A Wayword BoPo Sheep

20150822_111131I am struggling with my body positivity. I’m not sure what else there is to say. The soaring confidence I used to have in the body positivity movement doesn’t seem to be coursing through my veins like before.

It’s not that I don’t believe in the movement. In fact, I still believe it has done tremendous things for my life. I would have never embraced my ability to dance without it. I never would have explored the forest, waterfalls, and hiking in general with out it. I certainly would not have found the confidence to get on stage and try stand up comedy with out Body Positivity.

Yet, if I were to give a “State of My Union” address, I would have to say the state of my self-confidence is at a low. It’s not an all-time low. I still know I am in a better place mentally than I was when I started this journey two years ago. But, it is low.

The only thing I can pinpoint this dip in self-confidence is starting comedy. Specifically, watching myself on video constantly. I tape every set I do. I want to see how my material does. I want to see what nervous ticks I have on stage so I can work on them. The problem with cameras, especially when you have to prop them with beer bottles on a table, is the angles suck. I see myself, admittedly, at some of the worst angles in some the harshest, unflattering light. As I find less about my performance to beat myself up over, I find myself focusing on what I look like on stage.

Let’s be honest. It doesn’t matter what your size is. It is important to think about your image when you are building a career like comedy. It’s important to think about what people see on stage. I have no guitar to hide behind. I have no distractions on stage. It is just me, microphone in hand, wanting to gain the trust of an audience enough that they are willing to find humor where they might not otherwise. What I wear, what I look like is important.

It’s important for anyone, in any field. There is room for personal flair, and for all body types. In whatever any of us do, it’s important to project confidence and look like you have your shit together.
12705568_10207076201757668_390478687671836899_nBut, I’m struggling with the duality of it. Does this mean that I need to worry about my VBO in jeans? The rolls that I have? I’ll be honest. It drives me absolutely nuts. If there is anything about what I see on camera, it’s my midsection that fucks with my mind more than anything else. Where is the line between ensuring I look put together and trustworthy, and yet embracing my body for what it currently is with love and respect?

I don’t know the answer. I am far from someone who can give advice at this point. Perhaps I need some.

It’s not fair to blame it all on comedy, either. That ordeal with Craiglist hit me harder than I ever wanted to admit to anyone. I still struggle with stepping in front of anyone without thinking about it. The struggle with online hate is real. Maybe I should have waited longer before entering a new career, a new community, a new spotlight before working through that. There are other factors, other influences, that don’t have the same BoPo philosophy. It’s also not fair to blame anyone by myself. I have lost my way.

I am a wayward sheep. The farther I wander from my herd, the farther I get from the habits that helped me love my body, and the closer I get to the habits that didn’t. I drink less water. I drink more soda. I put garbage in my body. I will say, this moment has helped me remember something vital about this movement. When you love something, you treat it with care. Body positivity helped me love my body, and want to take care of it. The farther I get from that, the more I don’t care.

I think it’s the feeling of failure that burdens me the most. How could I be such a proponent of a moment for two years, and the moment I really become tested lose my way?

And, I hate to talk about it. I don’t want to be one of those women that seeks input from others to feel better about themselves. I don’t want to be a woe-is-me about this. But, I wonder if it’s important for others to see the struggle. It’s not always easy, all the time. Every journey has up and downs.

We All Lose Our Way

20150328_140727I feel like I’ve been writing a lot about the intersection of body positivity and health. I get on the soapbox and talk about it’s possible to live in that intersection without sacrificing your self love or your desire to be your healthiest self. There is a way to meld these two together in harmony. It’s all about checking your motivatations and not making any decision purely to chase the unattainable goal of the perfect looking body. Thinness isn’t health. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Here’s the thing. I’m feeling like a fraud lately.

Ever since I went on stage for my first open mic, I’ve been battling the old voices. I thought I was strong, and ready to take my next step into the world. But, I worry. Will my weight keep people for appreciating my humor? Will people give me a chance? Will they still be able to relate to me, and what I’m saying, even if I don’t “look pleasing?” Do I need to start wearing make up at every show, and update my wardrobe?

It has motivated me to start working out at home. This is something I have battled forever. “Traditional” exercise has always made me feel weak in the past. But, that has changed. I am up to doing 100 squats, 100 crunches, and 85 push ups. I’m going slow, but it is feeling amazing.

But I know I’m doing it for the wrong reasons. I’m doing it in hopes that, eventually, it will start changing some of the dimensions of my body. I’m hoping, on top of all the healthy stuff I am already doing, this will help my body begin to conform to a more “acceptable” shape.

20140823_085751There is some truth to my rationalizations. I’m not hiking right now, it’s too cold and wintery for me. And, it doesn’t stay light late enough for me to go for walks after my husband gets home. Plus, I’m not dancing as often. So, I need to do something at home while my son is at school. I need to keep my stamina up so I can hike and hunt waterfalls this coming season.

But, I have to admit, my head isn’t in the right place, either.

We all get lost on our journeys. No one is prepared for every twist and turn. The trick to is find your way again. I’ll get there. So will you.

The Intersection of “Health” Management and Body Positivity

IMG_5639624664301It seems like most of us are on two separate paths, or streets if you will.

Health Management Freeway: Diets, workouts, the general rat race of “weight loss.” It’s packed, crowded, and you get some rush hour traffic in January. Everyone has been on this freeway in one way or another their whole lives. Some people are on it for their entire lives.

Body Positive Way: This street is certainly not as crowded. It’s definitely the path less traveled. Body positivity is all about loving yourself for who you are, believing that all bodies are good bodies, and not stressing diet and exercise.

You would think these are two roads that are headed in opposite directions.

Yet, I think everyone who even considers becoming body positive eventually comes to the intersection of health management and body positivity. Just because I love and accept my body for what it is doesn’t mean that I ignore the fact that it is still an organic machine. It needs specific foods to function. It needs activity to keep it strong. I have many different health problems that run in my family, that necessitate me keeping track of my food choices. But, I also have a disordered relationship with my body image, that necessitates me detaching my self worth from my outward appearance. (Though, let’s be honest. Everyone should be doing this anyway.)

So, what do you do when you build a house at the corner of the Health Management Freeway and Body Positive Way? How can anyone both focus and strive for any sort of health goal (weight or otherwise) without falling into the unhealthy traps of disordered eating and self-hate?

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I have all the answers. I’ve heard a couple different programs and books being suggested through the small sect of the BoPo community that I am connected with. (Health at Every Size, Mindful Eating, Intuitive Eating.) I’ll be honest, I haven’t really looked into any of them. I tend to be one of those “I need to do it on my own” types. It must be an ego thing.

20150614_114923What I can tell you, having set up shop on this confusing corner myself, and I’m constantly monitoring my motivations. I’m grateful I’ve had over a year to practice listening to what my inner voice says, and learning to change it to a more positive mindset.

So, when I think about the health goals I have, I refuse to think about my outward appearance. Should it come up in my brain, I let it go and replace it with a more constructive thought.

For example, I want to incorporate some sort of home work out into my routine this winter. I want to do this because I have a goal of visiting every waterfall in my state, and I’m starting to run out of the easy ones. Soon, I’m going to have to do more difficult hikes, and in a year or two I will have to start doing backpacking trips. So, I need to build of my stamina and my core strength. Do I care if it changes how my body looks? Absolutely not. Do I care if I end up losing weight? No.

I want to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in my diet. I want to do this because I know too much processed food is bad for me. I’m starting to think that, as I get older, my body is not a huge fan of cheese. Also, diabetes and heart disease run in my family. And, now that I’m… older… I am starting to realize I really should pay attention to these things. Am I focused on how a change in my diet will change my weight? Nope. Do I care? Absolutely not.

Dance SelfieHere’s my theory. My focus should be on what makes me feel fulfilled and content. My mind, and my body, feel better when I treat them both with respect. Every body is different. It’s about listening to what MY body wants. What MY body craves. I can tell you, it doesn’t crave crossfit. It does, however, absolutely love a good hike. Heck, even a good 2-3 mile hike in the wilderness does wonders for my mood. My body does not crave brussel sprouts. Nope. But, it is enjoying Spaghetti Squash, Cauliflower popcorn, and the occasional Zucchini noddle. It also enjoys a snickers bar and the seldom made homemade cupcakes. My goal is to do things that make my body happy. Dancing makes my body happy. Long showers makes it happy. Cuddling with my family, and reading under blankets, and watching star trek while knitting, also make it happy.

Will my body composition change as I get more in tune with what MY body needs? Perhaps. But that is up to my “physical transportation vessel”. Whether it changes or not doesn’t modify who I am as a person. Whether I lose weight, or gain weight, has little to no barring on my goals and life. So, I refuse to pay attention to it. I’m not sure the last time I stepped on a scale at home, but it’s been over six months. I certainly don’t plan to break that anytime soon.

So, that’s how I plan to be happy at the intersection of health management and body positivity. I don’t have to join the rush hour traffic of self hatred. Honestly, I think true body positivity leads to health more quickly and efficiently than the freeway does anyway. It’s all about loving and accepting yourself. Our goals should always be to learn to listen to what our bodies want, not what other people think our bodies need. There is no healthier lifestyle than that.


Coming To Terms With My Sensitivity

I realized something recently. And, even though it scares me to be so open about it, I wonder if maybe it will help others. It should be said, that I do not believe that everyone who is on the journey of body positivity shares my same personality traits. We are all unique individuals.

10298045_706325596087151_5885683421153360480_oI am very sensitive. Any criticism has always gone straight into my heart and burrowed it’s way to my very soul. So many of these stinging words still make an unhappy home there. You could say that the locust of my identity has always been singularly exterior. (If you get that reference, I owe you a paper on adolescent gibbons.)

I’m sure you can imagine how being so sensitive can be connected to body image issues. When I looked in the mirror I was thinking about what other people saw. My entire self-image was dictated by the opinions of others. (Yes, as I type that I see the sad irony.) But, as I move with this journey of self acceptance, I am starting to learn that what other people think of me is none of my business and therefore meaningless. What matters is what I think. I think of my body is capable of many amazing things, certainly more than I used to give her credit for. She grew a human. She does a spectacular body roll. She can hike. She can dance. She can comfort. She can laugh.

My whole life, if other people thought I wasn’t good at something, I always took their word for it. Now, I’m learning to neither ask or care what someone else thinks. I am my only judge. Once I started seeing my body without the filter of other people’s opinions, the fog started to lift on the rest of my life. It was like seeing the world through my own eyes for the first time.

cropped-10468476_706325529420491_1185440341718504982_o.jpgAnd, that’s what this journey does for me. It’s not just about being able to look at my body in a mirror (though the fact that I smile when I do is a nice change.) Becoming body positive hasn’t just been about finding more freedom in my wardrobe (though not caring about fashion rules has made my closet more lively.) Going on this journey of self acceptance has improved every aspect of my life. I have learned to harness my own power, and not give it away to others.

I no longer believe that I am too fat to do anything. I no longer believe that my outward appearance dictates my worth. I no longer let other people’s opinions become my self-image.  As I debunk all the criticisms I have taken to heart over the years I am learning the truth. I am worthy. I am capable. I am loved.

So, even though I started this journey focusing solely on my appearance, I’m realizing the work I have been doing as been strictly internal. It’s not about telling other people what they should see when they look at me, but what I see when I look at myself.

I’m also realizing that being sensitive isn’t a bad thing. I can be sensitive to how my actions affect those around me. Instead of focusing on how people speak to and about me, I can focus on how I speak about and to others. And, that is really what life is all about. We are all individuals, each with a unique skill set. I was given the gift of sensitivity, and thanks to the body positive movement, I now have the freedom to use it to make the world a better place.




How Giving Up The Fat Shame Spiral Made My Life Better

20140921_154550The caveat to every fat shaming rant is they are never talking about people with legitimate health conditions. Even though they are really talking about everyone because you can never see the difference, the one saving grace is they aren’t talking about most obese people.

I, however, am their target audience. I have no withstanding medical conditions. I have no legitimate “excuses”. (There are multitudes of people in the world that have real reasons why losing weight is difficult. The struggle for them is insanely real.)

Sure, I could go on a long diatribe of reasons and set backs. It could probably be incredibly convincing by the time I’m done, but even I know better. If I would have had better discipline and habits in my early life, I would not look the way I do. And, that is what these fat shamers want to see. Yes, I take responsibility for my outward appearance.

But, does this mean I should hate myself thin?

I hit the full fat shame spiral at the end of 2013, and decided (again) to dedicate myself to counting calories and exercising every day. Myfitnesspal.com and I were inseparable. And, sure, in a couple months I lost 20 pounds. For every pound I lost, I gained more despair. I was still fat. I knew, because I have lost over 60 pounds twice in my life before, that even when I hit that big loss goal I would still look fat. Even at my healthiest, I have always been stocky.

It began to feel like I was driving my soul into a life of lifelessness.

Then, I met some women who loved themselves. Women who truly, without abandon, love who they are and how they live. There was no talk about weight loss when we sat at the table. The conversations were about hobbies, interests, all the things that fed their soul. I was watching people living the happy life I wanted.

That’s when it hit me. I was letting the world around me say what my body and soul needed. I was believing the lie that to be happy is to be healthy and to be healthy is to be thin. I was stuck in the circle of shame that says until you meet a certain standard for beauty you have no right to happiness, or love. Can you imagine what that does to a marriage, to all your relationships, when you believe you are unworthy of love?

So, I began to believe in myself. I started listening to my internal dialog, and realized I was my own toughest fat shamer. I questioned all the limits I had put on myself and all the times I said I couldn’t do something, because I was fat. I stopped exercising at home. I no longer felt the need to protect the world from the sight of a fat body sweating.

20140823_085751When I began to explore world, and all the active hobbies that were available to me, I realized I love to hike. Just as importantly, I learned that I could hike. I have worked my way from 1 mile loops in town to 9 mile treks in the wilderness. I found strength, and power, in the waterfalls I visited. I discovered a love, and a new goal that will probably take my whole life to accomplish. I found a hobby that feeds my soul as much as it works my body.

I learned that I love to dance. I have always liked dancing, but when your stuck in that fat shame spiral you don’t believe you should dance, or at least I didn’t anyway. I felt like no one wanted to see a fat person dancing. Once I started realizing the only opinion that really matters was my own, I woke up to the fact that dancing makes me feel alive and at the same time provides a type of moving meditation. It quiets my head, and all the voices of the world that tell me that I am unworthy. I love it so much, I spend almost an hour a day practicing at home on top of the almost 15 hours a week on the floor.

It was amazing, the transformation from focusing on how I was treating my body to how I was treating my soul. The shame began to diminish. My feelings of worthlessness began to dissipate. I suddenly felt worthy of love. It began to dawn on me that I never truly loved myself, and only when I love something do I really want to take care of it.

I don’t get on the scale anymore, because I don’t believe there is anything about that number that matters to me. I still look at the calories of meals, and am learning to make better choices. The difference is, I make this choices out of love. I don’t feel like I am denying myself. I do this because I am worthy of focus. And, honestly, am I beginning to enjoy discovering new likes and preferences. For the record, steamed broccoli is not as bad as I remember it.

20150816_163745And, yes, I am still losing weight. Maybe not as efficiently as others. But, I do find that every few months I am having to dig out a smaller size of pants from my stash of old clothes in the back of my closet. And, although I know it is blasphemous to my new mindset, it does make me smile. The other day, I bought shorts that were size 15-17. When I started this journey I was wearing jeans that were size 22-24. The difference is, that smile doesn’t dissipate when I have a setback. I don’t have to wait until I get to a goal weight to love who I see in a mirror.

20150831_112457So, yes, I am the kind of fat person that all those negative voices are yelling at. I have no legitimate “excuse” for my body composition. I feel like I tried life the “traditional” way for almost 30 years. It only brought me the weight of guilt and shame. That fear and worthlessness only fed into my negativity and created the breading ground for unhealthy habits.

More importantly, no one should have to justify their outward appearance. We, as individuals, have the right to treat our bodies as we see fit. If I chose to drive my body into an early grave, so be it. If I chose to feed my soul with food that I love, that is my call. If I chose to find the fat in my body beautiful, that is my choice. If I chose a path to healthiness that focuses on my soul instead of my waistline, it is my path to follow. No one has to explain themselves to anyone.

Maybe fat shaming works for some people in my place. I’ll admit it has motivated me to get off the couch before. But, for me (and maybe it’s just me as an “inexcusable” fat person, I can’t claim to speak for all of us) I had to lose the weight of guilt and shame before I could lose anything else. I had to gain self-love first. Only through my new journey have I begun to find sustainable, healthy, lifestyle changes that will stick. No more unhealthy crash diets and no more fear of living.


fatshamingThe problem with fat shaming, is it affects everyone. It is emotional terrorism on anyone with a body, whether it is the type of body they mean for it to affect or not. I accept that I may be the “hideous” and “repulsive” type of fat person that needs to be told to kill myself, according to these voices. Which doesn’t bother me, because I stop listening to them a long time ago. But they are yelling these harmful messages at everyone. And, they need to stop. Discriminating against people of different body types is the last, socially acceptable form of discrimination. It is wrong, and it is damaging our society. It contributes to eating disorders of all kind, and the destruction of the mental health of thousand (of all body types.)