The Voices In My Head

1995This one’s for the ladies whose bodies make them feel ashamed. You have every ounce of my support. You are not alone.

Ok. Deep breath. Here goes:

Why do we only remember the destructive things people say to and about us?

I’m sure the compliments we all hear outnumber the derisions 10,000:1. But do we hold on to those compliments? Do those kind words become the voices in our heads? Nooooooo.

It’s the mean boy on the playground who said he wouldn’t play on the seesaw with you because you were too fat.

It’s the high school jocks you overheard saying ‘she’d be hot if she didn’t have such a fat ass’. (Remember the pre-JLo, pre-Beyoncé 90’s? When having a fat ass was a bad thing?)

I have instant sensory recall of the pain I felt when a girl in my 7th grade class laughed at the way I had to adjust my shorts because my thighs touched and it made my shorts ride up.

I never wore shorts again. True story.

I grew up in an incredibly loving family, surrounded by supportive voices. Only one voice consistently said I was fat.

Guess which voice became my inner monologue?

She was an older family member, and she was obsessive about appearances. Especially weight.

I just didn’t measure up.

She told me regularly that she wished I wasn’t so heavy. She said it was embarrassing to introduce me to her friends. She said if I wouldn’t slouch then maybe I wouldn’t look QUITE so big.

See the picture above? That’s who she was shaming into feeling obese beyond all measure. Wasn’t I just the heaviest teenager you’ve ever seen? *sigh* SMH.

As an adult, I understand that she was just a product of another generation. I’m sure she thought she was helping. Perhaps she was trying to protect me from the judgments of the outside world with a little tough love from the inner circle.

Unfortunately, what she ended up doing was teaching me to feel ashamed of myself from a very early age.

I got that part down pat.

Her voice became the voice in my head. I heard her voice every time I looked in the mirror, every time I cried in a fitting room.

That voice didn’t motivate me to make healthy choices. It drove me into shame. It played on in my head for years after the woman in question had backed off.

Do you have these kinds of voices in your head? Aren’t they the WORST?

The malignant voices in our heads can be so strong, and shame and self-loathing can be so crippling. Unfortunately, they’re rarely motivational. Or, they motivate us into dangerously unhealthy behaviors.

Crash diets.

Dangerous work-outs.

Eating disorders.

Eff-It-All obesity.

Danger. Danger. Danger.

I recently watched a TED Talk by a man who was on the plane that went down in the Hudson River. He shared what he thought about when he was convinced he was about to die. His life priorities snapped into hyper-focus.

His inner voice showed it’s truest, demon-free self.

I would encourage anyone whose inner voices have driven them into the darkness to consider: What would you think about as your plane was going down? I bet it wouldn’t be your body issues or the nasty voices in your head. I bet it would be something much stronger and truer.

I would think of my how badly I want to watch my kids grow up, about the decades I want to spend beside my husband.

I keep the fight against my greatest fears and towards my greatest desires in my mind every. single. day.

What can I do to prevent the worst from happening? I will do whatever it takes. Even when it hurts. Because living unhealthy lives puts us on those planes. They’re just going down slowly.

Wanna get off the plane?

Give it some thought. If you can find something with a power that dwarfs the demons in your head, you’ll have found the power to do anything.

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Happy Exhaustion Considers Running

In high school, my least favorite day of any year was the day my gym class administered the National Fitness Test.

My least favorite part of my least favorite day was Running The Mile.

Every year, I came in dead last (or tied for dead last, if someone else in class was similarly athletically challenged) with a rockin’ time of around 16 minutes.

I never ran.

I never even jogged.

If my gym teacher was extra lucky, I might consider a power walk.

I acted like I was walking because I thought I was too damn cool to play your stupid gym class game. Who’s got my smokes?

Really, it was the most publicly humiliating day of my year.

I knew if I tried, I’d fail. I decided it was better to never try in the first place.

I’ve avoided running ever since.

Until now.

After two rounds of Insanity, I’m looking for new ways to get a good full-body workout.

(I tried P90X and took a pass. More on that another day.)

Luckily, I live close to a park with a mile track.

I used to walk this track with my mom when I first decided to get healthy. I got winded just walking a mile back then.

That was almost a year ago.

Since then, I’ve gained confidence in my own strength. So, I decided to go back and see. Am I capable of running?

Like… at all?

I girded my loins, charged up my iPod, and headed to the park.

When I hit the track, I began to run.

I didn’t so much as slow down for the whole first mile!

Once again, I got to experience my new favorite feeling: Accomplishing something I’ve spent a lifetime thinking I’d never be able to do!

Since then, I’ve gone for a few 4 mile runs.

Well… ‘runs’ may be a little generous.

I run the first mile, jog the second and third, and alternate walking, slow jogging, and cursing for the fourth.

I wouldn’t blame REAL runners if they laugh on the inside when they see me. There’s a good chance that I flail like I’m having a seizure.

But, for me, running is an excellent exercise in getting over silly vanity.

This is what I look like after a run (or any good workout):

Vanity Schmanity

See how my face turns an astonishing shade of fuchsia? See how my face matches my fluorescent pink camera and bra? That’s a lifelong thing. It’s in my genetic code. There’s nothing I can do about it.

My self-consciousness over that rockin’ red face is an excuse I’ve used to avoid working out in public in the past. Luckily, my compulsion to be healthy has finally kicked the ass of such silliness.

While grappling with my painfully negative self-image at 243 lbs, I even felt self-conscious about people seeing me out walking.

I imagined everyone looking at my plus-sized frame and judging me as a slob.

What I only realized after putting in all the hard work is this: The fit runners I thought were judging me? They’re only fit because they’re there doing the hard work.

I always assumed it came naturally to everyone but me. But maybe… just maybe… they’re fighting for their own health as hard as I am.

People lapping me at the track may be thinking the same thing I (now) think when I see a particularly heavy woman at the track:

YOU GO, GIRL!!!!!!!!!! DO IT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There is no more difficult stage in the journey towards fitness than the beginning.

If you’re terribly out of shape and at the track, I know I’m witnessing someone deciding to make an awesome change.

You’re just starting out. You’ve decided to do the hard work.

I want to bust out some pompoms and cheer you on!

I want to pull out my before & after pictures and tell you I KNOW you can do it, too.

Of course, I don’t do any of these things. I don’t want to be committed.

But, it’s a good life lesson: The person you assume is judging you just might be silently cheering you on.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find my gym teacher’s email address.

Sometimes, Being A Bit Of A Hoarder Pays Off

Last night, my husband unearthed a very old bin of clothing.

Upon inspection, I realized: It’s my pre-obesity wardrobe!

It was like shopping without the spending!

I’m about 4 dress sizes smaller now than I was when I put my ‘skinny clothes’ in storage, but they fit a heck of a lot better than most of the clothes I’ve been swimming in these days!

Holding on to decades of hoarded clothes (Honestly. Decades. I’m pretty sure I still have my old prom dresses around here somewhere…) can pay off when it ends up saving you money.

But there’s another fun benefit to years of hoarded clothes in assorted shapes and sizes.

Observe:

Image

If that’s not a feel-good situation, then I just don’t know what.

Yes. Those are my old pants.

Now that I’ve gotten a good giggle out of fitting both legs into one of my size 22 pant legs, I think it’s time to load up all the ‘big girl’ clothes up and get rid of them. Don’t you?

I certainly don’t need to provide myself a safety net in case of failure. Failure is not an option.

No toxic thinking allowed here at Happy Exhaustion! Only onwards and upwards!

Heads up, Purple Heart! You’re about to get a large donation of plus-sized fashion.

I won’t be needing it anymore.

Fessing Up

Christmas Yummies

Ok… Confession time.

After reaching my goal of losing 100 lbs, I decided I was done with the weight loss portion of my fitness odyssey. I’m 5’8″, size 4. I don’t want to get any thinner than that. I know that’s downright un-American, but I grew up idolizing women shaped like Marilyn Monroe and 1940’s pin-up girls. I don’t want to be a size zero. I want to keep my curves.

So, I began to ease out of my calorie deficit. I added a little extra peanut butter here, a little cheese there.

Much to my surprise (after battling for every single pound lost along the way) I kept losing weight! I lost 4 pounds over two weeks – pounds I never intended to lose! I even began drafting a blog post titled “Stop the ride! I wanna get off!”

This turned out to be a very dangerous situation.

I figured I could eat and drink significantly more than I originally thought.

Woohoo! Hooray! Oh, how I’ve missed the deliciousness.

Around the same time, I came down with a nasty case of bronchitis. I had to give the workouts a rest due to a pesky inability to breathe.

I was secretly thrilled.

I’m always willing to do the hard work, but I do adore a good excuse to put the hard work aside.

To top it all off, it’s the holiday season. I hosted a cookie exchange, for goodness sake! I stocked the bar (mint chocolate martinis, anyone?) and served mountains of sugary treats. I attended lots of holiday parties.

I nibbled and I sipped. A lot.

No problem, I told myself. It’s ok to add extra calories because I’m trying to stop losing weight! In fact, I wouldn’t even mind gaining those 4 lbs back.

I’m sure you can figure out where this is going.

In the last 10 days of December, I gained SEVEN POUNDS! In 10 days!!

Cue a long string of very unladylike expletives.

I had a minor panic attack. What if this was just the bottom of the yo-yo?? What if I’ve thrown all of my hard work away and now it’s destined to all come back?!

I HAVE FAILED! WAAAAAAAAAH!!

But, after completing a few breathing exercises, I remembered: I know how to manage my weight. I am a member of Team Fitness. I just have to get off the bench and back on the field.

I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and went to the doctor to get meds for my bronchitis. Back to working out every day.

It was also a good reminder: The ability to consume more than 1500 calories per day doesn’t mean I can stop paying close attention to intake.

I had to step away from the cocktails. Ten days of holiday parties had reminded me of my affection for gin & tonics… and vodka martinis… and white wine.

I enjoy my cocktails as much as the next girl, but I enjoy my fitness more.

I must admit, I didn’t want to post this confessional until I was officially, solidly back on the wagon.

I put off coming back until I could share the good news that it’s ok to fall off the wagon a little bit (even if it makes you kick yourself. Repeatedly. Hard.) as long as you get back into the groove as soon as you possibly can.

I’ve already taken 2 of the 7 lbs back off, and I’m no longer terrified of the yo-yo. I know the formula. I have the knowledge and the power. I just have to keep applying it.

Don’t expect perfection from yourself, but take it from me: Fitness is a lifelong process. If you don’t commit to your own forever, the backslide will begin the moment you decide you’re done.

It’s not about a diet. It’s about a lifestyle change.

GOAL: A lifetime of healthy choices.

Your healthy lifestyle will probably go off the rails from time to time. It’s up to you to decide – Is it just a slip? How fast can you pick yourself back up?

Your goals are still ahead of you. Remind yourself of them and get back to work.

I did!