Beautiful You

Day 21 – Beautiful You – Consider When You Have Been Championed

Today: Consider these questions in your Beautiful You journal: Were there moments in your life where you have felt championed? What were those experiences like and what did you learn from them?

I spend a lot of time writing about the trauma I’ve experienced in my life and the people who have hurt me. I spend probably too much time thinking about it when I’m not writing about it. It is so easy to villainize those who have hurt me as well and lump them all into a category of terrible people and to also categorize myself as a victim. Some of those who have hurt me deeply have also stepped up to the plate in major ways to champion me, their only safe and trusted way to express their love for me. Some of those people are no longer in my life, but they are a big part of why I am who I am today.

And then there are the superstars in my life who constantly encourage me, check in on me, and remind me to consider myself, my feelings, and my happiness in everything I do.

Let me start with highlighting some of the good of the people I tend to only write negatively about on here.

I wrote about this on Father’s Day on Instagram: Where my dad has never been emotionally available for me (and never will be), he has shown up in other ways in my life.

While he worked on his feet 40-55 exhausting hours a week, he still came to the majority of my Saturday morning softball games growing up. He couldn’t understand my nervousness and why I could hit the ball to the fence during practice and barely make contact with the ball during games, but he was there when I cried during softball tournaments because I felt like my failure to hit the ball let down the whole team. (I’m a very competitive person and hate to lose.) Going to my softball games was the one thing we really did together, and that was his expression of his love language of doing things for me that I didn’t really understand until recently.

My mom has championed me more in the past several years. She tells me how strong she thinks I am, how I was always stronger growing up because I was in touch with the emotions she’d been shaming into avoiding. She says she wishes she could be as outgoing, friendly, and warm as I am even in a room full of people I don’t know, and how I light up the room with my sense of humor and smile. When we watched Inside Out and I commented that I feel like I am a combination of Anger and Sadness, she said no, “you are Joy, with a little bit of Anger when it’s necessary.” She has stood up for me through the horrible bosses I’ve had over the past several years and in my marital conflicts with John. We don’t have a perfect relationship and we still fight like sisters at times, but she’s been one of my best friends.

Another person, who has been out of my life for three years now and who played a huge role in pushing me towards my potential, was my college best friend Nina. I was very shy, had a horrible fashion sense, and spent most of my time before we met sitting up all night long on my computer in my dorm room writing Backstreet Boys fan fiction, specifically a story where Nick Carter fell in love with me and we wrote songs together for his solo albums (I wrote my own song lyrics in the story too). She was very outgoing and friendly, saw a lot of potential in me, and pushed me towards it.

That takes me to one time someone I didn’t even know championed for me in a way no one ever had before. My sophomore year of college, I tried out for a talent show and sang Shania Twain’s “The Woman in Me” a cappella in a dark-ish room with several other girls and a couple of judges. Some of the other girls in the room said, “Man, she’s good,” but one of the judges, whose name I’m not sure I ever got, told me, “You are a really talented singer. I think you can win this contest.” And I was sent on to participate in the talent show.

I didn’t win, but I got a lot of applause, and after the show, that judge came up to me and said, “You were amazing. Don’t feel bad that you didn’t win. Did you hear that crowd? They loved your singing and so did I.”

No one had ever told me that before, not like that. And Nina was the one who pushed me to get on that stage in the godawful rainbow-striped sweater I wore. While I don’t think she is someone I ever want to be friends with again, her adventurous, free-spirited, creative personality burst me out of my shy, soft-spoken, southern girl shell and into the loud, vibrant, determined, outgoing woman I am today, and I am thankful for her.

And as for the rockstars who championed me and those who continue to do so today:

I’ve never had a bigger fan or a stronger advocate than my maternal grandmother June. My college degree was really her degree because she paid for it and she stayed on my ass every day until I finally walked across the stage to receive it. She encouraged my writing (but told me not to write so much sex in my stories even though those books were all she read), told me she loved listening to me sing, enabled my Backstreet Boys obsession, and told me how proud she was to have such a beautiful granddaughter like me.

She fought for me even when she knew I hadn’t told her the entire story, and she fought harder when she knew I had and she saw how broken and hurt I was by it. And when she died and I read the letters about the sassy, fun, outgoing, wild child she was as a teenager and in her twenties, I saw myself in her. She gave me such high expectations for how I should be treated by others, which is probably part of my struggles because no one else revolves their life around me like she did, haha.

Ten years ago this month, I came to Atlanta to spend the weekend visiting my friend Sia who had just moved here from Montgomery with her then-fiancé Zach. On the way home, I felt God/the Universe/something tell me to move to Atlanta too. I was in a boring, drama-filled office job, living in a boring city, still getting caught up in my parents’ post-divorce drama, not feeling great about myself, and I needed a huge change. Sia and Zach offered to let me stay with them, and I moved in November 2009 with no job, about $3K saved up from working two jobs and selling everything but what would fit in my 2005 Toyota Corolla, and what was left of my belongings in that car. For about 3 months, I slept on a mattress on their dining room floor while I looked for a full-time job.

I always call Sia my “Greek Mama” because she is half-Greek, a mom, and she always looks out for me. She’s incredibly resourceful, smart, optimistic, and bossy, and she lovingly calls me out on my bullshit because she cares about me and thinks I’m smart, talented, and deserve more than I allow myself to have.

Christina is another dear friend of mine I met through my sister-in-law Sara about 5 or 6 years ago who is also brilliant, resourceful, empathetic, funny, and who also calls me out on my shit and pushes and encourages me to be better and also not be so hard on myself. She and I have talked nearly every day since the day we met, and I would be lost without her support.

And while our marriage has really struggled for the greater part of this year, I can’t forget to mention John. While he’s not outspoken in his support of me like my mom and close friends are, he has tried to clear the path for me several times in the past years to allow me to figure out what I want to do and do it. After I supported us with an incredibly toxic job while he was in school, he told me he would support us when we moved to Chicago, which allowed me to try a few new things like work in concessions at Wrigley Field and watch the Cubs win the World Series for the first time in 108 years and work as a barista at Starbucks, two jobs where I finally got to let loose, have fun, and make friends. This support, though not always without some criticism, has continued since we’ve returned to Georgia. He has been a shoulder to cry on and to talk about what I want out of life with in the middle of the night. He doesn’t always respond to me like I wish he would, but he listens to me. He continues to tell me to figure out what I want to do and he will pay our bills (minus my car payment and credit card debt).

I really appreciate this entry from Beautiful You because it reminded me I’m not alone, to not be so hard on myself, that I am doing okay in life (sometimes even great), and the wonderful people in my life are quick to encourage me when I feel lost, hopeless, dull, and useless. I am thankful for their support and especially for them listening to me because I feel often like I talk a big game then go back to doing the same bullshit or nothing at all. Because of them, I am still here and still trying.

Beautiful You, Showing Up

Day 17 – Beautiful You – Replace What You Heard

I have spent nearly all of my life apologizing for who I am.

For being fat.

Being emotional.

Not making perfect grades.

Not making enough money.

Not being enough, whether that’s pretty, smart, funny, patient, or faithful to my Christian upbringing.

Not speaking up for myself. Not putting my needs first. Not doing the things I want to do but am afraid to do.

In response to being told I’m egocentric, selfish, or a cold-hearted bitch when I stand up for myself.

Being blamed for another person’s emotions when I speak up for myself.

Being blamed for the conflict in the relationship because I speak up for myself.

Where do those voices come from?

From my childhood – my parents, siblings, grandmother, great-grandparents – and from friends, both current and former, and my husband. 

But they all sound like my voice in my head after all of these years of hearing them. And they all tell me I’m not enough, doing enough, or being enough. That I’m not living up to my potential or focusing on myself (or I’m focusing too much on myself) and I am wasting my life. And those are the voices I hear when I am hit with the panicked thought, What if I die in my sleep tonight? at 3a.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ve said over and over and over again from about the time I could talk. I’m sorry, Mama, I don’t know why it is so hard for me to behave myself, I wrote in a letter at about 7 or 8 years old, a letter my mom still has to this day but does not have any of the short stories I wrote and gave to her as gifts. 

I’ve blamed it on the trauma and dysfunction I experienced growing up. I’m sorry I’m so broken, I’ve cried. I’m sorry I’m such a burden. I’m sorry I’m too much and too emotional. I’m sorry you don’t want me.

I’ve mentally destroyed my body a million times, taking on others’ voices who called me disgusting, gross, and fat like it’s the most vile thing a person can be. I’m sorry my belly is so big. I’m sorry I don’t look like other women. I’m sorry I don’t have big boobs and a big butt and itty bitty waist. I’m sorry this is what you have to look at during sex or anytime I’m naked. You deserve a better body to touch and view. My stupid body and fucked up hormones, stupid PCOS, stupid hypothyroidism, stupid endometriosis. My body is ruined and it’s my fault, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I can’t find a job I love that pays well and that I can stay at, I’ve said to John several times over the past 3 years. I keep winding up with these hostile bosses who make an easy, sometimes even enjoyable job, torturous. Maybe it’s my fault, maybe I’m doing something wrong, I am the common denominator here. I’m sorry I don’t have the fortitude to withstand their behavior towards me and continue working so I’m not a financial burden on you. I’m sorry my expectations for a job I want to stay at are too high. I’m sorry that staying at a job I hate for the majority of the rest of my life feels like a long, slow, brutal death. 

I’m sorry I’m so overdramatic and need so much, I’ve said. I’m sorry I can’t seem to let some things go. I’m sorry I want affection and affirmation so much. It’s because I didn’t get either growing up. I’m sorry I lean on you for validation. I should know better. I’m sorry I want you to tell me you think I am beautiful and you are so lucky to have me and that I keep telling you that my needs aren’t being met. I’m sorry, once again, things were going so well, and I fucked them up with my feelings.

Last night, in discussion with John after a horrible fight, I asked him if he ever feels like he’s repeating his mistakes from his previous marriage. After a pause, he said no. I asked, kind of incredulously, “Do you even know what your mistakes were then?”

He responded, “I won’t apologize for being myself.”

I still can’t decide if that is the arrogance, egocentricity, and selfishness I’ve always been afraid of being accused of possessing or if it’s self-assuredness. I am always apologizing for myself because I never want to see like I’m beyond empathy or thoughtfulness of those around me, all at the expense of the lack of empathy and thoughtfulness towards myself.

I don’t think the opposite of constantly apologizing for myself is a cold-hearted “I refuse to acknowledge how my behavior affects others,” but an acceptance that this is who I am, I cannot nor need to be perfect, my voice, feelings, and needs matter, and I can have compassion, love, empathy, and kindness towards myself while also having those characteristics for others. The key part is having them for myself first so that I have a larger capacity for them with others.

Those voices from my childhood through now that I’ve adopted as my own came and come from hurt people, people who have tried to stop their own pain through their treatment of me (but who only inflicted more pain on me), people who see a reflection of their insecurities and pain in me and react to that instead of me personally. The words that came from those voices were about them, not me.

To re-parent myself is to observe my thoughts, which seem to flutter in a roaring cacaphony of billions of butterflies inside of my head. To catch them as they come and ask myself, Where did this come from? Maybe it’s even like a mental version of Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up: “Does this thought serve me?” If not, thank it and let it go; if so, hold on to it, listen to it, and see where it takes me.

In re-parenting myself, it is time to stop apologizing for being a human being with needs, emotions, and desires. To stop apologizing for “falling short,” whatever standards I’ve been held against or that I’ve held myself against.

The only apology needed is to myself, Amy, I am so sorry I’ve taken others’ hurts and made them my own.

To replace those words those hurt voices said and say to myself:

I am enough. My body is good as it is, no matter what. My dreams are worth aspiring to. My needs are worth being met. My voice is worth being heard. I am not too emotional – I am attuned with my emotions and they are valid. It is okay for me to keep searching and exploring and pushing through my fears and discomfort. 

I don’t know who said it, maybe Anne Lamott or Elizabeth Gilbert, but I don’t want to end my life looking like it was barely lived. I want to end it completely used up, my hair on fire, heart completely worn out, ready for whatever is next. 

I will apologize when my hurts hurt someone else, but I will stop apologizing for who I am and what I do when it pertains to becoming and being the person I was put on the Earth to be.


Today: Consider the negative messages about yourself that are in your head and ask yourself, “Is this my voice or someone else’s?”

Says [Dr. Amy Combs, clinical psychologist and the director of the Charlotte Center for Balanced Living], “…One of the first things we can do is to ask these questions of ourselves: Whose voice is it? Where did it come from? Why does it make sense for me to talk to myself like that?

If this negative message was shared with you at a younger age, how would you re-parent yourself? What do you think your friend was missing in her life that made her say that? Do you think this is really what your brother thought, or was it how he thought he could get you the most upset? What was the goal?”

Whatever you may have been told, replace it right now with what you wish you had heard.

Showing Up

There Is Only “Now”

A few weeks ago, as we were eating breakfast, I went to get a second piece of the quiche I made right as I finished the first, and John said, “Maybe you should wait before you eat anymore. It takes at least 20 minutes for our brains to register that our stomachs are full.” I both felt enraged that he was spitting that diet mentality bullshit back at me and like I’d been stabbed in the heart. The look I gave him was enough to motivate him to get up and cut that second piece for me.

I didn’t know what to say. I knew I needed to say something to let him know that I cannot have him commenting on my eating habits like everyone else has my whole life. All I got out at the time was, “You sound just like my mom right now.”

While sitting there, barely acknowledging the piece of quiche I’d wanted just moments before while I ate it, I thought about my baby book. My mom gave it to me a couple of months ago. I remembered all of the notes about my weight she’d gotten from doctors and decided to hold onto as keepsakes. After breakfast, I grabbed that book and sat down on the couch opposite of John and started flipping through it.

I knew there were a lot of notes from my pediatrician about my weight in the book, but I was appalled to find out how far they went back.

The first one was dated September 28, 1984. My brother Adam wasn’t even a month old yet. I was about 2 weeks shy of my 2nd birthday. I first remembered being conscious of my body and weight around 5 years old, but it turns out the seeds were planted much earlier on. In the notes, my then pediatrician told my mom to carefully watch my weight. She, with her own lifelong history of disordered thinking around her body and weight, took that shit seriously and never stopped until just recently.

When I finished reading note after note about watching my weight, I looked at John and said, “I have never been able to have any peace with my body or with food. I never got to learn how to intuitively eat. I’ve never been allowed to trust my body. My weight and what I eat has been a topic of great concern and commentary my entire goddamn life.”

I have been thinking about this ever since, and unpacking the trauma behind it all. I have a lot of internalized fatphobia around it that I am continuously unpacking as well.

I have been obsessed with my weight and body my whole life because I thought I had to be, to seem like I was paying attention to it and working on it to make other people happy. I’ve been blogging about it since October 1, 2001. I’m beyond exhausted over it all and just want to stop.

I told John today that I don’t give a shit what people think of my body when I’m out in a swimsuit at the pool or beach, but that was a lie. Today, I almost didn’t go to the pool when I heard a couple of teenagers talking and playing in it. Then I turned away from them, like I turn away from John even though he knows what my body looks like from all angles, to take my pants off, took a deep breath before I turned around, walked to the edge, and jumped into the pool.

I worry about people thinking I’m pregnant because my belly sticks out a lot in comparison to my proportionate chest, hips, thighs, and shoulders.

I worry about John telling me, “Okay, this is about as fat as I can stand you. You need to lose weight.”

My brain continues to remind me that it doesn’t believe that I can take care of myself without the strictness of weighing myself and counting calories.

I talk about others never allowing me any peace or trust in my body, but I don’t have it for myself either. I instead run a continuous loop of all of these scenarios in my head to prepare myself for the comments of others that never come and if they did, do not define me.

I decided to take the above pics tonight to make a statement to myself to stop looking at myself as some project to fix and a body I can’t fully inhabit until it is societally acceptable. There is nothing wrong with it, nothing that deems me unlovable, but yet…

I have stopped dancing because I don’t like seeing my belly and thighs flopping all around when I shake my hips.

I have stopped wearing some of my favorite dresses because they still fit but more snugly around my belly.

I always wear leggings under my dresses because I don’t like how lumpy my legs are and because my thighs merge into one large mass when there is no fabric between them.

I am always making jokes about how fat I am in front of John.

Last week, I listened to @the.holistic.psychologist’s (Instagram) inner child meditation on YouTube. In it, you envision walking up to your childhood home (in my case, my grandmother June’s house since my parents moved every 2 years until they divorced), seeing the little child version of yourself, taking them by the hand, walking through the house and seeing every room, walking back outside, kneeling down to the child’s level, holding them, and telling them, “You are safe, you are loved, you are wanted, you are enough.”

I felt a wall of resistance at the beginning of the meditation. I thought, No, this is dumb. This is stupid. I can’t do this. I can’t meditate. I can’t get the breathing right. I don’t want to do this, but I persisted. Just at the point of holding my little child version’s hand and going into the house sent sobs wracking through my body. I could see every room in that house, and I heard June and Lib in the kitchen, but I didn’t see anyone. I could feel all of the pain, trauma, shame, and tension that I lived in at that time and for years to come. Coming back out and kneeling to about 5 or 6-year-old me, hugging her, and saying those words, more sobs came out instead of the words.

I never felt safe in that house. It was impossible to with all of the fighting and dysfunction and two uncles who made me feel very aware and very protective of my body while also very ashamed of it.

I never felt loved or wanted by parents. I only felt in the way. Hearing my mom say years later that I was too emotional, a burden, and that neither her nor my dad wanted me when they got divorced felt like a confirmation of that lack of love I felt from them and that it was my fault.

I never felt secure then and I don’t now. I know that’s why I go so all-or-nothing and fantasize that if I could just lose weight/get out of debt/find a husband/find a job I love/etc. as fast as possible, I can finally relax and enjoy my life. And life doesn’t work like that.

The peace I want isn’t just about being able to eat without diet advice or commentary. The trust isn’t about just preventing myself from binge and emotional eating so I don’t get any fatter.

This is all about grounding myself in who I am so that I don’t base my identity on how others see, think, or feel about me.

It is like those poles you see at the beach that tell you how high the storm surge of each category of hurricanes can get that actually survive the hurricane with the marks to show disaster assessors how high the waves got during the peak of the storm. I want to be firmly planted but able to bend and sway in the wind without snapping in two.

A friend of mine recently said my “color” (fire) seems to dim more and more every year, and she questioned if my marriage has played a role in that.

I don’t believe it is my marriage itself, but my expectations of myself in our marriage and my issues with codependency and people-pleasing. (This is not about the conflicts in my marriage that relate to both of us, and I’m not bearing all of the responsibilities and blame in them either.)

This is about me always putting myself and my desires on the back burner, something I have done my entire life. Spending more time wanting to be a different person, or at least have a different person’s body because I’ve been convinced my whole life that mine is wrong and flawed. About me still believing I am too much and being afraid of shining too brightly. About me being so intent on developing relationships with others that I don’t have the time or energy to develop the lifelong one with myself.

I’ve wanted to felt seen, known, and heard my whole life, yet I procrastinate and do everything I can to avoid allowing the person to see, know, and hear me to be me. I ache to be encouraged, celebrated, and affirmed, but withhold those things from being done by me. I thought the other night that I keep looking back at the me John found more attractive nearly eight years ago that I don’t stop to acknowledge how much I’ve been through in those eight years and that maybe, quite possibly, I’m a completely different, but stronger and better, person now. And that being in this relationship was the catalyst that made me face a lot of the trauma and associated emotions that only being with someone else, no matter who it was, could help me face and heal from.

Last Friday, I quit my second job in the past year and a half because it wasn’t right for me. I went against my gut yet again and wound up with a boss I had doubts about from the get-go. Again, settling and selling myself short. However, in this one, I began to find my voice and speak up for myself. I also decided to trust that my debt will get paid off, but that it is better that it is not at the expense of my mental or physical health. I am very fortunate as well that John is a supportive husband and has the means to cover the majority of our living expenses while I figure out what to do next.

First step is that it is time to get to know myself. To spend my free time alone and start not only hearing myself, but actually listening. To live fully in and enjoy my body as it currently is because no matter what, it will change numerous times throughout the remainder of my life. To write and maybe learn to meditate or at least figure out how to slow the swirling thoughts down in my head. To find things that scare me and do them.

To enter into a peace treaty with myself and decide okay, I am going to trust myself.

My goal this summer is to take life as it comes each day and take myself just as I am in those days because “now” is all I really have.

Beautiful You, Showing Up

Day 16 – Beautiful You – Realize Everything is Just Information

Have you ever thought about how the way we describe ourselves, even to ourselves, affects how we feel about and perceive ourselves?

One way I’ve been thinking about this lately is when we use “I am…” versus “I feel…” and “I have…”

One way attaches a feeling, judgment, and even a diagnosis to encompass our identity which almost sets up a permanence in our self-perception and maybe how others perceive us. For example, saying, “I’m so dumb” when we make a mistake or “I’m a worrier” when we struggle with anxiety.

Another way is a description and observation. It could describe a chronic, permanent condition in your life, but if you say, for example, “I feel depressed” or “I have diabetes,” it feels more like we are describing just a small part of the wholeness of ourselves, like, “I have blue eyes and brown hair.” It solely describes us without trying to tell our whole story. In regards to chronic health issues or disabilities, it can put a responsibility on us that we don’t deserve and don’t need to bear beyond managing them with self-care.

This isn’t a “you aren’t fat, you have fat” type of thing or me trying to politicize how we describe ourselves. I AM tall. I AM fat. I AM white. I AM a cis-het woman. But that’s not my whole story. I have chronic physical and mental health issues, but they don’t identify me, just name how my body responds to my DNA and environment. I have privileges, but they don’t define me and they aren’t something to feel ashamed of. My identity is not wholly wrapped up in nature or nurture. You get what I’m saying, I hope.

It is about expanding, not diminishing, ourselves. Not narrowing ourselves down to a few words. Seeing what happens to us and how we perceive it is important. Attaching our identities to temporary experiences like making a mistake or permanent conditions like chronic mental or physical health or something traumatic that happened to us growing up limits us and can invoke unnecessary shame. Narrows our story.

It is totally okay to acknowledge the experiences we’ve had. To share what we feel and experience. I’m not trying to diminish that or silence anyone. Telling others what we feel, have, deal with, and are healing from is part of the human experience. All of our feelings and perceptions are valid and happen for a reason.

A few weeks ago, on my way home from a weekend at my mom’s, I decided to skip the 30 seconds it would take for my apartment complex’s entrance gate to open and go through the exit gate. Chewy, my dog, had to pee and had whined about it for 50 miles, it was 12:30a, and I was tired. All I could think about was “I hope no one tries to come out as I go in.” It was as I pulled over the tire strips that I realized what I’d done and why you don’t enter that exit gate.

“Oh, fuuuuck” came out of my mouth as air began gushing out of my front left tire. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten, the first time in the nearly two years we’ve lived here. How could I be so stupid? I chastised myself.

But I had been thinking about the topic Rosie wrote about in the prompt at the. Bottom of this post, so when I walked into the house with Chewy, I looked at John and said, “I did something really stupid and I need your help.”

Calling running over the spike “stupid” is still a little shame-inducing, but separating my actions and my identity in the moment helped me realize it was a temporary experience, a mistake and lesson learned. I was tired and ready to get Chewy and me out of the car and I made a mistake. Shit happens, ya know? And thankfully John is a kind and compassionate husband. He and I immediately started making jokes about what happened while he put the spare on, and the next day, he took my car to Walmart and bought me a new tire. Crisis averted, gratefulness and relief felt, lesson learned.

It is so easy to allow shame, trauma, health issues, and abuse to reduce who we are and cloud our judgment and perception of ourselves. We can’t control a whole lot in life (but I struggle with control issues; I’m not a “control freak”), but we can decide how to perceive ourselves and how to live our lives.

One exception (but not the only one) in this I am vs. I have/feel/do idea I’m writing about here is when we want to label ourselves by things we do but feel like we can’t because we haven’t won public accolade for it. If you write, you’re a writer even if you never get your words published. If you sing, you’re a singer even if you never sing outside of your shower. Dancer, if you dance. Hiker, if you hike. Runner, if you run. This is where participation awards totally count. If you want it and do it – or sometimes not do it because creativity is vulnerable even with us as our only audience – you are it.

This is all just a little newborn idea in my head so I’d love to hear what others think. I like the idea of holding thoughts at an arm’s length and observing them, not immediately absorbing them. Being curious about them. Curiosity is how we keep ourselves open to what life has to offer and helps us expand and grow. Shame and judgment are the opposites of curiosity, creativity, and vulnerability.

Like Brené Brown says, while paraphrasing Teddy Roosevelt’s grand speech, if you are brave with your life, if you live in the arena, you are going to get your ass kicked.

Don’t be an extra foot in your ribs and face in that arena. Use those feelings instead to pull yourself back up to persevere. There’s a lot of beautiful life to be lived in between those ass kickings.


Today: I want you to continue to shift your energy away from judgment to curiosity. When you feel inclined to judge yourself, shift your words. No longer condemn your choices or reality. Instead, I want you to gently ask, what information is this experience giving me? And prepare yourself to powerfully move forward with that information as a guide.

Showing Up

Self-Care and Exercise

Source: @therdnutritionist – Instagram

These days, it is so hard to separate the connection between exercise and weight loss. Fitbits, apps like Runkeeper, and workout equipment all tell you not just the distance and time you’ve covered but the estimated calories burned.

Though they are few and far between, I can remember being active as a kid without knowing or caring how many calories I burned.

I am the oldest and only girl in my family with three younger brothers. My brother Adam and I are 22 months apart in age so we were playmates as kids.

We played freeze tag, hide and seek, basketball, football (I was the QB and had to play two hand touch while the boys could tackle me because they said I hit them too hard, haha), and kickball.

When I was 10 years old, my mom signed me up for softball and Adam up for baseball. He played 2 seasons; I played 4. I loved playing softball because I was good at it. I’m super competitive which led to some emotional meltdowns when we lost, but I could hit the ball nearly out of the park and throw harder and further than any other girl on the team. (And people were always surprised that a chubby kid and teenager like me was such a great softball player, which spurred a love of defying others’ expectations and stereotypes of me as a fat person for the rest of my life.)

When I think back on all of this, even though I’ve been conscious of my weight and body since I was 5 years old, I don’t remember wondering how many calories I burned. I don’t think I was of the mindset yet of bargaining with myself over how long I had to work out to eat whatever I wanted to eat.

That came along with the Jane Fonda workout tapes and aerobics classes I did at the gym with my mom.

Even back then, exercise did not help me lose much weight, but it made me leaner, but I still equated the two.

They are still so deeply intertwined in my brain, exercise and weight loss, and trying to exercise because I enjoy it (I actually really do) has felt impossible because it keeps triggering thoughts and hopes for weight loss. Being unable to separate them has actually kept me from working out altogether even though I really want to.

So in some ways, I’m not sure if it is all me grieving or feeling fearful in my heavier body over where I am physically now versus then or if that nagging desire to lose weight is behind it all. Either way, I’m not doing anything. And I’m tired all the time and feel weaker and it is mortifying for me when John and I walk somewhere hilly and he’s ahead of me and asks me if I’m going to make it because I am breathing so hard and unable to keep up with him. It just reminds me of all the other times I was the one in the back of the pack gasping for air and feeling like I was a burden to the group.

Maybe it is all of those things, but how do I proceed from here?

I think I need to start thinking of exercise the way I think of other important parts of my life, like my job, marriage, friendships, finances, and etc. I do actually love to exercise, like I love my husband, making money, spending time with friends, and etc. even if I don’t always want to get out of bed to do any of those things. Moving my body is as vital as brushing my teeth. I can tell the difference in my body when I’m not moving it regularly and not in a weight loss/weight gain sort of way. My legs, back, and hips are so tight and inflexible from not stretching and moving them enough and that contributes to the pain I feel when my endometriosis flares up.

I decided to re-join LA Fitness back in February because there are gyms by my job and apartment and I want to get back into Zumba and have a place to do the Couch to 5K training when it is raining or cold outside.

I think I have been maybe four times since then.

I’ve “graduated” from the C25K program several times, the last time outside where I was able to run four miles without stopping and it was glorious, but now I can barely run for more than 90 seconds. I am so awkward and uncoordinated in Zumba because I am so out of practice with dancing because I struggle with how I look now while dancing in my bigger body. I haven’t dared to hike the mountains around here like I used to because it feels so uncomfortable trying to move and breathe with my lost endurance. I haven’t cycled either even though I now have a bike for similar reasons.

I also want to work on letting go of the all-or-nothing mentality that is the dying breaths of the diet mentality and perfectionism. To stop feeling like everything has to be structured and organized or it won’t work. I’ll never have a clean desk at work, for instance, but I don’t stop going to work for that reason and I still go home when it’s time to go home even if I’m not “finished” with everything.

Self-care in re-learning exercise outside of the diet mentality means letting go of the rules that diet mentality brought to exercise. Moving my body in ways I want to for however long I want to. Not forcing myself to stick to a schedule, but still finding time for myself to move my body so it stays strong and flexible like I find time to brush my teeth so they don’t rot and fall out and time to shower so I don’t become the “smelly coworker” and I don’t slip out of John’s arms when he hugs me because I’m so greasy, haha.

This is easier said than done, but I don’t have to get it right. It’s an experience and an education and there are no right or wrong answers.

How do you dissociate exercise from weight loss and the diet mentality? What do you enjoy doing? Tell me about your experiences with exercise and moving your body out of self-care.

 

Beautiful You

Day 15 – Beautiful You – Consider What Self-Acceptance Can Add to Your Life

Last night, John and I went to the Atlanta Braves’ home opener against the Chicago Cubs, our first real date night in a long time. This game was special because of our ties to both cities.

We both grew up Atlanta Braves fans – me in Alabama, him in Georgia. Three years ago, we moved to Chicago for his then-job with American Airlines at O’Hare Airport. While in Chicago, I worked in concessions at Wrigley Field and got to watch the Cubs go to and win their first World Series in 108 years. Some say I broke the long-standing curse, haha. Because of this, I have such a special place in my heart for the Cubs, but I am also a Braves fan. You can see where it might get tricky.

Either way, John and I decided that he would come to my job and we would walk to SunTrust Park because it’s only about 4 miles away. Four miles is nothing for us. We’ve walked from Evanston, IL to Chicago, IL before, about a half-marathon in itself.

We’ve all heard our parents lament about having to walk “uphill, both ways, in the snow, barefooted” before, right?

Well, it wasn’t snowing last night and thank goodness I had on a comfortable pair of shoes, but damn.

Walking from Powers Ferry Road to Windy Ridge Parkway to SunTrust Park is literally uphill both ways.

My body was not prepared for this.

When we got to the biggest hill near the stadium, John bounced ahead of me like the little unlimited stamina bunny he always is when it comes to anything steep, and behind him, I gasped for air and forced myself to think of anything else to distract myself from the burning in my thigh and calf muscles. He turned around and asked if I was going to make it. All I could do was nod and grunt.

There were moments I felt embarrassed because the thoughts rolling through my head were, oh my god, I am so out of shape / I have got to lose weight / I am holding John back / this must be so embarrassing for him.

But then I had this flashback of myself when I was this size before, trying to walk a half mile down a mostly flat street and having to stop because my legs and chest hurt too horribly to go any further and here I was, pushing myself up one huge hill after another. I only stopped when I had to, like with red lights. I made it up to that goddamn stadium without stopping to catch my breath.

I am really fucking strong.

That was the voice that emerged from them all. I mean, think about it. John only carried 150 pounds up those hills, I carried around 265 pounds. A whole 115 pounds more. How strong do my legs, lungs, and heart have to be to accomplish such a feat? If John wasn’t impressed, I sure as hell was when I thought about it once we arrived at the stadium.

I gasped for breath just as much fifty pounds lighter too, but this time I had more to carry.

And then we did it again on the way back from the stadium and even he was groaning and complaining of his legs and feet hurting.

I walked over 10 miles yesterday, mostly up some extremely steep hills.

It was so uncomfortable, but it was yet more proof that my body can do and does incredible things, and this is so much of what I am trying to focus on when my anxiety over my body size and shape tries to creep in.


Today: In your “Beautiful You” journal, consider what self-acceptance would give you if you decided to embrace the practice in your life. How would your life be different? In what ways do you need to see the world as more abundant? How do you begin today?

I think if I embraced the way I saw myself last night, with more admiration or even just acknowledgement, so much of my anxiety over my body, food, and how others perceive me would melt away. I have struggled to trust myself – body and mind – my whole life and have so heavily depended on the guidance of and validation from others, people who can only talk to me via their own experiences and knowledge of themselves. I have sought diet and nutrition advice from doctors, relationship advice from my friends and books, financial advice from friends and books and the internet, and even when everything in me is screaming to run the other way or is so aggravated with myself for allowing others to try to run my life, I have felt like they know something that I don’t and their perspective is more valid than my own.

If I lived in my body with more acceptance and grace, my life and everything in it would feel more like it was mine, like it belonged to me, and with that authority over it, I would feel more freedom to live like I want to live.

I have lived with such a sense of scarcity around love, affection, acceptance, and personal freedom my whole life. They have all felt like they need to be earned with some sort of grand performance of perfection. And if someone else is getting it, there is less to go around for me. It has gotten me caught up in comparing myself with others and feeling like shit because I can’t seem to measure up.

If I could shift to a sense of abundance and realize all of those things are around me and in me, I feel like the sense of competition would simmer down because there would be nothing to compete or fight over. (Of course, I also understand the privileges I have too, in that scarcity is a real thing for far too many people in this world.)

Walking out of the stadium last night with John’s fingers interlaced with mine, it hit me how much love is right here for me in my own life. I’m not alone. I’m not invisible. Instead, I have been blinded to it because of the fear, shame, and insecurities I’ve allowed to create my perspective on everything.

I am strong because my body can do great things, but I am also strong because my body and who I am have overcome amazingly hard things to get me here. Life doesn’t have to be all or nothing. My acceptance of myself doesn’t either. There’s no perfect way to do anything, just the way I was meant to do it, mistakes and all.

Beautiful You

Day 14 – Beautiful You – Banish “Have You Lost Weight?” from Your Vocabulary

Credit: @jennifer_rollin // Instagram

So excited to be finally getting back to Rosie Molinary’s wonderful book, Beautiful You. It feels like exactly what I need right now.

Today’s reading is about asking people if they’ve lost weight when you see them as your first response to how they look.

I remember when I started losing weight in 2005 and I was constantly asked if I’d lost weight. There was a sweet older woman who saw me on the elevator about once a week and each time, she asked me how much I’d lost and told me I was getting “prettier by the week” and to “keep up the hard work.”

I don’t believe it is intentional but whenever people have said to me, post-weight loss, “Wow, you look so great now,” my first thought is, How horrible did I look to you before?

And everyone seems to think you want to know what they thought about your “former” self. I was told by coworkers how I looked like the Unabomber in my black trench coat when I started walking at my heaviest and told things like, “I’m so glad you are doing this for yourself. You have such a pretty face.”

And after I lost a considerable amount of weight, I was damn near harassed by these same coworkers anytime I came into work in a new outfit or did something differently with my hair. “Look at you, girl. You look great. You must have you a man now or something.”

And when I regained the weight I lost, the compliments went away and all of my meals were critiqued and I was asked if I was going to go walk that day.

At home, it was criticism until I lost weight and being told I’d never keep it off and then silence once I lost the weight and kept it off for about 14 years. It was refuse to shop with me when I couldn’t wear clothes in “regular” sizes and then delight in shopping with me when I could.

Now that I’ve regained the weight, my dad says I need to “do something about it.” I went into a Lane Bryant outlet store last summer and though my mom had gone into every other clothing store with me in that outlet mall, she found an excuse not to go into this one with me.

When you ask someone if they have lost weight, unless they’ve told you they’re trying to lose weight, you don’t really know what is going on with them. Like, for example, my Aunt Debbie. About 5 years ago, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was a fat woman at the time, but as the disease progressed, she lost a significant amount of weight. It always made me cringe when I read comments under her photos on Facebook where people said things like, “You look so great now, Debbie!” even while she was dying from one of those worst, most painful cancers you can suffer from.

As a society, we are still so far from understanding that how someone looks does not require a comment and does not have to be attached to their size or weight or looks. We can find so many more things about people to compliment them on that do not have anything to do with these two things. When we sum up people by their size and weight, we are telling them that is all that matters about them even if that is not our intention. And since so many of us are still clawing our way out of the diet mentality, or are still drowning in it, it is hard for us to get out of this habit and so hard for us to separate our self-worth and self-validation from the observations of our own bodies by ourselves and others.

I like the suggestions in the photo I shared in this post. People are so much more than the size of their bodies so let’s find something else to compliment each other on. And like Rosie mentions below, if we think someone looks great, let’s say exactly that.

It is human nature to notice the differences in the sizes of our bodies and others’. Don’t shame yourself for that. However, keep that thought to yourself and if you feel compelled to compliment the person, find a way to do it that has nothing to do with that difference in size or shape. Let’s remind each other that we are way more than the bodies we carry our beautiful souls and personalities in.


Today: Make a commitment to banish “Have you lost weight?” from your vocabulary. Our weight shouldn’t be up for grabs in conversation-as either question or commentary. When you ask someone, out of the blue, “Have you lost weight?” you leave her wondering what you think of her and why. It’s one thing if your sister reveals to you that she wants to get healthier and hopes that you’ll help her on her journey. But it’s another thing entirely to ask such a loaded question of someone whose goals, insecurities, needs, and medical issues you know nothing about. If what you are thinking is really “You look great!” then just say that, with no qualifiers attached. By banishing weight loss comments from your vocabulary, you keep yourself from perpetuating the notion that someone’s weight and body size are fair game for discussion and up for both grabs and judgment.