I love my body.
I’m surprised that I can say this out loud (and also believe it) because just seven months ago, I had a baby. I love my body now, postpartum, more than I ever have before.
Becoming a mother was the most life-changing decision I have ever made. It was also the most mysterious. I didn’t know what lay ahead. I didn’t know what pregnancy would be like. I didn’t know what birth would feel like. All I knew was that the pink + on the test meant I was going to find out. And I was worried. Call it vain if you will, but my biggest fear was how my body shape would change during pregnancy and how it would look postpartum.
As a self-proclaimed natural health and plant-based nutrition enthusiast, I take my health very seriously. I eat a whole-food, plant-based diet, exercise daily, sleep as well as I can (while caring for a new baby), meditate, practice gratitude, etc.
I wasn’t always like this.
For almost two decades, I battled an on-going eating disorder. I went through periods of starvation, binged and purged, and took a variety of diet pills to suppress my appetite. I over-exercised, compared myself to other women, tore myself down, called myself names and was, more often than not, completely miserable when I looked in the mirror.
Over time (and with the help of some counseling) I learned to view food as fuel rather than the enemy and began caring for myself in a kinder way. I started learning more about the health benefits of my vegan diet and made a conscious effort to feed myself well-rounded, nutritious foods.
This was a good start. But things took a drastic shift after I was injured in a house fire. I chose to heal my burns naturally through juices, smoothies, lots of water, rest and coconut oil. My burn scars healed within weeks, without surgery, surprising and impressing my doctors.
My recovery from the accident was a real life crash course in the power of plants. I realized that along with maintaining optimal health, if I fed myself unprocessed plant-foods, not only would I feel amazing but my body would remain at a healthy and ideal weight, too.
My relationship to my body was changing. I was beginning to understand self-love and acceptance. Then I got pregnant.
Pregnancy was a wakeup call for me. In an instant, my body was no longer my own. It was now being shared. Partly my home. Partly a home for my growing child. Every single decision I made would affect my child, and although at the time she was the size of a tiny little seed, a strong maternal instinct to love and protect her became my greatest purpose. And in turn, my health was elevated.
As my belly grew and my body changed, I made the conscious choice to surrender and flow through the seasons of pregnancy as best I could. I had many struggles and moments of anxiety, wondering if I would gain excess weight, if I would get stretch marks, if my shape would never look the same again.
To combat these fears, I took extra special care of myself and developed an understanding of health that extended beyond what was on my plate.
A delicate balance of mind, body and soul was my daily mission. Through constant movement, pristinely clean vegan food, meditation, a regular yoga practice and proper rest, I nourished and nurtured my growing baby, my body and my mind.
Day after day, while consciously caring for her, something special and unexpected happened to me—I began to love myself in a new, unfamiliar way. I felt a kind of respect for myself that I had never known before. I honored my feelings, strengths and insecurities with love and attention. I believed in myself and not only did I feel strong, I was strong.
As a pregnant woman, along with carrying a big belly, my arms, legs and back were toned and lean. I was able to do squats up inclined trails, walk for miles and miles, light heavy weights and had copious amounts of energy.
Before getting pregnant, I did everything I could to lose weight. I exercised for hours on end, tried every crash/fad diet out there and desperately tried to change the shape of my body. It took me thirty-one years and an entire pregnancy to learn that along with an unprocessed plant-based diet and motion, the key component to reaching my ‘ideal weight’ goal is self-love.
Now, seven months postpartum, I’m in the best physical shape of my life. My energy is through the roof, my body is strong and able, and although I’ve faced some mental challenges with postpartum hormones, I have the strength, confidence and self-love to deal with them head on in a loving and appropriate way.
When the focus is directed towards ‘weight loss’ and the areas of obsession are on all the spots the body that ‘need’ to be corrected, tightened, shrunk down or sucked in, we’re not able to respect and honor how truly amazing our bodies really are. These containers work so hard for us every single day. They carry us and guide us and they’re our home.
If you’ve been struggling with weight-loss and find that every diet just isn’t working, I challenge you to shift your mindset towards self-love. Eat healthy, unprocessed food (as many plants as possible) because it fuels your body and makes you feel good. Find an exercise you enjoy doing because it brings you happiness and joy while also keeping you active. Choose a time and space during your day to sit in stillness and allow your mind to calmly take a break. Do things for yourself that make you happy.
Health is a journey, not a destination. The path of pregnancy and parenthood led me to finally learn how to love my body.
ASHLEY WOOD is a recipe developer and writer from Winnipeg, Canada. With a passion for health, wellness and vegetables, Ashley creates simple and inexpensive vegan recipes made from whole ingredients that are often seasonal, sometimes gluten-free and occasionally raw. Ashley believe in celebrating the benefits of living a vegan lifestyle and at the very least, hopes to inspire others to eat more plants, smile and live with some Sunshine.