onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the category “beauty”

Let’s make normal the new normal

Let’s talk about “normalization.” It’s a buzzword right now, of course. And I understand why. For the past fifteen to twenty years, until quite recently, certain ideas about racial, religious, and gender superiority have been taboo. They were only ever uttered aloud by your crazy uncle, while drunk, at Thanksgiving, and nobody thought much about it except to roll their eyes, shake their heads, and (hopefully) send him home in a cab.

The reality of life is that people who fall on the fringes of society usually don’t feel safe, and because of that, they hide. At different periods in history it’s different groups hiding. For a long time in the United States, it was members of the LGBT community. Until about a year ago, it was the men’s rights movement, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis.

I am not a fan of the movement to “stop the normalization” of hate and hate speech. I like my white supremacists to feel safe enough to show their true colors. I like my hate where I can see it. And I have a lot of room for free speech. I am not saying I will like you. I am not saying I will respect you. And if I am in a position to withhold my money from you, I will certainly not put it in your pocket. But I am saying that I believe in your right to be a repulsive, bigoted, disgusting excuse for a human being, as long as you do not harm, or infringe upon the rights of those you encounter in your travels.

But this is not a blog about politics, and this is not a political post in my eating disorder blog. I want to talk about using normalization in our own lives for our own benefit. I want to talk about the upside of normalization.

According to the article on Wikipedia entitled Normalization (sociology), Normalization refers to social processes through which ideas and actions come to be seen as ‘normal‘ and become taken-for-granted or ‘natural’ in everyday life.”

Every day, most of us see images that promote unattainable beauty goals. We are inundated with pictures of women and girls who are already thin, sometimes unhealthily so, and those images are altered to make these women look even thinner, not to mention that they are made to appear that their skin never puckers under straps, they have no hair except for their eyebrows, and a silky mane on the top of their heads, and that hair is thick, shiny, and can seemingly defy gravity. We, as a culture, have “normalized” women (and men) who do not even exist, while vilifying ourselves for being unable to meet these literally impossible standards.

The reality is, the more we see something, the more comfortable we are with it. That’s one beautiful, fascinating function of the human brain. The more ads we see of Photoshopped supermodels, the more that occurs to us as normal. But while that can be frustrating and sickening, I would like to say that we have the power to do something about it for ourselves in our daily lives. We can take control of our own ideas of normal. But we have to actually do something if we want to “do something about it.”

In October of 2010, I stopped wearing makeup. I have maybe worn it 3 times in the past 6 ½ years. Before that time, I would not, and in my own mind could not, go through my day without makeup. I had a million excuses. I had acne, or acne scars. I had dark circles. I was single and I needed to look my best in case the man of my dreams showed up next to me on the subway.

And the first few days were hard. I was particularly self-conscious. And I felt that I must certainly be missing the love of my life. How would my beauty captivate him if I was all cystic acne and eye bags?!?! The reality, however, was that I got hit on more than ever. And after that initial period of OH GOD! WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?, I got used to my own face. And I started to recognize that there was nothing wrong with it exactly as it was. I understood that it didn’t need enhancement, and that the people telling me it did were the people who wanted to sell me concealer.

Now, I actively spend time normalizing myself to myself. For all of my eating and body image disorders, I recognize that I am way more well-adjusted than the average American woman, because I embrace myself, and look at my self in my natural state all the time. I don’t necessarily mean naked, though that too, because my body is just a body, like everybody else’s. I mean I still don’t wear makeup. I don’t dye my grey hair. I don’t wear shapewear. I don’t wear padded bras. I wear a bikini in public even though I have stretchmarks. I wear strapless and sleeveless tops even though I could probably glide a good distance if the hanging skin under my arms caught the wind just right. I don’t take pictures of myself, and then filter and adjust them until I look like a generic, washed-out, homogenized version of “woman.” I look at myself in natural states regularly and without judgment, and I look totally normal to me. Also, I avoid beauty and fitness industry ads with Photoshopped models as much as possible. (It’s hard. That sh*t is pervasive.)

So I recommend that we all start normalizing ourselves to ourselves. Let’s stop collectively averting our eyes from our bellies. Let’s stop putting on makeup to workout or walk the dog at 5 in the morning. Let’s stop untagging ourselves from every picture on social media that shows us with a double chin or a zit. Let’s start making normal, the new normal.

 

My heart, not my ass

I like routine. Love it really. Or at least can become attached to it. I can get stuck on the way things “should be,” if only because that is the way they have been. Friday morning, I woke up at 5:30 like I do on weekdays. I drank a bottle of water, and put on my running clothes, also like I do. But I was tired. I had only gotten about 6 hours of sleep. That may seem like a lot to you, or at the very least enough, but I am very much used to a full 8 hours a night. And I was afraid that I would hurt myself if I went to work out when I was too tired. It took some serious thought, and it made me a little anxious about my time and the things I needed to get done in the day, but in the end I decided to rest a little more, and run later.

When I was an exercise bulimic, I hurt myself all the time. I was so obsessed with getting rid of the excessive amounts of food that I was eating, that I ignored any injuries I inflicted on myself. I played through the pain, as they say. Now I’m a grownup, physically and emotionally (you know, for the most part) and I don’t want to get injured in the first place. Because I don’t like pain (obvs), and because I can’t, in good conscience, exercise when I am injured. I would have to rest and heal. And I would rest and heal because I am not obsessed with getting rid of the food I ate, because I eat a healthy amount of nutritious food.

Each of us acts, on a daily basis, according to intentions that we have created within the context of our belief systems. And I believe that most of us are not present to those intentions, because we are unaware of these beliefs. I’m not talking about our beliefs in, say, God, or science, or fairies, or astrology. We know that we believe in these things, or not. I am referring to things that we don’t even see because we cannot fathom that there could be any other way. Before I got my eating under control, one of my beliefs was that I was fundamentally broken, and that my fat body was both punishment for me, and a signal for others, like my own scarlet letter (but a big F for FAT.) That there was some other explanation (like addiction) never crossed my mind.

When I was fat and eating compulsively, all of my exercise was to force my body into a shape and size that I believed to be socially acceptable. I thought that was the only reason to work out in the first place. I thought that everyone who exercised was doing it for that reason (only more successfully than myself.) I didn’t understand that for some people it was about health, or peace of mind, or self-care, or because it felt good. (Gasp!) That exercise was punishment was so ingrained in the way I saw myself and the world that I didn’t recognize that there could be another way. Exercise was a punishment for not being able to stop eating. Or for just being born broken. It was the price I had to pay for being fat. It didn’t matter that it hurt. It didn’t matter that I was miserable. It did not matter that I was harming myself. I wasn’t doing it for me. I was doing it to please strangers on the street. I was attempting to preemptively silence the people I believed would shame me. And I was doing it for God. I was exercising as a form of penance for my shameful body, self, and life. And people supported me in that. They did it because, according to society, I was a “good girl” for recognizing my shamefulness, laziness, unattractiveness (or whatever it is that they decided being fat meant about me) and trying to do something about it.

We definitely live in a culture that praises people who work out. But what we praise them for is being beautiful. If someone is fat and working out, we (usually) praise them. But it’s an automatic reaction, and we don’t even realize that what we are praising them for is trying to lose weight and become the Western standard of beautiful. If someone looks like a fitness model, we praise them for being that standard of beautiful and maintaining that beauty. If someone is skeletally thin, we praise them too, for having willpower, or looking like a supermodel. But we never ever praise anyone for being overweight. That is the worst thing you can be physically in our society. That is the context of weight and exercise that permeates our culture.

But we frame it in the context of “health,” while what we really honor is skinny. In our culture, we love to talk about obesity and it’s ramifications on our health, but we judge people on their weight as it affects their appearance. Somehow we have it in our collective psyche that a woman who is 20 pounds overweight is a scourge on our healthcare system, but we let a girl dying of anorexia be a model, a standard for beauty, while she dies in the middle of a fashion show. (If you think I am being melodramatic, in 2006, a model died from heart failure due to anorexia after passing out on her way back to the dressing room in the middle of a runway show.)

Because I was an exercise bulimic (as well as a regular old vomiting bulimic), when I got my eating under control, I did not work out. I walked to places that were close enough. I took the stairs instead of the elevator. (Still do.) But I did not put on spandex and move to the point of sweaty breathlessness, as is the socially expected definition of exercise.

When I started running again about a year ago, I had made a decision about the context of my exercise: I was doing it exclusively as an act of self-care. I was not trying to lose weight. I was not trying to force my body into a socially acceptable shape or size. My only goal was, and is, to keep my body working well and easily as I age. After all, I will turn 40 this year. It was about my heart (literally and figuratively) not my ass.

I have made the decision to love my body as it is. I am not skinny. I am a slow runner. I do not diet or feel deprived. I eat in a way that keeps me satisfied and content in terms of my appetite, my physical appearance and my health. I am not always trying to lose that last 10 pounds. I am not always managing and obsessing, doing the math in my head about what I have eaten and how much more I can eat and what ramifications what I eat will have on my weight. I eat and exercise as a practical means of loving the body I live in, which is perfectly lovely right now.

 

 

Let’s not spread it around like germs

It is hot here in Kentucky. For the past few days, it has been in the nineties, but the heat index has it feel like 100-105 degrees. And yet, I am not suffering. In fact, I am enjoying it. (Though I could do with fewer bugs, thank you.) In recent years I have found that I am always cold. Sometimes I sit out on my porch in the morning and if it’s only in the high seventies, I need to put on a sweater. Seriously. Always. Freaking. Cold. So I am absolutely loving that I can go sit outside in as few, teeny tiny clothes as possible.

 

When I was eating compulsively, I was basically always hot. I was so generally warm that I didn’t wear a coat in the winter in Chicago. I would sweat pretty much constantly, no matter the season, no matter the temperature. And on top of that, I was so ashamed of my body that in the summer, I would keep myself covered up. I would wear jeans under long dresses no matter how hot it got; so that was even more sweating.

 

I would guess that between the ages of 14 and 22, I didn’t own a bating suit. If I did, I don’t remember, and I would guess that I didn’t use it very much. The idea of being seen in a bating suit was terrifying to me. I want you to think about that. I was more comfortable wearing layers of clothing in the scorching heat than I was letting people see my legs, arms and shoulders. I probably didn’t get in a pool, lake or sprinkler for eight years because it was more comfortable to be oppressed by the sun than it was to be oppressed by the potential judgment of strangers. I was both ashamed of myself, and afraid that others would shame me as well.

 

And here is the thing about body shame: it doesn’t go away easily. It didn’t go away because I lost 150 pounds. In fact, it was never just going to go away. It had to be dismantled and I was the one who had to dismantle it.

 

I still have to dismantle it. Here’s the thing, I am not fat. I am 5’6 ½”, I wear a size 6/8. But I am curvy. I have wide hips and round thighs and a belly. And those things can make me feel fat. My thighs rub together. For various reasons, one of which is being fat during my formative years, I am knock kneed. (It is actually a pretty common phenomenon among women because we tend to have wider hips than men.) My upper legs lean toward one another while my lower legs lean away. Because of this, my thighs have always rubbed together. Even at my very thinnest, probably 20 pounds lighter than I am now, when I was wearing size small clothes, my thighs rubbed together. The only way they would stop rubbing together is if I became skeletally thin, and frankly, maybe not even then. Sometimes that makes me feel fat. I have a lot of extra skin and stretch marks and sometimes that makes me feel fat. I have broad shoulders, I have large calf muscles, I have flabby arms. Sometimes every single one of those things makes me feel fat.

 

And it’s not just because I used to be fat. It’s definitely not just me. The other day, on Facebook, there was a picture of a friend (a real natural beauty by any standards) and she made a comment about looking “pregnant” (which I read as fat.) Just to be clear, she did not look either pregnant or fat. And I commented on it, because frankly, it freaked me out. I will admit that it was none of my business, and I probably shouldn’t have made a comment, but I did. In my wishful thinking, I hoped that at least she would acknowledge that like me, while she might feel fat, she at least understood intellectually that she was not. But she declined. She said that at least we could agree that it was an unflattering picture. At that point I had already overstepped my bounds, so after that I kept my opinion to myself, but you know what? No. I am telling you, my lovely readers, that I refuse to agree that it was an unflattering picture. It was a picture of a real woman with a real body, doing real things. What is unflattering about having a body big enough to actually house a full set of human internal organs?

 

I refuse to accept that the only beauty is the hyper-specific set of characteristics that the beauty and fitness industries acknowledge. I refuse to accept the idea that what I am right now at this very moment is anything less than enough. I refuse to look a beautiful woman and agree with her when she tries to convince me that she is lacking.

 

I know that I cannot change others. But I can change myself, and the best way to do that is not always by changing my body, though obviously as a woman who lost over a hundred pounds, I am a proponent of that as well. Sometimes, the best way for me to change is by loving and accepting my body as it is. And what that often looks like for me is to take small actions that make me feel uncomfortable, until they are comfortable. And then I can take another small action that makes me uncomfortable.

 

I can think of so many examples of little obsessions that I managed to let go of. When I was overweight, I never wore a top that didn’t cover my butt. Even after I lost weight, it took something to get over this. It was burned into my brain that by not hiding that I had a lower body, I was somehow being rude to others. When I first started working out about 15 years ago, I wouldn’t wear spandex workout clothes; I would only wear things that were loose fitting, never mind that they might be less comfortable or might even make it more difficult to move around.

 

Several years ago, when I was my thinnest, I started wearing a bikini when I went to my (mostly) secluded New York City roof to sunbathe. I would never have gone out in public like that, but at that point just putting on a bikini was a huge step for me. That I owned a bikini felt daring. Years later, and thirty pounds heavier, I started wearing my bikini in public. And not in a shy, apologetic way. I didn’t hide. I didn’t avoid talking to people (I am a friendly person.) I was just being myself, with more skin showing. It was uncomfortable the first few times, but when I did it often enough, it became “just the way it was.” In fact, I have four bating suits right now, but I only wear two of them, because the others are not bikinis and I decided that I prefer bikinis. My running clothes are spandex now. I wear them because they are made of moisture wicking material. Do they look great? I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t wear them to dress up, I wear them to run.

 

I’m not saying that I am totally free of self-judgment, especially around my body. I have some super-serious body image disorders that I expect will dog me my whole life. But I refuse to kowtow to them. I refuse to spread them around like germs. I refuse to accept them as truth. And I absolutely refuse to prioritize my life around hiding things that some people call flaws, which are really just the realities of living in a human body on the planet Earth.

The Biggest Winners of The Biggest Loser are The Biggest Industries: TV, Beauty, Fitness, and Food

So perhaps you saw the article about how contestants on The Biggest Loser have a lot of trouble maintaining their weight losses. It turns out that over the course of the show, their metabolisms slow way way down. Contestants had faster metabolisms when they were overweight than they end up with after the show. Now here is what pissed me off about the article. The conclusion of this article seems to be that a body has a “natural” size or a “true” size, and that any body will work hard to go back to that “true” size. The implication is that the people on The Biggest Loser are just “meant to be” overweight. And that’s where I call bullshit.

In the article, it clearly states that these people lost huge amounts of weight by exercising for at least 6 hours a day. (!!!!!) There is a name for that in the eating disorder community. It’s exercise bulimia. Bulimia is any of the ways that people try to rid themselves of food after they eat it. Because they cannot keep themselves from eating it in the first place. Some people force themselves to throw up, some people purposely take too many laxatives, and some people exercise themselves for hours a day. I know. I have been an active bulimic. (I say active because I still consider myself a bulimic, even though I have not done any of those things in the past 10+ years, since I put boundaries around my eating. I don’t believe bulimic thinking is something that ever really goes away. Thankfully, mine is dormant at the moment.)

See, my point is that there is this television show that is promoting exercise bulimia as the smart, even honorable thing to do. We promote an idea that people are overweight because they are lazy or sloppy, so we cheer for them for “finally” doing something about it. And then when that doesn’t work, science steps in and, instead of saying “6+ hours of exercise a day doesn’t lead to long-term weight loss,” it says that when overweight people lose weight, their body does everything it can to gain the weight back. 

Here’s a thought: Maybe if you lose weight 3 times faster than is natural or normal because you are exercising excessively, then your body does everything it can to gain the weight back.

Perhaps long-term weight loss requires a much more significant change in eating habits and a more moderate view of exercise. Of course, that is not as exciting as watching someone drop 100+ pounds in 6 months, But maybe long-term weight loss can’t be jammed into a 13 week television season. 

It takes years to lose weight naturally. And no, exercise bulimia is not natural. Who naturally has time to exercise for 6 hours every day? How do we not look at it on television and see that it is ridiculous? 

I, personally, lost my weight without any more exercise than walking. And not for hours and hours. I am taking about walking to the store instead of taking the train. I am talking about using the stairs instead of the elevator. 

I want to be clear that this is not about the contestants on The Biggest Loser. If I had not already found my solution, I would probably have loved the opportunity to get on a show like that. I was willing to do anything to lose weight. In fact, I tried exercise bulimia. It didn’t work for me either.

For me, this all comes back to the big money to be made off of those contestants. These are people who are desperate and suffering, and they are being used by the television industry, the beauty industry, the fitness industry and the food industry. And they are not getting anything in return except for broken metabolisms and a “scientific” conclusion that they were never supposed to be thin in the first place.

Yeah…And people say what I do is extreme.

I go moderate so I don’t have to go home

We all have at least one person on social media who is a fitness enthusiast. And there is a culture around fitness (at least in the U.S.) that is about leveling up, so to speak. It’s about getting better, faster, stronger. It’s about pushing yourself harder and harder. Every time. It’s about never being satisfied.I believe there is a place for this. I do not have a judgment about people who do this. I think it is beautiful. I love when people have a thing. And I have known, and have respect for, many people in the fitness industry. (A fat girl trying to be a skinny girl makes a lot of those kinds of friends.) 

But I think there is a conversation that we should be having that we are not. And it’s this:

Not everyone needs to be a beast in the fitness arena. I want to be in shape. I want to have a healthy body. But I am not interested in leveling up. Because constantly leveling up as the only way to exercise is not sustainable in my life. And that doesn’t make me any less admirable than the people who are constantly pushing themselves.

For me, and I think for a lot of people, this all or nothing attitude is overwhelming. And destructive. The idea that, if you are not continuously improving, you are some how going backwards, is prevalent in our fitness culture. Which is another aspect of our beauty culture. And it keeps you buying fitness gear, personal trainer sessions and gym memberships. 

Again, I am not knocking those things. I am suggesting that maybe having a commitment to work out consistently for your own health and peace of mind, without the need to “go big or go home,” or answer questions about “if you even lift” might be worth more to you in six months or a year, or 10 years, when you are still doing it. I am suggesting that maybe if you went moderate, or even small, you wouldn’t need to go home. Because I am going to tell you a secret I learned about commitment: 

Sometimes, in order to keep a commitment long term, you have to half-ass it. 

I’m telling you, sometimes I phone it in.

I am thinking about this today, because I half-assed my run today. The truth is, it’s cold here, especially in the mornings. And the wind is brutal. Yesterday morning, there were 25 mph winds with gusts up to 30 mph. And at certain points on my path, I have to run directly into it. And it ticks me off! I actually swore out loud at the wind yesterday.

So you can imagine that this morning, when it was 37 degrees, felt like 28, with 14 mph winds, I did not want to go.

I jog a 2 mile path that runs around my house, so that at one point close to the end of my run, but NOT the end, there is a little sidewalk that shoots off basically to my door. And today, I sure did want to go right there and skip the last quarter mile or so. But I didn’t. 

What I did do was slow down. Not to a walk. I was still jogging. My commitment to myself says that I only walk if I am injured or fear I will injure myself If I continue to run. What I did was take it easy. 

Today, I added over a minute to the time I ran just Tuesday. But I don’t care. I am not angry, frustrated or ready to quit, like I would be if my run were always about leveling up. Like I would be if it weren’t OK to take it easy.

The truth is, that I am improving. Naturally. Without trying. Without pushing. Without beating myself up. I’m sure not as much as the ones who are pushing. But I’m not them. I’m me. And I am making sure I can go on to jog another day.

Now, keep your fingers crossed for me that spring comes to Kentucky soon, and Running Against The Wind can go back to just being a Bob Seger song. (Darn it! Now that song is going to be stuck in my head all day.)

The complexities of body image and wearing a slinky dress anyway

Body image disorders are a trip, I tell you. So lately, it’s not about my weight. It’s about the shape of my body. 
The truth is, I’m small right now. In fact, my boyfriend has never seen me this small. So it’s not about my weight. It’s about my knock-knees, and the sort of square shape of my hips, how big my belly is, how my arms jiggle. It’s about what bulges and what sags. It’s always about not being pretty enough. 

It’s not that I’m not beautiful, or that I don’t know that I am. It’s complicated. It’s more about obsessing and worrying. It’s more about focusing on the aspects of my body that are not photoshop perfect. 

I know I’m not the only one. And I also know that “perfect” is just a bill of goods we have collectively been sold. But it doesn’t stop me from thinking about it. Sometimes obsessively.

We are going to Florida next week. So there’s wearing the bikini. And I bought a new dress to wear on the beach and it’s what you might call “slinky.” And I keep thinking “did I make a mistake? Should I buy a different dress? Is my body not perfect enough for the one I bought?”

Sometimes, when I am disconnected from something, it doesn’t occur to me as “painful” but it affects my life to a greater extent than I am aware of. For example, when I used to have a personal trainer years ago, he would give me fitness tests from time to time, and ask me to rate my pain/discomfort level from 1-10. As I got into better shape, my levels rose. When I was out of shape, I was so disconnected from my body that I was almost numb to the pain of living in that body. So even though in reality it was easier to do the exercise as time went on, it registered as more painful because I was actually living in my body.

I have a similar experience with my body image disorders. Over the years, the more accepting and loving I am of my body, the more my disorders are right there in my face.

So I may be less numb to my fears and my judgements, but at the same time, I’m more likely to wear what I want to wear. There was a time I would never wear a bikini in public. And I would have opted for a more loose-fitting dress.

But now I wear what I want. And I love it. And if I worry about how big my thighs are…well, moments pass.

Exercise as long as I enjoy it. There’s a joke in there, right?

A few weeks ago, I started jogging again after almost 10 years. Nothing crazy. Two miles a day, 5 to 7 days a week. I took it easy at first, not trying to push too hard, partially running, partially walking. It’s interesting how little time it has taken me to get back into good enough shape to jog the whole 2 miles without stopping to walk.

When I was still eating compulsively, I used jogging to control my weight. Or rather, I tried to control my weight with it. But I couldn’t control my eating, so jogging didn’t help me very much there. I was so obsessed with “getting out” the food I couldn’t stop eating, that I was pushing too hard, and not taking care of my body. I would run until I injured myself, and then I would continue to run injured. I was punishing my body for being fat. I was abusing my body to try to force it into a shape and size that I thought would be socially acceptable, without dealing with my eating. Because I could not deal with my eating. I really didn’t have a solution. I didn’t think there was a solution. I was doing the best I could. But it was painful and difficult. It was damn exhausting.

But the other thing is that I was in great shape. Look, I don’t mean to glorify exercise bulimia. It’s not pretty. I was bat-shit crazy when I was eating compulsively and running to try to control my weight. But that doesn’t change the fact that my body was capable and strong. And I never saw it that way. Or if I did, it was not enough. It was not really what I wanted. Because I was looking for something very limiting. I was looking for beauty. And not just beauty, but a narrow view of beauty. Simply put, I was looking to be as skinny as I could be.

So I didn’t enjoy how healthy I was when I was healthy. Partially because I was not totally healthy. I was so sick mentally and spiritually, that being in good physical shape wasn’t even healthy.

When I put boundaries around my eating, I had to stop a lot of the things I was doing to manage my weight, because they were just part of how sick I was with food. I had to stop eating “diet” food, and start eating real food. I had to stop counting calories, because tracking calories was how I tried to manage my weight without giving up sugar. Or it was about eating as few calories as I could in a day so I could be skinny. And I had to stop running because it was all about the size of my body. I had to give up all of those things because I had to change my thinking about the problem. The problem wasn’t the size or shape of my body. The problem was my inability to stop eating and the obsession I had with my weight. That obsession with my weight, which I was just then starting to let go of by putting boundaries around my eating, made me scared of over exercising. And it was a valid fear. I am still afraid of it.

I decided to start jogging again because I am 38 (and a half) years old. And it isn’t going to get any easier to get in shape the older I get. But I need to be in communication about this, because there is still an Exercise Bulimic Girl somewhere in inside of me, just like there is still a Good Girl, and a Fat Girl, and a Body-Dysmorphic Girl, and even an Overly Critical Perfectionist Girl with Anorexic Tendencies. All of these aspects of my eating and body-image disorders still occupy space in me, in various states of dormancy. So I went to my friend who helps me make decisions about my food and my weight, and I told her I was running 2 miles a day.

She asked me, “Are you enjoying it? Are you enjoying the endorphins?” And I thought about it, and yes. I am enjoying it. So she said, “It’s good that you are telling on yourself. Do it as long as you enjoy it. If you ever stop enjoying it, let me know.” And that was that.

I don’t think of myself as someone who enjoys exercise. But then, I was never a person who exercised for herself. I was exercising for everybody else. I was killing myself for validation by unnamed people who didn’t know or care about me, who had also bought a limited sense of beauty and beauty-connected worth. But the truth is, I do love exercising. I love the feeling of self-care. And I love the feeling of accomplishment. And I love the feeling of getting stronger. And yes, I love the endorphins.

I prefer shopping alone, but my body dysmorphia insists on tagging along.

Today was my cousin’s wedding shower. It was a lot of fun! And I love celebrating love! I am a huge fan of love!


I got a new dress for the shower. Nothing too fancy. A sleeveless linen dress with a tasteful abstract pattern. Very flattering. Very spring-bridal-shower-appropriate.

But when I was shopping for it, I was terrified. Of what, you ask? Of being a size 14 (American).

This is a very specific, very strange fear. 

First, I want to say that there would be nothing wrong with being a size 14. It is a perfectly lovely size. 

But I am not a size 14. I am a size 10. And I can’t seem to grasp it. Even when I am looking at my body in the mirror. Even when I have just tried on a size 10 dress and it fit. And looked great! I even brought two of the same dress into the dressing room, one a 10 and one a 12, thinking that the 10 surely wouldn’t fit. And then I worried that even the 12 would be too small.

I also ordered a dress online for another upcoming wedding, and they gave measurements in the description to determine what size to buy. My measurements coincided with a size Large. And yet I really wanted to order the X-Large. Because I was positive that a Large would be too small on me. And when it came, I still tried it on expecting it to be too small for me. They gave me the measurements! I didn’t believe them!

This is body dysmorphia. This is how sick I can be with my body image disorders. There is nothing wrong with my body. But my head is a disaster area!

I am grateful to have my eating under control. If I didn’t, I can’t imagine the kinds of torture I would be putting myself through. At least right now I don’t have to obsess over what to eat, when to eat it, where to eat and in front of whom. Especially in order to fit into a dress I already fit into. After all, with all the clarity I have because I am not high on sugar or preoccupied with the next thing I will put in my mouth (or refrain from putting in my mouth), I still don’t know what size I am. Even when I am actually wearing that size at the moment.

My body dysmorphia is one of the things I have agreed to make friends with. Not good friends, mind you. But I choose to tolerate it. Because I am pretty sure it will never go away. (Though I am always grateful when it is in a dormant phase.) So I will take too many clothes into the dressing room. And I will be afraid of being sizes I am not. And I will not believe the measurements posted in the description. But I will still look just as good in the dress, once I manage to get it on. So there’s that. 

What is more beautiful than a woman in love?

I write a lot about my body image issues in this blog. I write about my body-dysmorphia, and my insecurities. I have even written about how I feel less attractive living in The South, or in the suburbs of Chicago, because strangers (men) are not particularly forthcoming with gentlemanly admiration, like I got used to in New York City. And, of course, I am heavier than I like.

It’s coming up on 3 years. 3 years is a long time to hover somewhere between misery and meh about your body. Though, I lived in overwhelming hatred of my body from around the time I was 7 until I was 28, so I suppose meh isn’t so bad. But once upon a time, I had years when I loved my body. I woke up every day just plain liking it. Thinking it was fantastic.

So right, for almost three years, not so much. Except for one crazy exception. When I am dancing. When I dance, I think my body is gorgeous. Not just meh. Not just not terrible. Really amazingly beautiful. It’s not about what clothes I am wearing. (Today was faded yoga pants that are fraying at the inner seams and a t-shirt with a cartoon of a turtle on its back that says “AWKWARD.”) It doesn’t matter if I am sweating. (And if I am dancing, I am sweating. And red-faced.) I look at myself and I think Hot damn, I am f***ing sexy!

I don’t know why it is that way. In some ways, you would think that it would make me feel worse, fatter, less attractive. Jiggling and bouncing around. But no. I think I’m the cat’s pajamas when I dance. I’m a really good dancer, which probably helps. And maybe it has something to do with the cardio of dancing burning off stress hormones.

But the other thing that occurs to me is that maybe, just maybe, my body looks so beautiful to me because of what dancing fundamentally is for me. It’s a celebration! Not just at a wedding, or a party. Any time I dance, I am celebrating my existence. And that existence is manifested in my body. I am expressing joy and gratitude. Dancing, for me, is about love. How much I love life and the infinite experiences of living. And what is more beautiful than a woman in love?

The difference between bliss and calamity

I am on my way back home after a really fantastic, week-long vacation. We rented a boat and cruised around on the ocean for two days.  We saw sea turtles and manta rays and jellyfish. I went in the ocean for the first time. I got lots of sun. (I’m a little crispy actually.)


We ate really well this whole trip. One night we borrowed a grill from the resort and had filet mingon stuffed with crab. But my vacation was not about eating. It was not about restaurants. It was not about “cheat days” or “free-for-alls”. A vacation is not an excuse for me to eat whatever I want.

I gave up excuses when I put boundaries around my food. I took on a belief system that says no excuse is acceptable. I do what I do no matter what.

And that allows me a certain kind of peace. I wore my bikini when I was by the pool or on the boat. I’m not skinny. But I am comfortable enough in my skin to wear my bikini in public. 

But If I broke my food boundaries, even if I weighed exactly the same, and looked exactly the same, I would never have been able to wear my bikini. Having boundaries around my food allows me to be happy with myself. It allows me to be less judgmental of myself. It allows me a certain freedom from my own obsessive thinking. About my body and about food.

While I was prepping meals for the flight home today, I was mixing sesame seeds into my butter. But the butter wouldn’t soften in the air conditioning. So I took it outside to our patio and sat in a deck chair and watched the ocean while I was mixing it. My boyfriend came out and looked startled. He asked “Are you eating?” 

I said “No, I’m just making tomorrow’s dinner.”

He said, “Thank God! All I could think was ‘Oh no!'”

I told him, “Yep. If you ever see me eating and it’s not time to eat, think ‘Oh no!'”

My food boundaries are the difference between blissful serenity and disastrous calamity.

This trip was bliss. I can’t wait to do it again. 


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