Freedom Fridays – Self Love

The day for lovers. The day we celebrate hearts, flowers, romance and ridiculously over-priced cards and gifts. Happy Valentine’s day all! Nursery capitalised on the whole fairy-tale aspect and sent a reminder yesterday that children could come dressed as Princes and Princesses. So with a bodge-job crown speedily crafted at 6:30am, atop his head – Prince Harry trotted in to his class to slay dragons and rescue his Megan from Duplo Towers. He’s most certainly my Prince Charming but it did raise the question for me, why did I wait so long for mine to arrive in the form of his father?

The answer is self-love. You can’t let others love you if you’ve not got enough for yourself. As I ran around the forest this morning, determined to bag ten kilometres, I shared my motivations for my morning exercise on my Instagram Stories. But I found myself wanting to apologise for being a size 12 and still wanting to lose weight. I felt the need to justify my desire to be healthy and fit. I didn’t want to come across as some smug arse “ooh look at me doing all the running and living on broccoli” because I realised my incentive for running comes down to the lack of self-love I have had historically with my body that still lingers.

Always the bigger girl

I am currently just in the healthy range for BMI, but bordering on overweight. This is one of the reasons I want to continue to lose weight for anyone who gives it the “but you don’t need to.” The other main reason is I will always be the bigger girl in my head.

I didn’t take care of myself in my twenties. University saw me explode in size thanks to an unhealthy diet and the discovery of alcohol. Then it was a vicious cycle. I would feel rubbish about myself, uncomfortable in my skin, so I would comfort eat alllll the bad stuff and then drink to infinity and beyond to feel some sort of self-worth when out. That spiral continued for a decade. My unhealthy relationship with booze to boost my confidence would make me fun-time, party Karen till the eyes went squinty and the tears started. Then the next day I’d eat away the hangover and shame, then do it all again. Eat, sleep, rave, repeat!

Even looking at photos of me back then makes me feel uncomfortable now. I go home to Mum’s in Devon and all I see is Big Kazza everywhere. That me felt so unhappy with her size and shape and could not accept herself. All I wanted back then was the big relationship, the marriage and children, but instead I threw myself into weekend wildness and my job. To find photos of ‘old Karen’ is hard as I’ve eradicated them from my world wherever possible. They just serve to remind of a dark period rather than how far I’ve come.

Making a change

I started running to deal with family trauma and my dad’s illness in 2009. Then I started Weight Watchers. Before I knew it, the weight was falling off. I was buying size 14, then size 12. All of a sudden, I had this little glimmer of something. A sense of pride. A good feeling when I looked in the mirror. My skin started to glow from the inside too as I began to build a sense of self-respect. It still took some time to feel genuinely happy, like someone would wave a wand and I’d inflate again like a balloon but, it isn’t just a coincidence that soon after finding some self-love, I met my Prince Charming.

Piling it on for Pregnancy

Falling pregnant was a blessing and something I’d always longed for. I listened to my body and took it easy on exercise, as in I did none. I was not prepared to go through miscarriage for a second time so my feet were firmly up and my diet was carb-loaded heaven. I put on nearly three stone over the nine months so I really went to work on those croissants.

It’s such a life-altering, foundation-shaking experience having a child. Being forty, I’d developed quite a sense of self, despite my rocky journey, so to fundamentally change my role and priorities in life left me feeling quite adrift. Then throw in to the mix the weight gain and shape of my body post-partum. So many times I’ve seen posts celebrating the changes after having a baby. “Be body proud!” “Admire its strength!” I get it! I do. I gave birth to a 7lb3 boy on just gas and air – frankly my body is fricking amazing.

But when you have the residual nagging of years of self-doubt and dare I say it loathing (although that may be too strong) it’s damn hard to embrace the mum bod. I knew I was never going to bounce back like some A-lister with a 24/7 trainer and a diet of kale and lentils. I also know that I will never settle for being ‘that’ Karen again. I’m realistic. Elasticity is not my middle name and things sag more than they used to, but I will continue to put the effort in. This is what motivates me.

For me, self-love is not being in that dark place again. Self-love is about being in a healthy BMI range to ensure I live as long and full a life as I can, to be a good mum. For me self-love isn’t about comparing myself to others – I don’t need to – the only thing I will ever compare myself to is twenty-year-old Karen. Self-love is knowing I am providing a good model of healthy-living to my son – and that means enjoying cake too!

There will always be things I’m not happy with. Although in a much healthier place now, I’m still not a fan of my tummy or my thighs, but in honour of self-love my Freedom Friday Top Three are: Three Things I love about me!

  1. My long legs that power me round the forest.
  2. My curves – I’m not shy of a ‘hold-you-in pair of tights but I still got me some curves.
  3. My cheekbones – love a bit of bronzer but they are there to highlight!

Today I was going to post about my husband and how much I love him; my baby boy and how he makes my heart explode. But I decided to start closer to home. What does self-love mean to you? How do you show your worth? What are the things you love most about you? On this valentines day I challenge you to do something special – for you!

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