What’s Worth It?

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

My Weight Watchers leader once handed out pencils with this phrase carved into them. It wasn’t the first time that I’d heard it; this is a phrase that is passed around the weight loss community pretty regularly.

I hate that phrase. With a passion.

I think it is pure and utter bologna.

Moreover, I think that thoughts like that one are the kind that encourage the misery that is an eating disorder. In fact, that’s where I first read that phrase: on a pro-anorexia message board.

That phrase came to mind tonight because I’ve eaten quite a lot in the past three days. I found myself worrying a bit tonight about that. Will what I’ve eaten in the past 3 days ruin my weight loss? Have I messed up? Have I fallen off the wagon? Did I do something wrong? Should my desire to lose weight have come first?

Ultimately, I think not. I think that sometimes, it’s worth it to eat too much, overdo it, and even see a gain on the scale. I have not undone 2 years of work in 1 weekend — not on the scale nor in my mentality. If anything, I feel more stable now than I would if I’d deprived myself. This weekend, I did not feel like the dieter in the crowd. I did not bring my own food, avoid my favorite things, or put the importance of the meal above the experience of being 100% present with family.

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels? How the heck did food and weight become so important? Here are some things that, in my opinion, taste at least twice as good as skinny could ever feel:

1. My boyfriend’s 29th birthday cake. (Or my brother’s 13th, my grandfather’s 80th, and my 25th)

2. A romantic Valentine’s dinner date secretly plotted and put into action.

3. The candy in my stocking each Christmas.

4. The hour-long lunch with coworkers to celebrate finishing a huge project.

5. The pecan pie, fried chicken, shrimp, potatoes, cake, etc. etc. etc. on the Christmas dinner table each Christmas Eve when the whole family gathers.

6. Thanksgiving. All of it.

7. Toasted pumpkin seeds from our Halloween jack o’lanterns.

8. My great-grandma’s mac and cheese recipe at Sunday supper.

9. Santa’s cookies and milk.

10. S’mores, toasted marshmallows, hot dogs, and ANYthing you can cook over a camp fire.

Sometimes, I think, we just need to live life and not let food  be in control.

Isn’t the whole point of starting a weight loss journey to learn how to let food just be food?

The idea that skinny should come first breaks my heart. Shouldn’t our relationships, loved ones, and selves come first?

Tomorrow, regular everyday life returns. But, this weekend, we celebrated something special, and I don’t think skinny could ever take the place of the togetherness we all felt as we shared these events together.

Happy 13th Birthday to my youngest brother! The time has flown by…

(Picture is 3 years old, but it’s all I have for now) 🙂

EDIT: Ahhh…here we go 🙂

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The Lies I Tell Myself

In my senior year of college, I signed up for a 100-level Speech class called “Interpersonal Communication.” Admittedly, most of the attendees of this class, including myself, were taking it as an elective. The teacher was an eccentric 60’s era lady who talked about things like the dangers of pesticides. It was a slack-off class. No, really, I know that it probably makes me look bad to say that, but it’s true. I’ll admit it: I never bought the book for that class, and I never read any of the readings unless you count reading someone else’s book really quickly during our “group discussion.”

It was also one of the most memorable classes I ever took in college.

It changed my life.

On the first day of class, we sat in a circle, took out blank notecards, and wrote down our initial observation/thoughts about the people in the class. We hadn’t spoken to them; we didn’t know who they were. We wrote down our first impression. The professor gathered these notecards and gave each of us the stack of cards with our name on it – we read everyone’s first impressions of us…

Out loud…In front of everyone. And people were VERY honest on these notecards.

Guess what…

They were not about my weight. Not a single one of them.

They were not about my being worthless.

They were not about my imperfections.

They did not call me ugly, they did not say that I talked too much, they did not call me fat or point out that my jeans were so tight that I had that weird creasey thing that happens sometimes on the upper thighs. They didn’t point out that my clothes didn’t fit, my glasses made me look weird, my eyebrows needed to be plucked…

I remember how shocked I was with the first impressions that most people had about me.

They were positive.

They were about my smile, assuming me to be friendly, and saying that I came across as a happy person.

People implied that they’d want to get to know me more. And these were NOT my typical friends. These were athletes, popular men and women…these were people who I always felt were above me and could never want to actually get to know me.

That was the first time in my life that I ever questioned whether or not the things I told myself were really true. That was the first time that I ever realized that…maybe…just maybe…I was wrong about myself, and those things that I always thought people were thinking about me…were actually only the things I thought about myself.

That was when I began analyzing the lies I tell myself. I can’t share them all here; that would take about a billion pages. But, I’ll share some. You can add your own to the list.

Lie #1: Everyone sees my fat first.

Truth? Everyone sees their own weight before ever seeing mine. Do some people judge my weight? Probably. But usually the only reason people judge anyone’s weight ties back into their own personal issues.

The truth is, most people see ME first, not my weight.

Lie #2: My weight determines my value.

Truth? My character, especially how I treat other people, determines my value. I’m going to write a whole other blog on this lie. It’s a big one; it’s the MAIN one, really.

For now, I’ll just say that the idea that weight = worth is a false one.

Lie #3: I am too fat to be loved.

Truth? I am loved and WORTHY of love no matter what my appearance may be.

Anyone who cannot love me because of my weight has a serious issue with how much they love themselves.

Lie #4: I am too fat to eat in front of people.

Truth? Everybody eats. It is not something to be ashamed of; the vast majority of people are not paying attention to what you’re eating.

The people who do pay attention are only doing so because they are worrying about others’ opinions of THEM.

Lie #5: Gaining Weight = Failure; Losing Weight = Success.

Truth? I might need to write a whole blog about this one, too. This one is the biggest pitfall to every diet I’ve ever tried (and there have been many). The truth is that my successes and failures are NOT determined by a number.

Let me say it again very clearly.

If you’ve ever given up, thrown in the towel, and walked away from a diet – You Have Not Failed

If you’ve ever gone on a binge – You Have Not Failed

If you’ve ever gained all the weight back PLUS some – You Have Not Failed

There is no such thing as failure in a weight loss journey. There are ups, downs, and straight lines on the scale; each of them is only one thing: A Number.

Likewise, success is something far apart from a number. Success is when you decide to try again. Success is when you go to your weigh in even though you really don’t want to. Success is when you run in the rain. Success is when you set your mind to something and do it. Oh, and by the way, not succeeding…is NOT failing.

These are lies I told myself for years. These are the lies that kept me from loving myself and from being happy. I still catch myself lying to me sometimes, and I have to stop myself and remember the truth.

As for those first impressions my classmates wrote about me? I kept them. I still have them somewhere in my stash of things. I used to take them out and read them to remind myself that I cannot know what others are thinking. And that, frequently, they are not thinking about me what I am thinking about myself.

Except, of course, when I’m thinking “Hey, self? You’ve got a great smile.”

How I Learned to Love Myself

In my last post, I mentioned how photos used to be something terrifying for me. I HATED photos of myself (almost as much as I hated myself — but that’s another story for another time). I’ve shared with a few people how I came to hate photos so much. The gist of that story is that my physical flaws were often pointed out to me in photos; it got to a point where the flaws were all I could see. It didn’t matter if someone else said it was a good photo, I winced every time I looked at it.

My brain, when looking at an old photo, went something like this:

Yeah. That’s about right.

After years of thinking this way whenever I saw a photo of myself, I found it impossible to ever think I was pretty — in a photo or in general. SO many people feel this way. I’ve pretty much never met a person who did not question his or her appearance — especially in a photograph. Many people “screen” the pictures that are taken of them and will BEG for certain ones to be deleted because they’re “ugly,” “terrible,” or “embarrassing.”

The problem with thinking this way…with having a brain programmed as illustrated above…is that, for me at least, it made me HATE myself. And, moreover, it made me hate ON myself all the time. When I finally started working on learning to love myself, the first place I started was with photos. I decided if the practice of pointing out all of my flaws could make me instinctively SEE the flaws and criticize myself, then doing the opposite and pointing out all of the positive things (no matter HOW much I disliked the picture) would be the best way to help me always see the beauty.

I started with the very same pictures that I criticized.

After I worked through all of the pictures I’d criticized, I locked myself in my bedroom and took out my digital camera. I took HUNDREDS of pictures, and then, I sat down and looked through each one and forced myself to name at least ONE positive thing about every single picture.

I’ve done this for years now — 3 years now to be exact. And while I still see the flaws instinctively, I also instinctively STOP myself from naming the flaws, and I clearly and easily see all of the positive things. Along with this change has come an even more important change — I TAKE PICTURES!

I take pictures of everything! Every time my boyfriend and I go out and do something, I pull out the camera. I LOVE pictures now! Old pictures, new pictures, bad pictures too. Now that I’m living life — I want to remember it for forever! I also take every opportunity to look like a FOOL in my pictures (as long as what I’m doing isn’t foolish). And, even when I take the silliest most childish pictures ever, I can still see the beauty:

Aaaand even when I can’t see the beauty, I can still see the FUN!

Before

I’ve been holding off on creating a blog at all about my weight loss journey. Whether because I didn’t think I’d succeed or because I didn’t think anyone would care to read it, I’m not sure. But, tonight I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter if nobody reads this thing — I’m still going to TRY to write it. I’ve often wished that I’d started a blog sooner…at the beginning of my journey. I’ve used that as an excuse to continue to avoid blogging. But, tonight I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter if I’m at the beginning, middle, second beginning, or wherever in this journey — I can still write about it.

I’ve seen a lot of people’s before and after pictures. I’ve taken a few of my own (we’ll call them before and “during” or progress pictures). It kind of just struck me tonight that I’m not the 235-lb girl I was a few years ago. I always feel like my “before” is only a few weeks away and will return again. I feel this way about a lot of things — my teenage years and childhood. The past never seems like it’s behind me; it seems like I’m waiting for those days to roll back around.

Before…

Poor Chris has to be part of my before pictures tonight. Sorry, Chris!

Before, I tried to hide behind whatever was available. I followed a set of rules to make myself as non-offensive as possible. Bow my head just a bit to somewhat hide the double chin; tilt my head so my hair would fall just a bit down near my chin to hide the fat in my face; put someone or something in front of a part of me to keep my body outline from showing; and, above all else, do not look at the photos later. Photos were always terrible things to me. Mirrors didn’t bother me as much — but photos were terrible. I was trained to see every flaw.

Before…humor was something done at my expense in order for me to hide my insecurities. Except, of course, self-deprecating humor really exposes your insecurities to the whole world. I KNEW I was fat. (For the record – why do some people think that overweight folks don’t KNOW that they’re overweight? You think because we’re inside the skin we don’t SEE the body?) So, yes, I KNEW I was fat. I was hoping that nobody else would know. I was hoping that I was invisible.

Before, I thought the bigger the piece of clothing, the more invisible the body would be.

Before, I thought color was a skinny girl’s privilege. I owned and wore primarily black. I had been trained to avoid patterns, the color red, and life in general. I caved into myself, curled into myself, trying to hide as much of me as I could.

Before, I was afraid to smile because it made my face bigger. Even when I did smile, it was never real. I was always in the background and afraid to actually go through experiences. In my mind, I was too fat for everything. I watched others live life and retreated into my own mind and fantasy.

Before, I never felt like I belonged. I felt alone no matter who was with me.

Before, I felt like the blemish in a perfect family. I saw no beauty even when I was beautiful.

Before is behind me.

Before is not around the corner waiting to return.

I am not to After yet, but I am closer to After than to Before. You know, this is not my first rodeo; far from it. I’ve seen those numbers on the scale jump around all my life. I remember breaking 100 in grade school (and being proud of it). I remember the shame coming later – in middle school – when I hit the 180s. I remember going on Ritalin and dropping very quickly to a normal 145….and only eating 1 meal a day. I remember begging my friend to share her weight with me when I was back up in the 180s again (without the Ritalin)…I wanted to know that her weight wasn’t so far from mine..that maybe I had a fighting chance to still look normal.

I remember in college shooting over 200. I remember joining a pro-anorexia group and starving myself down 20 pounds in 2 weeks. I remember burning 1000 calories in the gym and only eating 400 that day.

I remember 235. I remember 190. I remember 200. And, I remember 226.2 — the day that I decided to try one last thing before resigning myself to needing weight loss surgery someday. The day – July 31, 2010 – that I joined Weight Watchers.

And that day is where my “before” ends. Because since that day, no matter if the scale has gone up or down, I have always been a part of Now. I have always been a work in progress. This has not been nor will it be an easy or simple journey. There is nothing simple or easy about it. It is, however, not the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do — losing weight. The hardest things I’ve had to do had nothing to do with numbers on the scale. Because what I’ve discovered most of all throughout this journey so far is that my weight was never the problem.

One last thing that came to me tonight…one last thing I need to say. Before, you see, I never experienced life because I was too afraid of what everyone else was thinking about me. I was ashamed of myself and my looks.

The best part about learning to love yourself and no longer caring what other people think about how you look is getting to live life. When other people’s opinions about your body stop defining your life, you stop caring if you look like an idiot and start enjoying the experience instead.

Bye Bye, Before. Hello, Today!