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.

 

Unconditional

I’m writing this from the Dallas airport, on my way back home to New Orleans and a brand new work week. I spent the weekend in Austin and San Antonio with my friends Trinity and Katie. Trin was my college roommate, assigned by the school for the freshman dorm. Despite the odds given our strange pairing, we ended up being best friends. A couple of years later, we moved in with a third roommate, Katie, and our sisterhood has survived so much over the years. They both became architects and moved away – Trinity to Texas, Katie to Croatia. Now they’re both married with small children, and our extremely varied life experiences are adding another dimension to our friendship dynamic.

To me, both of my old roommates/besties have always been so outgoing and fascinating. They have welcoming personalities that attract strange adventures and lots of new friends. You could sum us up pretty easily by watching us walk into a party at 20. Katie, golden hair, tight jeans, big Texas personality, and at least three coats of mascara, heads straight for the keg and conversation, ready to sling a few back and talk shit with the guys. Trin grabs a cocktail, makes her rounds to give everyone at the party her good wishes/seemingly unbroken attention (how does she do it?), turns up the radio, and starts a dance party that magnetizes the room. I walk in behind them and make a beeline to the drinks and the quietest spot at the party. I’m overwhelmed, but interested in dancing, maybe, at some point. As long as no one’s watching; these jeans don’t really fit as well as I’d wish, and my arms are jiggly. You know, let’s just wait for a better song. Or maybe another drink? Eh, we’ll see what happens later. The couch is really nice. Mostly I make my friends by staying in one spot and talking to whoever sits down next to me (it never fails – it’s really the best way to meet people if you’re terrified of the whole introduction process). Eventually Katie gets into dancing mode and comes out to turn the party up a notch with Trin. By then, I’ve had a few drinks and don’t really give a crap what anyone thinks, then we’re all dancing, and the party is golden. But the couch-sitting me has just been put on the back burner for awhile. She’ll be back tomorrow, if not sooner.

When we were younger, even though I felt comfortable in their presence in most ways, and certainly much more than I did with other people, I always felt a little awkward in comparison. It was a little like being the little sister who didn’t quite understand how to fit in with my cooler older sisters, but was still loved and accepted. Maybe it’s my age, or the length and depth of our friendship, but things are different now. I can’t quite place it, but I guess on a base level I’m realizing that everyone has their own issues to handle. Just the same, we each have something special to add to the conversation, as long as we find the people who’re willing to listen.

Gone are the days of getting extravagantly made up, in tallest heels and shortest skirt, and going out to make adventures. We’ve entered an era where we’re older, wiser, and starting to show a little wear and tear. And who knows why – age, maturity, less patience, more acceptance – but we’re also willing to talk about our body insecurities with each other in a little more detail. It’s probably that knowledge that allowed me to begin really contemplating what it would feel like to stop beating myself up about my body, and learn to love it instead. It made this weekend the perfect time to start my journey, since I could officially kick everything off in the company of two people who have always accepted me, flaws and all, without a second thought.

Today’s prompt in Beautiful You is to talk about how I feel about myself and why, and say what I think a healthy sense of self and a healthy life will give to me. Most of all, I want to love and accept myself the same way I love and accept my friends – fully, unconditionally, no questions asked. I have a handful of people in my life for whom I’d lay down my life without a second thought. I might have an uncharitable thought every now and then (who doesn’t?) but I’d never hold on to it for longer than it took to find another way to encounter the situation. Why don’t I do this for myself?

I’m hoping that I can eventually see myself not as an enemy to be corralled and controlled, but a beloved one for whom I wish nothing but the best. If I loved myself the way I love my friends, the way that they love me, I’d constantly be on the lookout for ways to show my love more. I’d ask myself if I’d like some water, carefully consider how my mood would improve with the right sustenance, give myself permission to find a quiet spot to unwind, stop picking on myself for weaknesses, celebrate strengths. I’d have no choice but to shine under my own care.

It’s not about being thin, really. It’s about not feeling constantly under attack, or constantly in need of a scolding for my behavior. It impedes everything. It makes me feel less attractive, which greatly affects my ability to be intentionally playful, powerful, confident, and sexy. My own guilt for not being perfect is the biggest problem in my life right now. I’d love to find a way to work through it. I’m going to. So thanks, Katie and Trin (and Jess and Amy). I might not have said it in so many words, but you’ve helped me kick off something big (yet again).

Skin Deep, Etc.

I spend a lot of time acting like it doesn’t bother me that I’ve gained so much weight in the last year. If I have to be honest, I’ve been acting like it doesn’t bother me since I was legitimately in OK shape, about 30 pounds ago. I concentrate on things like inner beauty and finding my center. I work at getting in shape by eating correctly and exercising often. I try to wear pretty outfits that look good on the curves that I’ve grown into. I’m positive, positive, positive.

On the outside.

On the inside, I’m consumed with this. Why isn’t what I’m doing working? Why can’t I have more self control? Why can’t I just add a couple more hours on to my workout each day? Why can’t I live on carrots and lettuce, like a good little rabbit? Am I sick? Am I sicker than I think I am? Do I have a tumor? Could 40 extra pounds really be 20 pounds of stomach cancer? Do I have PCOS on top of my thyroid issue? Why can’t I be just be skinny and beautiful?

I’m shallow. And by admitting it, I’m aware that it places me squarely in a negative light. I should just be more accepting of my beautiful curves, blah, blah, blah. But I’m not. I’m fat. I can feel the newly-formed crease in my stomach fat pressing into itself right now as we speak. It feels disgusting. I feel disgusting. My belly button ring (installed in 2006, when I was a svelte 135 pounds following my inadvertent Hurricane Katrina starvation diet) hurts my naval. I refuse to remove it. I’m afraid that I’ll keep getting fatter and the fat will grow around it like a tree grows around a gravestone.

As of January 1st, my health insurance kicks in and I’ll be able to afford a proper doctor’s visit for the first time in years. I’ll get my thyroid checked and hopefully get on meds, and I’ll see if I have PCOS, and if there’s any other medical reason for my continued expansion.

In the mean time, I’ll keep eating correctly and keep going to the gym, and trying to run, walk, yoga myself back into a size 8. But I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to stop hating myself for not being beautiful. Honestly, I can’t even conceive of a future in which that’s an option.

You might be reading this and feeling sorry that I can’t just love myself the way that you do. You might be reading this and identifying. You might be bigger than I am, and feel like I don’t have a right to talk about this until I’ve added another 20 pounds or so. You might have trouble GAINING weight, and be jealous that you couldn’t have the extra bits that I’d like to get rid of. How should I know? It’s not like we’re ever truthful with each other about these things, anyway.

Success Is Paleo

It’s the beginning of my 4th week as an Iron Tribe Fitness “athlete”. I’m putting that in parentheses because they actually do call us athletes, and though I know they’re trying to make us feel strong and capable, I’m not really feeling it yet. But that’s not their fault – I’m loving being a member of the gym. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for all this time. I really just needed somewhere that would tell me exactly what to do, show me how to do it (probably multiple times, because I don’t pick up physical movements really well the first few times around), then give me specific goals to reach and times in which to get those goals accomplished. So far they’ve done all of this, while being amazingly kind, patient, and accepting of my flaws. I love working out there, and can’t wait to finish up with the 101 program and move into taking regular classes four days a week.

Even though I’m not yet working out at full power, I did start something new today at Iron Tribe – eating meals from the Inner Fire Grill. I should have taken some snapshots today to show you what I was eating, but I forgot and gobbled it all up. Maybe I’ll start showing you a weekly roundup of eats – today’s meals were amazing. I think I’m really going to like not having to think about what to eat anymore. I can just open my fridge and pick the thing that strikes my fancy that day.

From now on, each Wednesday I’ll place an order for my meals for the following week. On Monday, I’ll pick up lunch & dinner for Monday/Tuesday, and on Wednesday I’ll receive lunch & dinner for Wednesday through Friday. The meals last a few days in the fridge, so if it turns out that I have dinner plans or a lunch meeting, I can always just save that meal for a later date. Minimum effort, but surprisingly delicious and filling meals. Today’s lunch was a half of a sweet potato filled with braised beef ribs and onions, served with this amazing paleo chive mayo. Dinner was chicken salad (who knew I could enjoy a non-mayo-based chicken salad?) and a side of mixed fruit.

This Saturday marks my last day of drinking until Thanksgiving, so between getting strict with my meals, not taking in any of that extra sugar, and working out 3 to 4 days a week at the gym, I’m planning on starting to drop some serious weight over the next month. Thinking about seeing if anyone at the gym wants to put together a running group to start training for some distance runs. I’m really excited about feeling like success is actually attainable. I haven’t felt this sure about my health journey for a long time, now.

Rethinking My Methods

The facts:

I’m anxious, and regularly experience pretty drastic mood swings. My back, hips, and knees often feel inflamed, swollen, and extremely painful. Most mornings, my hips hurt so much that I have a hard time getting out of bed. I’ve outgrown almost all of my dresses and pants – I’ve gone up two sizes in the last year, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop of its own accord. It’s not like I’m a blimp or anything – I’m being rational about this, and I’m still a good looking woman. Nevertheless, I don’t look like “me” to myself anymore. I remember being in decent shape, and knowing that I was just being nit-picky when I was critiquing my cellulite, or a slightly less than firm tummy. That’s no longer the case. I’ve expanded to the point where I’m giving up and wearing yoga pants to work. That is not OK. Most people don’t think that I’ve gained weight, because I’m tall, and the new fat is all in my hips and thighs. However, over the past year I’ve gained over 40 lbs.

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The moment of truth (also known here in the South as a “come to Jesus” moment):

I took a look at my finance trends today using Mint.com, and realized that this past month, roughly 30% of my spending went to food and alcohol purchases. I’m not going to tell you how much money that was, but let it suffice to say that I could have substantially updated my wardrobe with the amount of money I just threw away on food that I know I shouldn’t have been eating in the first place. So…

The decision (Part 1):

My gym offers a service where they make all of your meals for you, five days a week. Everything’s paleo, and all you have to do is swing by the gym and pick it up each day. I just did the math, and even though it’s expensive based on what I *should* be spending on food each week, it’s a massive savings if I compare it to what I actually *am* spending on food each week. It would leave me with two days a week where I’d be forced to fend for myself, but maybe I can start using my weekends to actually learn how to cook, and wean myself off of pre-packaged meals.

The major plus side is that it would mean that for the majority of the week, I’d be eating exactly what I’m supposed to be putting into my body to achieve optimum health. I wouldn’t have to stress about what I’m going to eat prior to finding whatever that thing is, and more importantly, I wouldn’t have to stress about I’ve already eaten after I eat the thing that I shouldn’t have (which is pretty much everything that gets poured down my gullet as of late). It’s not rabbit food, and from what I’ve heard, the options are pretty tasty. Best of all, a paleo diet, combined with four good workouts each week, would mean that the weight will start to drop off. I’d really like to be down by a pants size by the time I go home to see my family for the holidays.

The decision (Part 2):

I’m going to officially wean myself off of coffee and alcohol, and move into a phase in my life where drinking is for holidays and special occasions only. I love coffee, whiskey and wine so much, but that’s the problem. Mornings can’t = cup after cup of coffee anymore, especially with my anxiety issues. Likewise, evenings after work can’t = a few glasses of wine on the couch. I like drinking, and I like that it helps me through tough social situations, but I don’t like the way that it makes me feel the next day, and I definitely don’t like the thought that I’m adding even more sugar into a body that is crying out for help. Back to tea, water, and watching the weight fall off.

The decision (Part 3):

Yoga & meditation are a must. As I start getting my act together on the food & workout fronts, I need to figure out how to fit a weekly yoga practice back into my life. It’s not a luxury – it’s a necessity. Along with helping with weight loss, it will definitely help create a positive self image, as I see how graceful and strong my body can be if I let it. I love Anna the yogini. I miss her. If finding my heart self means giving up on something else – work, social life – then so be it. This is my journey. I can’t afford to skimp on the most important parts.

The bottom line:

I need to stop poisoning myself. It would be a little different, maybe, if I honestly enjoyed half of the food that I ate. But I eat absolute crap, and I feel like I’m doing it out of some perverse need to punish myself. That needs to stop.

As I start getting my body under control with food and exercise, the next step will be to find a doctor and see if I can get the thyroid stuff figured out, too. Hopefully this time the tests will cooperate, but it’s so hard getting a diagnosis, so I’m not holding my breath. While I’m doing that, I’m also going to find a therapist to help me get my head wrapped around loving myself. I’m too damned old not to. I deserve more from myself.

The Fine Art Of Buckling Down

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I’m starting something new tomorrow, and I’m a little scared. After years of repeated (failed) attempts to eat the right foods and exercise on a regular schedule, I’ve decided it’s time to make the changes I’ve known I should make all along. A few days ago, I took the leap and joined up with a chain gym called Iron Tribe. Those of you who know me well will know that the name doesn’t thrill me, and that the thought of being a person connected to a close-knit team of fitness nuts (as the words “iron tribe” suggest to me, anyway) would have, up until now at least, made me want to puke a little. But I’ve got a friend who’s in the program and making incredible progress, and since our personality types are pretty similar – anxious workaholics with a taste for booze and Italian food – I figured I’d give it a shot.

The first month is a 101 program. My class will always be the same group of people, all newbies, all learning how to lift weights and do exercises and follow a Paleo diet plan. We’ll meet three days a week, and I should (hopefully) “graduate” on the day before my birthday. From what I’ve read, it’s realistic to think that I could be around 10 lbs. lighter by then, and from what I’ve seen in my friend who’s in the course, I’ll also be much calmer, which would be lovely.

After the 101 class, I’ll move into a four day a week program with the people I’m calling “gen pop” – everyone who’s passed 101 in the past. It’s a little like the kind of thing that people generally do in crossfit gyms – weight training and endurance exercises – but with a much stronger relationship between the trainers and members, and very small groups, so there’s lots of one-on-one with the trainers. Best of all, they promise results as long as you work out at least three days a week and stick to their recommended diet. If you haven’t shown improvement in a few months, they’ll let you out of your contract and refund your fees.

So. There we are. As of 7:30 in the morning (so damn early!), I’ll be sweating my butt off at the gym. Man, I really hope this sticks. Wish me luck at this, guys. I need it.