I Give Up (But in a Good Way)…

Many of my earlier posts swirled around my struggle with body issues and image.  I’ve never been a petite girl.  As my husband says, I have good German genes.  Growing up in the late 70’s and all throughout the 1980’s, it was everything to be thin.  Tiny and thin and here I was, large-boned, large framed and for a while taller than every boy in my class almost.  Thank god those guys hit puberty.  Sometimes in middle school I felt like a giant among my peers.  I wasn’t fat growing up, maybe a little chunky from time to time but when the majority of your friends are in single digit sizes, and you are wearing 12, 14 and sometimes 16’s, well you feel much like the names you’d hear whispered or sometimes if they got brave, said to my face.  It seems our job as adolescents is to prepare our peers for getting our butts kicked by real life and grow a thicker skin.

When I graduated high school, I pretty much starved myself my junior and senior year.  And I got down to a size 10.  Not quite single digits but almost.  I literally ate like what I assumed a model would eat.  Pretty much little to nothing.  I was tired a lot, didn’t have a whole lot of energy but at least I wasn’t “fat”.  Looking at photos of me back then, I think I really would love to go back and slap myself for thinking that.  Hindsight though… I got married young to someone who was very emotionally and verbally abusive.  When I got pregnant at 20, I gained 70 lbs with my 8 lb 1/2 oz baby so I really didn’t lose the baby weight after her birth.  Sixty-two of those pounds were pretty much still mine to carry.  I gained 50 lbs with my second child.  I lost some but not very much.  My third child, I worked out and ate better and only gained 30 lbs.  And then came the divorce.  Nothing like a good life changing event to help you lose weight, even if it’s not on purpose.

In my mid 30’s, married for the second time and miserably married to someone even worse than the first husband, I turned to eating for comfort.  My knees started to hurt going up the stairs to the bathroom.  I was out of breath easier.  I felt like shit all the time, in a nutshell.  Since we didn’t own a scale, I finally bought one and stepped on it then immediately started crying when the digital number popped up.  The display read 282.  I was less than 20 pounds shy of 300 pounds.  Well, there was my problem.  Around this time I was also first diagnosed with depression and started treatment.  Everything finally clicked into place and I started taking better care of myself.  Except I still didn’t feel right and finally when I was 40, I was diagnosed by my OB/GYN with hypothyroidism.

Though people believe if you get treated for hypothyroidism the weight comes peeling off but in reality it doesn’t.  The only thing I found is losing weight is even harder than before though my advancing age has a bit to do with that as well.  And the fact I like to eat.  I’ve maintained the same range of weight/size going a bit up or down since I was 38.  Recently I saw were a plus-sized model was angry with Victoria Secret because of what she sees as an unrealistic body image.  I read the article and then looked at the comments which were mostly cruel due to her very large size.  People screaming how unhealthy weight is but weight doesn’t always determine health.

I know thin people with many more health problems than I have but I also try to eat healthy 80% of the time and I exercise doing things such as cycling for 40 miles at a shot, hike, practice yoga and once in a while kickboxing.  My last checkup and blood work there weren’t any issues other than my LDL was not where he’d like it to be but it’s common for those who are hypothyroid.  Being larger doesn’t automatically mean you are unhealthy.  I can’t speak for the plus-size model, she is much larger than I am but I also am not her doctor.  I can’t speak for the thin VS models either.  I just feel like can’t we all just f’ing quit body shaming one another no matter what size we are?  Maybe mind our own business and live our own life?  Be accepting of everyone, no matter size, race, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and so on.  Can’t we ever just grow up and put our adult pants on and stop acting so cruelly?

Lately, I’ve noticed my clothes are tighter.  We moved in September and I never really got back into my riding schedule and now it’s December in Ohio.  I haven’t been watching what I have been eating either and I think the big change of the move had me emotionally eating without me really noticing that I was doing this.  So I just open up my Livestrong app that I use for food journaling and start doing a check of myself.  I start working out more.  Since I no longer own a scale, I only can go by my clothes.  I’m starting to go back the other way but every time I try to diet or really focus on losing weight or getting smaller, my subconscious rebels.

Each year in December rather than resolutions, I write down 5 goals I want to achieve in the next year.  The first one I wrote down for 2016,  is to lose weight and be more fit.   Then I wrote one for my writing, one for cycling, etc.  As soon as I wrote #1, it bothered me.  It felt like my old New Year resolutions where I would put “I will lose 50 pounds by December”.  I stopped that practice because it always felt like I was a failure when I didn’t meet that weight.  It dawned on me yesterday, that I’ve written a lot about accepting yourself as you are and not worrying about what others think but yet here I was making the same type of goal that I said I would not do.  It was just worded a little different.  I was letting my size bother me.  And in doing so, I was making myself miserable again.

My subconscious fights this thinking by giving me cravings for sweets and junk food I normally don’t have when I am not in this mode of essentially dieting.  I’ve overcome many years of bingeing by following the author Geneen Roth’s advice.  Trusting your body to know what it needs and wants.  The moment I try to control that process, my body and mind rebel.  It says, hey I thought you loved me not hated me, why are you doing this?  So you aren’t perfect, no one is!  I opened my little hard bound book that I wrote Goal #1 in and I tore out the pages, tore them into pieces and then threw them away.  Now I will rewrite my goals and pay attention to what I am asking myself to do.  Maybe I should change #1 to “Love Myself Just as I am”.  Because really that’s what I need to do.   My husband loves me just as I am and thinks I’m beautiful and sexy, he never says you need to lose weight.  My kids and friends love me just as I am.  Shouldn’t I love myself just this way too?

Old habits are sneaky, the reemerge in different ways.  Listen to your inner cues though and follow what feels right in your heart.

Selfies, Not So Silly?

Selfies are a bit of a running joke with anyone who is familiar with social media.  Even grandmas are doing selfies and posting them to their news feed.  They have even created a “selfie stick” to aid in taking photos of ones self especially those of us with tyrannosaurus rex length arms like myself but I have yet to succumb to purchasing a selfie stick.

When I first ventured into selfie territory, I felt quite silly taking pictures of myself.  More on the humorous side, I went for more of the ‘sarcastic selfie’, overdone facial expressions to make it all seem a little less awkward though I looked way more awkward.  I found it easier to take selfies with my girls in them, they seemed more ‘legit’ rather than some overly engrossed middle-age woman trying to be cool.  Being 40’ish, you seem like you are always straddling the line of what seems to be trying to hard and looking ridiculous.

Every day I peruse my Facebook feed reading up on what my friends and family are up to, admiring their pictures, laughing at their humor and feeling sad with their difficult moments.  Selfies fill up a lot of the feed but I never think, wow, they are so vain or stuck on themselves.  I love seeing pictures of people I’ve known most of my life as they smile and look happy.  I always feel like smiling back, noting beauty in each person even though they, like me, are all getting older.  But age doesn’t necessarily mean you become ugly, it just means that beauty changes, evolves.

I have found that taking photos of myself has done a great deal toward making me less photo shy.  Now if someone wants to take my picture, I don’t run away, literally, I would run away, I hated my picture so much.  I can remember once one of my girls, I think my youngest, said, “Momma, you’re never in any of our pictures.”  And then she would stare at me accusingly as if it was a conspiracy.  I never could get much by any of my daughters.  She wanted to know what did I feel was so wrong with me that I didn’t want to be captured in a photograph.  She patted me on the leg and said “But Momma you are pretty.”  As if that solved all my years of body and self-esteem issues.

Maybe some of it is age, the older I get the less I give a rat’s ass about what anyone thinks about me.  At this point you are just grateful you have most of your organs and things work even if they hurt.  I have lost people I love younger than myself to tragedies, accidents and cruel illnesses.  You are a bit more thankful to wake up each morning.  But some of it is just I have forced myself to be less camera shy.  Over the years, it became easier.  Most of my selfies just go into my hard drive and online photo service where I store them as a backup.  Though I own a nice Nikon DSLR camera, I have gotten lazy and take so many of my photos with my iPhone because it’s always available and slowly these phone cameras are becoming almost as advanced as my Nikon.

I have a folder for each year for simply cell phone uploads.  Odds and ends of memories that I capture in my day to day.  Looking at this album, it is almost like a journal, I capture whatever sparks my fancy that day.  Including odd ball items like price tags of floor laminate (so I remember the cost per square or linear foot for when we estimate a job cost), food at restaurants, a flower in a garden somewhere, a random sunset, a strange bug I saw out hiking and many of my girls.  My iPhone photo app now has developed to the point it can detect most though not all of my selfies and puts them into their own folder designation. Literally I have a “Selfies” folder in my iPhone photo app.  I didn’t create it, Apple did but I thought well as times have changed, everyone is taking pictures of themselves.

Am I more self-absorbed because I take these photos as the experts claim we are all becoming?  Not really, I am sure if I was, my husband would probably point out my annoying behavior at some point.  I haven’t crawled into my own world and started ignoring everything and everyone around me.  No, I have simply become much more comfortable in my own skin.  More accepting and less critical of my photos.  Granted I take some selfies and cringe but I can simply delete them.  Take it again.  It is all about camera angle and lighting.

I don’t use filter apps to take away every wrinkle and flaw before I post my pictures or share them.  I’ve run into friends I haven’t seen for years only to not really recognize them because all their social media photos are run through this glam filter that takes away the lines and imperfections making them look twenty years younger.  I wonder if they realize that people are surprised when they see them in person because obviously you can’t walk around with a filter over your face as if it were magic makeup.  Just a random thought.   Now, being more wise to these filter users, when I see someone on my news feed who looks impossibly young for her age, I know, the photo has been probably doctored.

I like real untouched photos, the one that shows how someone truly is.  It is one of the reasons I am not a big makeup wearer.  I’ve seen those makeup tutorials and before/after shots of celebrities and models where you look at the “before” and think well you’re just a regular person like me.  I often thought if I have to put that much makeup on to attract a date, well I just give up.  To each their own of course but I don’t want someone waking up beside me sans my makeup and they freak out because I do not look the same.  Not that it isn’t fun to do dramatic makeup to go out for the night, sometimes I do but mostly my husband looks at me and says something like “You’re wearing a lot of makeup.”  As if I’m trying out for the Bozo convention at the clown college.  He simply is not a fan of me in heavy makeup.  I did grow up in the 80’s though.  We loved all the dramatic look back then.

When I was in my early 20’s, the actress Jenny McCarthy was up and coming.  One day she was on Oprah and I can remember her taking a poster of herself and using a black Sharpie marker, she circled all the areas that had been retouched.  I remember sitting there with my mouth open as this had never occurred to me that these people weren’t perfect after all, they were just manipulated to look perfect.  All those years of sighing over Seventeen magazine or entertainment magazines feeling ugly and imperfect was for nothing.  Certainly there are people with much better genes than I possess but they aren’t these goddesses that they are made out to be.  Throw in my family’s obsession with being thin and yes, I had eating disorders and self-image problems.

Now when I look back of photos of myself in my teens or early 20’s, I want to go back and slap myself.  I want to tell my younger self, “Hey girl, you look good, wear that leather miniskirt and heels.  Own it. ”  Which in turn makes me wonder what my 60-something self would want to tell me now.  I think my older self might just want to tell me to relax and enjoy life.  You don’t always have to be achieving something even though it feels like you wasted your life sometimes, you haven’t.  I need a time capsule.  Or a note I open in 20 years.   Well, I have this blog, maybe that would work as a reminder.

And I will have a whole bunch of selfies to remember how good I looked in my forties…  My daughters won’t have to scramble for photos of me when they are older, I’ve created my own gallery.   Even ones with absolutely no makeup as the one I am attaching to this post with my cat.  It’s one of my favorite pictures of myself and I have no makeup on, my hair is barely combed but I think it truly captures me at this time in my life.   I have been through a lot but I still find simple joys in life like my cat cuddling with me.

Oh and I’m asking for a selfie stick for Christmas….