Self Love and Acceptance

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I have always felt that people cross our paths for a reason. Good or bad, I have learned that every person I have come in contact with has touched my life in some way. But, even with this outlook, every once in a while I am surprised by who is teaching me some of these valuable lessons.

Meet Emily:

Emily at the Color Run- Posted with permission

Emily came into my life about 9 years or so ago. She was a friend of my daughter and, to me, she was just another preteen girl who found her way to my house once in a while and locked herself in the bedroom with my daughter. I always thought she was a nice girl, but didn’t really get to know her too well.

Let’s fast forward several years. Emily is now a grown woman. Have I mentioned that time seems to be passing by way too quickly? I don’t really want to stray from this story, but I have a hard time believing that all these kids aren’t kids anymore.

Where was I? Oh, yes! Emily is now a beautiful young woman in her early 20’s. This picture was taken not too long ago when she participated in the color run. As you can see, she just radiates!

As long as I have known Emily, she has never been the “skinny” kid on the block. She has never, ever let that get in the way of her life and happiness. Or, if she has, you would never know it. To tell you the truth I didn’t really notice until the last year or so just how much she embraced life.

Maybe you all have heard of a little social networking site out there called Facebook. One day a couple of years ago I received a friend request from Emily and I happily accepted and didn’t think much about it until I started seeing some of her posts. All of them seemed to be full of confidence and happiness. Not fake happiness, but true self acceptance. How did she do it?

Emily posted this picture with the caption "Honor your Curves"

Emily posted this picture with the caption “Honor your Curves”

After seeing these posts time and time again, I reached out to her to let her know just how proud I am of the young lady she has become. I also told her just how much I admired her and wanted to know her secret. Here is some of what she wrote to me:

“My mom was a single mom who never failed to remind me that I was beautiful and that it was ok to be myself. She always let me express myself through many outlets. From dressing up in dresses and make up and holding a photo shoot, to smiling at the seriously ridiculous outfits I would throw together. Lol! I think there is nothing more crucial for a mom to do than this. I’ve been heavy, overweight, chunky, fat, whatever you call it, all my life. There were times when I was thinner and now I am by far at my heaviest and hoping to turn that around. Rather than dwelling on that I choose to be happy and grateful for who I am. I am a firm believer that who you are as a person is much more telling than how you look. I try to be the best person I can be spiritually and the rest just falls into place.”

Can you tell why I am drawing inspiration from this girl? How amazing is that? Here is a girl who absolutely accepts and loves who she is regardless of what society says. As far as I know she has no blog or any aspirations to be a public figure. She is just herself and she lights up the lives of the grown ups she encounters and the children she teaches. I have written a few times about fat being a state of mind or giving myself pep talks for a positive outlook, but I still struggle with this every day and I think it shows.

So, I am publicly saying to Emily, thank you so much for taking the time to teach your friend’s “Mom” a few lessons about living life to its fullest. You inspire me.

Fat is a State of Mind

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I have taken a bit of a hiatus from writing so I could gather my thoughts and re-set my state of mind.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I am constantly in awe of how the river of life sometimes takes us in a completely different direction than what we expected. It seems as though no amount of planning can compete with what the Universe has in store for us. There have been plenty of occasions that I have come across a bridge which has been washed out and have had to find a way around it.

In my many hours of searching for the happiness that I felt would fall at my feet when if I had the perfect body I discovered that the only way to get where I want to be, I need to truly appreciate and love where I am. And in order to love where I am, I needed to understand how I got here.

Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

If there is anything I have learned in the past few years, it is that having fat and being fat are two different things. There are so many of us who go through life with the acceptance that they are fat. What is truly disturbing about that thought is that many are not carrying any extra weight at all. The extra weight is carried in the mind rather than on the body.

The human brain has amazing powers. Not only can thoughts convince someone that they are sick when they are not, but it can just as easily convince them that they are completely healthy when the opposite is true. I don’t need any studies or science to tell me this because I experience it myself on almost a daily basis.

There have been times when just the thought of something unpleasant has flipped my stomach upside down and I was convinced I was coming down with the flu just as the anticipation of something I am excited about has helped me forget that I am in the middle of an Asthma attack. While, admittedly, that might be a little drastic, it has happened to me.

What does this tell me? Being fat is nothing more than a state of mind. Do I have fat? Yes. Am I fat? I used to be, but not any more. There are many who would ask themselves how I can say that when I have almost 200 pounds of excess weight on my 5’2″ frame.

The way I see it is that I was fat for the first 40+ years of my life because in my mind I was defined only by the extra weight. Every day I would wake up focusing on just how fat I was and how perfect my life would be if I was not cursed to have the body I have. This became my obsession. No matter how hard I tried, I just had the hardest time losing weight. In fact, it seemed that I was actually fulfilling those thoughts because I gained weight. I was destined to be fat. At least that was until I learned the difference between being fat and having fat.

Why am I no longer fat? In stark contrast to the way I felt about myself before, I am also choosing to live my life even with the extra weight. How silly is it to think that I don’t deserve to experience all that life has to offer just because I am heavier than the average person? How unfair is it to my family that until recently I have not participated as much as I wanted to in family activities out of fear of judgement? Well, in the past year I have discovered that I have fat, but that does not mean I need to be fat.

I kicked the scale to the curb so I could stop putting so much importance on the fat. I don’t weight myself more than maybe once a month. When I do choose to weigh myself it is more of a benchmark than validation for me. I just don’t see the importance in how my body is in relation to gravity on any given day.  What is important is that I am finally living to the fullest of my capabilities and I am getting better daily. Oh, and about those extra pounds: They are slowly but surely leaving. I guess they don’t like the fact that they aren’t getting all my attention any more.

My 99¢ Therapy

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Whether you have 10 pounds or 100+ pounds to lose it is not easy. Even if you really have no weight to lose but want to start living healthier there are obstacles to overcome.

With me, it is the mental part of it. Once my head is in the game, there is no stopping me. My biggest obstacle is myself. I get overwhelmed by the long road ahead of me and it does not take much to push me towards a dead end. I eat my emotions and there have been a lot of roller coaster emotions the past several years for me.

Well, I started keeping a journal.

I have been not only writing in my journal, but somehow my journal entries have been prompting me to have complete conversations with myself. In a way, I guess it is kind of an easy way to save money on therapy. The point is this little book that I carry in my purse has given me an outlet to get the junk out of my head. Has it solved the all issues in my little world? Not at all. Has it given me a chance to speak my peace? Absolutely.

I feel like the little light bulb finally stopped flickering and has switched into bright mode. My mind is feeling clearer and I am more focused. For the first time in a very long time I actually feel like the fight is really worth fighting and it is actually a possibility probability that I will win.

I know that there are many of you who are thinking that I have been putting up a great act of positivity and healthy changes to my lifestyle. Well, I knew that if I kept throwing the positivity out there, that I would eventually feel it and then I would be back on track. As far as the healthy changes, I have made many positive changes in my eating habits; unfortunately it has not been 100% of the time which has hurt me a great deal.

It was like being the positive model by day and cookie monster by night for me. Why? I eat my emotions. While I was at work, I didn’t really have time to dwell on the other aspects of my life. So, why have I been 100% on track with my eating, goals, and balancing emotions for three days now? I believe it is because I have taken the time to keep a journal. I have an online journal for tracking food, which is great, but it does not address the emotional aspect of trying to deal with life. My little 99¢ notebook has become the most valuable tool in this fight and I am so glad I have it.

So, I can finally say with 100% certainty that this journey is worth fighting for. I may make a few steps backwards now and then, but I will not give up on myself regardless of how many times others try to push me down. Remember this: I will come back stronger than ever!

What Would Mom Think?

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I will spare everyone the long sordid story, but there has been some extra doses of stress dealt to my family these past couple of weeks and as a result I have not been the best that I can be. I have kept the positivity up on the outside, but the internal struggle is overwhelming at times.

This is one of those times that I really, really miss my Mom. You know what I mean; I miss her all the time, but I can just imagine what she would say to me given my current state of mind and physical condition. These are her words which are ringing in my ears today:

Diana,

I really don’t know why you are killing yourself this way. You have spent your entire life trying to live up to the expectations of others and totally disregarding your own needs, hopes, dreams, and ultimately your health. I know it has been real hard for you since I was called home, but I am still with you and I can see all the positive changes you have made in your life.

Lately, some of those changes have not been so visible. You will never, ever make everyone happy. Ultimately you will destroy any chance you have at a healthy life if you continue to kill yourself over what you feel some of the family members and/or strangers think about you and your choices. Oh, and as long as we are on the subject, since when do you let people who don’t even know you dictate how you feel about yourself?

Do you not remember watching me try to live up to my sisters’ image and expectations? It drove me crazy and I spent many nights crying over things out of my control. Please, oh please learn from my mistakes and take care of yourself. I want your grandchildren to have you around. One of my greatest regrets is that my grandchildren have grown without being able to really know me.

So, Diana, this is my advice to you. Stop giving other people so much control over your life. Just be yourself and take care of yourself the way you know you need to. Reach deep down into that place where you still know that you can and will succeed in anything and everything you want to do. If you don’t you will follow in my footsteps and leave this earth long before your time and you have much more to give the world.

Love,

Mom

Dear Future Self

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Dear Future Diana,

I am so proud of you for getting your journey back on track. By the looks of it, I would say you finally kicked the dessert habit also. Good for you! What is it like to be able to get on the floor and play with the grandkids? Oh, I bet you can tie your shoes without feeling like you just had a full workout. I have so many questions to ask you and I am not real sure where to begin.

I guess the best place to start is by letting you know that I have already started some small little habits that helped you get where you are today. Just like I promised back in April, I have started drinking only water (Ok, I still drink my morning coffee, but the cream level has been reduced drastically), I eat breakfast every day, and my fruit and vegetable consumption is significantly higher.

To answer your question, yes it is a healthy breakfast about 98% of the time. If you don’t believe me, just check my tracker on MyFitnessPal because I may not log everything, but I do log my breakfast. I know, I should log everything, but I am getting there. Oh, this morning? Yeah, had some errands to run so I stopped at Wawa. I didn’t do too badly though. See, I am learning.

Now, to some of those questions I have for you:

  1. How did you get the determination to not quit? How did you get past the obstacles that life placed in your path? I seem to be struggling with that at the moment.
  2. How long did it take before you could climb the stairs without pulling yourself up or losing your breath? I have lived here for 6 months and I still can’t do that.
  3. What did it feel like the first time you were able to fly without fear of being ridiculed?
  4. Do you own those boots that you swore you would have someday? (If you don’t remember the boot story, you can read it here.)
  5. How was it when you were finally able to ride those roller coasters again?
  6. I know that you have a regular exercise routine, what did you do to start? How did you get past the pain and keep going?
  7. Did the eczema and asthma get better as you lost the weight and got healthier?

There are so many more questions I would love to ask, but they aren’t coming to mind right now. I am happy to say that I have outlined my next baby step for our journey. I have decided that the next goal is to not eat take-out and cook dinner every night.

I know, it is not going to be easy with “the husband’s” obsession with pizza, chinese, and drive thru cuisine. But, you obviously figured out a way to conquer it, so that is what I am doing this week. I am not saying I will never eat take-out again, but I am saying that I need to get in the habit of cooking for myself. So, if he wants take-out he can get it. I will still prepare my dinner.

Oh, one more question:

Were you ever able to get that husband of yours to eat any vegetables without tricking him? LOL

I Am The Author Of My Life

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I have always been a writer at heart. It has always been a dream of mine to write a book. The topic of this book has changed over the years depending on where my life is at the moment. I have gone back and forth in my mind and could never really answer that question.

Fiction or non-fiction? Mystery or romance? Biography or auto biography? Collection of poems? Well, you get the picture. I have the beginnings to many great stories in my floppy disks, cds, and usb drives, but I have never completed any of them. OK, you got me. That is not 100% true. I do have a couple of completed poems and some short stories from my high school days.

The point is, I guess that I never really had enough faith in myself that I could actually produce a finished product which anyone would like. I have never believed the positive feedback received from family, friends, teachers, and employers. I felt it was “sympathy praise”. Some of you may find that statement crazy, but I am pretty sure that there are plenty of you out there who know exactly where I am coming from.

When you have no faith in yourself it is pretty difficult to believe that anyone else can genuinely like anything about you. Well, that is how I have felt most of my life. I could go into a long drawn out story about my childhood, dysfunctional relationships with my parents/family, the death of my parents and brother, being called the fat kid, or even feeling like the black sheep of the family. But, when it comes down to it, you can only blame the world for so long before you have to take responsibility for your own life.

What about the story of my life? It has gotten off to a pretty slow start. The first 44 years of it has been filled with a lot of self-esteem issues, insecurities, and emotional baggage. Does that mean that the story can’t go in a different direction halfway through the book? Not at all. I am the author of this story and a huge twist is happening NOW!

With a lot of support from my children, my husband, and the people I have met on my Facebook page, I have actually started to believe in myself. The next few chapters are going to be filled with ups and downs, but the finale will full of love and self acceptance with a lot of action mixed in.

Oh, and about that novel that I want to publish? That is coming as well. It is never too late!

An Open Letter To The Woman In The Corner

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To The Woman In The Corner.

You remember me, don’t you? My husband and I were having dinner about two tables over from you in that buffet last Friday night. I can’t imagine you have forgotten us since you watched us for over an hour with a look of disgust on your face. Was it difficult for you to see a couple out eating dinner who were actually enjoying each other’s company since the other five people you were with obviously were unable to keep your attention?

I am not sure why you were so fascinated with us that you felt the need to make eye contact with me then literally give me that look of absolute disgust. However, you were interested enough to watch us eat so there are a few things I feel compelled to say to you.

When two overweight people enter a buffet there are some common sense rules you can keep in mind.

  1. Don’t assume that they are there for your entertainment or judgement
  2. Do assume that they are human beings with eyes and feelings just like you
  3. You can also assume that their bodies need fuel just as yours does
  4. Consider that while someone may be overweight, you never know where that person is in their journey
  5. Another safe assumption would be that they are not interested in what is on your plate, so you do not need to feel as though we judge you or your food choices
  6. Just in case you wanted to see what some good food choices would be and that is why you were watching me eat so intently, most of the food you so carefully watched me consume was vegetables. Oh, I did have some rotisserie chicken AND I removed the skin
  7. Oh, for the record, I don’t drink soda often but when I do I drink it full strength. No diet stuff for me. That is a personal preference and one soda a month is not how I got fat
  8. Yes, I did have dessert and it was delicious. Thank you!
  9. Next time maybe if you pay a little more attention to the people you are dining with, others can actually eat without judgement.

One thing that may help you in the future is to close your eyes and think about going out on date night with your spouse and sitting down to eat when you notice a complete stranger sitting across the room from you. Then as the meal progresses that person, whom you have never met, made it a point to let you know that not only were they judging you based on the color of your hair, how tall you are, or maybe they just don’t like your clothes but that you actually disgusted them because of that physical trait. How would that make you feel? Yes, that is exactly how I felt when we left the restaurant.

But, guess what! I actually like and accept myself. I know that I am doing everything I can to make myself a healthier version of me. Notice I did not say a skinnier or thinner version? That’s because it is not about size and you would do well to remember that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.