What is a real Woman?

Am I a real Woman?

“Real women have curves.” You hear this from many different places. As “plus size” women do we try to over compensate by declaring ourselves better for having curves? Are we fighting against what has made us feel rejected for so long?

By saying real women have curves we are enacting the same “us, them” attitude that has gotten us into this mess in the first place.

Real women come in all shapes, sizes, sexual orientations, races, talents, likes, dislikes. In fact, I would really like to take out the word “Real” all together. It implies that the opposite is somehow fake in some way. I have many friends without curves and I’m pretty sure they are real and I’m pretty sure they are “real” women.

Am I being too serious? Can’t we joke? Yeah, I mean believe it or not I am a jokester. But, as a society we have taken appearance and telling people what is or is not good wayyyyyyy beyond where it needs to go. But this is a serious issue in society and people do end up with eating disorders as a result of societal judgements. What role could humor serve though? Could making this issue more lighthearted among friends relieve some of the tense energy around it? I would say…maybe…and know your crowd.

I joke around with my friends all of the time in fact. We joke about our bodies, and everything really. But, to make wide-spread judgements and campaigns about what a real woman is or is not isn’t too funny to me.

So don’t worry  anymore, get out there. Be a woman. Do your thing. Owning your “woman-ness” has nothing to do with curves or not.

I’m on this path: pondering self-compassion, empathy, and trust.

Image

 

Sometimes people are feeling negative in life, and that’s ok. That is normal and natural. Sometimes people do not trust other people. Again, normal and natural. I have gone through any number of stages of the above emotions. Recently, through a lot of self discovery and realizing some things I was avoiding, I realized I was avoiding facing that there were things I did not like about myself. There were parts of myself, I did not trust. I realized, if I could not trust me, the only real lens through which I see the world, how could I trust or like anything or anyone fully? Were my experience and relationships with my loved ones dulled by my own feelings of inadequacies? I think so. The details of what I mean by this are varied, complex and interwoven. I write in my post http://amermaidnameded.com/2014/04/10/on-forgiveness/  about a sense of grief I felt when facing difficult emotions. One of the things I was grieving was coming to terms with the fact that I was not perfect, that I make mistakes, and yes (sigh) that I have caused others pain. Through facing this, a shift came. Once I had enough self-compassion to allow for mistakes in myself and understand where they came from, my ability to trust my world around me also changed. I don’t exactly want to say it increased, per se.  I still know people can be mean, and have pain and make mistakes, but in the same way that my expectations of perfection from myself have changed, so have my expectations of others. I am now more able to simply enjoy getting to know someone. 

I recently read something related to the idea that the way people see the world has a lot to do with the way people see the themselves. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons I enjoy doing small acts of kindness. I can experience and see the difference they make. If I can see myself as an agent of good for others, I am also reestablishing, in my mind and heart, that good truly exists in the world. It’s completely ok to enjoy feeling good about doing good, by the way. It is one of the beautiful things that makes us human. It is what brings us together. It is empathy. There is another saying about in order to love someone else, you must first love yourself. I have mixed feelings on this. As I think loving oneself if often so much harder than loving someone else. If this saying was 100% true, then there would be a lot of unloved people out there, because I see a lot of people having a hard time with self-love these days. In addition, it is sometimes the unconditional love of someone else that drags us out of the dark and into the light. This is the power of love. However, I have experienced the profound effect self-love can have on the love for someone else. I have seen how loving myself has deepened many of my relationships, and for that I am truly grateful. I think a lot of what I am talking about in this post can vary from person to person. However, the need to ask these types of questions to ourselves seems to be something we all share.

Side note: I also think when reading quotes or someone else’s words, it can be interesting to really ponder them. Try them on like a hat. How does that quote feel to you? So often we take other people’s words as fact or think because they seem deep or profound that they must also be true for us(the reader), but a deeper experience can be had if we jump into them and explore them through our own personal lens. Trust yourself. 

 

 

Mermaids are awesome: finally finding some freedom from food obsession.

Image

 

I found this sign on a bathroom door. I liked it for obvious reasons. It does not have much to do with this post except that it is a mermaid. However, I will say the mermaid in the picture looks a little sneaky. I feel like a rebel right now in some ways, so I guess I can make that leap. Why do I feel like a rebel you ask? Well, thanks for asking. I will tell you. About 5 months ago I took part in a treatment program for my Eating Disorder. How did I come to learn I had an eating disorder? Well, through much reading and soul searching. However, I will tell you, my journey to the program actual started as a way to conquer my recent “inability” to stick to any weight loss program. I was gaining weight despite repeated and constant attempts to lose weight. I came to recognize that I was obsessed with food, my body image and weight loss. Was this a new thing in my life? No, it started at the young age of 12 when I began my first diet. I lost weight, sure, but I gained something else. I had unknowingly added a new obsession into my world. One, that I continue to fight to this day. You might ask, do I think ALL dieting is bad? Not really, I have actually seen a few people that want to lose some weight here and there and do not have an unhealthy obsession with it or their body’s. They seem to just do it without feeling like their whole world is riding on the results of it. Do I think overall understanding the body’s hunger cues, understanding intuitive eating, and understanding the emotional component to why we eat is probably a better strategy overall? Yes, I do. 

So, five months ago, I have to admit that I literally had nothing to lose when I entered my program. I was in deep with my obsessions and I knew it. I felt trapped. They told me, “this is not a weight loss program.” Ok, I thought, time to get real. Time hit my real problem head on.  I just wanted to find joy and happiness again. I could not obsess any longer about food, dieting, my body etc. It was literally eating away at me. PUN INTENDED. I also knew dieting was out, since I literally couldn’t do it anymore. THANK YOU BODY! Thank you body for being smarter than me. So, my goals changed. Once I realized that I had to give up my goal of weight loss in order to achieve a different more important goal, everything changed. Believe me when I tell you that, giving up a goal that I had carried with me for almost 20 years was not the easiest thing I did. I can also tell you that I still work every day to remind myself why my healthier goal of ending food obsession is the more important goal. Some days are harder than others. Some people might read this and think, “but isn’t weight loss an important goal? Isn’t losing weight important for health.” I have many many thoughts on what I have written above, but for the purposes of this blog, what I can tell you is that, I was sure if I did not give up the goal of weight loss, I would continue to binge eat and gain weight. I know, it is crazy, but absolutely true. 

So, when did I realize I had made progress on this goal? Well, the other day, I was driving and I was talking to my friend. We were actually talking about over eating. I realized that my response to the conversation was completely different than it had ever been before. I have to tell you, I still binge eat from time to time. I am still recovering. HOWEVER, I do not obsess about food like before. I still have some obsession, sure, but it is much much less. As a result, my binges are significantly less and less intense. I eat until I am full most of the time. Also, I realized I do not have the same level of shame and guilt attached to eating as I did before. I do not always pick apart every morsel of food I put in my mouth. I do not need a perfect meal. Sometimes, food is just food. I am elated as I type this. I never thought I would get to this point. I am soooo happy to share this on this blog. If I can get to this place, so can anyone! 

My goal is to continue along this path. I notice that I mostly eat according to my hunger cues now. I also notice that I am full a lot sooner than I used to notice. In summary, I am more in tune with my body and my body is thanking me. 

I have read many books on mindful eating and the end of dieting. I have to say they have helped me tremendously and certainly added to my success! I am so grateful to the brave and insightful writers. However, sometimes these books make eating mindfully and intuitively seem somewhat easy. They have at times left me feeling encouraged, but then sad, when my attempts did not make the cut so to speak. Perhaps, it was because before my program, I was still measuring success by the numbers on the scale, or my pants size. Perhaps, it is because I had to dig through piles of pain to get where I am. Thus, no it hasn’t been easy.  I now measure success by the fact that I believe freedom from food obsession to be a possibility. The books usually also seem to still hold the goal for the reader to lose weight. I don’t blame the writers for this, this is most people’s goal when reading them. For me, however, I have found, only in my own personal experience, tackling my eating disorder meant truly giving up that as the end all be all goal. Do I hope my body will find a comfortable healthy weight that is a great size for my own personal body? Yes, I do. Perhaps that is now. Who knows really. I fight everyday to disallow the old voices of society or my teenage self to tell me I must look a certain way to fill some ideal. However, I merely hold this as a place card so to speak. In the here and now, I work on small goals. These small goals create small victories and the small victories build and come together into big victories. 

I want to add a confession, that dieting at all right now, or trying to purposely lose weight currently feels like a land I do not even want to go to or think about. When people bring up dieting or losing weight together etc., I usually say no thanks, I’ve got my own thing going on. What I mean is, “I’m rocking the plan I have now and my goals might be different than most of society’s, but achieving even a small amount of freedom feels amazing.” The saying, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” used to really resonate with me. Well, you know where that saying got me? It got me in a perpetual down spin of negativity and self-loathing. A new saying is, “nothing can compare to self-love, or having my own mind and self back feels really damn good.” Or, “maybe you can’t see what your definition of what my “achievements” should be, but they have nothing to do with you anyways!!” HAHA I like that last one!! It is a little spicy!!! 

In addition, to freedom from food obsession, I have also found some freedom from my obsession with the scale. YES!!! Am I scared sometimes when I get on it? YES I AM. I am scared sometimes emotions will trigger me to stop trusting in myself or go back to my old ways. But, I keep trudging along, because right now, there really is no going back. There really only is looking ahead. 

My journey is still on-going. I remind myself daily that is ok to let go of that controlling voice and that it is ok to trust in yourself and your body. 

Goodnight and Glad to be back!

On Forgiveness…

To forgive, forgiveness….What thought’s come to mind when you think about forgiveness? For most of my life people have told me that I am too hard on myself, and perhaps they are right. What I have come to understand is that in some ways this has been a defense mechanism. If I am hard on myself, no one else will have to be. If I am hard on myself I am somehow controlling my environment so maybe things seem a little less out of control or “unknown.” During my program for binge eating disorder, I did a lot of work around forgiving myself for things. I wracked my brain, “why was it so hard for me to extend myself the self-compassionate gesture and say, “I forgive you self for not being perfect, for being human?” Why can I forgive almost anyone around me, but not myself? Again, perhaps the defense mechanism comes into play, but I also started to think about our society. We live in a very critical society. Even looking at the tabloids or the news, one comment someone says is taken out of context and bam they are soon the center of storm of hateful comments. People seem to want punishment. People seem to want to make people pay. I often wonder where the compassion is in these stories. Where is the human emotion of empathy? Sure, some things people do are horrendous and people shouldn’t just walk around without any consequences. But, that’s not what I am talking about here. When we judge people so harshly, especially without knowing the facts or a person’s true heart, it does something to us as human beings. I think it hardens us in a way.

So, enough blaming society…why else is self-forgiveness so freaking hard? Well, I can really only speak for myself. First of all, I had to take a look at myself and say, did I really do anything wrong? Sometimes I was blaming myself for things I had nothing to do with in reality, or I was feeling like I had to fly around with a cape on saving everyone. Sometimes, I did have to admit ok, yes maybe I could have done this differently etc. For example, I remember learning from someone, that comments I had made hurt their feelings and made them actually very upset. Learning this and admitting that I had caused someone sadness tore through me. I thought, “how could I have done something like this?” I beat myself up for that for a very long time. That is despite apologizing and learning new ways of communicating. Harboring those feelings towards myself in the long run really would not have helped my friend any, because most likely she had already moved on. Ahhh admitting life, and me, are not always perfect was hard for me. It meant admitting I was vulnerable and that people are vulnerable. This meant admitting that the world is not always a place of fairy tales and roses and days gone by. It meant admitting sometimes, things go wrong. Of course, I know all of this rationally. The imperfection of the world and myself are things that not only am I aware of, but are also realities that can be a bit scary, because again it means being vulnerable. I think my subconscious thought pattern went something like this:  if I allow myself to be imperfect, it means being seen, being seen means being vulnerable, and being vulnerable means the possibility of getting hurt, getting hurt means experiencing painful emotions…and you get the picture.

 

Grief: When I began to take an honest look at myself and really accept the emotions I was experiencing, a strange wave of something passed over me. What was this feeling? I began to ponder it, and then I figured it out. I was sitting with my emotions and allowing myself to offer me some forgiveness, when I felt some sadness. It was not just any sadness, but I began to recognize that I was actually grieving something. I had stopped using food to numb my emotions and things were coming up. I was grieving the fairy tale world where everything was “perfect”. I was grieving my childhood ideals that life is always sunshine and daisies, that everyone is always happy, and that nothing bad ever happens. Again, I knew all of this rationally, but I guess maybe I just didn’t want to accept it. I guess, I was actually growing up a bit. Soon enough, this feeling of grief passed,  and I was able to find a new feeling in its place: a sense of accomplishment, growth and resiliency. I knew I could face myself and accept my imperfections, and more importantly, I could grow and learn from them. As I write about this now, it is easier to look back on this and paint it as events happening sequentially. But, it wasn’t and still isn’t like that. Some days, I am more willing to accept imperfection than others. Some days, I am more willing to offer myself self-compassion. Some days, I still get mad at myself and set unrealistic expectations. These skills are still very new for me and I can honestly say this journey is a continually adapting process. But, I would not have it any other way. Allowing space for self-exploration and kindness has significantly changed my life. Although it has been painful at times, it has also been beautiful and rewarding. Maybe perfect isn’t wrapped up in pretty little bows or presents under the tree on christmas morning. Maybe perfect is about staring life in the face and saying, “I see you and I see me and we are in this thing together.” Perfect is all of the little beautiful imperfections dancing in harmony creating our authentically constructed reality. Perfect isn’t about avoiding “the difficult” or pretending the mud doesn’t exist. My perfect now is facing the difficult and taking the mud and building a mud fort and staking my claim in this world. There is nothing really that exciting about perfect anyways. 

Yes, it is 3 am. Yes, I had double espresso at 6pm. This is something I never do, and will abstain from in the future as a rule, I require a lot of sleep. Thanks for reading. 

Pondering the Mangroves…

Image

Ahhh the Mangroves. I have seen these trees many times in my life. I would mostly admire their intricate root structure, and the way they seem to grow directly out of the water, creating a land mass all of their own. I would notice the way the water birds rested in their branches waiting to see their dinner of fish swim by. I would marvel at the way these trees created a habitat all of their own and seemed to define the intracoastal waterway. I have heard, that to find refuge from a storm, they should seek the protection of the mangrove trees that have learned to adapt and flourish despite howling winds and blinding rains. But, what I had never heard of, until last year was the purely magically way a mangrove tree filters out the salt from the brackish water so that it may drink the water left behind. Unbelievable! I thought when I heard this. The miraculous ability of nature again blew my mind. Nature and these mangrove trees never fail to teach me lessons and remind me that miracles are possible. If you look closely, you might be able to see a few leaves on the trees that are yellow. These are the leaves that are “sacrificed” by filtering the salt water so that the whole tree can flourish. 

As I think about the mangrove tree, I think about sacrifices I have made in my own life. Have they always felt good at the time? Have I always handled them with grace or cheer? No…. But, looking back now instead of thinking of them as sacrifices, I don’t see them as black and white as I did at the time. Perhaps, I clung to things I didn’t need just because I had a hard time letting go, or maybe I had to make a difficult decision. Sacrifice…I ponder the meaning of this, as I am not sure I have a full understanding of its meaning. I know I am not willing to lose an essential part of myself just to make other people like me or approve of my actions. I have perhaps done this at times, and it has not gotten me anywhere good. I have, at times, gotten so lost in something, that I have forgotten to remember what is truly important in my heart. But, I do not think the mangrove is teaching about an unnatural sacrifice that in the end only injures. When you look at how it flourishes, you know it teaches a different lesson. It teaches about design and innovation. It teaches about resiliency and life lessons learned. It teaches how to stay strong when the storm rages on and how to draw nourishment from the saltiest of water. Perhaps, this is sacrifice, allowing oneself to remain dedicated even in the face of adversity and remembering to stay true to oneself and one’s purpose in the hardest of times. Thank you mangrove trees for getting my mind thinking. I already loved spending time on the water you call home, but now you deepen my experience even more as you reflect back to me the power of resiliency.