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health

You’re doing “body positivity” all wrong.

OK, here I go, pissing some of you off, I’m sure. First, calm yourself.  I’m not shaming anyone, including myself. I am all about body positivity – if it’s done right.  

Second, there’s a difference between losing weight for healthy and unhealthy reasons. I am pro-healthy!

Third, please realize that every philosophy or piece of advice is not one-size-fits-all, and that’s what prompted this blog. 

body positivity - you can love your body and still want to lose weight

I am fat. In fact, I’m in the “morbidly obese” category of the Body Mass Index (BMI). (I think the BMI is bullshit, anyway, but that’s a story for another day.  Right now I’m just trying to give you an idea of how big I am.) I carry it well – see my Instagram for proof and I don’t hate myself; I look in the mirror and see a beautiful, sexy, smart, badass chick. But there is no denying the fact that I’m fat – and I shouldn’t be. 

It’s not because I need to fit into some prescribed notion of what a woman should look like or what a man likes (my beau thinks I’m hot af just as I am, just sayin’),  I need to be less fat because it’s affecting my health. Quite a lot. 

The time has long passed where I can say I’m “overweight-but-healthy. ” There was a time when I was; that time is no longer. This is why I have a problem with the saying “healthy at any size.”  For some, it’s just not possible; and I am one of the some. 

Losing weight because you think you must look a certain way before you or others love who you are is unhealthy, but so is being so overweight that your knees don’t want to function as they should. You should love yourself at any size – but love yourself enough to realize that that particular size just might not be healthy – likely because you are maintaining it by eating not-so-healthy foods all the time and not moving your body. 

Yes, I know, you have a “health issue.”

Are there cases of people who have health issues that prevent weight loss? Sure. I AM ONE OF THEM. (My thyroid is fried. That’s another blog.) But I can’t use that as an excuse for being fat if I’m binge eating junk food or drinking every weekend.  Neither can you.

So, I don’t want to hear it.  Before you come at me with the whole But I have __________ disease and you can’t lose weight with that, remember that I have one of those, too, and I still managed to drop 70 pounds last year. Would it have been easier without the thyroid issue?  Sure. However, it’s still not impossible. And besides, even if it is nearly impossible to lose weight, it doesn’t mean you can’t choose foods that are better for your body and your physical and mental health, amiright? I am.

My weight IS my health issue.

Last year, I was 325 pounds. I couldn’t breathe. My mental health was suffering terribly with depression and anxiety.  My physical health was suffering from back and knee pain, headaches, costochondritis, and severe inflammation just everywhere.  I knew I couldn’t go on like that much longer.

I managed to take off about 70 pounds – using Keto (with cheating!) and exercising regularly. Then I moved… and finalized my divorce… and started to gain a bit back.  No biggie. I always fluctuated, but could always easily get back on track and lose it again plus a few more pounds. Then I reconnected with the man who would quickly become the man of my dreams, and we indulged heavily in date night bar food and trips for ice cream.  It happens. I thoroughly enjoyed it. All told, though, I’ve put about 30 pounds back on, and I am not happy. Not because I look in the mirror and see someone fat, ugly, or unloveable; I’m not happy because I’m not happy.

Carrying that extra weight again is stressful – both physically and neurologically – and that is a perfectly valid reason for unhappiness. Unlike some, I do not have an unreasonable expectation of what I’m supposed to look like or some self-loathing mindset. I am simply recognizing that my body can’t go on like this much longer without failing.   It’s simply fact, not unrealistic body hatred.

Frustration.

Part of the unhappiness is coming from the fact that I just can’t seem to get back on track again.  It’s frustrating, and frustration is, well, frustrating. I was able to do it so easily last time, and this time, it’s just not happening. I’m back to bingeing behavior, which is unhealthy in and of itself, and I can’t seem to get my brain to cooperate with my desire to be better.  Regardless, I keep starting and restarting, because I know I will be able to stick to it again. I just have to not stop trying. 

body positivity - frustration is not self-hatred

The stakes are high at this point.  I have a stress fracture in my back and chronic knee and leg pain. My anxiety is creeping back in.  My hormones are all out of whack. 

I know, I know.  (That could be from the food you’re eating!  Or genetic! Or age-related!)

Yes, I know.  But let’s deconstruct this for a minute.  Sure, some of these health issues are exacerbated by genetics or age, but the ‘food you’re eating’ thing?  YES. The food I’m eating is also the reason I’m fat! I didn’t get to this size by eating steamed chicken breast and broccoli.  I got here because I love sugar and bread and potato chips and greasy bar food and beer. All of those things, even in a person of a normal size, are inflammatory, bloating, anxiety-inducing, binge-inciting, mental-and-physical-health killers.  So in order to change some of the health issues, I have to eat healthier foods. Those healthier foods will, inevitably, result in weight loss.  

Exercise will also help – and get this! If I eat healthily and I start to exercise more, I will LOSE WEIGHT.  It will just happen. Quite frankly, I’m so sick of pussyfooting around the idea of saying I want to lose weight by using simile and metaphor and clever epithets so people don’t get triggered about body positivity and think I am body shaming myself or saying I don’t love who I am.  Just because I’m saying I want to lose weight, it doesn’t mean I hate myself, or anyone else who is fat, or that I am striving to look like a stereotypical supermodel.

Weight loss is not “body negative.”

We need to stop promoting the idea that wanting to lose weight comes from a place of un-love. I say I need to lose weight because it’s easier than a several-paragraph diatribe about health issues and food-related conditions and mental health. I need to lose weight… and it’s because of all the benefits that will come from it, not because of some kind of carnivorous self-hatred. Body positivity should be pro-health.

I love who I am – and I want to live a long, happy, healthy life with this new love of mine. And quite frankly, if I don’t figure it out, I’m on the road to a stroke or a heart attack. Trust me, it’s gonna happen. In fact, I know someone who almost fell victim to his weight, but then did something to change it: my boyfriend.  

Yes, I know I still have not told you the love story of us, but it is so amazing I want to make sure I get all the important details just right. In the meantime, suffice it to say that he is my hero, and I am trying to learn from him and be better for him every day.

See, a few years back – smack in the middle of his 30s – he was about 350 pounds.  He ate whatever and whenever he wanted and generally lived a sedentary life. Then, one day, while walking somewhere, he started having more trouble breathing.  Over the course of a few days, it got worse, and he had a hard time walking short distances, let alone long ones. He called his doctor, who told him to get to a hospital.

You see, he was a few hours away from a heart attack.  At 35 years old. Chaos ensued – including a cardiac catheterization –  in the following weeks with doctors trying to return him to a reasonable facsimile of health.  The rest was up to him – and holy hell, did he take it seriously. Over the following few years, through counting calories and exercising, he lost a total of 160 pounds. You read that right: 160 pounds.  Let me tell you, I admire the hell out of him.

Was he happy at 350 pounds?  He was a happy guy in general, really.  Still is. But now his blood pressure, his cholesterol and triglycerides, his physical endurance, and his mental health are better than ever – the side effects of losing weight!  He was even able to be taken off one of his blood pressure meds already. That’s right, BP meds. At 35. And now, at 38, meds that prevent heart failure. Heart failure. So yeah, maybe he was happy with the weight on, just like I am happy – in general – and I love myself. However, I speak from experience when I say that being that overweight is just not healthy. Nor is it… comfortable.

You can’t fit 10 pounds of flour in a five-pound sack.

It’s hard to fit in bus or plane seats.  It’s hard to fit in some chairs or booths at restaurants.  Most amusement park rides are a no-go. Your knees scream at you after you walk a certain distance.  So does your back. And listen to me when I say this: It’s OK to not be OK with those things! Don’t let anyone use the facade of “body positivity” or “healthy at any size” to bully you into thinking you’re not allowed to feel kinda crappy because you can’t ride the rollercoaster at HersheyPark. 

Nor do I want you to fall into the trap of blaming other people. No, it’s not the amusement park’s fault that you can’t fit on the rollercoaster ride. If they made the seats big enough for people my size, smaller people would fall out. Then there’s a matter of physics and engineering – those rides can only take so much weight.  Deal with it.

So perhaps we are happy people when we are fat – him previously, me currently – and we love ourselves, but there are things that suck out loud about it and it’s OK to think those things suck out loud.  It is also no one’s fault except the person carrying the weight. Being body positive and loving yourself at any size does not include a chip on your shoulder against anyone who isn’t a large size. It should include people of all sizes, who love their bodies whether they are thin or obese or anything in between.  Body positivity should include the fact that, for some people, the sheer logistical limitations of being that size are reason enough for them to lose weight. It should include the fact that, while some people can be healthy at any size, some people simply are not, and convincing them otherwise is helping no one.

body positivity - weight loss is not body negative

If you want people to stop judging, then stop judging. If someone wants to lose weight for a healthy, happy reason, be the one who tells them they are awesome no matter what, and you’ve got their back!  Don’t scold and reprimand them for wanting something different just because you may not. That’s the exact opposite of body positivity and acceptance, and I am so over it. 

Here’s the deal:

If an obese person wants to lose weight because they love themself enough to want a healthier life, BE THERE FOR IT.  Tell them how proud you are, or that you are so excited and there for them if they need you. Stop trying to talk them out of it because it makes you feel inadequate as you mainline pumpkin spice lattes and fast food.  It’s about them, no one else. Show them love by loving them. Stop sending them shop-worn internet platitudes about being healthy at any size or how body positivity means they absolutely cannot want to change their weight.

It’s a long hard road to walk, and those of us who are on it are usually looking for cheap excuses to stop at a bench or turn around and go backward, so stop throwing up the detour signs and start putting up “this way to your best self” arrows so they know you’ve got their back.  The results of not doing so can be detrimental to not only their physical health but also their mental health. Body positivity should never be used as a reason for binge-eating or making poor choices. Don’t be that person.   

Be the freshly paved road, not the pothole, and help them keep their tires rolling forward. That is the best kind of body positivity I can think of. 

Disclaimer: This is not pro-eating-disorder, this is pro HEALTH. Eating disorders are real and a problem- and NOT HEALTHY.  Body dysmorphic disorders are real and a problem – AND NOT HEALTHY. If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of an eating disorder, please seek help. The National Eating Disorders Association is a good place to start

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health life

#WritingPromptWednesdays :: Exhausted

“She’s strong, but she’s exhausted.”

This quote perfectly sums up this last week, and also why this week’s Writing Prompt Wednesday post will be short.

I have been plagued with all sorts of health problems over the past year or so, and am not much closer to any answers. I just start to feel better, and then something else hits.  Most recently, it’s a stress fracture in the spine and some other likely-spine-related symptoms that haven’t been properly addressed yet.  I will write a more detailed post at some point, but here’s the quick version.

I was sent to physical therapy.  I went to one appointment and was told by the therapist that she’s referring me back to my doctor because, essentially, some of the effects from the exercises she was having me do were “concerning.”  I know it sounds crazy, but I was looking forward to PT and the possibility of relief from my incessant back pain.  Now I not only DON’T have that option for the time being, but there’s likely something else going on. 

Add to that a small bout of anxiety that has had me rattled by a mind full of worries that won’t shut off and… I. am. exhausted. Tired of fighting – for my health, against my anxiety, for my sanity, for everything. Just… tired.  If you’ve never experienced the racing mind of a bout of anxiety, you don’t know what that kind of exhaustion is like. Logic can slow it down sometimes, but inevitably, something hits the accelerator again and off it goes. It’s usually nonsense.  It doesn’t start off that way, but it almost always reaches the point of absurdity.

Ouch my thumb hurts look there’s a small spot there I wonder what it is oh my god I had a cold sore last week maybe I touched it and now it’s on my hand what if it is and I touched my eye and I go blind or what if it’s in my brain and I have to go into a medically induced coma while they treat it and what if I die oh my god no I don’t want to die I have too many things left to do but what if that’s the cause of all the nerve pain I’m having maybe it’s in my spine or what if it’s a tumor and I am going to be paralyzed and then I can’t drive anymore that would suck I love to drive so much and let me look at my thumb again yep there’s definitely something there maybe I should take some medication what if I get it somewhere else what if I can’t walk anymore what if I can’t use my brain and my memory starts failing I couldn’t handle that I love learning so much and my intelligence is my best quality I need to be able to know things I don’t want to lose my ability to think that’s what makes me so special oh no I don’t want to be a burden on Tony if I am disabled that’s not fair to him would he still want to be with me if I was in a wheelchair or couldn’t remember things I don’t want to lose him he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me I don’t deserve him who would want to be with someone who thinks like this It’s so not fair I just don’t understand why he wants me I bet he is just going to leave me and I will be alone so I need to get my shit together but I can’t stop feeling this way if I could I would I guess I just have to try harder I still don’t understand why he puts up with me I’m such a pain in the ass I wouldn’t put up with me I don’t know why he does everything is such a project with me why can’t I just be normal…

As hard as that was to read, it’s equally as hard to feel and think that way, I promise.  You are in a constant state of fight or flight, and it’s so tiring.  You also KNOW that your thoughts are ridiculous, but you just can’t make your brain understand that.

But here’s the thing. I always get through it.  The cloud lifts and the thoughts slow and I become “normal” again. It’s not easy, but you just have to hold on and let it pass.  Find ways to keep yourself occupied and throw yourself into something so that your brain doesn’t have a chance to keep running on.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but either way, you prevent yourself from being consumed.

I pray, I listen to music, I clean, I talk.  I cry.  I hold on to Tony and he talks me down and reassures me.  Side note: If you are with someone who doesn’t reassure you and support you during these bouts – I tell you now, you are with the wrong person.  They don’t need to baby you, but they need to be your soft place to fall so that you feel loved, protected, secure. Remember that.

This is not something that you ask for or did on purpose.  It’s an issue that you have to fight, contend with, get through, overcome.  And you are stronger each and every time you overcome it.  Do not ever let anyone make you feel otherwise. Today’s post was a little ”all-over-the-place,” I know, but I wanted to be sure you understand that anxiety or depression or any other mental health issue does not make you weak – and NO ONE, including yourself, should ever make you feel that way.

It takes a strength and courage some people will never understand, but once you get through it, you shine.

Categories
health life

#WritingPromptWednesdays :: It’s Heavy

@wordporm on Instagram

“Just because I carry it all so well doesn’t mean it’s not heavy.”

This quote resonated with me so very, very much.  I think strong people are often forgotten.  At least, they aren’t thought about in a way that’s helpful.  I am not one to hide any trials through which I am going, but I think my ability to be crushed under their weight and still show up for work and wear a smile makes people think whatever is going on behind the scenes isn’t really “a big deal.”

OK, sure, sometimes people exaggerate issues for attention or sympathy.  But let’s not be so cynical, shall we? When someone’s life is falling apart, and they say “Eh, I got this,” and manage to get up every morning and show up for the day, it takes a strength some others will never fully understand.  It requires a level of concentration and voluntary, temporary amnesia that some people just do not possess the ability to achieve.  You have to forget about whatever is happening behind the scenes and focus all the remaining energy on work, school, kids, whatever.

There is simply no time to cope or deal, there’s only time to do what needs to be done, and the energy and force of will it takes to not only bury those things until later but also face the day with as much competence as you need – it’s astonishing.  I am not saying you need to pity anyone who has a burden to carry.  I am instead asking you to recognize that heavy burdens sometimes fall on upright shoulders, so they go unnoticed.

Over the past couple of years, I have had my share of hindrances – divorce, health issues, heartbreak, unexpected responsibilities, and crippling anxiety problems.  For the most part, I’d tell people I was “fine,” when in reality I was breaking apart, little by little.  The anxiety seemed as though it would never go away – I was scared and worried every minute of every day – and I just couldn’t shake it.  I couldn’t “logic-it-away.”  I felt as though I was struggling to keep my head above water and someone kept tying weights to my ankles.  Not enough to pull me straight down, but enough to make it harder and harder to tread water.

…heavy burdens sometimes fall on upright shoulders, so they go unnoticed.

I was told to “get over it,” to “just pray about it,” to “buck up,” and of course the multiple comparisons to other peoples’ life problems.  The intentions were all good, I understand that, but they were not at all helpful.  I felt like no one understood that if I could get over it, I would have already!  I felt weak, small, incapable, and like a failure.  In response, I shoved it all away, and showed up for work, and carried it with as much grace as possible – all while trying to move and set up a new home, to help take care of family, to navigate a relatively new job, and to try to maintain my sanity.  For those who didn’t bother to look past the “I’m fine’s,” I seemed to be managing OK.  I wasn’t.

Then someone came along who held my hand and held me up and carried me… whatever I needed, from the small encouragements to the place to turn when I couldn’t take anymore. He untied the weights one by one and handed me a life preserver.  I never asked for help, but he didn’t buy it when I said: “I’m fine.”  He showed up and helped out and took away some of the everyday worries and chores so I could focus on the big stuff.  I was never placated or belittled or minimized.  I was allowed to cry and scream and sleep and be quiet.  I was allowed to trudge through without being told to “get over it” or told I was overreacting or told that what I felt wasn’t valid.  And it saved me – my health, my sanity.  Readers, I encourage – no, implore – you to be that person for someone else.

Does someone you know have a particular burden to carry and they seem “just fine?”  Do me a favor and ask them how they are doing – and do not take “fine” for an answer.  I’m not asking you to pry, simply to push a little harder.  Let them know that you are there if they need someone.  Sometimes just one gentle push can have someone unload a weight they couldn’t carry alone any longer.  Sometimes the lightening of that load can mean the difference between sanity and insanity, illness and wellness, or even life or death.

I also ask you to not offer tired cliches and mottos and sayings.

“I promise it’ll get better.”

“I know exactly how you feel – and I got through it.”

“It’s not THAT bad.”

And my personal favorite:

“If it doesn’t kill ya, it makes ya stronger!”

First of all – maybe it won’t get better.  Maybe this albatross will be with them forever.  You simply don’t know that for sure.  Second – no, you just don’t know how they feel.  Each person processes difficulties differently, so do not assume you know how they feel, even if you’ve been in a similar situation. Third – yes, it is THAT bad.  It’s that bad for that person, and you have no right to determine the hierarchy of malady.  It’s however they feel, and telling them it’s “not that bad” is basically telling them that their feelings are irrelevant.  Instead, be honest, be supportive, and be kind.  That’s what I’d want.  Try this:

“I have no idea if or when this will get better, and I cannot even imagine what it’s like, but I am here for as long as you need me.  I know it seems bad, really bad, right now but maybe with some support, we can work through it all together.”

Be a pallbearer for whatever hardship they are trying to put to rest, and do so with dignity – yours and theirs.

And for the love of God, stop using the “if it doesn’t kill you” line.  The truth is, some people never make it out of that first category.  Second, you’re basically telling the person that their tribulations only have two possible outcomes: death or self-improvement. This couldn’t be farther from reality.  Sometimes people don’t become stronger after a trial.  Sometimes they realize their limits and know they can’t handle it.  Sometimes they are shattered.  Not dead, but broken – and that does not feel like strength.  Yes, to be that broken and still move forward does take an unbelievable amount of strength, but that’s not always how it feels in the moment.  Trust me, I know.  There are also times that people are broken and they can’t move forward.  No one is asking you to be a life coach, they are asking for your shoulders so you can share the load.

Instead, say something like “I’m going to do what I can to help you get through this and to pick up the pieces.  I’m here for you.”  Offer to aid with everyday burdens – cleaning, cooking, babysitting.  Perhaps if they don’t have to worry about keeping the house clean or going grocery shopping, they will find the strength to deal with whatever issue is at hand.  Stop offering advice, and instead offer real, tangible help.

They may not accept it right away.  They might not accept it at all.  But they will know that you’re there, and knowing, sometimes, is half the battle.  It’s a lot less scary to walk the tight rope when you know there’s a safety net underneath.  Be the safety net.  Just be there, without pity or judgment.  Be a pallbearer for whatever hardship they are trying to put to rest, and do so with dignity – yours and theirs.

Check on your “strong” friend. They often are the ones who won’t ask for help, even when they need it most.  Don’t minimize someone’s heaviness just because their shoulders seem strong enough to hold it up.

I am not affiliated with @wordporm in any way.  I’m just a writer who is inspired by them.