Friday, December 31, 2010

When I'm Thin...

On the eve of 2011, lots of people are gearing up with New Year's Resolutions.  In an instant, it seems, we are bombarded with loads of bullshit weight loss ads, gizmos, plans, gym memberships, and fake food luring us into the fantasy of ideal thinness. This year, I am bowing out of the resolution craze, and joining with my Health at Every Size sisters and brothers to do something different!  This year, it's all about a New Year's Revolution!

Yes, it is time to let go of the shame, restriction, and body hate!  Whoot!

My plan for marking the revolution this year is to take topics from Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, and talk about authentic health, true well-being, and loving ourselves rather than hating ourselves.  I know, radical right?  If you haven't read this book, I urge you to do so.  Whether you face body image, eating, and weight issues or not, this book will profoundly impact how you treat yourself and your body, and how you interact with other people about their bodies.

So, a starting place.  The first thing I want to talk about is the myth that being thin will fix your (or my) life.  If you are following along with the HAES book, you can join me in making a list of your own beliefs about thinness on page 175.  If you don't have the book, here are the simple instructions: Make a list of what you have believed you will gain from being thin.  OK, here we go with mine:

These are the things I once believed about being thin:

1. When I am thin, people will like me better/be nicer to me
2. When I am thin, I will find a boyfriend/love/a husband/etc.
3. When I am thin, my Dad (family in general) will say nice things to and about me, instead of critical things
4. When I am thin, I will be accepted and complimented
5. When I am thin, I will be able to feel confident in new situations
6. When I am thin, I will finally be pretty - and not just my face
7. When I am thin, I won't worry about food so much
8. When I am thin, I won't have to diet anymore
9. When I am thin, I will be "normal"
10. When I am thin, I can do the real work I want to do
11. When I am thin, I will be athletic/enjoy sports
12. When I am thin, I will like my body and will treat it well
13. When I am thin, I will be successful

I could go on and on, here, but for now, I think this demonstrates the point.  For a long time, I waited to do all sorts of things until the magical day when I became thin.  I waited to live until my body finally cooperated, and the diet finally worked.  I pinned all my hopes on being thin, and blamed all the bad stuff in my life on being fat!

Thinness was fantasy, a magical place where I could be or do anything, my relationships would all be great, I would love myself, and I would be successful and fulfilled all the days of my life.  Um... really?  That would mean that  I would have had to put off marriage to my fantastic and loving husband, wonderful friendships, school, work, yoga, sports, and anything where other people might happen to be.  It would mean never taking any risks, or putting myself out there.  It would mean wallowing in the notion that one day I will be OK, but today I am worthless because my size doesn't fit the social prescription for fitting in.  That is ludicrous.  And also terribly painful because it would mean that I can never be the person I want to be until I change the shape of my body through some kind of torturous and scientifically-guaranteed-to-fail diet plan. 

The real problem with this thinking is that no matter what my size is, I am who I am, and other people are who they are.  I can't change all of that with magical thinness.  I can't make people like me all of the time, or get my family to be less critical, or be the most successful and confident person in the world by becoming thin.  It is a fantasy that keeps me from having to work on the real issues in my life - like learning to really love myself, communicating with family about how I would like to be treated, or working hard on the things that are important to me in my life (work, school, etc.).  If I accept that these things are not gained by thinness, then I have to accept my responsibility for working towards being the person I want to be, even if it is scary.

My number one New Year's Revolution goal is to live my life fully, right now.  The reality is that I may never be thin (yes, there is alot of science backing me up on this), and accepting that means accepting responsibility for living my life in the most abundant way possible (pun intended, of course!).  Taking a look at my list of magical thin powers, what I notice is that most of what I used to believe related to being in my body while being in the world.  What I was really hoping for in that list was deep, supportive, positive and meaningful connections with my body, myself, and other people in the world.  With that in mind, here is a list of things that I am doing in revolution this year:

1. I will choose to be around mutually supportive, respectful, loving, and genuine friends

2. I will thank God every day for my sweet husband who thinks I am beautiful
3. I will engage my family in supporting each other more positively
4. I will accept and compliment myself  :)
5. I will take risks in new social situations
6. I will wear clothes that I like, and show off my lovely, round, and smokin' hot body - and my beautiful face
7. I won't wait until I am thin to quit worrying about food so much. I might even listen to my body, rather than beat up on it!
8. I won't diet or use a scale as punishment anymore
9. I will be who I am, even if it isn't always "normal"
10. I will continue doing the real work I want to do, and move on things I have been putting off
11. I am athletic and I enjoy sports, which is truly remarkable to me now given all of the horrendous and shaming gym classes as a child.  I think will just claim it now!
12. I will like my body and will treat it well. Period.
13. I will pursue living fully to the best of my ability

Wow, I feel better already!  Switching those out was really fun!  What I notice is that I am already doing most of these things!  Some, of course, require more practice, and with others it is time to start.  I am a living, breathing work-in-progress, after all.   I hope your new list makes you as happy as mine did.  Here's to a joyful beginning to 2011, and to a revolution in health and happiness!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Derby Girl

Last night my husband surprised me with tickets to a Roller Derby for my birthday.  Whoot!  I have officially decided that I am changing professions to become a Derby Girl.  In preparation, I bought a T-Shirt (see above). I think it makes me look like quite the fan, at any rate.  Not to mention cute, in a smokin' hot, roller derby girl kind of way.

Here are the top 10 reasons I am itching to be a Derby Girl.  Please add to this list, if you find yourself inspired to take on a little "derby girl attitude" yourself:

1.  Derby girls come in many shapes and sizes, and they all can kick your butt.
2.  Derby girls get to wear spankies, fishnet stockings, and pink roller skates, and still look cool.
3.  Derby girls get to make up alter-ego names for themselves.  My particular favorites from last night include, "Gator Dunn" and "Fonda Payne."
4.  Derby girls get to be very un-lady-like, and totally sexy at the same time.
5.  Derby girls get to do things like "jam," "brawl," and "hip-check."
6.  Derby girls are real athletes, but they don't take themselves too seriously.
7.  Derby girls can use cliches like, "cruisin' for a bruisin,'" or "achin' for a breakin," and they take on a whole new, empowered kind of meaning.
8.  Derby girls get to play as hard as they can!
9.  Derby girls get to mean-mug each other on the track, and babysit each others' kids on the sidelines.
10. Derby girls have a ton of fun while breaking all the molds.

I am taking the kids to roller skate tonight, and they better look out!  Mom is on the loose... Hey maybe there's an alter-ego name in there somewhere?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Party Pride

Today I got invited to a networking party for a financial planner friend of mine.  Okay, so networking parties are maybe not the most fun parties, but this one sounded pretty good: all women, a little wine and cheese, a little hanging out with this friend, whom I like.  The catch is that she is having a boutique owner come in with some "super cute, amazing" clothes for us all to try on! Oh, poop.

Instead of feeling excited about this, I felt pangs of terror.  Clothes shopping is finally starting to be fun again for me!  I really like shopping for clothes these days- remember the Leopard Print bathing suit?  I am owning this bodacious big body, and it is great!  I buy things that fit, and that I like!  But when my friend said "clothes party," fear struck.  I had this old voice pop up saying, "They won't have clothes for you, you fatty!  Nothing will fit!  You will be shamed and humiliated and left for dead."  Okay, maybe the "left for dead" was a bit over the top, but I had this rush of teenage memories of being chewed up and spit out by cruel and rejecting girls at school, marked by horrifying clothes shopping experiences in which I tried so hard to be "normal" and find ways to fit in and be accepted.

For years, I beat myself up because nothing in "normal" stores fit - which made me feel like wasn't normal.  As a teenager, I would buy clothes in the biggest size I could find at the "normal" stores, and then squish myself into them - whatever it took, I was getting into those Banana Republic pants!  This was torturous, obviously, because it was completely uncomfortable and hideously unattractive.  Breathing and sitting were a problem.  I was in constant pain, and constantly reminded that I didn't fit - I didn't fit the clothes, I didn't fit the beauty standard, I didn't fit in the world.  I was the fat girl, but I desperately wanted to "pass" for one of them.  Part of that was just developmental - I was a teenager, after all .  Still, the psychological damage of feeling outcast and less-than took its toll. Shopping sucked for a good long time, even into adulthood.  I felt unworthy as a human being because I was fat (aka, bad) and needed a larger size.

Wow, glad to be done with that.

And truly I am, most of the time now, "done" with self-hating attitudes like that.  But, sometimes the old shit sneaks up on me when I least expect it.   Like when I get invited to flippin' networking parties!  Ugh!

I want to handle this party with a "Fat Acceptance" attitude.  I want to go and have fun at the party, and feel confident.  Who knows, they might even have plus sizes!  And, if they don't?  That makes the store the problem - not me.  I am a perfectly fine human being, with a perfectly fine human body.  Too bad for them - they aren't getting my money, or my "networking" recommendation!  Maybe I can suggest they find ways to include more women in their business plan.  It might feel good to speak up for myself, and for my fat sisters and brothers!  It might be empowering to "represent" for us fat folk - we deserve "super cute and amazing" clothes, just like everybody else!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bless This Food

I am working on making friends with food, as I have been writing about off and on.  This week, I am deepening my practice by saying some kind of blessing before I eat.

Mostly, I have tended to start meals with thoughts like, "I shouldn't be eating this," or "Naughty, Naughty!"  Every morsel is labeled  - crap, junk, bad carb, bad fat - and I am labeled, too.  Bad Fattie.  Unless it's vegetables.  Then, I'm off the guilt hook.  But, since one cannot subsist on vegetables alone, I am left with years of meals, day in and day out, in which I am instantly stressed out and devalued before I even put fork to food.

Obviously, eating has not felt very sacred, or divine, or pleasant, or even just tolerable.  The reality that I have been oblivious to in all of my crazy diet mentality is that our food is absolutely sacred.  Hundreds of hands worked to bring my apple to the table.  People with names planted and harvested the grain for my slice of bread.  Someone (or many ones) milled it, mixed it, shaped it, baked it, sliced it, packaged it, shipped it, shelved it, and checked it out to me, and here I am grumbling about how "bad" it is! What planet have I been living on? That morsel of food, whatever it is, is good, in really basic, fundamental ways, and I am grateful for it.  Food is not a curse - it is a life-giving, nourishing, important, tangible blessing that connects me to everyone else on the planet.  It is time for me to change the way I see food - it is truly a gift.

I am thinking about ways to say "thank you" - to God, to the people who have worked for my food, to the food itself.  I am thinking about ways to bless both myself and the food, and all of the life and living that went in to my food.

Here is a Buddhist prayer I found at this site:

Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space
combine to make this food.
Numberless beings gave their lives
and labors that we may eat.
May we be nourished
that we may nourish life.

I would love to hear other prayers or blessings people use.  Do you have spiritual or religious traditions or customs around blessing your food?  Do you have favorite ways to say thank you?  Growing up, we only said "grace" on special occasions, so my blessing memory banks are kindof limited.  I would love to gather a collection of blessings, and pass them on.  Thank you for sharing yours!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thoughts on Yoga and Body Love

Have I mentioned that I LOVE yoga?  I do, I love it.  It makes me feel human, brings me back down to earth, and generally puts the kibosh on any internalized self-hate or crazy diet talk going on in my head.

I have a membership at a yoga studio, which I have used sporadically enough to make it not quite worth the $100 a month fee.  I have been going back and forth about keeping it, not because I don't do enough yoga, but because I can do yoga at home with relatively similar results, and without the scheduling issues.  Plus, when I do yoga at home, I really have to listen to my body.  There aren't any other bodies with me, no teacher, no other students, no nothing.  Just me, myself and I.  Uh-Oh.

When it is just me, I am really left with just me. That means that I am faced with the reality of myself, both on the mat and in life.  Whatever I do or don't do in my life is what tends to show up while attempting to do yoga at home.  Avoidance, fear, self-doubt?  There they are.  Joy, happiness, and exuberance?  They are there, too, thank goodness, but those aren't the things that need so much work. It's easy to hang out with joy when it comes up, but self-doubt? Not so much.

As I am writing this, I realize why I have been hemming and hawing about letting go of the yoga membership.  If I really just do it on my own, I have to take responsibility for my crap.  I can't blame a difficult session on the teacher, or on the distractions of other people.  The "blame" rests squarely with me.  If I don't push myself, it's because I am not pushing myself.  If I don't rest when it's appropriate, or practice as long or as often as I would like to, it's because of me.  These are things I have to look at, and respond to, in myself.

Yesterday morning I went to a meditation class, and the teacher was talking about how we have to become "warriors" by summoning the courage to truly see ourselves as we are.  It is an act of bravery to look at our own stuff, and like warriors, we have to go into battle for the higher good.  For me, this is a life and death battle. If I don't engage with myself, on the yoga mat, or on the meditation cushion, or just in life, I risk dying to the beauty of living fully, in the moment.  I risk living (or dying) under the constant tyranny of my mind - with all of the shame, blame, judgment, avoidance, anger, fear, and doubt that that entails.  That is not living!  That stinks.  It leaves me feeling confused and isolated and worn out.

It is not just that I love yoga, or mediation, it's that I have to practice these things in order to live a sane life.  I need them just to create some space between me and my crazy-ass mind!  I have to learn to listen to my body.  I have to learn when to be still, and when to move.  I have to engage with the good and the terrible in me, every day, because if I don't, I am left with no me at all.  I am left with that girl who worries about feeling fat all of the the time, who can't make sense of her life, and is stuck repeating all kinds of negative, addictive, self-harming patterns.  I can't do that anymore, so here I am.  Going in to battle, over and over again, every day. And it is worth it.

I would still like to hit a few yoga classes occasionally, but mostly I think I just need them as support for my home practice.  Classes are definitely a source of inspiration as well.  Maybe I need both, and will just have to find a balance.  Honestly, though, I love yoga whenever, and wherever, I can get it.  I feel very grateful for having yoga in my life.  Yoga allows me to appreciate and love my body, while simultaneously healing mind and spirit - which I can tell you is exactly what I need.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Feeling Fat

Today I am feeling fat.  What does that mean, anyway?  Does "fat" have an emotional impression?  Does it communicate a need?  Is it a physical feeling?  Maybe I feel soft, or impressionable, like clay.  Maybe I feel vulnerable.  It could be that I am feeling big, but really I feel quite small.

I don't think I am actually feeling my body when I "feel fat."  I am feeling a nebulous mish-mash of emotional ick that for most of my life this has been lodged in my skin, like I'm wearing heavy emotional blanket I can't take off.  I think "feeling fat" is how I have avoided the real emotions, the real needs, the real reasons for my sadness, or shame, or anger, or dis-ease.  In fact, I think of "feeling fat" as a kind of dissociated state, like when you are so caught up in your thoughts that you just keep driving past your exit on the highway.  When I am "feeling fat," I am definitely caught in my thoughts, and not living in my skin, or with my emotions, in the present moment. I drive right past myself.

So, what do I do with this feeling, these feelings, that I have until now lumped together and labeled "fat."  It isn't my fat-ness that I feel. It is something else.  If I stay present to it, feeling "fat" is actually feeling all of the things I have run away from, and which demand my attention, right now.  I can't feed it chocolate, because sadness isn't tended with sugar.  Anger isn't assuaged with oil.  Shame isn't banished with bread.  Food just hides the feelings, packs them back into my body, and keeps me thinking it's the fat that makes me so blue. As if my hips, or my belly, or my breasts are the source of my pain.  

The actual fat of my body just is. Sometimes I judge it to be beautiful, sometimes not.  Sometimes I can thank the parts of my body that have held my sadness, anger, and shame when I could not bear these by myself on a conscious level.  Sometimes I rage at these parts of my body, as if they are withholding, keeping me from feeling my feelings, and getting on with it already.  Sometimes I can just let go, and let my body be.  Sometimes, when I am lucky, I can let myself be, in my body.  I like those moments of connection and presence. The paradox is that when I am really in my body, I don't "feel fat."  I feel like me -  peaceful, and present.

I suppose the most present I can be for myself, right now, is to acknowledge all of the feelings coming up, each of them, without the avoidance and dissociation of calling them all "fat."  My actual fat is just one aspect of my physical reality.  It is really neither here nor there, on an emotional level.  So maybe I need to let my fat off the hook.  It really isn't the source of my pain, it is merely the container in which I have stored my pain away.  And now that the pain is coming out, I just have to let it come.  I can't mis-use and abuse my fat, or any part of my body, any longer.  I can't pack the pain back in again, so I have to name it, experience it, and let it go.

Jack Kornfield talks about using the acronym  "RAIN"  for moving through painful emotions, or things that cause us suffering.  It goes like this: 

R - Recognize.  This means acknowledging the pain for what it is.  In my case, it is not fat.
A - Allow and Accept.  I have to allow space for the negative, painful feelings.  They are real. They are here, whether I like them or not.
I - Investigate.  What is it like to experience these feelings?  How do I experience them in my body? Investigating is about being really present to whatever comes up, and being curious about it.
N - Non-Identification.  Whatever comes up, it is not me or mine. The anger is not me.  The shame is not me. The sadness is not me. These are impermanent states of being.  I can let them go, rather than grasping at them, or pushing them away.   

For me, RAIN brings up the image of actual rain, gently touching my skin, my "fat," and washing away the sorrow.  I also notice my tears, like body rain.  If I allow these feelings to surface, they move out of my body with my tears.  I don't have to hold my pain in my body, in my fat, anymore.

There is release and relief in this practice for me.  I can face "feeling fat" today, and I do not have to be paralyzed by it. I can recognize "feeling fat" as having nothing at all to do with the actual state of my body. I can move through the painful feelings I have associated with "feeling fat" - and I can let them go. And then, I am real again.  Fat and all.


Monday, August 30, 2010

I Think Pig Snorts Are Rude

I was at a business meeting last night, complete with potluck.  It was fun, and easy, and we are all getting to know each other better.  It was mostly your usual chit-chat, hanging-out conversation.  Until the pig-snort happened.

There were several women getting food when this guy starts making fun of us for taking seconds.  "Look, all the women are out here getting more, while the men are still on their first round." None of us really said anything, because what do you say to mysoginist and adolescent crap like that?  Anyway, since he didn't get much of a response, he decided it would be a good idea to keep going. "What's up with all the girls?" etc.  Then he started making pig noises.


I like to think of myself as a grown up.  I like to think that I surround myself with relatively sensitive and caring people.  These were, after all, counselors.  Even pig snort is a counselor!  I felt like space invaders had landed on my planet.

I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he felt comfortable with at least one of us "girls," since he knows her better than the rest of us. Maybe they have an inside joke? But, we were at a BUSINESS meeting, for crying out loud, with people (like me, for example), that this guy doesn't know very well, and with whom he has to work. One of us (ahem!) might think that pig snorts are out of line.

I will say it again: WTF?

At the time, we were in the middle of a MEETING, so when everybody laughed it off, I kindof ignored it.  But now I wish I hadn't.  If I don't stick up for myself, or for other women, who will?  That kind of shit will never stop, and it will continue to be "funny," when in fact it is FRICKEN' RUDE, not to mention really insensitive and hurtful, and propagates hate.  As you know, I don't like to see hate propagated, especially in "safe" places, like work is supposed to be for me.

Since I have been stewing over this all night, I am now trying to figure out how to approach him about it.  I am not willing to have that happen again, but I don't want to come off like all of the things that get hurled at women when they put their foot down about being treated badly.  I don't want to seem like a bitch, a cry-baby, a whiner, or a pain in the ass.  Or, maybe I do.  I will have to think about that...

Really, though, I feel kindof confused and vulnerable.  Is it worth talking to him about it?  Should I cast my pearls before swine? Does anybody have any suggestions for dealing with pig snort?  Something has to be done, and I do want to be effective and assertive, maybe even nice about it.  It would be great if he heard me, and was a little more mindful.  He's probably more likely to do that if I am nice about it.  But I also want that kind of crap to stop, especially in places I work.  What would you do?  I need some advice, people.  The lines are open.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Crazy Diet Lady

Today, I had a long, exhausting conversation with the Crazy Diet Lady in my brain.  She is a real nuisance, sometimes.  It's like having your annoying relative at the table who constantly talks in your ear about how you have "such a beautiful face," and how you'd be a real catch if you ever did something about your weight.  Do you have relatives like that?  I do, but that's another story.  Anyway,the diet lady in my head is a conglomeration of all of the negative, intrusive, and brow-beating opinions and ideas I have absorbed throughout my life as a fat lady.  Crazy Diet Lady is very annoying, and very persistent.  She can also be very convincing, and loud. 

She likes to show up when I have my guard down.  Just when I think, "Wow, I might be OK.  I think I like myself right now," she comes swooping in, hoping to get me back to the "dark side."  Our conversations go like this:

Me: I like peanut butter.  Isn't it nice that I can eat peanut butter without running 10 miles afterwards?

Crazy Diet Lady: No, you don't like peanut butter!  It has alot of fat.  You should feel guilty about liking peanut butter. You are fat.  Remember how great you looked when you did Weight Watchers? Remember how you could buy clothes from anywhere?  Remember....well I can't think of any other good things, but anyway, you should be skinny.

Me: I was completely deranged when I was on Weight Watchers. 

Crazy Diet Lady:  Who cares? You just got lazy.  If you were still on Weight Watchers, maybe your life would be better, and you would be cooler.  You could be a really good rock climber, or maybe a yoga teacher.  You have to be skinny to be a yoga teacher, or to be cool.

Me:  My life is better already without Weight Watchers.  I have a full life.  I don't have to be skinny to do yoga, or rock climb. Be quiet already.

Crazy Diet Lady: But you're fat. 

Me: Yep. 

Crazy Lady:  Fat is bad!  You are dumb and fat.  You need weight watchers to make you skinny, and smart, and better.

Me: Weight Watchers isn't going to make me skinny, or smart, or better.  In fact, it makes be crazier and fatter.  It's called yo-yo dieting and weight cycling.  Do your research, crazy lady.

Crazy Diet Lady:  Whatever.  You need some relief from the horrors of this fat body you live in.  Oh, my God, look at your arms. Is your tummy poking out?  You should just hide. Really! I'm signing you up for Weight Watchers.  You should be skinny.  Skinny is better.

Crazy Diet Lady went on and on like this for most of the day, and by the end of the day she almost had me. For one exhausted moment I forgot to answer her.  I think I sortof fell asleep at the wheel, and let Crazy Diet Lady drive.  I think of this as my own personal version of driving under the influence.  When I let Crazy Diet Lady drive,  I start to panic, which is exactly what happened today.   I got on the scale.  I freaked out.  I skipped my yoga class ("You're too fat for yoga class!"), and I started to think about how I would have to shop for low-point food-like processed bars - more panic. I started to think I would start tomorrow, and eat a bunch of crap tonight. I signed up for a free week.  Panic... Panic.... PANIC.

Luckily, my husband came home in the nick of time.  Like any good addict, I initially thought maybe I just wouldn't tell him that I thought about joining Weight Watchers again.  But, I came clean, and my husband, the saint, said, "What the hell are you thinking?  Make sure you don't sign up for anything.  It makes you crazy, and it's a waste of money."

The light bulb of sanity came on, and Crazy Diet Lady was banished in an instant.  Thank God for reality checks.

So, instead of joining, I canceled my "free" (but totally costly to my self-esteem) week, and wrote Weight Watchers a note.  Really, I was responding to the Crazy Diet Lady in my brain, but I think it sometimes helps to make an external, symbolic gesture in honor of my inner work.  Also, I think somebody needs to tell Weight Watchers that their "lifestyle" is crazy-making bullshit.  Here is what I wrote to them:

"I forgot that weight watchers makes me crazy.  I want to live life fully, and this program makes me fixate on weight to the detriment of the rest of me and my life.  I will not be joining again."

I know this isn't a big deal, really, and I imagine that noone will even read it, ever.  But I needed to put it out there anyway, in writing.  Even though I sometimes get confused, the real me knows that I do not, ever, have to go back to being run by the Crazy Diet Lady.  She may get close sometimes, but she will never again get the best of me.  I don't have to live in a constant state of panic about food, or my body, or my right to live in the world.  I don't have to ruin my life, literally, for the sake of loosing a couple of pounds.  I don't have to give anything up, or be somebody I'm not, or change myself just so that I can fit in to some social norm, or some diet industry-driven chart (follow the money, folks).  I am no longer a willing participant in this game, and I will not be joining again. 

So there, Crazy Diet Lady! 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ordinary Radical

I want to write about how radical I am.  I want to spin stories about fighting the power, stickin' it to the man, and upsetting the status quo.  But, my reality is not that exciting.  I am actually really very ordinary.  I take my kids to football practice and guitar lessons.  I work a little, go to lots of yoga classes, and try to come up with something interesting for dinner every night. I try to be a good person, and contribute to the world in positive ways, to the best of my ability. None of this sounds very radical -  I even live in the 'burbs, for crying out loud.  So what do I know about being a radical?

According to Meriam-Webster's online dictionary, the word radical has 3 meanings, all stemming from the word "root."

1. Of, relating to, or proceeding from a root.
2. Of, or relating to the orgin; fundamental
3. a : marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional : extreme b : tending or disposed to make extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions c : of, relating to, or constituting a political group associated with views, practices, and policies of extreme change d : advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs
4 slang : excellent, cool.

Well, of course, I am excellent and cool, so I guess I am more radical than I let on earlier.  But, for the sake of this post,  let's look at the other definitions of radical, starting with number 3.

3a defines radical as "marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional."  Under this definition, even though I live in the 'burbs and live an ordinary life, the way in which I am doing this living thing is radical.  I am living fully as a fat woman, which is absolutely out of the norm.  So many fat women wait to live their lives until that magical day when they finally figure it out and get skinny.  I think this is a shame! Why should I wait to dance, or do yoga, or rock climb, or take a boxing class until I fit some prescribed version of what my body should look like?  I think that's bullshit, and that makes me a radical.

Okay, on to 3b - tending or disposed to make extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions.  How about, "all people, regardless of size, deserve to be treated with love, dignity, and respect?"  Pretty extreme change from the Biggest Loser mentality in our culture, don't you think?   How about, "Fat is not inherently unhealthy."  That doesn't match the media hype, but it does match the science.  Still, it makes people squirm, and forces them to think differently when I say it, so I am claiming it as an extreme change in existing views. Radical? Yes.

3c.  This is the political definition of radical.  No, I am  not going to stage a sit-in at the weight watchers diet granola bar factory (although part of me wants to).   I am, however, going to make a point in supporting politics which guarantee basic human rights to everybody.  I am going to share "radical" (but true) information about what really constitutes health at every size.  I am going to talk about fat acceptance and body positivity, even if it makes me a target for derision.  I am going to channel my anger into being a positive inspiration for all women, of whatever size, to explore the possibility of loving themselves, and treating their bodies with kindness.

The last (or first) two definitions of radical just get weird.  These have to do with roots, origins, and fundamentals.  When I looked up the word "radical," this wasn't what I was expecting.  I was expecting cool and different, which, of course, I am.  But rooted?  As I thought about the idea of radical as rooted, I realized with even more certainty that I am an ordinary radical.  I am radical because of my fundamental and deep-rooted belief that we all have a right to live without shame or abuse.  I am radical because I am rooted in the knowing that I am fundamentally OK, just the way I am, today.  These are extraordinarily ordinary beliefs, common to most major religious and spiritual traditions.  But, they often get forgotten in our modern quest to be better, faster, cooler, skinnier, prettier, richer.  I vote we get off of that destructive and never-ending merry-go-round.  And that, in and of itself, makes me a true radical.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Kale: Not Just a Decoration in the Produce Section

If you were tuned in to the Cake for Breakfast experiment, you might have been worried (as I was) that if one is allowed to eat cake for breakfast, they might end up actually eating cake at every meal.  Makes sense, doesn't it?  That's sortof the general line we are sold, right?  We can't be trusted with cake!  We must restrict, punish, shame, and otherwise manage our terrible appetites by any means necessary!  I don't know about you, but when I believed this, and tried to follow the restriction "rules," I wound up eating entire boxes of pre-packaged, heavily processed, cake-like diet bars, trying desperately not to eat the cake,  before finally eating the stupid piece of cake already, plus the rest of the cake for good measure.  Can you believe my helpful diet mentality backfired?  Well, I can.  Because it's crap.

The truth is that the more I allow myself permission to eat cake, or whatever previously restricted or forbidden foods, the less I want these things.  I mean, really, once cake loses its bad-boy image, it just isn't that sexy anymore.  It is, after all, just cake.

So, now that I have made friends with cake, my taste for vegetables has finally resurfaced.  Go figure.  I was worried this might never happen, because after living on vegetables and spouted grain bread for such a long time, I was, honestly, kindof veg-d out.  Don't get me wrong, I've still been eating them, but mostly out of duty to myself (I feel like crap if I don't eat them), and because I don't want scurvy.

It is somewhat shocking how much pleasure I am finding in simple vegetables again.  They are delicious!  Way better than cake ... unless it's chocolate, of course.  Really, though, the point I am trying to make is that, whether it's peach cobbler or a kale salad,  I want to eat foods that taste good, and make my body feel good.  I am listening to my body for guidance, and, amazingly, it is providing. Yay! I am eating what my body is truly hungry for, and taking pleasure in it.  There is evidence that when we enjoy our food, we actually absorb more nutrients, and process it more efficiently.  We are happy, and our bodies are happy.  We are designed to take pleasure in eating, and when we do, we really do end up healthier.

When I first learned about this, I believed it... for other people.  Of course, my body couldn't be that smart!  I have been fighting with it for so long! My body was the enemy, always waiting to betray me with extra pounds, an insatiable appetite for cake, and shame around every corner.  So, when I say I am surprised to be making friends with cake and my body and vegetables, I mean it! 

So, in honor of health, wellness, and truly caring for one's body, I would like to share this delicious Kale recipe given to me by my awesome friend and nutritionist, Debbie Steinbock.

Steamed Kale "Salad" With Balsamic Chicken

1 bunch kale (stems removed, and torn into big pieces)
2 Handfuls of Walnuts
Several of your favorite salad veggies, chopped (ie, carrots, celery, cucumber, avocados, cherry tomatoes, etc.
1 1/2 lbs organic chicken

Balsamic Dressing/Marinade
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (white wine vinegar works well, too!)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil

1. Combine all ingredients for marinade and whisk well
2. Cut and clean chicken, and place in glass baking dish.  Drizzle with a few Tbsp of marinade, cover with foil, and place in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
4. Cook the chicken, covered, for 20 minutes, and then uncovered for 5-10 depending on thickness.  Move the chicken to higher shelf and broil for 3-5 minutes until slightly browned
5. While the chicken is cooking, cut and clean the kale by removing the thick middle stem, and tearing into small pieces.
6. Place the kale in a large pot with a small amount of water.  Steam until soft.  (A trick here is to wait until steam is coming out from under the lid of the pot - kale should be perfect!)
7.  Create a kale "salad" with the cooked kale leaves, topped with chopped veggies, walnuts, and chicken.  Drizzle with balsamic dressing to taste, and serve.

Here's to delicious, and nutritious, to enjoying your food and loving your body!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dearest Body of Mine

This is a letter I got from Golda Poretsky.  I thought it was awesome enough to share:

Dearest Body,

After careful thought and considerations, I hereby promise to:
  • honor you as the temple of my soul
  • offer you healthy food and drinks
  • realize that you deserve to be healthy
  • love and appreciate you for what you do, just as you are
  • accept that I have the power to heal you
  • adorn you with beautiful, comfortable clothes and shoes
  • realize that laughter, play, and rest help you feel good
  • exercise appropriately for my body type and temperament
  • accept you and be grateful for you just the way you are
  • listen to messages you are sending me when you are hurt or sick
  • understand that my unexpressed emotions and thoughts affect you.
I love you so much,


What would you add to the list?  What kind of commitments are you making to your body, consciously or unconsciously?  Are your thoughts and feelings about your body positive like this, or more negative?  How do these thoughts and feelings impact you, or your body?  How would you like to think or feel about your body?

Let's have a conversation.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I Need a Really Big Wagon So I Don't Fall Off Anymore

So this week has been hard.  It tickles me a little that a hard week for me now is trying not to diet, rather than trying to stick to a diet.  Yay!  What a good problem to have!  I am calling it progress!

What has made this week difficult is confusion.  I woke up this morning with the Dave Matthews version of "Typical Situation" by Suzanne Vega stuck in my head.  The Lyrics go like this:

It's a typical situation in these typical times
Too many choices

Its a typical situation in these typical times
Too many choices

Everybody's happy everybody's free
Keep the big door open, everyone will come around
Why are you different, why are you that way
If you don't get in line we'll lock you away

I don't think it's an accident that this is the song I woke up, to for several reasons.

First, when I am tired or anxious or somehow feeling vulnerable, I start to feel like there are too many choices.  I get confused.  I start wishing someone would hand me a prescription for "feel better," which is exactly what the weight loss industry offers. The promises of the pro-diet folks are that we will be free and happy, if only we would follow their rules. Too bad it is doesn't work, and actually makes most people feel worse. 

Second, I am "different" because I am not taking this "prescription" for happy and free.  I am not skinny, and I am not hurting myself trying to get skinny.  For me, dieting, and the body-shaming language that goes with it,  are the opposite of happy and free.  I think that knowing this, and talking about it, makes me a threat to the status quo.  Thank goodness, I don't think I am literally going to get locked away, but I do feel locked out sometimes.  I feel locked out of conversations about health and well-being, because people assume that I don't know anything about it because I am not skinny.  I don't have the moral high-ground of being thin, and so I don't get to have a say.  If people do know that I believe in loving and being proud of one's body, fat or thin, then I get a sortof pat on the head, a paternalistic tolerance - like I'm kindof deranged, but likeable, so people will nod and smile until I leave the room, or until I go too far.  Then they start saying things like, "Yeah, but you don't mean really accepting  fat people.  That would be crazy."

But that really is what I mean.  I mean radically accepting, and even celebrating, all of our shapes, in their glorious and brilliant variety.  

It is really hard to feel like a lonely voice in a sea of bad shit about bodies.  I think that is partly why this week has been so difficult.  When I get tired, I do start feeling like maybe They are right - maybe I am bad, maybe I am crazy, maybe I don't deserve a full life.  Maybe I should take the body shame back on, so that I can fit in again.  There are just too many choices, maybe I just missed the right "plan" for me.

Noticing these thoughts disturbs me. These thoughts make me really uncomfortable, and they should, because they are just not true.  When I start thinking this way, I read, and study, and reconnect to what I know.  And then I remember why I am different.  And this energizes me, because I want to actually be happy and free.

What keeps me going, and what makes me want to shout "different" from the rooftops, is that I know that those so-called choices are no choices at all.  I know that those choices are actually crazy, as in believing something that isn't true.  The truth is that the health problems commonly associated with fat are actually  associated with dieting.   The truth is that fat actually helps people live longer, and helps them to survive a cardiac event.  And, the truth is that there are actually health benefits to being fat, including protection from "infections, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, osteoporosis, anemia, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.” !  Fat does not automatically mean unhealthy.  There are healthy fat people and unhealthy fat people, just like there are healthy thin people and unhealthy thin people.  Neither is better, and neither is "wrong."  They just are, like eye color, or shoe size. 

Knowing this helps me to remove the fog of confusion, and remember that I am OK.  I can keep trudging on, even in the face of my own anxiety, and in the face of a body-phobic culture.  I don't have to fall off the wagon, and go back to that dark place of shame and body hatred and restriction that never paid off.  I can make my wagon bigger with information, and support, and courage, so that I don't have to fall off the wagon anymore.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Simple Peach

It is lovely and quiet this morning on my back porch.  It has been scorching hot the last week, but this morning it is still cool.  I can hear birds chirping, and I watch the shapes change in my trees as the sun rises, leaving little rippling pools of light in the leaves. 

I am up early, getting ready to head to church.  I am going to the early service, trying to make time for reflection before my sleepover-tired boys get going for the day.  This may be the only quiet time I get all day!

I sit on the edge of my porch, eating a simple peach.  Have you ever noticed how perfectly peaches are constructed?  The gorgeous pink that melts into orange,  the smooth fuzz, the sweet, dripping flesh, the perfect seed in the middle that holds it all together?  I notice.

In this moment, I am reminded that perhaps there is a simple and brilliant construction to all of this.  To the trees, the sun, the grass, my peach, the birds, my dogs, my wild little boys sleeping downstairs, even me.  What if everything in this moment, and each moment, is just as it should be?  What if I were to live in this moment, the moment, all of the time?  I might notice more often the luscious beauty, awesome simplicity, and deep interconnection that surrounds us and is us all of the time.

Even in times of sorrow, doubt, fear, there is beauty, simplicity, and connection.  The moment may not be what I would like it to be - I would not choose grief, or shame, or anger.  But when I let myself truly experience these feelings or un-wished-for experiences, and tend to them in the moment, I am never left without connecting to the deep beauty of living.  Life, in full spectrum. 

I am thankful for the simple peach that reminded me that I am connected, and beautiful, and loved.  In the quiet moments, and in the not-so-quiet moments.  And so are you.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cake For Breakfast

Good morning, Chocolate Cake!  Of course, this is the anti-diet breakfast.  I am supposed to be eating appropriate levels of protein, vegetables, and maybe some whole grains, right? And sometimes, I do actually eat kale in the morning, not to mention oatmeal, eggs, and various other "good" foods.  But not today.  Today I ate cake - and it was good.

Why? Why would I let myself eat cake for breakfast? I asked myself this question before, during, and after my cake experiment.  The little voices in my head were having quite a fight about how eating cake for breakfast is bad, but to be honest I just ignored them.  And I will have you know that I really enjoyed my breakfast.

I would also like to state for the record that I did not end up eating the whole cake.  This morning I listened to what my body wanted.  I took into account the fact that not eating the cake, when that is what seemed good, would have meant restriction, and which would - by noon for sure - have led to eating the entire cake, and maybe some other stuff to boot.  I know this because I can't count the number of times that very scenario did happen before I started learning how to eat intuitively.

When I was a restrictive eater, I would pine for whatever food I happened to be "avoiding."  I avoided nuts and cheese because they had too much fat, pasta and rice because it had too many carbs and calories, anything fried, anything... well, pretty much everything except vegetables, and limited quantities of sprouted grain bread.  Chocolate Cake, and its cousins, Brownies and Ice Cream, were on the forbidden list for sure - at least until my inner rebel kicked in, and then I was all about eating anything "bad" that I could get my hands on, in large amounts, until my stomach hurt. Now that felt really and truly bad, on lots of levels.

I cringe now when I remember how brutal I was with myself.  I ate with vicious unconsciousness, and then I beat myself up some more.  I promised myself I would do better tomorrow, I would be "good," and maybe I would just skip breakfast tomorrow, and definitely I planned to go running - for hours and hours. Restrict, punish, rebel.  Lather, rinse, repeat. That was the cycle I lived in for who knows how long, and it was a miserable cycle.

Somewhere along the recovery journey, I discovered intuitive eating, which gives me permission to get off the merry-go-round.  Intuitive eating is the opposite of restrictive eating, and external authority.  Intuitive eating is about being mindful and listening to my body.  It is about (duh) eating when I am hungry, enjoying my food, and stopping when I am full.  This seems so simple, but it is not easy.  It has taken me a long time, and it is still challenging sometimes.  It means I have to care for myself in an entirely new way - which doesn't include eating when I am not actually hungry.  I have to actually feel my feelings (gasp!), and find new ways to meet the needs food was filling. This is a learning process, for sure, and there are bumps in the road, but it is truly life-saving for me.

Unfortunately, intuitive eating is definitely not what we are being encouraged to do in our culture.  The diet industry makes bazillions of dollars telling us we are "bad," and that we need their product or service or whatever to fix the problem they have identified for us.  What they don't tell us is that .05% of people who lose weight through dieting keep it off after 5 years, and that statistic includes people who lose between 5 and 10 pounds!  Weight Watchers technically counts me as a success story for their statistics because my current weight is less than the weight I started at. The science is skewed and manipulated to make us believe that our bodies don't know what they're doing, that an outside authority can make us skinny forever, and that we'll be "better," healthier, and live longer if we ignore our bodies and listen to "the experts." And then, to add insult to injury,  it is our fault when their stuff doesn't work!  As you can see, I am over it.  I am done internalizing their bogus information, and I am taking back my right to eat cake - and nuts, and pasta, and rice and fruit, and whatever else my body tells me it needs, in the quantities it needs.  And, I am taking back my right to enjoy my food.    

I am determined to practice this intuitive eating thing, even if it is scary to really give myself permission to eat cake for breakfast.  I am actively working on giving myself full permission to eat whatever feels good to me when I am hungry, according to my own body's signals.  Usually the things that feel good to me are pretty healthy, and nourishing. If I want cake, though, I have a piece and then I don't worry about it.  Cake  is becoming the emotional equivalent of a peach, and a carrot is the emotional equivalent of peanut butter.  Whatever I choose to eat has no relation whatsoever to whether I am a good or bad person. What a relief! This leaves me free to eat cake, but it also frees me to eat fantastic fresh fruit, lovely dark leafy greens, or whatever it is that nourishes my body and satisfies my soul.  And, I get to eat  without any crazy going on in my head about it.  I don't have to beat myself up anymore. I can choose to eat consciously, with pleasure! And it is good, even if sometimes it means cake for breakfast.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Go Gym Dandy

I bought a new gym membership.  There are parts of going to the gym that I love - the time to myself, the movement, the music, the classes, even the community.  I secretly love really loud Step classes, and hot tubs are nice.  But then there are the parts I don't like.  I don't like the assumption that we all want Jillian Michaels screaming in our face, and that we all want to be "motivated" (read abused) into changing the shape and size of our bodies.  I don't really like the meat market factor.  I don't like being sold things that make me feel anxious and obsessed.  Body Bugs, diet plans, personal training, junk for the gym bag. I especially don't like the assumption that I am out of shape, or that this is my first time ever in a gym.  It's insulting.

For a long time the negatives outweighed the positives for me, so I tried other avenues. I wanted to be somewhere that wasn't all about how many calories I burned, or how people think I look in spandex, or whether I fit the stereotype of health.  In the past year I have had a yoga membership, a rock climbing membership, and even a dance studio membership.  I tried the do-it-yourself method, which involved promising myself I would exercise at home, or outside, or with my kids.  I have really enjoyed most of these things, but the "on my own plan," I have to admit, has been only marginally successful.  I get bored easily, I guess.  Let's take exercise videos, for example. While useful when starting something, exercise videos get really old, really fast.  A funny quip just isn't funny the 37th time you hear it. 

The least successful thing I have tried is getting up early before everyone else in the house is up.  This has to be some cruel method I have for unconsciously ensuring my own failure.  I plan amazing workouts, including yoga and maybe a run or walk, or whatever.  When 5:30 rolls around, though, I am hitting snooze.  That is just too damn early.  There must be a better way.

Which brings me back to my new gym membership.  I needed more of the stuff I like about gyms - structure, community, options. While I do love yoga, I also really miss a good solid heart thumping Step class.  I need a swimming pool and a hot tub for my new bathing suit.  Plus, on a really practical level, having memberships to yoga, dance, and rock climbing is freaken' expensive.  I realized I actually need a gym, so that I can get lots of different options under one roof. Crap, that means I have to face my demons.

Once I picked a gym (mostly, it had to have lots of yoga classes), I had to actually go into it to sign up.  That meant talking to a beefy guy.  As you may recall, I have a newfound lack of fear of beefy guys from being around them so much while rock climbing.  This fearlessness turned out to be really helpful - I am proud to say that I was able to hold my head high and act like a deserving human being.

Actually, the whole experience felt remarkably fearless.  I was struck by how different I felt in the gym.  I wasn't cowering and self-critical.  I was surprised that I actually felt confident.  I knew I would protect myself from negative assumptions and insulting sales pitches, and even from my own inner critic. I was ready with "no, thank you" and "I don't think so."  I was armed.  The beefy guy I met with must have sensed it, too, because he didn't even offer!  He didn't insult me, or judge me, or make me feel bad at all!  Do you think maybe some of this stuff is in my head?  I'm starting to wonder...

So, now I have a gym membership, and I really like it.  I like that I have an excuse to leave my house at a reasonably scheduled time because that's when my class is.  See you later, kids!  I like the pool, and the beefy guys, and the loud music.  I like that I like me now, even in spandex, and I like that I have given myself permission to fully enjoy moving my body again.  I still come up against the stuff I don't like, and have to actively ignore obnoxious posters advertising false promises and other bullshit.  I sometimes have to wrestle with my own negative voices.  But, for the most part, the gym actually feels like a positive part of nurturing and caring for myself.  Isn't that how it's supposed to be?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sea Monsters

This summer, my family and I spent a week just north of San Diego, on a long stretch of well-loved beach. It was our big summer vacation.  I had been looking forward to it for months, and was ready to jump in the ocean with my boys.  When we got there, we were definitely not alone on this beach!  Somehow in my fantasy, I hadn't thought about how we might be sharing the ocean.  The beach has its own scene, which I had forgotten about.  It was well populated with families like ours, bikini-clad teenagers, surfers, beach bums, runners, sun-worshippers, and partying types.  It was, apparently, the place to be.  Of course, I was ready with my fantastic leopard print bathing suit!

Once I got out there on the beach in my fantastic suit, it was a different story.  My mind went a little haywire.  Since we're going with beach imagery here, it was like a giant sea-monster, rising up out of my California dream on the beach!  All of the most hateful and horrifying thoughts started surfacing out of the habitual depths of my brain.  I could see the monster bare its teeth, one crappy thought at a time.  I started comparing myself to the other bodies on the beach.  Oh, my god, I am not a tiny bikini-clad teenager - they probably think I look like an idiot!  I wanted a cover-up, a tent-y, old-lady contraption, to hide my apparent insanity for wearing a completely bold and eye-catching leopard print suit!  What the hell was I thinking?  Why didn't I buy the same black bathing suit I always buy?  Why didn't I get a tent-y cover up?  At least it would offer some relief, like a shield from the sea monster.

The sea monster in my head bobbed around on the surface for a while, looking menacing, while I hunted for a towel to hide my garish leopard-print fiasco.  And then, I remembered.  Just say "no" to sea monsters.  Sea monsters stink.  I decided that I was going to battle with the sea monster.  I threw down the towel, and lifted my head high.  I remembered how fantastic this bathing suit really was - I wrote an entire blog post about it, after all!  I mean, really.  I remembered that my body, though neither bikini-clad nor teen-aged, has been pretty awesome to me.  This body has given birth to 2 children, and nursed them into healthy toddlerhood.  This body is powerful and strong and healthy. This body can climb mountains, and can twist into death-defying yoga poses.  This body can swim, which is what I decided to do.  Jumping waves with your children, for the record, is a good way to kill off sea monsters.

Since returning from this trip, I have been thinking about how "sea monster" thoughts tend to come and go for me, even now that I really claim my body's health, strength, and value.  It sometimes feels like I am riding the waves, hanging in there while old thoughts surface, and then coming back down to this new place of peace with my body.  I have to be conscious of how these thoughts come and go, or I risk being eaten by the sea monster, which for me means ending up back in a disordered place.

I decided to write about this because I think coming to terms with our bodies is a process.  So much negative thinking is ingrained and old - it takes time to make big changes in the ways we think about ourselves.  Whether we are trying to quit smoking, or quit drinking, or quit dieting, or quit thinking shitty things about ourselves, change takes time, effort, determination, and persistence.  It takes consciousness.  Nasty sea-monster thoughts are going to surface for me, so the task now is to be ready, to respond to them, and to get on with living.  It is necessarily a "take-no-prisoners" battle mentality for me.  In order for me to really live, I can't let the sea monsters get the best of me.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Info All of Us Need!!!

Read this!  Golda Poretsky is an awesome nutritionist and coach teaching people how to love and care for their bodies.  She is fantastic!  If I had this information earlier in my life, it might have saved me from years of shame, disordered eating, weight cycling, dieting, and various other assorted ailments.  Read it, read it, read it!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rock Climbing and the Shame Brain

I have been rock climbing in a very non-committal way for about 2 years.  We started taking my sons first, and it was really boring to sit around waiting for them, so my husband and I decided to climb too.  Actually, it kindof turned into a bit of a date night, because the kids got to climb with their teachers while we climbed on our own.  The kids would check in with us every now and then, but mostly my husband and I got a couple of hours together to do something fun.  I liked this weekly family/date night event, but my husband quickly figured out that rock climbing is a good workout, and started going on his own.  He encouraged me to go on my own, too, but I got scared.  Mostly of the beefy shirtless guys who lurk in what's called the Bouldering Cave.

The Bouldering Cave (capitalized to convey its serious intimidating cave-i-ness) is literally a caved out area where one can, if so inclined, climb alone and without ropes because the routes are low to the ground.  That's good, because I don't want to die for the sake of a workout.  The problem is that the Bouldering routes are also typically really hard, which makes them magnets for intimidating beefy shirtless guys. 

So, for almost 2 whole years, I avoided going to the rock climbing gym on my own because I was scared of the beefy shirtless guys.  The internal monologue went something like this:

"Beefy shirtless guys are going to think I'm a dork for even being at the rock climbing gym, and they're going to be annoyed that I am in the way of their Very Important Bouldering Cave activity.  They are going to notice that I am beefy, and not in the same way that they are beefy.  Not in a good way.  I'm beefy in a bad way.  Beefy shirtless guys don't like me.  I am unworthy of sharing the Bouldering Cave with the almighty beefy shirtless guys."  I get that this is ridiculous, at least intellectually.

But, emotionally, that made total sense to me.  Shame is a familiar not-friend in my brain, and likes to use shame logic to keep me from doing fun stuff.  Shame thinks beefy guys should control my life, since they are obviously better than me.  I think Shame is full of poop, so I decided, finally, to go BY MYSELF to a women's climbing group on Wednesday nights.  It took me a long time to say it, but screw you, Shame Brain.

I would love to report that my heroic courage in entering the Bouldering Cave on my own has made me a fantastic, able, and skilled rock climber.  Unfortunately, I still think most of the routes in the bouldering cave are really hard.  There are days (like today) where I can't get all the way up a single route.  I am learning that I grip too hard, and that I need to relax, and that I need to use my feet, and turn into the wall as I reach up.  I am learning I have to trust my body, and be patient.

Here I am again with the life lessons.  So, I'm not a fantastic rock climber (yet).  So I get frustrated at my amazing lack of skill and/or ability.  I have been promised that those will come with time.  But at least for now, when I enter the Bouldering Cave, I am there, present, so that I can engage with the life lessons. I get to feel the frustration and the slow trickle of progress, one movement at a time.  I  get to experience my unabashed lack of finesse.  I get to feel excited about climbing halfway up a route one of my friends can do one-armed and wearing flip-flops.  And, sometimes I get to hang out with surprisingly friendly and shockingly supportive guys who happen to be both beefy and shirtless.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oh, Romeo!

When I was 15, I went to visit my grandparents in Texas.  At the time, I lived in Montreal, a cultural wonderland, by any account.  I had discovered a little Shakespeare troupe that did a free nightly rendition of "Romeo and Juliet" on the mountainside in Mount Royal Park.  Hello, Heaven?  I had found it.  I went every night that it played, sometimes in the rain. I couldn't stop talking about it.  Most people thought I was a little bit crazy, but were supportive and interested.  At the very least, they were appreciative of my enthusiasm.  My first night in Texas, I could hardly wait to tell my grandmother about it.  Romeo was so beautiful, the play was so romantic, and it felt like you were actually in the play!  This play opened up a new world for me, and I was ready to share it with my family.

When I told my grandmother, I did not get the reaction I expected.  She didn't say, "how wonderful," or even, "gosh I always thought Shakespeare was boring."  No, in fact the actual words my grandmother said were, "Well, it doesn't matter how smart you are if you're not pretty."  When I looked at her, mouth hanging open, with nothing to say in return, my grandmother added, "You want to find a husband, don't you?"

I kid you not.

Of course, my grandmother totally missed the point, and she threw a painful and long-lasting punch at my self-esteem in the process.  In retrospect, though, I don't think this comment had much to do with me.  My grandmother had struggled with her weight her entire life.  She was always either on a diet, or lamenting about how "bad" she was, how terrible it was for her to eat, or how she ought to be on a diet.  Her weight fluctuated wildly, although she was thin only for brief moments in her life.  My grandfather promised her a new dresses, diamonds, jewelry, travel, and romance if she would only lose the weight.  Her comment was a reflection of her fear and shame.  Her words dripped with all of the negative messages she had gotten about her body, the restriction and punishment she had put herself through year after year, and her belief in the terrible myth that fat women are unloveable.  Why would anybody want to lose themselves in a silly play when the possibility of never being loved was on the line?  Romeo and Juiliet was a distraction.

My grandmother's pain is particularly poignant to me this week, as I celebrate my 12 year anniversary with my husband.  He has never once bribed me to lose weight, told me I wasn't pretty enough, or even suggested I should "do something about my weight."  Of course, if he did, I never would have married him in the first place.  But maybe that's the point.  Somehow, despite messages I was getting from my grandmother and many, many others, I decided I was deserving of kindness, love, and respect, even though I was not skinny and didn't fit the social mold.

I wish my grandmother could have had one day where she felt as loveable as I do now, just the way she was.  I wonder what life would have been like for her if she hadn't lived under constant scrutiny and judgment around her body and her weight?  I wonder if she might have been able to enjoy time with her family without focusing on food, weight, or surface appearances.  I wonder if she would have been able to appreciate art and youthful love with her granddaughter?  In that moment, she missed an opportunity for real love and connection with me, someone who deeply cared about her and believed she was worthy.

It gives me pause to think about opportunities I must have missed in my life because I was distracted by (or obsessed with) negative body image, food, and weight.  So many women, myself included, wait to enter their lives until they are a prescribed weight, or until they have the "food thing" figured out.  They don't try yoga, or rock climbing, or sky diving.  They don't talk to love interests.  They don't go to parties, or join classes, or otherwise put themselves out there and live.  If I had believed my grandmother, I might never have felt worthy of my husbands' attention, and I might never have let him in.  I might never have been where I am now - riotously happy in my marriage with 2 awesome children and friends who love me. That is unimaginable, and it should be.

I found my Romeo, 12 years ago, despite my grandmother's dire prediction.  So, in honor of my anniversary, and in memory of my grandmother, I am choosing (again and again) to live fully - whatever my size.  I am choosing to fight against the shame and fear handed down through the generations.  I am choosing to be smart and pretty, in my own way, and I am claiming it to be enough.  I am worthy of this, and so are you.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Self-Esteem Warrior

I am healthy and I generally take good care of myself.  Of course, I am not perfect, but I don't know anyboy who is.  Being human is like that.  We have to have some tolerance for the imperfections that make us who we are, that challenge us, that deepen us, that teach us.  However, though I appreciate the gifts I have gotten from having lived through my life as a fat woman, sometimes it gets old to be the brunt of negative assumptions, judgments, and and just plain discrimination. It gets old to struggle with my own internalization of those negative beliefs. 

This week I have been struggling with those negative inner (and outer) demons.  I have been thinking about all of the things in my life that I have waited to do until I was skinny, like that was going to be the magical ticket to greatness.  And the annoying part is that this idea (that being thin will magically make us happy and fix our lives) is blaring at us, all of the time. Our culture is infused with negativity about bodies.  So, in order to maintain my core sense that I am fundamentally OK, I have to be a Self-Esteem Warrior.  I have to work with my shame, and use my anger to stand up for myself, and stand up against the tyranny of a fat-phobic culture.

The idea of being a "self-esteem warrior" is examined in an Australian article by Elizabeth Sutherland about the fat acceptance movement, and the damage done by the cultural demonization of and discrimination against fat people.  This article sums it up nicely as follows:
"Much of the hatred directed towards fat people is seen as justified on the grounds that being larger is bad for your health. But this is a very simplistic and almost entirely untrue assumption. The link between weight and health is far more complex than the media would have us believe, and medical studies have never unequivocally proven that being fat is an independent health risk. Even so, in this country headlines about ‘obesity’ and an ‘obesity epidemic’ have increased fifty fold in a decade, and yet our waistlines have barely moved in that time. The Fat Acceptance movement attempts to demonstrate that the moral panic about obesity has more to do with junk science than junk food. What is very clear from the scientific research, however, is that there is no sure-fire way to make a fat person thin. We know that diets don’t work for the vast majority of people – but neither do ‘lifestyle changes’, drugs or even surgery. In fact, weight loss usually isn’t good for your health and could be associated with higher mortality rates – but we don’t read much about that in magazines."

Hallelujia, Sister!  This is the message I think women (and men) need to hear!  We are being given "junk" information, and are being physically, emotionally, and spiritually wounded by the idea that we have to fit a cultural ideal in order to be healthy, to be attractive, to be happy, or to have a life worth living. 

We have to be the change we want to see, right?  So, I have to take up my bow and arrow, and become a Woman Warrior for Self-Esteem.  I can't get sucked back into old patterns of dieting and binging, beating myself up, mistrusting and hating my body, and acting as my own jailer and abuser.  I am not just standing up against my own insecurities - I am standing up for all of us.  We all have a right to claim our bodies, our health, and our and happiness, whatever our size or shape.  We have a right to be free from discrimination, judgment, bullying, and abuse. This is a fight worth fighting.  I am putting on my armor, and going to battle.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Of Leopard Print Bathing Suits

Yesterday I bought the most fantastic bathing suit.  It fits perfectly, and it is smokin' hot, like in a busty, leopard print kind of way.  It makes me want to put on really red lipstick and high heels, and maybe one of those '60s head scarves and big, black-framed, movie star sunglasses. It is that awesome.

Just thinking about bathing suits used to make me want to move to an arctic climate. Part of the problem was finding one I liked, but that was often compounded by the fact the I would be wearing the suit, and therefore, by default, I didn't like any of them. Obviously, the real problem was that I didn't like my body.  How tragic!  But for me, now, the most tragic part of this is that I am not alone in my body-hate experience of bathing suit season!

When I came out of the dressing room today, I told the dumbfounded lady at the counter that I LOVED my bathing suit, and couldn't get over how great it looked.  She said that she has never heard anyone say that after trying on a bathing suit.  Ugh!  When I think of all of the women out there trying on bathing suits, and hating themselves, and telling themselves horrible things while looking in the mirror, it makes me so mad!  We all should be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and see the gorgeous, amazing, powerful things about our bodies, instead of the perceived "flaws."  Because our bodies ARE gorgeous and amazing and powerful!  Think of all of the amazing things your body has done for you - even just today! 

In my experience, if we tell ourselves terrible things, we start to believe them, and then we live our lives as if all of the terrible things we tell ourselves are true.  This is a painful cycle, and a difficult habit to break.  It hurts to believe that our bodies are not good enough, and it hurts to live as if there is something wrong with us, that we are damaged, flawed, or worthless.  And it keeps hurting until we say "enough."  Enough bullshit. Enough torture. Enough negative crap.

And when we take the chance, and stand up four ourselves, we find that, "enough" takes on a new life.  I am enough.  My body is enough.  I am good enough to rock a leopard print bathing suit.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fat Girls Can't Do Wheel Pose and Other Soul-Crushing Myths

I did a really beautiful wheel pose today in yoga class.  This is a big deal for me.  Yes, I have done this pose before, but usually I muscle my way into and end up kindof scrunched in the back - not fun.  Anyhow, I learned how to lead with the heart, which essentially takes all the pressure off of your back.  Fabulous!  And, I really did feel my heart open...

At first, I didn't think I was up for it today.  I haven't been to yoga class for a week (which feels like forever), and it was a really sweaty, challenging class with lots of backbends. Let me just state for the record that I usually hate backbends.  They're hard, and I feel unstable, and they tend to hurt my back.  Needless to say,  I was a little bit over it by the time we got to the wheel pose. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) the teacher told us that the poses we hate are the ones we need the most. *SIGH*  So, there went my excuses about backbending being unlikeable.  Still, I noticed old thoughts creeping in - the ugly kind of thoughts like "fat girls can't do poses like this," and "I am not good at yoga because I am fat - I should just do the easy bridge pose, and fake my way through it. Nobody expects me to do this, anyway."  I suddenly wanted to hide, which was impossible given that I was at the front of the room.

So, when the teacher came over to me, and essentially told me I had to try it, I told those nasty fat girl myths to take a hike, and led with the heart. And my body followed.  I really have never actually felt good in the wheel pose, but this felt really, really good!  In that moment, I felt my heart open, and not just physically.  I suddenly remembered that I am loved and worthy.  I am deeply connected, deeply present, and deeply alive. 

I didn't need to cave in and hide, I needed to open up from the heart, and breathe. 

I love yoga because it is absolutely true that the lessons I need in my life come through working with the poses.  If I limit myself because I am "too fat," as I have done many times before in my life, where does that leave me?  Caving in and hiding out.  Bowing to the pressure of nasty myths about what I can't do, and who I can't be.  It leaves me broken and half-hearted, and I am a full-hearted kind of girl.  It only makes sense, then, that the practice I need now, in yoga and in life, is the practice of leading with the heart, and opening to possibility. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dreaming a Re-Birth

Last night I had a dream that I had a baby.  This was not just any birth, though.  It was all me - on my own.  At first I didn't understand what was happening.  Finally I realized there was a head coming out, so I squatted down and got to business.  I think there were some people cheering me on, but I caught the baby on my own, and rubbed her back as she took her first breath.  And, boy, She was beautiful.

As many of you know, I am a counselor with a Jungian bent, so I was all about this dream.  Especially given that it occurred right after starting this blog, and publicly claiming my body, and everyone's right to their bodies. 

So, now it is official according to my dreams.  I am reborn in this effort.  I feel new, and wobbly.  I feel the burn of the first few breaths.  I feel vulnerable, but I also feel myself being held.  I feel the energy of new life, and the passion of new ideas.  Since I get to be all the characters in my dream (I love dreamwork!), I am also the mother in this endeavor.  Thank goodness, because I need some of that "mama bear" courage and fire!  The dream tells me that I am can gently and powerfully bring in a new me, and new work in my life. And, it speaks to my newfound sense of autonomy and inner strength. 
I have no idea where this will take me, but I am glad to finally be "out," and sharing my journey. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Coming Out as a Fat Lady

Call it what you will - fat lady, big girl, round, rubenesque, Big Beautiful Woman, the list goes one. I have been called many names in my life - some uttered with kindness, and some with utter cruelty. Well, today I am laying claim to my body, and taking back the names.  I am reveling in my fatness, my rubenesque form, my bigness and my beauty.  Today, I am living fully in my body - exactly as it is - and encouraging everyone else to do so as well! 

This absolutely feels like an "outing" to me. I am saying, in public no less, that I feel good about my body, exactly as it is, even though there is alot of shaming and blaming out there to make me, and many, many other women, feel like our bodies are damaged goods.  I can tell you that it takes alot of courage, which I am also claiming to have in this very public moment, to go against the cultural grain and accept your body!

Let's face it:  "fat" in our culture equals "bad." Except that I am not bad. I am a relatively likable, happy woman with a full life!  I have a devoted husband who loves me and thinks I'm beautiful. I have happy children and fabulous friends. I am typically really healthy, which, by the way, has been very confusing for me. If I eat well and exercise, I'm supposed to be skinny, right? I was promised that healthy=skinny, and skinny=happy.  So what's up with me?

I was skinny once in my life, for about a year. It was the worst year of my life. I got so much positive feedback - how wonderful that I looked so great! My grandmother would have been so proud. I got attention from men. I could wear any kind of clothing I wanted. Doctors were nice to me. But I was totally obsessed with my weight and food.  I lived in fear of being fat again, and lived with a constant, grinding hunger - physical, spiritual, and emotional. My bones felt tired. I ran miles and miles every day, and freaked out if I couldn't get in enough exercise. I was living on sprouted grain bread and carrot sticks. I stopped menstruating. I wouldn't share my grapes with my preschooler because I had measured them, goddamnit, and they were mine! I spanked my older son (which I never do, and absolutely abhor). My friends could hardly stand being with me, and I could hardly stand being with me.  I was a cranky, crazy bitch. Is that supposed to be happy? Is that supposed to be healthy? Give me a break.

So, eventually, when I couldn't keep it together anymore, I entered the labyrinth of recovery. It has been a long road, but here I am, still trekking. Fat, but happy. And healthy. And getting to a place of relatively stable wellness.

At this point, lots of psychotherapy, schooling, and personal work are coming together. Of course, it is a continuing journey, but I am ready to go public with it.

I am a Fat Lady.

There it is - my "outing." I am not a fat girl trying to get thin. I refuse to apologize for being my own version of healthy any longer. I am not going to subject myself to any more torture (even in my own head) in order to fit the cultural ideal of what a beautiful (or even acceptable) woman is. I refuse to harbor shame around my body, and I refuse to have my worth as a person dictated by my size. I am claiming my right to respect, love, and care in my life. Everyone deserves this.

The reality is that one's size has nothing to do with the state of one's healthy. Amazed? Me, too! It is true that we can be Healthy at Every Size. There is a growing community of HAES supporters.  HAES is based on science, not on diet-industry-funded pseudo science. It turns out that I am not actually faulty, damaged, or otherwise junk. What a relief!

So, this blog is about my journey of self-acceptance, at whatever size I naturally am. It is about supporting other women to claim their right to happy, healthy lives, whatever their weight. It is about standing up to hate, in all its forms. It is about healing from shame on a personal and a political level. It is about me, trying to make a bit of a difference in the world.