How Many Cameras Are On Me?

Image credit: pepsicated.wordpress.com

Image credit: pepsicated.wordpress.com

I haven’t taken a picture of myself in quite a while. Well, actually that’s not true. The reality is I haven’t seen a current picture of myself…until recently.

When I packed my camera to bring with me to a writing retreat in Montana, I didn’t think much about the pictures that would be taken. Aside from shots of the lake, garden and buildings, we took pictures of each other and of the group as a whole. I wanted to capture those memories and the people I had met. So far, so good. Until I realized my fellow retreaters were posting these pictures on Facebook…and tagging me in them.

I was horrified. I’m aware I’ve gained weight and I thought I knew what I looked like, but I think I have body dysmorphic disorder in reverse. Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing myself as fatter than I really am, I guess I see myself as thinner. I often look in the mirror and think, not too bad. But seeing a photograph of myself? That’s a whole different story.

It was as if that episode of Friends, the one where they show video of Monica and Rachel getting ready for their high school prom, was replaying itself inside my head. Monica, who was much heavier in high school, reminds the group, “The camera adds ten pounds!” And then Chandler pipes up, “So how many cameras are actually on you?” And that’s what I’m wondering…How many cameras are on me? 

I didn’t think to stand in the back or to camouflage myself in some way. I’m short so I’m used to being in the front of a group photo. I’m sitting down in some of the shots and my belly could be used for a table…my boobs are trying to choke me. When I saw each one I felt deep shame. I cried. I panicked. I quickly hid the pictures from my timeline and untagged myself. I didn’t want anyone to see how much I’ve changed.

But I haven’t really. Changed, I mean.

I thought about asking them not to tag me, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to be that person. I wanted to believe I had finally come to the place where what I look like didn’t matter to me. As I wrote in my post What If I Stopped Wanting to be Thin?, I don’t want to spend any more of my life dieting. Trying to mold my body into something I think it should be. I’m learning to listen to my body and give it what it needs. Forcing myself to diet would be stressful. And that’s the last thing my poor worn out adrenal glands need right now. But the temptation is there. It’s always there.

People think the answer is to lose weight. That’s the advice I always get. But I’ve been up and down that road so many times it’s worn with the ruts and potholes of shame and guilt and failure. The real and true answer for me is to learn to accept myself just as I am. People will tell me I just need to take better care of myself, to watch what I eat and exercise. But I think taking good care of myself means not falling prey to the belief that I am what I weigh. That I’m somehow less than because my body doesn’t look the way it used to. That I’ll be happier if I’m thinner.

But that’s a lie. When I was thinner I just wanted to be…thinner.

I wondered who had seen the pictures before I got to them. I worried about what people would think…people who haven’t seen me in a long time. But do I really want to waste energy worrying about not looking like I did in high school when I was thin and perky and knew nothing about real life? I have a friend who often says, “Don’t you wish we were 18 again?” And I can honestly reply, “Not on a bet!” Oh, I would love to have that body back. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. But this body has come with some hard-earned lessons. The woman in this body is so much stronger, smarter, more authentic than that 18 year old ever was.

I eventually fessed up to my fellow retreaters. I was honest about how hard it was to see myself in those photos. I even told them one of the considerations for not going to the retreat was that I had gained weight. Which I realized was silly because these women had never seen me before. They had no idea I’d ever looked any different. When we were saying our goodbyes that last morning, one woman in particular gave me a hug. My eyes welled up and tears rolled down my cheeks as she pulled me close and said, “Don’t hide. You’re beautiful the way you are.”

I want to believe that. I really do. It’s still not easy, but I’m working on it.

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

What If I Stopped Wanting To Be Thin?

“I’ll never diet again!” That’s what I told myself after my last diet failed. After my willpower caved about six months in and I spent the next six months forcing myself to go to the gym and restricting the foods I allowed myself to eat. This left me 45 pounds lighter…it also left me neurotic, obsessed, and utterly crazy about food and exercise.

I have done unspeakable things in order to force my body to do what I wanted it to do. And in return it retaliated. To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And the reaction to severely restricting your diet is the dreaded binge.

During those dark and difficult days I would throw what I considered “bad” food in the trash in order to keep myself from eating it. But that only made things worse. I was so obsessed all I could think about was that cookie (or whatever it was) in the trash. And I’m ashamed to admit I’ve eaten food out of the garbage can…more than once. I know that sounds disgusting. And it is. I also know I’m not alone.

My rock bottom came the day I had binged so much that my stomach felt as if it would burst. That feeling was so unbearable all I could think about was getting that food out of me. I had never purged before, but the idea was sounding better and better by the minute. The thought of getting relief by getting rid of the food I had eaten was overwhelming.

But in that moment I heard a voice in my head say, “This is a slippery slope. If you do this once, you’ll keep doing it.” I don’t know how or why, but I knew I was seconds away from a full-blown eating disorder. And somehow I was able to stop myself. But I’ve never been able to stop that longing to lose weight, no matter what size I am.

I know it’s hard to believe I would do that to myself again, but recently I went down the health and weight loss rabbit hole once more. I had been focused on “perfect” health in an effort to recover from adrenal fatigue and as is my tendency, I got a wee bit obsessive with it. And by ‘wee bit’ I mean A LOT! (Can you be a wee bit obsessive about anything? Exactly!)

I found myself admonishing things like cantaloupe and apples because they have too much sugar in them. I switched from whole wheat bread to Ezekial bread (which tastes slightly more bland than cardboard). I wouldn’t eat cottage cheese or yogurt (dairy is bad, don’t you know?) and I took copious supplements all day every day (14 types of pills, 7 times a day, 37 pills in total). Super Supplements must have loved seeing me come in the door!

Three very interesting things happened during this time. I didn’t really feel any better, I didn’t lose any weight (in fact, I gained some), and I wasn’t having any fun. So what was the point?

That’s when it hit me. What the fuck am I doing?

It would probably make me ill if I could add up all the time and money I’ve spent on books, programs, workshops, supplements, gym memberships, personal trainers and more over my lifetime. Not to mention the physical, mental and emotional energy I’ve wasted.

I could’ve written several books, taken piano lessons, had time to garden, spent more time with friends, traveled and done all the things I say I want to do but never seem to have the time, energy or money for. Ironic, huh?

So I’m wondering…what if I just stopped wanting to be thin? I know some of you just gasped in horror. The thought is not an easy one for me to wrap my brain around either. But what if I just give up this fight? No really…give it up. Not because I think acceptance will eventually lead to that long pursued goal of thinness, but just because I have so many other things I’d rather focus on. Could I actually get to the place where the size of my body isn’t even part of the equation anymore?

”Never underestimate the huge middle finger you are giving to the world when you make peace with your body.” ~Frances Lockie

What if the goal wasn’t thinness, but happiness, joy and fun instead? What if I said yes to life instead of always saying no? As in, no I can’t eat that it’s not on my plan. No I can’t go there, they might not have anything I can eat. No I can’t do that, I have to go to the gym, prep food, count supplements.

We’ve all been told (and generally believe) that if we want something bad enough and just work hard enough at it, eventually we’ll succeed. But is that really true? I’ve worked as hard as anyone to get to (and stay at) that ever-elusive healthy weight for my body without any lasting success. What if the problem lies in the wanting, the striving, the working so hard for?

There is no ‘right’ way to eat…no ‘perfect’ program. For every study/article/belief touting perfect health, there is almost always a study against it. It’s a wonder we can find anything to eat at all anymore. I have always believed knowledge is power and there’s no such thing as too much information. But in this case I think information is a recipe (pun intended) for insanity.

Right now I’m not the weight I’d like to be. But right now is all there is. And as I said in my previous post, The Weight Problem I Never Had, there is no bigger waste of time and energy than to wish things were different than they are.

For too many years I defined “being healthy” by the number on the scale, the size of my clothes, taking the right supplements, eating the right foods and doing the right exercise…whether I liked it or not.

Now I’m shifting that definition. It may take some time as the old definition of health is deeply ingrained. But what feels best to me is not focusing on plans or formulas or numbers some “expert” deems the right and only way. Being healthy means feeling good, enjoying life and having fun!

Does this mean I’ve finally made peace with my body? I don’t know. But I’m certainly on my way.

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

The Weight Problem I Never Had

Me (in blue) with my friend Debbie at 8th grade graduation.

Me (in blue) with my friend Debbie at 8th grade graduation.

As many of you know from either knowing me personally or reading previous posts, I have struggled with my weight over the years. I’m so tired of this issue I didn’t even want to write about it again. But I had an interesting epiphany that was so BIG I knew I had to share it.

I did not have a weight problem until I believed I did.

You read that right. I know it might sound strange, but I was looking at some old pictures and realized for the first time I wasn’t overweight when I started dieting. And I was shocked!

The picture above is what I looked like when I first believed I needed to go on a diet. I was 13. I was at the age when girls start to fill out and my dad said to me one day “Looks like you’ve put on a few pounds.” That’s my first memory of my body not being okay the way it was. And what I made that statement mean about me changed the way I felt about my body and myself.

I dieted all through high school and after I had my first child at 20. At no time during those years was I actually overweight. Crazy? Definitely! I didn’t start gaining weight until I’d been dieting for a number of years. I dieted myself into being fat.

For more than 30 years I have either been on a diet or off a diet. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about my weight, what I’m eating or how much (or little) I’m exercising. I labeled food as “good” and “bad” and judged myself by what I put in my mouth. “Good” food made me feel virtuous and worthy. “Bad” food made me feel guilty and full of self-loathing.

The pressure to be thin is ever-present and there isn’t a woman alive who hasn’t felt it. If it hadn’t been that statement from my dad, it would’ve been something else. You know the old saying…”You can never be too rich or too thin.” As a society we believe that’s true and we’ve created an entire industry around it. An industry that is now a $20 billion business according to this article on ABC News. And I wasted 30 years buying into it.

I’m not blaming my weight problem on my dad, or the diet industry or even society as a whole. I’m just wondering what might have been different if I hadn’t bought into other people’s beliefs about me.

The reason I think this is important is to show just how much our beliefs influence us. That one belief set me on a course that would dominate my life. The “problem” was an illusion. It didn’t exist…until I started believing it.

In the last 30 plus years I have rarely been happy with my weight. When I was fat I wanted to be thin. When I was thin I wanted to be thinner. And I can honestly say there is no bigger waste of time and energy than to wish things were different than they are. Thirty years is a helluva long time to obsess over something that wasn’t even wrong in the first place.

I’m tired of playing that game so I’m opting out. I don’t now if this will change anything as far as my weight goes. But I do know it will free up a lot of time and energy for other, more fun, things.

Please…take my advice. Don’t waste one more minute thinking about your weight (or whatever it is you believe is wrong with you). Don’t miss another moment of your life wishing you were thinner (or smarter, or prettier or more successful). I’ve been thin and I’ve been fat and I can honestly say my weight didn’t have any bearing on my life other than what I assigned to it.

What you believe about yourself matters because you’ll create an entire life around it. What beliefs are you buying into?

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

I Owe My Body an Apology

Source: tender-love-is-blind.tumblr.com

Source: tender-love-is-blind.tumblr.com

I’ve put my body through a lot in the last five years. First it was a severe diet and exercise program resulting in a great looking body, but a seriously damaged mental and emotional state. Then more than a year in a long distance relationship, traveling back and forth across the country while spending my ‘free’ time getting my house ready to sell. Insert devastating breakup here. After that it was a new job where I spent two years working 60-80 hours a week in a highly stressful environment trying to ‘prove’ myself.

All this has taken a serious toll on my physical health. Duh!

After I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue in May, I did a lot of research. I discovered how hard my body has had to work these last few years. I’m ashamed to admit there was a time in my life when I was hyper-focused on weight loss and the way my body looked. It’s all my friends and I would talk about. In the shadow of compromising my health, it seems so shallow; so superficial.

And yet…here I am again.

Recently I stepped on the scale and the number staring back at me shocked me. As much as I hate to admit it (especially in this public forum), I’ve gained back all the weight I lost and then some. And I’m irritated with myself that I feel less than because I’m heavier than I used to be.

I’ve been tempted to blame my body for failing me, but it had no choice. The weight gain is a result of reaching for caffeine, carbs and sugar, which I used to keep going every day in such extreme circumstances. It was a trade off. I ignored my body’s signals to rest, to go easy on myself. I pushed it to do more and more and more. I was unreasonable, unrelenting, a brutal taskmaster at times.

Not once thinking about what I was doing to myself, I took my good health for granted. I believed my body would keep doing what I asked, no matter how hard I pushed it. And my body did its best. It really did.

This has been a difficult lesson (aren’t they all?) for someone who has built their reputation on being the person who comes through no matter what. You don’t realize how much harder everyday tasks are when you’re physically tired and in pain much of the time. When even showering and getting dressed can be exhausting. But there’s nothing else I can do. If I keep pushing myself I’ll only do more damage to my body. So the alternative is learning to accept I am able to accomplish less right now. Much less.

Sometimes I think, “I just want the old me back.” But I don’t really. Okay…maybe I want parts of her back. Mostly her energy, her strength, and yes…her waistline. But what I am trying to let go of is the part of me who pushes so hard. Who doesn’t take care of myself. Who thinks my poor body will keep going no matter what.

Little by little, I’m learning to pay more attention to what my body needs and listen less to the voices in my head that tell me what it should look like. And even though it’s tempting to go on yet another radical weight loss plan, I know that’s not the answer. Putting more demands on my body will not allow it to heal. Treating myself with kindness is the only way to better health.

Who I am and how I show up in the world is so much bigger (pun intended) than what I weigh. Though I don’t always live it, in my heart I know it’s true.

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.