Tag Archives: loving your body

Pick Yourself Up

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Well, I’m here. I’m back. I fell off the proverbial wagon, but here I am. In the past 4 or 5 days, I’ve had two close friends ask me how my progress is going, and I honestly told them what was going on in my life, and why I had fallen off the wagon. I faced my failure, and haven’t given up. And for that, I am proud of myself. I am learning, growing in my abilities and dedication to my goal, and discovering that I am truly not alone – which is astonishing! In the last few days, I’ve come to discover that I am not the only one who struggles with many of the issues I address in this blog. One of those issues is body image…

This past Saturday, I went out with a wonderful bunch of ladies for dinner. After dinner, we were walking down the street (in a very trendy neighbourhood in Vancouver) to grab a coffee. As we walked past a restaurant/bar with an outdoor patio, one of the ladies said to me, “Did you see him checking you out. His eyes went head to toe and back up again!” I laughed it off, and, honestly? didn’t really believe her.  Why would a man look at me like that?

The next day, I was talking to my friend Jenn, and we were talking about body image. I expressed my disbelief that someone would see a full-body picture of me and still be interested in dating. She said to me, “Do you really hate your body that much that you cannot accept that a man may actually like you for you?” I said, “Yes,” with a surety that I think kind of shocked her.

Later that evening, I chatted with a friend from high school, and brought up some of these issues. When she told me that she, too, had body image issues, frankly, I was shocked. I have always seen her as a beautiful woman with a great figure (of which, frankly, I’m somewhat jealous!).

It was then that I realized that pretty much everyone has some type of issue with their body. It doesn’t matter what shape you’re in, it’s easy to find something wrong with your body. Which is crazy, isn’t it? And, I think it speaks to unrealistic expectations placed on us by the media to look a certain way.

While I went for my walk today (my 2nd big long walk in as many days – yay me!) I was listening to some personal growth podcasts. There are a few things that really stuck with me….

A computer, without electricity is simply just a useless object. It doesn’t matter how fast the processors are, how many amazing programs are installed, and what operating system its running if there is no power to the unit. We are like that too – our bodies are simply an object. Our knowledge – everything we’ve learned – are like the programs installed in the computer. But our emotional/spiritual self, well, that’s the electricity that brings life to everything.

I really liked that metaphor. I have been focusing so much on my physical body lately, that I’ve forgotten that this body is not who I am.  When I identify myself primarily through my body (an “object” which, as I’ve already owned up to, don’t like all that much), it is damaging to my emotional well being. When I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see, I beat myself up, and make myself feel terrible.

But, I am SO much more than that! As a wise kindergarten teacher once said, “Karen is awesome.” (btw – JP: I don’t think I’ll ever forget that speech you gave on the last day of school!).  It still feels weird that people could look at  me and not see me the way I do, but I am beginning to understand that people do see me for who I am and not what I look like.

Don’t you think it’s time that I started seeing myself that way?

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I think I can, I think I can…

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It’s day three in my contest with my friend. So far, I have tracked my food and exercise every day, although Tuesday I went over my daily calorie allowance. I’m not too upset by this because my dietician told me about the 80/20 rule: eating well 80% of the time, and allowing yourself times when you can splurge just a little. The important part is that I tracked what I splurged on.

Today, my sons and I went for a lovely hike by the ocean. It was a beautiful day and I got a great workout in while spending time with my boys. I am noticing that when I do exercise, I feel more in control of things. This is a good feeling 🙂

This past week, I have been feeling more motivated. Perhaps it’s because I’m doing a friendly competition. But, I also think it may be because I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately, revisiting my past. It hasn’t been easy – in fact, at times, it’s been downright painful. My counsellor even gave me permission to engage in emotional eating right now to help comfort and nurture myself during this period.

I’ve never truly climbed a mountain – not yet at least – but that’s what this feels like… finally facing the hurtful voices from my past. I have come to recognize that I still do listen to the voices that told me over and over that I am fat and no good. Slowly, I am learning that these voices aren’t my truth, and that I no longer have to listen to them. Slowly, I am learning that I am, indeed, beautiful and deserving of love, and that my self worth is not related to my physical appearance. These voices are my biggest obstacle to my success. If I keep listening to them, I’ll keep believing them, and their truth will become my truth. I don’t want that. I don’t want those voices telling me that I do not deserve to be beautiful, healthy, thin, fit, loved and loving…. I don’t want to keep hearing those voices. And I don’t have to, either.

There is a very good reason that those people who spoke those words are no longer in my life. I chose to leave those people. They are no longer part of my life. And, just as I chose to physically distance myself from those people, I can chose to stop hearing their voices.  I had the strength and power to physically leave, and I have the strength and power to stop hearing their words.

As I think about this, I realize that I have, of late, surrounded myself by some pretty amazing people. People who love me, believe in me, support me and cheer me on. Not one of my friends has told me that I am fat, ugly and don’t deserve love. In fact, I have recently had a friend tell me how awesome I am, and one tell me that I deserve to be happy and be loved. I can see now that I truly have a great group of people in my life. I no longer need to listen to the voices from my past because I’m filling my heart with voices from the present… and I have learned how to fill my present with some pretty amazing people.

I keep saying that the biggest part of this whole journey is a mental one.  I have to believe in myself. I have to see myself as capable and deserving of being fit and healthy. The last three days, I have made good progress towards this. I am especially proud of the way that my emotional and mindless eating has been minimal.

I’m really beginning to think that I can do this. I am beginning to believe that I can lead a life of health and fitness.

Take a hike!

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I love Rocky Point Park. It is, hands down, my favourite place in the entire world. I’ve fallen in love there. I’ve had my heart broken there. I go there to find solace and comfort. It’s where I go when I want to be alone. I take the kids there for ice cream.  In short: Rocky Point rocks.  (groan – bad pun… sorry about that!)

The last few times I’ve visited the park, it was for a power walk. Everyone who I’ve talked to on a professional level about this journey I am has said the same thing: walking is the best exercise. I’ve downloaded a few apps to help me in this endeavour (Map My Run and Walk Tracker). However, I haven’t been able to made a commitment to walk on a regular basis. This is frustrating. I know it will help my process. I know I feel better when I exercise. I know I love myself more when I’m working out.

My attempts at walking, as of late, have not been all that pleasant, which is stupid, because really: walking?! I was walking at a brisk pace (averaging 5 km per hour). It’s not supposed to hurt, is it? But it has. My feet hurt. My back hurts. My knees hurt. Man oh man – I sound like I’m 75 years old complaining about all of my aches and pains. I was walking at a brisk pace (averaging 5 km per hour).

The thing is: if I don’t start taking better care of myself, I will be complaining about all of my aches and pains, but a lot sooner than 75.

Tonight’s walk was meant to be more of a relaxing, enjoyable experience. No power walking for me tonight.  Just a nice leisurely walk through the park, listening to a podcast on my iPod.

You know what?! It worked! I wasn’t playing upbeat music, trying fiercely to keep up with it, working up a huge sweat, huffing and puffing, and worn out by the 30 minute mark. I walked for 75 minutes this evening, enjoyed the beautiful weather and sunset (see the photo above!), and listened to a great podcast.

When I got home, I entered my walk into the My Fitness Pal app. To my surprise, I burned more calories than those short, higher intensity walks.

This? This I could do. I could block a chunk of time off in the evenings and go for a nice long walk while listening to a podcast of some sort. I could be learning while I’m walking! Cool.

I think – no, I know – the reason I haven’t been able to make a commitment to walking is that those power walks were damn painful. Yes, I know: no pain, no gain. But, let’s get their gradually. There’s a difference between the “good” pain that comes from working your muscles to their breaking point, and the “bad” pain that comes from a bad back and sore feet.

So, I need to take baby steps. I need to slow down and give myself permission to not be perfect.

That bears repeating:

I don’t need to be perfect!

Which is hard for me. I like being the best I can be. But right now? I’m not the best me. I’m fat and somewhat lazy, and I feel sorry for myself about it. So what do I do? I try to be perfect and work myself too hard, so hard it hurts (and not in the good way), so I give up. Time to change that. Time to give myself permission to just do my best, and recognize that, today, this long slower walk was my best. Sure, I’m not running a 5K (heck, I’m not even walking 5K yet!), but I got outside and moved. My body thanks me. My spirit thanks me. My heart thanks me. My feet, back and knees aren’t in pain, meaning I’ll be able to move tomorrow.

Anyone have any good suggestions for podcasts to listen to while I’m walking?

Body Image

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Yesterday, I came across a fantastic blog called Fat Girl, PhD by a young woman named Katie. Actually, she kind of stumble across me, leaving a comment on my blog. With a name like Fat Girl PhD, I just had to visit her blog! And, I am so very glad I did. It is comforting to find someone else who has dealt with similar issues as mine and come out the other side, successful. Her blog truly gives me hope that I can reach my goals as well.

One article on Katie wrote got me thinking about the issue of body image. She listed some interesting statistics about body image (which I would encourage you to go and read). What struck me was the high percentage of people – both men and women – who struggle with body image issues. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re overweight, underweight, short, or tall, young or old: pretty much everyone has something about themselves with which they are not happy.

And, honestly? I’m one of them. I really don’t like the way I look. I see myself in the mirror, and all I can see is a body which I don’t like, and am convinced repulses everyone around me. The way I see my body is a huge obstacle preventing me from truly loving myself. And, I think if I loved myself more, I may be more motivated to take care of my body. At least, that’s the way I think it works. (Something tells me, though, that I may have it wrong – perhaps if I took better care of my body, I’d love myself more!)

It doesn’t help that, during my formative years, I had numerous people tease me about being overweight. I was a chubby pre-teen girl (who eventually outgrew the baby fat and ended up with a great figure in high school, only I didn’t recognize how beautiful I was). Those words really stuck with me, and I feel the echoes of them even to this day. Add to that the societal pressure to conform to unrealistic body shapes, and the “quick fix’ diet industry (of which I have been a victim for far too long), and *bang* you’ve got one grown woman with incredibly low self esteem when it comes to body image.

For the last month or so, I’ve been feeling really down. I think my body image has been the culprit for this case of the blues. And, because I’ve been feeling down, I haven’t been putting as much effort into my appearance, which makes me feel worse about myself.

A few months ago, I was actually making progress in this department. I took an inventory of my body and all of the wonderful things it’s done for me over the years. Giving birth and nurturing three babies who have grown into fine young men. Carrying me through not one but two university degrees. It’s survived numerous illnesses and injuries. In short, my body has always been there for me, supporting me in everything I do, and, basically, loving me unconditionally.

And what do I do to it? I ignore it. I look for its faults and flaws, then criticise it. I feed it unhealthy foods. I don’t exercise it enough. Holy cow! Most people take better care of their pets than I do of my body. And honestly: I deserve better care than a pet cat!

So now what? What do I do to change my body image? I don’t know. I really don’t. I suppose I need to start taking better care of my body, feeding it healthier foods and exercising more. I also need to change my mindset, and accept the body God has given me. Sure, I don’t have the body of a 1940s pin-up model (which, if you ask me, is gorgeous! That’s what I want to look like some day – beautiful, healthy and curvaceous),  but I am healthy. I can walk unassisted. I can bend down and tie my shoes. My body allows me to dance and celebrate.

My body deserves to be loved. After all, look how far it has brought me!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder….?

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I came across this photo the other day:

At first I was like “You go girl!”

But now? Yeah. Not so much.

What’s that, you say? I’m being a hypocrite? After all, Karen, you’ve been everything from a size 12 to a size 24. You should embrace your curves, love your body. Let’s empower the fat girls.

I can call them fat girls because I’m one of them. You skinny bitches? Unless you’ve ever bought and worn queen-sized pantyhose, shut up. You can’t call us fat girls. Only fat girls can call us fat girls.

Yup. I’m one of them, but I’m not sure I see this photo as empowering. At first I did. I thought, “Wow, good for you, chubby girl! Posing naked with a sign takes a lot of courage. I sure as hell wouldn’t do it.”  And, I do agree with the whole perception of beauty thing – really, is a size 2 that beautiful? Bony yes. Unhealthy, most of the time. (I’m sure there are some size 2 women out there who complain about needing to gain weight. To them I say, “Here ya go! Have some of mine!”)

Yes, this picture does raise a good point in making society question their perceptions of beauty. Beauty shouldn’t have a prescribed size. All women should be seen as beautiful, because true beauty comes from within, and isn’t based on your dress size. Trust me: I’ve met some damn ugly size 2s before.

So, what’s the big deal, you ask. The big deal is that being a plus-sized woman isn’t healthy. Carrying around extra weight has SO many health implications. High blood pressure. High cholesterol. Diabetes. Osteoarthritis. Coronary Heart Disease. Gallstones. Stroke. Liver Disease. Breast Cancer. Colon Cancer. Sleep Apnea. Mental Health issues.  Don’t believe me? Believe the Centres for Disease Control.

I’m sorry. That ain’t beautiful. Diseases, especially preventable ones, are ugly. I’m not saying that a plus-sized woman can’t be beautiful. What I am saying is that her beauty should not be based on her body size, but on what’s inside her.

But wait: if she’s fat, then what’s inside her is the potential for a lot of ugly diseases.

You know what’s beautiful? Wanna know what’s sexy as hell?

Being healthy. That is glorious.

And that’s why I’m doing this. I am not on this journey to  drop down to a svelte size 2 and suddenly be gorgeous. I am on this journey to be healthy and happy.

As I was researching this post, it hit me: I’ve already been affected by one of the diseases listed on the CDC site. I have osteoarthritis. I’m thirty-friggin-nine years old and I have arthritis. So far, my life hasn’t been too negatively impacted by this disease. So far. But if I don’t take control of my health, it will be.

Every so often, I’ll see people in wheelchairs or scooters that are morbidly obese. I try my best to feel compassion for them and not judge them. In fact, I do feel sorry for them – they cannot be comfortable in the state they are in. I can’t help but wonder, “Which came first? The weight or the mobility issues?” I’m sure it’s different in every case. But I do know that the less you move, the less mobile you become, and the easier it is to gain the weight. I don’t want that to happen to me. I want to run into my 40s, not drag my ass into them!

So, here I sit, a plus-sized girl, struggling with her own body-image issues, questioning society’s perception of beauty, cursing at Hollywood for the hyper-sexualization of sticks with boobs, unhappy with my silhouette, and, honestly, feeling a bit stuck in my journey. Personally, I don’t see a size 22 as beautiful. I see beauty in the person’s soul, the way they treat others, the way they treat themselves.

Truth be told, I struggle with feelings of beauty.

About two months ago, I had a man tell me I was beautiful. When recounting this to my dear friend J., I told her, “That was the first time a man has ever called me beautiful.” She was astonished! She didn’t believe me. I told her, that with the exception of my father (and I honestly can’t remember him saying something like that – not because he doesn’t feel that way, he’s just a man of few words), I had never had a man tell me I was beautiful before.

And sure, it felt fantastic to hear. The important thing was that I was actually able to hear it. I was able to hear it because I first believed it about myself. Yes, I struggle with self-concept and body image (show me a woman who doesn’t!!). But that night, when this incredibly handsome man told me that I was beautiful, I actually believed him because I was able to see the beauty within me.

My beauty has nothing to do with my dress size. It is not going to increase as my dress size decreases. No, my beauty has everything to do with who I am, inside. And who I am is a woman who loves herself enough to take care of her physical, spiritual, and emotion self. That is what beauty is. Not a dress size.

And I guess that’s it: that’s why I had such an issue with this picture. I don’t care if you’re a size 22 a size 2: if you’re not truly taking care of yourself, truly loving and respecting who you are, you’re not beautiful.

Funny thing is: lately, I haven’t been feeling all that beautiful. And I know why: it’s because I haven’t been taking care of my physical self. I’m still struggling to find a balance in the realm of self-care. When one area needs more attention than others, something suffers. Lately, I’ve been dealing with some pretty personal issues, and focusing my energy in the spiritual and emotional realms. The physical care then suffers, which makes me feel worse emotionally.

I need to make physical self-care an essential part of my day. I can’t just tend to it when a problem arises. That’s how I ended up with Osteoarthritis.  I don’t want to add to my health concerns from that list from the CDC. Time to make my physical health a priority.

Because being healthy is beautiful!

The countdown begins…. part 2

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So, last night I was having a wee pity party. Just feeling generally down and discouraged. Then I received the following on my FB wall:

“As your new year begins, you are aware of the possibilities and all your goals and dreams for what is to come. Old habits may resurface briefly as a resistance to change, but be kind to yourself in those moments then bravely move forward into your wonderful new year.”

Of all the kind words and lovely greetings I received today, this one meant the most to me. I needed that reminder to be kind to yourself. This same person recently told me that he thinks I’m a very kind person. And, I suppose it’s true. I do kind things for people; this is how I was raised, it’s just what you do. Like when someone is in pain, sick or injured and can’t get to the store to get some pain relief, you take it to them. Or when a friend is sad, you call them up to say hi. These are just kind things you do. Being kind to others feels good, and it’s good for the soul.

But you know what? I’m willing to guess that a lot of people are kinder to strangers than they are to themselves.

If a friend of mine were to do something to upset or offend me, I’d forgive her. I’m kind to complete strangers: letting someone merge ahead of me in traffic; holding doors open; even just smiling at a complete strangers. I bet you can think of at least one instance in the last 24 hours in which you were kind to someone. If not, shame on you. Don’t be such a grinch, go do something kind, now!

But how many of us are that kind to ourselves? How many of us treat ourselves with loving kindness when we mess up, or are hurt or feeling down? I know I’m not.

And that’s where the pity party last night came from. I haven’t been taking care of myself, and, rather than being kind, I was really hard on myself. The thing is, if someone you knew was consistently not kind to you, you wouldn’t hang around them. You’d, in fact, most likely distance yourself from them. Unfortunately, you can’t distance yourself from, well, yourself.

It’s easy to look for the good in others and respect their journey. Why is it so hard to treat ourselves the same way?

I’m wondering if it has something to do with fear. Every time I’m “stuck” in my life, it seems it’s because of fear. And then, once I face those fears, I am able to overcome obstacles and see my life move in a positive direction. So, what am I afraid of? I have a few theories, but they’re a bit too private to share here.

I do know this: I need to be kind to myself, to accept myself and treat myself with compassion. That’s just my gut feeling about this whole thing. Gut feelings are good, but it’s always nice to have science to back you up. This is a great article on the importance of self-compassion. The author, Dr. Melanie Greenberg, cites the work of Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Neff contrasts self-compassion with self-esteem (which she purports is “based on evidence of superior achievement”), defining it as ” a more constant personal quality, in which we value ourselves and treat ourselves kindly just because we are human,” and views mindfulness as a key element in self-compassion. Dr. Greenberg writes, “The essence of self-compassion is to acknowledge our own emotional suffering and then deliberately comfort ourselves by generating feelings of warmth, softness, and care towards ourselves and, by association, all living beings who are suffering.”

While reading the words “generating feelings of warmth, softness and care towards ourselves,” I thought to myself, “gee. I bet that would feel better than a donut.” And then I kept reading….

Can Self-Compassion Make Me Healthier?

A 2007 study by Neff and colleagues suggests that self-compassion may be an important tool in weight-management and overcoming emotional eating. Students were given donuts to eat and half were assigned at random to hear a compassionate comment from the experimenter, such as ‘Don’t beat yourself up about eating these; subjects eat them all the time.” The other half received the donuts without the comment. Later that day, when given the chance to eat candy, those who heard the compassionate comment ate less. Therefore, self-compassion may help to prevent emotional eating resulting from feeling bad about breaking dietary restriction rules. Future research is needed to look at whether these benefits are also found in clinical populations such as obese people or those with eating disorders.”

So, point taken. Being kind to myself can help me on this journey. And I know, for a fact, that I’m already a kind person. Time to be kind to myself.

How are you kind to yourself?