Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bonding Over Curves

     There are moments in life when we are given the opportunity to shake hands, hug, and exchange smiles with someone who has touched our lives in ways they may not know.  My opportunity came on Saturday. Tucked away in a small strip mall in Las Vegas I stood face to face with the woman who has contributed to my growing belief in my own sexiness.  Tess Munster has forever changed not only the way I see my body but also how I treat it.

     I'm not sure how I came across this beautiful, inspiring woman; the universe has a way of providing what we need when we need it. I follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and her blog. She is a plus size model, blogger, mom, and positive body activist.  Her pictures are stunning, her blog is honest, and her #effyourbeautystandards is empowering women of all sizes around the globe.  She has changed the lives of women, helping them to embrace their bodies and love themselves.  Tess is not perfect and has had her own struggles with body image issues and is always openly honest about how her life is not perfect. Confidence does not mean that an occasional self doubt thought does not sneak in. The modeling world is not easy, but the plus size modeling world is even more of a war zone.

     There is a misconception about weight loss - that once the weight is gone the life always dreamt about can now unfold.  Confidence will just ooze from the pores and everything life was missing will now magically appear. My experience was not like that at all.  I was, at times, more uncomfortable in my healthy body than I was in my heavy body.  I did not know how to feel comfortable in my skin. I was happy to have lost weight, improve my health, and eliminate obstacles I faced when I was heavier, but I struggled with self-confidence.  I mentioned in another blog post how my past experiences had made me a shy, anti-social person struggling for my mind and body to catch up with each other. Looking at the world through fat girl eyes didn't change when my waistline shrunk.

     I struggled to look at my body; the extra skin, the stretch marks, and the imperfections the body takes with it when it changes size. My insecurity in my body affected how I felt as a woman. Yes, I was smaller. Yes, I could wear all kinds of new clothes. Yes, I have a man that loves me. Yet, I was still waiting to feel sexy, to feel empowered in my new body, to rock what my mama gave me.  That was when the universe introduced me to Tess Munster.  She radiates confidence, sexy, and a love for her curves. I envied her confidence. I envied her sexiness.  I started to follow her on social media and I am happy I did! She has forever changed how I feel about myself.

Matching shoes! <3

 Tess has taught me to take pride in my body. Not be ashamed of my body. To feel sexy in my skin. Since following her I have taken more time in my appearance, slowing down to take pride in myself.  I have stopped evil eyeing my hips - now I embrace them and purchase skinny jeans without fear.  Tess has done for me what I hope to do for others; inspire confidence and self esteem. All bodies are beautiful and we can learn to stop being our own worst enemy and embrace our figures.  We deserve to showcase our love for ourselves.  It is OK to love yourself. It is even OK to rock a strut when we walk.

To Tess,
           Thank you for teaching me that sexy does not have a size requirement. When I look in the mirror, I hold my head higher because I am beautiful.  You are the reason why my oversized tee shirt stays folded in the drawer much more now. Modeling is not easy and it is appreciated by many women that you continue to break down walls and showcase how truly beautiful curves are! The conversation we had will have a special place in my memory bank. Thank you for your insights and optimistic outlook on life. You are a beautiful woman! 

My autographed photo is extra special too me. This is one of a series of photos with Tess in lingerie that helped me retire a few oversized, shapeless night wear. Not only do I thank you for helping me discover my own sexy, my husband does too.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

More Veggies Please

I'm looking to increase my vegetable intake and sneak a few more into my families diet as well.  It has been recommend from my doctor to cut my intake of pasta and potatoes.  That's not fun, or easy. I have found a few kitchen appliances that look like I can replace pasta products with a variety of veggies.  Have any of you tried them? What is your take on these?

Thank you for sharing your reviews on these products.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

People are Cruel Regardless of Size When You Do Not Meet Their Expectations.

 Everyone has a why. A reason they are who they are. Why they dislike someone or something. Why they yell, or cry, or shy away.  Why some are loud, outgoing, and confident. Understanding the reasons behind a person actions and behaviors makes them not seem so bad, we see a human. We may even find compassion and understanding for them, instead of intolerance and frustration.  I present my story of why.  I am a product of my experiences, as we all are. Let us embrace empathy for each other before we assume and place judgement. 

     When I reached the age that I was aware of others and our differences, I was the heaviest kid in the third grade and the seed of self hate was planted.  I do not remember  a time when I looked in the mirror and loved what I saw. I grew up comparing myself to others around me, models, and actresses. I did not think I was as worthy to life as the beautiful people. I did not think I was a beautiful person.  When I was young, my grandmother told me my baby fat would go away as I got older. When it stuck around and brought some friends I felt like I had failed. Why had the other girls slimmed down and I had only gotten bigger? In that moment, I labeled myself different. My body was not like the other girls in my class and that made me believe my body was wrong.

     I learned to hide how I felt about my body in 6th grade after I had a bully physically abuse me on more than one occasion.  I would never show physical weakness again and I learned to carry myself with aggression. If I appeared scary, no one would hurt me. Inside I felt trapped behind a mask; I was not an aggressive person... I was a scared girl desperately seeking confirmation for my existence.  But I refused to let the aggressors be stronger than me.  I believed I was worth being loved and I would make it to the moment when I would find that love.

     I developed a distrust of people in 6th grade as well when the entire school, including people I called my friends, conspired against me.  I attended a small country school - the total student population from kindergarten through 6th grade was maybe 50 kids.  During volleyball practice after school I was informed that the boy I had a crush on and the popular girl where now a couple. People waited for my reaction. I held it together, made it through practice, and saved my tears for the privacy of my bedroom.  It was after dinner  when a friend called to tell me the truth, that it was a lie, everyone was in on it, and they just wanted to see what I would do.  This moment caused me to have difficulty trusting people.  I never let them see me cry. I learned to hold in my emotions.

     I carried my tough exterior with me through high school. I survived name calling, pushing, people trying to fight me, and my own dietary abuse. This picture creates an image of a large unhappy girl. Inn retrospect, I was only one of those. I was unhappy.  I was not large, though I was not a size zero.  I happen to have  a woman's figure amongst a sea of junior figures and I stood out.  Standing out in high school puts a target on a persons back and my target felt huge.

     I heard fat shaming comments for years. "Are you sure you want to eat that?" "What size do you want to be?" Funny thing is the size that seemed too big for me at 16 is the size I am now at 31! I'm not unhealthy now and I wasn't at an unhealthy weight then either.  It was the expected appearance for a teenager that I did not have, therefore my figure was wrong and I was fat.  How many girls are tortured because they do not look like the socially expected 16 year old? I kept my head down, shoulders slummed, and made little eye contact. I did my best to be invisible.

     I did have moments when I was able to forget my physical appearance and enjoy a social life in high school. I was Drama Club President and in every theater production. Acting made it easy to forget my size. I could be anyone.  My first major role was the seductive villain in a 1920's inspired play entitled "Peril on the High Seas".  I loved my character and my cast-mates.  I embraced the seductive nature of my character until opening night.  I will never forget the scene in which my character is seducing the male lead. I had on a 1920's all black glamours costume. I wore a long faux fur coat over my floor length dress. In the moment, in character I removed my coat, a move that was intended to be sexy. I should have won the Academy Award for not bursting into tears and running off stage when I heard boo's and, "Put it back on!" being shouted from the audience.  I finished the performance and accepted a very heart felt apology from one of  the other actors in the play. His friends where the shouters and he felt horrible. We preformed the play four more times and I didn't take my jacket off again during the production. I know now, looking back, that high school boys are dumb and insensitive but even rationalizing the behavior does not take away the scar.

     It just became easier for me to push people away and wallflower myself as I got older. No one was going to hurt me if they couldn't get near me. I had great friends that stuck by me but I never made too many new friends after high school. I was scared of people. I had allowed myself to be abused by a boyfriend for a couple of years because it was better than being alone. Just being able to say the words "I have a boyfriend" made me feel whole and less invisible. Of course I told no one of the abuse and hid it well.  After years of put downs, physical abuse by bullies, and constant reminders that I was not socially acceptable, an abusive boyfriend did not seem wrong. Somehow I deserved what I got because I was not pretty.  I believed fat girls should be thankful for what they can get.
     I believe that life teaches us lessons to strengthen our purposes, our reason for being who we are.  It is not easy to talk about my past.  I have been misunderstood by many over the years simply because I do not wear a sign explaining why I am the way I am. When I lost my weight I felt in limbo, my body was healthy but my mind needed time to catch up. I still had anxiety around people, especially in large groups.  From my experiences, people made me nervous and I needed time to trust again. New people in my life where thrown off by my social awkwardness because they did not know the "fat" me, all they saw was the new physically healthy me. Unfortunately, the old me's mind in the new me's body did not match and for that I have experienced judgment and intolerance.  The judgement and intolerance slowed the mental healing process down, people are cruel regardless of size when you do not meet their expectations.

     Am I shy? Yes. Am I slow to trust people? Very much so.  Have I ever seemed awkward at times?  Is it understandable as to why I am that way? I hope so. Now the ultimate question; why am I sharing this?  I have chosen to expose my most vulnerable side in an attempt to help people understand that we ALL are products of our environment and experiences.  As a society, if we could slow down and listen to each others stories we would learn a great deal about life, the strength of the human spirit, and the unbelievable power our words and actions have on each other.  My past has given me purpose. My purpose is to help people embrace who they are, what their bodies look like, and help them love themselves.  Self esteem is not a pill one can take, it is learned.

     To anyone the may have social anxiety, know that you are not alone and that you have an incredible amount of strength inside of you. The feeling of judgment can tear a person apart. It can make it difficult to move beyond the scars. The fat third grader, the bullied 6th grader, the humiliated 16 year old, the abused 20 year old, and the 300 pound 25 year old will ALWAYS be apart of me.  These are the chapters to my story and once the story is told, suddenly I make a lot more sense to people who just did not "get" me. I am writing new chapters to my life now and I am over coming my anxieties because my mind is getting healthy as well. The world may not see a fat girl but I have been looking at the world through fat girl eyes my entire life. It takes time to heal and trust.

     I do not know your story. You do not have to share with me. I do, however, promise to not judge and allow you the freedom to write your story because every one of us is different.  We all have a story as to why we are the way we are. Judgment will not change that - it will only put up walls and take away valuable lessons and meaningful relationship with one and another.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Regardless Of My Size I Exercised

      The notion that all fat people do not exercise is incorrect. I was never a couch potato.  I have always been an active person despite my being over weight for the majority of my life.  My body thrives on being physical, and I love to indulge it.  Admittedly, at moments in my life I did use exercise as a form of punishment to my body.  I will talk about the abuse in another entry. This entry is about focusing on the stigma that fat equals lazy.

     I present a summary of my some of my physical activities from a young age up to when I reached 300 pounds:

      In elementary school I would roller skate in my grandmothers unfinished basement. I would roller skate for hours. I then took my skills to the rink every weekend and went around in circles until the music turned off and they told everyone to go home.  I was also on the field hockey team and volley ball team. In middle school I rode my bike until the sun set. My friend and I would go up and down hills over and over for hours. I also walked to and from the bus stop, not a short walk, until I started driving. I could also be found flying into the sky on a trampoline almost every weekend. In high school I walked all over my neighborhood with my dog. I knew a place way out in a field near my house that had a stream surrounded by a wooded area and I would walk around it all day. I started running my junior year of high school. Every morning on the track before school I would meet a friend and we ran a mile. I also attempted Irish dance for a while. I would meet a friend to play basketball. I always did work out videos. My favorite activity was dancing my butt off almost every night in my room, music blasting. In college I joined modern dance and continued running. In my twenties I walked around the neighborhood and talked on the phone for hours. I even had a gym membership and a personal trainer.  

     Hard to believe someone who enjoys that much physical activity could be heavy. Even with my physical activity I was over weight and managed to get to 300 pounds by the time I was 25.  The problem was never that I was lazy - the problem was my relationship with food.  I would hike Red Rock all day and come home and eat an entire large extra cheese pizza, bread sticks, and cake.  Then I would hate myself for having cancelled out all my hard work and I would eat again. After a long day of working, school, and whatever physical activity I had done I would end my night with an entire container of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food.  I understand now why I was eating the way I was and it had nothing to do with hunger and everything to do with being unhappy.

     When I reached my breaking point and signed up for Weight Watchers it wasn't hard for me to exercise.  I added more activity to my regime and took control of my eating.  I took the stairs when I could, parked far away, walked the long way, hiked, roller skated, and I did my work out videos. None of it felt like torture. I enjoy putting my body to work. I found the weight falling off and within 16 months I had lost 125 pounds.  My body was ready to do all the physical activities I could not when I was overweight.  I no longer had knee and lower back pain. I could push myself harder and longer. I reached a life long goal of running a 5K.  I ran it in 33 minutes and could not have been happier.

    Today I workout 5 days a week. I do it because I love it, I need it, and my body responds to it. I used Groupon to find new classes without a long commitment or ridiculous prices. I have tried a vast variety of classes. My favorite is ballet and my least favorite is Birkam yoga.  A lot of places will let you try a class for free to see if it is a fit for you.  Exercise is more than jumping-jacks and sit-ups.  I am a card carrying gym member. I love Zumba! It's my new addiction. Exercise can be fun and an escape from stress.  There are options to fit everyone. Exercise is for everyone regardless of size, age, and ability.

     Being over weight can run much deeper than being lazy. Before we point fingers and place judgement on those that carry extra weight let us try to remember that we do not know what their life is like and what stresses they carry.  Let us encourage each other to move more simply because it is good for us and let the weight take care of itself.

 I no longer work out to lose weight. I workout to maintain my weight, shape my body, and feel good about myself. When I am covered in sweat I am happy. I know I have done my body and mind good and will continue to do so for as long as I can.  The idea that people exercise only to lose weight needs to be destroyed. I am happy with my body, I am not trying to get a thigh gap, I know my six pack will always be hidden, my arms will jiggle when I wave, and that is OK!