I have never been the mom who has a newfound appreciation for her body because it housed and birthed babies. Yes, my body is powerful and it can do some really cool stuff. No, that doesn’t make me feel better about the flap of skin hanging over my underwear, the soft belly, or the cellulite.

You see, when I was about 12, I had this stark recognition of the curves forming on my body. I think I actually saw myself as having the body that I have now, at close to 40 years old. And it scared the shit out of me.

I wanted to see myself as Kate Moss, honestly. Not that this is her fault. So I did whatever I could to combat the creation of those curves I saw in my future.

I cultivated the body and the look that I wanted, which was thin and waif-like. Not unlike the body of my 8-year-old boy.

I didn’t cultivate it in a healthy way. I basically starved myself, lived off of fat-free plastic food, and made myself vomit if I did indulge in a normal meal.

I lived in that body until my late 20s. It was who I was. It was how I saw myself. I was skinny, and it was part of my identity.

So when I finally hit puberty or lord knows what happened at 28, I felt completely lost in my own skin.

I was getting over the eating disorder and trying to focus on being balanced and healthy with food instead of obsessing about it.

And my body instantly changed. I grew boobs. Like, big ones. I went from an A cup to a DD in what felt like overnight. It was confusing trying to wear the clothes that I used to wear and having to wear—gasp—a BRA. Like, what even was that?

I couldn’t wear short skirts anymore, because I felt like my ass sagged so much that it would show if I wore anything shorter than the knee.

And the worst part was touching my own body with my hand. I was like, “Did I take part of someone else’s body?” Because even touching my own skin didn’t feel like I was touching the “me” I knew.

Then came pregnancy. For the first time, I didn’t really mind the fact that my love handles grew in before my belly popped out. I felt like I had a very good reason to look this way, and I honestly loved the tight belly that I could rest my root beer floats on.

And then my baby was born, and that belly turned into what must be the human version of the root beer float.

This wasn’t me. This wasn’t the me that I had spent 15 years cultivating. I looked at myself in the mirror, and I was not there.

It was confusing. It was hard to come to terms with.

It’s not so much that I’m vain, (although who isn’t a little vain?) It’s that a big part of my identity changed so quickly that I didn’t know how to catch up with it.

And my new body was preventing me from having fun. It was keeping me away from the beach. It was preventing me from being confident meeting new people. I was so insecure.

Not so much because I had extra pounds on my saddlebags. But because I was like, “I don’t know who I am like this.”

In a blog post that I published almost two years ago, I wrote, “I still identify as a skinny girl. Like, I add it to my personality.”

I felt like body image was something that I still struggled with although I had achieved a great deal of balance in other areas of my life.

A lot has changed in two years.

What has changed? Well, I’ve gone through a few rigorous exercise programs where I’ve been obsessed with working out and did it 7 days a week.

But that’s not what changed. It’s not because I am now svelte and fit that I changed. Because I’m not! All that work didn’t really change my body. I’m still not svelte.

And then I did some really fun but not rigorous exercise programs where I was obsessed with having fun. I did a parkour-style movement class. We did a lot of powerful games and acrobatic movements.

I started doing more yoga. I felt long and limber and graceful after doing it. It does calm me. But I really love doing inversions and handstands because, well, they kind of make me feel like a superhero.

I make hoop dancing a regular part of my life. Yep, throw on some music, dance with a hula hoop.

I have gone through a super strict diet, but that didn’t change my eating. It was once I realized that eating is FUN, and I can fill my body with foods that look good on the plate, taste good going down and feel good once they’re inside of me that I started really feeling balanced with what I eat.

Today I ate a waffle and licked peanut butter off my kid’s spoon. Some days I have green smoothies. I had a donut over the weekend. But I enjoy every ounce of it.

I find eating really fun, so why deprive myself or make myself feel like crap when I’m doing something fun?

Now, I look in the mirror when I’m not wearing any clothes. Of course, I suck in and flex my abs a little and appreciate the slight definition underneath the dimples and stretch marks.

Yes, when I took these photos for a recent campaign, I had the thought, OMG can I actually take professional photos and publish them online in my bikini??? But then I put on my favorite bathing suit and had so much fun taking the pictures that I didn’t even think twice about posting them.

Check out that roll on my belly! Yep, that’s a legit part of me. Can’t even suck it in.

I really see myself for the first time in a long time. This is actually what I look like. And I’m starting to love it.

I’m finally not just saying that to convince myself it’s true. It really is true.

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