Health{ish} – Body Image And Me

you can't see what I see

Photo credit: just_a_name_thingie / Foter / CC BY-ND

Because so much of my life at this moment is focused on fitness, health and wellness, I have oceans of things I want to share with y’all on those topics.  Before diving into the murky depths, I thought I should lay a little groundwork on my relationship to food, diet, exercise and body image so you know where I’m coming from with all of it.

I was a skinny kid.  Like rail-thin.  And tall.  At age 8 my mother, sister and I moved to California to join a cult.  Kind of a hippie-ish thing with an oppressive(non-Satanic) religion attached to it.  That is a whole slew of other stories.  The connection for the purposes of this post is food.  Their food was awful.  Like truly awful.  It was vegetarian before vegetarians had so many options.  And as my mom was on staff and we lived in their housing, it was also large quantity cafeteria style.  It was a monumental shift from the typical Mid-west American diet I had eaten my entire life to that point.  I subsisted off apples and bread for my first year there.  Probably a little cheese once in while.  So I got even skinnier.  And then I went back to typical Mid-west American eating in the summers we spent with our dad and I plumped up like a fatted calf.

Food became many things other than sustenance.  It became rebellion, control, comfort, reward.  One year after my summer plumping I overheard a friend whisper to another girl, “She’s fat.”  That was my first experience with shame regarding the way I look.  It wasn’t my last.

My starve during the school year and then binge in the summer pattern paved the way for disordered eating.  I started purging at age 12 and then binge eating and purging shortly thereafter.  At age 16 I was hospitalized for depression and family issues and I learned the fine art of deprivation, aka starving.

I cycled through anorexia, bulimia and binge eating for most of my adult life.  When I was 26, I went to rehab for the not in anyway related substance addictions I had added to my resume.  When the gunk was out of my system, I coped by starving myself once more.  It was a familiar comfort and one of the only things I was able to control at the time.  Luckily, my rehab was stellar(Rimrock Foundation in the house).  They quickly recognized my exchange of addiction and put me in the dreaded food group.  They made us eat everything we were served, even meat although I had been a vegetarian prior to my stay.  And I’ve been one ever since.  I also left the treatment center at 225 pounds, the heaviest I had ever been.

My weight fluctuated with my period, the season and most of all, my depressive episodes.  I have what’s been called atypical depression which means that I sleep like a hibernating bear and I eat like I’m preparing for that famine.  There were times I did great and times I did not.  Even when I was doing great, I was not a particularly healthy eater.  I eschewed fruits and vegetables, preferring instead carbs and empty sugars.

Weight Watchers changed the fundamentals of how I fed myself.  It showed me that if you load your food up with veggies, you get more.  More = bueno.  I learned how to season food so it was tasty and flavorful and found a repertoire that worked for me.  I also found that if I always fit a treat into my daily points, I was satisfied with saving the big caloric splurges for rare occasions and to eat only the things that I really wanted instead of eating to fill a hole or because it was there.

My first experience with  WW was a weekly meeting that was held during lunchtime at my place of work.  It worked for me because it was easy to attend and I had friends to go with me.  It started out as this awesome structure of support and encouragement.  I thrive in a setting of structured freedom and I lost weight every week.  My friends lost weight in the beginning and then fell off the wagon one by one.  The encouragement and support lessened and turned to indifference and attempts at sabotage.  I wasn’t derailed by those attempts(certainly unconscious and not malicious) and ended up losing 35 pounds and reaching my goal weight.

I lived Weight Watcher lifestyle, with a few temporary deviations, for the past 14 years to a pretty decent measure of success. Currently I am struggling with the in portion of this calories in, calories out thing life has thrown at us. That switch has not yet flipped back for me.  But I feel it coming, in part due to the out portion.

I’ve never been more than an occasional exerciser until 2007 when my girls and I started hitting the gym together.  The gym and I were on again, off again ever since.  Now I like to walk.  Preferably outside.  Which is kind of rough this time of year when you live in Oregon.  But I have a posse who likes to be physical and inspires me to stick to my game even when I’d rather be under the covers with a good book.  I’m loving the camaraderie, the feeling of pushing myself, of meeting my goals and doing it with my favorite peeps.  I also love the natural pain management of my sciatica.  Moving is the ONLY thing that works for me since my awesome chiro helped me heal from the last excruciating flare.

On the whole, I feel that I’m in a fairly decent place with food, fitness and my body image.  It’s certainly better than it ever has been.  Is it because I’m older and wiser?  Older and suffering from memory loss and forgot those former issues?  Because I’m just sick to death of the struggle after forty-almost-five years?

I believe the main factors for me are:

  1. Having a tribe that supports me in my journey, who encourages me when I’m lacking motivation and sets me straight when my vision starts to distort.
  2. Witnessing the self-love movement and the positive sisterhood trend.  This come on people now, smile on your sister attitude has me positively giddy at the prospect of our daughters not feeling like they have to wear a t-shirt over their swimmies in the pool.  Of respecting and loving their temples so much that they put thoughtful consideration of where and when and why, of what substances or sustenance they consume and of who they deem worthy of entry.  Of joining their own sisterhood of acceptance, support and inspiration.
  3. Being of an age, and having slogged through the trenches for many a year, where I realize I don’t know it all, there isn’t only one correct path and getting anywhere of value takes work and someone to watch your back on the road.

 

This is where I am now:

Age:                       45 in November(wish list on Amazon and etsy.com, y’all)

Height:                  5′ 10″

Current weight:   181.2

Goal weight:         170

Diagnoses:            Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent

   Dysthymia

   Eating Disorder NOS, in remission

   Cocaine Addiction, in remission

   Alcohol Addiction, In remission

   Sciatica

Food sitch:            Working toward WW or 80/20 lifestyle

   Increasing veggies, fruits and whole grains

   Mindful eating

   No food is forbidden

   Eating only what I truly want

   Finding satisfying substitutes for unhealthy choices

Body image:          General acceptance

   My body is strong and healthy

   My body is not hideous

   My body type is not going to change and that’s ok

   My arms are my least favorite body part

   My legs are my most favorite body part

   My butt is the hus’ favorite of my body parts

Fitness goals:        Manage sciatica

   Show my kid by example that being active is awesome, fun and important

   Make and work toward small goals

   Walk a 10K in under 2 hours

   Move my butt(and other parts) at least thrice weekly

   Walk outside as often as weather permits

   Piyo thrice weekly for flexibility and awesomeness

   Gain strength and stamina to keep up with my whirling dervish kid

   Have fun and spend time being active with my homies

   Look better in my clothes

   Lose 11.2 pounds

   Follow the 80/20 plan with all these goals

I would love to hear your feelings/successes/struggles with food, fitness and body image.  We’re all together in this, lovelies.  Where are you at in your journey?

joules

I’m a 44 something Scorpio who does not at all enjoy getting caught in the rain. I’m a mom to one whirling dervish, a former child and family therapist and reformed social worker. I have fought the monsters called Depression and Addiction for a lifetime. I want to be a part of the kindness movement. I want to be honest and real, sharing my struggles and successes on my path with others navigating their own. I want to lift up other women and be uplifted by them. I want to honor the bits between right and wrong, black and white – the grays, the ish. The place where life is actually lived.

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joules

67 Posts | Member since 2012-08-17
I’m a 44 something Scorpio who does not at all enjoy getting caught in the rain. I’m a mom to one whirling dervish, a former child and family therapist and reformed social worker. I have fought the monsters called Depression and Addiction for a lifetime. I want to be a part of the kindness movement. I want to be honest and real, sharing my struggles and successes on my path with others navigating their own. I want to lift up other women and be uplifted by them. I want to honor the bits between right and wrong, black and white – the grays, the ish. The place where life is actually lived.

  5 comments for “Health{ish} – Body Image And Me

  1. Tia
    October 20, 2014 at 10:29 am

    I was also rail thin as a teen. And tall. I look back on photos and I was all legs. Though I’ve never struggled with an eating disorder, I’ve battled my body image for as long as I can remember. When I was skinny, I was teased for not having a butt, or any other curves. Then I had babies and I had those curves, and then some. And now I’m shamed for being overweight. I’ve struggled with this weight since I had my first baby nearly 14 years ago. The medicines I’m on now make weight loss hard, but not impossible. Exercise is limited by my doctors. But Dawnie and Teala started encouraging me, and we tagged each other in Project Wellness on the tweeter machine and I lost right around 50 lbs this year. I’m still not where I’d like to be, but I’ve maintained that loss even through 3 rounds of the dreaded Prednisone, so I call that a win.
    In my house we’ve worked on portion control, and eating slower so we can recognize when our bodies are full. We’ve cut out a lot of soda, down to one here and there, instead of a minimum of 2 a day. We’re taking our vitamins and we walk our doggy 3-5 times a day. And on days where I have the spoons, I bust out some yoga stretches or pop in the spoonie pilates disc Dawnie gave me.
    Am I perfect? Nope. But for the first time in forever, I realize that I don’t want to be perfect. And people love me just like I am. So I’ll just keep working on being as healthy as I can be, for me.
    Kudos to you, my love, for putting yourself out there and owning this ish, and inspiring us all to be a bit healthier, however that may be <3
    Tia recently posted…Ask Away Friday Vol. 14My Profile

    • October 20, 2014 at 10:25 pm

      That is a major win! Nice work!
      I love all the ways you fit fitness in, even when you’re feeling less than great.
      And you are so right, you are loved just like you are.

  2. Natasha
    October 20, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Beautifully written! I wish I could meet the teenage me and tell her it was all gonna be OK, that I shouldn’t be embarrassed about my body. I was painfully thin with no chest in middle and high school, and no one told me that this was actually a beautiful thing! In the late ’80s it seemed like you had to have breasts. So there was very little acceptance of my body type.

    Then I gained a lot of weight in college. Having been raised in a cult too, I practically inhaled all the “normal” food when I matriculated. It was like I gained the freshman 30. Then I developed an eating disorder. By senior year, I was bingeing and purging. My purging was laxatives and exercise. It took me years to have a comfortable relationship with food again, if I had ever had one. I think all the women in my family have/had some sort of eating disorder/obsession with eating.

    Now I definitely eat more intuitively than I ever have. I fill my day up with whole grains, veggies, some meat and lots of fruit. And I allow myself to indulge a little once in a while. And I always eat fruit on an empty stomach. It’s a technique I read in the book “Fit for Life” and it totally makes sense. The idea is that it take protein and carbs several hours to digest, while fruit it only takes an hour. If you dump fruit on top of a heavy meal, it just goes bad in your digestive tract. But if you eat fruit alone one hour BEFORE meal, you get the benefit of all its vitamins and nutrients. I swear by it. I eat fruit with a little water either an hour before breakfast, lunch, or dinner. My body shape actually changed when I started doing this one simple thing.

    Also, unlike during and after college, I have the ability to tell when I’m full, and the ability to stop eating when I am full. I used to not be able to stop.

    Thanks for your post! We women need to know we’re not alone when it comes to food and body image. 🙂

    • October 21, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      I so agree! If only we cold tell our younger selves to love that amazing body that we’ll look back on later as a beautiful thing. If only we could impress upon young girls those same feelings.

      It’s awesome that you were able to work through your relationship with food and come to a comfortable place with it. I never thought about the fruit thing, but it does make sense. My son eats a TON of fruit. I need to think about a plan for that.

      Thanks for sharing! It does really help me to know that other people out there struggle with similar issues and I’m not some crazy mutant freak. Especially from a fellow cult survivor. We’re all in this together!

  3. October 25, 2014 at 6:24 am

    I was also rail thin so when that changed it was hard. However I was always in a friendly relationship with food. I was all I love to eat, I don’t believe in diets and you better give me a man sized portion. It was part of my identity. Now that relationship is being rocked by a fat intolerance that means my diet is very restricted almost against my will. I’m ill all the time due to lack of fat \ protein I think. I’ve lost weight which was fun at
    first but now I’m struggling to balance my diet so I’m healthy. I’m juicing which helps but not cleansing. I don’t get enough as it is. I’m trying to increase good fats but have to be careful. Its annoying but I can kind of see that this illness is my own doing and I need to bring it all into balance. Okay ramble over x

    you rock by the way. The things you’ve overcome? Its inspiring x
    Sian recently posted…Sometimes it’s good to wait a bit…My Profile

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