I have spent the better part of the last 18 years trying to figure out where I belong. I very distinctly remember my senior year of high school because it was that year I felt most comfortable in my own skin. Graduation came on the verge of so much optimism and possibility - the world was my oyster. For nine years, I fought countless obstacles to finish college and become a teacher, the role I thought would define me and keep me until I retired, but after eight years teaching, the fire had waned. Since I quit, I've been running in circles trying to find that same sense of purpose again and today, an epiphany hit me like a freight train barreling down the track.
It can't be explained in one sentence or one emotion, but the vision that keeps dancing through my head in 19 year old me. The girl who was wild and full of possibility. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being "normal" - settling down and being the traditional version of grown up, if that is your flavor. Turns out, I've been so miserable because that is not my flavor. I've consistently chosen jobs that put people in boxes, jobs that require khaki pants and button down shirts, and today I realized that just isn't me.
I have lots of tattoos and I've had them for many years now, but they are all where I can professionally cover them up. Again, there is nothing wrong with this. It is practical and sensible, but there has always been a part of me who looks at the girls with pink hair and piercings and it nudges something inside me - something long dormant and sleeping. For my 38th birthday, which is tomorrow, I got a brand new tattoo and it speaks to my bravery and rebelliousness - the firey passion on my inside. While I was getting said tattoo, they informed me that I could get $10 off of a piercing that same day. My friend, who has her nose pierced, suggested that I get my nose pierced too. I was terrified - utterly convinced that this would be the most painful thing that ever happened to me, but I braved up, made my friend hold my hand, and did it. BOOM! The door blew off the back of my brain.
I was 19 again and the world was full of possibility. If I could do this, I could do anything. I could be anything. I love the job I'm at now, really love it because they really appreciate me, and they didn't even notice that I got my nose pierced. I don't regret a single day of being a teacher; I learned so much, but now I'm ready to be me. And I'm asking myself all sorts of important questions like why did I stop writing and drawing? Why did I give up on wearing impractical shoes and dancing like a maniac in the kitchen to Bob Seger? Why did I stop having tea parties for the hell of it?
My husband is one of the most supportive and understanding people in the universe, I can't blame him. I think I just wrapped myself up in what I thought life should look like instead of really, really living it. I go on amazing vacations, I hang out with amazing friends - why do I wait for the few times a year that this should happen. Maybe I'm having my midlife crisis early, or maybe I've finally found it - that rainbow connection between the lovers, the dreamers, and me. Whatever it is, I'm on fire and nothing can stop me now.
Completely by chance, I stumbled onto a book the other day and it is absolutely changing my life. It is challenging deeply held beliefs that I've had for a lifetime, and asking me to dig deep and really evaluate what I want from my life. The F*uck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy by Caroline Dooner is absolutely the most controversial and riveting thing I've had my hands on in a long, long time. I'm about 3/4 of the way through it and my brain is still exploded all over the inside of my head.
The author is not a doctor or a therapist, but her book is absolutely not a diet and absolutely is therapy. It's like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and a little unicorn poop all smashed into a digital file (or book cover depending on what you a reading). She poses that the reason that we struggle with weight and diet is because we are always on diets and also focused on weight. What if weight didn't matter? What if you could love yourself right now, regardless of whether you ever lose the weight or not?
Wait, what? Love myself, like really, love myself right now? But I'm fat, really, truly, fat and I'm not allowed to love myself until I'm healthy and skinny and beautiful. Seriously, if I love myself right now, as I am, then I'm accepting being fat which is unhealthy and I will eat myself off the edge of a cliff and be fat forever and that's, well, that's just TERRIBLE. Right? Now that I type it, that sounds just as silly as it did the first time I really processed those words. If you are a person that believes fat people don't deserve to love themselves, then you can stop reading, the remainder of this post is not for you, thanks for tuning in.
Before I go any further, I want to do my best to summarize what I've gotten from the book so far: 1. I am absolutely allowed to love myself no matter what I weigh or what I think I should weigh, and unconditionally. 2. Diets are the REASON I have a f*@cked up relationship with food. 3. In order to heal, I need to eat ALOT, rest when I need it, accept myself as I am, feel my feelings, process my feelings, and deal with my emotional baggage.
The book starts off with bucket tons of science and sources to back up the crazy things she's asking you to believe, which really aren't all that crazy once I started to think about it. Then Part Two of the book breaks down the "diet" into it's four essential parts: the physical part, the emotional part, the mental part, and the thriving part. In a nut shell, she's telling me to stop dieting and start working through my issues with food, and weight, and emotions (brain explosion).
I have cried, like actual tears, reading this book. I have quit Weight Watchers, and taken down both the Sticker Revolution, and the Impossible Pants section of my blog. Why? Because I realized that they are no longer serving me. For me, those pants represent a very real and raw spiritual wound that I've had for as long as I can remember. My parents loved me, and they absolutely wanted what was best for me so I get the motivation behind some of the things they did, but I'm really stopping to think about my relationship with food now, processing my experiences, and I realized that I have had a terrible, and restrictive history with both food and my body.
In my house, the only thing that mattered was weight. My parents are good people and they wanted us to be healthy, but truly, absolutely everything in my house was about weight. My mom constantly talked about how fat she was. She had a big butt, or a big gut, or arm flab. Perspective - she was 5'9 and weighed 150 pounds tops. My step-dad always thought that I should weigh 150 too, and he always talked about how fat he was or made little comments about how I should lose weight to. My grandma CONSTANTLY obsessed about calories. She freaked out about butter and practically ate Sweet and Low with a spoon. Even when I was thin, some misguided soul in my family, called me thunder thighs in front of my cousins.
I overheard my biological father telling family members at a Thanksgiving Dinner, when I was getting a second plate in the buffet line, that I was turning into a real porker. I was like 11 years old and already 5'6 with size 10 feet! These were NOT things I had control over. He told me that if I didn't watch out I was going to be fat just like my *insert heavy relative here*. He once called me a little piggy and told me to oink for him because I wanted cinnamon rolls AND cereal.
I didn't realize it until very recently, when I started really evaluating all of my emotions and feelings around food, but there are some very real rules/beliefs that I have internalized about food and weight.
1. Fat people don't deserve nice things. Pretty clothes and makeup are for skinny people.
2. Emotions are a sign of weakness. Crying is never acceptable because it means you are weak.
3. Being tired or needing to rest is a sign of weakness. Push past pain, push past tired, push till you break, because anything less than that - is weak.
4. Indulging is only for skinny people. If you indulge when you are fat it is a sign of gluttony and weakness.
5. Other people won't love you if you a fat, they will only tolerate you because you are disgusting. You must constantly prove that you are trying NOT to be fat in order to be loved.
6. Food is the enemy.
I realized like a giant slap to the face that I have been terribly judgmental. I have seen heavy people at the pool in 2 piece bathing suits, and seen them in magazine adds, and in my Facebook feed, and before 2 days ago, I judged them by every internal rule and belief I had. I couldn't accept them, because accepting them meant accepting myself. It meant not looking at them through the glaring lense of my misguided internal belief system. I don't know a damn thing about those people. I have no idea what they hope or dream or fear. I don't know their struggles or their journey, I just judge them BECAUSE they are fat and I'm done. I'm so over it. This isn't a light switch I can flip off and on, this is years and years and years of baggage that I have to sort through and process, and heal.
I told all this to my friend, a therapist, the other day and you know what she said? "Welcome to the body positive movement." I finally get what that means, and now, it's time to really begin the healing.
My Fitbit battery died and I can't find my charger. I feel naked, but I haven't been syncing it for a while now. On the one hand I love seeing my steps every day and on the other hand I get so frustrated that my step count is so low. I am too young to feel this old! I know some of it is my weight and lifestyle choices and the other part is my medical issues. I keep imagining the day that I wake up and nothing hurts. Right now, I've been down with an intestinal virus for the last few days and that has been so much fun (can you sense my sarcasm?).
Over the weekend, we went to Clinton State Park to watch my husband's crazy friend run a 100 mile marathon. I still can't even believe it. A hundred miles without stopping through rain, rocky trails, steep climbs, and at certain points, total darkness except for a head lamp. My husband paced him for about 10 miles on the last leg of the run and came back covered in mud and scrapes, soaking wet. His white socks were black. I haven't the faintest idea how you convince your body to push through those kind of extremes. It's inspiring and mind boggling all at the same time.
We pitched a tent in the camping area, but the weather was miserable - impossibly humid and over 90 degrees. My allergies kicked up and I was snorking and wheezing and my eye was puffed up so we drove to a gas station and I dosed myself with Benedryl. It's the only way I was able to pass out for a couple of hours at a time. I woke up drenched in sweat and smelling of swamp moose. And I was just a spectator. I can't imagine what it was like for the runners.
I may never be able to run 100 miles, but that isn't one of my goals. My goals are "me" sized and I just keep pushing every single day. Small victory - I was able to get in and out of our tent without a struggle. I couldn't do that a few years ago. I pulled all the tent stakes out of the ground by myself. I stood for several hours, outside in the hot sun and didn't pass out (yes, I have fainted from too much heat on numerous occasions). And now I find myself thinking, if I could do those things overweight and doped up on Benadryl, what can I do when I put my mind to something?
It's been a while since I got my Manadee tattoo, but every time I see her in the mirror, I remember "Oh, Yes I Can!" This year I'm getting a new tattoo, another reminder to keep going, to keep pushing, to keep my head held high. I'm emblazoning the words of Bianca Del Rio on my shoulder, "Not today Satan, Not today!"
' Habits can help or hinder you in so many ways. We get set in our routines, which can be good, but also bad if those routines aren't serving us. Eating cake after every meal or binge watching Netflix and not getting enough sleep every night isn't good. Brushing your teeth every night and taking your vitamins probably serves you better. So why is it so dang difficult to nurture habits that are helpful. I feel good when I go to water aerobics, but it's so much harder make that routine stick than shoveling in cake. Cake is easy. Maybe that's why that habit sticks.
I think that as human beings we are genetically wired to seek the path of least resistance. Our primal brains want us to conserve energy and get fat so we can survive the lean times more robustly. Except in our current culture, the lean days aren't coming. I've heard before that it takes 21 days to form a habit, but that's a little too under-complicated. Sure, you may be able to commit something to memory like taking your vitamins, but it can take much longer to really change your routine. We are creatures of habit. Our brain holds fiercely to the things that have been ingrained in us, our psychological coping mechanisms. And, I think that is the real reason it's so hard to change.
I'm not just trying to eat less cake; I'm trying to override the desire to soothe anxiety, stress, and fear with food. I'm trying to avoid situations that are potentially uncomfortable or painful by taking my mind off of it with Netflix. I'm addicted to the high three slices of cake and six episodes of CSI can bring. I know it sounds melodramatic, but there is plenty of research to suggest that I'm on to something here.
Doe this mean that I just give up on healthy habits and go wallow in a three layer double fudge cake? Tempting, but no. It means that I just keep on trying, even if it's like wrastling that bear I'm always talking about. That's one of the reasons I write this blog, accountability. I haven't written so much lately because I get busy and tired and then I start thinking that maybe it's not worth it, but it is. It so is. Sitting down this morning and clicking away at the keypad has made me stop and think about a few things. First, the chocolate cake sitting in my fridge (hey, habits don't change overnight) and about taking my vitamins.
Sometimes you just have to will yourself to go against your primal brain and try something different. And one day at a time, one thing at a time you start to form a healthy habit. You just keep doing it over and over until one day, you're taking your vitamins and you don't even remember a time when you didn't. And you just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Every time you fall off the wagon you get back on, until getting back on the wagon becomes as natural as eating cake.
Creating my own sunshine 🌞