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.