Response: What Mother’s Bodies Really Look Like


Photo from Jade Beall's Facebook page

Photo from Jade Beall’s Facebook page

I saw photographer Jade Beall’s work in the Huffington Post on Tuesday. She takes beautiful, mostly nude photographs of women without correcting the photos in Photoshop and without excluding the angles generally regarded as unpleasant. She shows women in their natural state, blemishes and all. Her work is truly inspiring.

The inner and outer beauty of the women is clearly revealed in these photographs, despite the fact that they may not meet society’s rigid definition of beauty. Beall’s photographs show us that blemishes don’t disrupt a woman’s beauty – a fact that is lost to media’s portrayal of juvenile flawlessness.

Untarnished beauty is for children. Women and men are not children and it is ridiculous to expect that we should look like them. But the media says we should, well, that women should anyway. This is insulting and just plain gross.

Our bodies are vessels transporting ourselves and our babies through this world – and throughout our lives those bodies accumulate the scars of our journey – cuts on our knees, broken bones, acne, stretch marks. A little of this is normal and, arguably, beautiful. Every animal has blemishes. Why have we come to loathe them in women?

Thank photographers like Beall for having a good sense of reality.

Avoid Bodily Injury For Health

However, just because it is perfectly natural to bear blemishes doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to avoid accumulating too many of them – not for aesthetics’ sake but because the more scars we endure, the more we are likely beating ourselves up and disregarding the survival of our species. We don’t go around dragging our bodies across the blacktop, enduring road rash and the scars that result – not intentionally anyway. We generally try to avoid bodily injury.

Likewise, we should try to avoid the types of injuries which start from within and exhibit as outward imperfections. This is what my book Primal Moms Look Good Naked is all about. In the book I show women what is happening inside our bodies when our physiques suffer.

Some general examples of blemishes that should warn us of deeper problems include:

  • Acne does not happen in a healthy, well balanced body. It can be avoided by reducing inflammation and balancing hormones. This same effort not only keeps the person from pimples but also helps him/her to be happier since healthy hormone balance increases feelings of joy. Additionally, the inflammation that is present in an acne sufferer can cause joint problems and weight gain, among many other problems. Acne is not just an aesthetic problem.
  • Stretch marks may be normal in some circumstances when they are mild and it shouldn’t bother us so much to see them, but they can be a sign that the mother needs to improve her nutrition. Severe stretch marks are a sign of low zinc, iron, and other skin nutrients. These same nutrients are important both for fighting off the common cold, to getting a good night’s sleep, to growing a strong baby.
  • Varicose veins happen when blood vessels are weak. Weak blood vessels can lead to cardiovascular disease.
  • Broken bones happen to us when we really take a digger but our bodies are designed to endure a fair beating. When bones break easily, they are weak. This is a sign of severe undernourishment. Either calcium or Vitamin D might be low. The ramifications of low Vitamin D are far reaching.

The scars we endure say something about our health or obstacles we’ve faced in our lives. Most of us modern folk have more scars than we should because we eat less optimally than we should. We bear those scars for the rest of our lives (although even scars can be diminished through good nutrition) and we should not be ashamed of them. Our triumphs and our failures are what make us who we are and we should be proud of the whole package.

Taking care of our bodies and our health throughout our lives and during our pregnancies should be a priority but we should not sit around and lament and be embarrassed about those scars which we have acquired. Our bodies are a history of our growth in this world and that is a beautiful thing.

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  1. This was very encouraging and inspiring. I saw all of those photographs online yesterday and thought they were absolutely beautiful. We should all strive to have healthy, strong, thriving and robust bodies to avoid blemishes, but if we get some physical manifestations of mistakes in our lives, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it.

  2. I’m so going through body issues right now. Needed this. Thank you.

  3. My comments about acne. Yes, the presence of acne points to imbalance in the body. And when one’s system has the necessary vital force to push toxins out through the skin for release, that is a good sign. It is better for toxins to be expressed through the skin than to be deposited into more vital organs or joints. The lack of acne does not necessarily mean a person is healthy and strong. The presence of acne does not mean a person is sick and weak. Clear skin can mean two things: either one’s system efficiently eliminates toxins and therefore no acne, or else it stores those toxins more deeply in the body and therefore causing more problems in the long run. If someone were to heal from the a lung condition for example, one may observe the lungs growing stronger and perhaps then the skin releasing the toxins in the form of acne. This is a good sign if the focus of symptoms move from an inner organ to an outer organ. This is a basic homeopathic concept.

    • RG,

      I wonder if this might be true when a person is going through a detox program. But when we are talking about cystic acne and a long term struggle with clear skin, it is a sign that there is a problem. I myself suffered from severe cystic acne for over a decade. My body wasn’t efficiently eliminating toxins. During this time I also had cellulite and major joint problems, among other ills. I was very unhealthy and congested. I have known and spoken with many people in similar situations. Hormones need to be balanced, zinc needs to be added to the diet, and inflammation must be addressed, among many other strategies.

      • Peggy, is this why when I have sugar I break out in acne? I’ve known this from my teenage years, before I even knew about paleo. If I had sugar I would break out the next day.

        Also, how much zinc do you recommend daily? Thanks!

  4. Peggy, this article is so helpful to young women, especially those with body image issues and/or eating disorders (both of which are very modern issues). Most women today have some degree of dissatisfaction with their bodies and it is rather sad that we can’t always see the beauty in the journey our bodies have taken in our short time here on earth.

    As a former sufferer of a long term eating disorder as a young teen, I would like to know what you think of this issue and if you can provide any insight. Is this a modern issue for so many girls because of our perfectionism society? or is it simply due to the fact that we can scrutinize and compare ourselves to other women because we see a wider variety of women now? Or is it just a poor diet causing a gut-mind connection and feelings of low self worth? Or maybe even a combination of all of these factors causing things like this?

    • MaryB,

      You hit the nail on the head. It’s a combination. I am not an expert in eating disorders and haven’t had experience with them myself but the little that I have read suggests that they are absolutely related to nutritional deficiencies. I’d like to dig up some of the articles I’ve read and do a little piece about it. It is such an important topic as so many women unnecessarily suffer. I knew girls with eating disorders and I had never heard that their doctors were prescribing nutrients. Of course, our societies demands play a role, but the problem is deeper than that. Mental illness always is.

      • I know that here in Norway people with eating disorders are feed with bread and yoghurt, not natural, nourishing food. I’m sure that the mental aspects of an eating disorder is not getting better with that kind of food.

  5. i agree with you on this one peggy. and it’s a fine point to negotiate, so bravo.

    4 months into nursing my newborn son, a lump developed in one of my breasts.

    now– 9 months later– one breast is significantly larger than the other. the larger breast is where my son nurses most of the time. i usually hide both breasts from my husband. or slide my hair in front of one shoulder so that it covers one breast. in the last month, cystic acne has begun to show up along my jawline.

    i know that there is a deeper reason for the lump and the reduced milk production. i know exactly which foods i ate (and sips of wine i had) that irritated my very sensitive gut and immune system

    the reality is that our bodies reflect what’s going on *inside.* and as much as people may argue against this reality with genetics (hello, epigenetics?), a majority of the people that i know are not in partnership with their bodies.

    and it shows.

    • I know the feeling, Megan. With Evelyn I had cystic acne. I had it for a decade actually. I was so embarrassed of myself, but with good reason. Long term, severe acne is indicative of something very off in the body. For women, it is male hormones and inflammation. That is usually combined with depression. Often times, one “unpleasant” symptom goes along with others. Unfortunately, that’s when we really start to feel bad about ourselves. Keep your head up. You are on the right track with natural living and eating healthy. A lot of times it gets easier once the baby grows up a little. Motherhood and looking after our bodies and our health can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when you’re coming into motherhood with health problems.

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