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dieting

PARENTING READING

Fat Girl Yoga

I have always hated yoga.

Yoga is for other people. Thin people. People who get jazzed about things like smoothies with kale, who have candles for reasons other than covering the bad odors in their homes. Do an image search for yoga and it seems that yoga is best done in silhouette on the edge of cliff, a dock on the lake, or in the middle of a field.

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And, well, I’m not one of those people. And also I live in a crowded city, nowhere near a cliff or open field.

Also yoga is about centering and mindfulness and releasing your body, and I have always had a really complicated relationship with my body. I’m not sure exactly when it started, but I still remember the shame I felt in gym class when I was weighed in front of my peers and my weight was a three digit number compared to their two digit numbers.

But the worst part about yoga is that no matter what class I attend, it is almost a guarantee that I will be the fattest person in the room.

I’ve spent the good part of my son’s two and a half years avoiding cameras, eating in secret, wearing layer after layer of clothing, and fantasizing about the someday when I will become one of those yoga women who can wear all white by the lake and hold a tree pose for as long as I want in the sand.

But I had been hiding a long time before that.

There have been a lot of diets. Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, The Weigh Down Diet, the Geneen Roth Diet, and the Luna Bars and Seltzer water diet (my personal method of dropping the freshman 15). There’s also been a lot of binging. More binging than dieting, if I’m being honest. There have been times when I am sort of okay with how I look, and times when it is hard to leave the house, especially when meeting up with friends I haven’t seen in some time, who will certainly notice my thirty pound weight gain.

I’ve also done a lot of therapy. I mean, A LOT of therapy.

It was in therapy, talking about all my attempts to stop eating so much food, when my therapist asked me, “Rachel, what else is as big as your hunger?”

Immediately images came rushing to my mind.

I could see my heart, my love for my family, my ambition, my joy, my passion for God, my passion for life.

And I saw my fear of being big. Of being loud and strong and beautiful and powerful.

After my session with my therapist I sat down and made a list of all the things that I want to be able to do without shame, especially without shame about my body. It included things like wearing lipstick, getting a tattoo, running as long as I want, wearing tight clothes, and eating as much as I want in front of anyone. Anything that popped into my head and was immediately met with “maybe when you lose some weight” went on the list.

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Fifth on the list was, “Do yoga”.

I sat with the list for some time. I read through it again and again. I read through it enough times to confirm my realization that not one item on the list required me to lose a single pound or change my body in any way.

But a lot of them require me to be seen. A lot of them required me to let myself be big.

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So I bought lipstick. I bought two shades one week, and went back for two shades the next. Lipstick was the gateway to makeup, which was the gateway to wearing clothes without additional layers. I sat and planned my tattoo, discussing it with friends to gather ideas. But I kept coming back to #5 on the list.

Finally, I called up my trusted friend and scheduled a time to go to yoga. We went.

And I was the fattest girl in the room.

There were moves I could not do, like grabbing both my ankles behind me in a reverse boat pose. I took full advantage of the teacher’s offer to return to child’s pose whenever a position was too challenging. An hour passed by, and I didn’t die. No one said a single thing about my weight or my lack of yoga skills. I did not fall on my face and break my nose, as I had worried I might. No one pointed and laughed at me.

In the last few minutes of class, tears rolled down my face. Tears of gratitude for a body that is strong and flexible. Tears of pride for finishing the workout. And tears for my body. A body that has served me and protected me. A body that has made me ashamed. A body that has kept me safe. A body I have blamed for so many struggles. A body that is mine.

Of all the dieting strategies I have tried, one I haven’t tried yet is to get bigger. To be as strong and beautiful and loud and powerful as I am.

Two weeks ago I walked past one of the assistant principals I work with, and she stopped in her tracks, looked me up and down with her eyes and her finger and said, “I see you, Rachel. I see you.”

It was terrifying. And it was exhilarating.

The next day she asked me what has been going on, why I’ve been “jazzing it up.”

So I told her the truth. I told her that I’ve decided to finally show up for my life.

And though I didn’t tell her about it, I’ve also continued to show up for yoga class. Maybe just to prove that yoga is for people like me, too.

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261755_10150290602379874_2436766_nRachel

P.S. I’m reading a great book by Jes Baker called Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls. It’s all about body love, for people of all shapes and sizes and it’s nice to keep in my purse for moments when I’m feeling like maybe shrinking, and all the baggage that comes with it, is actually a good idea after all.

 

 

 

 

 

fathering mothering PARENTING

How’s that New Year’s Resolution Going?

I got a head-start on my New Year’s resolutions. In November I joined a gym four blocks from our house. It’s a functional, affordable, women-only gym. It isn’t fancy and they keep the temperature slightly higher than I might choose, but the price was right, and I was immediately appreciative that the sounds of weights slamming together, loud grunts, and congratulatory slaps on the back was completely absent from the space. It’s actually kind of eerie how quiet it is.

It seems as safe a space as any to let my baby belly hang out.

Like most gyms, there are motivational posters all around, reminding you why you’re there, preventing you from leaving before you’ve changed into your gym clothes. (Maybe it’s just me, but some days that feels like a work out in and of itself.)

One phrase particularly caught my eye:

stop giving up

 

(If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up.)

For some reason, that struck me as incredibly profound, and I kept thinking about it during my work out. It got me thinking about how often I give up and give in, how many times I make a plan, and how few of the times I can keep it going long enough to see the results I want to see.

Then the self-talk started. “Stop giving up!” “Don’t be a quitter!” “Stop giving in to what is easy!”

I don’t know if you’re hearing the trend here, but I did. Shame is such a sneaky, sneaky thing, and there it was again, rearing it’s ugly head. Despite the success of joining a gym again after a year and a half break, my first self-talk wasn’t one of celebration or success, but one of shouting and failure.

This is not how I want to feel going to the gym. Actually, this is not how I want to feel. Period.

Like many people, I find myself excited to make New Year’s resolutions. It’s such a great starting-over point. It’s so wonderful to make plans and dreams, to wish for better.

But I think it can be a dangerous time, too. Because if I’m not careful, it turns into dissatisfaction with myself, my accomplishments, my surroundings, and my choices. It’s not that there isn’t a time and place for change, it’s just so easy to forget about the other stuff. The good stuff.

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It’s so easy to make plans and dreams for the year to come without fully appreciating the year that has passed.

Over break my in-laws watched our son so my husband and I could go to dinner. Between bites of sushi and sips of champagne I asked my husband, “What are some of the things this year that you’re really proud of accomplishing? What are some of the things that you have stuck with and even got better at doing?”

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For the next hour we went back and forth, sharing stories and examples of ways that we have changed and grown. We talked about how we’ve learned to be more gracious with one another’s needs even while attending to the needs of our son.

We talked about how we’ve made time for one another: having date nights, shared Netlix shows, reading together, and having an overnight without our baby. (A huge thanks to my in-laws for that one!) And how we’ve made times for our son, sitting on the floor and playing with him side by side.

I shared how this year has been about letting go. As I have changed jobs I have had to learn how to leave graciously, how to walk out the door without resentment, desiring the best not only for my future, but for the future of the people and places I leave behind. I talked about how I have had to let myself grieve, and it has taken longer than I expected, and yet I feel like I’ve managed to find peace.

There are other things, too. Like reading 65 books, logged on goodreads. Or not eating sugar or white carbs for the first four months of the year. Or mostly keeping up with my blog.

I even mentioned the gym. Going one to two times a week. Not as many as I might want, but more than this time last year.

I’d go on, but it’s already starting to feel a little braggy.

It was a moment of lovingkindness, a moment of gratitude for what has been. It was grace.

I have some ideas of goals for this coming year. We’re starting to eat a more plant-based diet. We’re going back to cutting out white carbs and sugars. We have goals of going to the gym. We’re even talking about making our bedroom a screen-free space. (She says, as she types in bed.)

But somehow, the goals don’t feel like badges of my failure from 2014. They feel more like continued successes, like picking up some of the strands that were dropped, and carrying on.

And I suppose that’s my wish for this year: a little more grace, a little more love, and a lot more kindness, day in and day out on this journey.

Somehow that feels more important than another diet.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_nRachel

fathering mothering PARENTING

Is This Really My Body?

I can safely say I have never not been aware of the space my butt takes up in a room. That includes right now (both when I’m writing this and when you’re reading it).

There was a short pause to this way of thinking during the nine months of being pregnant. I am firmly in the camp of pregnant body=beautiful body. I absolutely loved having an excuse for why my tummy was swelling. I wore maternity pants long before I needed to because, HELLO, not wearing elastic waistbands when it is socially acceptable is truly a wasted opportunity.

But now it is almost eight months past the birth of my son, and I still have a fanny pack made of skin that I’m carrying around my middle. I look at myself in mirrors or store windows and I do not recognize what my body has become. Is that me?

I was reading an article about women and body image in which Kristen Bell is quoted as having said, “I’m not a woman whose self-worth comes from her dress size.” She was responding to questions about her post-baby body. I wish I could write here that upon reading this my first thought was, “Go Kristen! Way to represent a healthy body image!”

But my real first thought was, “Whatever. (Expletive).” And then I imagined the giddy lightness of squeezing into a pair of jeans one size smaller. In those pants I could step in dog poop on the way to work, put curdled milk in my tea, be told I wasn’t getting a pay raise, and I’m pretty sure I’d still end the night with my head on the pillow thinking, “I am SKINNY!”

But seriously, what am I going to do about the fact that my body is still twenty pounds above my pre-preggo weight, which was twenty pounds more than my wedding weight, which was twenty pounds more than the weight I wanted to be? If you’re not a math person, we’re up to sixty pounds.

Everyone says that breastfeeding melts the pounds off your body. I’d say my post-pregnancy weight loss (with breastfeeding) has been more along the lines of the slow trickle of frozen pipes.

I went to the doctor yesterday and told her that I was a little concerned because, since giving up sugar and white carbs in January, I have only lost about 10 pounds. I was really hoping she would tell me I have a rare disease that makes it very difficult for me to lose weight. But fear not! This disease is easily cured by these tasty pills.

Instead, my doctor informed me that first, this was an appropriate amount of weight to lose, and second, if I was wanting to lose weight more quickly I should start counting calories.

And it dawned on me that I am never going to count calories again. I refuse.

My body has grown a human in it. It can run for long distances. It can dance and breathe and move and sing. And I am over counting calories. I won’t do it. I can’t bring myself to that place of stress and shame again. Ever.

Which means I have to be patient with the slow and halting weight loss that has defined the last eight months (twenty years) of my life. Uggggggghhhhhhhh. I believe in the cumulative effect of healthy lifestyle change. But wow does it take a long time. And wow am I not patient. (Pills. Pills. Why aren’t there pills?)

Right after our baby was born I would jokingly add “I’m a bad mother” to the end of any comment. My husband put the kibosh on that. He believes that words have power, and even joking words can be internalized and then believed. There is now no “I’m a bad mother” talk in our house.

Recently I was looking in the mirror and I found myself saying over and over again, “You are beautiful, you are beautiful, you are beautiful.” When my husband came home, I asked him over and over again, “Aren’t I beautiful? Aren’t I beautiful? Aren’t I beautiful?” (He’s a smart and good man and said yes.)

It’s not that I believe it. At least not all the time. Especially when I am contemplating the square footage of my butt. Or my mommy tummy. But I want to believe it. And thank God for the times when I do believe it.

If I had a magic wand I would drop sixty pounds. Today. But in the absence of the magic wand, I’m stuck on this long road toward self acceptance, a road of a life time. A road filled with detours with flashy promising signs that all lead me back to the road, sometimes worse for wear. And I know that inhabiting and loving my fourth trimester body is what the road is filled with for the next few hundred miles. So I keep putting one foot in front of the other.

When I get discouraged, when I find myself avoiding eye contact with the mirror, it helps to look in the adoring face of my beautiful baby boy. He is worth this.

And I am worth this, too. Even with feet sore from walking. And a big butt.

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261755_10150290602379874_2436766_n Rachel

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