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!