I was having lunch with a friend yesterday who I consider absolutely normal size-wise (and most other ways too). She’s not Gisele - because Gisele isn’t really even Gisele - but she’s not a heavy hitter riding an electric scooter in Walmart stuffing her face with bacon-wrapped Twinkies.
Which is to say, she's not any sort of "extreme" - she's just a perfectly average-sized woman.
So I was shocked - absolutely, unequivocally shocked - when she said that she has been called out by complete strangers for being fat. More so, even, that it had happened more than once. It was obviously a very painful set of memories for her and it made me mad as hell.
“You know that shit’s not about you, right?” I asked her.
She nodded her head, but I’m not sure she really heard me. And I get it - it’s hard to hear clearly in the midst of such pain. But it is an important lesson - if not one of the most important lessons - and it bears repeating…
That shit is not about you.
“Fat” was never really intended to ever make you feel less than - it was intended to make them feel “more than.” And, honestly, do you really care about them?
You wouldn’t base your wardrobe on the opinion of a person wearing platform sneakers.
You wouldn’t base your investment strategy on the advice of someone collecting cans on the side of the road for gas money.
You wouldn’t buy toothpaste based upon the recommendation of a man with rotted teeth.
So, you sure as hell shouldn’t be basing even a modicum of your self-worth on the opinion of a person that is so ignorant that they think “fat” is a value judgement and so psychologically-damaged that they want to intentionally cause harm and distress to another person for no good reason.
My precious snowflakes, hear me. Anyone - stranger or not - that tries to make you feel “less than” because of your body is a psychologically-damaged, ignorant, platform-sneaker-wearing, can-collecting, toothless bully. A stunted child that has never learned how to self-regulate. Do not give them any power. They do not deserve, nor have they earned, it. If they have earned anything, it is your pity.
Being “fat” means, essentially, nothing. It doesn’t define who you are - your mind, your heart, your values, your contributions or your essence. Maybe it defines your body size - maybe it doesn’t. Even if it does, it is just a descriptor of one facet of your being - not your entirety.
And, yes, it is a facet that our culture places an amazingly stupid amount of emphasis upon. Does that make it right? Remember, this is a culture that once touted cigarettes as a cure for asthma, asbestos as a fire retardant in children’s pajamas and - sigh - platform sneakers as a perfectly acceptable form of footwear. Curse you, Baby Spice!
Point is, sometimes we get shit wrong. And then we evolve.
So, you can continue to buy into what you know is wrong or you can choose to reject the ill-conceived notions of the psychologically damaged, ignorant, platform-sneaker-wearing, can-collecting, toothless bullies of the world - including those living in your own head.
Reject those notions that you are less than - and then reject them again. Reject them every day, 100 times a day, until you believe it.
You were never less than.
As I was going into weight loss surgery I had only one goal in mind – I wanted to be able to cross my legs again. I mean, there were a few other goals I had identified like being able to hold downward dog without breaking my face, not dying and not offending anyone in a post-surgery, anesthesia-induced haze… but the leg-crossing “thing” really stuck with me. To me it wasn’t just about crossing my legs – it was about regaining my femininity.
And I know that is going to piss off a bunch of people because it kind of pisses off the feminist in me too. Just remember, it’s not the point of this story and if you get stuck here, this isn’t a story for you. Now, onward…
The thing about crossing my legs was that I had done it before. I knew how it felt. And post-surgery the feeling kept coming to me - lift one leg up… place one knee on top of the other… rest. I practiced doing so, lying on my back in bed in the morning where gravity could help. I even dreamed that I crossed my legs and in that dream I felt what it was like to “sit like a lady” and no longer have the fat of my thighs force me into a masculine posture.
And then, one day, I felt unquestionably compelled to do it while riding in a tricked-out pink jeep en route to the Grand Canyon. I lifted one leg up… placed one knee on top of the other… and rested. It worked! I was so elated that I wanted to cry, but held back the tears for the sake of the people surrounding me – strangers who would have no way to comprehend the victory that had just taken place in their presence. I wanted to take a picture, but worried that everyone would assume I was some pervert taking a selfie of her crotch.
I should have gone for it anyway – at least I wasn’t photographing their crotches.
Since the Grand Leg Crossing Victory of 2015™, I have been in a mental stall on my health journey. I’ve tried to force myself to get back in the game promising I’ll eat better… drink more water… walk 10,000 steps daily… make a deal with the devil if the scale will only move to the next set of numbers. The next set of number is going to be a really big deal – it’s a set I haven’t seen in over two decades after all.
None of it works though. I’m sneaking food I shouldn’t be eating. I forget to take my water bottle with me to work in the morning. If my pedometer says I’ve walked 7,000 steps at the end of the day, I’m okay with it because it is still more than the average American. So, after a three week hiatus, I plopped myself down on Jillian, therapist to the stars’, couch yesterday and let my frustrations flow for 15 minutes straight. “What the fuck?!” I whimpered as I finally came up for breath. “Why can’t I get it together?”
“What’s on the other side?” she asked.
For the next 20 minutes we had a discussion about whether or not I was scared of what is on the other side, about annihilating my “former self” (two year old Ursula – she’s so cute and we’ll talk about her another day) and about what got me to where I am today, and then it finally hit me…
I don’t know what’s on the other side. I don’t know what the other side feels like. It’s, largely, unknown territory.
I know what will get me there – the food, the water, the exercise – but those are behaviors, not the motivators. Those things don’t feel like anything to me, neither does a number on a scale but, crossing my legs – that physically felt like something. I could visualize it, internalize it, practice it, own it, desire it, chase after it…
*Le sigh* I peaked way sooner than I thought I would and I need to find a new motivation to keep going.
For a while I’ve had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I needed to accomplish something BIG - like a 30,000 step day – to get me going again. And I’ve spent quite a bit of time beating myself up over the feeling. Why does everything have to be so BIG? Why can’t I be happy with sustaining a status quo? I was really starting to question if there was new kind of broken inside me that needed to be fixed.
I know now that the desire to take a 30,000 step day is because I can visualize it. I’ve done it before, I know the feeling when I’m done – the exhilaration, the accomplishment. It’s something I couldn’t really do just five months ago, at least not without a TON of effort. Now? Still takes an effort, but totally doable .
Of course, with my schedule, a 30,000 step day isn’t exactly in the cards these days. More than that, it is too easily accomplished in one day and, once I did it, I’d find myself right back here again.
What I need is a vision – maybe a physical feat, maybe not - that I can work myself towards now. And just like crossing my legs meant so much more to me than the simple action of doing so, this “thing” has to hold a value to me more than itself. I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out what it is, but I’m at a loss at the moment. It came so easy the first time around, but just knowing the elements of what I need makes me feel so much better already.
Until next time, my precious snowflakes…
On Sunday I worked on a class presentation for 16 hours straight, finishing at 4:30 in the morning on Monday. I slept all of three hours before going to work and then meeting up with my classmates in the evening to review the presentation one more time before submitting it. Today was another full day of work followed by a meeting for a local hospital Board I joined earlier this year, followed by a meeting with a potential client for my Master’s field project (thesis).
I had every intention of coming home tonight, post-meetings, eating dinner and going straight to bed. But I came home to find a delivery from Amazon - a book that I just couldn’t wait to read. In retrospect, I probably should have waited - I just don’t know that I have the mental spirit tonight to process the whirlwind of emotions I just experienced.
The book was written by a former professional development coach. This is someone that has had a great impact on my life for a number of years. Unfortunately, our last “official” interaction happened to be during an incredibly hurtful and tumultuous time in my career. For whatever reason, when I most needed affirmation and compassion, he choose to stop being an advocate and, instead, decided to teach me “a lesson” in front of my leadership cohort. I left in tears and never went back.
I still don’t fully know why it all went down the way it did, but I did learn a valuable lesson - your mentors are fallible humans too. After licking my wounds for a period of time, I eventually got to a point where I could be friendly with him, but I never allowed him to coach me again. It doesn’t negate the many valuable lessons I learned from him prior to that point, but it did make it pretty easy to say goodbye when he decided to sever ties with my employer earlier this year.
And then I read his damn book - his very beautiful book full of very beautiful words and beautiful lessons and beautiful wisdoms. I was full of gratitude that all the lessons were familiar because he had already taught them to me personally. However, by the end, I was more sad than anything. How can a person with that much wisdom and insight fail you and never even realize it?
To be crystal clear - that question isn’t about him. The question is why I continue to allow people to have a level of influence in my life that they have either not earned.
And while this may seem like a divergence from the Tiny Tummy topic, it’s not really. The choice to have weight loss surgery only came after many years of hard psychological work that culminated in an epiphany that I deserve more - more health, more happiness, more LIFE - not because anyone told me so, but because I finally believed it. And I only came to believe it once I came to the realization that I was living a life, to that point, dictated largely by what others had told me I deserved - a lot of somebody elses that had, in no way, earned the right to dictate such things to me.
Subsequently, my circle of influence has shrunk dramatically over the past three years. Friends and acquaintances once clearly positioned in the inner circle have been moved to the outer rungs or, in some cases, completely out of my periphery. It is, in some ways, a lonelier life - but not any more so than surrounding myself with people that didn’t share a mutual investment.
But sometimes, on late nights that follow 16 hours of homework and two days of high-psychic energy investments, when my soul is raw and my resilience low, a bit of melancholy washes over me when I am reminded that they are people out there that just can’t SEE me the way I wish they could.
In the pre-Tiny Tummy days I would deaden the melancholy with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s - or a tub of mac & cheese. Tonight I have made the choice to just sit here with the feeling and really feel it - to coach myself through it by written word. As much as “the muck” sucks, this - the writing, the ruminating, the awareness not altered by any chemical… This feels like victory.
I'm stuck in this funky spot with my health journey at the moment. I've lost 70 lbs., my body feels great, I'm healthier than I have been any time since my early 20's and, for the life of me, I cannot envision what comes next. So, I've just kind of plateaued - both physically and mentally. The excitement has worn off. Weight loss surgery is no longer shiny and new... it is status quo and I don't do so well with status quo.
I need a new challenge to reignite the fire in my belly.
Every day, for the past two weeks, it's been pretty much the same conversation in my head...
"Okay, this is the last [insert anything a post-WLS person should not be eating here] I eat. Tomorrow I'm back on the bandwagon."
"Okay, this is the last day I allow myself not to exercise. Tomorrow I'm back on the bandwagon."
"Okay, this is the last day that I go to bed not having drank at least 64 oz. of water. Tomorrow I'm back on the bandwagon."
My precious snowflakes, there is no bandwagon to be found.
That's not to say that it's been all bad - some days are better than others. But the strict regiment I was following for a while there is gone. I've discovered that I can cheat just a little and still get "okay" results and somewhere in the last two weeks "okay" became okay again. Except it is not - I gave up "okay" the day I let a surgeon slice off 80% of my stomach.
There is a itch within, a twinge of a desire to do something spectacular... I just don't know quite what it is yet.
Eating to my guidelines, exercising, drinking an adequate amount of water, sleeping 7 hours, taking my supplements and practicing gratitude, daily, would be pretty fucking spectacular, I guess. I just don't know why it sounds so very uninteresting right now...
Me thinks I have found a topic for the next visit with Jillian, therapist to the stars...
The surgeon asked me last week if anyone is starting to notice my weight loss and I had to giggle. When you lose 60+ pounds – and talk about it incessantly – everyone notices. The next day I was recounting the conversation for Jillian, therapist to the stars, and she asked me if I noticed the difference.
Physically, I feel the difference. My body is so much limber than it was before, bending and moving in ways it hasn’t bent or moved in years. Aand it definitely takes up less space than it used to. My clothes fit different – as in not at all. I’m down four pant sizes in the past three months. And when I look at before and after pictures, I see the difference.
It just is that it isn’t that much different.
I have almost always liked what I saw when I looked in the mirror… from the neck up, at least. I never really saw double chins or puffy cheeks or fat, I just saw me. But, honestly, I was always shocked as hell when I would catch a full-body glimpse of myself in a store window. Like, “Who the hell is that fat chick?” My body image and my actual body size never really jived.
In fact, I have two decades of bruised hips to prove it. I was continually astonished when my body didn’t physically fit through spaces that my mind thought they should be able to fit through.
The physical pictures and the mental images are starting to more closely align. And the woman smiling back in the mirror does look somewhat different – she looks more awake, glowing… bright. But this body? It’s the body I always had as far as my mind’s eye is concerned. I don’t know how much that will change as the pounds and inches continue to drop, but I’m fascinated to find out.