Self-Reflection

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I learned self-reflection during Sunday School as a pre-teen.  I don’t remember exactly how, but I do know that the concept was introduced to me there.  I think it was when our teacher told us that when we pray, we should include prayers of thanks and praise and not just ask God for a bunch of things.  Aha!  Be less self-centred.  Think of things in a new context.

I know it doesn’t seem to relate exactly to self-reflection, but for me, this was the beginning of learning to really analyze my own thoughts and actions and to step outside of myself.

Self-reflection has come in very handy for me in marriage.  When I find that I am overwhelmed with anger or frustration and I am blaming my husband for it, I try to calm down and realize what it is about me that is causing me to have these emotions (and my usually loud, obnoxious reactions). It is almost never as easy as blaming my husband; it usually comes down to something bigger that’s bothering me and I am taking it out on him, or it’s stemming from something I don’t like about myself and it’s easier to blame my husband than face the fact that I could be my own problem.

If you haven’t self-reflected, you need to.  I do most of my thinking at night as I settle into bed.  Sometimes I bounce things off of my groggy husband and he will give me validation and honesty.  When I realize that there is something about myself that I need to change, I make a plan on how to change and work hard to put it into action.  For example, there was a time where I harped about someone for a few weeks and it seemed like the person was simply under my skin and too in my face.  However, upon further inspection of the situation, I realized that I was in a funk, revelling in negativity, and that the person was in my space because they were trying to be helpful and kind.  When I accepted that I was the problem, not the other person, it made it easier for me to enjoy the person being in my space and to get rid of the cloud of negative-thinking that has been following me.

It is imperative that everyone self-reflects.  I’m sure you have come across someone in your life that you feel just cannot see the real situation.  They are blaming you for their problem, and that is wrong.  You know it, I know it, and anyone outside of the situation can see it.  The only way for the person to see that they are, in fact, the problem (not the person to whom they are transferring) is for that person to self-reflect.  The first step is admitting you have been wrong to yourself, then you can go about righting those wrongs for others.

Remember: we can’t control other people, we can only control ourselves.  Do yourself a favour and make self-reflection a regular activity in your day.  You will feel better and you will improve all of your relationships.  If you learn this now, you will be so far ahead of the game as you get older.

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Holistic Approach to Wellness

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Did you know that our health and wellness is affected by more than food and exercise?  Sometimes it’s hard to remember that to be truly healthy we must be balanced in all areas of our lives.  Wouldn’t it be nice if marketers pushed introspection instead of diet supplements as a means to happiness?

I have been putting a lot of thought and effort into reevaluating where I am at in the following seven categories:

Spirit, Physical Health, Mental Health, Emotions, Intellect, Nourishment, and Relationships.

*There are other important things like finances, goal-setting, letting go/permission to change – I put these items under other categories but feel free to add them to your “most important” list.

Each of these things makes up a portion of my well-being.  Therefore, when I am fulfilling every area, I feel whole.  On the other hand, if I am lacking in any of the aforementioned categories, I tend to feel fruitless and bored and my self-esteem is usually decreased.

Approaching holistic health takes work and commitment, but after some time it becomes second nature.  The important thing is to remember that once you’re in the groove, feeling good and fulfilling yourself in all of the seven categories, you must check in on occasion to make sure you’re not leaving anything out.  It’s too easy to not realize you’ve been slipping until you’re all the way back at the bottom of the hill.

Here is my web, illustrating my holistic approach to wellness:

Start with a web.  These are the seven categories that I believe to be important.

Start with a web. These are the seven categories that I believe to be important.

Here are the ways that I fulfill each area of my life:

I realize that I left out finance.  I would put my financial health under "Mental Health", because when my finances are healthy my stress level is down.  When I check back in with myself in a few months, I will make finance it's own bubble.

I realize that I left out finance. I would put my financial health under “Mental Health”, because when my finances are healthy my stress level is down. When I check back in with myself in a few months, I will make finance it’s own bubble.

Goal-setting has not been a priority of mine for a while (although I have done it subconsciously off and on for the last few years), so I have decided to make it a conscious part of my life this year to see how it impacts me.

I have been implementing a “less is more” lifestyle these past few months and am looking forward to continuing with that.  I can tell that my mentality around “stuff” and what it can give me is changing.  For example, I might go to a store and put a few things in my cart as I wander the aisles.  After some times passes and I look at more and more things I feel bombarded and I really don’t like being marketed to.  (The next time you shop, ask yourself what the marketers must think about you to try to sell you items in the ways that they do.  Hint: they really don’t think too highly of you or care about your holistic well-being.  In fact, they usually prey on our biggest insecurities in order to make money.)  I look into the cart and decide that none of these things are worth the time I will spend in the checkout line or the money I will spend from my account.  I would rather spend my time and money on experiences and people I care about.  *This will also positively impact your finances.

(Confession: my weakness when it comes to shopping is my home.  I love decorating it and rearranging it.  I do allow myself to do this because my home is my sanctuary and it helps my creative juices flow to reimagine spaces.)

Here is something to remember as you ask yourself honest questions and work toward figuring out what best suits your holistic approach to wellness:

Never forget this.

Never forget this.

It is not necessary to make all of your life decisions today.  Decide what’s best for you today, and if that same thing is not what’s best for you tomorrow, you can change your mind.  You are allowed to change, but YOU must be the one to give yourself permission.

School Uniforms

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Hot topic alert!

I read an article this morning on school dress code regulations from Everyday Feminism and it made me think.

My husband grew up in the Catholic school system in Ontario, Canada.  I grew up in the public school system (albeit I attended a very good school in a nice part of town) in Arizona.  He wore a school uniform, I had a dress code.

*In my experience, our dress code was not strictly enforced.  This means that I was never given warnings about what I wore, nor were the majority of the kids I hung out with.  This could be skewed, because we were the good students, athletes, and involved in clubs – maybe that gave us an invisible armor that protected us from criticism.  Maybe not.  I can’t say, because I was not a teacher.  I was a student.  I was a student that pushed the limit minimally – a sliver of stomach showed, my shorts were short (but I am short in stature, so that may have camouflaged the length a bit), and I wore tight clothing.  I never bared cleavage because I didn’t have any and it wasn’t a body part I wanted to show.  However, outside of school, I was slightly more daring – a little more stomach, a little shorter shorts/skirts, skin tight everything.

In a perfect world, dress codes and uniforms would be solely intended to benefit the students and their families, and there would be no hidden agendas of trying to make every child who is different in anyway (socio-economic status, gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation specifically) look exactly the same.

If we lived in a perfect world, or at least attended a perfect school, let me argue that a school uniform/dress code is a good thing.  I lean more toward the school uniform because there is less room for individual judgement and gray area.  I believe that everything outside of the uniform, I’m talking hair, makeup, nails, jewelry, should not be given a code.  I believe that a uniform, with kind intentions by those who require it, is a way to show respect for the learning environment and it teaches boundaries.

I want school to be a place for free expression through thoughts and voices.  I want every person to be able to develop arguments and opinions on everything they believe in and be known for their mind and spirit.  I see how it could be construed that not allowing for free dress could hinder a youth’s expression, but I feel that not having the outside speak for them, kids must speak for themselves.  I think this develops good social skills and conversational skills.

I feel that the school environment needs boundaries.  Everyone should be allowed to think for themselves and have the freedom to express their free thought in school.  I do not think that kids need unlimited freedom in dress.  I think too much emphasis is put on how shocking one can be through dress or how much attention one can get from the outside – I want kids to develop their minds and learn to shock with their voices!  It’s too easy to put on an “Anarchy” shirt – tell me why you believe in anarchy!  Develop thought and express it.

Now, for the topic of revealing clothing and respect.  This is tough because there are some people who choose to wear minimal clothing because they like it – they do it for reasons for themselves, not other people.  However, the damaging part is there are women and girls who do not have a strong sense of self, who are struggling with self-esteem and self-worth, who don’t believe they are worthy of attention for just being themselves, and so they try out revealing dress as a means to attention.  I was more on this side of the spectrum for a very long time.  For the young women out there who are like I was, a uniform would be beneficial because it takes away the opportunity to give themselves less than they deserve.  It gives them the opportunity to see that they can get attention for their minds and kindness and humor, etc.

I know my opinion is not going to be the popular one, and I also give myself the freedom for my opinions to change over time and with new education and experiences.  Where I am now, with the work that I do with youth, with my current life experiences, I am on the side of school uniforms as long as there are not oppressive underlying intentions.  Like I said, in a perfect world.

Dressed for 80's theme day at school.  My shirt says, "Sizzle Grip: Maximum Heat".  The skirt it one that I would use scissors to cut shorter every time I wore it.

 

This is me, dressed for 80’s theme day at school in 11th grade.  I had probably just turned 17.  My shirt says, “Sizzle Grip: Maximum Heat”.  What does that even mean?  This is the skirt that I would use scissors to cut shorter every time I wore it.

Does this outfit say, I am ready to learn and develop my own thoughts and express them to you with confidence?  No, it doesn’t.  It distracted me from the real reason I was at school and allowed me to focus on outside attention – attention I was getting only because of the way I was dressed.

90’s Tweens vs. Today’s Tweens

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I read an article from a great blog I follow called Everyday Feminism.  The author, Shannon Ridgway, brings up some good points.  I, like Shannon, spent ages 9-12 in the 90’s.  So, let’s explore how things are different for today’s tweens vs. the 90’s tweens.  (One difference being that we hadn’t coined the term “tween” yet.)

Me, as a "tween".

Me, as a “tween”.

1)  Cell phones.

When I was in middle school, the only people that had cell phones were business-people.  I would call my mom at home from the pay phone at school (I was devastated when the rate climbed from $0.25 to $0.35, because it required two coins).  For those who are curious: when I had no coins, I would call my mom at home via a “collect call”, and say really quickly what I needed.  My mom would answer and hear, “You have a call from MOM PRACTICE IS OVER COME PICK ME UP!  Do you accept the charges?”  That way it wouldn’t charge the house.  Ahhh the resourcefulness…

Now, a lot of young people have cell phones for different reasons.  Whatever the reason, phones are not just for calling and texting: phones have internet access now!!  They can take pictures and post online in under five seconds.  No wonder cyber bullying is so bad.  Remember how bad kids were in person?  Imagine how bad they can be behind the safety net of the ethernet.  Let’s not forget that once something is online, it is out there forever.  Imagine googling yourself in your 20’s and finding that picture of you from middle school at a pool party where someone labeled you “fat ho”?  You can’t escape that stuff!  There is an app developed for sexting (even though that claim is denied from the developers).  Snapchat.  It allows someone to take a picture or record a video.  Once you send it, the receiver is only able to see it for a few seconds before it is deleted.  Well, that’s what we think.  Click this link for more about SnapChat.

Let’s be real: kids have too much power.  They are irrational and impulsive because of their intense emotions and should not have the power to ruin someone’s life…because sometimes they will be irrational and impulsive and they don’t realize that there are some actions they can NEVER take back.

While we’re on the subject…

2) The Internet.

We had the internet.  I went on AOL (for the kids of today, this was basically like texting, but you had to both be signed in and type back and forth on the computer in order to chat).  For me, in my home, the computer was in a spare room and we could only be in there with the door open.  My brother and I also had to SHARE the computer.  The computer was the only thing that had games and internet and word processor to type our school assignments.  We had to time manage and work out deals for computer time.  Oh, and we also had DIAL-UP!  This means that until we got a second phone line for just the internet, we had to make sure nobody needed the home phone in order to go online.  The internet was also very ssssllllllooooowwwww and had a lot less websites than it does today.  In fact, I didn’t ever visit websites.  I only went online to chat on AOL.  Now, there are websites dedicated to making fun of people.  Kids even know how to create websites!  Let’s not even talk about porn; it is rampant and so easily accessible.  Kids have their own computers, if that even matters!  With internet on phones, kids have full access to whatever is online at all hours of the day and night.  Parents: consider limiting your child’s wi-fi access or access to electronics, period.  Have conversations with your children.  You are not powerless.

This is me playing outside with friends.  What a novel concept.

This is me playing outside with friends. What a novel concept.

Facebook came out when I was in my first year of college.  Some people were using Myspace but I didn’t really like it.  It seemed a bit “To Catch a Predator” and it creeped me out.  Facebook, however, was meant to connect you to other students and you could only use it if you had a legitimate university email address.  I am infinitely grateful that we didn’t have facebook before college.  I don’t think that the majority of kids are mature enough to have access to something like this.  I see bikini pictures on facebook of kids I know today and I cringe.  I see publicly displayed breakups and four-page scrolls of comments trash-talking others.  It’s ugly and it shouldn’t exist.  There are parents who properly control their kids access to websites and internet time and phone time, but there are those who do not and I think it is damaging.  It is also too easy to “facebook-stalk” people.  Do you know what we used to do when I was in middle school?  If we had a crush, we would get our friends to prank call the person and we’d have a good laugh.  We would “dare” one another to say hi to the crush at school.  It was easier to not get as obsessed and go into the scary territory of going through the profiles of every girl that posted on your crush’s wall.

Twitter.  This makes kids think that every thought they have should be broadcast to the whole world.  It shouldn’t.

If twitter was around in the 90's, you betcha I would've tweeted this sweet pic from summer vacation.

If twitter was around in the 90’s, you betcha I would’ve tweeted this sweet pic from summer vacation.

Don’t get me wrong.  This isn’t meant to be a rant.  I love vine and twitter and facebook and youtube for the good things they give us.  I love that there is so much great humor out there for everyone now.  Kids are so creative with certain videos they make.  I also love being able to spread information and messages of positivity with so many people.  I just think that we need to control the negativity a bit more by having open, honest conversations with our young people.  Our actions have impact.

3) Reality television.

Otherwise known as “the death and destruction of everything that was once sacred”.  Reality t.v.  Blech.  Why can’t we just be honest about shows being scripted?  Let’s not trick the youth of today into believing this sh#t is real.  Kids have brains that are not as mature as adult brains.  When they see reality t.v. they are processing it into messages about how they should act, how their bodies should look, what things they should have and how they should treat the opposite sex/friends/family.  Reality t.v. has also created a big desire among young people to strive toward 15 minutes of fame.  Most of reality t.v. is centered around women as sex objects.  For children who are not parented in a way that teaches them that reality t.v. is not real and that in real life there are consequences for actions and that not all people act the way they see people acting on t.v., there can be devastating effects.  It’s like a war on the psyches of youth today.

4) Clothing styles.

This look for 5th grade graduation can be described as "mom's shirt and friend's skirt".  I was a not a traditionally feminine girl.

This look for 5th grade graduation can be described as “mom’s shirt and friend’s skirt”. I was a not a traditionally feminine girl.

I really feel like the pressure to look good for girls has not changed.  There were tight clothes, makeup and hair for me and there are those pressures for girls today.  I actually had a boy tell me when I was 15 that he liked when I wore dresses/tight jeans/shorts to school and when I did my hair.  He described me as being a 50/50 girl: hot 50% of the time and not hot 50% of the time.  He said that if I wanted to be hot all the time I should not wear my gray athletic shorts or put my hair up in a messy bun anymore.  (Feel free to take a moment to gag.)  Unfortunately, I think this one hasn’t changed.

noname-8

There I am in the WORTH shirt. I loved and still love athletic clothing. That guy from high school can deal with it.

5) Popular Celebrities.

For us, it was Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce.  One thing they have that the popular celebrities of today don’t really have as much as, are curves and muscles.  Thank goodness the celebrities of my day made having a butt a good thing – that was one thing I could relate to!  I am not putting down any celebrities for the way they look – it’s just that who is popular impacts the way girls want to be seen.  Miley Cyrus is very thin, Selena Gomez is very thin, Kendall Jenner is very thin, the models are thin.  We had Cindy Crawford and models with some shape.  I think that for my generation there was a bit of a backlash against the uber-thin, but unfortunately for this generation, I think that thin is back in.  Being thin is not bad.  The pressure that young girls who do not fit the “perfect”mold put on themselves to fit the mold is what is damaging.

6) The reality of it all?

I think that growing up is hard.  I think that we make it harder than it needs to be on ourselves and on our young people.  Life is really simple.  Do good, put effort into your work and relationships, be kind to others.  I think that we have changed the definition of happiness and success into something so complicated that we have created more problems than we have solved.

What can we do?  Support our young people and breathe positivity into their lives.  Take some pressure off ourselves and lead by example.  Be our authentic selves and stop letting so many outside influences impact us in negative ways.

Two of my many supports: dad and grammy.  Don't worry--there's juice in that wine glass.

Two of my many supports: dad and grammy. Don’t worry–there’s juice in that wine glass.  Grammy’s however, is straight up whiskey and water.  Atta baby.

I resolve to make a better resolution!

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For the love of all that is good and true in this world, please don’t make losing weight be your new year’s resolution!  You are so much more than a “weight”!  You are too good to get caught up in the self-deprecating thoughts of guilt from eating sweets on Christmas.  You are too amazing to not love every part of yourself.  You are worth too much to try to shrink any part of yourself in the new year.

Here are some different ways to improve your life:

Think of a way to better your happiness or outlook.  Be kinder to others.  Improve your relationships.  Be better to yourself.  Leave behind self-doubt and negative thinking.  Take on more positive responsibilities – adopt a pet or commit to a volunteer position.  Take positive risks – go for a promotion, join a new club, start a new friendship.  Ask out that person you can’t stop thinking about.  Throw away your scale!

Whatever you do, please resolve to being better to yourself.  By sharing kindness with our own bodies, spirits, hearts, and minds, we will radiate positivity to those around us.

Wishing you many blessings in the new year.  XOXO.

My Story of Self-Acceptance: making peace with food

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I am reading a book right now titled Brave Girl Eating, by Harriet Brown.  The author is a mother of a 14 year old girl newly diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.  I am enjoying it, because of the perspective, the medical knowledge it is providing about anorexia, and her perspective of food, health, and parenting.

One part that I have really liked so far, is when the author describes grocery shopping with her daughter in the beginnings of her anorexia.  The daughter is persistent that her mother should only buy non-fat and no sugar items.  It made me think about myself when I shop – I used to do the same thing, not that long ago.  Buy skim milk, non-fat yogurt, diet soda, sweetener for my coffee – not sugar.  In fact, I would buy the coffee creamers that are loaded with aspartame and artificial flavors to avoid having a spoonful of sugar with my java.  Have you ever looked at the ingredient list on one of those coffee creamer bottles?  Not many things found in nature on that list; not many things even pronounceable on that list.

The author (the mother), explains to her daughter that humans are meant to eat everything, even sugar, in moderation.  Our bodies are set up to process all kinds of foods to fuel ourselves and regulate our moods and energies.  I agree with this!

I have been experiencing a shift in my habits over the last several years.  As I get older, I have been more concerned with the inner-workings of my body rather that the outer-appearances of it.  I want to live for a long time!  I want to have babies and support their growth with my body.  This has a lot to do with my thought shift on food and eating.

It has been coming slowly, but my typical food choices now come from asking myself, what is the most natural?  I want the whole goodness of the foods I eat.  I want 2% milk.  I want greek yogurt with fat and protein.  If I want a sweeter coffee I add regular sugar.  I really enjoy vegetables and fruits and oats and rice and bread.  My favorite thing to eat is a peanut butter sandwich.  I have switched to natural peanut butter because the only ingredient is peanuts!  I buy bakery bread because it is homemade and doesn’t have additives.  I feel like my body likes this and I feel good knowing I am minimizing my intake of unnatural products.  I don’t count calories and I let my body eat what it craves.  It feels so good.  I feel so free.

Side note: I wrote a while back about going vegetarian.  Quick update: I am back to eating meat, poultry, bacon, and fish.  Perhaps it was the stress of my old job combined with a change in vitamins from my food sources, but my hair was falling out, my skin was dry, and I was having terrible stomach pains.  I left my job and starting eating meat around the same time.  I really think both things have played a role in the improvement of my body.  My hair is soft again (I cut off six-inches of what couldn’t be saved), my skin is happier, and I feel more energized.  My stomach problems have mostly subsided.  I have a better appreciation for meat and what it does for me.  For me, I function better with meat.  I am getting to know my meat sources so that I can feel more at peace morally with eating meat, and I continue to take care to purchase non-animal tested products.

Back to self-acceptance!

Here is my journey that may give some insight as to where I have been and why I have come to have peace with food.

Being an athlete since I was 8 always kept my heart and muscles strong on the inside.  On the outside at age 8, I worried about having a belly – I noticed that some of my friends were skinnier than me and I envied their shape.  My pediatrician told my parents I was slightly overweight and to start having me “eat better”.  We were a healthy family and looking back I am insulted and disappointed.  I am insulted that the doctor insinuated my parents weren’t doing a good job, because they were.  We always ate homemade meals with veggies, fruits, and meats, and my parents always kept us active, playing outside every day.  I am disappointed because I was at the age before a growth spurt when children typically put on a few extra pounds to support the height change that is about to happen – not to mention I was adding fat to prepare for puberty.  The doctor said, in front of me, that I was a little overweight.  Then he suggested changes to our diet.  To me, the 8 year old, I heard, “She is overweight.  She needs to change.”  I felt bad in that moment.

Around age 11 I hit a growth spurt and “thinned out”.  EVERYONE said how good I looked.  This started to tell me that thin was valued.  No one ever complimented my body before (outside of family).  Oh I get it.  Skinny is good.  Chubby is bad.  Very harmful thinking for a young person.  It was at this time that I began to take measures to stay skinny.  My friend and I swam laps for an hour instead of playing in the pool one day.  Then we eyed the pop tarts in her kitchen, desperately hungry, for a while.  When we gave in and ate one we laughed because we negated out workout in caloric terms, but inside I felt shame.  So sad for that age.  If only I could’ve known then what I know now.  I would’ve saved myself so much guilt and heartache.

At age 14, I was in full puberty swing and had filled out.  What I know now is that I was starting to develop my adult body.  What I thought then was how much bigger I was than everyone else.  I want to add that this is distorted thinking.  I was not “big”.  I was not “fat”.  That is the way I felt – it was not real physically.  So many factors contributed to this negative way of thinking.  I noticed everything that had to do with weight.  Boys only asked out the skinny girls.  Models were only skinny.  Actresses were only skinny.  The popular girls were only skinny.  People were praised when they lost weight.  Everything seen as good was also skinny.

Then I went to high school.  In the Spring of my freshman year I used Lent to start my pattern of not eating.  For Lent, I gave up snacking and desserts.  Only three meals a day.  That was my first cut back.  Let me just say here, that I don’t think Jesus really feels starving oneself to look better is very Lenten.  Also, my intention was not to develop an eating disorder, nor do I think I had an eating disorder.  But, I can’t help but to feel like my relationship with food was not normal.

That summer, I was 15, and I started swimming to speed up weight my weight loss.  I would swim every day for 30 minutes.  If I had eaten something that I felt I shouldn’t have eaten, like a cookie, I would do extra laps.  I felt pride every time I stepped on the scale and it lowered.  I saw my stomach sinking in, my arms were thin – things I had never experienced.  And again, EVERYONE was complimenting me.  At summer camp, boys noticed me.  I was flirted with, asked out, asked to dance.  Everything was so new and so exciting.  I was happy, but on the inside I was filled with fear of eating too much or gaining any weight because I felt I could lose it all.  I even remember having a hysterical break down when I couldn’t swim one day because my mom was leaving and I wasn’t allowed to swim when no one was home.  I threw such a fit that she made herself late and gave me 15 minutes in the pool.  I swam furiously.  At that point, I knew something was wrong with me.  “This isn’t who I am,” I thought as I turned for another lap.

I ended up eating the same thing every day for about two months at the end of that summer and the beginning of my sophomore year.  I would wake up and wait as long as I could without eating, which was about 11am.  Then I would have a yogurt.  You know those yogurts that are 100 calories – and that have all the commercials about losing weight and getting a bikini body for vacation.  Then around 4pm, I would have a bowl of brown rice with soy sauce.  That was it.

I had started volunteering as the water girl for the football team during their two-a-day practices.  This was how I got out of eating dinner and my parents noticing.  I would go to football at 4:30 and not come home until 9pm.  The coaches always asked me if I wanted Burger King or whatever they were picking up for themselves that night for dinner.  I always declined saying I just ate.  I remember one time, one of the coaches insisting that I must be hungry.  I kept saying “no thank you”, and “really I’m fine”.  I remember him pausing and looking at me right in the eyes and feeling like he knew what I was up to.  I think he was concerned but didn’t know what to do, so he just left it alone.  After that, he didn’t ask me if I wanted dinner anymore.

During that time, I would fall asleep hungry.  I started to enjoy the feeling.  I would wake up and could see my hip bones sticking above my stomach in the mornings when I laid flat in bed.  I loved this.  I felt successful.  On the first day of school sophomore year, the senior boys noticed me and invited me to come talk to them at lunch.  I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.  Again, everything I felt was positive was coming from my change in appearance to a thinner girl.  At least, that’s what I thought.  Looking back, I think that thin helped because it was high school and everyone is so insecure that they like only what it is”mainstream” to like, but I also think the confidence I gained in my appearance is what was attracting people.  The funny thing is, the “confidence” was totally fake.  On the inside, I was so insecure about myself.

Over the course of sophomore year, I slowly came out of this phase of major caloric restriction and crazy exercising.  It started by me making the switch to eating cereal for every meal.  Still not enough food for a person, but I was eating three meals at appropriate times and getting some vitamins from the fortified cereal and milk.  Then one day, I was sitting there at lunch, and I was so fed up with being hungry.  It happened just like that for me.  It was that moment that I said, F this, I’m eating again.  It’s not worth feeling hungry all the time.  People should like me for me.  I should be happy with myself.  (I credit my parents being so positive in my life for the deep down positive feelings that helped shape me and get me back on track.)

I am extremely lucky for that day.  So many people struggling with eating disorders don’t have the power against the disease to say, “stop”.  This is why I don’t think I had an eating disorder – I had disordered eating.  It would be unfair to make it seem like anyone who struggles with food could flip a switch at one meal like I did.  Does that make sense?

I also thank God that I could never make myself throw up.  I tried a few times, but it never worked.  Thank God for me not being able to induce vomiting or I truly would’ve been down a terrifying road.

Since that time, I have never gone back to that point.  I have been more focused on a healthy lifestyle.  However, I still battled negative thinking throughout my teenage and adult years.  For instance, I would lift weights with the football team my junior year of high school.  I was a catcher for the softball team and I could leg press so much weight.  I would mix in with the lineman for sets on the leg press and they wouldn’t have to take any of the 45’s off.  They would always be so impressed.  This made me feel proud and strong and I gained a different kind of popularity for my athletic abilities.  Yet there was still a small voice inside me saying, “be more feminine”.

When I was 17, I had a tonsillectomy.  Eight days after the surgery, my throat hemorrhaged in my sleep.  I lost 3 pints of blood and had emergency surgery to close the wound, which included pumping blood clots from my stomach and the choice of a blood transfusion, which we declined.  It was a very scary time in my life.  Due to the two surgeries, I lost 15 lbs in two weeks.  When I returned to school, looking yellow, weak, and gaunt, my pants hanging off my body, my male friend, said, “Wow.  Jess, you look so good.  You lost all your weight.”  Wow.  Just….wow.

When I caught my first college boyfriend cheating on me, the first thought was that it was because I had gained the freshman 15.  How sad that my first thought was, what is wrong with me?

In my last year of university, I started working out again because I had begun to feel so out of shape.  I felt so good after starting a running and lifting regimen with my dad.  I did spin classes, too, and my heart and lungs became so strong!  I was hardly ever winded in my daily life and I was regaining the strength I always had when I played sports.  It felt awesome.  I would be lying if I didn’t say that a huge perk was also dropping 15 pounds – pride in thinness is so deeply imbedded in me that’s it’s hard to push aside.

I ran into two ex-boyfriends at the bar one night at that time.  Both of them, separately, started apologizing for things gone wrong in the past and kept telling me how good I looked.  Here’s a big F YOU to them from me then and one again from me now.  Funny how they didn’t think to apologize before I lost weight, and how nice for me that I was in a relationship at that point with someone who grabbed me up before I lost weight and encouraged my working out but didn’t hinge our relationship on it.  We are married now, thank you very much!  He has seen my ups and downs and frankly, doesn’t give a hoot.  If he did, we wouldn’t be married.

In my early 20’s, I began to look at the world from a real perspective, something I continue to do today.  When I feel guilt, I rationalize with myself.  Where is this coming from?  Is that a real place or a place that I’ve made up based on outside influences?  I think about who is in my life and what their intentions are by being part of my life.  I value true friendships and positive people.  I am not going to let anything irrational make me feel bad about myself.

My body.  I love my body.  I like the softness of it.  I like the jiggle.  I like the shape.  I imagine holding a brand new baby on  my chest and it hearing my healthy heart beat.  I like the strength in my arms I am gaining from hot yoga and boxing.  Both workouts empower my muscles and my mind.  It feels good to go to yoga and to boxing.  I challenge the limits of my strength – I challenge my doubtful thinking on the mat or in the ring.  I am not forcing myself to do these things, I like to do these things.  If I’m not feeling a workout for one day, or for a week or two weeks, I don’t go.  I walk the dog to get outside and I try not to sit for too long to keep my energy balanced, but I don’t guilt myself for not doing more.  I imagine being in my 50’s and 60’s and having strong bones and a strong mind.  I want to be able to throw my grandkids in the air one day.  It becomes so apparent as I see others age or battle illnesses, how important my body is to my life.  I never want to look back and say, if only I didn’t go tanning, or if only I didn’t do that diet, or if only I didn’t take those supplements/diet pills.  If only, if only.  

It is not easy.  I have to continue to push negative thoughts down, but I have developed a rationalization strategy that has helped me immensely.  I have also tried to be conscious of the way I compliment others.  I know how compliments about weight can cause distorted thinking so I try to find other ways to give positive feedback to those in my life.

I often think about if I have a daughter and how I will address body issues and weight issues with her.  I just hope that God gives me the grace to not be critical of her or myself.  I hope that at that time, I will not show her that I think anything negative about myself.  The littlest comment or the smallest look can make someone form irrational thoughts.  One thing I have also learned is that what other people say, even if it is aimed at you, is something that is personal for them and they are putting it on you.  So I don’t personalize someone else’s negative thinking.  If I have a piece of cake and the person next to me declines while saying, “Cake is so fattening”, I won’t personalize that person’s issue with food.  It’s theirs to bear, not mine.  I will eat my cake, not worrying about working out to negate it, and I will simply think, “This is delicious.  Aren’t I lucky to get to eat cake?”

A Self-Love Activity

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This is a self-love exercise that I have planned for Girl Guides tonight.  Here’s how you can do it with your friends or family.

dr seuss cards

Make a card (I chose to include one of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes on the front).  Sit in a circle with your friends and lots of markers.  Put your name on the inside of your card.  Pass the cards clockwise, taking the time to write a compliment to each person – here’s an important piece: the compliment cannot be about something physical (the person’s appearance – body, clothes, etc).  Really think about something that you love about each friend and write it down.  (Example: “I noticed when you sat with a girl who was alone at lunch last week.  You have a big heart!”)  Let your friends know that you see the small things about them.  Be thoughtful.  Have fun.  Be creative.

When everyone is done, take your card with you.  Read it and really believe the things that your friends/family have written about you.  I am going to put my card on my bathroom mirror so I see it every day.

Our Deepest Fear

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This is a poem shown to me by a wonderful woman, Sarah, whom I have had the pleasure of getting to watch grow through her teens.  She is smart, caring, beautiful, and a giver.

Thank you, Sarah.

OUR DEEPEST FEAR

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,

gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking

so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously

give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,

our presence automatically liberates others.

a return to love – marianne williamson