Meeting another part of myself

Last night in therapy a very young, scared part of myself appeared.  We were trying to figure out the root of my indecision in going to volleyball last week (even though I had an injury from yoga the week before).  For those who may not have seen it, I even posted a video on MCJ’s FB page last week on my indecision.  I felt so silly after posting it, but decided to keep it up on the page. And now I understand why, it was another avenue that I could reach out to for someone to help make the decision FOR me, so that I didn’t have to make the decision for MYself.

The email I had written to my therapist that day was a cry for help.  Even though I logically knew I shouldn’t go to class that night, there was this opposing force that was not letting me make that decision peacefully. 

This is one piece of what I wrote in my email to her that day… It’s like all common sense leaves my body and I’m helpless to know how to take care of myself. 

My therapist, Katie, said that the reason that all common sense leaves my body is because my emotional brain is taking over.  She said there are times when the emotional brain becomes so strong that there is not enough space for both in that moment, so the logical brain temporarily leaves.  Such was the case last week.

As we started trying to unpack all of that, she asked what part of me was helpless.  As if on queue, panic overcame me and my eyes filled up with tears.  That scared little girl was present with us, in that very moment.  Katie had me take a deep breath, close my eyes and talked me through trying to tap into her.  Katie asked me how old she was.  I didn’t know.  I just knew that she was very young, the youngest part of myself that I’ve met thus far.  As I felt into her fear, tears began rolling down my cheeks.  Katie asked me what she was scared of.  And right away I heard my younger self say “my mom”. 

It was this weird few minutes of trying so hard to be compassionate and non-judgmental with her, but at the same time I was so incredibly frustrated by her answer.  It’s just layer, after layer, after layer.  I feel terrible for doing this, but I kept looking for another reason.  Waiting, encouraging her even, to tell me something new.  A different source of the fear.  But it didn’t come.  I couldn’t stay in that head space anymore.  I knew that being judgmental towards her wasn’t going to help anything, so I opened my eyes.    

As frustrated as I was by the answer, Katie knew how to help me decipher it.  And this, my friends, is what having a good therapist is all about.  She asked me how my mother reacted to my activities.  While I didn’t have many structured activities, I remember not being good at the ones I did partake in. 

There was gymnastics which I may have only gone to once or twice… I don’t remember, all I remember is that it made me feel bad about myself.  Then, I remember taking a few years of dance.  I can’t remember much of this period either, but I do remember being in the dance studio towards the end.  I remember learning that the next year we were going to be doing a lot more dancing on our toes which is something that I struggled with.  And I seem to remember being scared of the next year and not wanting to do it anymore.

I eventually ended up taking guitar lessons.  After determining that I was not really an athletic child, I was told that I needed to do something.  But I ended up quitting guitar because it hurt my fingers (which to this day I regret!)  and ultimately ended up taking several years of piano lessons (which I’m now thankful for, but at the time, I hated it.)

But before all of these examples came into my head the thing that really stood out to me, was that after the divorce, while I was living with my mother, I didn’t really do any activities.  I was literally forced to clean.  Like everything… from normal chores, to scrubbing down the kitchen cabinets, to washing the cars, and when everything else was clean I would be sent out to do garden chores. 

When I did actually have time to myself, and was allowed to hang out with my friend Kim who lived behind me, there was always a lot of fear involved.  I was constantly checking the clock to make sure I wasn’t home late, if Kim wanted to do something, there was so much fear because I either (A) had to get permission from my mother, which would result in her telling me no and getting mad that I asked, or (B) I would risk doing it without her knowing and possibly getting caught. 

Choice A had immediate consequences that I had to endure, while choice B had more severe consequences — but only IF we got caught. Which there were a few times that we did. Even so, most of the time I ended up choosing option B, which would ultimately lead to a constant heightened state of fear and paranoia thinking that she was going to see me. When we were protected enough doing whatever it was we were doing, I would finally let my guard down and have fun, which I suppose is why I kept taking the risk. That and the possibility of not having to deal with a known immediate consequence.

In my position of having an abusive mother, I was constantly in this limbo of I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t.  Most of the time, there were heavy repercussions either way.  So last night, we determined that in these instances where I have to make a decision in my present life, that that’s why I rely so heavily on having others tell me what to do.  Because in those moments where that paranoid little girl shows up, it’s the safe way out.  Someone else is making the decision for me. 

I feel like this actually makes so much sense. 

We made a lot of progress last night and I felt tired, but good, about everything when I left Katie’s office.  On the drive home, I connected with that little girl again and apologized to her.  I told her how I was sorry that I wasn’t able to protect her back then, but how I could protect her now.  I told her how my mother is no longer in the picture.  That she hasn’t been for a very long time and that she didn’t have to be afraid of her anymore. 

As I consoled this young part of myself, a sick feeling began churning in the pit of my stomach.  At first I thought it was anger, but then I wasn’t so sure.  It would make sense for it to be anger, but with the nausea I was feeling, I’m leaning more towards the emotion being disgust.  Whatever the emotion was/is, it’s directed at the fact that my mother has been out of my life longer than she was in it, yet her presence in those early years has had such a powerful effect on me that I’m just starting to truly understand it all these years later. 

As frustrating as that is, I have to acknowledge the fact that, yes… I could have started this work earlier, but at least I’m doing it now. And every piece that I unravel helps me feel like I’m able to take that much more of my power back from her.  For anyone who has suffered trauma in their lives (or anyone really), if the thought of therapy even casually enters the peripherals of your mind, please, please, please go. Talk to someone. I put it off for years and finally making the decision to go has been so incredibly worthwhile.

The other lesson I pulled from my experience last week (again, thanks to Katie’s outside perspective) was that I’m still incredibly hard on myself.  I may not call myself names anymore, or be outwardly harsh and critical, but I still put incredible expectations on myself.  Over the last few years, I may have allowed myself the grace to fall from perfection, but I definitely still have a deep routed belief that I’m supposed to have my shit together, and in the moments that I don’t, not only do I fall apart, but I then judge myself for falling apart. 

My intuition is telling me that I’ll be introduced to that highly judgmental part soon. I’m actually kind of looking forward to meeting her and hearing her story. I definitely want to help her heal too. Like I said earlier… its just layers, upon layers, upon layers.   

Body acceptance and shame

For those of you who have been following me for a while, you know that I’ve been working on self-love and self-acceptance for several years now. And in that time, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve grown in leaps and bounds in this area. Especially the area of self-acceptance.

For those who don’t know, for most of my life, I have been incredibly self-critical. Learning to let go of such extreme levels of perfectionism has felt so huge. And it IS huge! But recently, I’ve felt an even bigger shift in the self-love department. And while I feel that self-love and self-acceptance certainly fall into this shift, I think it would be more fitting to refer to this shift as body acceptance, because frankly… that’s what I’m talking about.

It’s a tough topic to discuss and one that I still feel pretty damn vulnerable putting out there to the world, but I think it’s an important topic. Recently my neighbor was nominated for a community award and the local news came out to do a story on him. I immediately agreed to be part of the story because he’s a great neighbor, I was excited for him, and I wanted to support him.

Later that night, all the mind chatter started. I started worrying about how I would look on camera. I don’t know if the rest of the world has this reality, but when I look in the mirror I see a very different person than who I see in photographs and video footage of myself.

The big day came and at that point I had pretty much talked myself out of participating but that morning I decided to “get ready” just in case. Mid-morning, I heard a knock on my door. It was his wife letting me know that if I wanted to be on TV now was the time. I admitted to her that I was scared, but she got me to come out anyway.

The journalist and camera man had us interact in different ways, but when all was said and done I didn’t feel very secure about the end result. At one point they had me up on my front porch while the camera man was filming from the ground. I mean… I know from my own experience that that happens to be one of the least flattering angles to be caught at. But at this point, it was what it was, and it was just a matter of seeing how they put it all together.

I worried about telling people about the new-story because I was afraid to have them see it before I did, but in the end I decided to put a post on Facebook the night before it aired. My logic to this decision was (a) the story is not about me, it’s about him, (b) the people I know, know what I look like… probably better than I do, and (c) I love my friends and family regardless of their size, color, race, gender, etc. So in theory, shouldn’t they love me in the same way?

The day of the story, I waited filled with equal emotions of anxiety and excitement, but the story never aired. We never got an explanation so we figured they decided not to run it, and that it wasn’t meant to be. The following week my neighbor messaged me that they would be running the story later that week.

I sat down to watch the story, curious to see how they edited the piece and put it all together, but terrified to see how I would look through the lens of the news camera. It turned out to be a sweet little feel-good piece, and as I watched it, it was as if I was observing the piece from another person’s eyes.

The story engulfed me, and “that girl” was just a small piece of it. I didn’t judge or criticize the girl I was seeing, and I was shocked to experience body acceptance on that large of a level. I was in such disbelief that I didn’t hate what I saw, that I actually backed the story up and played the frames I was in, in slow-motion in a really fucked-up attempt to find something to criticize.

And this was the only part of what aired that I didn’t like. I became angry that my first reaction upon feeling body acceptance was not to simply accept the fact that I was actually accepting myself, but that the natural inclination was to go back and try to find something to tear myself down.

And I will admit that while viewing the story in slow motion, there was a moment of uncertainty in my mind when I reached in to give him a hug. You could see my side profile and my clothed belly. But in that moment, instead of being repulsed, or disappointed, or ashamed, this little voice sounded in my head telling me… “it’s just a belly”.

A realization that hit me so hard and still has me reeling. It’s just a belly. We all have one. They come in different shapes, different sizes, different colors. But… we all have a belly.

I had a similar experience in yoga class the other week, but I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time. It wasn’t until the news story opened my eyes that I now see the importance of it.

In yoga we are constantly transitioning into different poses. I wear a long t-shirt to help prevent exposed skin, but inevitably it ends up happening. Every time I realize it, it’s feels like I am committing this horrible sin. How dare I expose a 1″ x 4″ strip of skin to my classmates. God forbid, you know… because, “I’m a big girl, and big girls aren’t supposed to show their fat. No one wants to see that, even if it is by accident.”

Well, the other day I was in yoga class and I had just got done transitioning through some warrior poses that required a lot of stretching, reaching, and folding at the waist. My shirt inevitably inched its way up. I caught sight of it in the mirror and for the first time I wasn’t mortified by this. It was another moment of… it’s just skin.

And after sitting with the impact of the “it’s just a belly” statement, I became more receptive to the lesson behind the “it’s just skin” comment that I had heard in my head. Similarly to the belly, we all have skin. Again, it comes in different colors. Some skin is tight and toned, other skin is flabby. Some skin is decorated with freckles, or stretchmarks, or battle scars. Some skin has sun damage, while other skin has been alive for decades. But in the end, it’s just another body part that makes us human. It’s a showcase of individuality in a way that makes us universally the same.

I don’t know if it’s the optimist in me, but while growing up, I was able to see good parts of myself, but I never liked my body as a whole. I thought I had pretty eyes, I liked my larger breasts, and at some point I started liking my legs.

But there were so many other things that I didn’t like. I hated the rolls around my middle, I hated that my thighs touched, my hair was 85% straight with a 13% wave and a 2% curl. Part of the 2% curl were the cowlicks that made up most of my bangs and would transform into devil horns whenever I would sweat or it was humid. I also had these two teeth that looked like tiny fangs. As my teen years progressed, I was hit with acne. It was just one body image issue after another.

Looking back on it now, I think a lot of it is the growing pains that probably everyone goes through, but I was one of those kids who was teased a lot in school. I went to a small grade school (K-8). My graduating year there were nine of us in the class, seven of which were boys. While I am grateful for my parochial school upbringing, there is always good and bad in every situation. Yin and Yang.

While the small class size was great for teacher-student attention, I believe it emphasized the cliques even more strongly. The pool of kids to pick on was much smaller, so it was easier to become the target. Between the bullying, and the physical and mental abuse I was going through at my mother’s house, I became very good at trying to blend in. That’s what you do when you are ridiculed for being yourself. I learned to adapt to my surroundings and situations. But this also shattered my confidence.

Looking back on pictures of me at that time, I’ll admit that I was bigger than the other kids, but I wasn’t fat. I didn’t know that at the time though. I believed all the name calling. At that age, why wouldn’t you? I mean from that perspective, I can remember feeling that if people didn’t want to play with me, and were calling me names… there must be something wrong with me.

I now know this isn’t true, but back then it was very hard to believe that. Especially when your mother is telling you the same things the kids are. Luckily my father was always a source of love. But he was concerned with my weight too and although his concerns came from that love, the fact that there was concern in the first place just further reinforced it.

As I’ve been going through this intuitive eating journey, and trying to reconnect to my emotions, one that I was having a hard time relating to was shame. It felt like such a foreign thing to me, until I saw myself on the news. During that moment of true, authentic, all-in self-love and being secure with my body for the first time since I was probably six or seven, suddenly I realized that I had been living my life in shame. As strange as it sounds, the reason I couldn’t identify with it, is because it was something that became such a part of me.

Earlier this year, my therapist and I discussed the possibility of some deep rooted subconscious self-worth issues. Thinking back on all the times I tried to make myself smaller so others wouldn’t see me, or how I would apologetically move out of people’s way – not simply for the sake of being polite, but because I felt that I was taking up too much room. Every time that I wanted to speak up for myself but wouldn’t open my mouth because I was afraid of being heard. Every time that I allowed myself to follow the crowd because I didn’t want to draw more attention to myself for being different. Nor, did I have the confidence to be different. In all of these circumstances I gave away my power. And in all of these circumstances it was based on shame and never believing that I was good enough.

And while we are on the subject of shame, I want to acknowledge that the stories we tell ourselves based on the stories told to us by others constantly feeds that. Based on conversations I’ve had with people (various doctor’s, physical therapists, and other professionals) I’ve been led to believe that my arch/tendinitis issue and my knee issue are both based on my weight. But the other day I was looking at pictures of myself as a teenager (the point where I was the skinniest and most fit I’ve been in my life).

As I sat there looking at the pictures, I started seeing the same patterns in the way I hold my body as “skinny person” that I do as a “large person”. Would losing weight help? I’m not saying it wouldn’t. But here I’ve been telling myself that it’s because of my weight that these things happened. When in reality my body was showing the signs of the issues back then.

Finding those pictures and remembering back to that age, I truly believe that these issues would have sprung up anyway. The weight may have intensified it, or possibly triggered it earlier, but I’ve been able to release that story from my head which has allowed the self-acceptance to grow a little more.

I think we so desperately want to have answers for everything, that we automatically believe stories that are told to us. Especially when they come from sources that are reputable, or people we trust. I’m not trying to discount people in the medical field, but this realization made me stop and think. Doctors, and everyone really, they all make their assumptions based off of a meeting with you. It could be a 15 minute appointment in their office, it could be someone that you see once a week like a banker, someone you see every two months like a hairdresser. It could be someone you talk to everyday – a close friend or family member.

And while all of these relationships are important in one way or another, they are not with you every second of the day. They are not living in your body. More likely than not, they haven’t known you your whole life. And while their insight and their feedback in important, we need to remember that in the end, we need to make decisions about what is best for us, what we believe, and the stories that we will tell ourselves based off of what we actually know.

Don’t get me wrong. This is hard, and probably a lot of times, we aren’t necessarily going to know what is best for us, or what we believe. So the best thing we can do is go with what we feel is the right thing in this moment. But that doesn’t mean that it’s over. That choice is not final. By staying open-minded and aware, we can still allow ourselves to take in new information. We are allowed to change our minds, to change our beliefs, and to change our stories.

One thing that this weight loss journey has taught me, especially as I’ve been reading though old posts lately, is that every time I made a decision, I did what felt right in that moment. I currently believe that every diet that I’ve been on, I was meant to be on. I believe that by living through my collected experiences, it has helped give me personal knowledge to understand this world of intuitive eating and be able to grasp some of the concepts better.

I also believe that I was born in this body for a reason. I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason, I’m sure this is one belief that will stand the test of time. And throughout my life, I’ve said multiple times that I struggle to lose weight for a reason. I had no idea what that reason was, or why. But I feel like the puzzle pieces are starting to fit together and it’s all making sense.

I believe I was put here to understand and help other’s see that diversity is not just about race, gender, age, or ability… it’s about size too. In a world where we are pushing to celebrate individuality, we need to realize that body size is just as diverse as skin shades.

Optavia – 1 year later

To date, my Optavia posts have had the most views on my site. At the time I was doing the Optavia diet/lifestyle, I honestly thought that it was the best decision/choice for me. One year later, I’ve now learned that this was not true. I wanted to write a post to link to on these pages so that people can see how my Optavia journey turned out 1 year later and why I would never go on this diet again.

Looking back on this diet, (I know Optavia doesn’t like to call it that, but really, that’s what it is) I now see how unhealthy it was. I was so blinded by the promise that every diet offers of thinness and health, that I didn’t truly listen to the signs and signals that my body was giving me each day. And the longer I was on the diet, the worse things got.

Yes, I was losing weight, but I was not truly happy. The ONLY happiness Optavia brought me was a short lived happiness that stemmed from the weight I had lost. But like all diets, as soon I got off the program, I started gaining the weight back.

Sure, I could have attempted to live the rest of my life abiding my their rules, but it was highly unlikely that that would happen. I had absolutely NO energy. My energy was so zapped that I had to take naps in the middle of the day so that I could make it though the day. I’m not a huge exercise person to begin with, but last year, I lost out on bike riding and yoga because my body wasn’t receiving the proper fuel, nor did I have the energy to do these things that I love.

Another reason I had no energy was because my thyroid got so jacked up. At the time I believed it was due to the high amount of soy I was taking in through the prepacked meal replacements. But as I learn more and more about diet culture and the effects it has on the body, I’m now realizing that in addition to the ridiculously high intake of soy, there were other things at play. One being the extreme reduction in calories which can contribute to thyroid problems, and also my drastic reduction in carbs. Certain carbs contain iodine and iodine is needed for thyroid health.

It took almost a year for my thyroid levels to balance out and I actually had to add a second thyroid medication into my routine to truly start feeling better. Prior to this, I only ever needed to be on one medication for my thyroid.

Aside from a messed up thyroid, and no energy to do anything other than convert recipes to Optavia compliant versions, I started losing my hair really badly. Not only is this a complication from my thyroid and PCOS, but the stress my body was going through on the diet made it noticeably worse. I was losing handfuls of hair every time that I showered. I am so incredible grateful that a few months after getting off that diet my hair started growing back in.

The biggest irony of those six months were that I had very few people comment on my weight loss while I was on the Optavia diet. Seriously… hardly anyone said anything to me. It wasn’t until I stopped the diet and actually started gaining weight that people started noticing and telling me how good I looked, and asked me if I had lost more weight. When I told them that I had actually GAINED weight it didn’t seem to register.

I truly believe that the reason that people finally started to notice was because of the mental relief that came from making the decision to stop the program. When I was on the diet it was so exhausting on so many levels. Even though I was smaller, you could just see that I wasn’t happy. My spirit was incredibly dampened. Once I got out of that, my energy and spirit started coming back. When that happened, I started to shine again and THAT’S what made people stop and notice.

If you are reading this, and you are trying to decide if Optavia, or any other diet for that matter, are for you, I hope this will give you insight into my experience. It’s very easy to get swept away in the promises that a diet/program/lifestyle change offers. I get it. I was there. I was enamored by it too… that hope that comes along with thinking that if I could only do this one thing… that if you could stick this out for 6 months, or 1 year, or whatever length of time… it would make a difference. I believed it. I thought it would change my life, and that I would finally be healthy.

But the opposite happened. Yes, the scale went down, but my actual health did too. I just want to say that health isn’t just what size you wear, or the number on the scale. Health is all encompassing. Health comes in every shape and size. I encourage you before starting another diet to pick up a copy of Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. If podcasts are more your thing, listen to a couple episodes of Food Psych with registered dietitian, Christy Harrison.

I’m not saying that Intuitive Eating is an easy journey. It’s not. It gets you to really examine your relationship with food, your body, and your mind. But those things are such an incredibly important aspect of our overall health, are they not? We are all born knowing how to eat. We just need to relearn what we already know, and forget about what we’ve been told by the diet industry.

Exercise, intuitive eating and stepping into power

My intuitive eating journey is starting to welcome the idea of movement. For my whole life movement equaled exercise, which equaled a need to lose weight. Pretty much the only times that I would exercise with any regularity where when I was in the throes of trying to change my body as a result of being surrounded by diet culture.

There are two other circumstances I can think of when I would exercise regularly. The first being the many times I was in physical therapy rehabbing a body part due to an injury. The other time is when I was about 18 years-old. I was out late every night country line dancing, and I was going to the gym for fun. Weight loss did end up being a side effect of this time in my life, but it was probably the most intuitive period in my life as an adult.

I would eat whatever I wanted, and I only ate when I actually needed food due to my hectic teenager schedule (because you know… I was busy working, going to school and just living life to the fullest). I danced because I loved it. I worked out at the gym because it felt good. And I ate what I wanted because I felt that I deserved it due to all of the exercise I was doing.

Now, the food part was still tied up in diet culture because I was eating what I wanted to eat because I felt I deserved it due to the exercise, but the point is that I wasn’t restricting myself, I enjoyed my food and I enjoyed the movement I was doing with my body. It all came very naturally to me.

At this point in my life, I was the thinnest I was as an adult. But aside from weight, I felt truly fulfilled in many other ways. I was traveling with my best friend. I had worked through my childhood mother issues as best as I could, I had an amazing support group of people that loved me and encouraged me, my stepsister and I had grown incredible close, and I had even given up the incessant need for a boyfriend… I believe because I was finally at a point in my life where I was finally starting to “do me”.

Until this morning, every time that I’ve looked back on this part of my life I’ve always obsessed on the weight loss part, and how incredible it would be to be able to replicate that. Over the years, I’ve realized and I’ve accepted that this body is now 20 years older, and at that time… I had undiagnosed Graves Disease so my metabolism was in constant overdrive. Since than, my thyroid has changed and I now have Hashimoto’s Disease so my metabolism is working against me.

When we created our vision boards for Winter Solstice in December, I placed a picture of myself as a teenager in the center. I also did this Spring of 2018 as a form of motivation for my weight loss. This year, when I chose a picture, instead of focusing on a picture that emphasized my body. I was drawn to chose this picture that captured my spirit in what happens to be a smaller body.

At the time I didn’t really realize that’s what I was doing, but as I’ve been going through this whole process of tapping into my intuition on a whole other level, and getting back in touch with my inner child, I’m realizing that what I want more than weight loss is to feel whole and to be happy.

“Thanks” to diet culture, I always thought that weight loss would be “the thing” to make me happy. So weight loss turned into this elusive thing that I’ve only ever been able to obtain when my body was sick, or when my life was full of restriction and the need to exercise (and the reasoning that it would help burn more calories which would help me lose weight).

When I did the Optavia diet last year, the diet was so incredibly restrictive that I wasn’t allowed to exercise because of how dangerously low my caloric intake was. This in itself should have set off a red flag, but it didn’t because I was completely enamored by the success stories and my search for happiness through weight loss. I sincerely believed that it was the answer and that if I could just stick to it long enough to get down to the size I wanted, then I could transition off the plan and maintain a pretty restrictive diet for the rest of my life.

Does that sound like happiness? I was miserable. My thyroid was thrown for such a loop due to the heavy amount of soy protein I was eating in place of real food. Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have been able to exercise because I had zero energy. I was filling my mornings with promising pep-talks of lunchtime naps hoping that 40 minutes of sleep would be able to carry me through the rest of my day. Most days it didn’t and I would need another nap after work so that I could make it through the evening.

Luckily, I wised up and transitioned myself off of that diet before things got any worse. Shortly after, I went on the vacation of a life time where I allowed myself to eat what I wanted. It was vacation after all, and I’ve never been one to restrict myself for holidays and special occasions. But what I didn’t realize was that this would continue after I got home. I now understand that the cyclical nature of dieting is restrict, restrict, restrict and our bodies finally get to a point where enough it enough and we binge. This is one of the reasons for yo-yo weight cycling.

In intuitive eating, there is a stage you go through where you have to allow your body to have what it wants. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, this stage is very important because the trust that was broken within the body during restriction needs to be rebuilt. The idea behind this is that when we diet, we know that it is a purposeful restriction (of food choices, calories, portions.. whatever it may be) but our actual body doesn’t know that. Due to our nature, our body is programmed to think that we are entering a period of famine, so when when the time/opportunity comes to replenish itself, it’s going to take advantage of that.

This is the phase that I am in on my journey. I could write a separate post of everything that I’ve been experiencing during this phase, but the coolest part is actually witnessing the trust being reestablished within my body. It’s something that I really can’t explain at this moment, but I felt it was important to share this information on restriction because I’m going to tie this in with exercise in a moment.

But before I do, I wanted to write out a quick timeline. I started Optavia last May. Our trip was the very end of October. That December is when I created the vision board with that photo, and this past January is when I started seeing my new therapist who introduced me to intuitive eating.

This past year, I have been very resistant to exercise. The only form I’ve done has come in the form of walking when exploring on vacation or day trips, and yoga. I’m happy to say that my yoga practice has been particularly strong this year, though I think that’s in part to my not really viewing yoga as exercise. While yoga is fantastic for your body, for me, it’s always been about the spiritual part.

But recently, I’ve noticed that movement/exercise is slowly started making a reappearance in my life. For the last few months, I’ve had this little voice suggesting I wake up earlier on my work-from-home days and hit the gym. This week, I finally found the desire to really want to do it. I woke up early, drove to the gym and did a total body work out.

While working out, I listened to my body. I was mindful of what it wanted – just like with food. I did the amount of weight that felt good. I did the number of reps/sets that felt good. And I didn’t worry about the clock and how long I had been there. When I was satisfied with my workout, I left.

I’ve been practicing listening to my body while eating these last few months, and let me tell you… it felt so amazing to tune into my body while at the gym. In the past it was all about competition which sounded something like this… How much weight did I lift last time? Let’s see if we can beat that! Oh look… I’m lifting more than the person next to me! I’m pedaling harder than them, or not fast enough.. let me push myself harder…

I’ve always known that this thinking it what set me up for injury, but I’m really now seeing just how much it was. The liberation that comes from releasing all the self-imposed expectations and just doing what feels good, or listening to my body and eating what I really want in the amount that my body needs (vs. under or overeating)… these things leave me satisfied. A word that I’ve taken for granted for too long.

All of this mindfulness and reconnecting with my body has me thinking about patterns in my life related to exercise. I’m realizing again, this connection to nature’s cycles. Reflecting back over the years, I have a tendency to want to want to be more active in the spring time. I tend to struggle with exercise during the winter months. This is so fascinating because this coincides with the cycles of not only trees and plants, but animals too.

So many plants and animals go into dormancy/hibernation in the fall and winter. It makes sense that I would also want to retreat. In the spring, everything starts to wake up. The plants and trees blossom and bud, animals come out from hibernation, they start mating and procreating so wouldn’t it make sense that there would be an inherent desire for my body to “wake up” and want to be more active?

I’m so excited to go into this year with this new perspective and to be able to honor it without being attached to the stories and expectations to be something other than what I am. Reconnecting to my spiritually was an important step towards finding myself, but I never expected the healing that would come from this intuitive eating journey. The liberation that has come from releasing all of that and allowing myself to be me, and figuring out who exactly that is has been such a beautiful process.

The more that we release those ties that bind us, the more powerful in self we become. The more we recognize and honor that power, the more we can help change the world and create one where our unique identities are embraced instead of stigmatized.

What is health?

I had my second visit to my dietitian who specializes in Intuitive Eating (IE), and Health at Every Size (HAES). When I started going to her, I really didn’t know what to expect. There is so much contradiction between the title”dietitian” and the anti-diet culture of IE and HAES.

In our first session she told me that the only way this would work is if I were completely honest with her. That there would not be any judgements on her part, and she basically told me that it was a safe space. I left that week with the simple assignment of logging my food. Simply keeping track of what I ate, what time I ate, my hunger levels before and after I ate, and if it satisfied me. (My therapist had me to notate any emotions that may be occurring as well.)

It seemed like a simple enough task, but I struggled with it. I’m not one to carry a notebook around with me, and there isn’t an app for the purpose of intuitive eating, so I ended up creating a google doc and updating it on my phone. This was still cumbersome, though I was dealing with it until I hit a very emotional weekend that completely threw me off track with my logging, though I remained mindful while eating.

I wasn’t sure how she would respond being that over a 4 week period I only had 10 days logged, but she didn’t care. There was no judgement, no blame, no shame. She said it was for my benefit and that she didn’t even need to see it, the purpose was to create mindfulness around eating and to be able to identify patterns. Which I did.

One of the things I have always struggled with is the fact that I’m a picky eater. I’ve never been a big fan of vegetables, though I will admit that my palate has grown over the years. But still, every time that I’ve been on a “diet” or when I’ve been trying to “eat healthier” or “better”, I’ve always added in vegetables. To me, they signify a healthy diet.

Even though this whole process isn’t about losing weight, the realization a few weeks ago that I place my nutritional and physical health so low on the self-care scale has made me want to eat more vegetables to be “healthier” so that I treat my body better.

The problem that I’ve been running into is that I feel that younger child rebelling against the vegetables and I’m not sure how to shift that perspective within myself to be able to understand that I’m not restricting or limiting you, inner child… you can still have what you want, but let’s throw some healthier foods in there too as a way of showing love to our body.

I asked the dietitian, how do I shift this perspective? It opened the doors to a conversation about health. The question was, what do you consider healthy?

At first I was perplexed by this question. My initial go to answer is fruits and vegetables, but I prefaced it by admitting to really only liking the “good ones”. But in reality, all fruits and vegetables have nutrients. And if we’re going to get technical, almost all food has nutrients too. It’s just that we live in a world that is so health conscious that the pendulum is swinging too far out of balance.

Over the years I’ve banned canned vegetables from my diet (even though I like them) because I’ve been told by the health industry that they are less nutrient-dense. LESS nutrient-dess. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have nutrients. And let’s be real… they are way cheaper and way easier to prepare when you don’t have the time to do a lot of food prep. Not that there’s anything wrong with fresh vegetables, but can we take a moment to recognize the benefits of eating canned vegetables too?

Another point she made is that health expands beyond the realm of nutrition and exercise. There is also mental health. Being happy, feeling connected to your family, your friends, something bigger than you (spirituality). She pretty much brought the conversation around full circle by making me recognize that the concept of self-care is being healthy.

On my StayWonderfull page, I talk all the time about “perspective” and how if you can shift the way you see things, it can open so many doors and really change your world. I never considered changing up my perspective on the concept of health.

My dietitian and I talked about different foods that I deemed as “bad” foods. She asked me what happened to me when I ate them? Did my stomach get upset? Would I get tired, or get a headache, or indigestion? The answers are all no. Then she phrased the question, how often would you consider eating these foods? Every day? I said no. She asked me why? I explained that I don’t feel a need to eat them every day. She then said, well isn’t that something you are doing that’s healthy? You are choosing to not eat these foods every day.

Plus, as I learn to tune into my body, I realize that I’m reducing the quantity of these foods when I do eat them. I find that halfway through a meal, I’m satisfied. I recognize that if I continue to eat, I will end up feeling stuffed and if I stop I’ll get to enjoy the meal again at a later time (if I end up wanting it later).

And, while we are on the subject of “good” and “bad,” I will say that there are days when I listen to my body and I want the entire meal, and that’s okay too. Some day’s we are hungrier than others.

Nutrition and health is so focused on restriction. You can’t have “fill-in-the-blank” because it’s bad for you. And I use “fill-in-the-blank” because I’ve witnessed it myself how things that were bad for us 10 years ago, are suddenly good for us because “new studies came out”. And same works visa versa.. things that were good for us years ago, are now suddenly bad for us. If you really start digging into it, there is so much contradiction within the diet/health industry. We just choose to ignore it, or put blinders on at the hope of being able to change our bodies.

And that hope is what the health industry preys on. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. How convenient for them that things are always changing? It’s an opportunity to make more money off of us by coming out with some life-changing… diet, program, supplement, exercise equipment/plan… you name it, the list goes on.

The sad part is that we fall victim to their promises of a “better” self because we so desperately want to change to fit in to a society that has been saturated with a standard that not everyone can realistically live up to. We are all different, guys! Our bodies are different. We have different genes. These promises that the health industry are feeding us, aren’t going to work for everyone one because of this fact, yet we all strive for this unattainable level of perfection.

What we really need to do is stop listening to them and to start listening to ourselves. Take the time to figure out if we are actually hungry. If you so, what food would satisfy us? And then pay attention to your body and when you are full, stop eating. We have to rebuild the trust within our bodies, the trust that has been broken from, in my case, 32 years of never feeling good enough and beating myself up for it.

All these years I’ve looked at my self-sabotage as this horrible failure that needed to be stopped. But looking back at my life through a different lens, I’m realizing that I was equally self-sabotaging my body and robbing it of it’s needs. Of course it was going to get fed up and fight back. Now, my focus has shifted to proving to my body that I’m not going to betray it again. It’s a concept that I really started to understand a few weeks ago and the more that I talk back to that voice in my head, keep reassuring it… the more I’m feeling the shift of trust within my body.

It’s actually a pretty incredible process when it starts to happen. And I’m so incredibly grateful for my journey up to this point because without everything that I’ve been through, this moment wouldn’t feel as big as it does.

For anyone looking for more information on Intuitive Eating, I can’t recommend the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole enough, and if podcasts are more your jam, the podcast Food Psych with Christy Harrison is incredibly informational, relatable, and eye-opening. These sources, along with my therapy have been a huge part of my intuitive eating journey so far.

A letter to my inner-child

Dearest little-one,
I understand your fear. Believe me, I do. You were born from fear, the same fear that I was living in. Your fears were my fears. I was afraid of my mother, I was afraid of never being good enough, I was devastated by her lack of love for me.

Please know that I would never hurt you the way that she hurt me. You have done nothing but protect me. You have done everything in your power to keep me safe and happy. I am so grateful for you and everything that you have done for me. And what an amazing job you’ve done! I love you so much.

But please understand that even though you are still a little girl, I have grown up. I am almost 40 years old, and while I will never stop loving you, or desert you the way I was deserted, I do ask that you step back and allow me to start protecting myself. I am fully capable of this job now.

I know it scares you that I have gotten back in touch with my higher-self. I know you feel threatened by her, but there’s no need. The two of you go way back. If you remember, she was there for me when I was afraid too. The two of you saved me. The two of you kept me safe. Together you gave me the strength I needed to survive.

She has been waiting patiently for me to reach back out to her. This whole time that I have been growing, she’s been supporting us. She loves you as much as she loves me. For you are part of me. She wants what’s best for both of us.

I’m sorry that I didn’t have the awareness to recognize you until recently. But you can thank her for our introduction. It was her awareness and desire to help that brought us together. She is not a threat, she is love. Please allow us to give you the love that you deserve; the love you feel you never received.

It is now my time to protect you. Every time that I’m playing a game, or at the park, or laughing, I want you to be there in that moment… happy, playing, and laughing along with me. Every time I am in an embrace, know that the love in that hug is also directed at you.

Also know that any time that I am hurt, or angry, or anxious, or sad, or feel shame, or want to cry, know that I am okay. It is okay for me to feel these emotions. Life has ups and downs, and I need to be able to feel the downs so that I can appreciate the ups even more. I can take care of you, and I can take care of me.

I don’t know if you realize that when you try to make me feel better with food, it’s actually hurting me. I’m not blaming you for this at all, I just want you to understand that while it may make me feel better right away, in the long run, it’s making me sadder.

So dearest, little-one. I ask you to release your fears and your insecurities. I ask you to trust me. If you can do this for me, I promise you that together, we will thrive. We will be happy. We will feel even more love and joy than we already do. You just have to release, trust, and allow me to love you.

Landslide – part two

In September of 2017 I wrote a post on Stevie Nick’s song Landslide on my StayWonderfull blog. In that post I referred to how the lyrics of this song have always spoken to me on some deeper level that has felt like a puzzle that needed to be figured out.

Today was the day that all the puzzle pieces came together. I’ve been doing a lot of inner child work in therapy. I’ll have to do a separate blog post on all of that, but in a nutshell, I finally met my inner child last month. Since meeting, I’ve begun realizing how integrated she is in my life.

I’ve determined that she is the reason for my self-sabotage in my weight loss efforts all of these years. This little 8-9 year old girl that was created during the worst part of my life has been protecting me ever since. She has been using food as a coping mechanism.

Not only has she made her presence known in my life through food, but other areas as well. Once I acknowledged her, she started showing me just how integrated she is. Her main job, which she has taken very seriously, has been to make me feel good. When things, life, emotions, get too hard, she jumps in and uses whatever tools she has in her arsenal to help me feel better and escape the threat.

The thing is that this girl is a bit of a rebel. Anything that threatens that safety she rebels against. Which ends up resulting in self-sabotage. My therapist tells me that I need to keep thanking her for the job she’s done and to get her to see that I (aka: my higher, wiser-self) will take it from here. Something that’s easier said than done.

The other aspect of this that I want to touch upon is fear. Last January, I wrote a post on here titled A new year, a new me where I talked about fear. It was during Winter Solstice (a time of release) that I asked myself the question… “what is holding me back from losing weight?”

A voice came to me and answered “fear and insecurities”. I didn’t know what that meant at the time. I assumed it had to do with my fear of having bariatric surgery which propelled me into my Optavia journey, but I’m now realizing that the fear and insecurities were coming from my inner child.

In dissecting a “food incident” that occurred last week, it became clearly identifiable that the two voices I’ve been hearing in my head are my inner child and my higher-self. There is so much insecurity for ME wrapped up in these two and due to the nature of 32 years of having my inner child protect me, I’ve learned to not trust my higher-self in these situations.

The interesting thing is that I’m now learning that there are times when I don’t trust either one and I look to other’s for unspoken queues on what to do.

The “food situation” was that my husband and I had ordered 2 small pizzas last week for dinner. Halfway through I was full. I knew this, my body was giving me clear signs and my intuition was telling me to stop eating. But my inner child wanted me to continue to eat.

I know that if you haven’t been in this situation, the easy answer is to stop eating, but when you wrap up all the emotions, the patterns of 32 years, and the subconscious good intention of my inner child, it becomes very difficult… so I looked over at my husband who seemed to be slowing down. He was halfway also. I kept checking in with him to see how he was doing. He kept telling me fine and continued to eat his pizza. That somehow gave me permission to keep eating mine. And that’s what happened.

For possibly the first time in my life I felt guilt after eating. We determined though, that the guilt was not from the food itself, but from me not listening to my intuition. My therapist said that guilt comes when there is a lesson to be learned. I know the lesson.

I felt really disappointed in myself in therapy that night, for struggling with something that seems to be so freaking obvious, but she reminded me that it’s self-sabotage and that it’s a pretty common thing, and if it were easy to stop, people would.

We talked about the fear and how it ties into emotions and eventually we circled back to how I use to have really bad anxiety. She asked what tools I used to help with that and I laughed because the answer is meditation, which is another thing I’ve been struggling with. The last time I had any sort of consistent mediation practice was last November… almost 5 months ago. Which now that I’m thinking about it, is when I really got off track with my healthier eating habits. A very interesting thing to notate.

Again, this idea of not trusting my higher-self when all I’ve been doing for these last several years is building her up and giving her a voice, made me so sad. I don’t know why I resist trusting her on this. I trust her on every other aspect of my life. Why is the food part so hard? And why is it so hard to meditate when I know it’s going to make me feel better?

Where does the line get drawn? Why is it easy to self-medicate and feel good with eating food, but I can’t get myself to mediate which I know will make me feel good? And then it dawned on me… my inner child is the one resisting the mediation. She afraid. No, she’s terrified. Of allowing my higher-self to continue to grow. She see’s her as a threat. Because if my higher-self’s voice continues to get louder in this area, it would completely change my life and up-heave my inner child’s life. My inner child IS the fear. SHE is the insecurity.

Funny enough, I was outside sitting in nature yesterday. My mind was still as I immersed myself in the sights and sounds of Spring. All of the sudden I heard the lyric “I’ve been afraid of changing, cause I’ve built my life around you.” And that’s when the realization that the fear and insecurity has been her all along. That little girl inside who’s afraid of losing everything that she knows. And I can relate to that fear. She protected me from that fear at that age in my life. I mean, when you really break it down… she was created from fear.

I texted this realization to my cousin who at once told me to mediate to the song Landslide. I did, and the song finally made sooooo much sense to me. It was crystal clear. The song that’s spoken to me on this unknown level has been a plea between my higher-self and my inner child. The two lines that rip out my heart strings every time I hear them are… “can the child within my heart rise above?” and “I’ve been afraid of changing, cause I’ve built my life around you.”

The first verse which has never made any sense to me makes so much sense now:

I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down.

I’ve struggled so much with self love… my whole life. I’ve never been thin enough, I was never pretty enough, I never stood up for myself and rarely did I have a voice. I went through most of my life making decisions based on what would please everyone else. I’ve spent that last four years working on all of this and for the most part, I’ve climbed that mountain and I’ve been able to see what I can become.

But my whole life, anytime I’ve tried to climb that mountain of weight loss, and I’ve started to see the version of who I could become, the landslide (which is my inner child) has always brought me down.

The song continues…
Oh, mirror in the sky, what it love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

What is love? That’s ultimately the question I’ve been asking myself. It’s ultimately what I’ve been trying to figure out. Last year, when I started my Optavia journey I realized that my desire for weight loss was finally coming from a place of love. It wasn’t based on me needing to change myself for everyone else. And it’s the first time that I was ever truly successful on any type of diet (until the self-sabotage set in).

I’ve since learned that the diet mentality actually does more harm than good. And now, the trick is to learn how to trust my higher-self in guiding me in learning how to listen to my body so that I can show it the love it needs and deserves.

My higher self has been asking these questions… “MIRROR in the sky, what is love?” What IS love? Look in the mirror. Literally… learn to love the one in the mirror, but also use that mirror to see what’s going on. Use that mirror to answer that question and to learn how to properly love yourself.

She outright questions that little girl… can the child within my heart rise above? Can we all just sail through and handle the changes so that we can love our-self completely?

And my inner child responds to her:
I’ve been afraid of changing,
Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too.

As I’ve said before, she’s terrified of change. She was created from fear, with one job.. to protect me from that fear. And now she’s being asked to give up everything that she knows, everything that she’s been… for 32 years.

And she’s right, children get older, and time does make you bolder. She’s become very bold and very good at what she does. And every time I hear the lyric “And I’m getting older too,” I can feel her sadness in my body. I think she knows it’s time for her to grow up, and she’s afraid of that too…

Wow. This all is so fucking deep. I feel like this goes beyond subconscious psychology and even beyond spirituality. I feel like this is bigger than all of that. I don’t know… perhaps it’s simply the effects that come from finally learning and understanding the truth that I’ve been searching for, for most of my life. I don’t know… the crazy coincidence that this song so insanely parallels things that I didn’t even realize were happening? It’s too much.

And on that note, I’m going to wrap up this post. Thank you to those who have stuck with me this far into it. It’s not easy being vulnerable, but I know there’s a bigger picture to sharing my vulnerability with you. Thank you for following along on this wild, crazy, journey.

If you haven’t followed along yet, click the link to follow this blog and follow me on Facebook. I promise that I will continue to share my vulnerability with you as I continue to figure out the puzzle pieces of this whole mystery.

And for a dose of spiritual positivity follow my StayWonderfull Facebook page.