Sunday, November 18, 2012

Day 8: Appreciation

One week in, and it's time to take real action against Marsha. I am supposed to make a "self-appreciation jar,"where I pay myself, say, a quarter, every time I catch Marsha running my thoughts. I never have change or cash on me, so I came up with an alternative. I will write down every negative thought while I'm getting ready in the morning (I think it would be a bit cumbersome to do it all day), and rewrite it as a positive thought.
So if I pull on a dress and think "Ugh, it's so tight, I like a fat mess," I will write it down and write next to it "I look great in this skirt and my hair is perfect today."
Or something.
I'm not good at this, and am sorely tempted to skip it altogether as it makes me uncomfortable. But I do want to change. I want to love myself, embrace myself, and respect myself. I want to do it now so it will be second nature by the time my daughter can pick up on it.
What have you done lately to appreciate yourself?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day 7: Name

"You are disgusting."
"You look ridiculous in that."
"You could never pull that off."
"God you're fat."

Marsha says those things to me. Not every day, but most days. She tells me how terrible I look, how impossible it will be to find clothes that fit well, how silly a certain fashion would look on my body. She hates me. She is mean to me. She makes me feel like shit.

Marsha is my inner critic, and I'm calling her out.

"Marsha, I look amazing."
"Marsha, I look so cute in this."
"Marsha, I don't care what you think, I will rock this."
"Marsha, just because my body is fat doesn't mean it's bad."

What is your inner critic's name? What will you say to shut that bitch up?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Day 6: Ditch

I am supposed to stop talking negatively about my body, starting today. Ditch the fat talk. This does not mean that I will necessarily stop calling my body fat so much as it means that I should stop insulting my body by calling it fat. See the difference? My body is fat. Just like it's short. Just like my hair is blonde and my eyes are blue. Part of this journey, to me at least, is to able to describe my body without judging it. It's fat, and that's not a moral failing on my part. It just is.

The problem begins in groups of women. One says "Ugh it's so hard to find pants when your thighs are as big as mine." Not wanting to let her feel fat alone (or, for that matter, to be one-upped), another says "You should try managing this stomach! I may as well buy maternity clothes!" And it continues. I have had this conversation with friends thinner than me and fatter than me. It really doesn't matter what size or shape we are, we all have insecurities. Why do let our insecurities eat away at us, or let our friends fall prey to theirs? Try this: when someone starts the inevitable conversation (because it won't be you, right?), compliment her. Instead of insulting your body to match, say "You are beautiful. No one is looking at your thighs, no matter how you may feel about them." Don't let her ignore or trump the compliment either. Dig in and make her feel good. Make her realize there are so many more important things about her than the size of her thighs (big or not).

Then, stand in front of the mirror and do it for yourself. You are beautiful.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 5: Vision

I began to think about whether I had a vision for myself, and a lot of whining came out. Whining about an unexpected job situation, whining about whether I would have options in the future, whining about how life isn't following the plan I set. Well, those things are temporary and not related to the question at hand, which is what my vision for myself is. So I am digging deeper. And I like I'm finding.

  1. I want to be an athlete. THERE I SAID IT. Not a marathon runner, or a record-breaker, or an exercise 2-3 hours a day athlete. I want to be fit, feel amazing, have energy, and find out what my body is capable of. I want to advance from the roller rec league to a comp team. I want to push my limits. I want to enjoy the hell out of this one body I'll ever get. I want my body to choose it's size, the one where I feel phenomenal. 
  2. I want to be present. I want to enjoy the little moments with my daughter, my husband, my friends and family. I want to be deeply involved in the conversation rather than scrolling through blogs on my iPhone. I want to play and dance and run without worrying about something. I just want to BE.
That's it for now. And that's enough for now. What I wish for myself is want what I have and to have faith that future will provide an unexpected opportunity for me and my family. In the spirit of being present, Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu gives us this to ponder, "If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present." I can absolutely see truth in that statement, at least in my own life and my own emotions. I am torn between the past (poor decisions leaving me feeling depressed) and the future (not knowing what will happen makes me feel anxious). If I can learn to focus on the present, enjoying the moment, letting the past go, making positive present decisions so that future will simply follow, I believe I can find contentment. In my career, in my relationships, in myself. And peeking around the corner of contentment is self-confidence. 

One step at a time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 4: Impact

Every day my body image impacts my choices. I wake up, stretch, wander into the bathroom, and wonder whether I should bother weighing myself. If my weight is slightly less than it's been the last several weeks, I will shrug it off. That won't make my clothes fit any differently. If it's a touch higher, I will sigh and stare at my body in the mirror, thinking, "Well am I surprised? Look at me." Most days I don't bother. I am not afraid of the mirror, I don't avoid it, but I use it to punish myself. Stand forward, sideways, look over my should at the back rolls. Rub my protruding belly and remember how much I loved it full of baby, but how I LOATHE it full of fat. Get in the shower, be careful to scrub in between each roll, in my belly button, around all my fat squishy places. I am always afraid of being the smelly fat person. 

Get out, dry off, do my hair and make-up (to make up for fatness), and go into the closet. Stare at the rows of clothes that fit over my body but make it look bigger and shapeless, that fit over my body but hug in uncomfortable ways which will make me feel fidgety and judged all day, the clothes I hope will fit again someday, the clothes that aren't there at all because I refuse to dole out money for high-quality fat clothes. Try on several things, think about my day. The saggy ass jeans will be fine as long as I don't run into anyone outside. The tight tank will be fine with a cardigan over it, if I can button it partway. The dresses don't fit anymore.

If I have to be at work, I shake it off and get going. If I am home with the baby, I may spend several hours mustering a smile and playful voice for her while I silently hate myself. Because I find my body challenging to dress attractively and comfortably, I wallow all day. I let the mess in the house build up. I let my fat, my attitude about my fat, own me.
Some days I get lucky, and something seems to fit well, and I leave the house early for some sunlight and energy. Those days are better. 

My first memory of feeling the need to diet was in 7th grade. I was probably 13, getting lunch at the mall with a friend and her mom. She wanted Sbarro's pizza; I wanted to go to Nature's Table so I could eat less calories. I remember the look on her face as though she felt guilty suddenly for not knowing that she should care about calories. We had been clothes shopping. She was a size 00, and I was a 3. In my mind, a three-sizes-bigger, big, fat 3.
The first few (many, most) times my boyfriend called me beautiful in high school, I was angry. ANGRY that he would lie to me like that. Why bother lying? I knew he was settling for the fat girl, in my mind I knew.

There were better times. My wedding day, even though my arms are decidedly untoned and I was still technically obese, I felt beautiful. Turns out, he was telling the truth. We hired a photographer for the day I gave birth, and I don't judge my body in the those pictures. It was doing very hard work. Immediately postpartum, I loved my body for dropping weight quickly and feeding my baby. When that stopped working so well, I gained a lot of weight, and here I am. I pledged to stop this, I know. I am trying not to hate myself.

I don't just hate my body. I have always felt awkward and unprepared for social situations with my peers. I have mostly been the funny fat girl, but I don't like small talk or deep talk. Just surface laughter. I have avoided so many situations that could have lead to the friendships I so desperately crave because I am fat and awkward. How silly, so is everyone else in their own minds.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 3: Consider

Remember those choose-your-own-ending books for kids? How I feel about myself depends on the day, the moment, who I'm with, what I'm wearing, if I'm comfortable. If I'm wearing something that fits my fat body well without having to be adjusted every time I move, and I'm having a decent hair and make-up day, and I'm not sweating much, and I'm with someone I enjoy spending time with, and I feel comfortable being myself, then I feel good about myself. If any of those variables are a little off kilter, it's more difficult to remain calm and sensible and be nice to myself. I have dysthymia with occasional bouts of major depression, and generalized anxiety disorder. This affects my day-to-day feelings about myself. Some days, I feel light and happy and free and I enjoy life. But the dysthymia is like a raincloud during a picnic, you never truly let your guard down and enjoy life because there's always the threat of rain on the horizon. Does that make sense? No?
A concrete example, then. So today I had a stripe of bright blue dyed into my hair. It's under my natural blonde and so it just peeps out like a fun surprise. It's unlike me, and I LOVE it. Left the salon GLOWING. Then a few hours later, while I was grabbing something out of my car wearing ill-fitting jeans and snug tee shirt that clings to my belly, I ran into my super hot neighbor in her gorgeous bespoke business suit. And just like that, I felt like a fat, ugly, mom who tried to hard to be cool and has stupid blue hair.
Then I read this article. Go ahead and read it, you can come back when you're done.
How beautiful is that? That mama's words hit me over the head and were just what I needed to hear at the opening of this project. I remember my mom dieting and hating her body when I was a kid, and I knew, just KNEW, that I was fat too, and that she must have hated me too. She told me how beautiful I was my whole life, and I NEVER BELIEVED HER. Because I looked like her. My daughter looks like me. I WILL NOT destroy her self-worth. I will not. I can't imagine how much easier my life will be with a positive self-worth. Maybe that raincloud, the one always threatening rain, maybe it will drift away. Maybe my daughter will always live in the sun.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 2: Pledge

This is what I am to pledge to myself:

"To stop berating my body and to begin celebrating the vessel that I have ben given. I will remember the amazing things my body has given me: the ability to experience the world with a breadth of senses, the ability to perceive and express love, the ability to comfort and soothe, and the ability to fight, provide, and care for humanity."
"To understand that my body is an opportunity not a scapegoat."
"To be the primary source of my confidence. I will not rely on others to define my worth."
"To let envy dissipate and allow admiration to be a source of compassion by offering compliments to others."
"To gently but firmly stand up for myself when someone says something harmful."
"To change the inner monologue in my head to one that sees possibilities not problems, potential not shortcomings, blessings not imperfections."
"To give my body the things that it needs to do its work well: plenty of water, ample movement, stretches, rest, and good nutrition, and to limit or eliminate the things that do not nurture my body."
"To see exercise as a way to improve my internal health and strength instead of a way to fight or control my body."
"To understand that my weight is not good or bad. It is just a number, and I am only good."
"To love my body and myself today. I do not have to weigh ten pound less, have longer hair, or have my degree in my hand to have worth. I have worth just as I am, and I embrace that power."
"To recognize my body's strengths."
"To no longer put off the things that I wish to experience because I am waiting to do them in a different body."
"To understand that a body, just like a personality, is like a fingerprint: a wonderful embodiment of my uniqueness."

The bolding, it's mine. Being the primary source of my own confidence, not relying on others to define my self-worth- that will be hard. I have spent my life blaming my "failings" on my inability to live up to other peoples' standards. When I didn't make straight A's, it was because I wasn't smart enough, and my parents expected too much. When I didn't stick with drama or soccer or swimming, it was because I could never be good enough, so why bother trying. I never had the courage to decide what was important to ME, and to truly STRIVE for it. I never found that happy medium between boastful pride and inner confidence. I have been so afraid of failing that I haven't even tried.

So this me TRYING. I will be responsible for my own self-confidence. I will PUSH myself, because you cannot "fail" when your goal is simply to be present.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day 1: Begin

My hopes with regard to body image and beauty perception for me, personally, are about acceptance and respect. I want to accept the body I have been given, or maybe even embrace it. My body is short (I don't mind that actually), fat (I think it always will be, though it's currently much fatter than I prefer), pale (I'm mostly fine with that), and has frustratingly wavy but not curly hair (with which I have a love-hate relationship). There are little things I hate about my body that seem like such a waste of brainpower- my toenails are so tiny, my fingernails are thin and ugly, my belly button is wide and deep and shows through clothing, my boobs are a mess of saggy scar tissue. My boobs are a big issue- I had them reduced for pain (and vanity), which I mostly don't regret, except that they are still ugly and don't make enough milk for my daughter. My mons is fat; that's a fairly new thing.
Anyway, why do all those things bother me? Why not just enjoy my body, treat it well, and go about my life? I guess that's why I'm here, answering these question (which I admittedly rolled my eyes at) for day one of three hundred and sixty five.
As for my hopes for the world- that's just too broad for me to answer right now. I wish, in general, people treated one another with respect and kindness rather than judgment and cruelty. That would lead to better self-esteem and a wider acceptance of different people with their different bodies. But I can't say what I hope for the world specifically- there are too many people, cultures, options, women.
I don't know how I can begin to live my hopes today. Isn't that why I bought this sodding book? I suppose what I can do, what I have done, today, is answer these questions are honestly as I can at this moment. So today, I can begin my journey. Today, I can write without judging myself. Maybe tomorrow, I will judge my body a little less.