Size Happy

There’s an awesome new narrative brewing in the public square.

Female celebrities, recently body-shamed for *minor* weight gains have chosen to push back; to drop the veil at the intersection of body image & happiness.

“[My daughter] Willow said to me the other day whilst grabbing my belly — ‘mama-why r u so squishy?’ And I said..’b/cuz I’m happy baby,'” – Pink

Who also said “I am perfectly fine, perfectly happy, and my healthy, voluptuous and crazy strong body is having some much deserved time off.”

“I am not pregnant, I am just happy.” – Tia Mowry

Do those statements make the sonic boom in your head that they do in mine?

These are women in the business of Flawless Public Image. And look! They not only chose happiness over ‘Flawless’, they stood up and said so!

‘There is nothing wrong. I’m not pregnant. I have not Let Myself Go. I’m happy.’

Subtext: Don’t let the radiant red carpet smile fool you. Skinniest Me Is Unhappy.

As I learned when I first stepped away from my lowest Goal Weight and intentionally gained weight, a pin thin Goal Weight can be the enemy of happiness.

The struggle to reach my Goal Weight attacked my happiness every bit as much as my struggles with obesity.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for goal weights. They’re valuable tools in the fight for Healthy & Strong. Defeating obesity is always a good idea.

But I hope you’ll give your goals some room to breathe.

I often look at especially slender female celebrities and just want to hug them. Their bodies are under such heavy, loud, unyielding scrutiny. When they gain any weight at all, people notice. People comment. So, *generally speaking* they don’t let that happen. They fight every day to maintain a very narrow margin.

And that just hurts. That kind of pain needs a hug. It needs a break.

Tia Mowry and Pink probably knew they would hear about their sizes. But they chose happiness in their private lives over the pain of public opinion.

Their courage made them role models under a beautiful flag:

Assert your courage.

Share your truth.

Believe in the power of your light to pull others out of the darkness.

With that pep talk in the air, I will share these pictures of myself.

On the left, my ‘Goal Weight’ – the thinnest I have ever been.

On the right, pre-Happy Exhaustion days. I’m guessing probably around a size 12.

back

A different kind of Before & After

I fought hard for the size on the left. It’s what I thought I wanted, when I thought skinny meant happy. I was so wrong. I hope that picture doesn’t look like #Goals to you. I hope you see that it’s a picture of pain. My vice grip on skinny was strangling my happiness.

If you learn anything from my journey, I hope it will be this: No image is worth more than your happiness.

Care for your body. Care for your heart.

Run in the sunshine, and always aim for Size Happy.

 

Advertisements

Role Models Worth Having

This is admittedly a non-standard Happy Exhaustion post, but when I found myself down a magical rabbit hole of Jennifer Lawrence Body Positive statements, I had to share. I am grateful beyond measure for superstars who choose to raise this flag high: CHOOSE … Continue reading

Raising The Reinforcements

family fun run

My poor, innocent offspring. They don’t know they’re being studied.

My children are the pioneering subjects of an ever-so-slightly off-the-wall social experiment, courtesy of an adoring mother.

Like most kids, they’ve got A Mama On A Mission: I’m bound and determined to raise the happiest, healthiest, kindest, strongest, most brave, curious & well-adjusted kids this world has ever seen.

Sound familiar? If you’re a parent, you’re probably on the same quest.

In our house (thanks in no small part to the loving example set by my own parents), the major check-boxes take care of themselves: Tell them they’re special and important. Be there. Make sure they feel loved. Keep them as safe as any parent can. Etc, etc, etc.

But I also have a *minor* preoccupation with my children’s inner monologues.

In a perfect world, not only do people around them tell them they’re wonderful – they tell themselves they’re wonderful.

Enter: Operation Secret Cheerleaders.

Wanna play? Here are the rules:

Step 1: When in public, keep an eye out for people making strides towards personal wellness. Whether it’s the 80-something man slowly shuffling around the track, the heavyset girl grimacing and sweating bullets as she jogs, or the super-athlete busting out a marathon like it’s no big thing. Find them, and point them out.

Step 2: Cheer for them. Out loud.

“Go, girl! Go, dude! HEALTHY AND STRONG! WOOHOO! YAY, YOU!”

You might look, sound & feel like a psychopath.

Do it anyway.

A stranger running along the side of the road? A stranger biking to work? A whole team of strangers on a field practicing with a team?

Cheer out loud.

The idea is not for the strangers to actually hear it. (Though I hope they smile if they do!)

The idea is for the children to hear it. All the way down to the darkest corners of their young, developing minds.

The goal is the development of a world-view that conceptualizes strangers as potential cheerleaders, rather than potential Mean Girls.

I developed Operation Secret Cheerleaders as a Happy Exhaustion response to my own toxic, Pre-Happy Exhaustion inner monologue. That inner monologue had a few tracks in heavy rotation: Self Flagellation & I’m Not Good Enough.

I have a fully pathological habit of taking it for granted that you’re better at (insert just about anything here) than I am.

That habit reads judgment in the eyes of strangers, assuming they are silently, persistently tearing me down.

That assumption kept me on the couch. My insecurities about my physical condition held me back.

“I like the idea of running, but if I go running people will see me. People will judge me.

I had to actively create a mental space where I could allow myself to be a beginner.

I spent decades believing that I should never be a beginner in public. I never went out for sports, because I was sure that everyone else was a superstar and I would be the only unskilled player.

Now I know better. The true beginner is the truest rockstar!

I still have to bust my ass every day to maintain Happy Exhaustion, but the physical effort of today’s got NOTHING on the physical *and psychological* effort that was required to get going in the first place.

To turn it all around, I had to first conquer my fear of the judgment of others.

It was hard work. It was not fun times.

I do NOT want that for my little ones.

Operation Secret Cheerleaders is this mama’s attempt to throw up a few road blocks and detour signs. I will happily cheer for strangers like a maniac if there’s a chance I could steer my kids’ brains away from toxic assumptions.

Whether you have kids or not, I invite you to join Operation Secret Cheerleaders.

And the next time you’re prioritizing your health – out in the world, where strangers may gaze – I hope you will think of me and my super-sexy minivan, driving by with my kids, shrieking about how cool you are.

At the top of our lungs.

Soundtrack For My Daughter’s Brain

Fat shaming hurts no matter how old you are or what shape you’re in.

But when it starts early, it can be especially hard.

Kids should be running, climbing and skinning their knees.

They should not have to worry that cruel gazes may find those knees ‘a bit too chubby’.

I was recently devastated to hear about the tears of an elementary school student (the daughter of a dear friend) who had been called ‘fat’ by some bullies in her class.

The fat-shamed little girl I used to be (who lives inside me still) cried out in a visceral understanding of her pain.

My heartbreak for the superstar girl in question prompted me to finally do something I’ve been meaning to do for years – create a Playlist of Empowerment for my daughter and little girls everywhere.

If I could create a soundtrack to play on a loop through my daughter’s brain, these would be the tracks.

So, for my precious girl, for your daughters, and especially for the wonderful girl who inspired me – play these songs and remember that you are beautiful, inside and out.

 

Please feel free to leave any and all suggestions for additions to this soundtrack!

Accomplishing Goals While She’s Watching

I did it! I ran an official 5k race! I didn’t even have a stroke or anything!

See? That’s me beside an honest-to-goodness finish line!

IMG_1499

Why is this a picture of me coming around a finish line, rather than racing gloriously through it? That’s because I missed my goal by FOUR. EFFING. SECONDS. So, the look on my face was less Happy Exhaustion, more Homicidal Maniac. Not so blog-worthy. I prefer to share this “Phew! I finished alive!” face.

Proving to myself that I could accomplish another fitness goal was fantastic. But the best part of my entire day was when this happened:

IMG_1500

Standing beside the finish line, holding a sign and cheering me on stood my husband, my son, and my daughter. Accomplishing my fitness goals with my family watching is worth every less-than-fun hour spent struggling through endurance training.

One day about a decade ago, when my husband and I were still dating, we had to run to catch a bus. In the years that followed, he would joke – frequently – about the ONE time he had ever seen me run. Over the weekend, he cheered me on and snapped pictures, encouraging the kids to hold the sign up nice and high as I crossed an honest-to-goodness finish line. I loved that.

I loved having my little boy there, too. But he’s a bit too little to understand much more than that he was having a fun day.

The real highlight of the day was the presence of my daughter. She was so proud of me. In kindergarten the next day, she made this:

IMG_1507

“On Sunday I got to see my mommy run in a real race and I helped my daddy make a sign to hold up and we cheered while we held the sign up. It was the best race ever. I loved watching my mommy.”

That – in an adorable little nutshell – is what this journey of mine is all about.

It’s not about skinny, it’s about fit. It’s not about a bikini body, it’s about a body that can keep up with her and the children she’ll have one day.

My daughter no longer sees a mommy on the couch. She has a mommy who runs in a real race.

I’ll drink (er, sweat) to that.

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.

Dieting In Front Of My Daughter

116_5254175593_6131_n

My daughter is probably my greatest motivation to live a healthy life.

She looks just like me, and she wants to do everything just like Mommy does. Paying attention to this fact helps to get me going when I’d really rather skip my workout for a day.

I don’t want her to follow in my footsteps of avoiding exercise like the plague until adulthood.

I want her to have the confidence of strength.

My greatest hope is that she finds a sport (or seven) that she loves, and a peer group that loves to play those sports with her.

God, I hope she’s more coordinated than her mother. That would really help.

I want to run and jump and play with her. I want strong, fit, healthy womanhood to be a foregone conclusion in her world. I want to lead by example.

In a perfect world, I would shield her from all the voices telling her that her body’s not good enough.

I grew up with an older woman in my family telling me I was embarrassingly heavy. Her voice echoed through the years as I developed paralyzing shame and disastrously low self-esteem. I know the harm that a cruel voice can do.

So, I do my best to build my little girl up and to keep the cancer of female body issues away.

To that end, I took off 100 lbs without ever breathing a word of ‘diet’ to my children. I don’t want them to know that one’s size can cause them pain. Every day they get to live innocent of those issues is precious to me.

It wasn’t easy, because my girl is as smart as they come. She notices that Mommy doesn’t have dessert when the rest of the family has dessert. She notices my cheat days. “Mommy only eats sugary things on special days like birthdays.”

I don’t tell her I fantasize about swimming in a vat of Ben & Jerry’s for the rest of my days.

Instead, I tell her too much sugar doesn’t make my body feel as good as I like, so I don’t eat too much of it. That’s enough for her. She still gets to have dessert, so she’s happy.

She doesn’t always make it easy, though.

One day she came into my room when I was clearing the plus-sized clothes out of my closet. She wanted to know what I was doing. I told her some of my clothes were too big for me, so I was getting rid of them. She suggested I put them on a shelf for when I got bigger, like we do with the clothes that are too big for her.

I had to bite my tongue HARD. Must not tell her I’d rather set a match to them.

When she saw my first set of Before & After pictures, she looked back and forth between the ‘before’ picture and me. She was puzzled. It took me a year to lose all the weight, and of course it came slowly. A year is a lifetime to her, and the lady on the left doesn’t really look so much like her mommy anymore. Then, I saw a light bulb go on over her head.

“Oh!” she said. “That’s when you had a baby in your tummy, huh, Mommy?”

I just smiled. “Something like that, sweetie.”