My weight loss goal is to lose track of my weight.

scaleI had an epiphany this weekend that was mind blowing.  Paradigm shifting.  Maybe life altering. And so. fucking. simple.

Weight is just a number.

Yeah, I thought I already knew that, too.  In fact, I’ve spent most of my adult life reminding other people that weight and size does not define who we are.  I’ve talked about my self-confidence.  Earlier this month, I blogged about a new approach I was taking to getting healthy, and I didn’t focus on the number.  But all along, I’ve been stepping on the scale and letting it control how I feel about myself.

I mean-girled myself.

Last week I “heard” some pretty nasty things being said by my subconscious.  It was the first time that I allowed myself to hear it – and …  I’m still processing what it means to know that I have that kind of self-hate language in my head.  That’s probably a post for another time when I’m better able to talk about it.  But having heard those terrible things that – on some level – my subconscious mind believes, I actually listened as my conscious mind started to fight back.

Health and Weight are not synonymous

For years, I’ve been reluctant to join in the chorus of people who already know and understand that weight and health are not synonymous.  Health At Any Size, Regan Chastain’s Dances With Fat, and a slew of other popular sites have been promoting this idea for years.  My own dear friends have talked about it and reblogged it – so why wasn’t I listening?

The problem is that I have not been healthy.  I equated my own lack of health to my excess weight.  I’m not denying even now that those things are related.  They are *related* in my case – but they are not the *same*.  And that is so. fucking. important.

Almost every one of my doctors has encouraged me to lose weight.  Let me be clear – they have not necessarily encouraged me to “be healthier”, but to “lose weight”.  My last doctor bullied me into agreeing to look into gastric bypass surgery because I would “never lose the weight” on my own.  I don’t think I can even convey how devastating that kind of comment is to hear from your doctor.  (I left her practice and will not return.)

fuckthatnumber

I honestly do not know what possessed me to strike this particular pose on Christmas Day, but it seems so appropriate that I had to use it here.

Why does it matter?

I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life.  I’m grateful to be able to say that I haven’t really gotten caught up in extreme fad diets–my efforts have always been relatively rational–but the “goal” was always a number.  Even when it was about health, it was about a healthy weight.

All that focusing on my weight is tiring.  Trying to control my weight just meant that my weight was in control.  Stepping on the scale weekly and rationalizing the number – I just drank a glass of water,  are these pants heavier than the clothes I had on last week?  – is tiring.  Constantly fighting a battle inside to remind myself that I’m awesome in spite of that number is demeaning, demoralizing and fucking exhausting.  Why am I fighting that battle? What am I even fighting with?  A number?  Fuck that number.

My weight loss goal is to lose track of my weight.

I weigh 300 pounds.  Give or take a few pounds on any given day.  And I don’t care.  My “weight loss goal” right now is to completely lose track of my weight – and focus (for real) on living my life.  Walking and working out because it makes me feel good.  Avoiding fast food because it makes me queasy.  Getting 8 hours of sleep because my brain can focus better.

Next time you see me, tell me that I look amazing, but please don’t ask me if I’ve lost weight; if I’m successful at reaching my goal, I will have no idea.

Cite your resources.

Here are some of the things that I read and watched before I had my own “A ha!” moment.

  1. Golda Poretsky explains how fat is beautiful, too.  I think the thing I got from this was that it doesn’t matter if YOU think I’m beautiful.  YOU don’t have to find “fat” attractive.  This isn’t about YOU.
  2. Isabel Foxen Duke talks about Radical Forgiveness.  Everything about her site is amazing.  I’m not even sure that this specific post is the most powerful, but there was a line about forgiving yourself for not “getting it” until now – and I needed to hear that.
  3. I made travel plans for The Body Love Conference.  I made travel arrangements for the BLC late last week, and since then, I’ve realized that I’ve been anxious about going.  Is anyone going to like me?  Am I cool enough? Do I actually love myself enough to fit in among these powerful, badass women who are changing the world?
  4. Jes Baker gets anxious about a dance class.  My favorite powerful, bad ass woman who is out there changing the world (and the founder of the BLC) has posted about her own struggles with body image and freaking out about attending a dance class.  I needed to hear that it was okay to not always be so damn confident.

2014 was the year I learned about emotional boundaries. And I’ll never be the same.

emotionalboundaries(Utterly fictional example scenario): A friend calls to tell me that she thinks she and her husband are going to get divorced. She doesn’t know what she’s going to do, where she’s going to live or how she’s going to survive on her own.

How would I react in December 2013? My stomach drops and my heart aches for her. How can I help? I immediately try to think of all of the resources I can offer and the ways that I can help. I offer financial assistance. I offer to look for apartments with her. I tell her all of the reasons why she’s better off on her own, despite having no real idea if divorce is her best choice. And after I hang up the phone, I lie awake all night hurting and anxious. I feel sick to my stomach. Should I call our other friends and organize assistance? Should I have offered to let her move in with me? I have an extra bedroom and more space than I really need. I know I don’t want to do that, but how selfish am I? Why did this have to happen now? I had plans next weekend and I really don’t want to be dealing with this right now. After several days of feeling miserable, I find myself avoiding her phone calls because I just can’t deal with the drama.

How would I react in December 2014? My heart aches for her. “Wow, that’s a really heavy decision. Tell me what happened.” And I listen while she shares and cries. “I can’t even begin to imagine how much stress that puts you under. Let’s plan to meet for dinner this week so I can hug you for real. Maybe we can plan a spa day in a couple of weeks (I have plans this coming weekend) to take your mind off of the heaviest stuff for a few hours.” I make a note to send a text each day to check in.

What changed? I did. I changed (or rather, I am a still changing work in progress) because I finally learned what it really means to set emotional boundaries.

Understanding Emotional Boundaries is Life Altering

One of the very first observations that my therapist made this year was that it seemed that I had difficulties with emotional boundaries – and yet it took about five months of therapy sessions for me to really understand what that meant. Setting emotional boundaries is learning to take responsibility for your own emotions – and to not take responsibility for anyone else’s. I had heard all of the words before – boundaries, guilt, shame, responsibility – but having all of those pieces click together was eye opening.

In that scenario above, nothing about my friend changed. She was still struggling with the devastating life event in the same way. All that changed was how I reacted to her struggle. I didn’t make it my struggle. I didn’t make it about me. By not making it about me, I didn’t feel responsibility to fix it – and I was able to better provide emotional support and love. My heart ached, but my life went on.

Learning that emotional boundaries have everything to do with me and nothing to do with anyone else has been life altering. It sounds so insanely simple to say, “I have all of the power when it comes to how I feel”, but internalizing that and practicing it is astoundingly difficult. And I am definitely still a work in progress.

Airports are soul-sucking wastelands.

airportsI am writing this from a hotel room in Chicago, away on business for a couple of days*.  I’ve been to Chicago on business too many times to count**, but this is the first time that I’ve chosen to drive instead of fly.  I’ve had to answer the question, “Why the f*** are you driving?” many times over the past few days, so I figured I’d try to explain.

In a word, anxiety.  Or rather Anxiety.  I had booked plane tickets originally and felt physically ill at the idea of having to travel.  Then I threw the destination into Google maps and realized that in 7.5 short hours by car, I could be here.  SOLD.

I’m not afraid to fly.  Or rather, I’m not afraid of flying in any traditional sense.  I am confident that air travel is a scientifically sound method of transportation.  I have never seriously thought about my plane crashing or being a victim of terrorism.  My anxiety over air travel has very little to do with the air travel at all.  I’m not concerned about death or my physical safety.  My anxiety is a fear of so. many. people. in so small a space.  I’m not even talking about the airPLANE.  The plane is almost a quiet respite from the utter chaos that you must endure immediately before and after.

That’s right folks.  I’m afraid of airports.

“Afraid” isn’t the right word.  I’m afraid of airports in much the same way that I am afraid of preschools.  I don’t really fear for my safety.  I feel reasonably certain that I will survive.  But will I survive without severe emotional trauma to either me or someone around me?

An airport is over-stimulation at its very worst.  Airports are people and noise.  Bright, often flashing, lights.  Computer screens with tiny print and scrolling message boards.  Airports smell of humanity and food.  Sweat and Cinnabons***.  Airports are a waiting room with very few, very uncomfortable seats, where everyone is anxious, angry and more important than you.

When traveling by plane, you must be aware of everything.  You have to make sure that you have packed everything that you might need, and nothing that you will not.  You must follow a rigid schedule in order to arrive on time, planning every step and every potty break to optimize your efficiency.  You have to listen for relevant announcements and filter out the irrelevant ones.  You have to appear friendly enough that your fellow travelers will be kind to you, but not so friendly that they will attempt to speak to you.  If you are traveling on business, you must be prepared to talk about what you do for a living, and feign interest when someone strikes up a conversation about the Midwest Life Insurance Sales Conference that they have just returned from.

Upon arrival, there is the scramble to get your bag (if you are lucky, safely in the overhead bin in the plane).  There’s a rental car with unfamiliar steering and brakes, or worse – cab drivers you can’t hear or understand.  And if the zombie apocalypse comes, you are stuck in an unfamiliar city with no way to get out.

In contrast, there is the freedom of driving.  My car.  The open road.  No schedule except “today”.  No limits on potty breaks, except those imposed by the occasional rest stop under construction.  I listen only to whatever I choose to listen to, and the infrequent reminders from my British GPS-lady.  No uncomfortable smells or noises, except those which occasionally escape from me.  I pack as much as I can fit into my car, including six pairs of shoes I know I will never wear unless maybe I will.  Because you never know when I might need hiking boots.  And flip flops.

And best of all, if the zombie apocalypse comes, I can get hell out of Dodge (or Chicago) without getting stuck in a security line at the airport.

*I know you are not supposed to announce when you are out of town on social media.  I really hope someone doesn’t break into my house and steal my old crappy television while I’m away.  It will creep me out.  But if you DO, can you at least move my clothes from the washer to the dryer while you are there?  I’m pretty sure I forgot to do it before I left.

** I’ve been to Chicago on business like… eight times or something.  It isn’t a very high number, but I’m lazy and it’s too many to count accurately.

*** This will be the name of my all girl punk band someday.

I’m awesome. And here’s why.

I got mean-girl’d at the grocery store today.  While I was taking a look at dry roasted edamame, some chick in yoga pants and a pony tail rolled her eyes and made a comment about me to her friend.  I don’t know what the comment was, but it was clearly about me.  It’s possible that people say mean or snarky things about me wherever I go and they are just usually better at hiding it from me, but I can’t remember ever being insulted like that in my adult life.

It might have been about my faux ripped jeans that are throw back to the 80s.  Maybe it was about my black All Star sneakers that have seen better days.  They could have been commenting on my super short spiky hair.  Maybe they didn’t like the shade of red in my sweater.  I might have had a booger on my face.  It was probably because I’m fat.

I’ll admit that when I noticed the derision coming from the pair, I was immediately transported to junior high school gym class, listening to a mean girl talk about how fat and uncoordinated I was behind my back.  (We were playing dodge ball and my fat, uncoordinated ass was apparently being used a human shield.)  The funny thing, though?  A.) I can’t even remember that mean girl’s name, B.) that sinking feeling lasted about 3 seconds before I remembered that I’m fucking awesome, and C.) I have never felt more comfortable in my own skin than right now at this moment in my life.

awesomeIt obviously stung a little bit or I wouldn’t feel the need to blog about it, but it stung only because it was a reminder that people can suck.  It also prompted me to think about why I have high self-esteem, when society seems to think that I shouldn’t.  Here are the things that seem to work for me:

  • Role models.  There are a lot of really amazing women (and men) in my family who taught me to love myself, craziness and all.  They skipped in public places.  Danced as though no one was watching, even when everyone was.  Went to the store in curlers.  Encouraged me to be a raving beauty OR a raging lunatic – whatever made me happy.
  • Sense of humor.  Nothing is more important to self-esteem than being able to laugh at yourself.
  • Early and unconditional friendships.  When I was in elementary school, I had best friends who stuck with me through high school.  (And one bestest friend was more like a sister.  And a sister who was like a best friend.)  We were silly together.  We liked to eat.  We were loud.  We were always just there.  And we still are.
  • Lifelong friends.  I have made great friends (men and women) throughout my life, including a select few who I know will continue to be there no matter what.
  • The internet.  It’s crazy how destructive the internet can be for some people, when for me it may have literally saved my life.  A small group of online friends got me through some tough years, and it may surprise you how many of them continue to fall into that “lifelong friends” bucket above.  Instant message chats, message boards, Livejournal – and now Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr – kept me going when my “real life” was falling apart.

I am so far from perfect – and so far from the person I want to be.  I want to be healthier.  I wish I was better about returning phone calls.  I wish my anxiety made me clean or work out instead of eat or shop.  I am a work in progress.  Self-esteem isn’t about feeling like you are perfect.  It’s about recognizing that you are awesome despite your imperfections.  And I am awesome.

Refusing to give up my faith

I mentioned in a previous post that I have strong feelings about the word faith.  It’s something of a mantra for me with personal historical significance, yet I know that many find that my allegiance to the word is contrary to my atheistic beliefs.  I disagree.  Passionately.

As with many words, there is more than one formal definition of the word faith.  Per Merriam-Webster, faith is defined as:

a : allegiance to duty or a person
(1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions

(1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
(1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust

: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

Even in the comments to the dictionary entry, there are several strings of comments berating “faith” as contrary to science and a sign of a weak mind.  I think faith is a sign of strength, even if we all might differ on what we have faith in.

More than ten years ago, I discovered faith.  I was just a couple of years out of college and experiencing my first real taste of failure.  My career that was supposed to be glamorous was turning out to be a nightmare.  In retrospect the circumstances that took me to the edge of complete and utter despair that particular night don’t seem significant, but I had taken some kicks that day when I had already been down for awhile.

I called the friend that I trusted with my lowest moments.  I’m going to call her M. for the sake of my story.  M. was younger than I was by several years, had been home schooled her entire life, was the daughter of a preacher and had been sheltered in every possible way.  For reasons that I still don’t understand, she and I understood each other and she had a significant impact on my life.  And that particularly night, she was the only thing holding me together.

I sobbed on the phone for a while, and when I’d finally calmed down enough to talk, M. told me that I needed to have faith.  I scoffed.  (I’m pretty sure I literally said “psssh” into the phone.)  She knew that I was not a religious or a spiritual person, but she repeated it.

M. told me that I needed to have faith, and while she found comfort in having faith in God, it didn’t have to be that for me.  She begged me to have faith in myself.  Faith that while everything right now felt like it was wrong, it would become right again.  Faith that I continued to have a purpose in life, even if the career I thought I’d love turned out to be a terrible fit.  Faith that I could handle whatever was going to come next for me.

I’d like to say that her words changed my life immediately and that everything was sunshine and rainbows after that.  It wasn’t.  In fact, following that conversation, I went through the roughest year of my life.  And a few years after that, M. and I grew apart and lost touch.  But every time I think that nothing can possibly be right again, I still hear M’s voice in my head reminding me to never give up my faith.

I continue to cling to that word.  Faith. I have faith that my life has a purpose and that everything that happens is an opportunity for me to make a positive impact on this world.  I have faith that regardless of how small, those positive impacts are important.

In simplest terms, to me faith is believing that everything will be okay.

This post was inspired by the awesome new bracelet that I just bought from farmgirlpaints (pictured above), and by the fact that while I’d really love to address the fiscal cliff, or the debt ceiling, or Monsanto, or welfare reform – my brain has been fried by work lately and I really don’t have the energy right now.

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

It was one of those days.  You know the kind of day I mean.  We’ve all had them.  A month’s worth of misery packed into a single day.

It was the kind of day that makes you think, “Oh, Grumpy Cat, I feel you.  I am never going to smile again, either.”

There are lots of blogs out there that will tell you how to pull yourself out of your bad mood.  There’s plenty of advice on how to turn negative energy into positive, to look on the bright side or to put it behind you.

But here’s my advice: Wallow.

Put on your jammies.  Watch a terrible television show with no social value whatsoever.  Eat junk food.  Turn off your phone.  Turn off the lights.  Pretend the world doesn’t exist.

Because some days, it’s just plain sucktacular out there in the real world – and you deserve a few hours to walk away.