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.

Advertisements

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.

cropped-10468476_706325529420491_1185440341718504982_o.jpg

Give Yourself The Gift Of Self-Love

wp-1448999133321.jpgI used to spend the month of December in self-reflection hell. It meant I only had a month to get everything on my resolutions list done (remember that thing from January you’ve forgotten about?) It also meant having a month to think about everything I wanted to change about myself.

This year is different. I don’t need self-hate to motivate me into the new year. I don’t have to fight my body composition to win my self worth.

I know that putting pressure on myself doesn’t help me deal with my nervous habits.

I know that I will never fit the narrow definition of perfect. No one does.

Though, I’m disappointed I put off trying Stand Up Comedy. By the time I got the courage to try it, there was no longer open mic comedy nights. Either I’m going to have to travel to a bigger city (which I suppose is an option) or release this goal into the nether. It was one of the many lessons I learned this year: Some challenges in life you are never ready for. You have face them now, or never get the chance.

IMG951083I don’t need a new year to create new goals for myself. I have spent 12 months working on the goals that matter. I continue to work on my journey towards becoming fully body positive. I saw some new waterfalls. We did a couple parks for our park tour. I’ve even learned how to cook some great, healthy food. (This time last year, I was still slightly afraid of raw meat and my slow cooker.) 2016 will be another year full of loving myself as I am, and embracing all the wonderful thing I can, and already, do.

I can love and support without reservation, because I am worthy. I can befriend without fear, because I am a good person. Radical Self Love isn’t just about being able to love how you look in the mirror. It’s about letting go of any negative thoughts about yourself. It’s about believe you are a decent person worthy of the space (no matter how much) you take in this world.

If I could give my friends any gift this holiday, it would be radical self love. They deserve to see themselves how I see them: Beautiful, amazing human beings who light up this world. I wish they knew the differences they make in peoples lives, and how perfect they really are.

wp-1448999148219.jpgUnfortunately, radical self love isn’t purchased in a store, put in box, and wrapped up with a gorgeous bow. Radical self love is a gift you truly give yourself everyday, all day. When you look in the mirror, when you chase your passion, and when you give unyielding love to those around you.

Give your self the gift of freedom. Pamper yourself with the gift of radical self love this season. You are wanted. You are loved. You are worthy.

What The Fat Stigma Study Left Out

girl-517555_1920I’m sure most of you saw the New York Times blog about the Fat Stigma Study. I am absolutely thrilled that researchers are starting to look into the way society actually contributes to disordered relationships with food. We have a huge section of society that believes in the idea of “shaming people thin.” When, really, what they are doing is encouraging more unhealthy habits. When I am shamed, I generally have a greater desire to eat my feelings because I am experiencing an increase in negative emotions (and cortisol according to the study.) In the past, I’ll admit the shame has temporarily motivated me to do start some sort of exercise routine or diet. But, rarely were any of them healthy. Never did any of the stick.

Here’s is what I thought this study, and article, was missing: We can’t control what other people say or do. But, the biggest battle we can actually wage is the shame and guilt we bring on ourselves.

I’m no biochemist, but I’m pretty sure I experience the same sort of cortisol increase when I’m body shaming myself in the mirror. I know I get the same, if not stronger, triggered feeling after bullying myself about my body and my weight. Really, the journey to body positivity for me has very little to do with changing how the world around me reacts to my body shape. (I’m very grateful there are so many amazing warriors fighting the fight, though.) My challenge is changing how I see myself. My goal has been about erasing the negative self-talk tape in my head. Becoming body positive is learning to love myself, unconditionally, however I’m presenting to the world in that moment.

I can’t spend my energy focusing on what other people are saying. I have no doubt I would burn out overnight if I fought, and argued, and screamed every time someone said something that was decidedly anti-body positive.

But, this is what I can do. I can only say (and think) nice things about myself when I’m looking in the mirror. More importantly, I can spend some time naked in front of the mirror reminding myself there are very GOOD things about my body. I can embrace the many body positive bloggers, posters, instagramers, tumblrs, ect. I can ensure that my life is filled with an amazing amount of body positive examples. I can surround myself with friends and influences that are aware of how they speak of their bodies, as well as the body of others.

20150816_163745I don’t discount the study about Fat Stigma. I experience everyday how society is swimming in messages about what a woman’s body (and men’s) should and should not be. Every day I am reminded that a large sect of society believes I should be activity trying to lose weight. The thing is, I know that I’m not able to change society. I will never get the Don Drapers of the world to stop using women’s insecurities to sell EVERY PRODUCT EVER. I know what I can do, and that’s be the change I want to see in the world. I can speak kindly of myself. I can speak kindly to others. I can continue to work on erasing my own negative self-talk tape, and replace it with confidence-boosting speeches. I can surround myself with body positive influences, both in my media and in my friend circles.

I can accept and love myself, as I am, today. I can chase my dreams and goals from a place of self-love. I can exercise accurate self-care as a way of combating those nasty elevations in cortisol.

I am so glad to see a study come out that shows shaming, blaming, and stigmatizing Fat people has a negative impact. What I need to remember, and what I hope others on this journey remember, is we are sometimes are our worst bullies. The voice in our head, which is admittedly fueled by society’s bullshit, can also contribute to this negative impact.

Change your inner voice. Change your world.

IMG_8317

 

Don’t Be A Dick: A Letter To Our Partners

couple-168191_1920Any body positive warrior can rail on and on about the importance of loving yourself. We can tell your spouse, for very good reason, that the only person’s opinion of her body that matters is her own.

Unfortunately, there is one instance can where this logic looses traction. Any woman, anyone, wants to remain attractive for their partner. What my husband thinks of how I look carries a considerable amount of weight with me. There are many times, especially for special occasions, when I dress purely to please him. I want to know he still finds me desirable. Even when my body changes with the seasons of life.

My husband has made, what he believed to be, simple statements that changed the way I did things for years. I still have trouble dancing in front him, because one simple, alcohol fueled, comment he made when we were dating.

So, partners, please do not under estimate the power of your words on your partner’s self esteem.

Let me let you in on a little secret. The way you treat a woman’s mind, and the effort you put into caring and cultivating her self esteem will be returned to you ten-fold. Women are like flowers in that respect. If we do not get sunshine, good soil, and plenty of water, we will never bloom for you. The more you starve us of your warmth, your care, and your support the more quickly we will wither away, and our feelings for you as well.

Make no mistake, the more your partner begins to devalue herself because of your hurtful words the quicker she will also devalue you as a partner in her life.

I get it. Bodies change. You are surrounded by the same media she is, and probably also have a tough time believing that beauty goes beyond the societal standard. You might just be a decent guy who wants his “old” partner back who had the young body and youthful smile. Let me give you some advice to help you out.

  1. Look in the mirror: Have you looked in the mirror lately? I’m guessing you don’t look like your 21 year old self, either.  Does your reflection in the mirror look exactly like the one when you first met? My guess is, probably not. Time is not kind to anyone. Even though society has a kinder approach to how men age, keep in mind that you may not be the hunk she first fell in love with, either.
  2. Be Supportive. Be Kind. Don’t Be A Dick: Truth bomb. Women who are participating in sabotaging behavior, especially when they weren’t before, may be having a crisis of self-esteem. You may think your being helpful when you tell her to get to ass off the couch and exercise, or that her ass looks like it was beat with a bag of nickels, but your doing the exact opposite. You are reinforcing the negative feelings and emotions, which most likely will send her into more unhealthy behavior. Don’t want your wife to eat so much chocolate? Here’s a tip: Don’t be a dick.  On the other side of the coin: Sudden, unexplained weight gain could be caused by any number of health issues. So, maybe instead of worrying about your wife’s outward appearance, you should focus on her internal health. If she’s healthy, then it is what is it. Again: Don’t be a dick.
  3. Remember She Is A Human Being: She is not just some sex doll. She is a human, with feelings and emotions. If you truly love her, then you love her for more than just what she looks like. Focus on those things. Again, bodies change. But her mind, her sense of humor, all the other things that attracted her to you won’t change. Guys, do you realize your wife created life for you. Her.Body.Created.Life. Perhaps you can back off it a touch, eh? (Side note: If the only thing that motivated you to commit to her was her looks, then I can’t help you. You will probably never find a long-lasting, long term relationship with a woman until you take a look at your shallowness. Just sayin’)
  4. Don’t Sabotage Her: If she (not you, SHE) decides she wants to make some lifestyle changes, don’t sabotage them. She may need more time to herself, so she can go to the gym a few nights a week. She may not be able to eat red meat every night. For her to make these changes, it sometimes means making changes to the whole family’s lives. If I were you, not only would I support her new goals but I would get on board with them. (Remember tip #1?) But, at the very least, don’t complain or get in her way.
  5. Is It Really Her Weight?: I’m not a marriage counselor. But, when people start being dicks to each other about things that make no sense (and trust me, being a dick about her appearance is one of those) sometimes it’s because something else is bothering you. I’m sorry to go all psycho-babble bull*#&^ on you man, but it’s true. Take a second to figure out what is really bothering you. Again, if your the decent guy I’m hoping you are, I’m guessing her weight isn’t as big of a deal as you think it is.

Five simple suggestions, my friend. Number two sums it up well, though. Be supportive. Be kind. Don’t be a dick.

Love your partner. With everything you have, and everything you are. Real love goes beyond how a body changes. Bodies change. Lives change. A real relationship learns to morph and grow with these changes in both people. If you want to grow old with her, then love what her body is turning into. You see those stretch marks? She earned those stripes creating life for you. See that cellulite? It’s proof she has lived. See her mid section? She has had some amazing meals that she has created memories over, memories that probably light up her face and remind her of amazing times.girl-517555_1920

Let me leave you with a couple of videos. Body shaming is a real thing. It causes real damage. You may think your being funny, but your really just hurting the person you love. Treat her like a flower. Give her warmth of your support. Give her fertile, rich soil in the form of a supportive home. Give her your love, and let it rain down on her. I promise, you will get your “old” partner back. She might not look the same, but she will love as strongly, if not more strongly, than when you first said the worlds.

P.S.: It is hard to write a post like this without using gender identifiers. Body shaming happens to everyone. I know this speaks a lot of men shaming women, but that can go both ways. Women, follow the same advice. Be supportive. Be kind. Don’t be a dick. 

 

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.

cropped-img_83171.jpg

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.)