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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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.