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.

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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.

Tired of Being a One (Wo)Man Show

rosieI have been single for most of the last 11 years since my husband and I divorced. I’ve had a couple relationships go the distance. And by distance I mean about a year. One I thought would lead to the alter, but didn’t. There were a couple shorter stints too, and first dates too numerous to mention. But mostly it’s been just my kids and me.

When I was first single I was excited to be the independent woman I always knew I could be. Having been married at the ripe old age of 19, I felt oppressed by my husband who seemed to think it was his job to tell me what to do and be in control at all times. I wanted to show the world (and him) I didn’t need anyone and was determined to prove I could do things on my own. Afterall, I was a modern, self-sufficient woman. I took on the 70s mantra, “I am woman, hear me roar,” like it was my job.

But there’s a flaw in that thinking. And here’s where I’m likely to piss off any hardcore feminists out there. I realized <gulp> I have somewhat traditional values when it comes to male/female roles. Uh oh.

Despite having grown up in a very conservative household, I am liberal in many of my thoughts and beliefs. I believe in equal pay for equal work, equal opportunities for women, a woman’s right to choose. But there are certain things—household things—I just want a man would do.

I guess you could say I’m a liberal-traditionalist. (Is that even a word?)

I live in a neighborhood that’s mostly traditional families. I am one of the few, if not the only, single parent in this neighborhood. And I get somewhat wistful every time the sun is out and all the men are outside washing cars and mowing lawns. There is very little I miss about my ex-husband. But I do miss a clean garage and a well-manicured yard.

My last relationship sealed the deal for me. My boyfriend at the time could build, fix, remodel or restore anything! And I’ll admit I loved that. One Thanksgiving holiday when he came to visit he took care of some things around my house. Not because I asked him to, but because he wanted to. Imagine that…he wanted to! I gotta tell you ladies, there is nothing sexier than a man caulking your tub. And no, that’s not a metaphor.

Or maybe it is.

I just know I find it incredibly sexy when a man is doing traditionally male things.

That’s not to say I need someone to do things for me. I don’t. I know how to change a flat tire, get the lawnmower started after the winter, fix the dryer, put together furniture and replace the element in the oven. Our downstairs toilet was once out of commission for a month while I figured out how to fix it on my own. I’m proud to say I’ve done those things.

The problem was I used to be determined NOT to get help. Not because I didn’t need it or even want it. But because I thought it made me weak and needy. My intention was to prove to the world I could do it all on my own. I wanted to be able to say I didn’t need anyone to take care of me (even though I secretly wanted someone to).

I had to ask myself, “what’s so wrong with being taken care of sometimes?” And my answer was, “not a damn thing!” It’s actually pretty nice.

So the conclusion I’ve come to is this: I can do it, I have done it, I just don’t want to. And there’s something very empowering in being honest about that.

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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 Don’t Want to Be Like You

Somewhere along the span of my life, I got the message that who I was wasn’t okay. At the time I believed that without question. So I began a journey to try to change into the person I thought I was supposed to be. That person is you.

You are outspoken, charismatic, tidy, productive. In your closet the hangers all face the same direction and clothes are arranged by color. You love getting up early and checking things off your ‘To Do’ list. Sleeping in feels like you’ve wasted the day. You go nuts for a good organizational system. You have it all together. Or at least I think you do.

I am introspective, messy, a night person. I can completely ignore dishes in the sink, clothes on the floor, an unmade bed (it’s a superpower, really). I love to read and could spend hours lost in a book. My ‘organizational system’ consists of piles and post-it notes. I tend to over think things and am a bit neurotic.

I used to think there was something wrong with me that I needed to change. I’ve read the books, taken the classes, participated in the programs all in an effort to be like you. The person I’m supposed to be. Someone I think other people and society at large will approve of.

But I’m not that person. I think those are great traits and if the above describes you that’s awesome! But it’s not me. And it takes an inordinate amount of physical, mental and emotional energy to continue to strive for it. Not to mention, it’s hard to be happy when you’re always trying to be something you’re not.

Society and the media paint this picture of the optimal person. We see phrases like 10 tips to getting more organized, how to make friends and influence people, the early bird gets the worm. Wait. What? I don’t even want a worm. And if I did, I figure out a way to find that little sucker oh say, late afternoon or so.

All those sayings and instructions and lists did for me is help me buy into the belief that I’m not okay the way I am. That there’s something I need to fix. And I’ve been on a mission to do just that!

But I’ve realized that was a mistake. And frankly, a great big waste of time! As Ralph Waldo Emerson so beautifully said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

So I’m giving up the quest. I’m outing myself right here, right now! Guess what? There’s nothing wrong with me.

This is not merely about self-acceptance. It’s so much more than that. This is about embracing, celebrating, and just plain rocking the shit out of who I really am. I don’t want to be like you. I just want to be me…messy, neurotic, amazing me.

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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.