RtL: My History

This is a post I’ve been promising for a good year now, and one I sat down to write dozens of times. I guess it just had to wait until I was ready!

There was a lot of debate last year about whether or not my philosophy of radical self-acceptance was really healthy. Shouldn’t we try to improve ourselves? If we are overweight, shouldn’t we lose the weight? Is self-acceptance just complacency in disguise?

I wanted to reveal my own struggles with this issue in more detail many times in order to help readers understand where I was coming from and why I am so committed to radical self-acceptance.  But it took a long time to work up the guts to write about it. However, I finally did it! Here’s my story:

As a child, I was lean, strong and active. I thank my lucky stars that I was born just before computers and cable TV and so playing outside or reading were really the only two options a child had for fun. I bicycled, ran, jumped, swam and climbed in our SoCal neighborhood and liked to think of myself as the strongest, fastest girl in my class.

It is amazing to me how quickly things changed. At 10, when I was in 5th grade, I began to gain weight and honestly, I looked like a chicken nugget – oval, with little round bits here and there. I suddenly felt stuck to the earth and had pains in my knees and ankles. I developed asthma and lost my speed and any desire I had once had to be active. There was a clique of very popular girls in the 6th grade at my school who made fun of me when we played baseball during PE. They called me Slowpoke, Fatty, and Little Pig. That was the first time I started feeling ashamed of my body. (Don’t we all have a moment like that? What a shame.)

Looking like a little nugget at age 11.

Looking like a little nugget at age 11.

At 12, all my chicken nugget fat quite suddenly relocated and left me looking like a 21-year-old. That year, my family moved from SoCal to Albuquerque – a major culture shock for me. I had spent almost all my childhood in sheltered private schools and suddenly, I found myself in a huge, public middle school where I was one of four blondes in the entire 7th grade.

The girls there either loved me or hated me – there was nothing in between, and those who loved me didn’t tend to love me for long. The boys were the worst, though. It started with the boy whose locker was underneath mine. He would literally slide down the hall like a baseball player in order to land between my legs so he could look up my skirt. I remember the first time this happened, I was so shocked and ashamed. I yelped and looked to my female neighbor for help and she just shrugged and said, “Typical Bobby. He always pulls that crap.” Her reaction taught me that I wasn’t supposed to make a big deal of it, so I learned to hold my knees tight together when at my locker and to try to ignore Bobby.

As time went on, though, things got worse. Another boy who shared a class with me would wait for me in the hall, run up behind me, grab my bra strap and snap it against my back. I tried so hard to be tough that I would yell at him and chase him into our classroom, only to get in trouble with the teacher. There was also a group of boys who rode my bus who would corner me in the halls and grab either my sweater or my boots, wrangle them off me, and run through the halls throwing my stolen clothes or shoes over their heads, laughing as they went.

I started “going steady” with someone that year, but promptly broke it off when he made it clear he wanted to start kissing. I wasn’t ready for that, and was very honest about it. After we broke up, he told all his friends, and when I got on the bus, they’d chant, “Prude! Prude! Prude!”

Age 12, the last year I had a normal relationship with food.

Age 12, the last year I had a normal relationship with food.

In class, other boys caught on to the bra snapping gig, which seemed infinitely more appealing to them, once I had been labeled a prude. One boy, who had verbally bullied me for months once snapped my bra so hard that it left a welt on my back. He even had the gumption to do this during class. I was so fed up that I turned around and slapped him across the face as hard as I could. I was stunned when he slapped my face right back. And guess who got in trouble for that one? Yep, me.

Outside of school was just as confusing. I was often hit on by men in their twenties, thirties and even forties. At the time, I was convinced that they just thought I was in my twenties and didn’t realize I was only 12. Of course, I look back now and wonder…maybe they did know…

As you can imagine, by that point, my body was nothing but a source of pain and confusion. I had this feeling of wanting to be liked and thought of as desirable. Yet I also saw that the result of being considered desireable was that I had no control over my body – it became public property.

My parents came in and talked to the principal, who said, “Boys will be boys.” After that, I started moving from one school to the next, sometimes three in one school year, in order to try to avoid the sexual harassment and bullying.

Five schools later, in 10th grade, I was at a public high school that scared the crap out of me. It was the biggest school I’d ever attended and there were kids there who looked like they were 30 years old and could beat me to death. It was there that I learned how to become invisible.

From my past experience, it seemed that being thin and pretty were two guaranteed ways to draw unwanted attention to oneself. So I remedied that by wearing my father’s old jeans and button-down shirts every day (which were hugely baggy on me) and not wearing makeup. I felt that I had no control over what happened to me in the outside world, so I countered that by developing some dangerous eating habits. I would nearly starve myself all day long, from morning until 4PM, and when I was finally free of school for the day, I would binge. My favorite binge foods were four toaster waffles or three steak burritos, both of which my parents often bought from Price Club. Three hours later, I’d have a big dinner and hefty dessert. I gained about 30 pounds during this time.

Age 17, nearing 50 pounds overweight and well into the "potato sack" clothing phase.

Age 17, nearing 50 pounds overweight and well into the “potato sack” clothing phase.

By 19, I had moved to Oregon with my family and after four more years of bullying, social isolation and school problems, I was a mess. My beloved uncle died unexpectedly that year of a hereditary heart problem and I became so overwhelmed with fear and anxiety that my eating problems reached a whole new level, elevating me another 10 pounds. I went to the gynecologist for the first time that year, about 40 pounds overweight (though being 5’7”, I didn’t *look* that heavy) and my doctor told me I was obese and that if I didn’t immediately lose the weight, I would die of a heart attack. After having just lost my uncle so unexpectedly, I freaked out more and gained yet another 10 pounds.

At 23, my health problems were getting pretty bad and I decided to try a vegan diet. Back then, there were no vegan packaged foods, no fake meats, nothing. I basically ate beans, bread, rice and veggies. I lost at least 50 pounds in about a month, and this weight loss triggered an immense panic in me. I found ways to “veganize” desserts and started baking and eating sweets nonstop. I got to the point where I was hiding cookies and candies in my closet and eating 10-15 servings of dessert foods in one sitting. Then I would spend five or six hours a day working out, in a desperate attempt to keep from gaining the weight back. As you can imagine, the rest of my life stopped. There was no college, no friends, no dating, no job. Nothing but eating and working out.

Age 23, after dramatic weight loss (that didn't last)

Age 23, after dramatic weight loss (that didn’t last)

I was so out of control that I couldn’t even contain my emotions. I was constantly crying and breaking down in front of my mother and sister, begging them to tell me how to stop myself from behaving that way. Finally, my whole family confronted me with an intervention. My parents wanted to send me to an eating disorder camp and I was so lost that I agreed to go. I knew I needed help. However, they could not find a place that would accept anyone who didn’t have anorexia or bulimia, so we settled on plain old therapy.

At this point, the story simply becomes one of a young woman who spent her early adulthood in recovery, working through years and years of you-know-what (many more incidents that I didn’t mention here for the sake of brevity). And I’m still in recovery, hence why I write about this subject so often.

The reason I decided to write about this is simply to explain why I am so adamant that we accept ourselves just the way we are now. No cheating (“I accept myself, but I still want to lose weight,” or “I accept myself, but I wish I was thinner”). No mind games, no word games, no attempts to be politically correct while, on the inside, we are running the same story.

This is what I learned from my history with eating problems:

ONE: We really don’t have control over the way we look. (We like to think we do, but we don’t.)

TWO: It’s a waste of time to fret about our appearance.

THREE: We will never ever ever find that perfect weight. There will always be something else we think we need to do to improve the way we look. If it’s not our weight, then it’s our hair, our skin, our ____.

FOUR: The more we withhold love from ourselves, the more we withhold from others and the more we miss out on life.

There’s a lot more to all this, of course (most of which I’ve written about in past RtL posts), but this is the gist. In the near future, I’ll be posting about how I did on the RtL Challenge last year. In the meantime, what is your story? What keeps you from total self-acceptance?

Resolve to Love #6: Play Like a Kid

I can hardly believe that this month marks the half-way point of the Resolve to Love Challenge. There’s still so much to do and say, and sadly, I had no time to post last month! I hope you all did well with your mental workout. Did you find it challenging? Did you notice yourself slipping into self-criticism? Did you let yourself give up too often? And what about April’s challenge? Have you been working on radical self-acceptance?

These are two assignments that I hope you will continue to work on throughout the challenge. Our mental and emotional health are just as important as our physical health. I don’t believe you can truly have one without the others. So keep up the good work there!

And now, since summer is finally here, it’s time to go out and have some fun. Your assignment this month is to simply make FUN movement a part of your daily routine. I’m not talking about carving out time to do yoga or go to the gym (though that’s great if you do, of course!). I think many people look on trips to the gym with dread and do it simply out of a fear of gaining weight or because it is an act of discipline that makes us feel we are doing something good for ourselves. And while it IS good for our bodies, let’s face it – forcing yourself into a routine that you dread is not a sustainable action. And if you hate the stairmaster (or whatever), why force yourself to do it when there are so many other things you can do that you might [gasp] LOVE?

Copyright: Five Seed

In this culture, it seems we look on physical activity as something separate from our everyday lives. The example of the gym comes to mind – that hour before or after work that we put in, whether we enjoy it or not, while the rest of our lives is spent largely in the sitting position. Sitting at our desks. Sitting in the car. Sitting on the couch. Everything in our culture seems to support this notion that movement isn’t meant to be part of our everyday activities. Our cars, our clothing (high heels, panty hose, silk blouses that don’t mix well with sweat, pencil skirts), our schedules.

But here’s the thing: Movement is not meant to be compartmentalized. It is not meant to be assigned to an hour’s block in our daily schedule. We have bodies and they should be moving! And what’s more, that movement should mostly be fun.

Remember when you were a child and you ran, walked, skated, scootered, boarded or bicycled not just to get from Point A to Point B, but as a form of recreation all by itself?? Remember when you couldn’t WAIT to get home from school so you could get out of that desk and just play? Well, it’s time to be a kid again. Get off the computer and go outside and PLAY.

The first thing you need to do is to get on Craigslist and buy whatever you can afford in human-powered transportation – either something you loved as a child or something you’ve wanted to try as an adult. A skateboard, long board, skates, roller blades, bicycle, adult tricycle, scooter, etc. Get on and get rolling! Try riding around your neighborhood, at first, then try longer journeys. Maybe you can start scootering or biking to your friends’ houses or to get-togethers at the coffee shop. Maybe you want to try skateboarding to work, if it’s not too far. Work these activities into your life, into your routine – why not?! (And if you have kids, all the better! Join them!)

The second assignment is somewhat simpler. Take more walks. But there’s a catch: These are not workout walks. You are not allowed to listen to your workout playlist on your iPod while taking these walks, or to wear your fancy jogging tights. Nope. Your walks are pleasure walks. If you take your iPod, you must listen to either relaxing music or audio books. It’s fine to wear your workout shoes if you walk in a rocky area like I do, but all the better to go to a park and take your shoes off so you can feel the grass under your feet. Look at every tree and flower and weed you pass. Take note of the sky. Listen to the wind and the bees. Take your dog and play fetch or take your kids and show them the caterpillars on the trees and the way the clouds move. This is not a workout. You are having fun. You are moving. You are observing. You are alive. Simple as that.

Your third assignment is to move more at home. I see a definite pattern in my life to gravitate toward the computer, toward wasting time with video games and streaming videos, toward sedentary activities. But there are a million things to do at home that you might love – and they all require movement. Gardening is a number-one sweat-inducer for me! And I absolutely love it. There’s something so satisfying about growing your own food. And what a great gift to share with your kids – movement, connection to the land, good nutrition. What could be better? And how about all those things on your to-do list? Wash the car. Clean out the cupboards. Organize the garage. Get some people involved and get moving. Make it fun. And oh yeah, you’re getting healthier as you move those boxes and stretch to dust the shelves and squat to clean the stain on the carpet. Sex works in the “fun movement” category, too, and *might* be more enjoyable than organizing the garage.

Finally, if you are up for a final challenge in June, try something you haven’t tried before. Go horseback riding. Take a martial arts or dance class. Try a 2-day hiking/camping trip or a 30 mile bicycle ride (believe me, it’s easier than it sounds). Stretch yourself not in an effort to lose weight, but in a spirit of adventure and childlike curiosity.

If you are stumped on what to do, please take a moment to think about your favorite activities as a child, or something you dreamed of doing but never did (tap dancing? fencing? ice skating?). That’s it! Follow that lead!

I would absolutely LOVE to hear about your adventures. Please leave me comments about what you decide to do, or post it on my Facebook page. Believe me, you will have fun with this one!

Resolve to Love #5: The Mental Workout

I can hardly believe that we are near the halfway point of the RtL Challenge. How are you all doing with it? Last month, I hope the posts got you thinking and maybe even stretching your perceptions. Can you accept yourself as you are right in this moment? Is self-acceptance synonymous with complacency? Or giving up on yourself? If you’ve been as much of a stickler about it as I have been, has it been hard?

I have lots to say about my own experience, but for now, let’s jump into May’s assignment. This one is piggybacking on last month’s challenge, which, hopefully, you will continue to keep as part of your everyday routine. Since we touched on “dieting” in April, we are going to focus on working out this month. But not the usual way. You won’t be pulling on sweat pants or dragging yourself to the gym. Your workout is all “upstairs.”

During the month of May, I’m asking participants to start and end their days with affirmations (or prayers if that works better for you). Your affirmations/prayers can be as long or short as you like. They can pretty much be about anything you like. The only rule is that you must create all your affirmations to be in the present tense. Avoid “not” statements, like “I will not criticize myself today.” Keep it in the affirmative. For example, “I will build myself up today.”

I asked Melanie Jade of My Magical Journey to collaborate with me on this one, as she is a wonderful spiritual coach who has truly inspired me these past few years. The affirmation she was prompted to share with my readers is simple, beautiful and says it all:

I am love.

If you want to add to this, try looking through the affirmations at her website.

I also highly recommend Marianne Williamson’s book, A Course in Weight Loss. Though I mightily hate the title, I have a feeling that was more about the publisher’s desire to sell books than Williamson’s desire to help others heal from destructive relationships with food. This book is full of amazing insight and beautiful prayers. One to try:

Dear God,

Please help me begin anew,
to rebuild my temple
and restore my body.
May I learn to eat well.
Please send angels to help me.
May angels oversee my food and sit with me while I eat.
May food,
which I have so used to hurt me,
now become a blessing
and a blessing only
in my life.
Amen

Again, you don’t have to use any of these. Make up your own – whatever works for you and makes you feel good. Your affirmation/prayer can be about your body, about food, about self-acceptance or about your inner worth. Or all of the above.

The challenge is making sure you repeat your new mantra every single morning before you get out of bed and every night before you go to sleep. And anytime you can recite it in between!

These are your new abdominal crunches, your squats, your curls. Would you ever fail to perform your weekly allotment of sun salutations? Would you skip your morning jogs? Most of us are pretty diligent about our workouts (whether we’re really disciplined or just plain afraid of what will happen to our bodies if we stop), but no workout is as important as this one.

You absolutely must commit at least one minute in the morning and one minute in the evening to repeating your affirmation/prayer. Every single day. No fail!

Are you in?

Why I am suspicious of the health goal

We have talked about health and weight loss and self-acceptance and complacency a LOT this month, and here’s just one more reason why I’m suspicious of saying that “health – not weight loss – is the goal”:

Here’s the latest Women’s Health Magazine. Health is a pretty broad term, right? But you wouldn’t know it looking at this magazine cover.

These are the issues I have with this cover:

1. Four out of the seven cover stories are about weight-loss.

2. Five out of the seven cover stories are about appearance. Of the remaining two, one is about having “hotter sex.” Apparently, our happiness and mental/emotional health is only worth 1/7 of our time and attention, while the rest is about looking good and making sex hotter.

3. Let’s face it. Like many women’s magazines on the stands these days, this one is all about sex, sexuality and sexiness. While there’s nothing wrong with any of those things in the proper context, it’s demeaning to women to be objectified by the media. Do you look at this picture and think the cover model is really healthy? Smart? Happy? Maybe. But if she’s happy, it’s cuz she’s so hot, right? And hot is healthy. Skinny is stress-reducing. Flat abs produce joy! Right?

4. I find one cover story particularly offensive: Eat, Drink & Still Shrink. Healthy, Yummy, Bikini-Friendly Ideas! Really?! I don’t even know where to begin here. Shrink, huh? Shrink. Cuz that’s what health is all about – getting smaller. And to label anything healthy as “bikini-friendly” is reductive, repressive and insulting. So health equals our ability to look sexy in a bikini? Is that the message here?

This is why I’ve been so fanatical about self-acceptance this month. We live in a culture that absolutely does not promote self-acceptance. Period. Have you noticed that even when you lose weight, suddenly, there’s something else to worry about? Teeth that aren’t exactly gleaming white. Jiggly arms that result from major weight loss. Cellulite. Large pores.

Get the picture? Our “health” magazines will always be pointing out ways to improve our appearance, rather than pointing out all the reasons we have for accepting ourselves just the way we are now. Which sounds healthier to you?

 

Self-Acceptance and Complacency

I admit, I’ve been a little puzzled about some of the feedback I’ve gotten on my RtL posts, especially this past month. What is so bad about the idea of loving ourselves just the way we are, even if we are overweight?, I have wondered. I understand people arguing for health – but I’m not against being healthy. I don’t think that loving oneself manifests as lying in bed all day drinking soda and eating potato chips until one keels over from obesity-related heart disease. On the contrary, I believe that when we totally accept ourselves in any given moment and remember our true inner worth, we will naturally gravitate toward healthier decisions more and more.

However, when I received the following comment (bold font added) from EcoYogini, I finally started to get it:

…In our society we’ve been so conditioned to believe that health and fitness are separate from present self-acceptance that seeing the connection is difficult. We associate self-acceptance as complacency, which doesn’t have to be the case. Both concepts are not mutually exclusive- that kind of cultural and social change just takes a huge paradigm shift for many of us and may take some time.

Soon after, I received a thoughtful email from another awesome fellow blogger, Bella Before and After*:

…I think that not loving [my stomach]  is totally ok, and realistic. NOTHING can make me love it, when I know it’s not supposed to look like that, when I know I can do something about it, and damn it, it’s about time I do. The only thing I would ever teach other girls, including my own daughter to do is, to be healthy. I do not believe we need to be perfect, have tight, skinny bodies, with big boobs, small boobs, big butts, etc. Just be healthy.

I think once we stop talking about being healthy, and just loving our bodies the way they are, we can get in a danger zone, that is even worse than where we are now, if that’s even possible. I think we need to educate NOT only women, but men, and all our children the importance of being healthy, and stop making excuses for not being healthy. Loving your body is one thing, and not talking about your weight, or the perfect diet, I totally agree. That’s not important, and leads to unhealthy habits of yo-yo diets, and unrealistic ideas of perfection. But I think we all know the difference of healthy bodies, and healthy food, and if we don’t then we should learn.
Sorry about my little rampage, but I just wanted to voice my concern, because…the last thing I want is to make women feel that it is OK to be unhealthy, keep on drinking that soda, eating that junk food, and just love your unhealthy fat body, because it’s not OK. Yes love yourself, don’t hate yourself, but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE realize that if your tummy looks anything like mine does, it’s time to change, because it’s simply NOT healthy. Enough is enough you know, and no excuse in the world is worth it, when you get sick from heart disease or something else.

I understand now! The resistance comes from believing that if we accept ourselves exactly as we are, we will have no motivation to change. We will become more unhealthy. We will have nothing to reach for. We will lose our sense of productivity. We will cast our goals aside and any number of scary circumstances (sloth, obesity, unhappiness, etc.) will set in. And, worst case scenario, we might die if it gets bad enough. I get what you are saying now! But…I challenge that notion with one of my own.

What if that’s all a bunch of BS? What if that’s just another set of fears trying to control us? (Just to be clear, I’m not referring to Bella’s quoted comment as BS – just what I wrote in the previous paragraph.) Here’s the breakdown:

1. If you are overweight right now, and have yet to kick the bucket, loving yourself exactly as you are in this very moment is not going to speed up your demise.**

2. Radically accepting yourself, even if you are 200 pounds overweight (or more) will not cause you to eat more or to spiral into worse health than you are experiencing in this moment. Admittedly, you may find yourself in a short-lived backlash (something I’ll blog about later), but self-love breeds self-loving behaviors in the long run.

3. Loving yourself at ANY weight does not condone unhealthy behavior of any kind. This is a judgment game that we play with ourselves – if we are overweight, we did something wrong and how can you accept something that is wrong? Well, guess what…:

4. Being overweight is not a crime, it’s not inherently “wrong,” nor does it prove we have an underlying character flaw (laziness, lack of willpower, etc.). I know lots and lots of naturally skinny people who eat sugar and other junk food all day long and most of them (the men, especially) don’t flog themselves about it, or judge themselves for not making healthier choices. This one is a definite double standard. Being thinner does not necessarily equate to health, “rightness,” or strength of character.

5. Choosing to remain in judgment of your body only keeps you in a place of guilt and we don’t tend to make very healthy choices from that kind of mental landscape. Self-acceptance, just like self-denial, grows exponentially and affects every decision we make. Loving, accepting environments create loving, accepting behaviors.

I think we’re fighting two paradigms here: First, we live in a goal-oriented society in which acceptance IS considered complacency. If you’re not setting goals and always in the process of improving then the perception is that you have a deep character flaw. Complacency might as well be a synonym for laziness.

The second paradigm is simple FEAR-based thinking. It runs deep in all of us, and in our collective consciousness. We have a million and one seemingly logical reasons behind our self-judgment, and none is so seductive as that of the pursuit of health. What could be more virtuous than that? What human being doesn‘t want to be healthy? It seems to be a motivational concept that is beyond reproach. And at its most basic level, it is. However, why should it follow that self-acceptance is synonymous with gluttony, laziness, and death-by-chocolate?

Judgment, self-denial, diets, self-criticism…all those things give us something we humans seem to love: control. If we just accepted things, what on earth would we do with ourselves? But I challenge you to wonder whether or not there’s really any truth to these fears about self-acceptance and complacency. I saw this update from Marianne Williamson on her FB page today, and to me, it says it all: “Things don’t spiral out of control when we surrender them; they spiral out of control when we try to control them!

Self-acceptance is a type of surrender. Oh, no wonder we resist it so much! Surrender tends to be a hard concept for many of us to digest. It sounds so weak, doesn’t it? But I think we need to reprogram that word. Williamson says, “Something amazing happens when we surrender and just love. We melt into another world, a realm of power already within us. The world changes when we change.” Sarah Paddison says, “When we know love matters more than anything, and we know that nothing else REALLY matters, we move into the state of surrender. Surrender does not diminish our power, it enhances it.” This kind of surrender takes more strength than our fight to control our behaviors. It takes the enormous strength of faith in ourselves and faith in the universe.

I have lots more to say on this subject – no surprise there! But I’ll end for now, with many thanks to EcoYogini for helping me pinpoint the reasons behind the resistance to radical self-acceptance, and many, many, many thanks to Bella for letting me print her email here and use it as an example of my side of the argument!

*I want to be very clear that I asked Bella’s permission to quote from the above email she sent and that I made sure she knew I was going to use it to present another side of the argument here. She wanted to point out that her email was written on the spur of the moment, as well, and while I wrote this post in the same manner, I have, of course, since edited it a couple times. So extra thanks to Bella for letting me use her off-the-cuff observations here!

**I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek here and later, when I mention death-by-chocolate. I am also not specifically referring to anything in Bella’s email with this argument. I have heard from a lot of people worried about serious weight-related health issues. This is a serious problem and I fully acknowledge and respect that. However, I’m just trying to make a somewhat humorous point that self-acceptance will not contribute to or worsen serious health problems.

Please note that I completely respect any of you who stick to the arguments about health and who lean more toward self-acceptance being too complacent. I’m just trying to challenge that notion here – hopefully in a very respectful manner! I’m absolutely open to hearing from any of you on this subject and would be happy to have counter-arguments included here on the blog as guest posts. 

What You Had to Say

I have been getting more and more comments (both on the blog and via email) on the Resolve to Love Challenge as it moves through its fourth month. We’re definitely getting into some controversial territory! Because of some emails I received (very respectful emails, I might add, and thank you emailers for that!), I felt I had to try to be as clear as I could about this issue of not talking about our weight, and accepting ourselves exactly as we are, overweight or not. Hopefully, I was able to achieve that, at least to some extent. As I mentioned before, I’m still working this out for myself as I go through this challenge!

Anyway, I got so many amazing comments on this that I really wanted to share what some of you said. So here we go:

“…when I concentrate on my weight or ‘health’ I end up feeling like a failure and then giving up and hating my self. However when I spend my time liking my self and deciding to just be happy I eat much better and make far better health choices.”

“…I really thought I didn’t care anymore about the numbers (only about how I feel) but …the number on the scale had this scary effect on me: I wanted to see if I could get it even lower. Thank goodness my senses kicked and I reminded myself that my current health goals are far too important to sabotage with weight obsession, and I kicked that monster to the curb.”

“…wanting to have more muscular arms and not be sweaty when I get on the bus is not a bad thing in-and-of itself. If these things drive me to improve, to become healthier, to set goals, all’s the better. But, if these things cause me to dislike an aspect of MYSELF, that person deep down there that I should love and respect, THERE’s the problem.”

“I never know what to say when someone makes a comment to me about my weight. Like, ‘Oh you look like you’ve lost weight.’ I just stare back. I also had someone ask me what my workout schedule and diet plan is. Because I’m not usually in conversation with people who care about that stuff, I was taken off-guard. About 10 years ago when my weight was fluctuating more than it does now, I realized I didn’t feel flattered when someone said I looked like I’d lost weight. It made me wonder why they were concerned with my weight in the first place and if they thought I looked fat before. So, I decided to not even make weight a topic of conversation, and I’ve found I don’t even notice people’s weight shifts like I did before because it’s not even on my radar.”

Four years ago, I was ‘relatively’ happy with my weight and became sick. I found out that I had hypothyroidism. Throughout the last four years I have gained nearly 35 lbs. To be clear, I have lost and regained some of that weight as your thyroid is tricky to get working to its optimum levels. At this time, I am closer to 30 lbs overweight and try every day–with some days being more successful than others–to love myself. It is my belief that loving yourself they way you are is as difficult a journey as healing your thyroid!”

Another fascinating issue issue has arisen and I was able to finally understand the resistance to this idea thanks to a comment I received from EcoYogini, which I will discuss in the next RtL post. Stay tuned!

Radical self-acceptance

These posts about the RtL Challenge have become more and more emotional for me, as I go through each month. I feel very strongly about what my inner guidance is telling me (as far as being militant about self-acceptance), but translating that to the page with the rest of the details of this issue is hard for me. I feel like I am not always able to express my ideas clearly enough, which is super frustrating, especially when I feel I might be alienating people who are reading this blog.

So let me be clear that I am NOT against exercising or eating a healthy diet or even wanting to look and feel sexy. I hope that is obvious, especially to those who have been reading this blog for a long time. Being healthy is one of my top priorities.

What I’m trying to work through within this challenge is, at its most basic level, radical self-acceptance.

Admittedly, I started this challenge for myself – because I needed it. I also became more and more aware of how often people in my circle were still struggling to heal from old eating disorders, and how often I heard negative self-talk. For quite a long time, I could not post a picture on Facebook without someone in the photo saying, “Please delete this! I look so fat/hideous/tired/ugly!” I heard friends talk about their weight loss plans fueled by insecurities born of “comparison criticism” (feeling ugly or fat compared to a thinner friend or family member). And there were a whole lot of conversations dominated by the subjects of food, weight and workout ideas. In fact, even as I write this, there is a mirror leaning against the wall behind me (I’m still in the middle of my studio re-design) and I keep looking over my shoulder thinking, “Am I really this wide, or is it the angle of the mirror?”

So the reason I write these RtL Challenge posts is to say SHUSH to all of that. No more. Enough is enough. All of that is a total waste of our time. I often think of a story I have shared here a million times about one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott. One day, while shopping with a friend for a dress she wanted to wear on a first date, she asked if the dress made her look too fat. Her friend, Pammy, who was terminally ill at the time, said, “I don’t think you have that kind of time.” This story has remained with me since I first read it, years ago. Yes, we want to feel pretty and sexy, but are we going to waste our precious time here on earth feeling bad about ourselves on the days when we don’t feel pretty and sexy? Are we going to waste time trying to achieve that goal from the outside in (instead of from the inside out)? And how do we achieve it? Who defines pretty and sexy? When are we pretty and sexy enough?

I believe that the only road to being pretty and sexy and healthy is to radically accept ourselves the way we are in every moment – no easy task. I don’t care if you are 500 pounds, 90 pounds or anything in between. Nothing is going to permanently change on the outside until you lay the foundation for it on the inside. I believe self-esteem naturally and almost effortlessly manifests in healthy behaviors. When you love and respect yourself, you make different choices. If you see a plate of cookies, you might have one and realize that eating any more might make you feel sick or unhappy and therefore, you’ll walk away. Or you may choose not to eat any. But you probably won’t eat the whole plate and then work out for six hours the next day. (And even if you do, you’ll respond to your behavior with love and acceptance, which will help you work through your destructive behaviors and heal, instead of responding with frustration and self-hatred, which perpetuates the cycle.) Diets, goals, plans – there is nothing wrong with these things, but without self-acceptance and self-love, they don’t mean a darn thing and will do little to help heal what’s causing the problems in the first place.

And back to this month’s challenge of not talking about your weight issues anymore. I feel like I have mostly explained the reason I made this rule here in this post. However, EcoGrrl made a great comment about this:  “We keep so many of our self abusive words in our minds that we don’t realize that verbalizing it and deconstructing it can ultimately be a way of changing ones mindset.” I totally agree with this. When I made this rule about not talking about your weight, I definitely didn’t intend for people to suppress their feelings about it, and now I wish I had been more clear about it. The whole point is to silence that inner critic by not giving it a voice anymore – and that means silencing its voice in your head, too. I think when we get together and chat, it often turns into more commiseration than support. It seems like we’re supporting each other, but really, are we?

Make sure you really ask yourself that question if you choose to talk about your weight issues with friends. Are you building each other up and making room for conversations and actions and feelings that don’t revolve your weight? Or are you and your friends stoking the fires of self-criticism even more? It’s a fine line and I think we have to be super vigilant about it because that inner critic is a sneaky little devil. It’s just so easy to trick ourselves into thinking we’re being productive and goal-oriented and health-focused. But I think if we really want to be productive citizens and healthy people, we have to remind each other that we are more than our bodies, more than our weight, more than the food we eat. We are brilliant souls who have a lot of other challenges to face, pleasures to enjoy and experiences to sample – so why should our weight take up so much of our attention?

Even after all that, I still feel like I haven’t fully explained my intentions behind this challenge. But I truly hope this all makes sense. In the end, if it doesn’t make sense, doesn’t resonate with you or just doesn’t work for you, leave it. Take what you need from these posts and don’t worry about the rest.

Resolve to Love #4: Going on a Different Kind of Diet

I’ll bet you never thought you’d hear me use the D word for this challenge, since Resolve to Love is about the exact opposite of dieting or putting in a lot of effort to look better (which tends to be a futile attempt, since many of us are never happy with the way we look, no matter how hard we try to improve our appearance). If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I passionately don’t believe in diets and I refuse to ever go on one again.

But for April, we’re going on a different kind of diet – a mental diet. This one is simple, but I think many will find it the hardest aspect of this year-long challenge. Here’s what I’m asking you to do:

::Every time you have any kind of negative thought about yourself (not just about how you look, but anything and everything about you), remind yourself that that was your inner critic talking and immediately replace the negative thought with a positive one.

::Be 100% committed to refrain from talking about your weight, your feelings about your weight, weight loss, diets and/or your feelings about how “bad” you look. No more, “I feel so fat today!” or “I wish I had a butt like you!” or “I’ve got to lose 10 pounds!” or “God, I look awful today!” Your commitment has to be super strong on this one because I know from experience how easy it is to think that just one little comment isn’t so bad. But it is. Enough is enough. You have better things to do with your life than complain about your perceived weight problems.

::Remember that like unhealthy foods, negative thoughts give you a temporary burst of energy, then leave you empty and needing more. They weigh you down, just like sugary, fatty foods and make you feel (and therefore appear) heavy. Choose your mental diet as carefully as you choose your gastronomical diet. Positive thoughts truly sustain you, give you energy and buoy your spirit, making you glow from the inside out.

I know many people, including myself, have found this to be the hardest diet of all. And others who think they don’t even need to try it, often find that the awareness of their negative thoughts only made them realize just how much their attitudes were dominated by these little gray clouds of self-doubt. Whether you think you need to try this or not, I hope you will. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Unfortunately, many of us have been taught that it’s not okay to think of ourselves too highly. Heaven forbid we have self-confidence! It’s okay for men to know their worth, but not always women. So how do you get around this, when feeding yourself positive thoughts at first seems like a forbidden feast of vanity? Pretend you are your own daughter or best friend. Would you allow someone to say to them what your inner critic says to you? Probably not. Be your own protective mother, your own best friend and turn your back on that voice over and over and over again. Give yourself the credit, support and love that you deserve.

I would love to hear your stories as the month goes on. Please leave them here in the comments section or email them to me at five5seed@gmail.com. Good luck, fellow dieters!

Resolve to Love #2: Gratitude

How are you all doing with the Resolve to Love Challenge? Ready for your new assignment? Here it is:

Be thankful for the body you have right now, no matter what it looks like. You are pretty darn lucky to have it.

Almost two years ago to the day, my father had a stroke that partially paralyzed him. He was in a wheelchair for a very long time, struggling to regain his ability to walk through intense physical therapy. Over and over, he told me how much he longed to be able to get up and do his morning chores like he used to. It was such a simple desire: to be able to walk and perform daily chores with ease. But suddenly, that was no longer an option. He said that he had always taken that ability for granted and that he would never do so again.

Copyright: Five Seed

How many of us do the same thing? I think we all take our bodies for granted.

A recent experience confirmed to me that this is an important lesson to remember. I was at the fabric store, behind two women who were in the process of checking out. The older woman, probably in her late 60′s, started toward the candy shelf to grab a pack of Milk Duds. I noticed she had such a severe limp that she could barely walk. I wondered how she got around at all without a cane.

Her younger companion grabbed the candy and bought it for her, and the older woman suddenly started crying. She turned to me and told me that this friend of hers was a literal angel. And just as suddenly, her tearful gratitude turned angry and bitter as she told me that while living in Portland, not long ago, she had unwittingly driven herself into the path of a police chase. Her car was struck and her injuries were so bad that she lost both her legs (she showed me the prosthetic legs under her pants), her hip (which was replaced), and she nearly ripped off her wig to show me that her hair had never grown back after her surgeries. “Why did this happen to me?!” she wailed so loudly that the woman checking them out turned away to help other customers, obviously uncomfortable with this show of emotion.

I’m still wondering how I happened to stumble upon that woman, at that particular moment. Perhaps she needed to share her sorrow and had nowhere else to do it. Perhaps she needed some loving thoughts and the Universe pointed her in my direction. Perhaps it was to remind me how fleeting good health can be and that as long as I’m able to walk, bicycle, run and jump, I should be grateful.

So what does our weight matter? What does it matter if we don’t look the way we want to look? At least we can walk. This seems such a simple thing to do, yet those who cannot would trade with us in an instant, no matter how much we weigh.

This month, remember all the wonderful things your body can do, all the things it allows you to experience. Be grateful for all of it. The numbers on the scale, the way we look – that doesn’t ultimately matter at all.

Resolve to Love #1: The Temporary Body

This was supposed to be posted during the first week of January – not the last! But thanks to my procrastination, here we are. I think part of the reason I delayed in posting this is simply because I wasn’t sure how to make this idea sound positive, when there’s a certain morbidity to it. But hopefully, I will get my point across in an uplifting manner.

So our first thought to ruminate on during this one-year challenge is this: Ultimately, our bodies are temporary, and therefore, how much time do we really want to waste on worrying about our appearance? Perhaps there are other, more productive ways to spend our time, our energy, our thoughts, our money, since we will, after all, end up in the ground someday. (There’s the morbid part, but please, read on!)

Copyright: Five Seed

Now I’m not suggesting that since we’re all going to die someday that we should just let our bodies go to ruin. Not at all. Our bodies are wonderful gifts that allow us to experience this world, and the healthier we are, the better we can experience it. So of course, we should spend some time moving every day, we should try to eat healthy foods as much as possible, etc.

HOWEVER – when you stand in front of the mirror and find despair creeping in because you have spent years trying to trim your thighs or because your butt just never seems to get smaller, or… Why waste that good time when our bodies won’t actually be around that long?

I will always remember a story Anne Lamott often tells in her essays and spiritual lectures:

“When I was 38, my best friend, Pammy, died, and we went shopping about two weeks before she died, and she was in a wig and a wheelchair. I was buying a dress for this boyfriend I was trying to impress, and I bought a tighter, shorter dress than I was used to. And I said to her, ‘Do you think this makes my hips look big?’ and she said to me, so calmly, ‘Anne, you don’t have that kind of time.’”

That’s what I’m trying to get across in this seemingly macabre post. We’re not going to be here forever, so ultimately, who cares what we look like? How much we weigh? Whether or not we have cellulite? We don’t have that kind of time. Life is short. Why waste it on fretting over our appearance?

Make more time for this, less time for fretting over your weight!

Your challenge for the last week of this month is to remind yourself of this fact daily. And please leave a comment here if you have had a Lamott moment like the one described above.

Next month (just a few days away!), I promise to post the next challenge on time!