tumblingdays: Post-It Note that says "Walk Around the House Like a Fucking Champion" (Fuck yeah)
A friend has asked me to be her work out partner. She suggested kickboxing, and so I spent part of the day yesterday looking for a gym where we could take kickboxing together. I am a member of the Y, which I love, but it's expensive if you aren't going to use it often. I can certainly think of better ways to spend the afternoon than reading the ridiculous adverts for gyms. Ugh.

The worst one was this (I won't link to the site): "It's You Against You." Ugh. Ugh. and Fucking Ugh. I continue to read Women Food and God and just got to her rant about something similar. Basically, it's this fucked up idea that we have to hate ourselves enough to love ourselves. We're going to fight our bodies into submission and then we will have peace. Really? That doesn't even make any goddam sense, but that message is everywhere. You have to hate yourself enough to want to change to yourself, and then magically, you will love yourself. Fucking nonsense.

And let me tell you, letting go of this idea is revolutionary. It pisses people off. There are people who my very existence offends. I'm not supposed to dress like I love my body. I'm not supposed to take up any space. I should apologize if I have to move my fat ass to another part of room, sit on a plane, share a sidewalk.

At the same time, I am somehow supposed to "love myself." My "good personality." My "smile." All those parts of me that aren't too fleshy or fat or juicy. Those parts of me that have no smell and can't be touched. I'm supposed to slice myself into pieces like that butchered animal - these abstract parts- love those. These isolated traits - your grey eyes, your small hands- love those. But the rest you must hate enough to change.

If I move through life as if I have a right to be here, it offends some people. If I don't close in on myself and I am not meek or apologetic or small, then I am obnoxious and greedy and pushy and a bitch.

I have chosen another path. I choose wholeness, happiness, peace, and compassion. I chose to trust my body and treat it kindly. I will not beat my thighs into submission or deprive my body of her nutrients. I will accept that this is who I am and I will take care of all of me- body and mind. And if you don't like it, fuck you.
tumblingdays: Oversaturated Photo of a flower (intimate)
I had the therapy today. We talked about the concept of living with your emotions.

A friend posted a really interesting blog entry last week about mediating when she is anxious. She discussed her meditative process and anxiety. She described how at first when she meditates while anxious, her anxiety is a dark dense thing that her breath just goes around. For me, this was another reminder of something that I am slowly beginning to learn- that there is a space on the other side of my negative emotions. At their worst, my negative emotions- especially my anxiety- doesn't feel like a dense, dark thing. They feel like a swirling vortex, a black hole that sucks everything down. I am lost somewhere in them and there is no center that holds. Being able to visual my emotions as a solid mass that I can experience and then recognize that there is something beyond them is a profound epiphany.

Add to that the idea from Women Food and God that when we seek to avoid pain (and negative emotions) the pain that we are seeking to avoid is not our present pain, it is something from our past that we found intolerable but ALREADY SURVIVED. Not that there are no negative emotions related to our current lives, but our belief that we need to shut down, to avoid, to medicate away pain comes from a past time when we were, most likely, children. It comes from a time when we could not take care of ourselves.

But I am an adult and I am bigger than my emotions. I am more than my emotions. I do not "control" them in the sense that I tamp them down and force them under the crushing heel of my rational mind, but I do control them in the sense that I acknowledge them and explore them and remember that everything I feel is not all there is to reality.

My therapist is great at gently reminding me that not all feelings are current feelings. Often, a strong emotional reaction to something that should be minor is because I am not dealing with the present, but with some past event. My psyche is an untended garden, and for every surprising perennial there are any number of weeds to be recognized and pulled up.

I've been practicing a kind of "mindfulness" wherein I just sit still and figure out how I feel right now. Frankly, I expected mindfulness to be easy. After all, it just means being present in the moment. But it is a discipline and one that I have not practiced before. My mind is a slippery slope, skittish and not inclined to dwell on the here and now. It is hard work, but my mind feels fuller for it.
tumblingdays: B&W Photo of a little girl hugging an elephant (loving yourself)
I continue reading Women Food and God by Geneen Roth. As I stated earlier, I have not been blogging every chapter because not every chapter has a lot to say. And honestly, the chapters that do have a lot to say [to me], have kept me chewing over them and not talking about them either. I am up to chapter 6. The first six chapters comprise the first part of the book. It's kind of introduction to the approaching our relationship with food from a new perspective. Since I started the Intuitive Eating process as part of treatment for my ED about 20 months ago, I don't really need a hard sell in this regard. Roth is also advocating Intuitive Eating, though she doesn't call it that.

There is a quote from chapter six that captures my feelings about dieting and about this whole process. It's lengthy, but I am going to quote it here and then talk a bit about it.

Diets are based on the unspoken fear that you are a madwoman, a food terrorist, a lunatic. Eventually you will destroy all that you love and so you need to be stopped. The promise of a diet is not only that you will have a different body, you will have a different life. If you hate yourself enough, you will love yourself. If you torture yourself enough, you will be become a peaceful, relaxed human being.

I doubt I am alone with struggling with loving discipline for myself and restriction, with treating myself gently and spoiling myself. In my treatment of myself, I see a pattern well established long before I was the person primarily responsible for taking care of me. Often my childhood was a pattern of neglected NEEDS and an over-abundance of WANTS. This is how you "spoil" someone, not by ensuring that they feel safe, loved, protected, and nurtured, but by replacing loving support with sporadic overabundance paired with benign neglect.

So, for years I've done pretty much exactly the same thing to myself. I'd diet or otherwise restrict my eating and then I'd follow that up with a period of overeating. Or, I'd go back to my bulimia - binge and purge.

Now, I am struggling with the kind of structured discipline that comes from loving yourself and wanting the best for yourself. I kept typing here that discipline has never been a part of my life, but it's not true. It's just that before the last couple of years, discipline was about restriction. Treating myself gently is not something I have much experience with. I live my life hard, whether that hardness comes from restriction or from casting off restrictions. I was living as an over-indulged princess or a bereft pauper. I will eat it all or I will eat nothing. I will exercise every day, balls to the wall, or I will sit on my ass. I will sleep a lot or I will not sleep. I would save compulsively, denying myself necessities or spend like a reality TV participant.

And now, I have taken a big step off what seems to me to be a very high cliff. I have to trust myself to be neither the pauper nor the princess. The rules are not black and white. I can take a day off from working out and it's not "falling off the wagon." I can eat a piece of chocolate and it isn't "cheating." I can buy something I like and enjoy it. I want this to be my normal, but often this is still a matter of closing my eyes and making a giant leap of faith. I have to believe that my body is not shirking if I feel like I need a break from my workout routine. I have to believe that a craving is a momentary want that I can choose whether or not to indulge and not a sign of weakness or deprivation. It's hard. It involves a lot of sitting still and listening to that faint, faint voice inside of me. I am not good at sitting still, and I often doubt that voice.

Even with all of that, though, I am happier than I have been in a really long time. I am slowly beginning to trust myself. I am finding that I can live under a yoke of gentle discipline and that I can be responsible for myself. It gratifying. Right now, there are frequent failures, but they are becoming more about a failure in the moment rather than feeling like I AM a failure. The difference is profound.
tumblingdays: B&W Photo of a little girl hugging an elephant (ed)
I've started reading a new book- Women Food and God by Geneen Roth. Several people have recommended this book to me, but I've been reluctant to read it. My main reluctance comes from the fact that I don't believe in god, making it unlikely that this book is the right next step for me and my Intuitive Eating journey. Still, SO many people recommended it that I finally added it to my queue.

I read the prologue earlier this week and even that gave me quite a bit to think about. Several people in my support group have blogged each chapter as they've read it, or used the Book Club questions to blog. I'm not sure that I am going to do something that structured, but I suspect that I will be writing it about it as I go.

So far I've finished the prologue and chapter one. It took me the better part of a week to read chapter one, because I knew that reading this book meant digging into my emotional eating, and this is not a fun thing for me to do. The premise, as laid out in the prologue is pretty straight-forward. Our relationship with food is a perfect reflection of our relationship with life. How we treat food is an expression of our deepest convictions, "...when we inhale Reese's peanut butter cups when we are not hungry, we are acting out an entire world of hope or hopelessness, of faith or doubt, or love or fear."

In response the prologue, I have been trying to experience one of my meals each day mindfully- no distractions. Phone put away, music off, no tv, no talking. It's challenging to sit alone with my food. Like most people, I am a multitasker. Given how fraught my relationship with food is, it is really tough for eating to be thing that I focus on absolutely. I can't say that I was completely successful at it. Even with nothing to distract me but my own mind, I would still have moments when I ate in a fugue, when food disappeared off my plate and into my body with no conscious thought. I have had good moments though, when I could be present in my eating. And, if I can be present in my eating, where it is so hard to still my mind, maybe this will help me be more present in my life generally.

Chapter one focuses on "god." Roth quickly establishes a definition of god that encompasses everything from my atheism to something closer to the traditional patriarchal western god. Frankly, I find such broad definitions of god pretty meaningless. It doesn't really matter to me since it means that I can read the book without feeling like it wasn't written for me. It does make me wonder why she bothers with the whole god concept at all instead of just acknowledging that she is talking about life.

Some of what she says here strikes a chord with me, or at least with the child I used to be. She talks about praying, and when her prayers aren't answered feeling like it is because she is not worthy of having her prayers answered. The part of me still connected to my deeply religious upbringing gave a sharp intake of breath at that idea. When I think of all the time spent listening to well-meaning people tell me that faith can move mountains and then to have my own prayers met with nothing.... well, for a big part of my early adolescence it made sense that the only reason that this should be the case was because no matter how fervently I believed and how sincerely I prayed, my faith wasn't enough. I wasn't enough.

She also describes how she hated the act of praying; how it felt like, "begging for love that I already knew I couldn't have." This, along with the pain of feeling like my prayers weren't answered because I didn't believe enough, was my first real feeling of shame. I also felt like the things I asking for weren't worth god's time. He had falling sparrows to count and crops to make grow. My loneliness, my adolescent confusion, my doubts had no place in a world full of hungry people and natural disasters. I was ashamed of asking for love, ashamed of asking for peace, and ashamed that the god I'd learned cared about every little detail of our lives seemed uninterested in my pain.

There are things from my religious upbringing that still make me angry, and one of the biggest things is this: SHAME. Here I am, with that time more than half my life ago, and I still find it difficult to approach the child that I was and tell her that she didn't do anything wrong in asking for love and acceptance - not from the people around her, not from her parents, and not from the god who never spoke back.
tumblingdays: Oversaturated Photo of a flower (intimate)
My husband and I have started taking ballroom dancing classes together. This has been a hella lot of fun and also provided quite an interesting window into our relationship. We are into our fourth week of lessons and it so nice to finally feel like our feet are untangled and we are beginning to move together. We have such a good time, laughing a lot and trying something new to both of us. Last night, we learned the basic tango. It was amazing moving across the dance floor together.

But, I am not the most trusting individual. This part where he leads, and I follow? I struggle with that. And so does he. Our instructor has tried all kinds of things to help us get there. I close my eyes... sometimes the instructor only tells my husband what the steps are so that I HAVE to follow... it's tough.

The idea that I have to implicitly trust anyone, even my husband, to guide how I move my body is, frankly, a little terrifying. Plus, my husband isn't crazy about leading, and because our bodies are connected when we dance, I can feel every hesitation and second guess. This makes me even less likely to want to take that step backwards, where I can't see. Sometimes, dancing feels like fighting. Him fighting his tendency to let me take the lead and my fighting my own trust issues. At least, to me, it feels like we are fighting on the same side instead of against each other.

It's only been in the last two years or so that I've started really trying to "inhabit" my body rather than using it as a vessel to carry my brain around. Whether it's ballroom dancing or eating or lifting weights or hiking, I've really come to appreciate the fact that my body is ME in a way that I never felt before. It's not a meat bag that I inhabit. What happens to me emotionally also happens to my body and what happens to me physically also affects me mentally and emotionally.

I know this sounds basic, but I've spent almost my whole life treating my body like a separate entity from ME and there is a the beginnings of real peace as those disparate parts of me start to connect.
tumblingdays: B&W Photo of a little girl hugging an elephant (ed)
Yesterday was my bi-monthly meeting with my nutritionist. I am recovering from a lengthy history with disordered eating, and while I have made huge progress the last 20 months or so, I still have a long way to go. I am also in the middle of prepping for a major certification exam for my career. Since my ED has stress management implications, this leads to a rough balancing act.

But, this week I had a kind of ridiculous epiphany. I've been maintaining with 5 pounds or so the same weight since I started prepping for this test 10 months ago. I've exercised steadily and my eating has fluctuated in and out of healthy choices. (Don't get confused here, "healthy choices" is not some fucked up code for dieting. I mean eating in a way that makes my body feel good and allows me to experience my emotions rather than stuff them down with food.) I have none-the-less stressed that I should be doing more "work" in this area.

I'm not sure what brought it on, but this week, I got some perspective. I imagined what emotions I would feel if one of my "normal" sized friends told me that she was prepping for a major life change, doing extensive planning, juggling a whole host of new responsibilities, but she felt like she needed to be focusing on weight loss at the same time. I'd be angry at her and for her. I'd be mad that she considers "weight" as important as these other things. I'd be annoyed that she is spinning her wheels with this issue when there is all this other stuff going on. And I'd be angry for her that she feels like she needs to take on this task RIGHT NOW on top of everything else.

This revealed a part of my psyche that I am still struggling with- because I am not "normal" sized, I feel like I don't get that pass to ignore my weight when I am already dealing with so many other things. I don't have a right to just be myself - healthy, active, comfortable- because I wear a size 20. That isn't right. I am active and healthy. I manage stress through exercising and other productive means. I practice self-care. The fact that I am not losing weight is pretty inconsequential in the scheme of things. My nutritionist took it one step farther and pointed out that stress causes your body to slow weight loss because it is holding on to those reserves for your "fight or flight" moment.

The other part of me it reveals is just how deeply seeded the "diet mentality" is. At the beginning of the summer, I would have told you that I am not a dieter. I don't diet. I try to eat intuitively- food that satisfies me and makes me feel good. But this focus on why I am not losing weight amid everything else tells me that there is still some diet mentality going on in my noggin. More work to do there...

In the past, under this kind of stress, I probably would have quickly lost a lot of weight. Dieting was my tool to "control" what I could control- calories going into my body. Some part of brain kind of expected me to lose weight and is disappointed, even though my even keel is one of the best signs of my new, healthy lifestyle.

I have to make peace with the fact that this is the right way to live, working with my body to treat it right rather than trying to force it down the path my brain thinks it should take or hiding from it. Some days, this is tough road.

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