Wednesday, August 17, 2016

When Will You Be Enough?

I had other thoughts for what to start blogging about after my previous series, but I feel like I need to put this one out there first. Part of the reason for that is that someone posted a reply to one of my blog links on Facebook that she's a 73-year-old woman and still struggles with body image issues. And when I was visiting with my mom last week, she had a bunch of books out about learning to love herself and she's over 80 (don't tell her I said that publicly ;)).

And that breaks my heart.

I also know from personal experience that, even when I was thinner, I still had a lot of self deprecating thoughts and low self esteem. Yes, part of it was due to me rebuilding myself following the end of my marriage. But a lot of it was "other stuff".

I happened to read something interesting at the time that made me burst into tears: it was an article that essentially was asking when will you feel like you're enough? I'm quite paraphrasing here but it asked things like: You have a good career, you have a good life, you have all this goodness in your life, yet you still feel like sh!t? WTF? That obviously resonated with me at the time... and then I forgot about it.

It's so easy to forget. But I do think that I forgot about that because there now was a piece missing: my slender body. But to the point of my last entry, the size and shape of my body is such a small part of my life, why am I letting it overshadow everything else?

I think that it is extremely difficult oftentimes to admit that you are as awesome as you actually are. It feels first off like it shouldn't be said at all. And if you muster the will to say it, you feel like you're a fraud and/or that you're arrogant for doing so. You're neither. It's okay to say it and think it. And the more you say it, the more you'll believe it. Because you are. Lots of people think so. How come people believe in yourself more than you do?

Another concept of "when" is time. If you think that you'll reach some age when you'll have self confidence and will feel uber good about yourself, based on the above 2 examples (granted, it's a small sample size), there is no magical age when that happens. And, because of that, you might as well start working on loving yourself like right now.

And do ponder on what would it take for you to feel like you're good enough? What more do you need to achieve or be or whatnot? And is that really something that is needed or regrets? And are you using these as an excuse not to acknowledge how pretty darn awesome you already are?

Friday, August 5, 2016

Learn to make peace with your body - Epiphanies

Of course, the rebellion that I referred to in the last entry, while a good thing, did not instantly wipe my body image issues. I had gained some weight and continued to gain a little bit more as the (eating) pendulum was now swinging the other way.

Feeling the clothes get tighter around my body wasn't a good feeling. And it's easier to hide things with clothes but, while you can still use some smoke and mirrors to help, putting on a belly dance costume makes it harder to hide things, especially around the mid-section. And, well, when I'm in belly dance class, practice wear isn't as apt to play smoke and mirrors so it was fairly in my face.

Not only were body image issues coming back but so did negative thoughts around weight gain and feeling like I was a failure, I let myself down, and insert whatever you can think of that your negative backtalk throws at you.

One thing that I was not expecting at all, though, was a deep sense of familiarity: I had spent a number of years in some version of this more voluptuous body... for much longer than my slender version, actually... so I knew how to dress this body, how to wear things that were flattering. And when it comes to belly dance, I found that it was easier to work this tool than the slender version, especially as I was working back on my dance skills.

A difference, though, is that, since I didn't want to outright buy a new wardrobe, I'm wearing clothes that are more tight fitting than I'm used to... and I find that I'm generally okay with it. My partner still finds me beautiful and sexy and actually encourages me not to hide my body under bigger clothes but celebrate my shapes and curves.

But, still, it was hard to see certain bulges that I had hoped to God I'd never see again.

Fatefully, we went to see Strip Strip Hooray in April. I had blogged about that on the makeup blog so I won't rehash here (you can read the post here) but I will say that I re-introduced makeup to my routine. One thing that is not on the other blog entry is that my partner cautioned me that I shouldn't use makeup as a shield as I had before: I shouldn't hide myself but should only do it if it was making me happy and if it was fun.

Thanks to reading the book where Dita talks about how she has created the sort of glamorous life and environment that she wants to live in, I started using the word "glamorous" to describe dolling myself up... but also to describe my life in general, especially when indulging in things. The more I've been using the word "glamorous", the more I've been in love with the term as it doesn't conjure up a specific size, age, gender, sexual identity, etc. And it's been doing wonders for my self-esteem! Let's face it: who doesn't want to feel glamorous?

But, yanno, again, there are good days and bad days, right?

The biggest epiphany happened while we were at an industrial show in town. It was quite hot (for Seattle) so I decided to wear something more comfortable and, by default, more casual too. Before leaving home, I was bemoaning that I had some awesome goth clothes that don't quite fit anymore. And then we get there and a bunch of girls are all decked out. I was flooded with memories of when ex-husband and I would go to a goth club for NYE and I'd be looking at the girls who looked splendid in their outfits and vow to myself that the next year would be the year when I'd lose the weight and I'd looking like that too.

As I was lost in nostalgia and sadness associated with the many years of having these thoughts only to eventually succeed but have a short-lived success (I had it... I lost it!), I started to notice that the girls around us at the show were being omg, so annoying: they didn't have any sense of the space that they took and would bump into my partner and this one girl kept talking/yelling to this guy (dude, it's a loud bar)... and then I took stock of the situation... and I got angry at myself... I had pined for years to be like one of those vaporous girls? Only good looks but no substance? And no manners to boot? That's sort of dumb, isn't it?

What if, instead, I was perfect just the way I am?... just like my partner and several dear close friends have told me repeatedly, actually. How much time have I spent hating my body? Don't I have a wonderful life otherwise?

And that was the crux, really: it dawned on me that my worrying over my body size and shape was completely and utterly disproportionate with how much it really affected my life. Not only that but I know full well from my own experience that, even when I was slender, I STILL had issues with my body. What the hell?

Shortly after this revelation, I had a gig where the costume I brought wasn't fitting super well anymore and I was feeling self conscious because I knew that I could have looked better in a different costume. But you know what? When the music started, all of that was forgotten and all that I could think of was moving my body in response to the music and emoting what the music was making me feel... not what I looked like in that costume.

So it's high time for a new outlook on things.

I have a very loving and supportive partner, I have a few wonderful close friends, I have a good job, I'm a good dancer, and I live in an awesome city. Are my body image issues really worth fretting over that much? Isn't it small potatoes compared to all the goodness in my life?

Really, if you take anything away from this series of blog entries, it's that I strongly believe that we all spend an overly inordinate amount of time worrying about our bodies and image when, really, we shouldn't.

So, yeah, time to stop the negative talk and have a change in attitude. Of course, it's easier said than done. ;) I'll have more thoughts on that in another entry.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Learn to make peace with your body - The rebellion

What I call the "rebellion" occurred over many stages but the start of it was after the bad Weight Watchers meeting that I mentioned in the previous post.

The bad meeting happened around the Holidays last year. I managed to get to a meeting just before Christmas and, because of the Holidays schedule, it wasn't my normal day so it was a different leader. The topic was about setting a goal for yourself for the Holidays that would be reasonable and make you proud... and that could even be a weight gain... that was fine. Essentially, just as long as you were aware of what you were doing and shooting for, it was fine. Sounds like a great idea, ya?

My goal was to indulge a little and enjoy the food without guilt and even if I gained a little, it was going to be fine; I'd recommit fully after the Holidays and work really hard at it. I will skip details but, as we're sharing our goals by show of hands, the leader ended up putting me on the spot, asking why I was planning on a weight gain when I was staying home and wasn't going to have as many temptations. I don't know if my face crumbled or if she just plain realized that she had misstepped but she tried to take it back... but the damage was done. I was already feeling shaky about my efforts with Weight Watchers and was pissed off both at the change in the plan and for having been made to feel like I wasn't working hard enough when I was trying to be compassionate with myself (which is actually part of the new plan). So that sort of sealed the deal and I never went back to a meeting.

(I feel the need to add a caveat that, except for this one incident, I've always found leaders to be very supportive. This was really an anomaly but perhaps something that I needed to hear in a way.)

As I was left with a sour taste in my mouth from the disappointment of Weight Watchers not really working again and having issues finding a gym that would work for us, I realized a few things.

I had just moved to a new city where the food is, omg, so amazing! And my partner was cooking awesome dishes. However, because of Weight Watchers, I routinely had to choose between tracking accurately and not partaking in the awesome food or having the awesome food but being iffy on the tracking. Whichever decision I made, I would end up feeling frustrated.

I also realized that I was thinking about food literally all... the.... time... and it was very unhealthy for me. I was obsessing in all the ways: did I eat too much? too little? is it time for a snack or meal yet? there's this thing I'd like to eat but I can't (so it's coming back around in my head periodically)... what should I have for dinner? what can I have for dinner? You get the idea.

The nail in that proverbial coffin was during one of those moments when I was reminiscing and missing my more slender body... and I remembered that, for all that it was awesome to be able to wear whatever I wanted and that putting on a belly dance costume was much easier, it actually wasn't as awesome as I thought it would be. :o It sounds shocking but it's true.

Here, I may need to explain that I had embarked on the losing weight journey with Weight Watchers because I was feeling extremely depressed about myself and my life and I thought that my weight was the biggest issue and that, if that was taken care of, I'd be super duper happy. But then the weight fell off and I still had a lot of lows... and it turns out that weight was not the biggest culprit after all.

Not only that but maintaining that weight was extremely hard. It's very likely that my target weight turned out to be too low to be sustainable long-term. Could I really picture myself eating that way for the rest of my life? Or did that seem too much? This is when the converse of the above happened in that, all aspects of my life were awesome except that I had this obsession with food that prevented me from enjoying eating without guilt.

So I gave up on dieting and tracking. Time is short, I'm 43, I want to enjoy life, including enjoying food. Mainly, I've tried to give up on guilt over enjoying food and about eating period.

More to come again...

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Learn to make peace with your body - Preamble

This blog has traditionally been about belly dance. I've had many thoughts lately for entries that may not quite fit exactly for belly dance but they do sort of in a way so, while I have contemplated creating a different blog for these, since it's actually titled "Celeste's Musings", it fits to put them here.

I've been battling a lot of body image issues for a while now and this will be the topic of a series of posts as well as other things that sprang to mind in the midst of contemplating all that.

A lot of people are aware that, back in 2011, I decided to embark on a weight loss journey, using the Weight Watchers plan. It worked really well for me. While there were some set backs and it did take well over a year, I lost 50 lbs and was happy to have a much slimmer body.

And then I became a statistics (aren't we all?)... the one about most people who lose weight gain some if not all of it back.

Four years later, I've indeed gained back quite a bit of weight. Well, actually, technically all the weight back, only I'm slimmer than when I started because I did put on some muscles over the years (thankfully). They do say at Weight Watchers that keeping the weight off is one of the hardest things to do and it sure proved to be true for me.

There really was a succession of events that lead to this result. I divorced my husband and, while I was the one who left, it did affect me a lot and I had a lot of grieving to do and it sort of sent my metabolism in high gear and I could nearly eat anything I wanted and was maintaining my weight. Unfortunately, that lead to developing some bad habits. And then I closed my dance studio, which meant that I was suddenly way more sedentary than I had been in many years. And I got into the nesting/happy period of a relationship so we really were very sedentary (Netflix and... ice cream and pizza). I rationally understood what happened and that I should be compassionate towards myself in general but I often couldn't reach for that compassion.

While all this was happening, I did go off the Weight Watchers program and then went back to it (on top of having rekindled lifting weights a while before), determined that if I could do it once, I could do it again. However, I didn't see much results and then had to put things a bit on hold as I was dealing with the stress and overwhelming nature of making the big life changes of quitting my long-time job and moving to a new city. The Weight Watchers program changed yet again (groan) last November and I had a bad meeting where the leader pissed me off and I went off the program again last December.

I am generally so much happier in my life, being in a healthy relationship, having moved to a city that I absolutely love, having a job in a company where I am more valued... but my weight but even more so my body image issues associated with my weight have tainted that happy picture. I can't help to feel like a failure, like I let myself down. I'm even ashamed. I'm not saying these things to get reassurances but to give an idea of where my emotions are.

So I knew that I had to do something about it. And the answer was more about my headspace, emotions, and self confidence than about dieting and exercising to get my body back.

More to come...