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 get so bored sometimes…I modge podge everything I can find in my house.

I get so bored sometimes

How might you finish the sentence “I get so bored sometimes…” ???

Yesterday, I was supposed to meet a friend at a cafe for a quick bite to eat around 4:45 pm. Meeting people for dinner can be tricky sometimes, because being in recovery, I am not supposed to let more than 3-4 hours pass before eating. Well, I ate at 12:30 pm, and I thought, “what’s an extra 15 minutes?” Somehow, my appointment that was before my dinner with my friend got over at 3:30pm, and I had an hour and 15 minutes to kill. Hmmm ok, this doesn’t seem like such a challenging situation However, I also had a horrible headache, there was snow everywhere and I was freezing. (I was also a little grumpy, I guess)

So, I parked my car and decided I would “walk around.” Text from my friend states he is running a little bit late, ok that’s fine…I can wait…

I walked into Crate and Barrel despite having no need for any home goods and also not needing to spend $2000 on a headboard I really liked. Ugh…..I sat down on one of the couches in a corner, resting my head on one of the perfectly placed pillows.

This realization washed over me…I was extremely bored. In addition, all of these perfectly displayed living rooms were depressing me a little. My mind scanned my mental data bank for things I could do to pull myself out of this state of boredom…

Some things I came up with were: I get so bored sometimes…

-I want to modge podge everything I can find in my house.

-I want to get on a plane and fly to Italy to go wine tasting.

-I want to go to an arts and crafts store and buy all of the art supplies.

-I want to start singing and dancing just to see what people do.

As, I watched other people pick out things to buy, I realized I absolutely buy “stuff” when I am bored or trying to fill some need. Interesting…I also had no inclination to do this at that moment.(Progress? I think so) However, what came to mind was…I knew that there was a cute 1920s era pub near where I was. I fantasized about going and having either a perfectly prepared coffee drink or some other cocktail that would surely transport me back to the 1920s and take away any boredom that had been stirring. I had the fantasy that a handsome stranger would see me there, alone, looking so philosophical(because that’s apparently my look), and strike up a conversation about something funny and meaningful. Mind you, I was dressed in polka-dotted yoga pants, a striped top, huge black men’s snow boots, and I hadn’t really “brushed” my hair that day. But in my fantasy, this lack of concern for what’s considered “a socially appropriate public appearance” is part of my charm.

I realize I use distractions like fun coffee drinks or all sorts of foods to escape my real feelings and avoid discomfort. Sometimes, this is ok and natural, and sometimes it really isn’t. I decided to test this out in my mind, what was I feeling? (BOREDOM). However, what was this boredom really about?

I practiced my centering technique in my mind. (Still on the couch in Crate and Barrel) I took a few deep breaths and noticed my feet on the ground, the colors I saw around me, and other sensations I felt.

Learning how to tap into myself and what my true needs are has been a huge part of my healing journey. Trusting and accepting the feelings that come up has been another part as well.

Ok so I’m bored I thought…I feel bored a lot and this is sometimes one of my biggest triggers. However, what the heck is this boredom? I have a friend that says she never gets bored…she’s also a unicorn…just kidding she’s very real and very wonderful.

So, I began to notice, “I’m really hungry!” I’m also feeling a bit unsettled. I began to notice that all of the perfectly arranged furniture was reminding me of situations in my life that were far from perfect or of moments or relationships I wish were different or more fulfilling. I began to notice my boredom was not boredom at all it was a yearning to be heard, to experience life fully, and to be able to express my inner self in an authentic and meaningful way. Sometimes when I am bored, I can’t figure out what I actually want to be doing. I think it is because underneath the exterior there is an internal dialogue about self-expression going on. So, then I realized going to that pub around the corner wouldn’t actually help me, that I needed to eat something sooner than later, and I was already doing something very important. I was learning about myself and my needs. That might not sound as exciting as wine tasting in Italy, but it might be just be even more splendid. For the rest of the night, I was not bored. Boredom was replaced by a new feeling…deep and authentic gratitude.

These Pears are fake: Letting go of Food Judgement in a Sea of Conflicting Messages

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First, let me say that these pears are indeed fake. I bought them downtown at a cute antique store. They are green and they really make my kitchen pop! I usually do not buy anything fake such as flowers or other assorted fruit, but my aversion to anything fake shifted recently. During my meditation class, we discussed the healing properties of nature, and that even fake plants have the same calming effects as real plants. So, I bought these pears. I like the way fruit looks in a dish, and they keep for a really long time and do not attract mice or fruit flies, or any other critters you probably do not want in your house. (Henceforth, I recommend fake fruit and or plants as a nice alternative to real). Otherwise, I still favor authenticity as a general concept.

Anyways, this post is not about fake pears. What it is about it something I have pondered for quite some time. How do we enjoy our food and intuitively eat in world where a.) Our food is so often taken from its original form and turned into a different form by man-made means. b.) There are countless messages about what we should and should not eat and the dangers and benefits of eating almost everything. c.) Stop living in a constant battle with our food because of a and b above.

First, let me tell you a little bit about what led me to believe I had some disordered eating behaviors that I needed support to sort through.

I will give you the abbreviated version as I am going to keep a few personal details for myself. To start, I know I emotionally ate as a child. I can remember doing so. However, some might say this is normal. But for me, this turned into excess eating and weight and being ridiculed on the playground and was called names like, “thunder thighs”. Being called “thunder thighs” is not a nice way to spend recess, and is also why I am pretty passionate about addressing bullying in schools.  Fast forward to my early teens, I had internalized all this shame and began my restriction cycle. I began dieting which mainly focused on restricting the amount of calories or “points”. This turned a bit obsessive as I would see how little I could eat and still play sports. Then, I would binge because I was starving. I also used exercise for weight control. This cycle basically went on until something began to shift in my early to mid 20s. I had some health problems and I sought natural health remedies such as changing my diet to an anti-inflammatory diet etc. etc. This sounds great right? Well, there certainly were some great things about it. I began attempting to listen to my body and its needs and I was eating foods that were dense with nutrients. This alone was a huge success. Isn’t this perfect? I went from counting calories to focussing on eating only whole foods and anti-inflammatory foods. Well, not exactly. I did try to focus more on adding healthy foods, but I was constantly bombarded through my own reading, my internal dialogue of food judgement, and some well-meaning professional advice. Some messages were, “don’t eat gluten its inflammatory, sugar is inflammatory, don’t eat white flour, MSG makes you feel like you are in a fog, preservatives are killing you.”

Overall recommendations: Eat Clean, Eat Paleo, go gluten-free, do the blood type diet, just use moderation, be a vegan, just cut out gluten and dairy, go on a juice cleanse. The list really goes on and on. In addition to all of the advice I have received, I have probably also read several books on each topic.

You might have a reaction here and say, shouldn’t we try to eat healthy? My answer is yes, but what does that really mean. If I obsess about whats in my food and it is composed of the “perfect ideal of nutrition” is that healthy? I would say no. If I naturally find my way to food I like that supports my body, but can also eat some foods (and enjoy them) that might go against anyone of the plans above, that to me is healthy and that is my goal. Sometimes I feel really far away from this goal and sometimes I feeling strikingly close. However, turning on TV, going to the supermarket,  or even being on the internet reminds that scared portion of my brain “beware” food can hurt you. I imagine someone without disordered eating that launching into eating or not eating certain foods might be more tolerated as a self-discovery exercise or a way to support your body with nutrient dense foods. For me, however, I think my body took it as, o no! your restricting again! You’re giving me more rules about what I can and cannot eat. Not only was I giving it rules, but I was always changing the rules. At one point, I would be gluten-free, then not the next, then dairy free, then just vegetables and fruits. Honestly, my body didn’t know what to do, and I really didn’t either. I was confused.

Why the problem is not in the recommendations to choose healthy foods:

Honestly, I agree with so much that some of the wonderful beautiful souls of people have given me for advice on what to eat. The problem was not the food. It was that I had restricted myself for so long, that my body was revolting against any further restriction. I am just realizing this recently. I would try any of the above mentioned plans. I would last a month, a day, or longer. Then, I would probably binge on some food I had taken out and feel extreme guilt and the cycle continues. I began to think I am addicted to food! Food is the problem. So, I thought more restricting. I need to not eat any foods that are addicting! What did I take out? You guessed it, gluten, dairy, sugar, salty foods, fried foods. I tried meditating and breathing and doing other activities that fulfilled me so that I would succeed at being able to not eat these foods. However, then a light bulb went off in my head with the help of some amazing eating disorder professionals. This is just another binge restrict cycle, and again it’s not about the food. How can this be? Aren’t some foods evil and addictive etc? Don’t studies show us this time and time again? Well, what I have come to realize for myself is that when I stop restricting and/or judging food all together it loses its power over me. A power, by the way, I am giving it. When I eat enough during the day and allow myself to eat dessert etc, the urge to binge is either significantly decreased or non-existent. Is this always the case? No, I still have urges or times when I have cravings, but again, it does not seem to be about the food. Instead, I can now realize it is about what is happening in my life or what is triggering me. Perhaps, there are foods that are more triggering or that I tend to eat more of when seeking comfort. However, it seems to be related to deprivation from another source such as feeling lonely, needing love, feeling anxious etc. It is not that the food is inherently evil. I am missing something in my life that my body perceives the food can take the place of. (It can’t by the way)

Marc David author of the wonderful book, “Nourishing Wisdom,” points out in an article entitled, “Relax, Enjoy, Digest” (http://experiencelife.com/article/relax-enjoy-digest/) that, “Make a point of eating in a state of relaxation, says David, and you’ll enhance not just your enjoyment, but your digestion and metabolism too. “It is probably more important to relax and count our blessings,” he adds, “than it is to count our calories.”(David 2009)

First of all I think Marc David’s work is brilliant. Second of all, he points out an important point, that being in the stress response during a meal will not help in any way. It is better to sit and eat consciously and be grateful for what is on the plate, instead of obsessing about what is in the food. This is something I am very consciously doing.

But what about all the messages about what is in or done to our food, shouldn’t I avoid certain things?

This is the question I have asked myself over and over. The answer I have come up with(for myself personally) is. First, I am pretty angry that we even have to ask ourselves this question in the first place. It is not surprising so many people have disordered eating behaviors or thoughts surrounding our food, when you look at all the manipulation food goes through and the messages we are constantly bombarded by. I wish food was still just food end of story. However, the reality is that our food has taken on a whole new meaning in our society. Everyone is just trying to sort through all of that and figure out what that means for our health and wellbeing. However, for me, right now, I have to treat all food as food without judgement. I have to trust my body to lead me to what nourishes me. Because I have restricted foods for so long, I have to stop the restriction cycle. If this means eating white flour sometimes bring on the white flour!

I think that if you are confused by all the food messages you are absolutely not alone. I sometimes imagine us as rats in a laboratory and these evil doers look at each other and say,  “I have an idea!!!”

Evil Doer 1: Let’s modify some of these rat’s food and feed it to them. Let’s watch them enjoy it as they live on that for a while. Let’s even tell them there is no difference between that food and the other food they are used to eating because, “we ran tests on it and its ok.”

Evil Doer 2: HAHAHAHAHA that sounds awesome. In a few years as they have come to enjoy and consider these foods a daily part of their life, let’s tell them a lot of disturbing “facts” about what the food can do to them, but still have the food readily available all mixed in with their original food.

Evil Doer 1: Let’s also place some kind of mark on some rats and tell all the other rats this mark is bad because it came from the food we modified. MMM Let’s alienate those rats and really amp up the fear!!!

Evil Doer 2: This is sooo evil I love it. Then we can watch how they sort everything out while they make sense of the whole mess. Let’s even tell them conflicting messages about the foods.  That will really throw them off. They will be so confused it will be really awesome!

This is the scenario I have played out in my mind that I feel like I am a part of. In a previous post, I discussed dreaming about a time when food was just food. But if I am to heal this, food is just food now and this cycle for me must end.

P.S. I just had dairy in my coffee and I loooooved it!

References:

David, Marc (November, 2009), “Relax, Enjoy, Digest” Experience LIfe! http://experiencelife.com/article/relax-enjoy-digest/Retrieved February 13, 2014.

Scare Tactics

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If you can’t read my writing on my doodles please send me a message. A second option would be to send me back to kindergarten when I learned these skills. Whichever you choose, I could probably use either.

I have often helped people reach health goals. I do think health is important.  So, please do not mistake me as saying, don’t exercise and don’t eat food that grows in the ground that nourishes you. What you do notice about the suggestions to eat veggies and fruit and exercise or learn to move your body, is that these activities ADD to your life and your body. They can also be done regardless of your size. However, this is not the message people often receive when discussing their weight. People often hear, “you need to take away this, this, this and force yourself into a place of deprivation.” Then, only then, will you be happy, healthy, and whole. Really? so I need to take away all of these things and then I will be whole? GREAT!! If only 5-5 =10. Math doesn’t add up. (I’m not really that into math)

The message people receive that only locks them into a fear response surrounding food and their own body is:

YOUR WEIGHT is X, YOUR HEIGHT IS Y. X+Y = (Some BMI calculation which labels you now as  overweight, obese etc.)

Overweight, Obese= illness. Illness= death. (Our hard-wired fight/flight response kicks in and OMG, I’M in trouble!) Now, I am in some death grip with myself, my world and I am now at war with my own body. Why? Because, I have just been told this is necessary for my survival!!!!

Please note I used the word LABEL. Labels can be helpful and they can also be harmful. Some of this is in the way we view how the label impacts use. Stay tuned for another post later on Labels.

Anyways, back to the topic:

Even if you have not been told by anyone that you need to lose weight etc. The messages are everywhere, and they impact how we view ourselves. The message is repeated over and over, “if you are society’s definition of overweight you are in danger!”

I have felt so entangled in this fear of fat for so long it is really hard to let it go. I am not talking about a gentle letting my body find its own natural weight by using intuitive eating. NO, I am talking about believing I would not be fully recognized or expressed in this world until I looked a certain way.

Some thoughts I have thought:

If only I could lose weight I could…

Fall in love

Find a job I love

Wear clothes I look good in

Walk around in public and not feel different

Be seen for who I really am

Go to Yoga and not feel like I don’t belong

What do you notice about these thoughts? Have you ever thought any of them? What I notice is they are my perception. I am seeing them through my lens. Perhaps I can switch them around.

I am worth loving no matter my size.

I have many things to offer in the workplace that have nothing to do with my weight.

I actually already have clothes I look good in.

I’m not different, many women are feeling self-conscious. (Many men also do)

It is up to me to be who I really am. As, I am already who I really am. I will not wait until the magic weight loss carpet swoops me up and shows me to everyone! Tada!!! This is who she is.  LOOK!!!!

Yoga is most certainly not about your size. Find a class and an instructor that makes you feel supported.

LOOK what I did!! I cognitively restructured all of my thoughts. I should receive a sticker. The boost of self-esteem I am feeling might just have to do for now.

So, I am not down playing the fact that more and more people have a non-normalized relationship with food.(Myself included) However, I think people are failing to understand that it is but a symptom of a larger problem. People feel isolated, shamed, have fear of vulnerability, and the media tells us we must fear everything and most certainly our own choices of food and definitely our bodies.

The change happens one person at a time. So, today I am one more person that is actively working to accept myself as I am right now. And I am one more person that is willing to be patient on the journey towards self discovery. I know that locking back into the fear response will only kick me back to a place I would rather not revisit.

O and calling obesity an epidemic…really?? How is that remotely helpful?