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”.