Skinny Moms Struggle with Body Image, Too

Thanks to super skinny, high metabolism genetics on both of my parents’ sides, I have always been small-framed, and consistently struggle to gain weight no matter how much I eat. And I can eat, let me tell you! Despite my larger portions, frequent snacks and protein shakes, I am still the size of most 10-12 year olds and can wear their clothes too. I’m now getting hand-me downs from my oldest daughter.

Yes, seriously.

Being only 4′ 11″, every pound seems to matter to my petite size. I welcomed the weight each time I became pregnant, and my bones became hidden under padding once more. I felt the most beautiful when my new curves added more shape to my childlike figure. I enjoyed watching my body flourish and bloom into a more womanly, filled out figure.

After pregnancy, while others are wishing to lose the pregnancy weight quickly after birth, I was wishing to hold onto mine. Instead, once my baby was born, the nursing demands of feeding my baby– around an extra 500 calories a day– plus having to eliminate several categories of healthy fats and proteins (eggs, dairy, and nuts) thanks to food sensitivities, my weight drops off drastically.

I know, I know, it sounds like a great problem to have! I can eat whatever I what! Why am I complaining?

Because, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

While others deal with insecurity of their weight gain, I deal with the insecurity of being too skinny. Looking sickly– or even as if I have an eating disorder– makes me just as self-conscious as those who struggle with extra pounds. I worry what people think of my tiny frame constantly, wondering if they assume I have an issue.

At my lowest, I weighed 83 pounds. It wasn’t because I had an eating disorder or was sick, it wasn’t because I even wanted to be that skinny. My body just had a high metabolism, perhaps not fully absorbing my food, and the weight just wouldn’t stick. Oh, how I wished it would stick! My clothes sagged off my bones and friends noticed. I had to go shopping for even smaller children’s sizes to fit me. Looking back at pictures now, I cringe seeing my skinny arms and protruding collarbone. I felt as if I looked like a disproportioned Bobblehead.

Even with the slightly more postpartum padding I’ve retained as I’ve gotten older, bathing suit season always brings a hyper awareness to my small size.

Though this is a less talked about body image issue in our society which idolizes skinny, I do know there are some smaller moms out there who get me. Fellow mom Sheena Criswell, who is also a midwife and sees clients of all beautiful different sizes can relate to the struggles we experience on this side of the fence. “Being small and skinny means that a lot of people seem to not have a problem with making comments about my body or size,” she says.

The comments we receive on our size, even by strangers, make our insecurities escalate and honestly come off as downright rude. “When you are small, people think it’s not an issue. But normal people don’t go up to people of larger sizes and comment about the size of their butt or boobs, their arms, legs or waist, or ask if they are anorexic. I’ve gotten it all,” she says.

Often when we vent our own securities to others, our feelings are invalidated. “Because I’m small,” Sheena remarks, “the response I hear is, ‘Don’t you dare talk about your body. You have nothing to complain about.’ It’s not usually one of camaraderie or understanding that we are all the same,” she adds. However, if the roles were reversed it would be a different conversation. Sheena adds, “If I was large, most good girl friends would say something to the effect of, ‘No! You are beautiful! It’s okay mama!’”

The truth is that it isn’t easy on either side of the fence. Every single one of us, no matter our weight, has our own insecurities.

If you are on the other side of the fence and wishing you had “my problem,” or if you are hanging out with me and Sheena in the extra skinny camp, I want you to know you are beautiful. We all are. Let’s take down that fence and embrace where we are right now, and embrace the person beside us for where they are, too. It doesn’t do any of us good to compare.

Sheena advises, “All women struggle with a fanciful image of the perfect body, when in reality we all just have bodies that are perfectly imperfect. No matter our size or shape, we need to become confident in who we are and also confident in the differences of the women around us, whether they seem closer to your ideal body image or not.”

I encourage all you moms– even me– to embrace your body for where it is right now and take care of it despite how it looks through your own eyes. Remember what a beautiful gift our bodies have given us: the gift of children.

No matter our size, that’s worth celebrating and honoring– for ourselves and for one another.