Year in Review: Outcomes of My Second Year of Habit-Based Self-care

When I started two years ago, deciding to track healthy habits instead of a number on a scale or clothing size was unfamiliar territory for me. I decided I wanted to be open to whatever outcomes would come.

Last year, I listed the following outcomes I experienced after one year along on a habit-based, weight neutral health journey:

Looking back on what I wrote last year, I am happy to say that most of those outcomes have continued throughout year two. I did have some depression and back pain creep back in when an injury required me to stop lifting for a few months. With adding lifting back into my life, both of these conditions are improving again.

I also experienced some other cool things in year two.

Looking back, I feel really proud of what I accomplished this year. It didn’t seem like I did much of anything until I actually went back and read all my older posts. What I feel most proud of is keeping up a consistent self-care routine during a very challenging year.  My family had a lot of challenges: my husband got injured, I got injured, we lost our pet, we had a terminal illness and death in the family. I feel so proud that I took excellent care of myself so that I could face these challenges well.  Honestly, the self-care felt like the easiest part and I know that is because of the habit-based approach.

So…..to give credit where credit is due, I feel very proud of myself this year. I’m excited to see what year 3 brings!

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I Am Fat….And Yes, I Do Model a Healthy Lifestyle For My Kid

PREAMBLES AND DISCLAIMERS: If you read the title of this post and are thinking that I am  about to advocate judging others on the basis of their health status or whether they engage in healthy behaviors ….I want to make it clear that I am not. One’s health status and/or lifestyle does not make anyone morally superior or inferior to anyone else. To quote Ragen Chastain, “health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances.

Also, there are very few people who are role models in many areas of life at the same time. So even if someone is not modeling a healthy lifestyle by any one person’s definition, it is possible that they are kicking ass in another area of life. Maybe they work tirelessly to support their families or pursue their passions. Maybe they go above and beyond in helping others. Maybe they create beautiful music or art or literature. Maybe they contribute to new scientific discoveries that make life better for others. Maybe they are present for their kids. Maybe they are bravely facing life in the face of an illness that may be physical or mental, visible or invisible. Maybe they are great at uplifting people and making them laugh, or making them feel accepted no matter what. I do not consider it my job (or anyone’s job) to ask “what’s your excuse for not prioritizing the same things I do?”

Conversely, the fact that I model what I consider to be a healthy lifestyle does not mean I believe myself to be a role model for my kid in all areas; in fact, I definitely do not. And I know that is okay, because no one person can be everything to their kid. That is why they say “it takes a village to raise a child.”

And without further ado….

One of the ways I see the pursuit of thinness being marketed to mothers (and fathers, to a lesser extent) is by playing to one of their deepest insecurities: their fear of being considered unfit as a parent. By telling them that they cannot be considered a role model to their children if they are not thin.

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I Finally Watched “This Is Us,” and Here’s What I Think of Kate

CONTENT NOTICE: Childhood fatness, isolation, eating disorders, bingeing, dieting, fatphobia, bariatric surgery, death, etc. Also spoilers.

The other day I decided to watch the NBC show This is Us to see what all the talk was about.

Here’s what I knew about the show before I watched it:

  • That it was about people who share a birthday whose lives intertwine
  • That there was a fat character (Kate) played by Chrissy Metz
  • That Chrissy Metz had signed a contract that obligated her to lose weight along with Kate’s storyline

That’s it. I knew nothing else about what to expect.

When I mentioned on social media that I was considering watching the show, several of my friends said they liked the show, but they wanted to give me a heads up that I might not, due to the way Kate’s character was written. Several other friends told me that they had chosen not to watch the show for that same reason, or had stopped watching the show for that same reason.  A few said that they loved the show and they found Kate’s character to hit extremely close to home and therefore appreciated the way it was written. A few said they had chosen not to watch the show because of Metz’s contract to lose weight. A few told me (some via private message) that they would be curious what my thoughts were, once I watched the show.

Anyway, I watched the show, and I actually have a lot of thoughts that I want to share. I know for a fact, both from friends’ comments and articles I have read, that I don’t speak on behalf of all fat women here….so I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind with this post. I’m simply sharing my own reactions and what is true for me. I’m also not in the habit of writing entertainment reviews. Take me with a giant grain of salt if you must. (Also, while I do have an opinion about the fact that Metz is contractually obligated to lose weight, I’m not gonna weigh in on that in this post.)

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The Things That Can’t Be Photoshopped

Last night I got my preview photos back from the photographer who took our family photos. This triggered my annual “dear God, THAT’S how I look?” moment.

First comes the blindsided-ness.

Followed by the regret for my hair choices (why did I shave my head this summer? I miss my hair), my make-up choices (why did I choose not to wear any?), and my wardrobe choices (I didn’t like how I looked wearing that outfit in last year’s photos; why did I think I’d like it in this year’s). Never mind that I had made all those choices for deliberate reasons (I had shaved my head because the chlorine from the pool was drying out my hair and I hated the feel of swim caps. I chose not to wear any make-up because I don’t normally wear it, I was happy enough with how I looked while I was getting ready, and I didn’t like how my make-up looked last year. I had chosen my outfit with satisfaction, because I was happy that I fit into the same outfit as the prior year for the first time in my adult life).

Followed by the “why didn’t anyone tell me” self-talk. Why didn’t my husband tell me my hair was thinning on the side of my head I sleep on at night? I wonder if the photographer can do something about that in the photos? And why didn’t she  tell me that my giant boobs looked comically out of proportion to the rest of my body in that pose? Why didn’t anyone tell me my skin was almost as pale as my husband’s (who has naturally fair skin) after spending most of the time indoors this summer due to the fact that my injury required me to take a break from lifting and that break led to back aches and those back aches meant I wasn’t up for hiking in the woods and I basically hate summer if I am not in the shade? As if pointing out someone’s aesthetic idiosynchracies is ever something I would advocate doing….

At the same time, I know the the photos are excellent. They capture my family having fun. They capture my four year old’s silliness and sleepiness and tantrums. They are great and I am going to share them with friends once the final ones are ready.

So I had to notice all those feelings, and remind myself that I feel pretty great this week in the same body I don’t love looking at in photos.

Then I noticed I was hungry and it was dinner time, yet I felt torn about feeding myself dinner after looking at the photos. “Wow,” I thought. “The social conditioning of the belief that fat people don’t deserve to give themselves the food they need is strong.” I chose to notice that feeling, acknowledge that it was bullshit, and eat dinner anyway.

So I went to bed feeling pretty shitty. And woke up early ruminating on the same thoughts. And then it hit me…..while I was ruminating on that negative self-talk, I hadn’t once thought about the news we got a couple days ago that my mother-in-law’s cancer has progressed to the point where they are stopping the chemotherapy. I hadn’t once thought about how sad I was about the fact that my mother-in-law is terminally ill. How much we will miss her. How my father-in-law will be all alone after over four decades of marriage to his best friend and how worried I am about how lonely and sad he will feel. How my husband will lose his mother.  And holy shit, all that is really sad and painful and scary to think about.

In my therapy sessions we have been talking about how body talk seems to be a coping mechanism for me. It serves to distract me from other uncomfortable feelings. So I can use it as a tool, or a flag, and ask myself what is really going on. Interesting how beating myself up seems to be the less painful option than facing actual sadness.

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Can a Person Be Considered Body Positive If They Want To Lose Weight?

“Can a person be considered body positive if they want to lose weight?”

This is a question I see a lot lately in the body positive and fat acceptance communities, in light of body positivity going mainstream, corporations who profit off body dissatisfaction co-opting the body positive message, and people who declare they are #bodypositivebut.

As with many questions, the answer depends on who you ask. And if you want to know what other people think, please ask them and/or read their articles, or read this pretty comprehensive summary of the movement from Buzzfeed. I’m gonna answer from my own perspective, while acknowledging that my opinion is not the only one out there.

And my opinion has many shades. I think differently than I did a year ago, and may think differently about it next year too. These are my thoughts at this particular moment in time. My thoughts here relate to individuals, not to for-profit entities.

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How Body Positivity and HAES Just May Have Saved My Marriage

I grew up as a believer in divorce.

I realize that is an odd thing to say, but it is the best way I can think of to describe it. My parents had a relationship that drained both of them.  I recall, at the age of seven or eight, asking my mother why she and my father didn’t get a divorce.

They did – almost two decades later. Why did they wait? Ambivalence. Fear of the unknown. Belief that they could provide a more comfortable life for their children together than apart.

Watching them, I vowed that I would not put myself nor my children through the same. If I ever felt so unhappy in a marriage, I would not stay for the sake of the children. I would leave. Better that the children see me in no relationship at all, than to see me staying in an unhappy relationship.

And then I grew up and realized that life is more complicated than I thought as a kid. (Turns out that my younger self was judgemental and sanctimonious about many things I knew nothing about….marriage, kids, health as a middle aged person…..)

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Better Late Than Never

Some self care I practiced this week, above and beyond regular daily habits:

I reached out to some understanding friends to vent about some big feelings I was having, and realized that I wanted to follow up on finding therapist who specializes in eating disorders. It feels like a bit of a strange time to do this, given that my relationship with food is currently better than I ever imagined it could be. Even so, while my behaviors around food currently feel healthy, balanced and comfortable, my body still plays a more prominent role in my thoughts than I would like. I recently realized that I had eating disorders as a child and young adult that went untreated. While I was able to overcome the disordered behaviors and fears around food with the help of some wonderful communities online, the continued preoccupation with my body over other things in life is starting to annoy me. I get very preoccupied with my body in order to avoid certain things that scare me in my life. And I also find that I am still dealing with some of the effects of being brought up in an environment where I was told that something was wrong with me by parents, doctors, and other children.  It caused depression, self esteem issues, vulnerability and productivity issues that I am still sorting out, well into adulthood. Keeping this blog and participating in online groups has been a great tool that has brought me very far….and I’m feeling like I am at the point where I would like some help. So I’m going to try out therapy. Better late than never, right? My first appointment will be next week.

In other “better late than never” news, I remembered that my physical therapist had noticed in the initial evaluation (back in June!) that my feet over-pronate when I walk, and mentioned that it could be a factor in my back aches. Remembered that I have had issues from my flat-ish feet off and on since childhood and in the past had used either prescription orthotic inserts or running shoes good for over-pronators with good results. Looked at my very worn out sneakers. Ordered some running shoes for overpronators (a similar model to a shoe I had used in the past). I’m crossing my fingers it will help with my back aches. The nerve tingling in my legs is completely gone, but my the back aches are still persisting with standing/walking.

I also figured out how to get around the resentment I was feeling around doing my physical therapy home exercises. I “shrunk the habit” by deciding that the goal was to just do one exercise. Usually once I start, I end up doing most of them. But I can mark the habit as successful even if I just do one exercise. I also sometimes switch up the order of exercises if I want to so I feel like I have some autonomy/choice in the matter.

Finally – I decided to try something a little bit outside of my comfort zone! I signed up for a Drills and Distance class at the Y! It’s a class that meets twice per week for 85 minutes to improve stroke technique and endurance. Since it meets on the days I already go to swim, it shouldn’t be too big a change. However, I’m nervous about being in over my head, and a little nervous about getting kiddo out the door in time. I’m doing it anyway though and I’m excited!

My face after signing up for Drills and Distance

My face after signing up for Drills and Distance

So, three things to look forward to next week…..a new swim class, new shoes, and meeting a new therapist.

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