Monday, May 12, 2014

More Tummy Talk and Body Acceptance Thoughts

THANK YOU ALL for your wonderful feedback and for reading.  I find great satisfaction from sharing my CORE here.  I know that life online is often sunshine and flowers and if I wasn't anonymous, mine would be, too. Who wants to post the bad stuff about themselves publicly?  NOT ME!  I give great credit to the people online who put it ALL out there with their name AND face.  I have a major confidence crush on all of YOU!

I love sharing my real story because I know it is a story so many of us share.  As people, we have dealt with successes and failures.  We have yearned for something that didn't work out.  We have had our hearts broken.  Struggled with our self confidence.  Experienced emotional anguish and friends that couldn't give us what we really needed.  And then we jumped online and we googled our whoa and we ended up on a message board or blog or website and we didn't feel so alone anymore.

The struggle with my body has been long and dark.  I have wanted thin for so long that I forgot why I even wanted it at all.  I have always associated health with being skinny and they are not the same.  When I was at my thinnest, I abused food, exercise, drugs and alcohol.  I was on tons of antidepressants.  I yearned to be accepted by men and included by women.  I craved love.  I feared that the word "fat" would be associated with my name.  

I fought with food.

I went through periods where I wouldn't eat more than diet soda and broccoli.  I got thin.  I binged so regularly that my stomach could easily accommodate an entire medium Chicago deep dish pizza (this is no small feat….I could have probably taken Adam from Man vs. Food at an eating competition!).  I got fat.  I got on the scale and cried.  I got thin.  I drove miles to stores where no one would see me, so I could buy larger pants.  I got fat.  I restricted so much that bridesmaid dresses had to be taken in three full sizes to fit my new starved shaped.  I got thin.

I avoided mirrors.  I avoided full fat dairy.  I avoided plans out with friends.  I avoided the bread basket and open bottles of wine.  I avoided scales.  I avoided a break in my routine.  I avoided sleeping in and giving my body a break from the rigorous torture I was making it endure.

And then I was thin again.

Life was supposed to be perfect now, right?

But, where were the men and my friends and why wasn't wearing a smaller size as fun as I thought it would be?  The rush of adrenaline watching the scale tick down only lasts for so long….a bite won't hurt, right?  My control would waiver.  I would spend hours thinking about a bag of gummy bears or a burrito.  I would allow myself a nibble of fresh baguette or a tiny taste of tiramisu and I would become a frenzied dog in heat.  There wasn't enough I could eat to fill up my broken heart and spirit.

And then I was fat again.

Avoidance mode. The mirrors, the people, the plans and the gym because I was too embarrassed to be seen in public.  I have let people down.  I have not showed up when I should have.  It is so much easier to be "tired, sick or too busy" than hungover from food or without anything in my closet that fits.  Would anyone even believe me if I told them that I couldn't come to dinner "because I do not have anything to wear?"

When I realized that my food addiction was so much more than a love of eating and cooking and actually involved deep seeded emotional issues that I needed to work through, I was scared.  Could I overcome this?  Food has been my friend.  I still yearn for the comfort that only unrestricted calorie consumption and Bravo can give me.  To glaze over just like a Krispy Creme.  But it is no way to live.  It is dark, isolating, sad and empty.  When I feel the compulsion to shut in, the most important thing I can do is get outside for a walk, or go to the library or call a best friend.  I need to break that moment because if I give in, one binge has the power to turn into months and months of self induced destruction by food.  I deserve better.

I will never be as thin as I once was by starvation.  If my body wants to amaze me and go places that it hasn't in years (as I have seen from my sister and a few best friends after babies and breastfeeding), then I will relish my shape, but no more than I love my body now.

I know I am a broken record, but my goal is to get to a place of total peace with my body.  I want to find the optimal weight for my build (still have a little to go, but not a ton).  I want to be healthy, strong and free from worrying about my tummy, thighs or arms.  I want to get dressed and look in the mirror and be fine with what I see.  To not pinch an inch or fantasize about a dress I used to wear or sigh when I put my bronzer over a lovely fleshy cheek and not a sunken cheekbone.

I am getting there.  Everyday isn't as good as I would like.  I sometimes eat lots of Special K bars out of habit.  The rustling of wrappers comforts me still.  Once in a while, my want of an ice cream cone outweighs my need and it may even be my third dessert of that day.  Sometimes the scale goes up and not down.

But, I am enjoying the give and take.  The downward trend overtime.   I am tracking everything, even the way over my calorie days like yesterday which included mimosas, potato chips and a bakery cookie.  But it also included family, stories from the past, long walks, lots of hugs and a brilliant beach moon.  Life happens and I want to learn to live in a world where food and my guilt with food, do not intersect.

The nonstop restricting works, but without good habits, my weight will never stay stable.  My goal once I get to the right weight for me is to stay within seven pounds (not including pregnancies hopefully to come, then I will stay within whatever the doctor recommends) for the rest of my life.  I won't be the skinniest I ever have been, but I will be the most stable.  I want to chose a weight (I am still seeking what may feel right) that is realistic for life.

Stability may not be as exciting, but the Weight Roller Coaster is one ride I am ready to get off of!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bathing Beauty and the Story of My Tummy

Things are finally happening here in Charleston!  I am interviewing for jobs, walking around the city for hours while I rack up steps on my Fitbit and finding the ease of familiarity that sets in when I don't have to use my GPS to get to the gym or the grocery store.

It feels good.

I have said it a million times, but transitions are my enemy. I like the feeling of knowing exactly what will happen.  I like schedules and set routines.  I like knowing my way around.  I need to stop being such a clenched hard-on.

Lately, I am trying my best to be in the moment.  I am reading books I have always wanted to and I am finding peace (and not anxiety) in my thoughts.  I am eating and sleeping better.  I am trying my best to react minimally to countless last minute plans (thanks (NOT) in-laws to be) and to be open to experiencing new friends and new places.

I have mentioned it before, but I had a tummy tuck a few years ago.  It was something that was encouraged by Awful and I am still conflicted that I went through with it at all. Especially because I wasn't open about it with my family.  Ever since that major surgery, I know that I can't do anything that I wouldn't tell them.  That is my conscious barometer.

My stomach has always been "my area."  Growing up it stuck out like a shelf.  When I glance at the little girl photos of me, I look like I swallowed an entire watermelon.  Firm and full.   By junior high, it got softer and smaller.  I had one large roll when I stood and three medium rolls when I sat.  Even though I had thin arms and legs, my stomach labeled me as fat and I was known as a fat girl when the boys ranked the girls.  By high school, I started to get breasts and hips.  My stomach flattened a bit and above the belly button, I had a very distinct waist and firm upper midsection.  I could finally see my feet when I showered!  Below the belly button was another story entirely.  I was mushy with a soft lower belly.  I was told I had a fupa (fat upper pelvic (pussy) area).  I did.  When I got to college, I put on weight VERY rapidly.  About twenty-five pounds in a matter of weeks.  I developed angry red and itchy stretch marks on my lower tummy.  They haunted and depressed me every time I looked in the mirror and discouraged me from making the necessary healthy eating changes I needed to.  As an eighteen year old girl,  I thought to myself, "why lose weight, because of my stretch marks, I will never be able to wear a bikini anyway!"  Eventually, I did lose weight.  My first big weight loss came a year and a half after my first big weight gain.  The stretch marks started to fade a bit and with a higher cut bikini bottom (which were in style much more in 2001 than they are now), I could even hide them.

I rode this weight roller coaster all throughout my twenties.  Up and down and up again.  At any weight, my stomach was never socially acceptable.  It stuck out in T-shirts.  Sheath dresses pulled across my lower abdomen and a-line dresses made me look ripe with child.  If I had a quarter for every time someone asked me when I was due, I would have at least 10 bucks!  And it never got less traumatic!  The last time someone asked me, I was at my lowest adult weight which was about five years ago.  I died a bit inside. All of my hardwork and discipline and exercise and Spanx and thoughtful dressing (every time I tried to wear boho flowy tops, someone asked me, so I gave those up cold turkey) and STILL….I was still being mistaken for pregnant.

When I met Awful, I was on a boat.  I was wearing a bikini.  I was thin for me.  He later told me that he noticed my smile, my toned legs and how self conscious I was in my bathing suit.  He said "the way you sat with a towel draped across your midsection, I could tell how self conscious you were about your belly." It was true.  Awful knew how to pick out the weak and insecure and I was both.  After we started dating he would tell me that he would "pay to have my stomach lobbed off" and he would squeeze it and call my rolls "the stormy sea." It killed me.  All I wanted was a nice smooth flat tummy.  I wanted to feel what it was like to not have to worry about being called pregnant by a stranger on the train.

So, one day when Awful was grabbing at my stomach and kneading it aggressively like dough, I took him up on his offer to pay for a tummy tuck.  I decided that I wanted to no longer have this weight hanging around my middle.  I didn't want a man to judge me for being lumpy.  And this kills me.  Because I actually secretly loved my stomach.  My tummy was a part of me and my own stupid insecurities couldn't let me celebrate it.   I am imperfect.  So there.

My tummy tuck has settled and it's not without fault.  I have a scar and beneath it, I still have stretch marks.  I knew that both were going to be there post-operation.  They are just very low and now hidden in my pubic hair area.  I have two little keloid scars on my upper tummy from liposuction that accompanied my procedure.  My skin is very prone to scaring and stretch marks, so this doesn't bother me all that much.  The scars have been resistant to silicone sheets and injections and ointments to help reduce them and at this point, it's fine.  They only person that really sees my belly is Crush and I hope to keep it this way.  I know his love is so pure that he doesn't even notice my lumps, humps and bumps.

In clothes, my body has been hugely improved.  Since the procedure, even at my heaviest, I have NEVER been mistaken for pregnant.  This in itself pleases me to no bounds.  I feel like I can go out in public and walk freely without having snooping glances thrown at me…."is she pregnant or not?!?"  I look foxy in tight dresses and I love looking at myself from the side.

I know that my flat tummy may be fleeting.  I will hopefully get pregnant and my stomach will change and I will embrace and love my post baby body.  Sometimes I secretly look forward to my cosmetic tummy becoming undone, so it will officially erase Awful from my body.  I would actually take a not so flat tummy over having to be reminded of him on a daily basis.  When I look at my belly, I often think of just how AWFUL he was.

For years, all I wanted to do was to wear a bikini.  It was a dream of mine.  I fantasized about it in high school and cut out bikini clad models from YM for diet motivation.  When I finally made my WeightWatchers goal weight in college and bought a bikini at age twenty-one, I cried tears of joy in the Dillards dressing room.  But, in a two piece, I never felt confident.  I positioned myself laying down strategically on lounge chairs and waited for friends to be deep in conversations before I would venture into the ocean or restroom.  I hid out on pool steps, so my midsection was covered by chlorinated water and always put a towel, pillow or book in front of my belly when I wasn't soaking myself.

As I get older, I want to feel good in my skin.  I want to feel proud of the person I am.  Imperfections and all.  Even if I am still sporting twenty or so extra pounds.  Even if many of my friends still wear bikinis and still look amazing in them.  So, I took a new approach and I bought a one piece.  I am never going back…..

In my one pieces (I now own three that I LOVE), I feel curvy, shapely and sexy.  My tummy looks flat, my shoulders look strong, I have no back fat (I hated how I looked from the back in a bikini).  I feel like I can sit upright on my lounge chair and walk anywhere I want without a towel or cover up.  It is extraordinarily liberating.  I look forward to putting on my bathing suit and heading to the beach because I love how I look.  I know I am projecting confidence and even I can't believe it, but I have been complimented at the beach several (for real) times in my new favorite one piece (retro style with black and white polka dots) and I even had a lady chase me down to ask me where I got it from (Target).  I think anyone can wear anything they want to the beach, regardless of their size.  For me, no matter my weight, I just never felt at peace in a two piece.

As the days to my wedding tick down, I anticipate how I will look on my big day.  I don't care about being skinny anymore.

The way I want to look is HAPPY.