My body has been through its fair share of ups and downs... so why do I struggle to love it as it is

EIMEAR HUTCHINSON has promised she’ll be kinder to herself - as she reflects on her self-criticism of her body and talks about why it’s important to end the simmering battle with her body image
My body has been through its fair share of ups and downs... so why do I struggle to love it as it is

Eimear decided to say goodbye to clothes that she knew didn’t fit her body or her life. Picture: Stock

I DON’T know if it’s a return to (relative!) normality or a cumulation of the last 18 months, but lately I’m stuck in a bit of a rut when it comes to my body and my clothes.

I am sure I am not the only one that relied heavily on leggings and stretchy pants for comfort (and room) during lockdowns and the brief breaks between, but now that I’m expected to wear jeans again, the truth of the bit of comfort eating I may have enjoyed is coming back to haunt me.

To some, it may sound vain to whinge about minor inconveniences such as having put on a few pounds during the pandemic or worrying about what to wear out on a Friday night, but if the last 18 months has taught us anything, it’s that we are all fighting our own battles and they can differ greatly.

In the last few weeks and months I have been stewing over the concept of really just accepting my body and ending the simmering battle that ticks over the back of my mind almost constantly telling me ‘I should lose a few pounds’. I am so sick of that narrative.

Is my body perfect? No! I certainly don’t like the shape of my tummy but nine years of staring at it, willing the overhang from all my C-sections to disappear, has left me feeling like that was a total waste of energy because it is so minor in the greater scheme of things.

My body has been through its fair share of ups and downs over the last nine years – four large, healthy babies, four C-sections and one pandemic - and yet I have emerged from it all content and healthy, but I still give my body a hard time for the way it looks. And that is not fair on it nor is it fair on my mind.

I am in the privileged position of being a mother to four girls and as they get older the more I realise that how I view myself must affect how they view me and themselves into the future. 

I would never whinge about my body in front of them nor would I ever make any suggestion that I am dieting (not that I do, I like wine and chocolate far too much!).

We try to live a healthy lifestyle, have a balanced diet and a keen interest in sports, no extremes. As the girls get older, I realise that there are too many small battles to be fought on a daily basis and me fighting with myself in my own head is just not fair on anyone. How can I ask and encourage them to love themselves from inside and out if I can’t even do it myself?

Last week, I felt enough was enough, I attacked my wardrobe with a vigour it hasn’t seen in quite some time. I have wardrobes overflowing with clothes but, as the phrase suggests, I wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time.

I watched Marie Kondo’s Netflix documentary a few weeks ago and her advice is simple but effective – if an item of clothing doesn’t ‘spark joy’ pass it on; so I got ruthless. I had held onto clothes for years that simply didn’t fit my body or my lifestyle. I think we all have those items lurking around in our closets that we won’t throw out because some day they will eventually fit us, but I am so sick of waiting for some day.

I spend a lot of time online, I could blame my job, but it’s an escape from reality from time to time, and social media has given me a glimpse into the life of others online that, at times, gives me a certain degree of wardrobe and body envy. 

In the idealised version of my life, I swan around in dresses and heels, always calm and collected, carrying a bag artfully placed across my arm and a coffee in the other. The reality is that its jeans, jumpers and leggings that get me through the day most comfortably, I’m always rushing, I don’t carry a bag because I fire everything in under the buggy, and the coffee usually ends up either left to go cold or spilled down my front. And that’s ok, I like my life, I like my clothes and I wouldn’t change it for the world, so I just need to change the narrative in my own head and remind myself I am already living the idealised version of my own life – healthy, happy, doing a job I love surrounded by wonderful people.

Some might say, just lose the few pounds and you’ll feel better. Maybe it’s the effect of the pandemic that has made me realise that zoning in on little details is such a waste of time and energy, there is life to be lived and enjoyed and why waste another second of the day berating your body if it can let you live the life you want to live? If you’re smiling, that’s all anyone will notice.

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