Comfort in my own skin

Losing weight used to be the most important thing in my life. Year after year, it was my resolution each January. And year after year, despite my weight, I still never felt like I had succeeded. If I gained, I had obviously failed. If I maintained, I had not done enough. If I lost, I still had so much further to go.

My highest weight was 300 pounds. I panicked. I felt out of control. I changed my diet and exercise habits and started to lose weight.

My lowest weight was 201 pounds. I panicked. I felt unsafe. I changed my diet and exercise habits and started to gain weight.

While I was elbow deep in an MLM company selling shake mix and workout DVDs, I used to collect and share all sorts of fitness inspiration (“fitspo”) graphics and memes in my coaching groups. Slogans like “Eat like you love your body” and “Don’t let food be the boss of you” and “Strive for progress, not perfection” and “In three months you will thank yourself” were my absolute bread and butter (but, like, gluten free, because gluten is evil).

And I strived for those things. I ate salads and raw veggies and superfood shakes because I wanted to eat like I loved my body. I avoided sugar entirely, even eschewing condiments, because I wanted to eat like I loved my body. I did three day clean eating cleanses and sugar fasts and Whole30 so that I could be the boss of food, instead of letting food be the boss of me. When I slipped up and ate something off-plan, I tried to remember that it was still progress as long as I didn’t gain weight back — a couple bad days on a diet doesn’t mean utter failure and a life in this fat body. I knew that after three grueling months of breaking my bad food habits, I would be on my way to a toned, lean, fit Pinterest body. All of the fitness memes promised that soon, this lifestyle change (not a diet, a lifestyle change) would become an addiction and I would wake up in the morning and all of the little Disney blue birds would come put my moisture wicking skintight pants on me so I could go run a quick 10k before breakfast. Every day. I looked forward to that day.

I would finally love myself, if I could only overcome my lack of self control. If I could eat right, I would finally love my body. If I could exercise enough, I would finally love my body.

One of the graphics saved on my phone says “I am obsessed with becoming a woman comfortable in her own skin.” I was determined to lose enough weight to reach this point. I knew I could become comfortable in my body once I had found the right mix of food and movement to unlock the secret code to making my body get smaller.

I started running. I did 5Ks, and then a 10K, and then a half marathon. The next year, I did another half marathon and signed up for the race that would change my life and make me a true runner. I signed up for a Ragnar relay. Two hundred (ish) miles in two days, sleeping in a van, running on sleep deprivation and cold bagels and the promise of epic satisfaction and pride when I was finished.

But the Ragnar didn’t change me. I felt the same. I questioned if I had done it right. My first leg was partially canceled due to flooding, so I didn’t even run my whole Ragnar. My position had shorter legs, so I questioned the validity and badassness of my Ragnar experience. Did I even do a Ragnar if I wasn’t completely broken by the end of it?

I was still chasing that self love. I was still chasing body satisfaction.

And I thought pain and exhaustion and limitation and control was part of that journey to becoming comfortable in my body.

I started therapy to specifically target my relationship with food just a few weeks ago. On February 1st, my therapist and I identified a target thought process: I am not allowed to eat. I had a very rough night that evening and cried a lot. Processing is hard. But over the weekend and through the next week to my first “reprocessing” appointment (in which we focused on changing the target thought to “I am allowed to eat”), I did a lot of work.

I unfollowed any account on Instagram or Facebook that focused on dieting or thinness. I followed a bunch of real, actual body positive accounts (especially large bodies). I started reading about the anti-diet culture. I pre-ordered “The Fuck It Diet” by Caroline Dooner.

After the reprocessing session, I ate without restriction. And something unexpected happened inside me.

This is going to sound so hokey and silly but I swear, this is what happened.

The space in my mind that previously held all of my rules and need for control had given way to hold contentment and joy instead.

Where I used to ask myself twenty questions to determine how valid a hunger pang was, I now just made something tasty and enjoyed it, then went on with my day.

Where I used to keep a constant inner monologue of comparison to what I had eaten the day before, how fast my dining companion was eating, whether or not I could finish my side of fries without looking like a fatty mc fatty fat, I now just ate what I wanted and went on with my day.

Where I used to look at a large body on Instagram and focus on fat rolls and sagging skin, I now saw what I was after — the look on their faces. The way they held their shoulders back and head up. The way they were comfortable in their bodies… as they were right now. 

Y’all, something snapped inside me.

That is what was missing for me. Contentment with my body isn’t an aspiration. It’s not something that will happen if only I can achieve and limit and drag myself to it. It’s not the reward for suffering. Contentment with my body – becoming a woman comfortable in my own skin – is a right-now thing. Not a someday-maybe thing.

I was obsessed with becoming a woman comfortable in her own skin. And all I had to do to become her was love myself right now.

The shame was so, so heavy. After over two decades of carrying the burden of hating my body, I put it down. And what rushed in to fill the void was love.

bikini

This. is. what. I’m. talking. ABOUT. 

 

 

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The Holiday Obligation Bill of Rights

christmas catIt’s that time of year again. It’s only the first week of December but the flames on your holiday stress fire have been getting hotter since mid November. I’m prone to seasonal affective disorder, which starts as soon as the time change happens and the clocks roll back an hour. Suddenly it’s pitch black when I’m driving home from work, everything is gray and overcast, and the deadlines are rushing at me like something out of a Final Destination movie.

Personally, I’ve got a book deadline, three blog commitments (I have a new website and I’ve started publishing on Medium, though I may adjust the frequency so I’m not tripling my workload with a weekly piece on each platform), and social plans all vying for my attention. Luckily, the whimsy of the season and the thrill of shopping for the perfect gifts for my loved ones gets me through the first couple months of fall/winter, but after the new year starts, it’s just three more months of slush and snow and darkness and existential angst.

As I’ve been working toward a lower impact life (both physically and mentally), I’ve found that I naturally have created guidelines for how to spend my time. Ever the minimalist at heart, it’s important for me to remember that minimalism isn’t just about physical stuff and clutter. It’s also about a healthy schedule and mental clutter so that I make time for the priorities.

Since the holiday season is usually stuffed to the brim like an overfilled stocking with social and family obligations, I want to remind everyone that boundaries and taking care of yourself are still important and valid, even when it feels like your time is more necessary elsewhere.

Here are ten rights you have this holiday season.

  1. You have the right to stay home. Seriously. Even if it’s Christmas at your mom’s house. Even if you haven’t seen your second cousins in fifteen years. Only accept plans you WANT to do and have the ABILITY to do.
  2. You have the right to limit your budget. While “gift giving” is one of the five major love languages, the price tag is not a defining characteristic. Don’t go broke (or into debt) in an attempt to show people how much you care. If you’re close to your budget limits and still want to give more, consider handmade gifts or writing heartfelt notes, especially if the recipient is a “words of affirmation” love language person.
  3. You have the right to leave early. If you’re at a holiday party or family gathering and you’re tired, uncomfortable, or otherwise just don’t want to be there, it’s okay to say your goodbyes and head home early.
  4. You have the right to eat what you want. Love your body, eat a cookie, don’t punish yourself.
  5. You have the right to ask for what you really want. Nobody has to give it to you, but you have the right to create a wish list and be clear about what you want. One year, my sister asked for cash to help fund an alternative break trip she was taking with a group in college, and family members deemed it inappropriate to ask for cash. Unless it hurts somebody, it’s okay to ask for what you want.
  6. You have the right to reschedule social plans. Some of my closest humans probably won’t be able to get together until after Yule and Christmas have actually passed. It’ll still be a great time. You can literally reschedule your holiday festivities to a later date, or celebrate early!
  7. You have the right to call it whatever you want. Celebrate Yule, Christmas, Hannukah, or any other of the myriad winter holidays happening within this timeframe? Rock on and celebrate it your way. Pay no attention to the grumps arguing about the war on Christmas. That’s not a thing.
  8. You have the right to not call people you don’t want to talk to. I am estranged from my parents, and the holidays are one of the toughest times to be estranged. I still feel a little tug that says I should call or reach out. Nope. I do not have to open myself up to emotional abuse, and neither do you.
  9. You have the right to return or re-gift. If you receive a gift that isn’t up your alley for any reason, you are under no obligation to keep it. Don’t stress out by finding a place for it or worrying about what Great Aunt Edna will think if she never sees that sweater in your selfies.
  10. You have the right to not hug people. Neither children nor adults are obligated to hug or otherwise show affection to anyone if they don’t want to. This is especially important to impart to children, who are learning about bodily autonomy. If a little kid doesn’t want to hug and kiss grandma, make it clear to everyone that it’s not okay to force it.
  11. BONUS: You have the right to decorate as much or as little as you want. I hung my favorite ornaments on a potted palm tree. You make the rules!