A Letter to My Today Show Mom Bod Haters

This week I was thrilled to create and write the feature essay for the Today Parent’s newest “Challenge”. My idea was to challenge moms across the country to embrace their ‘mom bods’ and tell us why the love them. The amazing Parent editor Terri Peters loved it so I created the Why I Love My Mom Bod Challenge with three goals in mind:

  1. Get mothers thinking about insecurities that possibly hold them back from being fully present with their children
  2. Celebrate mom bodies in all their glory and how they come in all shapes and sizes
  3. And most importantly, how to instill a positive body image in our children by leading by example

Not only did Today Parents share my essay, but the Today Show did as well. This isn’t the first time a piece of mine has been shared with its over six million followers. And it is definitely not the first time my writing has caught criticism. But it is the first time many critics completely ignored the message because they could not get passed my physical appearance.

They always say, “Never read the comments,” but this is different. I want to be a part of the conversation. However, I quickly realized the comments went way beyond what I could answer in one day’s sitting. And to be perfectly honest some comments stung more than others. Not because of what they said about my body, but sadness because so many commenters used my mom bod as another vehicle to put their own down.

Normally, I would not take time to respond to such comments, but it did not sit right with me that so many readers completely missed the message, blindsided by their overwhelming need to comment on my physical appearance.

Therefore, I want to take a minute to address some of my favorite comments. There were hundreds of comments, making it hard to pull just a few. But somehow I just got tired of reading and deemed these the ‘best’ of the bunch.


The “You Don’t Have a Good Enough Mom Bod to Say You Have a Mom Bod” Comments

“Yeah, probably helps if she actually had a mom bod”

“I wished my ‘mom bod’ looked like that!”

“Soooo…where is her mom bod?”

I must have missed the lecture in Motherhood 101 that clearly defined what a ‘Mom Bod’ looks like. I did not realize that simply having a body and being a mother was not good enough to say I have a Mom Bod.

If stretch marks and belly rolls will justify my mom bod, then I can show you photos of that too. But I don’t feel the need to prove my mom body because pictures NEVER tell the whole story.

My worst Mom Bod scars cut deep – both mentally and physically. The scar that runs across my lower abdomen is my daily reminder of one of the scariest days of my life. It is where my daughter was pulled (literally) out of my body at just 27-weeks old in an emergency surgery. She weighed 1-pound, 15-ounces and remained in the NICU for nearly three months.

“You should wear a one piece suit”

“Love what she says, but her boobs do not hit her knees”

I can wear whatever the hell bikini, monokini, tankini or thong I want. I do wear one pieces to the beach and public places because I still have children that have no concept of private parts and like to use my swimsuit as a ropes course.

Also, one pieces are extremely hard for me to wear because my breasts do hit my knees. Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration. But let me tell you that the girls hang LOW. This is thanks to my premature daughter who I would gladly sacrifice my body for a million times over.

After many (many) months of solely pumping on my medical grade breast pump, it seems as though the pump not only took milk, but every ounce of breast tissue I had. Bathing suits, especially one pieces are hard for me to find. Bikinis work best for my low hanging gal pals because with a crane and a good strong square knot behind my neck I can raise them up to a ‘normal (ish)’ level.


The “I’m just looking for followers” Comments

“Another look at me bullshit blogger. That is not the typical mom bod.”

“Another Mom blogger looking for followers.”

You are correct: I am a mom AND I am a blogger. Where you went wrong is that the last thing I am looking for is followers. Sure, I have followers who read my blog. But I would actually have to be actively blogging all the time, posting, cross posting and know how to use that damn LinkTree (which I still can’t figure out.)

What you don’t know is that this blog started anonymously eight years ago as a way for me to navigate the rough terrain of eating disorder recovery. I was so ashamed of my story and felt I was a terrible writer so I did not share this blog with anyone. The blog’s sole purpose was for me to connect with the online eating disorder recovery world – anonymously.

Eight years later, I still blog. But there is no rhyme or reason to my writing. I write when I feel like, whatever I feel like. This blog served as my daily therapy outlet during my daughter’s early birth, her cancer journey and the loss of my best friend last year.

Followers are the last thing I am after. I could care less if I have one follower (thanks, mom) or one million, all I do here is tell my story for my own therapeutic satisfaction. I write from time to time for Today Parents because it is a beautiful (for the most part) community of amazing parents sharing the hardships and humor of this wild ride called parenting!


The “It’s Easy to Love Your Body When It Looks Like that” Comments

“She’s pretty thin with no discernible fat rolls, stretch marks or loose skin. A lot of women would have her attitude if they had her figure.”

“It’s easy to love your body when it looks like that.”

Let me tell you a little secret: happiness and body love has nothing, absolutely nothing to do what your physical appearance.

One more time for the folks in the back:

Happiness and body love has nothing, absolutely NOTHING to do what your physical appearance.

I have been much smaller and much bigger than my current body size and I was miserable and hated every inch of my body.

Body love does not automatically happen because you go Keto, drop xx pounds and fit into that perfect bikini. You are the same person a few pounds lighter and probably hungrier too.

My journey to self love happened over many, many years of hard work. I literally almost killed myself trying to achieve perfection and the perfect body. It doesn’t exist. But what I do know is that

I LOVE my body.

AND that doesn’t mean I have to like it every day. Sure I still have my blah days where I don’t want to put on my bathing suit. But I know society has programmed me to go to war with my body instead of the deeper rooted issue at hand.

Maybe on those body blah days I’m feeling anxious or stressed. So I do exactly opposite of what the gremlin in my head says – I throw on the damn swimsuit and soak up some sun.

When you can start to see your body as a beautiful vessel, an instrument that carries your precious soul through this crazy thing called life, then maybe you, too, can start loving and nourishing your body the way it deserves to be taken care of.


So say what you want about my body. I could care less. It won’t ruffle my feather or keep me out of a ruffle bikini. But before you comment on MY body, take a look in the mirror at YOUR magnificent body. See it for what it is – an extraordinary vessel and instrument. And while you are looking in that mirror look at that tiny human standing in your shadow, watching your every move.

Do you want them comparing their beautiful belly to a stranger’s on the internet? Or do you want them to look in the mirror and think to themselves, “I’m awesome!” I’m guessing it is the latter.

Comparison is the thief of JOY…and body love!

So stop comparing and start LIVING. Here is to ALL Mom Bods: big, small, tall, short, round, dimply, low gal pals, small gal pals, silicone gal pals and to every shape in between. I salute you and will see you at the beach!

A Letter to My Imperfections

My wonderful friends at Eating Recovery Center reached out to me last month, asking to feature me an Eating Recovery Day writer.

The task was simple: write a #myrecoveryletter. I was touched they thought of me and began to wonder who I would write my letter to. My initial ‘easy’ thoughts soon turned to writers block and, of course, procrastination.

I have countless people and moments deserving of a recovery letter. How do I just pick one? But when it boils down to it, my journey began and continues on one solid foundation – embracing my imperfections.

To my beloved imperfections,

I first noticed you at ten years old. I went from being confident in my skin to seeing my stomach as ugly and imperfect. My hair was frizzy and I was weird and different.

A few years later, I began odd exercise routines to ‘fix’ my imperfections, running in my room and vowing to ‘cut back’ the bad food. I saw my grades as markers on my worth, never good enough, never smart enough.

Soon thereafter, the downward spiral into my eating disorder began. While the weight and imperfections fell off my body, happiness never came. Instead, my imperfections were replaced with secrets, lies and self-hatred. My beautiful and sensitive heart was numbed with my eating disorder. I felt nothing, but I had my eating disorder and all of its secrets to keep me company, reminding me that perfection was the only way to live.

Fifteen years later, my secrets were outed. My imperfections exposed into the light of day. It was too much. They were too ugly. All I wanted was to crawl back into the hole of my eating disorder.

My recovery journey is one that is marred with blood, sweat and tears. I fell over and over again in attempt to hide my imperfections, but then I kept getting back up. Again and again, each time seeing my imperfections for what they really were: beauty

I no longer starred in disgust at the rolls on my stomach, wishing to cut them off. I saw my stomach as a vehicle that helped me stand tall and a beautiful place that created and carried life.

I no longer viewed my thoughts as dumb or my writing as unworthy to sit on the page. Through practice, my thoughts became my words that I proudly put on the page and posted for all to see.

You, my beloved imperfections, were no longer something for me to hide, but something for me to be proud of because my imperfections make me human. You make me…ME.​​

My body and mind are just that now – MINE. And they are made up of you, my wonderful imperfections. You give me the ability to live free from the pressures of perfectionism.

Because of you, I know that life is not black or white and that there is no such thing as a perfect person or mother. I get to embrace my so called flaws, take chances in life, dare greatly and show my children that failure is not a bad word.

You will never be hidden again behind a mask of perfection. I wear you proudly and loudly and promise to love you always, my precious imperfections.

In love and light,

McCall

One Year Gone: Lessons in Grief

My eyes opened well before the sun rose, knowing what today was. My heart ached that same ache I have been experiencing for the last 365 days. A distinct void that will never be filled.

I lie in bed and suddenly felt the need to see the sunrise. I threw on my clothes and drove the three minutes to the beach.

As I walked passed the dunes and saw the expansive beach unfold before my eyes, I laughed. It was cloudy. Only a small pink sliver of light could be seen where the ocean meets the sky.

Sigh. So much for the perfect sunrise I pictured in my head, I thought. But in more ways than not, today’s cloudy non-existent sunrise was the perfect finale to my first year in grief.

At this exact moment one year ago, I learned that my best friend, my grandmother, had passed. It was a shock to my system and my soul. At 36-years old, I had never experienced such a close loss. Losing GaGa was the equivalent of someone losing a parent and/or best friend.

After the whirlwind of writing her obituary, eulogy and funeral, grief settled in my heart weeks later. Some days the gut wrenching loneliness and physical pain felt more than I could bear. Unable to get out of bed and with no desire to in sight.

But, alas, I kept waking up and trying to put one foot in front of the other. Learning, little by little and day by day, the hard ropes of grief.

1. Grief is POORLY TIMED & MESSY.

It is not what you see in the movies. Grief is not a scene out of Beaches with “Wind Beneath My Wings” playing gently in the background while you cry watching the (perfect, non-cloudy) sunset.

Grief is ugly crying into a hotel pillow, letting all the feels out because you have to get on stage and speak in an hour.

Grief is sobbing in the carpool line, knowing you have ten minutes before you have to pull it together to pick up your kids, but also knowing you just need to cry.

Life goes on, whether you want it to or not. Most days this year, I wanted to skip out on life and wallow in grief. I finally learned that I had to schedule my time to grieve, giving myself the permission and space to put aside the to do list and making grief my first priority.

2. Grief is LONG & CONSTANT.

There isn’t a timeline. I learned this early on with my recovery journey, mourning memories and life lost to my eating disorder.

My lifelong best friend lost her brother in 2010. In 2011, I went to see her on the one year anniversary of his death. I expected her to be so upset and having a tough day.

Lauren stood in her parents’ kitchen as graceful as ever. I asked her how she was doing. She softly replied,

“It is just another day without him. My heart hurts the same as it did yesterday and it will still hurt tomorrow.”

I have thought of this day on repeat lately. Little did I realize years ago how much her simple words would teach me that grief is constant. Sure, some days hurt more than others. But the void is (and will always be) there, we just learn to manage life around it.

3. Grief is EXHAUSTING.

I am tired. It has been an exhausting year. Grief brain is real. I have forgotten phone calls, meetings and mom duties left and right. But after the 45,987 dropped ball, I finally learned to give myself some grace. One foot in front of the other.

4. Grief is IMPERFECT.

For most my life, the word ‘grief’ was synonymous with the ‘5 stages of grief’ (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). My other go to thought was red birds and ‘signs’ from our loved ones.

I kept waiting to tick off each stage, moving forward in the perfect order while waiting for a pretty red bird to come sit on my lap.

Yeah, those things did not happen.

I paid zero attention to the ‘stages’ because what the hell does it matter. They all hurt. I moved (and continue to move) through grief in my own imperfect and poorly timed way. I have dropped balls, forgotten to call friends, sunk away in my grief hole and then rose back up out of it. I have done (and continue to work on) what I need to do to navigate life without my best friend.

5. Grief is BEAUTIFUL.

How can it not be?

Between connecting with family and friends who loved GaGa to having followers send me cards and notes of love, this journey has been incredible.

While I have not the quintessential red bird sit on my lap, I have had countless small experiences that signify her presence. From appearing in my dreams to discovering something small in her furniture that now resides in my house, she is with me.


365 days gone and a lifetime of lessons later, this past year has been a count up. Now that the one year mark is here, I will stop the clock.

I thought today would bring a hot mess of emotions, but like Lauren, I am calm. I type this while looking at my favorite picture of her that sits on my desk. She is smiling her big GaGa grin, with a glass of her favorite chardonnay wearing her matron of honor dress she made for my wedding.

The photo makes me smile. Today, I will cry and I will smile knowing she is with me. Always.


How I Finally Lost the Holiday Weight

I have been feeling heavier than ever these past few weeks. My anxiety high and emotional fuse short. I knew this time of year would be hard – my first holiday in grief, but I had no idea just how much the heaviness would weigh me down.

My grief has manifested in an array of emotions. And, like most people, I find it 10,000 times easier to lean the other way rather into the hurt. I have spent much of this year leaning into work, family, busyness or color coding my cute planner…basically ANYTHING to distract me from the real pain and hurt.

My GaGa is not coming back. It has taken me almost a year to truly accept this. I have been waiting for the perfect signs. I peer slowly around corners in hopes to catch a sunflower in a sidewalk or the proverbial red bird sitting perfectly waiting to chirp directly at me.

The funny thing is that I have seen countless red birds and witnessed beautiful sunflowers, but none were ‘perfect’ enough. They weren’t her talking to me. I needed to lean into the hurt, but was afraid. I couldn’t muster the energy or find the support to do so.

In early November, I knew it was all starting to be too much. My anxiety was through the roof and I was isolating away from the people I love most. I needed support and had to take the brave steps to find it. Just like people can’t read your mind, the perfect therapist isn’t going to call and invite you to her couch. You have to go out and find them.

I drew on some inner strength (and Google) and did just that. My new therapist and I have been talking a lot about leaning in – leaning in to the grief rather than run from it with to do lists and busyness, carving out time to sit and ‘be’ (ugh! I hate ‘be’ing) with GaGa and my grief. As well as realizing ‘signs’ (like life) do not appear in perfect forms. GaGa is with me when I open her dining hutch that now sits in my dining room. GaGa is with me when I see my son holding the blanket she made him seven years ago. She is always with me AND it still hurts.

My birthday came and went without a call or card, but I leaned into that hurt. And I didn’t just survive and limp through that day, I thrived through it with intention.

I cried (and cried…and cried) days leading up to my birthday. And on my day, I was at peace. I was okay.

As Christmas approached, I was met with the same heaviness, knowing it was a year ago that GaGa wasn’t just here on earth, but at my house. I renovated a bathroom just so she could come and in hopes she would come back for longer periods of time.

I had a funny feeling last year would be a year of lasts. I didn’t outwardly acknowledge it, but I felt it in my gut. That is why I impulsively flew from Delaware to Baton Rouge to surprise her for her 94th birthday. It is why I renovated a bathroom so she would come for Christmas.

And this year was a year of firsts: first Easter, Mother’s Day, kids’ birthdays, her birthday, my birthday, Christmas without her. I gained so much (emotional) weight this year trying to muddle through life without my best friend.

And finally on the 25th day of the last month of the year, I shed the weight. I leaned in. I leaned in all the damn way in and it hurt like hell.

So how did I do it? How did I finally lean in all the way?

Last year on Christmas day, everyone went to nap – everyone, except Gaga and me. We sat out on what was a bluebird perfect day and talked. That was GaGa and me, we could talk for HOURS on end. I would ask her to tell me about her days as a welder in WWII, how she left home to help for the war, how she raised three kids, and a million other questions.

As she recounted her life story, intuition knotted my stomach and told me to hit record on my camera. I clicked the red button on my phone and secretly filmed her telling me her life story.

I didn’t tell her because she would have killed me! But I knew in that moment that I wanted to capture it (and her) forever.

Nearly three weeks later she was gone.

I have watched the video from time to time over this year, never getting through its entirety. When I really missed her late at night, I would play it and go to sleep with her talking to me.

Christmas afternoon 2018 was eerily similar to 2017 – picture perfect sky and a quiet house. I stood over the kitchen sink cleaning. I felt exhausted and heavy. I decided to stop what I was doing. I poured a glass of GaGa and my favorite champagne, Verve Cliquot, and headed outside.

I wadded up on my outdoor couch and hit PLAY.

I cried. I hurt. I laughed. And I cried some more. But I smiled. I smiled as it felt like she was there with me, talking directly to me. I watched both videos, over thirty minutes, while sipping champagne and wiping my tears.

The video ended. I stood up, walked inside and resumed cleaning. I felt lighter and more at peace than I had this entire year.

I had finally lost the weight. I had leaned in, really leaned in and let go, knowing there will never be a ‘perfect’ sign and even worse, knowing she is not coming back, but also embracing that I will be okay.

I’ll never forget the morning of GaGa’s funeral. I put on my white coat and draped GaGa’s pearls around my neck. I looked in the mirror and felt beautiful and confident, as well as absolutely heartbroken. I felt grounded as I shared her eulogy because I knew GaGa and I said our good-bye without a single regret. I stood at her grave, sunflower in hand feeling both confident and about to crumble – such is the dichotomy of grief and life.

I am entering 2019 with those same feelings, especially with the one year anniversary of her death is just three weeks away. But this year I will continue to lean in, knowing I will be okay.

So you want to lose that extra baggage? Lean in to what scares you most. Embrace the hurt and the ugly.

We can either choose to push our hurt away, letting it affect our relationships and life or we can lean in. It took me a year and some really hard therapy sessions these last two months, but I’m doing the work and leaning in.

If life were up to me, GaGa would still be here. Unfortunately, life isn’t always up to me, but how I handle these moments are my choice.

I’m leaning in and losing the weight. Won’t you join me?

And PS…the day after Christmas (after I stopped searching for ‘the perfect’ sign) Jordan, the kids and I pulled up to the house and all together spotted a red bird sitting perfectly on the edge of the roof, staring straight at us. I had to laugh. I see you GaGa, and love you. Always.

Year 8: Thriving with Intention

Eight years.

Eight years of recovery. Eight years of falling (and getting back up). Eight years of life slapping me in the face. Eight years of choosing recovery over and over…and over.

On this day eight years ago, I was faced with a decision: admit to treatment and choose recovery or fly home and continue suffering from my debilitating and life threatening eating disorder.

I chose recovery. I chose to walk through the Carolina House doors. But that decision did not come without severe hesitation, denial and an escape attempt. See: Heading Back to Treatment

But rather than go back to what was safe and comfortable (my eating disorder), I took the massive blind leap of faith and walked back through the Carolina House doors.

And I’ve been choosing recovery and life every day since.

Prior to my recovery, my fear of failure was so great I played life safe, staying in the comfortable lane and living life according to other people’s expectations. I went with the safe college major, the safe job, checking the boxes I was ‘supposed’ to check, rather than asking myself, “What do I want to do in this life?”

THRIVE was not a word in my disordered vocabulary. I merely survived (ish), gliding through life, clinging to my eating disorder for comfort.

Today, I choose to THRIVE. I choose to take risks. I choose to stand up no matter how many times life knocks me down. And good grief, life has knocked me down!

From multiple moves, Marjorie’s early birth, Marjorie’s cancer, my struggle with PTSD, the death of my best friend and simply trying to juggle life throughout, it has been a tough eight years AND the best eight years.

On this eighth year of recovery, I am finally starting to thrive again. My mind is clearer than ever on what I want to do next and, more importantly, how I want to live my life. My goals are falling into place and my desire to thrive is bigger than ever.

But thriving is confusing!

What defines thriving versus simply living?

We all have different definitions of what thriving looks like in our life. But one thing I know for sure is that we don’t have to succumb to society’s definition of thriving: being productive, being ‘on’ 24/7, never resting, having your shit together, perfect Instagram filters, perfect body, money, success, travel…the list goes on.

If that is what thriving is to you, then I am O-U-T.

For me, thriving means living each day with intention. It does not mean summiting Kilimanjaro (although, completing required lunch duties at Manning’s school is similar to climbing a mountain with little oxygen).

Thriving to me, means making it through the not so great days with intention and grace. Grace to myself and to others. Grace in knowing we are all doing the best we can with what we know.

This year has been a year of the highest highs and the lowest of lows. I have muddled clumsily through this grief journey, ultimately coming to understand how grief and thriving can co-exist.

Thriving through the grief does not mean hopping my car running errand after errand, answering call after call, avoiding the sadness. Thriving through grief means allowing myself to curl up in bed and cry in the middle of the day, feeling the empty hole and knowing note very day will hurt.

Thriving does not look like a superhero mom cape or the most popular girl at the party. Thriving means living your truth and embracing where you are, asking for help and taking a damn nap when you’re tired.

Thriving means setting boundaries and saying no (something I am working very hard on).

Thriving means leaving the baskets of laundry and list of emails to be present with your kids at the park.

Thriving means honoring your body with nourishment, rest and joyful movement.

Thriving means loving yourself– the good, the imperfect and the messy.

Thriving means taking chances, failing and getting back up.

Thriving means surrounding yourself with people who fill you up and not tear you down.

Thriving means being who you are and living life unapologetically.

And during the holiday season, thriving means that some days you forget to move that damn elf.

Today I celebrate my eighth year of recovery. Eight years of living life. Eight years of falling and thriving through.

As I enter into my ninth year of recovery I plan to do it with intention. I am beginning to realize (and embrace) thriving, for me, doesn’t mean having a bestselling book or saying yes to every opportunity. Thriving is being present and living my life with intention, intentions to be present with my family, taking care of myself and learning to say no.

So here is to year eight. I am excited to continue down this beautiful (and hard) path of recovery and self-discovery. Thank you for following along and sharing your story and heart with mine.

And I would be remiss not to say, RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE. Wherever you are, no matter how hopeless you feel, recovery is possible. Trust me. Eight years ago, I never dreamed my life could be this imperfectly amazing, but it could and it is. Hang in there. You are worth recovery and LIFE.

With love and light,

McCall

This photo was taken moments after I finished my last talk of 2018. I was in awe as 1000+ students at GPS stood and gave me a huge standing ovation. You can see the tears welling in my eyes. There is so much in life I am unsure about, but if there is one thing I know for certain is that sharing my story is why God placed me on this earth. Forever grateful for this day eight years ago and every messy day since.
Photo Credit: Emily Lester