Our Differences Make Us Unique-Part 2 of the Series on Body Image

popai-org-Dove-Real-Beauty-Campaign-for-Plus-Size-Women

Every body is the perfect body!

This week has been one filled with many conversations about body image, mostly negative, and the effects that it has on our every day life. I think back on all the words that were spoken amongst friends and I can clearly hear these beautiful and unique women picking themselves apart, piece by piece, rattling off in quick succession what each of them would change if they could. “If I had the money I would get my breast done”, one said, “I would like for my ass to be rounder and shaped like a heart”, another said. At that time I was thinking well all you have to do is get a great surgeon and you can pretty much have whatever it is that you want for the right amount of money. Now, I sit and think, how in the world did we get here? Why are we so unhappy with our bodies and allow this constant self criticism to spill over into all parts of our lives?

According to the National Eating Disorder Association (2016),  body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. Body image is developed at an early age and as I think back I can remember knowing at the ripe old age of 4 that I was different and not like the other girls my age. I knew I was bigger and weighed more at the age of 4. I didn’t watch much television back then but when amongst my peers I compared myself to them more so than any of them pointing it out to me. However, body image is heavily influenced by culture and societal standards which comes across in our media. The trends of what is acceptable haven’t changed much over the years. For men it has been skin thin and muscular and for women thin is still “in” but sometimes there is an allowance for a bit of curviness with the right waist-to-hip ratio. No matter what is “in” right now, it’s not the norm and even with us knowing it is not the norm we are all chasing this ridiculous, unrealistic ideal set in place as the overall idea of beauty. I often say that we are chasing a standard and we need to wake up and realize WE ARE the standard. We are all uniquely made and trying to live up to another’s expectation leads down to a path of darkness, if you will. Chasing this standard of beauty has directly led to poor body image which in turns produces low self esteem, depression, a poor relationship with food and eating disorders. So, how do we change something that seems to have grown out of control?

On an individual level, the first step is to recognize that there is a problem. I think sometimes you have to just get sick and tired but even as I type and am aware of my own issues I still have that desire to be 30 lbs. lighter and not that I can’t stand to lose the weight but the problem is I am holding onto the idea that I will be prettier at a lighter weight and I am not happy NOW as I look into the future and try to grasp that last bit of weight loss. THIS is the problem. Once the problem is recognized for what it is then the steps can be taken to make changes. I am currently mastering habit changes and what I have learned is you are what you think. It may sound cliché but it is ohhh so true! It takes more than getting up and saying positive mantras all day. Being mindful of your thoughts, especially the negative ones and replacing them with positive ones is the key to changing your mindset. It is not an overnight process but it will be well worth it. Also, taking the time to really celebrate your body and what it does for you can help turn around those negative thoughts. I love my legs because they are strong and they carry me through the day. I also happen to think they look pretty good too! Picking a body part that you love and then allowing that same affect to spread to other parts of your body is another action step that can move poor body image into a positive one. If you are suffering so much that you now have an eating disorder and/or are depressed, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of and I know first hand because I suffer from food addiction and binge eating and have for many years.

The issue of poor body image has been around for a long time and even though from a cultural standpoint it seems to be the norm, I truly feel this is an issue that needs to be addressed, continuously, because it is eating away at all most all of us and taps into our happiness and zest for life. The only time we have for living is in the present because we are not promised tomorrow nor the next second. So, wishing you looked like a model or holding onto the idea that your 20 yr. old body can make you happier is taking away from the happiness that you could be experiencing right now. I am taking back my happiness as I work through my own body image issues and it is my hope that you will do the same for yourself so that you can live your best life!

 

Our Differences Make Us Unique-Part 1 of a 2 Part Series on Body Image

Bodyimage“And I said to my body.softly. ‘I want to be your friend. it took a long breath. and replied. I have been waiting my whole life for this’.”- Nayyirah Waheed

As early as the age of 4, I can remember feeling different and not like the other girls. I started pre-k and during recess we were allowed to play outside on the swing sets and see saws. As I was guided to a see saw by one of the teachers I felt excitement about being able to play and enjoy the outdoors. As I sat on one end of the see saw and another child sat on the opposite end I quickly realized that something wasn’t quite right. It took three children being on the other end to get me off the ground and even at the age of 4 I can remember feeling what I now know is embarrassment and then that feeling of  knowing that I was not the same as the other girls. And so it began….the discovery of my body and journey into poor body image.

As I continued to get older things didn’t get better. That sense of self awareness and comparing myself to others heightened. I was acutely aware of not only my skin tone and hair texture but also my broad shoulders, large hands and nonexistent hips. My chiseled facial features and lack of overall “feminine” features according to world views. Boys didn’t like me and I didn’t like them but I wanted to be liked, if that makes any sense. I wanted to belong but no one saw beauty in me. At the age of 9 I got my period, a face of acne and MY HUGE BOOBS! My self esteem took a big hit in my developmental years. As I think back I am still amazed at what I picked up at such an early age. Poor self esteem and lack of confidence started early due to comparing myself to others and the need to belong. By the time I got into high school I was promiscuous and seeking attention. I craved it in any way I could get it and I learned to further hate myself by expressing love in the wrong way. My self esteem continued to take blow after blow. My friends were blossoming and filling out in “all the right places”, according to societal views and here I am…here I am continuing to fill out like a boy, excessive weight gain, my hands continued to grow and I never got any hips in…AT ALL! Large stomach, no hips, no ass, and boobs for days and the way I felt about myself was supported by how I was treated by my peers. They thought I was unattractive as well. I heard things like “well, you have a nice personality so you don’t have to be pretty” as if thought that was supposed to make me feel better. I continued to carry this well into my adult years and the ways it affected me were too numerous to count. The combination of massive weight gain and lacking feminine bodily features was almost too much to bear at times.

Love-Your-Body

I am 44 years old now and have been working on changing my perception of self for only the last 7 years or so. Ha! I know 7 years seems like a long time but it’s only a shot in the bucket when you think about how long I have been living with these bad habits. It has not been easy breaking the habits that I have learned over the years but doing the work is so rewarding. Learning to love yourself, as is, is the most beneficial piece of work one can do! I get up every day, look in the mirror and am mindful of the self talk that goes on inside of me. That old me that wants to creep back in and say “wow, look at that fat roll” or “geez!, your belly is so big!” Old habits die hard but being mindful and consistent about replacing negative self talk with positive words of encouragement are so well worth my time. I strive to rid myself of living up to others expectations of me and living/walking in my own truth and purpose. I am not a supermodel and this would be an unrealistic goal for myself, however, I am very much a model, in my own right, and I refuse to be a standard that has been set for me. I am THE standard! You are your own standard. Let’s stop comparing ourselves to others and learn to love our bodies for what they do for us and learn to appreciate the uniqueness of self!

bethelove

 

 

The Battle Within…Food Addiction

 

unhealthy foods.jpg

I have been on a doctor prescribed diet for the last two weeks that consists of removing any foods that will cause my gut’s inflammation to worsen or prevent healing to take place. The removal of all sugar, gluten, any bread like products, soy, all dairy, and the “food like” items that have consumed the American diet over the last 50 or so years, including fast food and anything in a box that has preservatives and fillers. So, pretty much I am eating fresh, organic veggies and lean grass-fed, organic cuts of meat. That’s pretty much it! The diet is really strict for the first two weeks and then they begin to add things back in to see what may be causing allergies and/or other issues that may be going on in the body, both inside and out. Now being that this is to improve my health I was on board to do what I could to help improve my overall health and wellness. The problem? I am a food addict and so the anxiety set in immediately. Let me explain.

I can honestly say I can’t remember a time where I have been able to resist my temptations for longer than 3 days and then I end up eating something that I shouldn’t, often times these severe restrictions cause my binges to be even worse. The more I restrict myself , the worse the binges are when I let myself have something that I really want so this caused extreme anxiety when my doctor told me you can’t have any bull crap so that your gut health can improve. I truly wanted to get it right but food addiction is much like a crack addict that is driven by the need to get high. Food is my high and my comfort and when I don’t have what I want I crave it just like a fiend. So, I KNEW I was going to try my best and that I wanted to succeed but in the back of my mind I retraced my history of failing…each and every time. I made it 10 days and THAT made me proud but I had a full on binge session and felt ashamed of undoing all my hard work. I had asked my doctor for a referral to see a food addiction specialist when I first saw her and amazingly this lady calls me on day 10! I wish I would have seen her prior to but I really don’t know if even that would have helped. This is why I felt such anxiety when I first learned I needed to do this for my health because I knew at some point I wouldn’t be able to resist temptation and that the cravings would be so strong that I would be miserable each and every day.

It’s a fight…a battle within yourself. Your brain wanting the best for you while physiological and emotional needs have a completely different agenda. This constant battle is so tiring and sometimes I just want to give in and say fuck it! Nothing should be THIS hard! But, I don’t. I get up and keep trying from moment to moment making decisions to do what is best for my health, both emotional and physical. I often find myself daydreaming about the day that I can release the guilt that I have behind this addiction and learn to celebrate all the moments that I’ve had that have allowed me to get as far as I have in respect to my health and other areas of my life. I have a TON to celebrate but I allow my inability to defeat this battle overshadow all other things great. My current work is on changing my habits to change my behavior which will eventually change my outlook. Change your mindset, change your life, is what I believe to be true.

 

One day at a time. One day at a time.

Damage Control

positive body image

I have been dieting for as long as I can remember. I have tried the cabbage soup diet, Atkins, the 3-hour diet, the juice diet, Best Life diet…etc….you get the idea. Any and every diet I have ever been on has failed but with each new diet I would have a new-found source of energy to try the next one. Hoping it would help me. I ask myself now as I look back, what was I trying to do? Lose weight? Is that what I ultimately wanted from dieting?

In between diets, I would be out of control with bingeing episodes. Donuts, cookies, cake, ice cream, Chinese food, Doritos and then more ice cream. I can tell you my bingeing episodes were something to be marveled after. I would buy all of this food in one trip, take it home, sit in front of the television and eat as much as I could until I was sick. I also was a lover of diet soda and I would drink liters of them every day. Once I felt bad enough I would attempt to go back on yet another diet. I knew I was damaging my body but I didn’t know to what extent. At my highest weight I was 325 lbs. which told me I was overeating but the real damage could not be seen and that was inside of my body. I was diagnosed with stage 3B stomach cancer in 2010. When I was diagnosed I was in complete shock. I sat and thought how…why me? I told myself I felt fine but I really just learned to ignore all those red flags that, if I were paying attention, would have led me to a doctor. I ignored the signs of acid reflux, feeling full after eating a few bites and then all the other signs of not so good health such as arthritis, brain fog, ADHD, memory issues, depression, an overactive thyroid and major pain in my bones. I just chose to ignore all the damage I was doing to my body because I wanted to eat. I will tell you that having stomach cancer should have been the end of all the eating but… I’m still living…STILL doing the work! I didn’t know, during those years, that my health was at such great risk and some of the damage that I was doing would be impossible to be undone but I had to try. When I found out I was sick I immediately changed my habits. I began to exercise and watch what I put into my mouth. What I didn’t know is that this was not a permanent change and that the struggle to stay healthy would be a life long fight if I didn’t find the root cause of why I loved to eat the wrong foods and in such large portions.

Now, I ask myself was losing weight really why I was dieting? The answer is no. The truth is I wanted to look like all the other girls and that meant that I had to lose weight which was the drive for me to diet because it was all I knew to do to “fix” my problem and so many of us think dieting is the answer to end our distress…our pain. My self-esteem was low and I just wanted to feel loved and to “fit in” with the other skinny girls and THAT is why I wanted to be skinny which is why I would diet.  The reason I say I needed to find the root cause of why I diet is because dieting doesn’t work and being truthful with self helps one find themselves on the right path. The path that I needed to be on was one of learning to love myself not one of losing physical weight. The weight I carried was in my heart and learning to love myself would lead me directly to the path of happiness. You see, loving yourself helps you to make better choices and decisions for yourself. Loving yourself, means you accept yourself with flaws and you know that you are just as worthy as the skinny girls to have a good life no matter what size your jeans. My damage control, which in the beginning was about my health, was now about my entire life. I am learning to love me just as I am and with this new-found love it has made me more conscious of what I put into my body and that includes my mind and this has resulted in major weight loss, a very healthy lifestyle and happiness in all forms.

Walking in My Own Truth

My memories of the multitude of quasi relationships over the years that I passed through sometimes with only experiencing the crash and burn, nothing too much in between, are a blur attempts at connecting with the world. I never truly connected with anyone as it always ended up being a very surface and shallow interaction with them all. Over, the years I just thought “this is how I am” and that I just didn’t want to be in relationship with anyone but that wasn’t true because if I am being honest I wasn’t thinking at all. I then met a young woman who rocked me back on my heels. My first true love, whom I didn’t discover until my early thirties. Sadly, it was her exiting my life that taught me so many life lessons and “woke” me up from the deep sleep of living on auto pilot. She taught me that I had the ability to love and that I wanted to give and receive love but the biggest lesson I learned from her was that I didn’t know how to be in a relationship. A real, genuine, deep and loving relationship. She changed the trajectory of my life by helping me realign my thought process and set me on a course of digging into why I didn’t know how to give and receive, openly. As, I began to truly “think” more I realized this was not about just romantic relationship but all types of relationships to include interactions with family and friends. This was so eye opening! I was a complete mess! My relationships were shallow in nature because I was a mess. No one wants to dig into that old closet of bones from the past but often times this is where your answers lie to unlock the pains of the past so you can move forward into a better understanding of self. I can tell you I found my inability to maintain and deep dive into relationships were rooted deeply in my childhood and upbringing. I had always been a very sensitive child and when growing up I was bullied for being overweight and dark skinned. No matter what anyone says this is traumatic and carries over into your adult self and then you have to address it not bury it. I wasn’t considered attractive and being obese didn’t help matters. I can remember one of my grandmother’s first cousin’s hating me. She was an older lady and was dark skinned as well but I suppose she hated herself so she took it out on me. Another cousin and I would go to her house during the summer months and she was always so sweet and kind with my honey brown skinned cousin but she would look at me with hate and her words were hateful. I knew then it was because she didn’t think I was pretty. I withdrew at a very young age from the world and became mean and hateful from bullying and constant ridicule. It may sound sad that I was well into my thirties before I began to do the work and leave my baggage behind me. Learning to love yourself is no easy feat when you have been shown and told that you are not beautiful but I am doing the work! I have dug into my past and am dealing with it because I want to be loved and give love, I want to be free of my eating disorders, I want to be free of negative self talk, I want to be free of depression and be welcoming to building beautiful, deep and meaningful relationships. This has been no overnight process but it has been worth it. Realigning my vision of self through the constant and ongoing work of addressing my issues head on, being honest with myself and getting up and showing up for myself daily by being present in every moment, is the path that I need to be on and it feels oh so good to know that I am walking in my own truth and not one that others have made up for me.

Birth of a Supershero


My first memories of childhood are lonely ones. I had always felt alone for as early as I can remember. I was an only child but always surrounded by a large family inclusive of many aunts, cousins and grandparents. My mother was a single parent and spent much of her time away from home working to provide for us. She was a strong, hard working woman who showed little to no emotion. Her love was shown through her ability to provide a great home and put food on the table. Unfortunately, as a child I needed the emotional support and I didn’t understand adulthood may require my mom not being at home. So, from an early age I was seeking out “things” to fill those empty spaces in my heart. That is how my love affair with food began, I believe. Boredom and loneliness drove me to eat and then I suppose I got “hooked” on the sugar and have struggled with it ever since. It’s quite the addiction. It was comforting to me and I felt like food was my friend. Of course this was all grandiose delusion and as I carried this into my adulthood I continued to look for other ways to fill the void in my heart but food always was at the top of the list. By the time I reached adulthood the toll that eating unhealthy and seeking to fill those voids with sex and shopping took on me was staggering. My weight was out of control, my mental health was poor and my self esteem was at an all time low. I was deeply depressed and my will to live was almost nonexistent. I hid from the world as I grew in size. I was a truck driver so it was easy to do. I became a recluse as I drove around the country and continued to eat unhealthy fare and become even more miserable. I kept praying to a god that would never hear me for release from the black hole I seemed to be in. Then, one day I got into a terrible accident which caused me to hurt my back and being the size I was the doctor said my back would never heal. I was forced to leave my job and went home broke and broken to only find out that I had stomach cancer. I no longer had a source of income and now I am forced to deal with my failing health. This was the beginning of a turning point in my life. I was forced to get up and begin to figure it out. Did I want to survive or did I want to lay in my sorrows and drown. I decided to try and figure it out. This process wasn’t over night. It was over 5 years! It took me lots of reading, educating myself on mental health, changing my negative habits and replacing them with positive ones, questioning what had been drilled into me since childhood. I started to let go of everyone else’s idea of what I should be and began to learn and grow into who I am now. It hasn’t been easy going against the grain but life is so much better because I dared to live my own life on my own terms. I battled and won the war on cancer, I am still battling mental health and food addiction but these issues are under control and I have lost over 140 lbs and living a healthy lifestyle! I look back at the old me…the unhealthy and depressed me and I tell her she did the best she could and she did what she knew how to do to survive. Many people try to bury their past self but I not only recognize her but I also thank and nurture her. She helped me to get to where I am today and I respect that she endured so much to help the existing “me” to flourish. April, you were a supershero then and I am so grateful to have been a part of you. I will continue to carry the torch and make you proud!

I am enough 

I get up and struggle with myself every day. What makes me happy, who am I meant to be, why can’t I control my eating, why don’t I want to complete this project or that project, why is life such a struggle? In my head, I know the answer is to “be yourself” and live a life that you love but if you really think about it we are pushed from almost birth to be greater, do more, make goal after goal after goal…accomplishment means making more money, having a big house, driving the nicest car. It’s not. I have found that it is not BUT it is hard to “undo” all the bullshit that has been crammed into your being telling you to be greater and do better as if though you are already not enough. I am enough! I don’t need to set goals and accomplish them to be enough. I don’t need to live a cookie cutter life that would afford me the house with a white picket fence, husband, nice car, cat and dog along with 2.4 children. I am already enough! So now I struggle to undo all the damage so that I can enjoy my life. Never living to impress anyone but living to live. My goal? Yes I do have a goal and it is just to be ok with who I am because I am enough.

My First Blog

roadlesstraveled

I admit that I have started and stalled out on blogging several times in the last 10 years. Why? Well, I have not been able to get to a point where I could be completely transparent in my writings so I always quit. I dream big and then fizzle out. I know, for me, that I must be transparent in order to get some real value out of my writings. I have a desire to “free” myself from my issues and eventually help others who share these same issues of depression, mental health concerns, obesity, self loathing, struggling with self-esteem, struggling with body image and food addiction. I will genuinely share my life struggles the good the bad and the ugly from my past and present and also share what I am doing to make changes to become the shero that I am! The path to self discovery and self-love is often times riddled with pot holes but also beautiful views of grassy, flowery fields and rays of sunshine. Packing light!!!