Friday, July 5, 2013

Body Image & All That Jazz

This is a post I've been mulling over for a couple of days and thinking of how to approach. It's been prompted because people keep picking up on little nuggets in the blog and asking me questions, so I thought I might as well address everything here in an honest and factual manner. It's about to get real up in here, so grab a snuggie and some ice cream water and let's see what happens.

This may be a trigger post, so feel free to skip the red text below 
to the happier, more positive green text. =) 

I suppose the best place to start is with my eating disorder.

Well, "under control" eating disorder is more appropriate.

Anyone who's ever had an eating disorder of any variety knows that it never really goes away. You learn to overcome it 98% of the time, but with the occasional yearn for your former vice or the even more rare slip back into bad habits.

I became bulimic when I was about 16, and we had a fast and heavy kind of relationship. I remember watching a Lifetime movie starring Calista Flockhart and a binge/purge struggle which ended up killing a friend of hers in college. 

As a naive 16 year old who basically felt worthless and had 0 self-esteem, my first thought was, "Does that really work?". I traipsed into the bathroom and it started a downward spiral that culminated in a habit so crippling that I eventually couldn't keep a smoothie down. I was purging my food 9+ times a day, taking apple cider vinegar pills I'd purchased on the DL from GNC, and the food I was eating was along the lines of steamed cauliflower with spray butter or a pack of pop tarts that I would make last for breakfast and lunch.

I was a sick, sick little girl. 

My initial recovery attempt began at the end of an emotionally terrible relationship I was in, when I finally confessed to my mom what had been going on. She said her and my dad had been planning on asking me soon anyway. 

It's amazing how transparent you are when you think you're so sly.

I was then essentially put under a 24-hour watch. Well, let's be fair, I didn't feel watched when I was asleep, and I was never a girl that threw up into containers in her room, so it wasn't a necessary measure. I started therapy, I wasn't allowed to go places by myself anymore, I was forced to clean my plate at every meal, I would be yelled for every few seconds if I went to the upstairs bathroom and my family was downstairs. I hated* my parents for a little while, since I didn't really want help. I thought I did, but I was mad that this mechanism which worked so easily was taken away from me. I had lost ~35 lbs in a month. For a girl that had struggled with weight loss for 4+ years already, bulimia was a sweet release to a daily problem of being "too fat" and "unlovable" because she was overweight. 

Perpetual throwing up is gross. It really is. It ruins your body. It softens the enamel in your teeth, it can wreak havoc on your esophagus, your reproductive organs… My teeth are more sensitive to hot/cold where they weren't before. I didn't have my menstrual cycle for 5 years, and it's only been in the last year that it has started to regulate itself again. OK, not having "Aunt Flo" is awesome, but not when it's compounded by a doctor telling you that you may not be able to have children. 

So let's fast forward to college. My eating disorder wasn't as bad as it had been initially, but I still snuck "quickies" in when I could. However, having 5 roommates will make such things much harder. I talked to my RA, my RD, friends… But no one could help. I didn't want help. I wanted to be thin. 

Because being "thin" meant I'd be beautiful, worthy, that I would be sexy, and "most importantly", that guys would like me. Being "thin" meant I'd have guys cat-calling me instead of yelling insults like "fat a**" (this happened on multiple occasions), and that I wouldn't have to go to a separate section in the store from my friends. Being "thin" meant I wouldn't have snobby Macy's employees looking down their nose at me as I asked for their plus-size prom dresses, and that I could actually try on said prom dresses with my friends instead of being the requisite photog (this also happened). 

I'm not going to give you more details, because frankly you've got enough at this point, and I want to move to the positive side of what's happened since.

(Hey! Welcome back, for those of you that skipped the red. I don't blame you. Depressing crap up there.)

My bulimia was a product of an even deeper issue, which was my terrible self-esteem. I basically hated and resented my body from when I was 6 until, well, 21. 

Let that sink in for a second. 

I was in 1st grade when I learned to hate my body.

I only began to love myself at the end of yet another relationship. This guy wasn't emotionally abusive, he was actually quite nice, but we were just a terrible match for each other. Beyond that though, I'd spent 2.5 years of my life finding my identity in him and our relationship. My bulimia was a fluid thing at the time (ew, no pun intended); it came and went with good and bad days. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what a key factor my faith in God has been in this. It's just the fact of the matter that I had to find my identity in God and who I was as a woman of faith.

I am happy to report that it never got to the 9+ times a day it had been at when I was in high school. 

So since 2007 I've been on an epic quest to love myself, and more importantly love my body. Rarely do I purge like I used to. Maybe once a year? Twice at most? As I said, it's rare, and I don't let those weak moments rule my life like they used to. I've learned that despite what the media will insist upon, there are no magic pills that will make me lose the weight I've carried for so long. There's nothing I can do, outside of lipo (which frankly is just too much money), to make this weight disappear as quickly as I may wish it would. 

For awhile I had resolved to just be fat and happy. Nothing wrong with that, right? 

Well, no, nothing wrong per se, but I still wanted to be healthy. There are "fat" people who are as healthy as they come. I wasn't healthy. I've been swing dancing now for 3.5 years, and that's been a great source of exercise. I've tried healthier lifestyles (vegan, vegetarian, no sugar/caffeine), I've tried different exercises. Regardless of what sticks I'm usually doing something. This time it's all healthy though; I'm not buying apple cider vinegar pills at GNC while looking over my shoulder to make sure my parents don't see me, or leaving a door to the bathroom unlocked in the event someone has to come find me. 

As you've been on this journey with me, you've seen that I've been lifting and adding cardio in. I'm still swing dancing, I'm switching up my diet regularly to keep it interesting, and for the first time ever, I feel like a freaking awesome fat kid

I will confess, part of my crazy excitement over, well, myself, has been finding this blog earlier this week called The Militant Baker. I basically want to be this girl, but me, when I grow up. Well, and sans all the swear words**. Her name is Jes and she's fab-u-lous. She's all about breaking societal norms of beauty, and the girl even rocks a bikini. Oh, and she's a size 18. 

So what if you don't like how she looks in a crop top or bikini? She's got confidence out the wazoo, and she feels awesome. I may or may not have been bouncing around my house like a fool on Wednesday as my roommates stared at me with googly eyes. I was just so excited to have found such an awesome fat kid blogger who loves the crap out of herself and all body types. 

So here we are. I'm 26, on the cusp of getting married, learning to lift weights, doing cardio, eating all kinds of awesome [and healthy!] food, and darnit, I love me. I do. I love my eyes, my hair, my hourglass figure, my shapely legs (I've got awesome calves. It's true.), my badonka-donk***. All of it. It's mine, and I'll work with what I've got.

My fiance loves me in all my pasty glory, and really, what do I care what anyone outside of us thinks of me? Why should I let someone else's crappy philosophy on other people dictate my mood or opinion of myself? Why should I give a rip if you don't want to see my glow-in-the-dark self out on the beach in a bathing suit? It's hot outside, and my bathing suit is adorable and makes me look like a leprechaun. 

I even have my own cabana boy. True story. 
I'm feeling good. I'm not wearing sleeves today in fact. My flabby arms are hanging out, and I don't caaare! I went to the gym, I pumped some iron (BEAST MEEEE!), and ate a small and healthy lunch. I'll go swing dancing tonight to kick some cardio in the teeth, and I'll continue on this exciting journey I'm on. 

What's your favorite part of yourself?? Let's spread some love today!

A Redhead

*Note: My parents are 2 of my best friends and biggest supporters. They are amazing and I wouldn't be where I am now if they hadn't taken care of me like they did when I was younger (and even now).
**Note pt. 2: No judgement, just not my thang. 
**Note pt. 3: Well, OK, I'm learning to love it. My posterior is quite large… 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

One of THOSE days...

Hi friends. I feel like I've been on a roller coaster of emotions the last few days. Nothing particularly bad has happened, but there was a wedding, then we received some bummy news about some of our wedding particulars, then I didn't go to the gym yesterday, but then I got some fun wedding stuff done… It's just been a weird few days.

OK not really, but who doesn't love a Ron Burgandy quote in the morning?
I've been going to the gym faithfully for 2 months now, and am definitely seeing some results with the inches peeling off. Still haven't really lost a pound, and I think it's finally starting to bum me out.

Now, I 100% understand that you will build lean muscle faster than burn fat. I also understand that this is a massive reason that a lot of women quit lifting, since they "aren't seeing results".

I also understand though that I'm dealing with years of terrible self-esteem/bulimia scars, 
compounded with a "gimme gimme now" culture.

My weight didn't magically escalate in 1 night. As sad as it is, and as much as some drug company may say otherwise, it's not all going to fall off in 1 night either.


This is such a tough thing to accept, especially in a healthy manner. My internal struggles for years have been: "But, there IS a way to lose weight quicker", or "but I COULD drop 5 pounds if I just…". Sadly the finishing piece to those 2 statements usually isn't a healthy option. Yeah, OK, I could indeed drop 5 pounds from completely cutting out carbs. I could completely cut out sugar, carbs, eating a meal… Whatever. But is that really the best way to do this? Is that really something sustainable and healthy for my lifestyle?

If I'm completely honest with myself, I'm just tired. I'm exhausted from the month of June, from our pending wedding, from trying to buy a house, from trying to be on this journey of self-betterment. I'm just tired.

Buuuut if I'm even more honest with myself and with all of you, I know at the bottom of my heart that I've made some super positive changes. I've cut out soda, reduced time at my beloved Starbucks, cut back on sugar, have cut back on portions, and have been going to the gym 3-5 times per week. I think I'm doing pretty darn good. But this stupid culture of instant gratification isn't helping me when I'm not seeing my flabby stomach disappear in an instant. Really, I should be grateful that I'm losing the inches evenly. I think I'd be more upset if I lost 10.5 inches from my thighs and my waist was still the same size.

Plus I'd probably look pregnant. We don't need no rumors floating around here.

So. Today is kind of a rough day when I feel like a not-super-cool fat kid, and I hate the dress I'm wearing*, but I know I'll go to the gym and be thankful I worked out. I'll go to lunch and be happy about my smaller portions and healthier choices. Tomorrow I'll wear something I love and makes me happy, even if it's just a necklace.

I will not, however, drown my superficial sorrows in ice cream or more coffee. I'm an emotional eater, so naturally this is my first instinct. Gimme chocolate! (Helloooo instant gratification)

Tonight I'll go to church and see my friends, hang out with my Bearded Wonder, and be thankful for a great life with occasional** bumps in the road like today. Then tomorrow I'll read this blog post again and say "Oh honey. It's OK.".

Anyone else having "one of those days"? What do you do to get yourself out of ruts?

A Redhead

*Note: Seriously, I think this every time I wear it. I need to just get rid of it… It may or may not even be stained in 2 places…

**Note: I can never spell occasional right the first time. Ever. Except for just now because I looked at the spellchecked one up there...