Born this way

As many of my friends may know, I’m a bit of a Lady Gaga fan. I was talking to a friend recently about how music hasn’t really “moved” me in the way it used to. I’m not sure if it’s a disconnect — a subconscious effort to not be affected emotionally, if it’s related to chronic depression, or something else entirely. I tend to listen to more upbeat/pop stuff that I don’t have to think too much about, or contemplate the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Lady Gaga’s music fits the bill pretty well. That’s not to say her music isn’t good – it’s just not heartachy in the way some of the music I used to listen to can be. (Ani DiFranco, Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos… to name a few)

Lady Gaga’s last album, “Born This Way” connected with me for a lot of reasons, especially the title track. It’s truly an anthem for being who we are and not letting society change us, tell us how to be, or feel badly about who we are. But while I like the music, I like Lady Gaga more as a person. I respect her strength, honesty, bravery and her humanitarian efforts to rally for equal rights by supporting all people in what they do, and encouraging who they want to be.

My last blog, titled “My Fat Life” was an effort to explain the experience of being fat for life – I literally was born this way. From a chunky baby, to an awkward toddler and even more awkward teenager, I have been overweight as long as I can remember. There are no skinny jeans in my closet – only less fat ones. So while I often joke about being “born this way” in regards to my weird/geeky/nerdy/awkward demeanor, I truly was born and raised a fat person. (see cheesy/awkward photo of me, age 10-ish? I also totally still have that shirt, for some reason…)

Jazz hands!?

Jazz hands!?

That being said, it’s hard to find the place in my life where I can let go of this weight I’ve been carrying, both physically and emotionally. It has quite literally been attached to me my entire life.

I think this is where I tend to trip up and fall. When I see the number on the scale going down, it’s a part of me that’s leaving. And while it’s a part I am generally happy to say sayonara to, I tend to start slipping up in my better eating/exercising habits. My only real connection is that I’m so attached to this weight that it’s painful to see it go. There is a lot of fear involved with becoming a new person. No matter how I look, somebody somewhere will ridicule me. I know a girl who had a lapband and now has people telling her she’s TOO skinny. You just can’t win, right?

I’m trying to look at life from the perspective of where I want to be, instead of where I have been. It is hard not to look at the past, but when I truly need guidance toward a better future, my own past is not the best place to look. While we want to remember our mistakes and avoid repeating them, we don’t need to linger on the things that made us feel like we were not good enough.

While I may have been “Born This Way” that doesn’t mean I can’t change it – I can’t change my personality (and why would I want to?) and I can’t change my face, my skin color, my heritage, my sexual orientation – but I can change the things that drag me down and make me feel weak and powerless. I can stand up for the me that was born to be brave, born to be happy, born to see the world and take in every moment. I CAN AND I WILL – I just have to keep reminding myself that anything is possible.

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Guilt, in my opinion, is one of the strongest emotions we can feel. It’s such an internal struggle, it’s not as obvious as other emotions. Not to others, of course, but also sometimes ourselves. It’s hard to recognize that we may be doing certain things, or even NOT doing certain things, because of guilt we have not dealt with. Or, have never known how to deal with.

Guilt is something that nobody can shoulder for us — we feel the full impact, and we choose how to deal with it. Suppress it, ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist. Change the circumstances that are creating the guilt. But what if the circumstances aren’t that easy to just change? What if the guilt is just part of who we are, and we can’t ever truly be rid of it?

I’ve heard the term “fat shaming” a lot recently, and it’s like somebody finally put a name to what I’ve been dealing with my whole life. You don’t think about the impact your comments make on a person’s life. I have been told my whole life to “grow a thick skin” or “just ignore it” — and it’s not that simple for me. We all feel things differently, and while studying psychology, sociology and the like will give you some insight to social patterns, you can’t ever truly say you understand a person that is not yourself. We are uniquely “us” — and the things people say to and about me become part of the reality of “me”.

If I feel guilty for being fat, how do I deal with that? And how do I deal with other people purposely making me feel guilty about it? For some, it’s a motivation to change. At the same time, another person will rise against that and vow NOT to change, to stand up for who they are and their freedom to be who they are. What about the guy in the middle? The conflict is about us, but it should not define us. So why do I let these things define me?

The cycle of guilt flows into all parts of life, and the more you think about it, the deeper it goes. I feel guilty for having too much sugar, or for enjoying *anything* I buy for myself when our income is nil and void. I feel guilty for making plans, and breaking them. I feel guilty for not visiting my mother more, or connecting with other family. I feel guilty for downloading movies and missed TV shows. I feel guilty for cheating on my diet.

What makes me feel all of this guilt, and how do I deal with it? Well, that’s part of what writing accomplishes for me. I get my thoughts out on paper (or screen?), and whether I hit “publish” or not, the things I’ve written have spoken to me. I guess you could say that I like talking to myself. But seriously, if I realize most of that guilt is due to what I fear others will think of me, I begin to realize that the guilt weighing me down is not my fault. It’s not your fault, or any person in particular — it’s a culmination of social cues, life events, bullies and just generally inconsiderate people.

Guilt can also be good, because it keeps us in check. Since I do feel guilt when I eat poorly, that guilt reminds me the next time I reach for something I shouldn’t have. The guilt is there telling me not to make the same mistake again. The guilt can drive you to make better choices. But how do you keep a balance between the good guilt and the bad guilt? How do I learn that bettering myself doesn’t have to be the result of guilt, but just an effort to feel and look better for ME?

Since guilt is a common human experience, a lot of studies have been done that show guilt is something many of us physically embody — the guilt becomes a part of us. While we think of the”weight of guilt” as just a metaphor, it often manifests itself as actual, physical weight. As a child, I was ridiculed for my weight. Guilt started at an early age — from there, it snowballed. Because I didn’t even understand the concept of guilt, it was internalized. All of the things people said about me, became part of my psyche, and part of who I am today. The guilt of not being “good enough” has followed me. The guilt of not being pretty, or skinny, or funny. I mostly dealt with this as a child by being smarter. If I could learn more, and ace more tests, and be better at something than my peers, it relieved some of the guilt I was carrying. It lifted my spirits to be praised for being a good student, but then again, when you’re “teacher’s pet” that opens an entirely new pandora’s box of guilt and self-loathing.

I am in a place in my life where “being better than everybody at any one thing” is not as possible as it seemed when I was a kid. As a kid, all you really have to do to achieve a goal is want it — you don’t think too much, you don’t question it, you just do what you need to do. As an adult, I feel all the questions, social conditioning, media, what I want, what my family wants, what my peers want… and what if all those wants and needs and demands on us are just too overwhelming?

It helps to understand that we can never please everybody all of the time. As my Dad used to say, if somebody was selling dollars for dimes, somebody would complain. It’s just impossible to be perfect, because even if you had every quality that every person considered “perfect”, those perfections may be defects from a different person’s perspective. Another problem with perfection? Guilt. If there was a perfect person, they would be envied. They would be made to feel “too perfect” and scrutinized until they changed themselves in some way. It is impossible to be perfect, because everybody’s idea of perfect differs.

I guess I am what some people refer to as a “people pleaser” — I try to make people happy, because I want them to like me. My weight has taught me that I have to compensate for my lack of physical appeal by being kind, and by doing things to make other people happy. Some people have another term for this — door mat. I have definitely had my share of muddy feet brushed clean against my bristles.

My journey is not just about weight loss, and not just about physical health. This whole process is an analysis of who I am, who I have been, and who I wish to become. With the way I’ve been eating lately, I am stuck in a loop of guilt that is pulling me off course from my visions and goals. When you make one mistake, the next one is a lot easier to make. Pretty soon, you’re making nothing BUT mistakes, and the pattern continues.

I wish to break this pattern of guilt. I wish to free myself, to make it OK if I mess up, as long as I re-focus, and don’t lose sight of my goals. If I can’t be perfect, at least I can be smart. So it’s time to use my brain — this is my best defense in a world where a person’s body is judged by its size, shape, gender or color. I refuse to let that kind of thinking, imagery, fat shaming, guilt, bull$#!, hatred, or disgust get in my way. I am smart, I am resourceful, and I am not weak.

You know what the most sexy part about any woman is? Two parts — her heart, and her mind. I’ve been fighting the war with the wrong weapons. I have all the arsenal I need right here.


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Constant cravings

One of the hardest things to deal with in regards to food is emotional eating. For the past 2 weeks, the hubby and I have been on a “diet” — basically, eating select foods from a list in my PCOS Workbook (which is a great guide for anybody with PCOS or just insulin resistance in general — with regards to diet, exercise and supplements). We have been doing a pretty good job of sticking to the meal plans, but then Valentine’s day rolled around and we fell off the proverbial wagon.

I’m writing here today to remind myself that falling off the wagon does NOT mean that I’m not allowed back on. The wagon did not forcefully eject me, and has not banned me from hopping back on. Just like riding a bike (or a horse) — just get back on and try again. The problem I’ve noticed with getting back on the wagon, are the cravings that come along with what you choose to eat during the moment(s) of weakness. In this case, we have a yearly tradition of getting the heart-shaped ice cream cake from coldstone. It is extremely divine, and worth every damn penny. But once it was gone, I found myself craving sugar from any source I could find it. I tried to sub in some sugar free candies, which just mess up my digestive system. So, after a weekend of falling, and being steamrolled by the wagon, I am now firmly planted back in my assigned spot.

This article about food cravings really helps to explain that a craving is not necessarily a lack of willpower, or some kind of personal flaw/weakness. Cravings are generally tied to health issues like hormonal imbalances. In my case, I know this to be true. PCOS has a hold on my hormones and is wreaking havoc on my whole system, including these cravings.

I noticed during the 2 weeks of the diet, not only did we both lose weight (I lost about 5-7 pounds while the hubby lost about 10), but I was also not having a substantial amount of cravings. I was eating enough to feel full, and when I did have a craving, I would have a piece of fruit, a fiber bar, or some trail mix. I didn’t need to go buy a big bag of chocolate to tide me over. It was easier to stay away from it once it was gone.

So, Valentine’s Day… somehow turned into an entire 4-day weekend of bad decisions. While I do feel having a “cheat day” once in awhile is a good reward system, obviously and entire long weekend of poor eating habits can hamper any progress you’ve made.

Today I am here, on the wagon, hoping to see all of you with welcoming arms and hearts. I know my mistakes, I own them, but I’m going to walk away from this a little wiser to what “cheating” really means. It’s a chain reaction. If I can learn to stop after one cheat-treat, I would be fine. In the future, I need to find cheats that are somewhat healthier and trick my system into believing nothing has changed. I don’t want to be emotionally tied to sugar my entire life, but the last two weeks have shown me that I don’t have to be. Eating better gradually makes those cravings fade away — I just need to not allow any ‘special occasion’ to come along and push me off course.

On another note — my average blood glucose level has dropped significantly as a result of our meal planning, and as this is my main goal right now, I still feel like I’m out ahead of this thing. I’ll never give up.

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