Dear 20-Year-Old Self,
There are so many things I want to tell you as I sit here nearly a decade down the road. First of all, one day you will literally snort out loud when you remember how hard you were trying to lose three pounds at age 20. Three pounds. You’re one stomach flu away, and yet? You still stare critically at the mirror, wishing for that ideal weight on the scale.
I’m going to start with the truly unfortunate news: You won’t realize you had abs and triceps until you don’t have abs and triceps. Remember that one time at work? When a sweet little customer asked you what your arm workout was? And you said, “Oh. I don’t know. I have to lift some heavy boxes in the storeroom sometimes.” Sincere as you were, please realize that sweet little customer probably hated you and your youth and genes in that moment. You are now that sweet little customer, admiring the fitness of a young barista only to see her chugging a soda and downing a brownie on her lunch break. You can’t breathe around chocolate without gaining two pounds.
What can I say about where you are now? You’ve had two kids. Your metabolism has slowed. (It was kind of wrecked from crash dieting anyway. For the love, woman, STOP with the crash dieting! Ketosis makes you cranky. Green juice fasts make you cranky. You know what doesn’t make you cranky? Pizza.)
You are different. You have changed.
But here’s the amazing thing that caused all that change: Your body will grow children. You will feel tiny flutters transform into powerful kicks from an entirely new person that only exists because your body nourished and protected him. Then, when the joyful pregnancy glow gives way to third trimester discomfort, and you are so high-strung with anticipation about when and how your will meet your baby, your body will stretch and push and welcome this person who has heard your heart beating from the inside. Or maybe one day your body will lay itself bare and sacrifice all sense of pain and fear as doctors make incisions, moving your insides around and tenderly raising your child out of your womb and into the room. Either way, your body will carry marks and memories of this miracle forever.
Your 20-year-old body can pull all-nighters. Your motherhood body will pull all-weekers, all-monthers, and honestly. All-of-the-first-year.
Your 20-year-old body can wear a size 2 with ease. Your motherhood body wears spit-up stained tank tops and yoga pants but holds the entire weight of a human life within two arms.
So, 20-year-old body? Eat a little healthier and get some exercise—because you have a big job ahead of you. Do it for you—not for how others think you look. Do it so you will have a healthy life with your beautiful family—not because your waist circumference defines anything about who you are or why you matter.
I know the harsh words you say to yourself now. But rest assured: that narrative will not be around forever. I am you, a little older, a little wiser, and yes—a little heavier.
But also, so much happier. So much healthier.
I am different. I have changed. Now? I am a mother, and I welcome it with an open heart.
You as a mom