Fat Girl, Judging

It all starts when she walks into the cardio room.

Her leg muscles shimmy in unnaturally trapezoidal shapes, soft-edged only enough to be more irritatingly cute. For a moment I only noticed that she has the kind of thigh gap teen magazines weep over, but then I see she is also only about 5 foot.

And the (internal) litany begins.

“What are you, 16?* Sure it’s easy to look like that when you’ve only been eating solid food for like a decade.** We’ll see when you’re 30 and have a real life.***”

*At 16 I was skinnier, too. **I still was not tiny at 16. ***In fact, I never saw the inside of a gym until my late 20s, and I still don’t have a real life…

But you get the picture. When a girl comes into the gym who has clearly been using it well, I resent that. Why are they there? They already are perfect, and surely if they look that good it’s easier for them. The gym is for me, the fat kid!

“See, I have other priorities in life besides how I look.”

What a hypocrite. The only reason you are in a gym is because you hate being pudgy.

I mean, there’s another side of me chirping back– “Isn’t it sad that she’s being forced to fit the mold of female beauty? That having gym toned muscles is how modern people try to attain a natural form we’d have if we lived more active lives and ate fewer refined foods?”

And yet another part chimes in, “I wonder if she’s insecure, and that’s why she’s working so hard to look perfect.”

(A better question: how many women exist who are not insecure about how they look? Especially at 16? {She was probably older than that, I am exaggerating.})

The worst part is that I know my judgment is just part of the vicious cycle of women judging others’ use of time and resources. And I don’t philosophically agree with the ugly things my mind is saying.

It’s OK for me to be in the gym because I’ve let myself go, but I get to judge girls who have maintained their musculature, or maybe (heaven forbid) enjoy exercising?

I want to protect myself from the internal judgment I feel, so I turn it outward. I congratulate myself on running a paltry few minutes when she gets off the treadmill after a light walk, though I know it’s either because she was warming up, or because it’s a light day.

“Or because you’re so obnoxious to watch running, hefting all that deadweight around, she wants to wait until you leave.”

See, it’s so much easier to think in snappy one-liners that push away my discomfort with someone else’s success. With being where I don’t feel like I should be, because I don’t love being here or even look like I’ve been going there at all.

But this isn’t license to judge. And my confession here is also a reminder–body positivity can’t actually live in the same space as shaming others.

Ugh, this stuff is hard.

A Solo Valentine

Maybe my body is the topic for this week. Maybe tomorrow I will let it live it’s usual non-Internet life.

But in follow-up to yesterday’s post, I want to write a short love-letter to my body.

Dear Body,

Since you came into this world, and your parents were given 15 lasagnes to eat by loving church friends, you have been under a sort of attack.

Despite Italian heritage it turns out pasta is not your friend, and neither is pasteurized milk in large quantities. I’m still in denial about the tomato sauce, but I’m sure you know what the truth is.

Anyway, from being a colicky baby, and a redhead with an odd suite of genes, you have had it kind of rough. Dear stomache [sic] you are a trooper.

Despite my dislike for doing anything besides reading, when I got you out the door, you were actually pretty co-ordinated. I’m sorry the only thing I cared about in the Summer Kid Olympics was the pie-eating contest. (Stomach, man, my bad.)

And when I took up softball and kept pitching despite the fact that it hurt me, I’m sorry. I should have done my own research but Google was still new then, and I didn’t get much computer time.

Still, I should have listened.

Lately, I think, we’ve been on the same page a lot more. Loosening up a little with yoga and belly dance has made some good headway on repairing our lost trust. You’ve done a really good job with what you had to work on.

I’m sorry about all the acidic coffee. And the sugar that keeps you below-par.

I’m already working on that. Your input has been very valuable.

And you know, I do appreciate you. Redhead genes: I appreciate the way though my skin burns under the sun, you do your best to tan a tiny bit anyway. That though I have a low threshold for certain kinds of pain, I have a high threshold for some others.

That my hands have always been easy to train to do new things, and that sports have never been as frustrating because of my eye-hand coordination being pretty good. Thanks for be quick to build the muscle I need.

I appreciate that I’m just about the right amount of tall (especially after improving my posture). That my mind racing has brought me to this place of being a writer and coach. And that when my wisdom teeth came in it closed the gap in my front teeth–but not all the way, because I’m used to that.

For being able to keep going long after I would have guessed I was done exercising. For putting up with strange foods and not being actually allergic to much of anything.

For showing the lineage I’m otherwise not that close to culturally, and helping me realize I’m different from the American norm early.

To the rest of our lives together!

~Love, Bethany

Beauty, Intangible

It’s something I’ve written about before, I’m sure, but I’m still thinking about it.

I’m putting together a lovely box of essential oils, essential-oil products, and gifts for this program, Bone Deep.

It’s a two-fold thing, taking its theme from that old saw “beauty is only skin deep”.

If only. There’s an implication “Therefore it is unimportant, and no one should care!” There is no question that paying less attention to external beauty would be nice, especially for the poor kids getting jaw-shaving surgery (among other things) in the K-pop industry.

But it also clashes with this idea that beauty can come from within, something we know to be true.

So, this box includes skincare stuff–infused with essential oils that are great to lift the mood AND treat your skin deliciously.

It also includes a booklet about taking 14 days to improve your love toward yourself. Being at home in your skin is an indefinably beautifying thing.

It also includes three sessions with me on the subject, because getting support and targeted help with the process is invaluable. (I can tell myself over and over again that I’m FINE but it’s when a coach asks me, “So what is really happening” that I’m honest with myself.)

The problem with dismissing beauty is that it seems to be planted in our consciousness for a reason. The way we evaluate it is directed by our cultures–the way we respond to it often coded by our own experience.

(For instance, the way I feel hostility and mistrust toward guys with a certain set of features, because I watched a guy I thought was cute sucker-punch the school misfit. I’m sure many of them haven’t done that, but it’s coded in that they’re capable of deceiving me!)

We react to other humans through a complicated mesh of factors, and what our eyes see is incredibly powerful.

The good news is that very often we see “confidence” before we see size number, or “kind eyes” before we see wrinkles.

It also matters that what you see in your body and face is a reflection of what is going on in your health. As I get more and more experienced as a health coach, I start to notice certain tells in faces or body-shapes that correspond to physical issues.

(Was phrenology so off after all? Who can say, very little legit research on that one…)

Your skin shows, in a muted way, where you’re under stress, where your diet is out of balance.

I include beauty (in the sense of skincare and fitness) in my passions, even though externals aren’t something I hold as a virtue. Instead, it’s because it has a very real interaction between emotion and health, the two things I’m the most fierce about.

Love and beauty from within–you can’t get the one without the other, it seems to me.

What can you do to show your body and spirit a little love today?

 

Calling It

The other day I had a mild (?) panic attack.

It was quite fascinating!

Because I spent the greater part of my early life in a sort of anxious haze, I had never really thought about whether I had panic attacks.

It’s quite possible I haven’t had one before, at least not one so clearly delineated. There was a series of circumstances that caught me by surprise, I was nervous about something else, and I found myself getting trapped in an emotional whirl.

Because I’ve been doing some investigation of my emotional triggers, I recognized it as a phenomenon of brain chemistry that was actually quite distinct from what I felt I should be processing intellectually.

“So this is a thing that’s happening,” I marvelled.

Now that makes it sound rather surgical. Of course what really happened is that I was walking out the door, asked for keys, was on a bit of timeline–and found out I had to drive a new car I’d never driven before.

And it made me scared and angry, and for a few minutes I wasn’t sure why, but things were NOT GOOD.

I decided, once I realized this was a state not entirely rational, that I would give myself some extra time. Went out to the car, came back in to get more ready. My mom, picking up on my not-so-subtle mood, asked if I was alright.

It felt like a relief to tell her–it just had triggered anxiety.

For one thing, it was great to feel how much of an outlier that experience was to me, now. To have vocabulary that allowed me to step back from it.

To be able to take charge, even though my emotions had been going haywire.

Of course, I put a gob of EOs on, too. And later in the evening, when I couldn’t figure out how to turn on my headlights and was on the highway with someone helpfully flashing their lights in my rearview window, I did not panic.

I mean, I freaked out, but only the rational amount.

***

Small steps like this are sometimes are huge shifts for our thinking!

If you’re thinking about how to transform your life, including work on how you interact with your emotions, my coaching program is designed around enabling that.

Check out my webinar this Friday, September 30th 7PM Central: Unlock Your Agency

Alien Body Syndrome

I’ve been pondering the ways our bodies become foreign territory lately.

Several things inspired it–this :fire: interview on MarieTV, my belly dance class, and also interviews with martial artists for a book I’m planning.

And yesterday as I was walking I realized that the small of my back is always tight because I’m trying not to let my body sway too much. Walk straight, tight, compact.

I recently watched what was essentially an academic lecture on gender portrayals in advertising, “The Codes of Gender”. It talked mainly about femininity–how it’s portrayed as vulnerable, unconnected with surroundings or even objects the model touches. But the masculinity is hyperreal, too–even if the men are skinny they seem to have a certain strength or confidence that lines up with an ideal.

Both sides of this may not be the way the models actually feel, but it’s in the way they are presented by pose.

While I am intimately familiar with way women feel about their bodies, there was a theme in my interviews with the male martial artists–when they started they were unconnected to their bodies, because they were “not athletic” or “skinny”.

Women’s bodies are treated as objects. Men’s bodies are supposed to possess certain sizes and skills.

Most of us, I think, disassociate in one way or another, to not feel shame or inadequacy.

So we have these alien bodies that send up flares through pain or hunger or anxiety, trying to regain connection.

Like Glennon Doyle Melton talks about in that interview, yoga (and martial arts and belly dance) can be the way we reconnect with our bodies. More importantly, you have to take the step of being willing to listen not just to the flares, but the reason you disconnected in the first place.

It’s work I’m still doing. But Rising Strong is one resource I can recommend for exploring that, as is any of Brene Brown’s work.

And if you want a comrade on that journey, I’m here.

~ Bethany, Your Friendly Neighborhood Health Coach

***

My upcoming webinar Unlock Your Agency (Sep 30th, 7pm Central) will cover some easy tools to start on reclaiming your life, including your body. I’ll also have a special enrollment price for new clients!

Are you ready to reclaim your body as your territory?

Sugar Drama – or, how I coach myself

To be honest, I miss having a drama-diary.

You know, the kind you keep when you’re young or upset, usually both? The kind that chronicles the super-important events of angst and feeling.

I’ve never been very good at that kind of diary (I am the sort of person who writes to reason with myself, and left most of the interesting bits out of any given diary entry even during those days) but Morning Pages aren’t at all like that.

I have been on the move the last several days, between cities and in the car for the better part of 4 days. 2 out of those four I didn’t do my Morning Pages. I’m advanced enough in my practice while I may make the choice to do that, I don’t forget. I may remember throughout the day, even just because of my lack of focus.

Then again, I’ve had enough of a practice that I can also have the conversations in my head that I started to learn to have on paper.

While I was away, feeling the heat of 100+ weather that the car AC was catching up from for the fifth time that day, I started thinking about the fitness/health issue that’s been bothering me.

And I realized: I have been not quitting sugar when I know it’s a huge problem for me–for no good reason. Only to have a reason to not be well.

Ugh.

I HATE WHEN I’M RIGHT.

Haha.

I look forward to starting off tomorrow with nowhere to go and a proper morning with some journaling in it. Maybe we can have a good talk about how I’m going to stay on the bandwagon beyond just “WE’RE DONE, SUGAR, I DON’T NEED YOU ANYMORE.”

I guess my journals are still a little dramatic.


 

Interested in weaponizing your own diary? Or getting into the practice of journaling?

Get Back Your MOJO closes registration today!

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The Nail Polish/Calorie Correlation

I’m revisiting some of the lectures from IIN before I lose access, and just listened to one about the futility of calorie restriction as a weight-loss/health concept.

I am sold on this, to the point that when I hear people talking about calories I am honestly either surprised or angry. (Or both. For them, though, not AT them.)

And yet every once in a while I wonder about whether I really just need to eat less. Because we’re being brainwashed by every ad and magazine and even very legitimate sources that calories = fatness.

(It also gives me a particular savage delight in the Good Omens “Famine” character, who designs not just no-food dieting, but get-fat-while-you-die-of-starvation fast food. SPOT ON.)

I realized that what’s going on is remarkably similar to my abusive cycle with this healthy alternative nail polish I bought.

nails

See, come right down to it, this nail polish is terrible. It seems to be hard, but using your hands for anything beyond talking like an Italian is going to tear it up.

And yet, every once in a while I am really, really wanting to do my nails, but I don’t want to introduce terrible chemicals to my body, so I try it. And then I think it’s dry enough to go on with life…and I’m wrong.

And I blame myself.

I’M the one who didn’t wait long enough. I shouldn’t have tried another coat. I do a terrible job putting it on anyway…and on and on it goes.

THE NAIL POLISH DOESN’T WORK.

nailing
leaving my left-handed art skills aside, okay

I would have better results with a sharpie and some wood varnish.

It’s the same with dieting. There is so much margin for error, that people blame themselves for not making it work, when it fundamentally doesn’t work with human biology.

Yes, I need to eat less processed foods. No, I shouldn’t try to eat less.

I swear I’m learning.