ago I started counting calories and going to the gym…I never in my 28 years thought i would be a gym goer….and yet here I am, glued to the couch with a severe sinus cold….and I look at my sneakers…unused since Zumba Tuesday….and I’m mad…I am MAD for not being able to go to the gym the last three days!!

    You will love the walking, and it will center you, and some days you will be angry when you CANT do it….

    I really want to focus on the non scale victories….if I dont lose this week, that’s ok! I havent been honest with my calories, because its a miracle to get food in me at all because nothing tastes right due to the cold….but I’ve missed my sneakers…and that is HUGE!

    Keep us posted Katie! we’re all rooting for you and this new goal 🙂

  27. Girl, screw the scale! They are not to be taken seriously. I haven’t weigh myself in ages.
    I was always the fat girl, in my head I was until I finally found the root of my ‘evil self talk’. It’s been quite a journey.
    Big big kudos to you! I am so not a runner but admire those who run so I’ll be rooting for you from across the globe 🙂

  28. I identify as old and have for years and it has left me feeling unworthy of any man. I have set up this bar of perfection for myself that my age will no longer permit me to get anywhere near. I look in the mirror and I could cry.

    Thank you for this post. YOur honesty is so wonderful and refreshing. You can do the miles and I agree with the others who have commented that you will likely soon grow to miss it as it really brings on a true piece of mind.

    Good luck!

  29. I recently wrote something similar. I am not as concerned about my body image as I am about function. I can’t physically do the things I want to with my family nor comfortably do some simple things day to day. That really bothers me. So I am starting a program on Monday to help get me in better shape. Good luck with the walking and I hope it provides what you need from it.

  30. It’s funny how we identify ourselves. I should label myself fat because I am but I still see myself as I was 50 pounds ago, until I see an unflattering photo on fb and wonder who the heck is that? I’m glad that I don’t get hung up on the extra weight but yeah, it would be nice if it disappeared and I kinda hate running too. I need a walking buddy.

  31. TheNextMartha says

    This is fantastic. I feel the same in many ways. And I say you should identify with strong and kick ASS!

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