It’s Okay To Be Fat

Holy emotions! I may have had a mini breakdown (break through??) after listening to this TEDx Talk!

At first I just felt upset after watching and I couldn’t understand why, then a bunch of memories started coming up as I started thinking about the message “It’s ok to be fat.” Here they are:

1. My habit of binge/secret eating began sometime in elementary school, probably as early as 7-8 years old because my mother started counting the Weight Watcher points of my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (low-fat peanut butter on low-fat whole wheat bread, in case you were wondering. “Yuck” doesn’t even do it justice). The more food restriction that was forced on me, the more I had to sneak food to feel satisfied.

2. My pediatrician (who I hated) told me every single year at my physical to lose weight. This, despite my blood work always being normal. This, despite always participating in my town’s team sports like basketball and softball. This, despite being a kid who loved fruit and vegetables, never drank soda, and lived in a house where junk food was a rare find. This, despite never actually needing to go to the doctor other than a yearly physical. In short, my health was fine.

3. My high school tennis coach, of a junior varsity team where I was put on first doubles and was called up to varsity whenever a player was sick, repeatedly told me to lose weight. I played for three years before quitting in my senior year of high school, not wanting to return to a team having failed their only request of me. This was also the year that I quit a lot of clubs that I was in, starting drinking more and more at parties, and took binge eating to a whole new level having the advantage of my license and a car.

4. I did, however, become a lifeguard during my senior year of high school. I loved swimming and loved going to the Y and swimming laps in preparation for the test. Following getting my certifications, I would go back to the Y to swim in secret, lying to my parents about where I was because I didn’t want to be a part of the inevitable conversations that would follow about how great swimming was for weight loss. I just wanted to enjoy my secret gym visits without wondering how it would affect the size of my waist.

5. When I got my first “real” job after college as a reporter for a weekly paper, one of the first things my mom asked me was if I was going to join Weight Watchers now that I had some money coming in. I remember feeling so much anger and hurt in that moment, and it comes back immediately when I think of that conversation.

Now, in my mid-20s, I mourn for my past.

The people in my life as I was growing up treated me with concern for my health because I was fat, not because my health was poor, and all I heard and felt was that there was something wrong with me, and that became deeply internalized.

Binge eating (and later binge drinking) became a way to escape those feelings, until it just became a way of life. I had all the habits of a healthy kid and teen, yet was gaining weight at an alarming rate because eating was the only thing that felt safe. There was joy when I ate, a fleeting feeling that I was okay.

I wish so much now that someone had just told me that I was okay. That there was nothing wrong with me. It felt as though everything in my life was tied to my weight, or rather my failure to lose weight, so it shouldn’t surprise me now that I still feel that way. I’m working against a lifetime of influence. It’s going to take time.

A large part of my weight loss has been letting that go. For too long, I held on to resentment toward my parents, my doctors, coaches, and other people in my life who focused on my weight and my failure to lose weight.

I am lucky that I did not internalize this outside view of my body and health to the point that many girls do, and have a more serious eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia. When I went to college, I found out most women at some point have tried to starve themselves or tried to throw up and I had done neither. You have no idea how blessed I feel that all along I had the whisperings of an inner voice telling me I was okay. I only wish I had been louder in those convictions.

My weight loss now was not the result of me realizing how disgusting or unhealthy I was. My weight loss was about me figuring out how wonderful and powerful I was and accepting myself as worthy of attention. It doesn’t work the other way around. I can feel confident saying that, because of Golda Potesky saying that 95% of people who diet, fail at their diets. The best predictor that someone will gain weight is to put them on a diet.

I am what Golda refers to as the outlier. I am not what she says are the 5% of people who have lost around 10 pounds, I am in an even smaller percentage of people who lose a radical amount of weight and I know, with complete certainty, it’s been because of this fundamental belief that I am okay no matter what the scale says.

There are moments I get tripped up, like what I’m going through right now, and have “scale-based self esteem,” but I’ve been blessed to always be able to return to my inner guide that got me through those childhood, preteen, and young adult years.

Yes, I am eating emotionally at times right now. But there is no complete backslide, I’ve come too far and, even in the weak moments, believe in myself too strongly. I know how powerful love is. I write, or pray, when my feelings from my childhood become too much to bare. I am devoted to a more peaceful way of life where I am not at war with my body and I won’t let anyone else tell me that I should be at war with my body.

There is no one in my life who I would let treat me the way people treated me when I was a kid. We know, as adults, how harmful the words “you’re fat” can be, so I don’t know why it’s become a good practice to tell children over and over again to lose weight “for their health” when doctors cannot prescribe a diet that works, or link fat to being unhealthy, but that’s how it is in our society. Sometimes I think I’ll never stop being angry about this.

There is nothing so wrong with me that love and acceptance cannot heal, and while I don’t always feel that way, it’s what I continue to believe in. It’s scary being this honest, but I also know that my honesty and my telling these stories is my path to freedom, and may just be a light for others, too.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brene Brown

Also, happy, happy, happy birthday to my sister – who I will forever think is the most beautiful, talented, funny, smart and wonderful person on earth. I’ll always want to be exactly like you when I grow up 🙂

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Monday Confessions

Hola, friends.

1. Silence usually spells trouble.

It feels like it’s been a while. I guess I’m out of the blogging groove. I’m mostly in the same place with food…unfortunately. I can’t seem to break this cycle of emotional eating (and crazy intense sugar cravings) and now I want to lose weight again, and it’s all making me a little…nutty. I get really upset that I haven’t lost weight faster. I get really upset that I eat as a comfort for being upset, lonely, sad, whatever. I get really upset that losing so much weight hasn’t changed more about my life.

I get it, I should be happy and proud with what I’ve accomplished but I still have a way to go. I’m not yet in a healthy weight range according to Science (I’m 5’3!), and I still have a fairly high percentage of body fat. My brain is getting in the way of my body, and I need it to back the EFF off.

2. Work it.

Despite all of that food drama, I’ve been loving my workouts. I’ve either been doing yoga, walking, or the elliptical or sometimes a combo of all of those 6-7 days a week. I really want to get stronger though so I can feel more confident in yoga! My core and arms are just generally weak. I’ve never, ever kept up a strength training routine, so saying all of this is probably just talk for right now, but I’m thinking after my European vacation (in a month !!!!) and after I’m settled in a new apartment (who knows when, at this point) I’ll sign up for cross fit. IT’S TIME.

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3. I tried to go low carb

….For a week and it ended in an entire day of consuming froyo and chocolate chip cookies. I love fruit and vegetables and oatmeal. I’ve always been into more sweet than savory, meat and cheese just doesn’t satiate me. At least I ended it after a week and didn’t push something that doesn’t feel natural. Progress? Meh.

4. I’ve been trolling the Weight Watchers message boards.

Not trolling in the mean way, but in the “just reading, not participating” way. Not that that is any less creepy...

Anyway, when I first started losing weight this time, I kicked it off with three months of Weight Watchers online and my favorite part was the message board of those who had to lose 100+ pounds.

Lately I’ve been feeling so ALONE in what I’m going through, so I turned back to those message boards just to feel some kind of community. I’m not going to lie, I’ve even thought about signing up again. I’m ANTI-DIET, but I know meetings might offer some support that I just don’t feel like I’m getting.

It’s hard. I have so many wonderful friends and family but no one can relate to losing this much weight, and more importantly, still struggling to lose weight.

Whether it’s going shopping for new clothes, emotional eating, losing so much weight but still having more, there is no one for me to go to who just GETS IT. I’m feeling so unsure about everything that it might just be nice to have a group to vet all these things with.

Does anyone remember the show Ruby? It was about 500+ pound Ruby Gettinger and her struggle to lose weight. It aired for three years and I recently got into it via Netflix. Anyway, she created a “Woman’s Fat Night” where her and her other fat friends would get together and talk about all issues of emotional eating, being fat, etc. I want that.

….Anyone want to take part in Woman’s Fat Night? I’m 100 percent serious about this, if anyone really is interested. We can even make shirts with these hippos. LMK. K?

5. Protein bar obsessed

I don’t know when I decided that protein bars or shakes were lazy meal replacements but man, I can’t stop eating them. My favorite bars are Quest (going through all the flavors now….Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough is pretty wonderful) and Think Thin, especially Brownie Crunch. I’m pretty sure my brain just think they’re candy.

I’m also a big fan of Designer Whey protein powder. With my Ninja blender I can add almost an entire tray of ice and get these really fluffy, chocolate ice cream like shakes. It’s amaze.

Do you have anything to confess?

 

Talking About Tracking

I have something fun to share with you guys today.

A few months ago, my friend Steph came over with a video camera and we spent a couple hours talking about healthy living and tracking your behaviors to make positive life changes.

She used my interview and interviews with two others to make a video about self-tracking for a class in her interactive media program.

When she asked me if I would like to be involved, I immediately said YES. Um, a chance to talk about myself and my life on camera? Of course!

The video is about 5 minutes long and features snippets from me and 2 other trackers. I used to think it was so weird to hear myself talk (doesn’t everyone?!) but got over that after years of transcribing interviews (journalism is NOT dead!). Seeing yourself on camera is definitely a little weird, but I love how it came out. Steph did a great job putting the whole thing together and I had so much fun in the process. Enjoy!

Healing

Hi!

Time to check in, yes? 🙂

In yoga last week, the teacher reminded us to focus on our own mats. Do the pose first, listening to what feels comfortable for your own body before looking up around the room to compare or adjust to the technique of others.

This, I realized, is how I approach my healing.

It’s no secret that the last couple weeks have been rough. Binge eating, anxiety, stress. There was and is mountains of healing work to be done. Binge eating is a symptom of something I’m not addressing. A manifestation of unconscious anxieties. A reaction to present and forthcoming change. A flooding of the past into my current realities.

I can’t begin to explain to you how weird it feels to have a body (almost) half the size of the one I’ve lived in most of my adult life. Just believe me when I say, the experience is strange.

I’m navigating uncharted territory every day that I wake up. A world that sees me differently, but a mind and mirror that doesn’t. I feel like I fought so hard to make sure this very experience didn’t overtake my life by going about weight loss slowly, but aggressively, with a purposeful focus on health rather than weight, and with as much introspection as I could muster in being aware that this would affect me in some way.

Relearning how to eat feels like child’s play compared to relearning how to think about yourself. A mind shift from the fat girl to the fit girl. From lazy to accomplished. From disengaged to empowered.

I’m feeling overwhelmed even as I type.

I don’t know what it is that brought all of these things together in what feels like a rush of awareness, but it’s here, so I’m going to have to head in and confront it.

Like I said above, I go about healing the way the yoga teacher advised us to go about our practice. Focusing inward. I’ve never been one to invite the opinions of others into my life, and I feel that’s especially important now as I go through this very personal process. I’m holding my thoughts and reactions close, cradling them, and exploring them only the protective pages of my journal. It feels deliciously self-indulgent and I believe is the right way to go about beginning a process of growth.

There is a person that feels lost and disoriented in all of this, and I’m digging to find her again. I’m unabashedly taking as much time for myself as I need to satisfy this hunger.

Margarita Tartakovsky recently published a post on the Weightless blog called “Body Positive Lessons: On Making Progress, Not Perfection” that absolutely blew me away.

She talked about going away for the weekend and being off her eating, sleeping and exercising schedule and how – whether there was real weight gain or not – it made her feel fat. She could have either berated herself and cut out desserts while increasing exercise, or actually listen to what her body needed after time off of her routine.

Today, I realize the limitations of focusing on weight. If I focused my attention on whether I gained weight (and wanting to lose it), that’s all I would see. I’d be numbed by the numbers, ashamed and unaware.

I wouldn’t be able to realize that instead of needing to shed pounds (and making myself miserable in the process), what I really need is to nurture myself with more sleep, calm, movement and yummy meals at home.

I wouldn’t be able to see the habits and activities I need to truly feel better, more energized, relaxed and fulfilled. Instead, I’d be scrambling to lose weight, feeling deprived and still edgy.

I also realize that a positive body image isn’t the absence of negative thoughts. It doesn’t mean always feeling fantastic.

We forget that we can’t turn a positive body image into just another thing to get obsessed about; another path for seeking perfection. We forget that weight loss isn’t a panacea. It isn’t the answer to our pain.

This idea, of evoking self-love as a means to change, has always been at the crux of living well and healthfully for me and is a priority I need to consistently remind myself as I go down this path of self discovery.

Accepting my body as it is now isn’t going to be the result of more weight loss, or looking at “how far I’ve come.” It will be a process of continuing to focus on what got me here, the small things – cooking, taking walks, journaling – that make me feel good every day.

I have to put in the effort to discover what works for me right now, just as much as I had to put in the effort to figure out what worked for me at 243 pounds. There is no miraculous switch to living life and happy and joyous just because I’ve lost weight. The same effort in discovering what made me happy and fulfilled to lose the weight will be the same effort that I need to put in to continue losing, and maintaining and being happy with my body, health, and life.

“Knowing others is intelligence. Knowing yourself is true wisdom.” – Lao Tzu

 

 

Vulnerable

I stayed up way to late watching YouTube videos of Brene Brown last night. Her and Oprah on Super Soul Sunday? Gold.

I wish I had more upbeat things to say, but I’m feeling very pulled under by anxiety and stress.

The next few weeks I’m going to really make an effort to double down on affirmations and gratefulness – I know that stuff is supposed to come a bit more naturally, but when you don’t have it is when you need it the most.

A few days ago I read a message that went something like this: “It’s not ‘I need to see it to believe it,’ but ‘I’ll believe it so I see it’.”

It’s going to be all about working those affirmations.

I’ll leave you with this: