Body Acceptance, Recovery

Part II: Thin and Pretty or Beautiful?

Along the same lines as learning to accept mindful movement instead of the exercise equation, I am still learning to accept my body at this size and not fall victim to the shame of not fitting into the acceptable standards set forth by society.

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In a recent e-mail to a member of my treatment team, I found myself using the terms “thin and pretty” as if they were synonymous; as if they have the power to define me.  My thinking was I will never be pretty again if I am not thin.  I truly believed I could never be considered pretty because I am not thin and probably never will be thin again.  Okay, truth time: I know what the BMI standards say and even when I was an “average” weight and BMI, I really struggled to stay there.  In order for me to be an “average” weight I have to do some very unhealthy things; namely engage in eating disordered behaviors almost constantly.  That truth, that being of “average” weight and BMI probably won’t happen for me, has been very hard for me to accept this week.

Coming to terms with the reality I may never be a socially acceptable size or weight ever again is painful.  Knowing I will struggle with feeling like a social pariah for the foreseeable future is hard.  Being judged and looked at like a deviant because people assume I can’t control how much I eat is embarrassing.  (Little do they know I still feel like a slave to food but in a very different way. I mean, you try tracking every single thing you eat then having it examined by someone weekly.) However, I have been able to find inspirational articles about celebrities who are fighting back and it helps to know there are people trying to break down the societal standards.  My prime example is Melissa McCarthy who recently called out the shopping industry for “segregating” plus-size women:

“People don’t stop at size 12. I feel like there’s a big thing missing where you can’t dress to your mood above a certain number. (Malls) segregate plus-size (women). It’s an odd thing that you can’t go shopping with your friends because your store is upstairs hidden by the tire section. ‘We’ll put you gals over there because we don’t want to see you and you probably don’t want to be seen.’”

Melissa McCarthy speaks the absolute truth in my mind.  I mean, have you seen some of the clothes in the plus-size section of a store?  Chances are, unless you have to shop in that section,  you have never given it a second glance.  Let me tell you, the clothes are not cute.  They are not trendy.  And they definitely are NOT fashionable.  I am 28 years old and I don’t want to dress like I’m trying to hide myself inside a bag made of material.  I want to feel sexy, cute, and fashionable… just like any other 28-year-old woman.  Here’s the other thing, so many women who are “plus-size” are truly beautiful!  Not only are they beautiful in appearance, but they are beautiful in personality because they have had to endure-and overcome-the ugly attitudes of society.  I want to be that kind of beautiful, not pretty.  

The term “pretty” sounds petty, superficial even.  Honestly, I decided to look up how the dictionary defines the word “pretty” and I definitely don’t want to be that.  Pretty is defined as, “attractive in a delicate way without being truly beautiful or handsome.”  Shocking!  That was not the definition I was expecting!  Finding out the true definition of the word pretty only reinforces I don’t want to be described as such.  I would rather be truly beautiful in my personality and how I serve The Lord rather than being seen as pretty in the eyes of society.  I hope people will see me and think I am a beautiful woman by my actions, how I treat others, and by my faith rather than my appearance.

Initially I was going to title this post “Part II: Thin and Pretty are NOT Synonymous” but I changed my mind after reading the definition.  Actually, thin and pretty are somewhat synonymous, especially in our society today.  All women can be pretty or beautiful.

So, for what are you striving?  
To be pretty or to be beautiful?

With Body Love,
Lane

Body Acceptance, Exercise, Recovery

Part I: The Exercise Equation

I thought it would be difficult to write a post this week, but I was mistaken.
I thought my blog always needed to be upbeat and positive, but it doesn’t.  Life isn’t always upbeat and positive.  This post will be in two parts, one today and another tomorrow.  Truth is a big part of my body acceptance, and the truth is I haven’t been able to accept my body at this size lately.   I’ve also been struggling with not being allowed to run or participate in 5Ks, as it is summer and prime 5K season.

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In eating disorder recovery land, exercise is severely limited and closely monitored in an attempt to put an end to the exercise equation.  The exercise equation is this: (low calories + exercise = weight loss…quickly)   Now, I am not a math person (never have been), but this equation makes sense to me.  In eating disorder recovery land exercise becomes “movement” and is used for self-care and clearing the mind, not weight loss or burning calories.   The exercise equation still exists in the part of my mind that is controlled by the eating disorder.  This equation is why I sat in my dietician’s office this week, in tears, as I desperately tried to explain why I should be permitted to join the local YMCA.  “I am the biggest I have ever been and the least active I have ever been at the same time, and the combination is crushing me.”   I mean, it is not that I am too thin and can’t afford to lose weight, I am technically OBESE. (This was the main point of my argument while trying to get her to acquiesce.)

For someone like me, who ran cross country, was in the military, and has always been active; eating disorder recovery land movement doesn’t amount to much.  I never viewed yoga as an acceptable form of exercise movement because it couldn’t possibly burn enough calories to do any good.  The same mindset can be applied to walking.  Hatha yoga (not hot or fast yoga) and walking, coincidentally, are the most acceptable forms of movement in recovery land.  So, as you can imagine, I need to re-work my thoughts on exercise…movement.  I need to work on removing the equation from my mind that exercise is only worth something if it allows me to burn a significant amount of calories that will aid in weight-loss.   Learning to accept that movement has a new intended purpose is anything but a fast process.  Each time I am allowed to start adding more movement into my life, my eating disordered brain takes off and I find myself right back in the middle of the exercise equation.  Once I am back in the exercise equation I have to step back and stop movement so I can focus again on recovery.  The cycle is beyond frustrating.

Learning to accept my size and that the exercise equation can’t be part of my life is difficult.  While movement can be healthy and help with overall physical health, it is a fine line for me.  I can quickly slip from mindful movement to the exercise equation and not even see it.  My eating disorder begins to step in, “Just __ more minutes.  Burn __ more calories before you stop.”  The abuse quietly comes in and I see it as my competitive nature, not a problem.  Before I know what is happening, I am restricting my calories and manipulating what I eat in order to burn more calories and lose weight faster.  I have to stop competing with myself and allow the movement to do its intended purpose: clear my mind and help me de-stress.  This is probably one of the hardest lessons I am learning in eating disorder recovery land, as our country applauds competition and pushing the limits.

So, just in case you were wondering, I am allowed to join the Y but I have some heavy restrictions and what I do will be closely monitored to make sure my mind doesn’t end up back in the exercise equation.  I will have to really try to focus on movement being for self-care and mindfulness. I will have to try to focus on appreciating my body for the movement I am able to do.  I may not necessarily like my body right now but it is the vehicle for my movement that will help clear my mind.   Thankfully I have a treatment team to help me figure out if I start to cross that line back to the exercise equation.  However, I am willing to try to re-work my focus in order to be allowed time for mindful movement.  

I leave you today with this question:
Are you stuck in the exercise equation or are you engaging in mindful movement?

With Body Love,
Lane

Body Acceptance, Recovery

The Three Fs

I have a confession to make…
I have too many clothes. 

I honestly have enough clothing to clothe several people in an array of sizes.  Clothing ranging from pre-pregnancy pants and shirts, to an EXTREMELY comfortable pair of maternity pants I still wear on occasion, and several post-pregnancy pieces as well.  You know what all these articles of clothing have in common?  I don’t like them.  When I try on shirt after shirt, pants after pants, I don’t feel confident.  I don’t feel beautiful.  I feel frumpy, fat, and sometimes downright depressed.  My butt looks too big, my belly puffs too much, the shirts are clingy…the reasons why I don’t like the clothing goes on and on. These negative feelings about my body in my clothes probably plays into why I change my clothes multiple times each day before leaving the house.  While changing my clothes multiple times is something on which I am working, I decided it was time for a more drastic change to help with my body image.  I decided to make a capsule wardrobe.

What is a capsule wardrobe and how will it help me feel better?  I’m so glad you asked!  The basis of a capsule wardrobe is  “less is more” when it comes to clothing.  All the pieces are versatile, so you can mix and match to create many outfits from a few pieces.  That being said, to start a capsule wardrobe one must ditch the old closet.  I had to go through –piece by piece- all of my shirts, pants, shorts, dresses, shoes, and jackets.  If the item didn’t fit well, flatter, or make me feel FABULOUS, it got tossed into “laundry basket of doom.”  That was until the “laundry basket of doom” began to overflow and became the rubbermaid tub and two DSW shopping bags.  (See, way too many clothes!) Needless to say, this process took several days and left me with three dresses, three shirts, no pants(!), and no skirts.  I still had lots of shoes, I mean those fit at any body size, right?  (I also might have a slight obsession with Jack Rogers, TOMS, and cute flats…so that makes it hard to choose which get to stay and which have to go.  I decided to keep pretty much all of them!)

No, I didn’t run around sans pants wearing only my Jack Rogers and a shirt, but I did need to go shopping to build a flattering and fabulous capsule.  My shopping spree is actually still in progress because I am taking my time finding items that truly help me feel confident, beautiful, and fantastic!  On the first day of my spree I was thankful my friend and my sister were there to support me because shopping is rarely fun for me.  I usually end up depressed about the sizes I have to buy and end up frustrated with myself.  The two of them helped me select a few flattering shirts and pants.  I felt great…until I got home.  Once I tried on the pants at home I decided I didn’t feel fabulous.  I felt fat and carefully processed why I felt that way.  They didn’t fit quite right around the waist.  Since they had to fit over my butt they had that oh-so-awesome gap at the back.  So, back to the store they went!

I was feeling a little frustrated because I always have a hard time finding pants to fit my plus size behind,  that are also made for short people, and don’t gap at the back.  (See my dilemma?)  Remembering someone told me about another store that offers cute pants in a variety of sizes, I decided to head in that direction but the store next door caught my eye.  Torrid, a plus size fashion store with some pretty cute pants in the window, happened to be that store.  I felt myself die a little inside as I took a deep breath (and a few sideways glances to make sure nobody would see me walk in) and opened the door.  Immediately my vanity and concern melted away because I was already in love with Torrid!  Finally, clothes that might actually fit me!  As I wandered around the store the sales associates were so helpful and encouraging about what might look good and what would be a good capsule piece.  Typically I go into a store and feel very insecure because I’m never sure if there will be clothing in my size that fits well.  And usually the clothing doesn’t fit well.  Once the pants fit my hips and butt they are too long and the look doesn’t flatter.  (Hello, short people need bigger sizes too.  We aren’t all tall.)  However, I didn’t have those depressed and insecure feelings at Torrid.  My initial thought upon trying on a pair of pants was, “Wow!  My butt looks good!”  Followed by, “So this is how pants are supposed to fit!” And topped off with, “Why didn’t I find this place sooner!?”

So, after two trips to Torrid and $425 later, I now have three pairs of pants, two pairs of shorts, and four shirts that help me feel fabulous.  While I am still building my complete capsule this feels like a great start.  Knowing there is store I now call “mine” because it helps me feel great about myself is amazing.  While spending that much money on clothing makes me feel a little sick, I know it is worth it in the end because it helps keep my negative body image away.  The conclusion at which I have arrived is this: when clothing fits well, flatters, and makes helps me feel fabulous, I walk with more confidence and feel ready to take on the world.  Perhaps it is silly to put so much stock in clothes but I am telling you, the three Fs are helping me feel better about myself every day.

If you have a closet full of clothing that doesn’t meet the three Fs, I challenge you to ditch a few pieces (okay, take them to a resale shop to try to make some shopping money) and shop for something new.  Take a friend, sometimes having someone for support greatly helps when stepping out of your comfort zone in the clothing world.  Don’t be afraid to take your time and find those pieces that truly fit well, flatter, and help make you feel FABULOUS!

With Body Love,
Lane

PS please keep in mind this blog post was actually written over several weeks, as this has been an
ongoing process.  I no longer wear or own those maternity yoga pants because they made it into the “laundry basket of doom” a few weeks ago.  🙂 

Body Acceptance, Recovery

Own Your Story

People can be mean spirited and cruel. 


Recently I did an interview with a local television station about my eating disorder–OSFED–Otherwise Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder. For me, OSFED means although I struggle with restricting food and purging I am not underweight. There have been times in my life when I was much thinner and weighed much less but I was still sick and it was a battle to stay in that lower weight range. So, as you have read in previous posts, learning to accept my body after having a baby has been a struggle. I weigh more now than I ever have in my life and that isn’t an easy thing to accept. However, I also know I cannot restrict and purge for the rest of my life or that life will be short. 

Anyway, the local news channel posted a preview of the interview on their Facebook page. I decided to watch it, interested to see what they used as a teaser. After the video closed, my eyes caught the comments under the post: “aka can’t stop stuffing my face,” “just get some Jesus,” and “to stop being self-centered and help someone else out because it would make both lives better.” While these comments are not an extensive list of the negativity and ignorance of others, they do give a various display of how people reacted to the news report. My eating disordered voice immediately jumped on the opportunity to agree with the criticisms and add a few of its own. “That’s right, everyone thinks you’re fat. You are fat by medical standards. You look like you eat constantly so you need to stop eating.” For a brief time I allowed myself to indulge in the criticism and even started agreeing with it. Upon noticing I was agreeing with the eating disorder I knew I had to find my way to a wise-mind place or the comments of others could throw me back off the recovery track.

  • First, I can admit some of the camera angles in the interview were not the most flattering of views, but that’s life. I cannot look, what I believe, is my best all the time.  
  • Second, recalling what I learned in my television, radio, and film class from undergrad, I know the camera also makes people look bigger than they are in real-life. Part of why I looked so big is because of that reality. 
  • Third, I had been having a good body image day and the ignorant comments of people, coupled with my eating disordered mind, did not get to ruin that positivity. 
  • Finally, in truth I am not small. I am not as thin as I was in some of the old photos used in the interview; while that truth cuts me to my core, it is a truth. However, it doesn’t have to be a truth that destroys my soul. 

Once I reached the wise-mind place about accepting my body and the realities behind why I looked bigger on television than I do in the mirror (even though most days I think I look huge in the mirror), I could focus my mind on the comments. I admit, reading the comments was a mistake. I know people aren’t nice when they post comments, I have seen them before under completely unrelated news posts and it is typically non-supporters that comment. I often have to wonder why their parents never taught them the saying: “if you don’t have anything nice to say than don’t say anything at all.” But that’s neither here nor there. Some of the comments angered me, some made me shake my head, but all were ignorant. The comments that angered me initially were laced with ignorance, grammatical errors, and reeked of someone who is struggling with his/her own body-image issues. I can’t expect everyone to understand or even pretend to hear the message behind the story because they don’t know me. They don’t know my history and how I feel blessed to be alive because I look back and see where the eating disorder could have very easily killed me. It was also very obvious some people didn’t even watch the teaser or the full interview or they would know my eating disorder isn’t about “stuffing my face.” They would also realize restricting food and purging at all is not “normal” behavior around food. Or maybe they wouldn’t realize it because they are set on shooting down the reality that it isn’t normal. No matter what the comment, I wouldn’t allow myself to dignify their ignorance with a reply…on Facebook anyway. They don’t deserve an explanation or a retort from me. People like that don’t deserve my time and energy. I realize I am giving them some of my time and energy with this blog post, but I have to hold myself above reproach on Facebook. God gave me an opportunity and if I argued or rudely tried to explain my position in the heat of the moment, when I was angry, He is not receiving the glory. 


That being said, the only person who I did dignify with my response was the woman who told me to “Just get some Jesus.” After taking my time to carefully craft my response, I thanked her for her concern about my soul and informed her I am a woman of faith. God is a big part of my recovery because I now realize when I am focused on food and my obsession with thinness it becomes an idol; replacing God in my life. Making food an idol makes my eating disorder a sin. While I strongly believe there are genetic factors involved in the diagnosis of an eating disorder and it is not a choice, there are times I choose it. There are times when I know what the right choice is (eating my full meal plan, not purging afterwards, etc) and even with God in mind I engage in negative behaviors. While the interview itself didn’t give me the opportunity to share how God has been an integral part of recovery, this woman’s comment certainly did. I know God is beginning to use my struggle for the greater good and that is what matters. 


Anyway, this post has been long-winded but I felt the need to share my thoughts on the ignorance and negativity of others. I also believe it is important to share that I am proud of myself for taking a step back and reaching a wise-mind view on the comments. Not too long ago the comments of others would have destroyed me and sent me running into the unfortunate grasp of my eating disorder. However, because of the tools I learned in treatment I can look at their comments objectively and realize this as the main point: They don’t know me. They don’t know my story.  I challenge you to keep that realization in mind next time someone says something negative about you. Ask yourself, “Does this person really know me?” Chances are, they don’t. 

Own your story. Share your story. Don’t let others destroy your story. 


With Body Love,
Lane


Body Acceptance, Recovery

Choose Beautiful

“I just wish more young women realized it.”
Realized what?
THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL!
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Perhaps you have seen the Dove campaign ad that exploded over social media several weeks ago where women could choose to walk through a door labeled “average” or one labeled “beautiful.”  In case you haven’t, I encourage you to take four minutes to watch it before continuing with this blog post.

Tear-jerking and thought-provoking were the two things that came to my mind after watching that video.  As I tried to keep the tears that welled in my eyes from actually falling, I didn’t even have to put much thought into what door I would choose 90 percent of the time: average.  Immediately after hearing myself say I could only walk through the average door, I was saddened and decided to challenge that thought.  WHY do I believe I am only eligible for the average door?  Why couldn’t I walk through the beautiful door?  What makes me worthy of one and unworthy of another?

The long and short of my answer comes from the core of my eating disordered brain that constantly tells me I am unworthy of many things: food, friendship, love…the list is a mile long.  It is something I am working through but this, something as simple and as difficult as choosing a door, is a thought I can examine and explore quickly on my own.  My mind raced to what makes me unworthy of the “beautiful” door.  I’m overweight, I have cellulite, my thighs touch (gasp!), I have big lips, big ears, saggy “mom” breasts, and a saggy “mom” belly.  The list could go on, but you get the idea.  According to the eating disordered part of my brain, there is nothing about me that is beautiful.  Not.  One.  Thing.  Every part of me could be altered, manipulated, flattened, toned, and tucked to make me beautiful; a victim of unrealistic societal standards.

Once I got the negative list out-of-the-way I could turn my thoughts to a more realistic and positive point of view: what about myself do I consider to be beautiful?  As always, my go-to answer would be my big, blue eyes and my blonde hair.  Usually my list stops there.  I have to search deep within myself to come up with any other physical features I consider to be beautiful.  But what if I examine beauty beyond the physical?  What if my true beauty comes from something far beyond what people can physically see?  In that case, I still struggle at times but it is much easier to uncover what defines my beauty.  I volunteer, I try to engage in random acts of kindness often, I try to be kind and patient with others, I’m encouraging, giving, friendly, and I’m a mother.  While this list is also not extensive, it gives a glimpse into what can be beautiful beyond the physical.  Given those aspects of beauty, the seen vs. the unseen, I would choose to walk through the beautiful door.  I am every bit as beautiful as anyone else.  I was created in God’s image, uniquely designed by Him for a specific purpose and a greater plan that is part of His beautiful world.

Often my biggest motivator in recovery is that I want to be able to show my daughter beauty is more than how she looks.   Beauty is more than a certain (often unattainable) standard set forth by society. While I believe it is important to feel beautiful physically, it is also important to realize our beauty is so much more than our physical attributes.  Our beauty is in our character and our actions, not just our appearance.

So, what about you?  Which door would you choose?
Let me help you:
    CHOOSE BEAUTIFUL     

With Body Love,
Lane

Body Acceptance, Recovery

An Attitude of Gratitude

~~No one else looks like me and no one else gets to be me~~

This lovely phrase is one I posted a few weeks ago when I was really struggling to accept my body.  The phrase came to mind today because I am, again, struggling to accept my body and feel grateful for everything with which The Lord has blessed me.  So, tonight’s post is focusing on an attitude of gratitude.

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Lately my eating disorder has been fighting hard to come up for air and regain control of my thoughts and actions.  In an attempt to be as honest as possible I must admit I have allowed the eating disorder access to my happiness more than a few times in the last week.  However, thanks to the support of my wonderful husband, great friends, and a VERY dedicated dietician, I am more on track today than I’ve been in weeks.

When I am listening to my eating disorder I not only forget to appreciate my body but I forget to appreciate everything else in life too.  Once I let go of the appreciation for my body I begin to let go of appreciation for my family, my home, my faith, and everything in between.  Therefore beginning a downward spiral into isolation, self-loathing, and defeat.  Perhaps you have felt similarly when you are beating yourself up over your appearance or not doing something as “perfectly” as you would like.

The realization I was not channeling an attitude of gratitude hit me like a ton of bricks when I was looking at a photo of Princess Kate.  Of course the Duchess of Cambridge looked perfectly poised and stunning after just giving birth to her daughter and it began the cycle of negativity for me.  “You couldn’t look that good if you tried.  She doesn’t even look like she had a baby and you still look pregnant.”  At first I blindly accepted the eating disordered abuse and began to beat myself up over my post-baby body until I thought about how Princess Kate might feel.  I don’t know about other mothers out there, but after I had Vivienne all I wanted were my yoga pants, a sports bra, and a comfy (but still cute) shirt.  Perhaps that is all Princess Kate wants too but given her position she is expected to hold herself to a higher standard.  Thus, my first aspect of gratitude!  Thank goodness I can wear what I want without fear of being judged (internationally!) for my clothing choice.  If I want to wear yoga pants, I am going to wear yoga pants and no one can stop me.  No, my body doesn’t look like Princess Kate but I am also not Princess Kate.  I am Lane.  No one else looks like me and no one else gets to be me.   

My body is unique.  Everything from my body’s shape and size to the shade of blue in my eyes, is unique to me.  I am beautiful.  God made me beautiful, and you know what, He made you beautiful too. He didn’t make you beautiful like Princess Kate, Beyoncé, or anyone else; He made you beautiful like you.  Embrace it.  Acknowledge it.  Believe it.  But most of all, be grateful for it.  Our world would be pretty boring if we all looked exactly alike or even if we all just had the same color hair.  Diversity is what makes us beautiful.   I am grateful for my friends of all sizes and ethnicities because they color the world beautiful.

Once I began to feel gratitude for my body and my beauty, my mood brightened and I began to feel gratitude for many more things.  The day was wonderful, spent with my precious daughter and a good Army friend.  As much as I despise mowing the lawn and weeding the flower beds, I am grateful for the home God has provided.  Even listing my gratitude now, makes me smile to realize how truly blessed I am.  The gratitude is enough to gloss over the rough water I have had with my eating disorder and build a bridge toward a stronger recovery.

I leave you tonight with another phrase I often use:

Life is not 100 percent and neither is recovery; it is a process and it is not perfect

Even if you aren’t in recovery, this phrase might be worth remembering when you aren’t feeling particularly grateful for where you are in life or how you think you look.  I challenge you to remember life isn’t perfect but it is a beautiful process.  Grab the attitude of gratitude and focus on the many blessings around you to build your own bridge over rough waters.

With Body Love,
Lane