On My Body Image

This is something I’ve been meaning to write for a long time. It is a subject that affects all of us – rich, poor, fat, thin, young, old, male, female. We are surrounded every day by what our society tells us is “beautiful” and “correct.” I have heard, far too often, from far too many people, that they are “fat” and “ugly.” Or the opposite – “toothpick thin.” Only what the magazine and TV showed as beautiful is truly beautiful.

Growing up, I was often told that if I continued to eat (chips, pop, ice cream, chocolate, whatever) I would grow up to be “fat and ugly.” I know what they meant. They were concerned that I wasn’t eating healthy enough, keeping my body from the nutrients it needs to survive. I wasn’t active enough either, thus had the perfect equation for becoming obese.

Their concern is touching. I look back and see the care and love those people had for me. My father was one that often took that route, adding the quip “like me,” at the end to take the sting away. Dad, I know what you meant.

But what I heard was that being fat meant being ugly. There was no way around it. It was cold, hard fact.

Add to that the fact that I was one of the heaviest girls in my class, and this is a recipe for disaster. My young, immature brain could not handle the strain. So I ate more, hid my body, and hated myself.

I was fat and ugly.

….

Looking back, nothing could be further from the truth. I wasn’t fat. Sure, I was a large girl, but I look at old photos, and I was merely out of shape. I was carrying the right amount of weight for me. I looked wonderful, really. But I hated my body, I hated my image, and I just wanted to hide. I had the fashion sense to match – big, bulky clothes, baggy jeans, baggy sweaters and t-shirts. Nothing to draw attention to myself. The few times I tried to dress better, I was made fun of, teased. So I went back to my baggy jeans and sweaters. Hiding myself away from the crowd. If they couldn’t see me, they couldn’t hurt me.

I graduated high school. I was six months pregnant, totally in love, and thought my life was going exactly as it should. I gave up that precious baby (another story for another day), and did my best to move on with my life.

But I had gained weight. The stress of a teenaged pregnancy had caused me to overeat more than ever before. Soon, I was over 200 pounds, and hating every inch of myself.

I remember trying so hard to lose the weight. I would buy exercise books and weights, and work out. I’d push myself to my limits – past my limits if I could. I would restrict my food to crazy things – money was tight too, so I ended up on a pancakes and Kraft Dinner diet. Original, I admit, but not particularly healthy. Or good for losing weight.

And then, when the weight didn’t magically disappear after a half hour workout, I’d get ashamed, honestly believing the hurtful comments of the one I loved most. I was “fat,” “lazy,” and “good for nothing.” I would never get anything better than I currently had because I didn’t deserve it.

When I think back on my life, my body image was a driving force in everything. The food I ate – whether while trying to be healthy (depriving myself of treats, focusing on eating because it was healthy, and hating every minute of it) or while trying to forget all the pain and hurt I suffered from (stuffing myself on all the delicious food that was so bad for me) – truly defined my life.

It still does to an extent.

My life was a cycle: I would be determined to lose the weight, workout, and be healthy. Not because I worried about my health, but because being thin was equated in my mind with being beautiful and worthy. If 175 pounds was good, 140 pounds was better. And the crowning glory would be if I could just hit 100 pounds.

And when I inevitably hit that wall of shame, the inability to lose all that weight in record time? What happened then?

I would say “fuck it” and eat whatever I wanted, in whatever portions I wanted.

I was either starving myself (“only one slice of bread and a small salad. I’m trying to lose weight.”) or I was gorging myself (“a whole extra large pizza by myself? Don’t mind if I do!”) In the end, I managed to lose about twenty pounds – and gain about 100.

When I got really sick – and by really sick I mean “spent three days in the ICU and had to have a pacemaker inserted in order to save my life” sick – my focus on eating changed. Suddenly, I had to eat to help heal myself. I had to recognize the healthy foods from the junk. And I succeeded.

I managed to lose about 70 pounds. I was 240 pounds. Down from 310. I felt fantastic. I loved my new body.

Of course, the high didn’t last. I became comfortable in my new found body, and started cutting corners. A small bag of chips wasn’t going to be the end of the world. Oh sure, one can of Coke won’t kill me.

And I returned to a normal life. I went back to school, and eventually found work.

Okay, here’s where the story takes a turn I am not proud of. I’m writing this to try and help myself find that place I was at 5 years ago. I’m admitting to things that make me horribly embarrassed.

It started with a horrible break up. Not that I blame him. He did what he felt was right, and it blindsided me so badly that my whole world went spinning out of control. And even though so many exciting and happy things were happening – my heart was as healthy as it ever could be, I was given the green light to go back to the real world, go to school, get a job – I felt like the world had betrayed me, and that nothing was truly worth it.

I rebounded into a bad relationship. Not that he was bad – he just wasn’t good for me. We both had major issues, and I would like to point out that instead of holding on for almost five years, like I did when I was younger, I recognized what it was doing to me and got out. Let’s take all the victories we can.

And one night, deep in the badness that was poisoning my life, I found myself surrounded by not a small bag of chips and a can of Coke, but a really big bag of chips. One that by eating all of I had almost doubled my daily recommended intake of sodium.

And even then, I couldn’t stop myself.

Since then, I’ve been on a roller-coaster ride. Yes, I’ve had my fair share of ups – a great job, new friends, being able to stay in touch with old friends, and meeting my personal heroes, to name a few – but under it? This horrible, overwhelming nothingness. Like for a brief time I was worthy and now I can’t find it again. Sure I LOOK happy – and I am happy with much of my current position – but in other ways, I’m just putting on a great mask.

For the last four years, I’ve been eating those really big bag of chips, and drinking all that pop. Having an entire pizza. And generally just doing everything I did back in the day. Everything I know will cause all my hard work to reverse.

And that scares me.

Here’s the thing: it’s one thing to know that what you are doing is self-destructive. It’s another to care.

I recently underwent a drastic change in outlook. I stepped on the scale. I took one look at the number, and jumped off in shock.

I knew I had gained weight.

I didn’t know I had gained THAT MUCH weight.

And that’s why I’m here now.

This is my pledge.

I will do what I need to do TO GET HEALTHY.

I will not step on the scale and hate myself. When I get scared by the number, I’ll tell myself that it’s okay. That we’ve done this before. And we’ll do it again. For good this time.

Everyday I will do something for myself. Whether that be to read a good book, do some sewing, work on a knitting project for myself, or even just watch a favourite TV show, it will be for me.

Finally, I pledge that I will focus on why I’m doing this. I will not focus on the numbers. I will not count calories, and weigh myself incessantly.

I will focus on that feeling of knowing that I have done everything in my power to be healthy. To control that which I can, and ignore that which I cannot.

Because the numbers on the scale do not directly tie into my self-worth. I am more than my weight. I am an intelligent, independent woman, with a loving family, great friends, more talent than I know what to do with, a job I love, and a lot to live for.

I will need help. There will be days when I will want to give up. That’s its too hard, or that I wonder what does it really matter if I’m 280 pounds.

For those days, I have my friends. The ones who know me well enough, and don’t even outright say “Shauna, keep it up you’re doing fine.” They know not to try to encourage me. Instead, they distract me. They find things that will take my mind off of the gaping hole that is my emotional state.

And eventually I will come back, see that I made it through once again, and I will go on.

BECAUSE I AM WORTH IT.

So what is my body image? It’s not that picture where I look fat no matter what I do. It’s not those things that I imagine people saying when I walk by on the street.

My body image is that of a woman reaching for attainable, healthy goals, being the best she can be.

And that’s the big difference between 37 year old me and 19 year old me: 37 year old me realizes that I am worthy.

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It Saddens Me….

Note: I started this post about a month ago, after a morning of sifting through hateful and hurtful posts on the book of face. I found it very disturbing to see all the judging that was happening, even in my little world. At least, to the credit of my circle of friends and family, the majority of the posts were re-posts along the line of “what were these people smoking?” So there’s that. But I felt that I had to say something. So here it is. I hope it makes at least one person pause far a second and think.

****

I have to remind myself sometimes that not everyone thinks like me.

And that saddens me.

Not that I think everyone should think exactly like me. After all, if everyone thought alike, this would be a very dull world, and we’d still be in the stone ages, without even fire or tools. Or we’d be extinct.

It saddens me because my world has so much beauty and magic in it.

It saddens me because when I see two people who are obviously in love, I celebrate the great thing they have achieved. True love is so hard to come by, and a healthy relationship built on two whole people who build one another up and truly better their partners is a thing of beauty, something we should encourage. Not the insane idea that true love can only be between a man and a woman.

It saddens me that when someone sees something they don’t understand, their first reaction is to analyze it. If after analysis, they still cannot explain it, they say it doesn’t exist, that they didn’t see what they thought they saw. Why not say “hey that was beautiful!” and leave it at that? Do we really need to spread every butterfly in the world out on a peg board, pinned in a static position, dead, labeled and displayed?

It saddens me because I try so hard to at least understand that others DON’T think like me, and to at least acknowledge their viewpoint, even if comprehension of it is beyond my capabilities. Just because someone’s viewpoint differs from mine does not make it less valid. In fact, by acknowledging these varying viewpoints, I open myself up to the possibility of bettering myself, because they just might have a good point! And this means that when you refuse to at least entertain a new idea or viewpoint, you prevent yourself from growing.

I see around me people of all shapes and sizes trying to exist in a world where only one shape and size is “ideal.” I see people hiding who they are because they know that the people who love them will not accept them for who they are. These poor people struggle everyday with the pain of rejection, the pain of being unable to exist as they are meant to be solely because others cannot be open to them.

And this saddens me greatly.

This is a vast planet with billions of amazing people on it. We see different people every day, and, as is our nature, we judge them without even thinking about it.

Just once, try to see them for who they really are. To the best of your ability, without actually knowing who they are. Try to see the struggles that exist under the exterior. The self-conscious geek who would like nothing more to fit in, even just a little. The overweight person who would love to understand why the weight is there, and then eats those feelings of insecurity. Literally. The strutting male who is just trying to ensure that people will respect him. The young girl dressing way too old in order to get everyone’s attention. Everyone is hiding something under the masks that they put forth. Try to understand that everyone has layers, and treat them accordingly.

And maybe, little by little, this world will become a better place.

And that, dear friends, would not sadden me in the least.

Welcome! (or “It’s about Bloody Time, isn’t it?”)

About a year ago, I don’t remember exactly when, I decided I was going to start a new blog. Well, by “new” I meant a blog period, as I really don’t currently have one.

I had, as I often do, grandiose plans. I was going to write helpful hints and ideas for the geek trying to save money, eat healthy, etc, etc, etc…

I think I was going to call it “Home Geekonomics.”

Yeah.

As you may have noticed, it never happened. As often happens with my grandiose plans, it never left the writing table.

I’ve had this account now for a year and I have published a grand total of… ZERO posts. Go me!

I have a great many reasons for why it hasn’t happened yet. One, I wrote a bunch of posts, unpublished of course, and quickly realized that it was totally hypocritical of me. I am probably the last person to give money advice. I suck at watching my own money. Other’s money sure, but not my own. And my “healthy eating” consists of remembering that vegetables do in fact exist and maybe, just maybe, I should eat some once a day.

So yeah, probably not so much with the helpful posts.

Two, and probably the last I will share because the others all kind of sound like whining on my part, I am employed full-time in a human resources/marketing position, which means I use the brain meats a LOT. A lot of my day is actually spent writing, and as such, I don’t often feel like writing when I get home.

However, I do greatly enjoy writing. I like free form writing like I’m doing now. I also like to tell stories. Sometimes I use existing characters – fanfiction – and sometimes I write my own stuff. Thing is, I haven’t really done it at all in the last ten or so years.

And I’d really like to try to do this.

So, here is the plan.

I intend to write, when I am able to, about anything that strikes my mood. Some of it will be ramblings about my day, life, financial crisis, whatever currently ongoing concern I feel like sharing. Some of it will be fanfiction, and some will, hopefully, be original writings for your reading pleasure.

Or rather, more for my writing pleasure. Because, and I’m going to be perfectly blunt here, I am writing for me. I do not expect anything to come of it at all.

So, as people come and join this (all two of you, I’m sure), there will be only two rules:

1. I write for me. If you don’t like it, go elsewhere.
2. Comments, criticisms, playful flirting, jests. All are welcome. Flaming and hate will not be tolerated.

So, this is my first post. I may write something a little later tonight, because the mood to write has struck home pretty hard, but if not, don’t be disappointed. I will post something soon, I promise!