Resolve to Love: My 2012 Challenge

This post might have been better had I written it last June, as I planned. But you know me – never on schedule when it comes to the blog! In a way, I’m glad, because I have so much more to say now than I would have had to say in June.

This challenge has been…well, challenging for me. Which was the point. Honestly, I made this challenge for myself and posted it here just in case anyone else wanted to join in. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always had a challenging relationship with food and with my self-image, and in the past couple of years, I have felt that continuing to wish I’d lose weight or to continue to set goals for losing weight is ultimately destructive.* I feel those actions are usually destructive because they come from a place of judgment, of telling ourselves we are not good enough unless we weigh such-and-such a number. I heard myself talking about my weight all the time – and my friends, too. Don’t we have more important things to say and think about?

And so, I’ve been determined to remain focused on staying active and eating whole foods and accepting my body for what it is in any given moment.

I started out the year in a good place, physically speaking. I was energized, eating well, and inspired to do lots of yoga. I was so strong and my clothes fit well (which meant I was at a good weight for my body) and I felt good about the way I looked. And then March came.

We were having tons of snow storms, after a very mild winter, which prevented me from biking to work much. I was summoned to jury duty at the county courthouse, 20 miles away, where I was being considered as a potential juror for a three-week trial. I had a lot of job trainings to complete that month. I was experiencing some family issues. And, oh yeah, my friend gave me Amish Friendship Bread. Looking back now, I see that I did not take the time to sit down and connect with myself. I was sprinting from one obligation to another and grabbing a piece of Friendship Bread whenever I got hungry. (That’s the bread that never dies. If you are familiar with it, you know you get starter cultures and feel compelled to keep the cultures going…so you have to keep making more and more of the bread.)

I seriously cannot believe how much weight I gained in six weeks. I don’t know for sure because I refuse to weigh myself, but I could barely button up my pants by mid-April. I started changing what I wore and how I wore it to hide my burgeoning muffin top. And yoga? Out the window. I was so busy and by the time I got back to it, I felt like I had lost all the strength and muscle tone I had built up at the beginning of the year. By the time we ended the school year in June, I was wearing my fat pants and a sweatshirt, and hanging back in the shadows feeling extremely insecure.

I didn’t panic, though. I rarely do anymore because I KNOW I will lose the weight as long as I refocus on health. And again, I’m determined not to judge myself based on my weight. But the summer rolled on, and despite my better eating habits and bicycle commuting, I did not lose any inches, so far as I could tell.

August: Still on the heavier side

August: Still on the heavier side

However, by November, I had noticed that my stress eating had gotten really bad again. I started to focus really intensely on listening to my body as I was eating. My only goal was to stop feeling uncomfortably full after eating. That was a constant battle and a huge challenge for at least six weeks. But by the end of December, I finally felt that I had mastered it. I was reminding myself that treating myself with love meant not making my body so uncomfortable with too much food. At that point, I had not lost any of the weight I had gained, but I was much happier and calmer.

I think the monthly challenge that stuck with me the most was the last one: Who are you, really? I started asking myself this question back in November, when I realized how much I identify myself as someone who is chubby and who struggles with food. I have been that person in the past – for a very long time. But is that who I am? No. Who I am is so much bigger than that. What kind of possibilities await when we are not stuck in the past? It’s a big thought.

In any case, as February stretches on, I have lost that weight (at least according to the fit of my pants). Part of it has been a commitment to movement (not “working out”) and continuing to eat in a loving manner and part has been the simple fact that I’m so busy, I’m not home enough to hit the chocolates more than once a day! But I’m still committed to this process, busy or not, and in seeing what unfolds.

I would LOVE to hear about your own experiences with the challenge, and if you had any insights or light bulb moments! Leave your story here on email me!

*There are exceptions to this, of course, and I’m not against weight loss on principle. I just think we are hyper-focused on it, in general and that that is destructive to our spirits.

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 #12: Who are you?

I can’t believe how fast this challenge (heck, this year) has gone by. It seems like just yesterday that I first wrote about it. And now here we are in Month 12, wrapping it up.

The challenge for this month is to ask yourself this question: Who are you? Really?

I have come to realize that I strongly identify myself as a fat, unattractive person who clumsily bumbles through life. I quite literally created this persona for myself as a defense mechanism in middle school. (More on that in a future post.) There were also people in my life for a time who shared my body type and my self-esteem struggles and in order to show love and support, I felt I had to live out my life similar to theirs. If I lost weight, in my perspective, I’d be betraying them.

But who am I, really? I think the temptation is to answer this question by saying, “I’m not a fat person. I’m not chubby and dorky. I’m not a out of control and disorganized. On the inside, I’m beautiful and smart and thin and in control.” But that’s not what I’m asking.

Who are you? REALLY?

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Yes, it’s important to identify the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. It’s important to examine those stories and to throw out what isn’t working. But don’t stop there, and don’t be tempted to see losing weight as the ultimate step in self-empowerment. (Believe me, you can lose weight and still tell yourself the same story – that you are fat and unsuccessful. And you’ll end up right where you started.)

It’s the bigger picture I’m going for here. If we identify our insides by our outsides then we will always struggle. Who we are is not determined by our weight, our bodies, or even our physical health. Even if you identify yourself as a super healthy, motivated, driven, ambitious, determined, strong person who has a strict workout schedule – what happens if you injure yourself and have to take a month off training? What if you gain ten pounds during that time? Are you no longer driven, strong, healthy and motivated?

And if you are on the heavier side, are you identifying who you are with what society says heavier people are? Lazy? Unmotivated? Unhealthy? Unattractive? Slow? Clumsy? Is that who you really are?

What you really are is divine. What does that divinity mean to you? Can you see it? Believe it? Or do you only see the outer package? Do you believe your outer package trumps the inner divinity? Why or why not? What do your actions say about your beliefs?

This last month is a time to go inward, a time for a lot of thinking, meditating and journaling. Who are you really?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this, either this month or after the holidays! In the meantime, stay tuned for my own RtL story and a year-end wrap-up!

Resolve to Love #11: Feed Your Soul

I thought I would be able to post a lot more about last month’s challenge, but I simply didn’t have the time. But I do have at least one post coming up about RtL #10. Stay tuned!

Until then, we are getting close to wrapping it up! Two more challenges, including this one (which seems impossible – where does the time go?!). This month’s challenge is to feed your soul.

Copyright: Five Seed

Maybe this is the wrong time of year to focus on self-care – or maybe the timing is actually JUST RIGHT. With the holiday season starting up, it’s going to be pretty easy to over-schedule, over-work, over-extend. It seems like a rest, a reward, to plop down in front of the TV and just enjoy the media coma. It’s easy to grab whatever sweet treats are around at this time of year (pie, brownies, cookies, candy) to curb our between-meal hunger. Who has time to stop and cook something? Unfortunately, neither of these things counts as feeding the soul, even though one is rest and one is indulgence. Rest and indulgence is good, but not if it numbs you, instead of feeding you.

This challenge is going to be tough because it’s going to require a lot of listening to yourself – something that’s not easy to do at this time of year. What do you need? What will nourish you? A nap? Carving out time to read a good book? Taking a tea break? Spending down time with your kids? Taking a walk/bike ride/run? Meditating? Yoga? Going out to dinner with your partner?

It seems like the nourishing option is often the one we don’t choose, in favor of the “coma” option (watching TV, playing a computer game, mindlessly eating processed snack food, etc.). For some reason, it is hard to make the healthier choice.

Here’s a list of the “food for the soul” that I’ve been working into my days:

1. Drinking tea, three times a day (my high-calcium blend twice daily and whatever else I feel I need – licorice root, goldenrod, red clover blossom – somewhere in the middle of the day)

2. Kombucha tea in place of sweets (an expensive substitute, but worth it)

3. Reading almost every night

4. Going home right after work to rest and cutting back on social time – I’ve just been too tired lately

5. Making fresh veggie/fruit juices whenever possible

6. Cutting back on commitments

7. Making sure I get some exercise in at least four times a week (bicycling, yoga, walking the dog)

8. Meditating several times a week (still working on keeping it up every day!)

9. Listening to uplifting podcasts while I’m working around the house instead of turning on Netflix

10. Journaling

What food for the soul are you going to give yourself this month?

Resolve to Love #10: Don’t Eat Your Pain

Before jumping into this month’s challenge, I just want to thank you all for the amazingly kind responses I got to my post about my recent health and business problems. I literally feel like I have been able to stand up again and start to gather my strength. Thank you, all!!

It seems as we get closer to the end of the year, the lessons in this challenge are getting pretty tough. I have gone through a lot with this challenge and as time has passed, larger issues have opened up to me – including this one.

Throughout my childhood, I dealt with some painful issues that I didn’t feel it was okay to talk about. (Thankfully, there was no physical abuse involved, but there was still a lot of pain and a lot of silence on my part.) I never realized this before now. I just thought I was always a shy wallflower and my silence was part of my personality.

However, I’ve noticed a pattern in myself recently in which my struggles are endured in silence. Every now and then, I drop an emotional email bomb on a poor, unsuspecting friend or family member (usually one who is not involved in the situation that is upsetting me), in an attempt to vent and/or ask for help. Though I never actually ask for the help. I just hope that the person will be able to read my mind and the subtext of the ridiculously emotional email and say, “Hey, she needs help!”

Well, it only took me 36 years to figure out that it’s super easy to silence yourself by eating your emotions and then stuffing them down, if they threaten to come back up, with a little food. Or a lot of food. Of course, this isn’t totally new to me – I’ve struggled with every eating disorder in the book and spent years in recovery. But what I excavated is what everyone who deals with compulsive or addictive behaviors digs up: that we behave that way to dull the pain of whatever we are dealing with – body image issues, self-esteem problems, difficult family history, etc. And like a good little student of recovery, I’ve explored my past and continue to try to make better choices that aren’t reactions to situations that are no longer happening.

And yet, it never occurred to me that it wasn’t just the old issues coming up. It’s also about how I silence and isolate myself. The initial response to the pain has always been at the forefront – it was easy to identify the eating disorders, after all. But the silence, my secondary response – that is something I never recognized until this year.

So what would happen if we stop eating our words? Stop eating our emotions? Stop eating our selves? All with the usual chaser of chocolate or potato chips, or whatever your *thing* is? What would happen then?

Truth be told, I don’t know, nor do I know how to stop eating my feelings and start speaking up. This is a particularly sensitive issue for me because I am a private person and I value discretion. Further, I find it difficult to distinguish between what is appropriate to say and what communication won’t serve the highest potential of all involved.

I think this is definitely one of those multiple post issues, so I’ll leave it at this and look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas.

Resolve to Love #9: Chew…for a very long time

This challenge is going to be simple pimple – because there are a couple of gritty, get-down-to-business RtL challenges to come. This one, however, is so easy, that this post will be pretty darn short!

In August, I came down with a wicked case of oral thrush – something I’ve never had before. I could not believe the pain and discomfort I experienced. For a couple days, eating was a nightmare – every bite, every swallow was so painful. I had to chew so incredibly slowly that I was always the last one at the table. I often couldn’t even finish my meals. At first, I thought this was a result of the pain…until I realized it was because I had reached an appropriate level of fullness and the pain of eating was more intense than the pleasure of eating just one more bite.

In just a few short days, I learned that I needed about 1/3 of the food I normally eat in order to satisfy my hunger. ONE THIRD. There are oh-so-many reasons why I eat so much more than I need (some of which I will touch on in future posts), but one of them, the most simple, is that I rush. And who doesn’t? Our schedules are packed and we live in a culture of fast food. Microwave it and slurp it down while driving, texting, watching TV…whatever. Hurry hurry hurry.

I actually started noticing this earlier this year, when I was shoveling my breakfast into my mouth, even though I knew I had enough time to eat before work. I just felt like I had to hurry. So I started sitting down at the dining room table, all by myself, trying to eat as slowly as possible. And it was a surprisingly difficult process – I had to constantly remind myself to CHEW and put the darn fork down between bites!

As simple as this challenge is, you may find it difficult. Slowing down is not always easy. The busiest time of year is starting – kids going off to school and the holidays creeping up on us… So it’s not necessarily going to be a breeze. New routines may have to be established. You may have to get into the habit of sitting at the table, even if you’re alone. You may need to get out a napkin and put it on your lap. You may need to stop microwaving frozen dinners and making something from scratch, instead. But just start simple: Put your fork down and chew.

Dress So You Feel Beautiful

I intended to write this “amendment” to this month’s challenge a long time ago, but boy, this month has been busy! So I’m a little late and the month’s challenge is almost over, except that I never consider these monthly challenges *over.* I consider them to be a set of tasks that I work on and explore over and over and over again. So…

I wanted to be clear about what I meant in this month’s RtL post. I entitled it Dress Beautifully, which I think might have been slightly misunderstood. I used the example of wearing my “fat pants” during my seminar in Portland and feeling insecure and (honestly) fat and ugly, and I related the story of seeing blogger Christa Taylor walk by in a beautiful dress one night and realizing that I could have saved myself the uncomfortable feelings I was experiencing by just dressing nicely. I didn’t mean to imply that this challenge equated self-respect with wearing a dress. Or makeup. Or high heels. You all know how I feel about dressing for comfort. And about makeup. And high heels.

So upon thinking it over, I realized a better title for the challenge would have been the title of this post: Dress So You Feel Beautiful. Your definition of beautiful is all that matters. For me, it wouldn’t have taken much to put on a casual skirt or to wear a shirt that made me feel better about myself during my Portland trip. It wouldn’t have taken much more effort, nor would I have been uncomfortable in different clothes. In fact, I can’t even explain why I consistently choose to wear my two pairs of baggy, unflattering pants and T shirts instead of all the beautiful, breezy blouses I have or the gorgeous, comfortable, custom-made organic cotton skirts I have been investing in these past two years. Laziness? Lack of self-confidence? A little of both?

This is how I usually dress for work. It’s comfortable and easy to wear – just as comfy and easy as my baggy pants!

My point is: It doesn’t ultimately matter what you wear, as long as what you wear makes you feel good about yourself and how you are presenting yourself to the world. I don’t care if you like wearing sweats, yoga pants or ripped flannel shirts – or suits, pencil skirts or platform sandals. As long as you feel good about yourself, wear it with pride. And if you don’t feel beautiful, if you don’t feel that you are putting a little effort into your appearance, if you don’t feel you are presenting yourself in a way that shows your true self to the world – then change it. And it often doesn’t take much. Add a scarf. Wear a little blush. Put on some earrings. Choose a different pair of pants. Try anything.

This continues to be a challenge for me. Those baggy, ugly pants are so tempting to wear. And I do often wear them around the house. However, I’m challenging myself to take a few extra steps when I go out. Whether it was running errands or meeting friends at the coffee shop, this month I have tried to dress as if I’m going to work (and lucky for me, my work dress code is somewhat casual). I pulled out my pretty skirts and wore them with simple T shirts and added scarves or necklaces or something to spice it up. And I felt good. And I know it showed because people consistently commented that I looked nice. I didn’t need the compliments and am not suggesting that we dress for others’ approval. But the compliments reinforce what we already know when we take the time to pick clothing that makes us feel good about ourselves – that we are lovely, beautiful beings of light.

Don’t be afraid to change your closet. So many of us have set up a shrine to our “skinny selves” in our closets. Eighty percent of our clothes are what we wore in college or pre-motherhood or whenever. We are larger now and don’t like that, and so we buy a piece here and there because we have to have something to wear – but the other 80% of our wardrobe is too small, waiting around until we finally lose that weight. Screw that! I gave away my skinny pants last year and never looked back. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever be that size again – but don’t dishonor who you are today. Today is all that matters when you get up and have to get dressed, after all. Don’t you, today, deserve to wear something that fits you and makes you feel good?

How are you doing with this challenge?

Resolve to Love #8: Dress Beautifully

I had hoped to write this ahead of time, as I did with my monthly bicycle post so it could be posted while I was out of town last week, but alas – I couldn’t get it all done! And maybe I’m glad of that – because this lesson is different than the one I had in mind before my trip. This lesson is truly going to be a challenge for me.

As many of you know, though I love fashion, I tend to dress for comfort above all else – and finding a balance between comfy clothing and pretty clothing is often hard for me to strike. I’d prefer to be comfy and able to ride my bike and play with my students and walk around town and get sweaty and dirty and not worry about high heels that make my feet hurt or silk blouses that would be ruined by sweat or fancy dresses that might get caught in my bicycle chain. And yet, when I dress the way I feel like dressing, I often end up regretting it. I go out in public and feel frumpy, fat and/or downright ugly and it robs me of my confidence.

This lesson was never more apparent to me than when I was in Portland last week for an educational seminar. I knew it was going to be long hours, hard work, never-ending commutes and hot days, so I did what I normally do: defaulted to my comfy, but ugly clothing items. I had my classic sage green cargo pants which are super comfy but aren’t very flattering, clunky sneakers, and an array of loose, unspectacular t-shirts. I didn’t bring a single accessory that I’m famous for at work: scarves, necklaces, etc.

Lessons learned in Portland. Copyright: Five Seed

When I arrived at the first class, I was instantly ready to sink back against the wall. Though everyone was dressed pretty casually, they all had lovely outfits on. Cute flats with a pair of jeans, a pretty skirt with sandals, scarves and tank tops, and the like. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I looked fat and ugly, which affected how I interacted with everyone there.

On Friday night, after an entire week of trying to avoid talking to my classmates or drawing any attention to myself due to my embarrassment by how frumpy I looked, I attempted to dress up for the First Friday event on Clinton, where my sister-in-law has a store (Tangible Gifts). Being as my products were going to be featured there, I attempted to dress up as much as possible with a skirt I bought just for the occasion. Yet still, in my not-so-pretty sandals and droopy shirt, I felt fat and frumpy. It was hot, too, which was making me sweaty and thus, even more self-conscious.

When my brother and I were standing outside, trying to get people to enter a giveaway for a free tonka lip balm, I saw a beautiful young woman in a white dress walk by with one of the most self-confident attitudes I had ever seen. I’m pretty sure it was Christa Taylor, a Portland-based fashion/Christian blogger, which absolutely cracked me up – in a big city like Portland, what are the chances that I would cross paths with (and recognize) someone I’d only known from a blog?!

But the point is, Christa is one of those bloggers who writes about the importance of dressing well and projecting a confident, beautiful exterior to the world, both for oneself, and, in her case, as an expression of the standards of her faith. I have to say, I was struck by this sighting (whether it was Christa or not – and I’m pretty sure it was). Just a few feet away from me sat dozens of stunningly beautiful, classic Portland “hipsters.” The difference between them and Christa was palpable. I wouldn’t have taken notice of any of the young women sitting at The Press Club tables next to me – they looked like any other young woman in her twenties – youthful, stylish, super thin, and emitting that oddly paradoxical combination of arrogance and insecurity. Christa, however, was wearing a classically-cut dress and the most exceptional thing about her was her attitude – confident but open without a hint of false bravado or forced style. Her outfit seemed like a reflection of her inner self.

There it was: that darned truth staring me in the face. Maybe it really is important to dress in a way that uplifts us and makes us feel confident. You can’t imagine how much I hate even thinking of this. I want to be able to wear ugly, old, ripped corduroys, t-shirts and sneakers and feel beautiful and confident. But I can’t. I can’t feel pretty when I see “frumpy” looking back at me in the mirror.

So the challenge this month may be easy for many of you, but not so much for me. Even now, I’m sitting here writing this wearing an old t-shirt, fleece shorts and flip-flops. No makeup, no jewelry. And that’s fine – you know I’m all about embracing ourselves without such embellishments. But maybe it’s time to make the effort to spruce myself up, even on the days when I’ll be home working. Maybe it’s time to extend the boundaries of my “taking myself seriously” project to encompass my closet…

So don’t wear your fat pants cuz they’re the only things you feel comfortable in. Don’t limit yourself cuz everything in your wardrobe is waiting for you to lose weight, or because you don’t feel good enough about yourself to dress up a little. Go buy some bigger clothes (and don’t judge yourself about it). Get up and put a little eyeliner or and a nice skirt or pair of pants. Respect and love yourself and dress accordingly.

Resolve to Love #7: Eat Like a Kid

This month’s challenge is meant to work hand-in-hand with last month’s: Eat like a kid.

Copyright: Five Seed

Here are the rules:

::If you are going to read labels on foods you want to buy/eat, you are only allowed to read the list of ingredients. No looking at the calories or grams of fat per serving.

::Absolutely NO WORRYING about calories or fat while you eat. Don’t even THINK about it. And don’t think about how many hours of cardio you will have to do to burn off what you’re currently eating.

::Eat whatever you want. Obviously, if you have dietary restrictions for health reasons, then I’m not suggesting that, say, diabetics should go on a sugar binge. But, no restricting what you can eat just because you’re worried about gaining weight. If you want an ice cream cone on a hot summer day, have one. No guilt.

::Eat with gusto. Eating is one of the greatest pleasures in life and it is meant to be enjoyed. Eat things you really like, with quality, flavorful ingredients. Pay attention to what you are eating. Take time to check in with your senses. Relish every decadent bite, whether it’s a garden salad or tira misu.

::Stop when you’re full.

I realize some of these are loaded issues. Eating what you want and stopping when you are full are pretty heavily charged actions for many of us. Believe me, I know. But I will address all of that in future posts coming this month.

But for now, all you have to do is enjoy the pleasure of eating and pay attention to what you are doing and how you feel while eating. Easier said than done, sometimes, but it’s a practice of mindfulness we all must return to again and again, even if we don’t have weight/body issues. When you get right down to it, it’s simply an act of being present and allowing ourselves to experience pleasure – something that is a huge part of radical self-acceptance.

Remember being a child and waiting all day to get that one bowl of ice cream for dessert. And enjoying every single bite. And licking the bowl. And being satisfied with that, not needing to check the fridge ten more times to see if there was something else to eat. It was an act of enjoyment. Fun. And there were no shoulds and shouldn’ts and worries and anxieties attached to the activity. The thought that we might not fit into our shorts the next day didn’t even cross our minds.

Until I can get back to this subject, check out what I wrote about my first love affair (minus my usual destructive behavioral patterns surrounding the act of eating) with food when I went to France a few years ago. And then try having a relationship with pizza:

And don’t forget to keep playing like a kid.

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!