I received this deeply personal and touching question in my inbox and wanted to share my response here, because I know many other women will be able to relate. Dear Rachel,
I’m having a hard time accepting my look and size. I’ve been crying, am angry and unhappy with all this, but at the same time my doctor is telling me my body is healthy, just my hormones are messed up. I have PCOS [poly-cystic ovarian syndrome] and have experienced many of the painful symptoms of that condition, including three miscarriages. My family and friends keep giving me advice regarding what to be careful of for eating and how to lose weight. But I know my weight is not from my eating – it’s my body. I have a hard time knowing what to wear that will make me feel beautiful - I now wear gym clothes most of the time. I have two beautiful boys, but I am very embarrassed with myself. How can I overcome these feelings?
Sincerely, Embarrassed with my body
Dear Embarrassed -- Firstly, a big hug & thank you for writing to me. I know firsthand what it's like to feel utterly frustrated, confused, hurt, and embarrassed by your own body.
Please know this – neither you nor your body is broken. Your body just requires more thought & attention to keep it harmonious and you have been doing a wonderful job despite a challenging health condition. I cannot fathom how heartbreaking it was to lose three of your children to miscarriage, something unfortunately very common to women with poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). But you never stopped trying and your two lovely children are testament to your passion to have a family & be an amazing woman. I admire that.
Like you, I too have PCOS and it took me years to accept that my body wasn't going to be like other women's bodies. My weight is related to PCOS also and it was so aggravating to try to force my body to be a different way, but never see results. But a year ago, I chose to go off all medication for my PCOS and try the natural approach. One year later, all my hormones are back in balance & my PCOS symptoms have reversed. PCOS is very real but treatable -- the first step is learning how to listen to what YOUR body needs and is telling you. We’re a lot wiser than we think :)
Regarding weight -- everyone in your family who is giving you advice on weight-loss is doing so because they love you, but trust me -- it can also feel like you're letting THEM down too. But your health & body is very personal and if you feel that you're doing all you're capable of, then that's something to be happy with. It might be helpful to have some lines to say to them, like “I know you’re concerned about my weight, but I feel good and enjoy doing what I can, and I really like it when I know I have your trust and support for all the great things I am already doing for my health”
But let's talk about the embarrassment part - the feeling that your body is betraying you, that you have to hide & shun it - that belief is within your head and it's time to let your heart lead how you want to live your life. Leading with your heart first will help you feel more in-tune with your body because you're listening to what it needs and wants. You won't continue to feel like all you can wear are gym clothes because you'll appreciate just how amazing your body already is and YES it's possible to wear gorgeous outfits & feel sexy no matter your size!
You begin to move past feelings of embarrassment when you let go of the idea that you need to be someone different in order to feel beautiful. It starts by saying to yourself that while you have more health issues to take care of than other women, you’re totally capable of taking care of your body, and in doing so, you will reflect that love in how you treat, dress & think of yourself.
It starts with believing there is another way to live - a way that doesn't have you feeling like a trapped spirit inside a broken machine.
All of us who have struggled with weight & health issues are longing for the same thing -- to feel at home within our own skin. But the beautiful part about feeling at home within our own bodies is it just takes a little step of ownership and faith that this piece of flesh has been entrusted into your care, just as your beautiful boys have. You deserve to take pride in your home, your body, because this is the only little plot of space we’re given to both create life & share it with others.