Category Archives: Acceptance

Holy distorted body image, Batman!

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I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed and saw a link from the HuffPo to this article:

Susanne Eman, Plus-Size Model, Trying To Become The Biggest Woman Ever

When I clicked on it, before I read anything, I looked at the pictures.  When I saw the one on the bottom of the page, I thought to myself, “She must have a long way to go to be the world’s biggest woman, because she is only about the size I was when I started this diet.”

And then I read the article and discovered that she is 728 lbs.!

Boy, was that a wake up call. The fact that I thought a woman who was 728 lbs. looked like I did when I was less than half that weight was really eye opening.  It was a concrete example of just how exaggerated my self perception is.

The good news is that I’m actually feeling much better about myself these days (losing 50 lbs. will do that), and I don’t despair every time I look in the mirror.  I suspect my image of myself is still bigger than it really is, but it also feels like my self image is losing weight faster than my body, so to speak. 😉  I think I’m getting closer to a realistic perception, and that’s a victory in itself.

 

In general, I’m actually a happy person

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I feel like I need to get a little something off my chest.  I worry that this blog makes me seem brooding and self-pitying and like a big time Debbie Downer.  I’m really not!  This blog focuses on only one aspect of my life, and yes, it’s a very negative and difficult aspect.  But my whole life is not like that.

Overall, I’m actually a pretty optimistic and positive person.  I wasn’t always, though.  In fact, I struggled with depression for several years.  But last September, I had what I like to call an epiphany.  I know that term often has religious connotations, but I don’t mean it that way – in fact, rather than finding a faith in God, what I found was more faith in my fellow humans.

Let me explain.

There have been a lot of genuinely difficult things in my life during the last decade.  Nate and I struggled with infertility not once, but twice.  Nate has had ongoing medical problems as a result of a disease he has called Von Hippel Lindau, and that’s necessitated multiple surgeries and cost him the vision in one eye.  Two years ago, we found out that Gus also has VHL, which was absolutely devastating, especially given that he’d already had a rough start in life, dealing with torticollis and scoliosis during his infancy.  Most recently, Nate and I have both been out of work for long stretches of time.  Even before that, I was a stay-at-home mom for several years, so money has been and continues to be very tight.

But things came to a head last September.  I was wallowing in our latest misery – our old house in Detroit was foreclosed on in spite of the fact that we had had numerous offers on the table to buy it in a short sale for more than a year, and all the things that held the process up until it was too late were completely out of our control – and I was a mess of tears and self pity.

A couple of days after we got the news, I was on Facebook, and the oddest thing changed my life.  You know all those silly “groups” on Facebook that don’t actually do anything but have funny or inspiring names that people “like” just because they like the thought?  Well, I just happened to stumble on one called, “Don’t dwell on who let you down, cherish those who hold you up!”

As cliche as that sentiment might sound, the truth of it really hit me in that moment.  For all the devastation we’ve experienced, we’ve never hit the bottom.  Why?  Because family and friends and even complete strangers have been there for us.  And I realized: they always will be.  In fact, the darker it gets, the brighter the stars shine to help us find our way.

I know it sounds crazy, but that was it.  In one fell swoop, the clouds lifted from my life, and I found the perspective and peacefulness that had eluded me for so long.  And I’m now closing in on 6 months of feeling this way.  I’ve stopped worrying that it’s just a mood that’s going to change and have accepted that I’m in a different place now.  In many ways, the storm is still raging (I’m still out of work and our COBRA subsidy runs out soon and we’re going to owe taxes…I’m pretty much scared silly), but it’s like I’m above it now.  I can see that it’s happening, but I can also see that the sky clears ahead, too.  Not because I’m prescient, but because it always does – eventually.

So I guess I just wanted to say: please don’t take this blog as the entirety of who I am.  For the most part, I embrace and love my life.  I’ve got a wonderful, loving, hilarious husband (shhhh, don’t tell him I said he’s hilarious), and my kids are absolutely amazing.  We all adore Denver and don’t ever want to leave.

And in fact, I don’t even worry too much about the money, because I feel like one day we’ll be above water again.  (I’d be lying if I said I never worry about it, but it’s not causing me to have panic attacks, so that’s a pretty major step forward.)  But this self image thing?  Well, it’s been a part of me since long before I had any idea what VHL or mortgages or COBRA were.  It’s hard to shake.

But I’m working on it.  And for once, I actually feel like I have a chance to be successful.  I’m more optimistic than I’ve ever been, and I think it’s because I’ve resolved the other big issues that had been weighing on me (no pun intended!).  So for the first time in my adult life, I can focus my energy on this.  On making me a better, healthier person – physically and emotionally.

I can do this.  I know I can.

Another piece of the puzzle: taking care of myself

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I have a dear friend whom I email back and forth with a lot, and we have a tendency to talk about a lot of deep stuff.  (In fact, one email with her inspired the title of this blog.)  I’m so grateful to her for that, because writing really seems to help me process things.

Yesterday, another piece of the puzzle fell into place during a conversation with her.  She told me that when she saw me the other day, I’d looked really pretty, but she she knew I probably wouldn’t believe her.  And generally, she’d be right – she often tells me I looked pretty, and I dismiss it and tell her that she’s just being nice b/c she’s my friend, and that I don’t believe most people see me that way.

But as I read her email this time, I thought, “For once, I actually kind of feel like I did look pretty.”  For a moment, I wondered what the difference was, but the answer hit me pretty quickly: I’d taken the time to do my hair and make up that day.

Now on the one hand, I hate the fact that many women spend hours primping to feel attractive (or even just “passable”), whereas men can roll out of bed, take a 2 minute shower, and be convinced they’re hot stuff.  This is a bit of a generalization, of course, but the overall principle is true.  And I balk at that; it’s such a double standard.

Nonetheless, it is the culture I was raised in, and when I take some time to take care of myself, I find that I feel better about myself.  I stand a little taller, speak a little more confidently, smile a little more.

But the more I think about it, I realize that the key phrase here is “take care of myself.”  It’s not the makeup and the blow dryer, per se – it’s just that I’ve expended energy on something that says to me that I value myself, that it’s worth it to take the time to do something for me.

To fully understand that idea, I need to go back a couple of weeks to an earlier email to her, when I was talking about how I’d been feeling really frumpy lately because my eyebrows were overgrown and my nails were broken and ragged, and she had reassured me that no one even notices things like that.*  I said:

If I felt I otherwise looked good, I probably wouldn’t worry too much [about those things].  But given that my nails are at the ends of chubby fingers and my eyebrows should be working to draw attention away from my triple chin (as if that were possible), I guess I just feel more self-conscious about it.  Especially b/c they are things I COULD so easily control, but I just don’t.  I think on some level I’ve decided that nothing I do can make me look pretty, so why bother wasting the time on any of it?

Reflecting on those two ideas – that I feel better about myself when I make myself look nice, and that on some level, I almost intentionally don’t do it because I don’t value myself – I finally realized something: I need to start making getting ready a priority everyday.

Since I’ve been out of work (which has been over a year now), it’s been easy to fall into the very lazy pattern of showering and calling it a day.  I comb my hair when I get out and then don’t touch it again.  I skip makeup.  I don’t even put on any lotion, which is murder on my skin in this dry climate, especially b/c I love good hot showers during the winter.

Starting today, I’m making an effort to change that.  I intended to wake up and get straight in the shower, but that didn’t quite happen, as I woke up with intense stomach cramps that seemed to be the start of a stomach bug. Fortunately, those have passed, so in a few minutes, I’m going to go shower, put on a little makeup, and blow dry my hair.

After that, I’m going to run out and use a little bit of leftover birthday money to finally get my eyebrows done, and moving forward, I plan to maintain them with the tweezers.  And last night, I took my chipped clear nail polish off, and I’m going to make sure that I keep my nails trimmed and neat with a fresh coat of clear polish on.

All of these things together take less than 10 minutes per day (all my hair requires is about 60 seconds with the blow dryer once it’s mostly dry, I use fairly minimal makeup, and the clear polish dries almost instantly), which is time I’m committing to giving myself.  They’re little steps, and they seem so inconsequential, but I realize that doing these things is every bit as important as losing weight in helping me to start shutting off that negative inner voice that tells me that I’m worthless.

* I’d like to just note that not every conversation we have is all about me and my insecurities!  We send each other mega emails about all kinds of different things, and I swear to you that I don’t obsess about this nonstop. 🙂

Healing through writing

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Writing that last post about the craving I had earlier today has affected me a lot more than I thought it would.  Initially, I decided to write about it mostly b/c I didn’t want another big gap between posts.  I wasn’t feeling too emotional about it until I actually wrote it out, and saw in cold, clear words what I’d thought to myself.

That experience made me realize why journaling/blogging is such an important part of the healing process – I think our brains often gloss things over in the moment and let them float in that space between consciousness and subconsciousness.  But when we write about it, we are forced to really examine it more clearly.  Before I wrote that post, I’d mostly focused on the visual element of my food fantasy, the image of me gorging on candy.  But when I wrote it, I realized on a more conscious level what the accompanying message was, and it was really pretty horrifying.

How many times per day do I tell myself that I’m a worthless loser?   And why do I allow myself to base my entire self worth on the number on the scale?  I am very hopeful that keeping this blog will help make me more attuned to that voice so that I can consciously choose to work toward counteracting it.

The Scarlet F

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I’ve been wanting to start a blog to chronicle my weight loss journey for awhile now.  A friend had really encouraged me to journal and suggested that a blog might work, if I wanted to be public with my thoughts.  And I do like that idea, b/c a) it will help keep me accountable, and b) maybe I can help someone else who struggles with the same issues I do.  I know that I’m not alone in feeling the way that I do.

So I’d been kicking the idea of blogging around for awhile, but as is usually the case with me, I didn’t follow through until I came up with a good name.  As fate would have it, that happened tonight.  Over the coming days, I’ll write more about my history and what my current weight loss plan is, but right now, I just want to explain my blog title.

I have a dear friend whom I email frequently, and we talk a lot about body image issues, as it is something we both deal with.  (How many women DON’T deal with body image issues?)  I just told her recently about my new plan to finally shed this incredible amount of extra weight I’m carrying around, and one of the things I said was that, at my current weight, I feel “disgusting.”  (And while I honestly can’t bring myself to admit my weight publicly, suffice it to say that the number I need to lose is easily in the triple digits.  From every objective measure, I am very overweight.)

Caring friend that she is, she told me that I shouldn’t feel that way and that she wishes I could see myself the way she sees me.  When I replied to her, I told her that I know I’m not a bad person and that I shouldn’t define myself by my weight.  And yet it’s still an issue I struggle with deeply, and this is why:

There is no place I go where I feel, “Hey, I look pretty good.”  Instead, I know I look worse than most of the people there, and that yes, a lot of them are judging me.  And if they’re thinking I have no willpower and that I just pig out a lot – well, they’re right.  Does that then make me a bad person?  No.  I know I’m not a bad person b/c I’m fat.  But I still hate that I’ve let myself get here, and I DO think that I’m lazy and that I have no one to blame but myself, b/c it’s the truth.  Again, it doesn’t make me a bad person.  But it often feels like I’ve got a scarlet letter that announces to the world what my worst flaws are, only instead of an A, it’s an F for fat.

And that is where my blog title comes from.  I hope that this blog will be about more than just “I ate this today,” and, “I exercised this much,” and, “I lost this much this week.”  (Although I know I will post those kinds of things, too.)  I hope to also chronicle the emotional journey I’m going on, trying to start accepting myself and stop feeling like a woman who deserves a public flogging.