The {Skinny} On Loving Our Bodies…Just The Way They Are

Does this dress make me look {________}?

Do my arms look {__________} in this shirt?

Is this sweater too tight?

Is everyone watching what the {___________} girl is eating at dinner?

I just want to put on a big, comfy sweatshirt and hide myself.

Sound familiar?  Do any of these thoughts run through your head?  Do you say them aloud to your husband as you stand in front of the mirror?  For many moms, these thoughts become more and more prevalent with each passing year and with each new childbirth experience that wreaks havoc on our bodies. Now, before I share my own story, can I ask one question?  Does it really matter what word we use to fill in the blank?

For me, that word is {skinny}.  Yes, you read that right. (Insert gasp here, if necessary.) At 5’5″ and 108 pounds, I do not fear the “f” word (fat) as many moms, and women in general, do.  Truth be told, I probably never will. 

I come from a long line of tall, thin women on both sides of my family, and have never been overweight in my life, with the exception of my six months living in Spain during college (sixty pounds in six months…gotta love the carbs and the 11pm dinnertime) and my first pregnancy (another sixty pounds in six months…but we all know pregnancy doesn’t count, right?).  Aside from those two short time periods in my life, I have been skinny. 

To be honest, growing up I never had a problem with being referred to as skinny. I mean, why would I, right?  As many young girls, I never worried about my self-image until about junior high, and even then it wasn’t my weight, but instead it was things like my hair being too thin, my face being full of zits, and the fact that the only thing you could see when I smiled was a mouth full of metal.  By the end of high school, the metal mouth was gone, the zits were (somewhat) under control, and I had finally (somewhat) learned how to style my super thin hair. 

I’ll admit, I was pretty content with the way I looked.

…And then I had a baby.

On August 22, 2008, at 5:51 pm I gave birth to my first son, Sam.  The nurses swept him up, cleaned him off, and set him down on the scale. And then they set him on the scale again. And then again.  After the third time, it was confirmed:  I had just given birth to a 10 pound, 1 ounce baby boy. And 22 1/4 inches long! 

I’ll never forget the calls to family members.  Haha very funny, now tell us what he actually weighed!  or There is no way that baby came out of your tiny body! or No way! Did you have to have a C-section?  (The answer to that one is no, by the way.)  And still, those comments didn’t bother me.  I was a skinny girl, and I had just given birth to a baby the size of a 3 month old–literally.  How could I blame them?

A few hours after Sam was born, my husband looked at me in the bed and said, “Wow, your stomach is completely flat already!”.  When I looked down, I saw that it really was flat.  I couldn’t believe it!  And then I took a shower.  And for the life of me, after giving birth to three children now, I do not understand why they have mirrors in the bathrooms of the labor and delivery floor. There is no reason on Earth that anyone needs to see that.  My stomach may have looked flat in the bed, and in fact I lost over 30 pounds during my 2-day hospital stay, but there was still enough skin around there for a couple of “normal size” babies to live in. 

And finally, at the ripe old age of 24, I became aware of my body.

Within a few weeks (yes, weeks) after having my first son, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight. But, I emphasize the word weight, because I was no longer in my pre-pregnancy size.  In fact, it seemed my body had changed entirely.  It was amazing to me how someone could weigh the exact same weight as before, and yet not a single item of her clothing would fit her.  I was the same “size”, and yet I needed new bras, new shirts, new underwear, new pants, new everything.  How is that even possible?

During the next 4 years, I gave birth to two more children, and each time my body changed (obviously) even more.  After each pregnancy, my weight dropped even lower than before.  I realize this is an exception to the “rule,” and I also realize that a lot of you mommies might be wishing you had my problem.  However, please hear me out.  For all of those post-baby days that you were crying in the shower and asking yourself why won’t these pounds go away?, I was crying in my shower asking myself why won’t some of these pounds just stay on?.  And if we are all hormonal messes crying in our showers, does it really matter why?  Can’t we just cry together and at least feel like someone understands the foggy, tear-filled galaxy that is post-partum life?

Today I’m giving you the skinny–pun intended–on my body image battle.  Not to show off that I lost my baby weight, not to tell you that you should lose your baby weight, but instead to come together.  As moms.  As women.  As creatures who cannot help but criticize ourselves. 

This summer, as my husband and I got ready for a friend’s wedding, I found myself changing my dress five or six times.  Each time, I would come out of the bathroom and ask that ever-popular question (even if my version is a little different):  Do I look skinny in this dress?  Of course my husband would tell me I was beautiful in each and every one, and after a while I finally settled on one of my favorites.  But as we sat through the ceremony, I felt more and more self-conscious.  As we went through the buffet line at the reception, I whispered another question to my husband:  Is everyone watching what the skinny girl is eating

And here, my fellow moms, is something you may not have thought about before.  Not only do people watch what the skinny girl eats, but they comment on it.  The menu was BBQ that evening, and as a non-BBQ fan, I skipped past the chicken and the ribs and instead loaded my plate with the side dishes.  Even as I scooped up the potatoes, I knew that someone was watching.  And I was right.  About three minutes after starting our meal, the man across from us (whom we had never met before) looked at me and said, “Is that all you are going to eat?”.

I wish I could tell you that this was the first (and the last) time this has ever happened to me.  But no, it’s not. The only difference about that day was the fact that I had tried so carefully to wear something to hide my insecurities, and perhaps the fact that I was out on a much-needed date with my husband.  And so, in response to a comment that I normally try to ignore or shrug off, I instead spent the car ride home crying.  A girl can only take so much, right?

Today I’m sharing my story for two reasons. 

First, I am sharing my story because I want people to understand that there truly are two sides to every story, even the story of weight and body image.  I may not be in the majority, but I, too, have feelings of insecurity, and dreams of looking different, and moments where I just feel stuck.  Mostly those moments come when someone asks me, “Do you ever eat?” (or some other, but equally ignorant, question).  I have had many hilarious conversations with some close friends of mine, as I ask them how they think I should respond to this question.  (I’ll spare you their ideas)  But when those moments come, I often think of other women and how they have to deal with similar feelings in their own lives, whether it be their body image or their socio-economic status or their marriage or their children. 

We all have something in our lives that makes us feel less-than-perfect, and in those feelings I truly believe we can find unity.

My mom, myself, and the prettiest girl on earth, my daughter. :)
My mom, myself, and the prettiest girl on earth, my daughter. 🙂

Second, and most importantly, I am sharing my story because I want to live the life I’ve imagined, and I want my children to do the same.  I want them to see a mommy who loves herself, who prides herself on the body God gave her and the changes that came to that body after enduring the true miracle of birth three times (how lucky we are!).  I want their memories to be of a mommy who was happy in life, who threw on some clothes and ran out the door to play kickball with them without a second glance in the mirror. 

And, most of all, I want them to grow up to be three people who are absolutely, 100% secure in the way they look and the body that they grew into.  As I think about their bodies, which grew inside of mine, I realize they are the three most perfect little bodies in the entire universe (I’ll admit I’m biased), and then I realize that my own mom must feel the same about mine.  And I should, too.

So, I’ll ask you again:  does it really matter which word we are using when we fill in that blank? We’re all trying to hide something under the big, baggy sweatshirt.  Whether it’s love handles, or bony shoulders, does it really matter?  For you, maybe it’s neither of these.  Maybe it’s something different.  Perhaps you are trying to hide the acne that your doctor told you would go away by age 20.  Or maybe you have some scars to hide.  Or a tattoo that you regret getting when you were 18 years old.  Maybe you think you’re too pale, or too freckly, or too hairy, or too blotchy…the list could go on and on, and our stories could be told for days.  The question is, will you tell yours?

janseriesI want to say a special thank you to all of those who participated in our “Live the Life You’ve Imagined” series this January.  Kaitlyn bravely shared her quest to “be hot again” with trainer Casey, Suzanne shared how she came to live her dream, Dr. Ron reminded us to take care of ourselves from the inside out, and the ladies from Hope Springs shared a beautiful reminder to be happy, healthy parents. Each and every one of these posts inspired me to share my story today, and to “live the life I’ve imagined”.  We hope that you all do the same!

Sara and her husband Matt (sweethearts since they were just 16) got married in 2007, and since then have welcomed four beautiful children (Sam in 2008, Cooper in 2010, Nora in 2012, and Adam James in December 2015). A born-and-raised Iowan, Sara received both her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees (in Spanish Literature) from the University of Iowa. She's still teaching Spanish wherever and whenever she can, but her true passion is owning Iowa City Moms and building this community alongside her amazing team. Sara is also the Community Engagement Coordinator for City Mom Collective, and the owner of Cowork Collective downtown Iowa City. Common denominator in all of these jobs: community, community, community.


  1. I felt like I could have been talking to myself about the new body post baby and all the frustrations. I lost the weight, but everything is different. And I knew there would be looser belly skin, wider hips, but there was so much I was not prepared for! I went up 4 cups sizes while pregnant (it was unreal to be looking at f size bras) and now am smaller than I was in junior high! My old body was quite hourglass and I was used to dressing a booty, large chest and tiny waist. I used to try and shrink my thighs with no luck. Now I have a small chest, bigger belly for me, still a booty, and twiggy thighs. I will admit to loving these new legs! However, nothing I own works for this new body. Still trying to find comfortable underwear. While I have the legs I always wanted, I don’t know how to dress myself to feel sexy or fabulous. It used to be a red dress, or a deep v shirt. And now I have no clue how to feel great in this new body because it is so new. I know how to dress the parts, but I don’t know how to change my expectations of my mirror. It still doesn’t feel like me. And it is hard to be proud when you feel like a stranger. I have decided to just take my time and get to know the new body, which has accomplished a lot! I hope I can celebrate it as “me” in the near future, but thank you for putting out the feelings I think many of us feel- for whatever change has happened!


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