Learning to love the magnificent creation of my lower body
Recalling my earlier years, they are tinged with a bit of sadness and regret that I held such little self-worth, treating my body harshly and with punishment.
There is a full-length mirror in the hallway of our home; for the first time in my little life, I am aware my bum is big and sticks out.
Every week at primary school, we had ballet class taught by our teacher, Miss Nellie Stagles.
The dance school is still alive and thriving to this day.
Ballet was not my forte. There were favorites in class, and with my little chunky legs, I was not one of the chosen ones who would be encouraged to join the stage school.
We would all have to kneel before class, and I remember noticing my thighs were chunky compared to the girls on either side of me.
The Teenage Years
I never gave my little body much thought after the ballet classes until I hit my teens. Oh, the mental freedom of those early days.
By the age of thirteen, I started drinking alcohol and crash dieting. A girl in the year above me was always on a diet, and her influence had a profound effect on me.
This downward spiral and hatred towards my lower body (and later my chest) continued into my forties.
Remember those fabulous, satin, skin-tight, shiny pants Olivia Newton-John wore in the film ‘Grease’? I wanted some and bought a pair, except I felt so self-conscious that I never wore them in public.
Whenever I was about to go out, I stupidly asked my mother, “Do I look okay?”
Mum would respond, “Turn around”, then shake her head from side to side, reminding me that my bum and legs don’t look right.
By the time I was fifteen, I had developed an eating disorder.
Eating and food became the enemy, such was the loathing I had for my body, particularly my legs and bum.
I longed to eat freely without the cycle of guilt, vomiting, and starving myself.
Later it became apparent why my eating habits had been so disordered.
I was raised in dysfunction, often caught in the middle of arguments and made to pick sides. We often don’t even know how dysfunctional our upbringing was until we are in the middle stages of life.
The drinking, binge eating, vomiting, and starvation were all symptoms of an unhappy existence at home.
Leaving the family home in my twenties brought relief to my eating and obsession with food.
I met my husband, joined a gym, and we thoroughly enjoyed food together.
Pregnancy brought another set of fears about my body. I was terrified of gaining weight.
My height is only 5 ft 2 ins and my pregnancy bump grew huge. The comments I received were far from complimentary; they were downright terrible.
“I’ve never seen a pregnant woman as big as you,” declared my mother-in-law.
“Come see how huge Lisa is,” said the girls at work.
“Have you got three in there?” asked a random stranger.
“If you’re that big at seven months, I dread to think how big you’ll be at the end,” said a lady at the gym.
One week after the birth of my son, my husband put his arms around me and told me that I still looked nine months pregnant. I burst into tears, absolutely destroyed.
I’m sure nobody said anything with ill intent, but there are more positive words we can choose to say to a pregnant woman. My emotional state was not in the best place when it came to comments about my body.
Pregnancy was also a special time. My skin and hair glowed, and I felt womanly and beautiful in many respects. I loved feeling my babies move within me and the excitement of wondering what they would look like when they were born.
The female body is truly remarkable when we trust her to do the job she can do.
My knees have been through two surgeries with sports injuries. And due to excessive sickness during my second pregnancy, I tore my stomach and developed a painful stomach hernia that needed repair.
Periods were the absolute bain of my life, excessive and heavy. I dreaded holidays, as going to the beach was a big no-no.
By the age of thirty-five, I underwent a surgical procedure called uterine balloon therapy. My periods practically disappeared, changing my life so that I was free of heavy bleeding.
My little hooves developed bunions at the age of fifteen. I wanted to wear pointy shoes, and so I did, thus wrecking my feet.
By the age of forty-eight, my ability to walk without intense pain rapidly decreased.
Fortunately, I was booked for double bunion surgery one month prior to the COVID outbreak.
I spent the first part of the lockdowns resting on my back for 23 hours a day, secretly enjoying the afternoon naps, endless Netflix, cups of tea on demand, and cooked dinners.
I recovered swiftly, doing armchair workouts to build my strength. I was fit enough to run a 5k by week 8 following the surgery.
Today, I’m in the middle stages of my life. I genuinely love my lower body with bumps, lumps, scars, chunky legs, and all.
My favourite footwear for trudging the Scottish hills is either sneakers or wellies. I have quit on the high heels.
I spend far more time working on my mental health and becoming more conscious of limiting self-talk.
I see a woman who is worthy and beautiful.
The most important thing is that I love her very much.
Thank you so much for reading today.