The First 10 Pounds

Road Map to Weight Loss

If by “diet” you mean “paleo”, then yes, we’re in business.

Today I hit 184.8 lbs. A couple of years ago, had you told me that I’d be this heavy, I would have been appalled. But today, I’m happy. I’m happy because 19 days ago I was 194.8 lbs., and yesterday I fit into jeans I haven’t been able to wear for a few months. Ten easy pounds down – 40 much harder ones to go.

First off, let’s just get this out of the way – weight loss is not magical. Weight loss is not something to be done quickly. It’s totally possible to take diet pills and starve yourself and get skinny (I know this because I’ve done it in the past), but that shit catches up with you in the end (see 1st paragraph). The full extent of my “magic formula” thus far is lifting weights and doing high intensity interval training five days a week, 45 minutes a day, walking between 5 and 8 miles a day, eating paleo, staying hydrated (aiming for my body weight in oz. of water), taking fish oil and PAGG supplements, and keeping track of everything in a food/exercise journal.

All through high school, I was 135 lbs. I ran track and ate whatever I wanted, and I had a decent enough figure. Then I went to college, in the first semester I gained 20 lbs. from sleeping in and eating as much food as a non-body-conscious 18 year old is bound to do on an unlimited meal plan. A few people told me that the weight looked good on me, and rather than take a look and decide for myself, I decided that sounded OK and just went with it. I remained at 155 lbs. throughout college and into my early 20’s, when Hurricane Katrina disrupted my life. For about 5 months after Katrina, I was too broke to eat properly, and I dropped back down to 135 again (still no exercise, just no food). Then I got back to New Orleans and gradually started gaining the weight back, plateauing at 155 until 2007, when I went through a particularly stressful period and went up to around 165. I moved to Chicago, started going to the gym a couple of hours a day, training for a marathon, and doing Bikram yoga, and quickly dropped back down to 145 again, at one point getting as low as 138 while doing a raw cleanse. When I got back to New Orleans again in 2011, I slowly started putting on more weight, passed my normal plateau point of 155, and just kept going until now.

Every single one of the drastic losses have happened as a result of either crazy exercise – hours and hours per day – and/or crazy food restrictions. None of them has been sustainable, or in the least enjoyable. Every time I’ve dieted, I’ve spent pretty much every waking hour craving whatever it was that I wasn’t supposed to be eating (and those ingredients have varied wildly, as I flitted from diet to diet). The exercise has me completely worn out all day. I’m irritable, and frequently experience dizzy spells throughout the day.

So what’s the difference now?

First off, I’ve decided that this is it. This is the heaviest I will ever be, and come hell or high water, I’m going to make the changes that are necessary to get healthy and stay that way. I’m also 19 days into a 40 day challenge period at my gym, Iron Tribe, where I’ve been given the goal of staying as paleo as possible, working out at least 5 times per week, and staying physically active throughout the rest of my day. Not only am I not craving anything (except for brownies, which I’m getting ready to fix tomorrow with this stellar paleo brownie recipe I just found tonight), I’m not feeling tired, sick, or dizzy. I feel HEALTHY. Sturdy. Capable of more if I want to push the limits. Excited to continue to push those limits after this 40 days is up. For the first time in my memory, I feel like I’m getting this weight loss thing right. And it feels so good.

So yeah, I’m still a good 40 lbs. over where I’d like to be, but I have faith that I’m going to get there. The first ten pounds are out of the way, and the rest are going to take considerably longer than 19 days to disappear. But I know that it took me years to put on this weight, and with some faith, I’ll excel in shedding it again. For good this time.

One other thing that I’m really excited about is that I haven’t had a drink in 19 days. During the last year or so of my old relationship, I was drinking a few glasses of wine most days, and sometimes more. In retrospect, I realize that this was extremely unhealthy, physically and emotionally, since I was doing it to make my life bearable. Even after moving into my own place, and transitioning into a much more healthy relationship with my current beau, I was still going out and having a few drinks a couple of days a week. I wasn’t seeing not drinking as an option (as many people here in New Orleans don’t), and to be honest, I hate social engagements when I’m sober. In general, I just don’t like being in big groups of people, or going out to loud, crowded bars or concerts. I’d much rather stay home or hang out with a few people at a time. I was drinking to make talking to people bearable, but in the end, I was experiencing many more negative side effects than positive. Mornings after were never pleasant, and my depression definitely sunk its claws in more on days after I’d had a few drinks.

It was such a relief to have this challenge pop up and, well, challenge me to give up drinking and see how I’d feel without it. I’ve cut down on going out, that’s for sure, so I’m nowhere near as social as I was trying to be. But overall, I don’t care. I don’t miss being out at all, and if knocking booze out of the picture means that I’ll be less sad and start to lose some weight, I call it a fair trade. Even though I’m not addicted to alcohol in a dire sense, I’m glad to be able to address my need to dull the pain of social interaction with substances (including scarfing down bar food to avoid talking). Whether that means I’ll be losing friends in the end still remains to be seen, but overall, everyone’s been really supportive so far.

I could just keep writing on my feelings about this drastic change. Like how excited I am to eat bacon every morning, or how weird and amazing it is to walk past the cheese aisle and not fall to my knees (mentally, at least) with the overwhelming need for a wedge of brie. But it’s time for one of the most important parts of keeping my body healthy – sleep. A glorious 8 hours of it. All mine. Damn, I’m digging being me right now.

Beautiful Is

Helen-Keller-quotes-about-beauty

It’s funny the things that we grow up learning not to say. When I was a little girl, my mother would have a fit whenever my father sometimes uttered “shit” or “damn” by accident. She wanted me to grow up to be a lady, and ladies never use what people in my neck of the woods call “cuss words”. In the end, her plan backfired. Every time she shushed my father’s errant cusses, it only served to make me more excited about the day I’d finally be able to pepper my own conversations with those juicy and forbidden verbal fruits. I actually added a few words in, just for good measure. Yes, Mum, I talk like a sailor when I’m not around you. Sorry about that.

The failure with cussing aside, sometimes her lessons worked. There were other things that I was instructed to avoid saying, things that still very rarely cross my lips. Two words that almost never see the light of day in my household are “ugly” and “stupid”. Even writing them feels unfair, crass, cruel. I mean, sure, every now and then I’ll describe an inanimate object as ugly, or an action as stupid, but when it comes down to it, I’d still rather use other words if possible. I don’t even like it when people talk about having an “ugly Christmas sweater”. It makes me feel sorry for the poor sweater. Guess that means I was programmed well.

That being the case, I’d especially never use either word to describe a person. But even though “ugly” is something I’d never call myself, neither is “beautiful”. Why is that?

Today’s prompt (Day 13) in Beautiful You is to talk about what the word “beautiful” means to us, and consider what it is that makes us use the word to describe other people. Maybe through exploring how we feel about beauty, we can be one step closer to understanding that we might just fit into our own parameters, and be beautiful, too.

To me, the most beautiful people I’ve met are those who shine from within. I’m picturing a handful of truly beautiful folks right now, and comparing them with each other in my mind. Each is kind, and would never be cruel intentionally. Each is willing to listen. Each is willing to help. Each is quick with a smile, and bounces back easily from adversity. Whether or not they believe in a higher power, they’ve each seemed to be a product of fate, as far as I was concerned. Each of the most beautiful lights in my life has appeared just when I needed them most, and imparted some kind of lesson to me. None of them are conventionally physically beautiful, but their attitudes and behavior make that kind of thing unnecessary. The light within gives them that kind of glow from which no sensible person can turn away.

I can only hope to be as beautiful as that one day. Until now, it’s never occurred to me that I was hoping for that kind of thing, but I’d love to be someone’s beacon one day. If it happens, it happens. But if not, that’s OK. I feel good about being me. It’s hard not to, when you realize how much beauty surrounds you.

 

The Transformation Challenge

I'm so excited - my gym is actually getting special Mardi Gras shirts made. Totally geeking out over this one :-D

I’m so excited – my gym is actually getting special Mardi Gras shirts made. Totally geeking out over this one :-D

It’s 10 days into the Transformation Challenge at my gym, Iron Tribe, and quite unexpectedly, I’m loving it. The challenge is, well, challenging, but also pretty simply laid out, in my opinion. From January 5th to February 13th, participants eat a strict paleo diet and work out up to 5 times a week at the gym. There are two competitions that are running concurrently: a weight loss division, and a performance division. I’m in the weight loss division, obviously.

There’s a point system for determining the winner. It’s a little complicated, so I won’t break it down entirely, but it includes points for working out in certain amounts, points for keeping a detailed food/water/sleep/exercise journal, points for completing a goal setting course, and points for each .2% of fat lost over the course of the challenge. The prizes are HUGE. First place winner gets a $200 gift certificate to Whole Foods (some of you might recognize it as Whole Paycheck), a free month at the gym, a free week of paleo food from Inner Fire Grill (yum), an entire free outfit from Lululemon, and a free 80 minute massage. Second place gets $150 at Whole Foods, $50 at a nearby restaurant, and a free month at the gym. Third gets $100 at Whole Foods and a great supplements package. I’m in it to win it, so I’m visualizing myself in a brand new Lululemon getup :-D

I'm coveting these awesome Lululemon pants.

I’m coveting these awesome Lululemon pants.

The awful thing: I had my body fat measured (by caliper) at the beginning of the challenge, and it came in at 43.1%. Meaning that at 5’7″ and 194.8 lbs, I was/am obese. I don’t look it – I mean, I know I’ve put on a little weight in my butt and thighs, and my boobs are bigger (how can that be a bad thing, you ask) but overall I don’t look like I weigh what I weigh. I’ve only gone up one pants size, even with all the additional weight I’ve put on over the last year or so – but “obese” put the fear of god in me. So I’ve been taking this thing seriously. And it hasn’t been hard. That’s the part that’s blowing my mind.

I’m at the gym daily, lifting weights or doing whatever the WOD is that day. I walk to and from work/the gym from my house, and then anywhere else I have to go, so I’m typically walking between 5 and 9 miles a day. I ran a 5k on Saturday morning, and went to my first yoga class in ages on Monday night. And I’ve been eating clean – all organic, no processed food, sugar, wheat, dairy, legumes, alcohol or sodas. You’d think I’d be losing my shit by now, not having a single slice of pizza or sip of wine, but overall I just feel…good. Just good. Not great. Not more focused. Not suddenly insightful or whatever it is that people always proclaim when they’ve found the diet to end all diets. Maybe that’s because it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. It’s something that will sustain me for the long term, and the longer I go, the better I’ll feel. I’m pretty certain I’ve still got some thyroid stuff going on, especially with the recent struggle with depression, and that’s definitely going to take some of the “high” out of whatever impact this change is having on me. But overall, “good” is much, much better than what I’d been living with prior to starting this new lifestyle. And it’s easy. For the first time in my life, I’ve found a way to eat that doesn’t have me sad and craving constantly. I think I’ll keep doing it.

It’s having other effects, too. As of today, 10 days in, I’ve lost 7.2 lbs. I’m still too heavy, and I have a LONG way to go to get to my goal weight of 145 lbs, but that’s nothing new. But suddenly I feel like it’s not farfetched to picture myself finally wearing a bikini this summer, or trying out a miniskirt before I get too old to wear one (I’ve been dying to try out a TOS Star Trek uniform – yes, I’m a geek).

That's one nearly non-existent skirt you've got there, Uhura.

That’s one nearly non-existent skirt you’ve got there, Uhura.

I think that maybe part of feeling so relaxed about this is from the work I’ve been doing with that book, Beautiful You. Once I get home tonight, I’ll tackle the next chapter.

So what are you doing lately that makes you proud of yourself, internet friends? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment, or direct me to your latest blog post about your achievements. I’d be more than happy to help you celebrate!

Dissatisfaction

“Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?”

- Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby

Today’s prompt (gee, I’m going slowly – just on Day 12) in Beautiful You is to realize that my dissatisfaction is not about my body, but rather other things in my life. I’m supposed to consider that fact, and see what my mind is really trying to tell me. What else should I be addressing?

I don’t necessarily believe that being unhappy with the way I look is to be blamed entirely on other life problems. That being said, of course there are a ton of things that all of us need to work on to create better lives for ourselves. I could write a thousand page dissertation on all of the things that I’m dissatisfied in this world, starting with the Charlie Hebdo massacre, easing into the destruction of the rainforest, and rounding out nicely with bigoted, low-IQ’d fundamentalists and their conservative buddies in Congress who are trying to shove their ideals down our throats at every twist and turn these days.

But given today’s reading, I feel like I’m supposed to be talking about what in my life is so dissatisfying that that I’d turn it all inward and focus on being ashamed of my body. Let’s see.

I’m terribly smart, so it’s not that. I’m witty, and I make people laugh. Not uproariously, of course, but I’m not devoid of humor, so that’s a good thing. I’m mildly successful, and creative, and I try very hard to be very nice. So none of those. I’m not really that talented at anything though. I’m a good writer, and a good singer, and I make origami, and I put together great outfits when I try. I’m also a good cook, though I hate cooking and try to avoid it as much as possible.

OK, I’ve figured it out. Kinda. I procrastinate a lot. When I’m anxious, I freeze up (if it’s the good kind of anxious, because otherwise I have a panic attack or something similar). When I freeze up, the only way I can calm myself down is by ignoring the thing that made me anxious. Since almost everything makes me anxious these days – phone calls, emails, talking to people, social engagements of any kind, social media, trying to write long form, trying to be creative, you name it, it’s stressing me the fuck out – this process of ignoring things turns into procrastination. Procrastination begets its own kind of stress. Now, I’m not stupid, I can honestly look at this situation and go, “well, if it stresses you out to procrastinate, wouldn’t it be better to break down the things you have to do into small, manageable chunks and accomplish them that way?” No shit. It’s how I end up making it through every day without boiling over into panic attack mode. But every single day is a repeat of the scenario. It’s driving me crazy. It’s definitely driven me to depression.

But now I’m reading back through this, and I don’t know if I’ve answered the question at all. Maybe these are two different issues that happen to be going on at the same time. Hmmm.

I guess the other reason I might be dissatisfied and taking it out on my body is that I’m dissatisfied with the way my life has turned out. But no, that’s not either. I’m dissatisfied with the way my life has turned out, so I overeat and drink, which in turn makes me gain weight (along with the thyroid issue), and then I’m dissatisfied with my body. But I guess that works. It’s not that I’m dissatisfied with my life and blaming it on my body, it’s that I’m dissatisfied with life and find a way to treat that dissatisfaction in an unhealthy way that allows me to turn my attention on my body. Woohoo! Great to know.

Well, I’m already treating part of the issue – I’ve been eating paleo (including no drinking) for a week now. I’ve lost over 6 lbs already, and aside from being tired from my workouts, I’m feeling pretty OK with my body right now. It feels strong, and that’s good. I deadlifted 105 lbs the other day!

I guess that being dissatisfied with the way I look could very well be related to being embarrassed and awkward when it comes to presenting myself physically. I hate being looked at, and any time I get in the spotlight, it makes me really uncomfortable. The same thing happens all the time at work and in social situations – I’ve just learned how to hide how I’m feeling and project a somewhat more confident exterior to my clients and colleagues. The constant doubt and fear does impact me on a personal level every day, and probably also has something to do with my procrastination and interpersonal relationship issues. This is something to think about.

Make ‘Em Laugh

Click through to find out more about this book I keep going on about :-)

Click through to find out more about this book I keep going on about :-)

I’m not quite sure what day of Beautiful You I’m supposed to be at today (it’s one of those chapter-per-day books, where there’s an exercise each day for a year), but I’ve only made it to Day 10. Which is absolutely fine, because today I’m supposed to be sharing positive thoughts about myself, and for most of my holiday break, it was difficult – nearing on impossible, in fact – to find a single one. Luckily, I’m feeling pretty happy today, so I’m sure I’ll be able to dredge something up.

First off, today’s the second day of the Iron Tribe (that’s my gym, btw) Transformation Challenge, and I’m loving it so far. There are two different divisions – performance and weight loss. I’m doing weight loss, since it’ll probably be a year or more until I’m as strong as some of the people are in the performance division. Yesterday I walked to and from work from my house (almost 7 miles, since I did a little extra walking during the day), and went to the gym. Today I did the same thing, but only clocked around 6 miles.

I also worked out both days – part of the challenge is to log 5 workouts a week, which is cool, because my plan only pays for 4 workouts, so for the remainder of the challenge I’m getting a free class every week (thanks Iron Tribe!). Yesterday’s workout was pretty easy, really – We had 25 minutes to do a 500m row, 200m run, 100 single-unders (that’s jump rope for the layman), then 36 burpees and 36 wall balls, which are a similar motion to thrusters if you lift weights, just with a medicine ball. Today’s was a little more intense – it was a timed workout where you started at 2 pull ups, 2 pistols (one-legged squats), and 2 burpees, then 4 of each, then 6 of each, then 8 of each, etc, adding 2 of each rep each round. At the 10 minute mark, whatever round you were on, you’d go back the other way – 8, 6, 4, 2. I ended up doing 50 pull ups (I’m not that much of a bad ass, I use a band for assistance), 40 pistols and 40 burpees. I know, I’m boring you. Hell, I’m boring myself. But I’m proud that I’m getting stronger. It’s nice.

Anyway, today is supposed to be about positivity, and since working out makes me feel great about myself, I guess that was as good a place as any to start. But let’s really get down to brass tacks here. Beautiful You asks me: What do you most appreciate about yourself? What are you most confident about? What is the first positive memory you have of yourself? Was anyone there to witness that moment? If so, who was there and how did he, she, or they react?

When I was in high school, I took classes on a block schedule. We had four or five long classes a day for a semester, and then at the end of the semester we had an entirely different set of classes. We got to choose two electives each semester. Since the only way my parents knew to pay for my college was to have me go into the military after school, I was put in Air Force JROTC from the beginning of freshman year on. It taught discipline and teamwork, but also sacrifice.

I wasn't just in JROTC - I was  on the JROTC color guard AND drill teams, a cadre, went to officer's training school in the summers, the whole 9 yards. Even so, I was so relieved to not have to go into the Air Force in the end.

That’s me with the American flag, marching in a parade. I wasn’t just in JROTC – I was on the JROTC color guard AND drill teams, a cadre, went to officer’s training school in the summers, the whole 9 yards. Even so, I was so relieved to not have to go into the Air Force in the end.

 

One of the biggest sacrifices for me was having to give up one elective each semester to be in JROTC. I really wanted to take art, and drama, and dance, but with JROTC eating up half of my electives, and the other electives needing to be things that my parents deemed “useful,” I had to be really careful about selecting the rest of my fun classes. I never got to take drama or art – two things that I still love, and have a sneaking suspicion I would have excelled at had I started early – but I did get to take one semester of dance.

Let’s just get this out of the way early – I’m not a great dancer. I’m coordinated enough to pick up line dances and couples dances with a little practice on the floor, and can flub my way through a tango social if needs be, but when it comes to jazz, ballet, or modern (basically anything where I have to be on my own), I’m hopeless. I had a ballet teacher call me an elephant once. I’m just kind of hopelessly white – nothing shakes the way I’d like it to, lol. Anyway, at the end of the semester we had a dance show, where all the girls taking dance got to perform a couple of routines. My class did three dances, but I only remember one. It was the best one, so that’s OK.

Greasers in NYC, 1950

Greasers in NYC, 1950

The routine was a 50’s number. Half of the girls were dressed as greaser boys (there were no boys in our dance program), and half of the girls were in poodle skirts, with ponytails and cute sparkly neck scarves. We were mostly dancing solo, but would interact and do some swing dance types of moves with our “partners”. I was dancing with an older girl named April, who passed away under dark circumstances a few years ago. She was a sweetheart, but normally tried to appear really tough. That really worked for the greaser costume. For one of the moves, the greaser would swing the poodle skirt girl through “his” legs, leave the poodle skirt girl lying there, and then walk around her. It’s hard to explain, but it was a cute/funny scene. The poodle skirt girl was supposed to be in love with the greaser, and looking up at “him” adoringly.

Poodle skirts sans poodles, 1956.

Poodle skirts sans poodles, 1956

 

April and I were at the front of the performance, right in center stage. The theater was packed (I’m from a small town – there’s not much else to do). Everything was going off without a hitch. We danced. She swung me, then started walking around me. I pretended I was over the moon in love with her, stuck on a dopey grin, and batted my eyes. As tough as she was, she couldn’t help but crack a grin back at me. The crowd loved it, and we got a laugh. It was one of the best moments for me. It was the precise moment that I realized I could be someone different onstage if I wanted to. It also made me feel special because even though I wasn’t the best dancer, I still had a talent. I love to make people laugh. It’s a great feeling. Making a crowd laugh? Wow. I was on cloud 9 after that show.

But that’s only part of the answer, I guess. Though I love to make people laugh, my real gift is caring about people, and genuinely wanting them to be happy and well. I love that about me. Sometimes I still have to remind myself that when people don’t treat you with utmost respect, it doesn’t mean that they’re awful people, it just means that they don’t understand the degree of everything’s interconnectedness yet. I also have to remind myself that maybe they never will get it, and that’s OK. That’s their journey.

My journey, my biggest need right now, is to be OK with me, and that means finding small things to love or accept (hopefully both) about other people, without letting them bog me down in their darkness. Hopefully I can offer a little light to help them on their way. I can still remember April as she cracked that grin at me. She had a tough life. It was too short. But she had a pretty smile. That spark can never die.

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

My paternal grandmother (I call her Nana) has poor circulation, just like me. Our hands and feet are always cold. When I was little, she used to take my tiny hand between her own much larger ones and try to bring some warmth back to my chilly digits. While doing it, she’d typically intone, “Cold hands, warm heart.” I still say it to myself quite often.

My apartment is cold. It’s only in the upper 60’s, but there’s a chill in the air, and my fingers and toes feel like fledgling ice cubes. I’m sitting on my couch, where I’ve been mulling over what to write for a couple of hours now. Actually, that’s a lie. I’ve started and stopped multiple times. In all, I’ve probably already written 700 words or so, then backspaced them all into the aether.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. It will be 2015 soon. I wonder how things have changed since last year, and how they’ve stayed the same. It’s harder to think it over this year, since my concentration isn’t what it used to be. My thoughts scatter like the wind as I reach for them. I’m exhausted with the process.

mistakes

The negatives of this year have been:

Working myself ragged to make ends meet.

Lying to everyone that I was fine when I clearly wasn’t, then worrying about all of the lies so much that I was even more depressed.

Promising more to everyone else than I had to give.

Not promising enough to myself.

Constantly berating myself for not “achieving” at writing, weight, health, money, womanhood, etc.

Shutting out my family because I don’t want them to see how much I’m struggling trying to be someone they’ll be proud of.

Not handling my money as intelligently as originally planned.

Listening too much to other people’s advice. It’s well-meaning, but we are not one-size-fits-all, and other people need to understand that “helpful” advice for how to build a great life can often come across as a condemnation of someone’s shortcomings. Don’t tell people what to do unless they ask you, and even then, be gentle with your phrasing.

 

82021-o

The positives of this year have been:

Making up my mind to leave my relationship – then actually doing it.

Falling madly in love when – and with whom – I least expected it.

Holding down two full time jobs, and using the money more wisely than I would have a couple of years ago (yeah, this is on both lists).

Making a home for myself in a desirable neighborhood.

Rolling with the punches in a new relationship with pre-existing issues on both sides that many would have run from, making the bond stronger and sweeter than anything I’ve ever known.

Finally feeling completely at home with being a geek. Nothing to hide, no one to laugh at my interests – just other people who want to play board games, read fantasy novels, and love to dress up in costume as much as I do.

Reaffirming friendships with some of my most beloved friends.

Creating new friendships with a generous helping of new faces.

Coming to terms with the fact that I’m depressed, and need help.

Having the courage to join a really great gym – AND go to classes, even when I was scared.

Beating the back and hip pain that’s been a constant in my life for the last five years (!!!)

happy ending

I think that overall I’ve done a good job. I’d love to look back over this year from a place of perfection, but I’m never going to have that. We’ll never be perfect, any of us, and it’s ridiculous to try. What I can have is love, and friendship, and a decent selection of people who not only get what I’m going through, but are humble enough to know that sometimes they can serve best by just being there.

I’ve been sad and confused and worn out for the last few years, and I had somehow gotten used to it. I was treating it with plenty of wine and potato chips, and lots of sleeping late and trying to avoid conversation as much as possible. But this year I’ve been slowly but surely coming to terms with how much of my behavior has been a coping mechanism for depression. Whether it’s something brought on by my as-yet untreated thyroid issue, the constant back and hip pain, or if I just need therapy (or all of the above), I get it now. Being in a great spot with my love life, and having lots of opportunity to talk about emotions and mental state in person and here on the blog helped me to start to wrap my head around the fact that something’s not normal in my chemistry at the moment.

So that’s what I’m going to work on in 2015. I want to be OK again. I want my warm heart back. I want to put it to work again, and shine for other people. But before I can do that, before I can be bigger for everyone else, I need to get better for myself.

Happy New Year, my beautiful, mysterious internet friends. May you have health and happiness in the coming turn around the sun.

 

Fixing A Hole

I’m painting a room in a colorful way, and when my mind is wandering, there I will go. - The Beatles, “Fixing A Hole”

For those of you who’re just tuning in, I’m reading a book called Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self Acceptance, and answering the daily questions that the book puts forth. It might look like this is my second post of the day (and technically, it is), but my earlier post was written yesterday. There’s absolutely no reason to explain myself to you, but I’m doing it. So I suppose that’s a great place to start with today’s musings re: how body image has impacted my daily life and outlook…my negative self image has definitely made me much more apologetic about EVERYTHING. I should probably start counting how many times I say “Sorry!” to people who don’t need to hear it throughout the day. If I were to take a broad guess, I’d say it comes out at least once an hour on average.

But what am I doing most of the day? What are the hills and valleys of this issue, as seen throughout a day in the life of this particular Anna? Let’s explore a typical weekday and see if I can figure it out:

I wake up somewhere between 9am and 11am, depending on a variety of factors (working at home? stay up late night before? bed extra comfy? back hurt? cat sleeping on face?). Get out of bed and try to stretch my legs/backs/hips. Sometimes feel disgusted with whatever I wore to bed the night before. I’d prefer something lacy and/or silky, like a 1930s film star in her boudoir – maybe even with maribou feathers, just for shits and giggles – but have never bought anything like that because I feel like I’d just look like a feathered, silky monster. Also, if I’m being honest, because my last bf hated when I’d wear anything long and elegant, and I hated short and slutty, so I eventually just got confused and gave up since nothing I found that made me feel sexy was titillating to him in the least. That’s no excuse for now, but it’s the truth so I’m putting it in here. So I’m wearing a t-shirt or maybe lounge pants or something sloppy and I am comfortable, but instantly tend to be kind of disappointed in myself for looking like trailer trash.

I go to the bathroom, brush teeth, wash face, that kind of thing. I generally don’t do my hair or put on makeup. It depends, really. My hair is really short on purpose – I hate wasting time styling it. I love wearing makeup, but most mornings I just feel like it’s no use putting on warpaint. It’s a combination of the fact that it will melt off during my walk to work, or not be seen at all if I’m working at home, or that I don’t interact with clients at my office, so no one will see it there either. But there’s also an underlying current of displeasure with my face. Plus, I really want to go to Sephora and do their Pantone color matching service and have them teach me how to put my makeup on expertly. I feel like I’m just doing it wrong when I do it, and that’s just not true. My makeup application skills are perfectly adequate, and I don’t look like a clown or anything. I do the “no makeup” look pretty well.

Next up is getting dressed. I hate almost every stitch of clothing in my closet. Even the things that fit right tend to piss me off because they’re two sizes bigger than I want to wear. I’ve gotten rid of everything that’s too small for me, but the stuff that’s my size still doesn’t fit me the way I’d like to. And it’s not even the style I’d like to wear. I really miss getting dressed up for work. Like REALLY miss it. It’s the saddest thing ever to be the only girl in an office of three – even if you adore your coworkers. I also really miss wearing vintage clothing, and it’s hard to find stuff that works for my new shape. So I put on jeans and a shirt. I try to wear pretty shirts, but they all look like crap on me. I feel like a figure-less blob. I feel masculine. I used to have this long-legged strut that people would point out all the time. Now I feel like I’m just dragging myself around like a swamp creature. I grew out of my bras, so I have no beautiful bras anymore, when I used to have at least a few. My underwear fit me perfectly, and are comfortable and cute, but I long to wear lace and satin again. When I’ve tried, just to see if I can pull it off, I feel revolting and ashamed. So I don’t.

I make breakfast – paleo, delicious and energizing – and drink a cup of decaf. It’s the first pleasant thing to happen during my day, because I know that each time I make the conscious effort to eat something that’s good for me, I get stronger, and that eventually my (comparatively) small sacrifices will add up to big changes. I walk to work – 2 miles. By the time I get there, I’m in a great mood.

If I’m wearing jeans, I have to unbutton them if I’m going to be sitting for that long. That puts me back in a shitty mood. If I’m wearing yoga pants, I can feel the bulge of my stomach and that also tends to put me in a shitty mood, but at least I’m more comfortable.

I spend the workday working (obviously), but in the back of my mind I’m always thinking about my body (did I eat the right thing? am I craving something? why am I craving it? am I actually hungry? should I get a snack? have I had enough water? how much weight will I lose this week? do you think I’ll actually gain weight instead? did I have to unbutton my jeans when I was a size 8? are my shoulders fat? do I look fatter with short hair? should I get an under-desk exercise bike thing? will my boobs shrink when I lose weight? did I have more cellulite this morning than I did a week ago? is this deodorant still OK, or am I smelly? why can I not stop shaking my foot? am I that sensitive to decaf now? am I too hairy? i feel like my teeth are shifting back to where they were before Invisalign – can other people see that, too? blah, blah, blah…). It’s exhausting. Too many thoughts swirling in my brain. Too many of them negative. Too many of them all about me.

If I’m at work in my Chicago office (or getting ready for a trip there), I think a lot about the clothes I’m going to wear. The office is all ladies, most of them thin, young and stylish. On top of that, since I’m a senior member of the team, not only should I look more pulled-together than they do, I should also look more in control of myself (read: not fat) than they do. I’m only barely able to hold up my end of the bargain, and I feel uncomfortable. If I’m in Chicago, I’m not eating paleo because there’s nowhere nearby to go for something easy and within my limits. This, plus having caffeinated coffee while I’m there, are probably majorly to blame for not feeling/looking my best. At least in New Orleans I’m sticking with paleo lunches and decaf – they really seem to help.

Assuming I’m at home in New Orleans, after work I go home. Depending on how the day went, and how unhappy I am, I might buy a bottle of wine or some “bad” food on my way home to console myself. Fried catfish filets, mac & cheese, and mashed potatoes & gravy are my favorite treats. Most of the time now I manage to avoid these, though. I go home, drink water, eat a paleo dinner, and spend the night writing, watching TV, or hanging out with my boo. Four nights a week now I go to the gym before heading home. I feel great at the gym. I love lifting weights, I love the people in my class, and I love the feeling of accomplishment during and after the workout. It makes me feel better about eating a healthy dinner when I get home.

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So what I’m seeing (feel free to weigh in, if you’ve made it this far and have alternate views) is that my clothing is a major source of emotional upheaval for me. I have the power to wear pretty things and make myself feel better – maybe I need to get them tailored, or explore wearing more dresses, or make the leap and only wear screen siren nighties – whatever makes me feel good and giggly again. Maybe I should hire a personal stylist to help me out of the slump.

I feel inferior to most other women because I don’t feel pulled together in comparison, but I don’t pull myself together because I feel like it’s pointless because I feel unattractive. But won’t I feel attractive if I pull myself together? So maybe I should just put forth the effort to do the things that make me feel pretty every day. Though to do that requires an attitude of self-worth, and that’s going to be a tough one to scrounge up overnight. But I can certainly try. And I should definitely go to Sephora. Maybe this weekend. I deserve it.

I’m exercising and I’m eating pretty well. I could eat better. But I’m not a fat, disgusting bastard. I’m just a normal girl with a few extra pounds and some pretty big self acceptance issues.

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The other thing that I should talk about is being on stage. I love to sing. Or at least I used to. I mean, I still do. Just not in public. I’ve got a slightly nasty case of stage fright, but I’ve always been able to get over it in time to get up there and do my thing. I’ve been in a number of bands, and people who heard me on stage back in the day tell me that I’ve got a beautiful voice. I don’t know about that – I sound like myself to me, and let’s face it, who really likes hearing themselves talk (or sing)? But people like the way I sound, and I like the way I feel when I’m singing, and that’s really all that matters. I feel powerful on stage. Or at least I did.

But this year for my birthday I went to karaoke with a bunch of friends, and someone took a video of me singing on stage. I was shocked at how big I looked up there. My previously awkward stage delivery looks even worse with another 50 lbs packed on. I looked like an egg doing the hula (and I was singing ABBA, so really, it wasn’t that far of a stretch of the imagination). My secret ambition has been to get my shit together and get back on stage with a real band sometime soon. Now I’m not so sure about the “soon” part. It’s probably the most devastating issue I’m facing, but until now I’ve been facing it alone. Maybe now that it’s out on the blog I’ll be able to work it out in a less stressful manner.