Sunday, May 27, 2012

Don't Fret

It is an unfortunate truth that most mornings, I have a tendency to dither about what to wear.  In some kind of neurotic ritual, I spend a good 15 or 20 minutes every day trying on multiple outfits: trading shirts, discarding pants (maybe it's a skirt day?), scarf... no-scarf.... different scarf.  It is a round-robin of matching and re-matching until finally I either hit it just right, or I give up and decide to love myself in whatever my best attempt at not-too-dorky happens to be that day. 

I think this ritual is a bit less sadistic than it used to be, but it definitely has its roots in a time when I was not at all nice to myself, and every day was a horror of self-loathing where I couldn't see that I would ever look good in anything.  I am relieved to be a kinder, gentler friend to myself, now, but this morning ritual, even with more of a neutral eye, still carries over.  What gives?

Yesterday, I was stopped in my tracks by my sweet husband, who, watching my torturous daily ritual, simply said to me, "Don't fret."  It seems like not so big of a deal, but it was said with such softness, like he had kissed me with words.  I had this sudden realization that probably nobody is looking at my daily clothing choices with as much scrutiny as I am, and that if they are, I really don't care.  It dawned on me that "Don't fret" was really more like intimate code for "love yourself as I love you." 

I often wonder what I would see if I looked at myself through the eyes of those who love and care about me. I think about how I see my husband, my kids, my friends, my sister, my family.  I see these people with loving eyes.  I don't give a poop what they are wearing, how their hair looks, or if their socks match.  They could be wearing potato sacks, and I would see through to their person.  The person I love, and in whom I see smart, loving, funny, or even just downright amazing.  I want them to feel good about themselves.  I want my kids to see themselves as the strong, sweet, hysterically funny little men that they are.  I want my husband to see how much of a genius he is.  I want my sister to see how her passion and joy are needed in the world.  I can imagine that the people in my life, the ones I am choosing to be with, want the same for me - they want me to see myself with love.

This morning I made a conscious effort to dress myself with the kindness of a loved one's eyes.  I tried to trust my first instinct, and just go with what I liked.  I tried to have fun choosing what to wear! I tried to be present to the fact that, really, I am so much bigger than this material self.  Yes, I want to feel beautiful, but the beauty I want to see (and remember!) is more multi-faceted than just the clothing I choose.  I want to see my beautiful body, and my beautiful spirit.  This can only come through when I release myself from the negative tension created by fretting, and make room for the joy.  The world needs my joy.  It doesn't need my fretting.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Trainer Can Beat Up Your Trainer

My personal trainer is a professional cagefighter.  I like saying that because it makes people think I'm tough, too... OK, maybe it just just makes people think my trainer is tough.  Which he is.  He could totally kick your ass, and he kicks mine on a regular basis. He has his initials tattooed on the front of his shoulders, which I assume is so that when you do get your ass kicked, you'll remember who did this to you! Scary!   

Despite his being tough and scary, I actually really love working with this guy - and, it's not just because he's cute in a blue-eyed-bad-boy kind of way, although he totally is.  Good thing my husband isn't the jealous sort. :)  Anyhow, the main reason I love training with him is because it is surprisingly fun.  I wish I had been encouraged to try boxing and kickboxing a long time ago! Most of my early experiences of moving my body included torturous picked-last gym classes, heavily peppered with body shaming comments and "helpful" suggestions for weight loss.  Because, obviously, that's what fat girls need.  Shame, humiliation, and rejection help everyone become their best selves, right? Right.   

Fortunately, things are a little different now than they were junior high gym class. For starters, even though it was terrifying, I set some pretty strong initial boundaries:  No diet talk.  No body hate. I think he was a little confused because most of the people he works with probably WANT to focus on weight loss. I told him I have struggled with this, and want to do things differently now. I have to give him credit, because he listened to me, and hasn't bugged me.  If anything, he's been really open about it, which I imagine is because it is way more fun NOT to spend an hour with somebody wallowing in insecurity and self-hate. We had conversations about what we were going to focus on instead, which I really appreciated.  I told him I want to be strong and healthy, and I want to learn how to box.  I showed him this article about Sonya Lamonaikis, a heavyweight boxer and my new hero.  That might have been a mistake, because then he really started to push me.  Boy, was I sore that day.

Yesterday,  I spent most of our session laughing because I looked pretty silly.  Apparently I cannot squat properly.  I had to have remedial squat lessons.  I felt pretty stupid, honestly.  But, I was enjoying my body, which is really quite a victory for me.  I mean, really, I was feeling stupid and enjoying my body in the presence of a cute 20-something cagefighter guy!  God love my trainer for not making me feel that some old rejection and shame.  Instead, he uses words like "athletic," "coordinated," "competitive," and "strong" to describe ME.  Um... really?  Actually, yeah, really!  I am athletic, coordinated, and strong! These are things that never really got acknowledged growing up, and often still don't .  Even though I have been at this boxing thing for a while now, new people show up at the gym and try to "help out the fat girl" by trying to teach me what to do, and offering me patronizing encouragement.  Then they feel bad when they gas out way before I do.  It would be funny if it wasn't totally irritating.

Despite the stupid new people, I am really glad I was somehow brave enough to start boxing, and hire a scary trainer.  I love my trainer, and I love that he is willing to help me to be healthy and strong at whatever my body's natural size is.  I love that going to the gym doesn't trigger crazy, disordered eating and food restriction cycles anymore.  I love that I am at a place in my life where I can be in my body, and enjoy my body, exactly the way it is today.  I love that I can talk about my body with love and pride, rather than judgment, hate and shame. 

If I had to give my junior high self some advice from the other side (or, ahem, old age), I would tell her this:

1. Don't wait to live your life until you are skinny.
2. Don't be afraid to enjoy your body - it will take care of you if you take care of it!
3. Try new things.  Not all movement has to be boring and/or punitive.
4. It is not the end of the world if you look silly in the gym.  It actually might be fun if you don't take yourself too seriously.
5. Trainers are not all jerks.  If you find one that is a jerk to you, it is them, not you.  Speak up and/or get a different trainer. Don't be intimidated.
6. Go for it! There is no reason to hold yourself back because you think others might judge you.  And so what if they do?  You can always get your trainer to beat them up...

Sunday, January 9, 2011


This is the 9th day of the ReVolution, and it is time to rest.  Like anything, if we don't take time to rest and rejuvenate, we can't keep at it.  Rest is highly underrated.  So, today I am resting. 

But, I wanted to share this little tidbit with you, mostly because I like it, and I think it is in keeping with the ReVolution.  Because, really, we are in this together, and with a little encouragement, we can do anything!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Crappy Buffet

Today we celebrated my niece's 7th birthday at one of those big video arcade things with a crappy pizza buffet.  My in-laws were excited because "this buffet has so many options!"  I may be a food snob, but even with the "extra" options of gloopy pasta and Icee's, this buffet sucked. 

I really love my niece, so I was up for the sacrifice of having a yucky meal at the crappy buffet, but boy, did it remind me how important enjoying my food has become.   

At one time, food was a source of fear, shame, and pain for me.  At the height of my eating disorder, the only foods I deemed "good" were vegetables and sprouted grain bread.  While I do like my veg, and sprouted grains are a really fine food options, living on only this can really make you into a crazy person, which is exactly what happened to me.  I lost all pleasure in eating, because 1) it is gross to eat only veg and sprouted grain bread, and 2) everything else had so much emotional baggage attached to it, that eating at all was a really stressful experience.  I got all kinds of praise for "being so healthy!" and for "looking so great!"  Never mind that I was by far the least healthy I have ever been.  I could say so much more about this, but, that is another post....

Anyway, it took me a really long time to let go of my disordered emotional baggage, and enjoy food again.  Along the way, I found out that tasting and enjoying food is actually really good for us!  Whoot!  When we experience pleasure, our stress levels go down, we absorb nutrients more readily, and we feel both full and satisfied when our bodies have had enough to eat.  Magical!  Isn't it amazing what happens when we listen to our bodies?

So, now I try to pay attention to my food, and really enjoy it.  Which is a challenge at crappy buffets.  I kindof didn't know what to do!  I tried to pick the least crappy options, and I tried to focus on the sweet 7-year old across the table from me.  I did the best I could, which is good enough.  I am not on a journey to perfection, I am just on a journey.  This was not the best meal in my life, but I guess a little crappy buffet food once a year never killed anybody.  Honestly, I never want to eat there again, but it still served as a nice reminder that I have made some progress. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

In the Ring

Behold, Brett, my cute little trainer at the boxing gym.  Just celebrated his 23rd birthday. Babyface McGee.  And me, unsuspecting in my big pink boxing gloves.

I walked in today thinking that it would be business as usual, and only vaguely wondered where we would practice, since there was a gaggle of tattooed guys punching at one another on the main floor mat.  And then, cute little Brett announced, "We're going in the ring today."

I had a little panic attack.  Umm... that thing is raised up, like 4 feet off the floor, a spectacle for all to behold.  I am just barely OK with the fact that I am in the boxing gym at all.  I am wearing pink boxing gloves, for crying out loud!  There is a gaggle of tattooed men down below!  The Ring!  Oh My God.

I told cute little Brett about my panic attack, but he didn't care.  So, we stepped into The Ring, a place other people go.  I could hear the Rocky music in the back of my head begin to play.  And I started to laugh.  Really, laughter took over where panic began.  

Nobody else in the gym seemed to care that I was in the ring - it is probably a really common occurrence - but for me, it was like a little victory dance.  I conquered a fear - I got up in a place where I was visible,  doing something totally out of my comfort zone, and I enjoyed it.  I made a bunch of racket, not only laughing, but working my ass off, and I didn't care whether I looked stupid, or weird, or funny.  I just let go, and I had a blast!    This is what it's all about, people.  Being in our bodies, and finding the joy.  Releasing the shame and fear, and allowing ourselves to LIVE, whatever that means for each of us.

This is a Rocky-worthy victory, for sure.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I Love My Chin

Today is the 6th day of my 31 days of Revolution, in blog form.  This morning, Marilyn Wann, Flabulous Fat Activist Extraordinaire, and author of FAT!SO? sent out a challenge over facebook to think of something positive/loving about a part of our bodies we have either disliked, or have ignored.  She also offered extra credit for sharing this with someone, so I am sharing it with you!

At first, I was thinking, "What?  I love ALL the parts of my body!  I am on a Revolution high, man!"  Ha, ha. 

Actually, I thought of the usual suspects: my stomach, my thighs - things I can see easily, and catch my attention when I look in the mirror every day.  I have been practicing saying nice things about these areas of my body, so I knew I would have plenty to share with you in my blog!  My belly is curvaceous and round, my thighs are strong and powerful... See?  I can say good things now (in public!) about my body that I would never have uttered before HAES.  So, yay! Right?

Then, I got videotaped.  Well, actually, I got videotaped last week, and today I got to see some highlights.  Guess what?  I am fat.  And, I have a double chin.

Really, it was the chin that I started freaking out about.  I have worked on making friends with the other parts of me.  Stomach? Check!  Arms? Check!  Belly? Check!  Chin?  Oops, I missed that one.  What is a girl to do with a double chin?  Do other people have these?  Has anybody else noticed mine? If I had been sitting up taller, I bet I could have made it look less prominent.  Or if I had stretched my neck out.  How about doing a re-shoot, in which I drape myself backward over the chair, and speak upside down into the camera?  We could turn the camera upside down, too, so it looks like I just put in alot of hair product to get such voluminous, upstanding locks.  Ha, ha!  I just made myself laugh! :)

No, I think I have to see my double chin as just another acceptable part of this body I happen to have inherited in this particular lifetime.  I have to start thinking positively, rather than rudely, at this perfectly normal part of my anatomy.  What is good about chins, anyway?  Well, if I didn't have one, I would really look funny.  And eating, drinking, chewing, and swallowing would be difficult.  Where would my teeth go?  And, since we are talking double chin, we're talking neck here, too, folks.  What would I do without a throat? I really have to admit that, no, I do not want to lop this part of my body off.  I actually kindof like having both a neck and a chin. I like knowing that I can stick my tongue out at people only when I want to, and not just because my tongue has nowhere to go while hanging out in my head.   I like being able to talk, sing, laugh, chew, and swallow. Those things are actually pretty important, and functional to boot!  Hooray for chins!  And two cheers for double chins!

For good measure, I formally extend Marilyn's challenge to you, now.  Hey, I have put it out there with the chin thing - now it's your turn.  What's great about a body part you have been remiss about loving?  Which part of you are you willing to own again, even after it has been highlighted with videotape? Here is to loving yourself more, and hating yourself less, little by little, one day at a time!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Harnessing Balance

Boxing and Yoga.  They seem like absolute polar opposites.  Yoga is gentle, loving, nurturing, and subtle, even as it challenges me and pushes my limits. Yoga teaches non-harming, to oneself, to others, and to the planet.  Lovely!  Boxing, on the other hand, is just plain aggressive. You punch stuff.  If you throw in a little kickboxing, you kick stuff, too.  If one is so inclined (which I am not) you can even punch people, and get in a ring with them while they try to punch you.  Ugh!  Why do I like this so much? 

I have been trying to put this together for myself, the strange dichotomy of loving yoga (and I mean, I really love yoga) with the gleeful delight that takes over when I am boxing.  I get really into punching stuff!  Throw in a little bit of loud, aggressive music, a bunch of sweaty, stinky, posturing men, and a few other gleeful women, and I am hooked.  It is great!  But, what gives?  Am I secretly still really angry, deep down?  Possibly, but I don't think that's it.  I think that there is something balancing for me in having both yoga and boxing in my life.

Boxing and yoga are symbolic ways that I am working out balance in all areas of my life.  The more I engage with both boxing and yoga, the more I notice the dance of opposites in the rest of my life, coming into and out of balance: work and rest, control and surrender, acceptance and willingness to change.  In a concrete way, I am enacting these polarities through movement, and working them out in a very body-centered way. 

Just like any other polarities in my life, both yoga and boxing offer necessary benefits when done mindfully, and yet can become unhealthy if taken to the extreme or thrown out of balance.  If I get too riled up in boxing, I throw out my neck, and get all cranky and sore, and just want to lay down.  Likewise, if I aggressively muscle my way into a difficult yoga pose, or fail to listen to my body in some way, I not only hurt myself, but I lose the subtle engagement with the sublime that is most important to me in my yoga practice.  So, I can't over-do either boxing or yoga.  On the other hand, I can't "under-do" them, either.  If I don't do enough boxing, I feel sluggish and my body starts begging for movement.  I miss the excitement of it!  If I don't do enough yoga, I feel all discombobulated, and disconnected from myself.  I start to feel rigid, ungrounded, and lost.  Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, I have to find the place of balance for myself - not too hard, not too soft, but just right.

Boxing has become a form of yoga for me. It is a piece of my practice. The word, Yoga, actually comes from the root verb, "Yuj," meaning, "to yoke."  To yoke is to harness, or unite.  When I "yoke" seeming opposites, and engage with the polarities in my life, there is a tension between them, but ultimately there is also the possibility of finding balance in holding both of them.  I can't do one without the other.  Both are necessary - the yin and the yang.

At the end of a yoga class, the teacher and students typically bow to one another, and say, "Namaste," which means, "The divine in me bows to the divine in you."  I wonder what would happen if I bowed at the end of a boxing class.  Maybe smacking gloves with somebody has a similar ritual form to it, "Good work, Man!" being a very westernized version of bowing to the divine in each other.  Call me crazy, but I think boxing allows me to tap in to divine joy, and exuberance, and play in ways that balance, and are balanced by, the divine awareness and compassion that yoga brings.  I am taking the best of both worlds, and calling it good.  Namaste, Man!