Are you ready to be empowered?
At Yours Truly Portraiture we empower women to gain confidence in who they are, loving themselves the way they are. This goes beyond your session as we support you in this journey of confidence & worth. Subscribe below and I'll send you a link to my guide 'Boudoir Session - 'What You Need to Know' to help you to prepare for your session with tips that you'll find will encourage you in your everyday!
I sat at the stop light, my mind spinning, trying to come up with the perfect words to describe to my perfect daughter why mama was going to be having surgery again. So I tried to explain to her why my tummy didn’t look like hers. We had talked about how everyone was made differently before, but I had always been able to gloss over all of the nitty-gritty details. I told her that my tummy had a lot of extra skin and it needed to be removed so that I could have a happy life. She continued to pepper me with questions about my body and my stomach and I sat there trying to explain my weight issues to my perfect daughter without using the word fat.
We love words in our small, but perfect family. We use a lot of words, some more colorful than others, yet all utilized to express our loud, strong and valid feelings. However, “fat” is a word she has never heard come out of my mouth. She has never heard me refer to anyone as fat, and that includes myself. I have never been a small woman. My shoulders are too broad, I have large hands and feet, I’m too tall, and since I was twelve years old I have been overweight. This is something that I have spent my entire life fighting. My grandmother will tell you that she has never seen a baby who had fat rolls that laid on the baby’s legs, until I was born. My weight has been my nemesis my entire life and I refuse to allow her to fight that same battle.
I grew up hearing “You are so pretty, you would be so beautiful if you would lose weight/get rid of that tummy.” These are words I still hear in my head, after 33 years, what do you expect? I learned to love myself in the best way that I knew how. I have been on every diet that came around, tried every new workout routine, hired personal trainers and tried starving myself. Nothing worked. At one point the scales tipped at 286 pounds. I went from one abusive relationship to the next, always feeling grateful that a man was able to find me attractive at all. I learned how to love myself in little ways, finding clothes that managed to hide how badly I looked. No one could ever tell just how heavy I was. Having always been athletic, I continued to workout and exercise as much as I could, but never in a gym unless I was the only one there. IN my head I always thought that people were thinking in their heads, “What is that fat girl doing in here? Does she really think it is going to do her any good?” These are the demons I faced daily, along with counting fat, and calories, carbs and protein. This is how I lived my life for 28 years.
Two days before I turned 28, I gave birth to the most amazing little girl in the world. When she was born I was terrified that she was going to have to same weight problems that I do. She came out perfect, always off the charts on height and average on the weight charts. After she was born I tried even harder to make sure that I being as healthy as I could so that I would be a good role model for this perfect child. When she was nine months old, we moved back to Virginia and her father left us. This was devastating for me because he left us for a woman who was much bigger than I was, yet I was never small enough for him. I had to figure out who I was and how I was going to raise this little angel in a way where she never looked at her body and hated herself.
My doctor had been trying to get me to have a gastric bypass for about ten years to help me lose the weight that I never seemed to get rid of. I continued to refuse to have the surgery because I was convinced that I was going to be able to get rid of it myself. This continued until Ruby was one and a half years old. We were at Busch Gardens, and I was so excited that I had lost enough weight to fit on the baby rides with her, that was until I realized that our car was the only one that was not moving up and down. I was too heavy. I got off that ride in tears, looked at my perfect little girl and told my mom that I was finally ready to have the surgery.
Six months later I underwent my first major surgery in this weight loss battle. Afterwards I watched the weight fall off, but it was not without major sacrifice. I could no longer eat a lot of foods. I went from counting calories to counting protein and sugars and could not handle carbs at all. If I ate the wrong things, my body rejected it very quickly and very painfully. If I do not eat enough protein, I start to lose my hair and my muscle tone. I finally reached a weight that was under 200 pounds! I was not able to stay at that weight because with all things my body adjusted to the new way of living and I settled into a plateau weight between 208-212. I exercised more than I ever had before and lived a life that was better than the previous one, yet I still had major issues.
The rapid weight loss as well as having stretched my skin out as far as it could possibly go left me with a large amount of skin that was always sitting in my lap. This left me with a rash under the skin, back problems because of the extra weight, as well as preventing me from losing anymore weight no matter what I did. After three years of being denied by the insurance company as well as seeing multiple specialists (two of which welled up in tears when they saw what my stomach looked like), who all said I would not lose anymore weight until the skin was removed, I was finally approved for surgery. This was supposed to be a simple procedure with a long recovery time, yet I should be able to go back to work within a few weeks. That is not how it ended up going.
When the surgeon was removing the skin, he discovered that there was the beginnings of a major hernia that would have made things much worse. Thankfully they were able to repair it during the surgery, however this led to a longer recovery because he had to cut and then repair my abdominal muscles. When I came out of anesthesia I was in the most pain I had ever been in. He ended up removing over ten pounds of skin. I was not the proud owner of a scar that went from the back of the left side of my body, along the pubic line and up to the back of my right side, as well as one that went down from the middle of my chest down to intersect with my other incision. I was in shock and honestly felt a little bit like Frankenstein’s monster. Once I got over the shock of the incision lines and the pain, there are body parts I had never seen on myself until that moment. I am in shock every time I see myself in the mirror and according to the doctor it is only going to continue to get better as I heal and the swelling goes down.
Aside from a very long and painful recovery, the added complications repairing the hernia kept me from going back to work as soon as I thought, I was now tasked with the problem to trying to explain this to my daughter. How do you explain the scars, the pain and the inability to do anything to a five-year-old without delving into weight issues? Since I am very honest with her and had prepared her as best as I could for what was going to happen, she knew I did this so that I could be healthy. That was the best explanation I could give her as to why I chose to have not one, but two surgeries to correct my weight. What I wanted to tell her was, her birth gave me a reason to be healthier, the first surgery gave me the ability to be healthier and the second surgery gave me the ability to live the life I want for both of us, one that is healthy, active and adventurous.
We talk about making healthy choices food wise, as well as how important it is to exercise. These conversations have stuck with her because she will tell me, “Mama, we need protein now, we have made other good choices, but we need protein.” She understands that I cannot eat certain things, and that my stomach is about the same size as hers is because of my first surgery. I thought I was doing a great job of shielding her from weight issues until the other day. She was helping put the binder on, something that I have to wear to try and reduce swelling while I am healing, and she looked at me and said, “Mama you’re losing weight! Good job!” This broke my heart. I continued to explain to her that we do not worry about losing weight, it is more important to make healthy food choices so that we can have healthy bodies. I did explain to her that some people need help in order to have a healthy body, and I needed the help.
Granted I will not know if any of these lessons have sunk into her head until she is older, but I sincerely hope that she will never be the girl who body shames another person. I hope that she will have seen my struggle and will work hard to continue making healthy food and exercise choices so that she never has to think twice about her weight. I pray that she will never look at her body and hate it so much that she feels helpless, useless, and worthless, like I have. I pray that she remembers how much I love her and that she was the reason I was able to make such decisions. I was never skinny, I never had a “hot” body so I never knew what I was missing, and I had decided to live how I was, until she came along and I knew I had to do better in order to give her the life she deserved. I never wanted my weight to be a reason that other kids used to pick on her, nor did I ever want my weight to be a cause of embarrassment for her. Trying to raise a strong, independent, self-sufficient, healthy, and compassionate girl is a daunting task, and I pray that I am able to do so.
It is my heart to empower women to rejoice in their true beauty & gain confidence, unashamedly loving who they are through coaching & the artistry of photography. Will you join me in taking some steps toward positivity? Click here to register for our five-day challenge ‘5 Days to Confidence in Insecurity’ to start your confidence journey through simple but effective steps to overcome some common insecurities.