17. Picture of Health

17. Picture of Health

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

Picture of Health

Enjoy yourself. These are the “good old days” you’re going to miss in the years ahead.

~Author Unknown

“One, two, three, smile,” my husband Lonny said. My oldest son, the first of five boys, put his arm around me and we grinned. It was the end of summer and he was heading back to graduate school. An internship had kept him close to home for one last season, and the picture together was the finale of the many sweet family times we’d had over the past three months.

“Want to look at these?” Lonny asked. He handed me my iPhone. I looked through the photos and smiled at the images of my son. Handsome. Strong. But my pictures? My arms were thicker than usual, and there was a gentle swell to my tummy. I’d always worked very hard, depriving myself often, to stay on the slim side. Now I was about 10 pounds heavier than usual. I made a mental note to work on it.

“This one will be great,” I said, handing the phone to my son.

“It’s nice!” he said.

“It’s perfect,” Lonny said.

In the picture, our smiles came from the heart as the setting sun stretched behind us. It was a sweet shot and I was excited to post it on Facebook.

Just as soon as I cropped it.

I’d be humiliated to share the shot as it was — weeks of carelessness, thick and evident on my body. When my waistline changed, so did my self-value and esteem.

I’m a tall lady, just over six feet. If I’m asked to be exact, I say I’m 5’13”. Many people, when they comment on my height, add that it must be nice. The height must enable me to gain weight without noticing. I haven’t found that to be true. After delivering a couple of my boys, I carried extra weight for quite a few months. It always came off with just a bit of effort. But recently, it was harder to maintain the weight that I wanted. I liked to be low on the BMI chart. I felt good when people complimented me on being slender after having so many kids. It filled me up — even if my tummy was sometimes empty.

When my waistline changed, so did my self-value and esteem.

Hormones and mid-life body changes had altered my ability to live as a lightweight, though. Keeping that weight meant more deprivation and more runs in the mornings. And because I love to cook and bake and gather my men around the dining room table, it meant a struggle.

Over the next few days the entire family participated in preparations before our son’s return to school, helping him pack and loading boxes into his car. And I planned one last family dinner. Bringing the family together, sharing food and talk was everything to me. It would be a long time before it would happen again.

“What would you like to eat for your last dinner home?” I asked my son.

“Homemade pizza,” he said.

Years ago, I fell in love with making my own pizza crust. Just a drop of honey gave it a gentle touch of sweet. And I’d just about replicated the sauce and seasonings on the pizza at our favorite restaurant.

Later that night, we strung up lights on the patio and played our favorite 1940’s music as I served the pizza and savored the sound of my united family sharing stories and laughter.

“How about you, Shawnelle?” Lonny asked, noticing that my plate had only salad. “No pizza for you?”

I shook my head. But my family ate heartily and they were on second slices when Lonny took out his phone.

“Boys, lean in,” he said. “Let me get a picture of you with your mom.”

The boys gathered around me and my youngest wrapped his arms around my neck. We smiled and laughed as Lonny took a few shots. When I looked at the photo, it spoke to my heart. The strong bond we shared was evident in the joy in our smiles.

And suddenly, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t as thin as I’d been before.

The changes in my body were the result of togetherness with the people I love the most. We’d shared good times and the result was good. The curve of my tummy shouldn’t bother me — after all, I grew five sons right there, under the beat of my very own heart.

“Hey, Mom,” my son said. “There’s a slice of pizza left. I think it belongs to you.”

He served me and I smiled. I looked around the table and was deeply grateful for every moment of summer family time, and for this last night together.

I was a curvier version of what I’d been summers before, but life was beautiful. And I was, too.

The pictures showed it all.

I was healthy and content.

~Shawnelle Eliasen

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