Archive for the ‘self-image’ Category

Poem of the Day – “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou

Someone read this poem to me the other day – someone who I consider to be a phenomenal woman, a woman who spends a good deal of time inspiring other women (and probably men) to be as phenomenal as well. I thought I’d share and also store it here., so that when I began to doubt myself – in any realm – I can remind myself that I, too, am phenomenal.

Phenomenal Woman

By Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman” from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, Inc.

Forgive my absence: I’m in love

Isn’t it funny how people always have plenty to say when things are going bad, but not a lot to say when things are going well?

It’s sort of like the news. If you just watched the news, you would assume that we’re pretty much living in hell, because all of the good things that go on in the world don’t seem “newsworthy.” It’s also like your friend who only has bad things to say about their partner/boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife.

So we live in a society where bad news is newsworthy and we’d rather bitch about our lives than celebrate. Lovely.

Having given this topic some thought recently, I’ve come up with a couple of possible explanations of why this might be the case.

1) When life, love, diet, etc. are going well, we’re simply too busy enjoying life to whip off a blog post or call up a friend.

2) We’ve all been socialized not to brag – which, ironically, may have unintentionally sucked all of the celebration out of our lives.

3) We’re socially predisposed to not notice the good and only notice the bad.

4) We’ve been taught (there’s that socialization word again, different spelling) that bad news is the only news worth reporting. (What is that old saying: no news is good news?) And while that maybe true, how would it change our lives – if not the world – if we not only focused on the good, but also shared, reported, and celebrated it?

So, in the interest of experimentation: I’m in love!

Now, I’ve been in love with my partner, soon to be husband, for a while now and that has not changed, other than ripening with each passing day. However, I have recently discovered a new love – actually, three new loves. (I started to write, “It seems almost like an embarrassment of riches, doesn’t it?”, when I realized that was just me who’s been told – repeatedly by well intentioned people who had it told to them – too much of a good thing does not a good thing make or, better yet, no one likes a braggart!)

So, who are my new loves?

Love number one, hoop dance. About a month ago, I purchased a 3.5 pound fitness hoop on amazon. It was the first hula hoop I’d ever owned. I could barely get it around my waist once and I would only hoop when Michael was downstairs. Even though I’m sure he could hear it clattering against the hardwood floor, at least he wasn’t watching. Within a few weeks, I was hooping up to an hour a day and just recently, I’ve made the jump to dance. This is literally the most fun…ever. I’m not doing a lot of the fancy tricks yet, but I am exploring space and dancing. It’s fun. It’s feminine. It’s a killer workout. And when I used to sit down and whip off a blog about food or diet, I now go and pick up the hoop. And perhaps even more importantly, instead of putting something in my mouth, I’ll go pick up the hoop. And did I mention the number of inches I’ve lost, in just a month? I’ll be posting my hoop reviews shortly (as I now have quite the collection, in a host of colors).

Love number two: Brittany. Now, this may sound a little woo-woo, but bear with me. I’ve been working with a coach who specializes in inner child work (which, until I started doing it myself, I’d always assumed was a bunch of hooey; well, turns out, it’s not). For about a year, I’ve been aware of my inner child, Kathy Jo and I’ve cultivated a very good relationship with her. Bottom line, when I take care of her, my needs to “act out” in terms of drinking, over eating, binging, procrastinating, etc, really diminish. During a recent session with my coach, I closed my eyes and there was Kathy Jo: cool. But there was another child with her, slightly older, who was skinny (which was weird, because I don’t really think of any of the iterations of my past in those terms) and dressed somewhat like an orphan. It took a while, but eventually she told me her name: Brittany. Brittany is older than Kathy Jo and she is the part of me with abandonment issues. She is also the part of me who wants to be the center of attention. It took several days to finally get into relationship with Brittany, but now that we have, my entire life seems easier and I am much more at ease in my body and in the world. Because now that I have recognized her and am in relationship with her, it’s easier for me to just be and my desire for recognition (and security) seems much less persistent.

And finally, love number three: myself. I have finally fallen in love with myself! It’s taken 41 years, but it has finally happened. I can’t explain how or why, but it’s true and it’s fun and it’s a glorious place to be. I was actually afraid to say anything publicly, because I was afraid to jinx it. However, after a four week honeymoon, I think it’s pretty set. And, notably, the hooping, Brittany, and the body are all connected and are, in many – if not all – ways, mutually reinforcing.

So that’s me. I love my hoop, I love all of the previously cordoned off parts of me that appear to be making an appearance one by one, and I love myself. It really doesn’t get much better than this, which is – in and of itself – worth reporting.

Mind Blowing: Leave Your Mis/Pre-Conceptions at the Door

Logically, I know that if we had to deal with all of the information that the world throws at us, we’d be insane. We are constantly bombarded by so much information that the brain really has no choice – other than insanity – to create little boxes and, in some cases, put people into them. Usually this is an okay strategy. Other times it can lead to misunderstandings and lost opportunities. All too often it can also lead to stigmatization, isolation, prejudice, and discrimination.

I was at a seminar last week to begin the fun and exciting process of becoming a Nuero-Linguistic Programming Practitioner. I have been going to similar seminars over the last year or so, with roughly the same group of people. Sometimes we learn about marketing. Other times we learn about teaching and learning. Once we learned about personality and personality types. Through it all, I’ve made friends with some of the other participants, while remaining aloof or withdrawn from others.

One of women in the latter group, I will call “S”.

S is, there really is no other way to describe it, drop-dead gorgeous. She’s literally one of these women that stops traffic in busy urban centers.

I’ve known her for close to a year. We’d always smile politely from across the seminar room or maybe even exchange pleasantries in the women’s room – me in my slacks and sweaters and her in her revealing dresses, short skirts, mesh tops, and leather boots. (You know, all of the stuff that I don’t have the personality to pull off even if I had the body!) Me with my hair pulled back tightly in the librarian-like bun and hers in a riot of curls that spills around her shoulders in a shockingly tantalizing manner.

Seriously.

Drop. Dead. Gorgeous.

Smoking Hot is another phrase that pops to mind, but I digress.

About two weeks before the last seminar, I got a friend request on Facebook from S and I spent a day (or more) trying to figure out why. I mean, sure, we’d had a couple of meaningless conversations in the bathroom during breaks, but why would she friend me? I mean, seriously, how did she even know who I was, let alone my name. I promptly determined that she had just seen my picture on someone else’s Facebook page and thought, “Why not?”

Feeling a little suspicious – because, after all, why would someone like her want to be friends with someone like me? – I accepted the invitation and assumed that would be the end of it.

A few days later, I posted a picture of myself on a carousal on Santa Monica pier and she commented: “Beautiful.”

I was flummoxed.

Secretly pleased, but flummoxed nonetheless.

During the seminar, I actually worked with S – not just once, but a few times.

We also chatted.

We also had real conversations about things that mattered and gradually I let my guard down.

And I realized that I really liked her and that maybe I had – in my super-judgmental mode – misjudged her.

Towards the end of the conference, she told me that she had always assumed that I would never be interested in talking to/working with/getting to know her because I had so much education and was a professor, whereas she was a massage therapist and had considerably less formal education than I. (Technically, most of the world does, but that’s besides the point!)

I laughed, because I had never once thought about her intellect – as I could never get past her staggering beauty. (Despite the fact that she is quite intelligent!)

Of course, I had to tell her that I always assumed the same thing – that I had been laboring under the illusion that she would never want to talk to/work with/get to know me, because I was so much less attractive than she.

(You know what “they” say about assumptions – they make an ass out of u and me.)

S and I ended up talking a little more until there were so many commonalities in our lives, that I literally burst into tears. And before I knew it I found myself in the arms of a woman who – three months ago – I had been so intimidated by, that I would barely even say hello to her in a public place.

How sad is that?

I am so glad that she decided to reach out to me. And I am very glad to call her my friend – or should I say, my drop, dead gorgeous, smokin’ hot, intelligent friend!

If there’s someone in your life that you are fascinated by but who you think “would never talk to you” for whatever reason – try it.

The worst thing that could happen is that you could be right.

The best thing, however, is that you could make a new friend and come to see them (and yourself) in a different light.

Feeding My Inner Child

A few of months ago, I started doing a guided meditation every morning, where I awaken my “inner angel” – that would be “Kathy Jo” – and get her ready for the day.

Part of this entails letting her pick out what she wants to wear (which is inevitably a dress of some sort – that child has yet to put on pants or jeans), to give her whatever she wants for breakfast (usually something involving peanut butter), and then pack her a bag of toys and food for the day.

The purpose of this exercise is to make sure that your inner Mini-Me can eat whatever the heck you want so that you don’t have to. The first two months of this was great. But then, since Cat died, I stopped going to see Kathy Jo. I stopped going to see her because when I went there in my mind, Cat was there and it reopened the wound – instead of bringing me joy that Cat had found her way – as I should have known she would – to my inner sanctum.

It’s probably no wonder that that’s when the binging started, now that I think about it.

Since Kathy Jo wasn’t getting her peanut butter, her Doritos, her Hostess cupcakes, and her Fig Newtons – not to mention my mother’s famous fried peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich or her homemade pancakes layered with – you guessed it! – peanut butter, someone had to eat it. And, unfortunately that someone was me.

Just as an aside: Looking at that list, is there any surprise at all that I have such a peanut butter fetish? Talk about eating your childhood memories.

Well. Monday evening, after yet another bout of hysteria over Cat, Bella, and whatever else happened to cross my mind, I decided to turn over a new leaf.

Tuesday I set the alarm 30 minutes early and did my guided meditation.

Kathy Jo was a bit stand-offish. Who can blame her, really? I hadn’t been there in three weeks (possibly more).

She selected a pale lilac dress, some Dorothy shoes, and a little white cardigan.

And for breakfast, she wanted the peanut butter pancakes – but only if the peanut butter had been slightly melted, like it used to when my mother would leave the jar on the stove top while she cooked.

In her bag, she wanted a mix of things that ranged from baby carrots and strawberries (yea! not all is lost) to Hostess Cupcakes, Cheetos, and some sort of orange drink out of a pouch. I can’t even remember the name of that stuff, but I remember what the pouch looked like – essentially, it looked just like something that my mother would have refused to buy either because it was too expensive or too messy or too something!

On the way home from my belly dancing class last night, I was really hungry.

It was 9:00 and I was sort of worried about walking into the house – read, the kitchen – ravenous.

So, as I was driving, I imagined that Kathy Jo was sitting next to me in the car, happily munching on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And – just in case she was as hungry as I was – there was another one in her lap!

When I finally got home, I walked in, made an uber-healthy shake with some rice protein powder and spinach and went to bed. There was no snacking, no peanut butter, no tahini, nothing. And, more to the point, no temptation – at least not for food. 😉

Today on my way home, just to see if I could repeat the experience, I imagined Kathy Jo sitting next to me eating cinnamon toast. (You know, it’s really amazing what comes out of your memory when you ask your inner child what she wants to eat, because, seriously, I hadn’t thought about my mother’s cinnamon toast in years!)

Regardless, even though I hadn’t consciously been Jonesing on my mother’s cinnamon toast, Kathy Jo obviously had. She had about six pieces.

I, on the other hand, drank my water and munched happily on a Spirulina Go Raw Bar.

When I got home, I “cooked.” I made hummus, tabouli, and beet and carrot slaw for Michael J. and I made two batches of raw marinara sauce for myself.

And you know what? I didn’t snack, I didn’t over eat, and I didn’t binge.

Two for two after a really bad 20 for 20 (in the opposite direction).

I wonder what Kathy Jo will want in her bag tomorrow. Because, whatever it is – she can have it!

Peeking Under The Hood: It’s Not Just Calories In, Calories Out

Over the last month or so, I have hired a personal coach. Ostensibly, the goal was to help me break through my unfortunate, not to mention unhealthy, addiction to stress eating. And I don’t just stress eat – I do it at night. And I do it with just about anything with the word butter in the title – peanut butter being my ultimate favorite, followed closely by almond butter, then tahini (which, you guessed it, is sesame butter)! I guess the only good news is that I don’t like, eat, or use real butter, so it could be worse!

Regardless….

I have hired this amazing coach, Steph, and every week we talk on the phone for about an hour – every fourth week it’s an hour and a half. And guess what? Never once have we actually talked about food.

According to Steph, my remaining issues with food – the stress eating, the over reliance on fat and salt as a coping mechanism – are all symptomatic of deeper, underlying issues, many of which have their origins in childhood, but were undoubtedly reinforced in adolescence as well as in adulthood.

Last week, Steph took me on a guided meditation using a lot of Native American symbolism and other shamanistic healing techniques. She asked me to imagine a wooded setting and just to let different animals appear to me and to guide me through to my destination.

Although I was skeptical at first – aren’t I always? – my subconscious mind presented me with different guides with very little prompting. One, I had always suspected was a guide for me – the Deer. The others – an Owl, a Woodchuck, and a Peacock – were a little more surprising.

After the call, I did a little google searching on animal spirit guides and here’s what I found:

The Deer: The deer as a totem serves as a bridge between the wild and the tame. This is because the deer will often be seen on the edges of the wilderness it calls home. Deer will also venture into our roadways and gardens. When deer appears you may want to ask yourself if there is a wild streak in you that desires taming. Or, have you been too cautious lately and desire to take a walk on the wild side? Deers have acute senses, they are always on alert to keep themselves from harms way. Deer totem may appear when danger is lurking, it also serves as a reminder to be watchful and alert to potential harm….”

The Owl: “The owl represents wisdom and higher education. Because of the owl’s keen eyesight it considered to be a great visionary. It also has superb hearing. As a totem it can reveal clairaudient and clairvoyant abilities. This nocturnal bird is called “The Keeper of Dark Secrets.” The owl totem has a connection to the dark side and the dead. The owl is associated with superstition and magical powers. Whenever an owl appears or you hear an owl screech in the night it may be that a secret will soon be revealed to you. Also, if a secret is shared with you in confidence, the owl serves as a reminder to honor that knowledge and keep the secret private.”

The Woodchuck (aka Groundhog): “The groundhog is symbolically known as being a trance dreamer because of its deep slumber while hibernating underground. If the groundhog is your personal animal totem or makes its appearance in your life it may indicate that messages are being given to you through your dreams. Because the groundhog is a territorial animal, you may be in need of setting up boundaries or guarding your personal space.”

The Peacock: “The peacock is a majestic and mystical totem symbolizing inner wisdom. Whenever the peacock visits it is an invitation to view higher aspects of yourself through the eye image displayed on its magnificent display of feather plumes. The eye is your gateway to higher knowledge. Ask yourself if you need to widen your perspective and look deeper regarding a situation. The iridescent hues of blues and greens in the feathers have an exotic look. Are you stuck in drab surroundings? Are you able to reflect light and deflect dark emotions? The peacock teaches us to stand upright and show others our talents with pride.”

This may not be that resonate with you, as my readers, but, trust me, it’s very resonate with what’s going on in my life at the moment as well as in the foreseeable future.

If you haven’t ever looked beneath your own hood – I highly recommend it. It’s interesting. It’s fun. And it’s surprisingly insightful.

If you’re interested in finding your animal guides, here are three steps taken from an article originally posted at ehow.com.

Step 1
Find your power animal pro-actively by asking the animal spirits for a dream. Then rest and let the power animal find you. Don’t dismiss smaller animals such as mice or even insects. Animals have their own unique strengths. You may want to keep a journal beside your bed and make note of recurring dreams in which an animal or some form of an animal appears again.

Step 2
Notice the things in nature that you are continually drawn to. Power animals may guide your senses and attention to certain elements, natural sites or geographical phenomena that are reminiscent of or peculiar to a certain animal. If you are repeatedly captivated by nests, burrows or snow, for example, let the animal world communicate itself to you.

Step 3
Take time during the day to relax, close your eyes and breathe. Power animals frequently make themselves known to us when we are conscious as well as when we are asleep. Be receptive to visions through meditation. In your calm state, imagine a situation where you move out of your personal space such as your home and enter into an unknown but unthreatening and quiet natural space such as a field or a cave.

Read more: How to Find Your Power Animal | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2202396_power-animal.html#ixzz0w1WxcSIj

For those of you who know me, you’re probably thinking: What?! Who are you and what have you done with KJ?!

Don’t worry, the staid, quiet academic you know and love is alive and well (well, when she needs to be), but this year has been a time of deep reflection and exploration for me. I’ve stepped away from strictly rational explanations – not that I am implying that there is anything irrational about spirit guides, mind you! I have also lessened my reliance on strict sociological explanations and have begun to include more psychological insights into my view of the world.

So, does this mean I’m flip-flopping or abandoning my roots? No, not at all. I prefer to think of it as growing. Of letting go of some of the rigidity of my youth and seeing the world and myself in different and multifaceted ways. And, hey, if by opening my mind to new possibilities means I can get rid of these stubborn couple inches of belly fat, all the better. Regardless of what happens with my waistline, I can tell you one thing – since I have been, as Peter Gabriel so eloquently put it – digging in the dirt – life has gotten so, so much easier on so many fronts, the least of which is food!

Personality and Stress Eating

I have battled with stress eating my whole life. I always assumed that it was a lack of will power.

I am currently at a five day seminar on personality types. (Michael J and I are all about the learning vacations!)

Yesterday we covered the Myers-Brigg in more detail than I have even seen it covered in any psychology class in college.

Much to my chagrin, I am still a hard core INTJ (Introvert, Intuitive, Thinker, Judger). I would like to think that I have have practiced my Feeling muscle over the years, but it’s not totally clear after sitting at a table with a bunch of self-identified hard core feelers.

The interesting thing (one of many) about yesterday’s presentation, is they helped us to identify our strengths and our weaknesses. The thing that you are most weak in is your achilles heel, so to speak, and under times of stress, you revert back to it. It’s sort of like letting a 3 year old drive your brand new Mercedes! Because my weakness is Extroverted Sensing, under times of stress, I often seek out whole body sensory activities, which, if left unchecked, can manifest itself in addictions – to food, to alcohol, to drugs! (Notably, my struggle with stress eating has tripled since I stopped drinking red wine on a regular basis).

Interestingly (and I actually felt good about this), my positive “hack” is exercise.

This means when I get to feeling overwhelm and stress in my strength, my Introverted Intuition, instead of reaching for the almond butter or tahini (or whatever the full fat flavor of the week happens to be) I should exercise! Even if it’s just a short ten or fifteen minute burst.

I tend to do this anyway, but hopefully having this insight will encourage me to do that first, instead of after the fact.

Although the course is on personality type, I think it’s really about preference and habits. I’m hoping to get some additional tips on how to not only strengthen my strengths but also to strengthen (or at the very least shore up) my weaknesses.

It’s Very Rare That I’m Speechless…

…but it’s been known to happen.

Today was one of those days. I literally lost my whole train of thought, my mind blanked out and literally jumped tracks.

I was at a business meeting. I can’t remember exactly what was said, but the gentleman to my right said (to me): “But you’re very thin.”

All of the noise in the busy cafe faded to nothingness. I totally forgot what I was saying. If the floor didn’t tilt it very well could have. And I just sat there – mouth open.

‘Really? Can I kiss you?’

It really was shocking to me to have someone that I didn’t know refer to me not only as thin – but as “very thin.”

Although I didn’t ask if I could kiss him out loud (though I might have, now that I think about it), I did ask if he was serious. “Really? Do you think so?”

He looked at me like I was crazy. “Yes,” he repeated, giving me a strange look. “You’re a very thin woman.”

Michael J, from his seat behind, me laughed, “Identity shift in action.” (He told me later that the silence emanating from me was deafening.)

It really was one of those moments where I felt like I had to explain my whole sordid history with food, but luckily for me (and probably for the poor guy who’s thinking he’s never going to comment on a woman’s weight again) I managed to choke it back after a quick false start.

It was an interesting moment – or ten, as that’s how long it took me to get my head around the fact that to the rest of the world (that is, the part that really doesn’t know me) thinks of me as being not only thin – but very thin.

There is no real moral to this story; I just wanted to write it down for posterity (especially now that I think I’m writing this in the middle of an earthquake!!! Time to go check CNN!)

post script: As it turns out there was a earthquake (5.9 on the richter scale) south of here, but it appears to have passed. Wouldn’t have that been a fitting? The first time a stranger refers to me as thin and the ground opens up and swallows me.

Introducing Bella

I have a new best friend.

Well, technically, I’ve always had her, I just didn’t appreciate her. In fact, I think it’s pretty fair to say that I loathed her (Sorry, Bella).

I have been working with spiritual weight loss coach, Andrea Albright, for almost a year now. If you recall, she was the one that convinced me to throw away the scale.

It was also on her advice that I examined the possibility that I may have a food allergy (or several as it turned out). And it’s been her voice that I listen to in my car everyday, telling me how important it is to love my body.

In addition to her general weight loss program, she also has a audio course specifically on losing belly fat, and in the very first disc, she invites you to rub your hands together to make sure they’re nice and warm and to lay them on your belly and say (out loud): I love you.

The first time I heard that, I laughed (out loud). And I most certainly didn’t do it. The reason I didn’t (or so I said) is because I was driving. But in reality, I just couldn’t stomach it – no pun intended. I didn’t love my belly. I hated it. (Again, sorry Bella).

Why is it important to love your belly?

Well, the more you love something, the better care you take of it.

And the more that you love something, the better care it takes of you.

When you love your belly, you’re no longer at war with your body, which means, by definition, that you are also no longer at war with yourself.

When you love your belly (or whatever part of your body with which you’re chronically dissatisfied) you eliminate a lot of negative self-talk from your life automatically.

It’s also important to love your belly (and every part of your body) because no matter what shape your belly (or your body) is in currently, she’s an amazing being. Just think about it: where would you be without her?!

One of the things that I learned from listening to Andrea is that this truly is the only body I have and will ever have. And though that seems incredibly simple, getting that – at a deep level – changes everything. Your body is always going to be with you. Your body is your most significant relationship – it is the true ’til death do us part.

When this finally clicked, everything changed. And I do mean everything.

All of a sudden that big fat belly that I used to focus on (and fixate on) with loathing and disgust became the part of my body that deserved the most attention, the most respect, and, believe it or not, the most love.

The first thing I did to rehabilitate my relationship with my belly was to stop referring to it as an it. And, as I’m sure you guessed, by now, named her.

Let me introduce you to my belly, Bella.

Now, you may be wondering, Why Bella?

No, this isn’t some weird Twilight thing!

One, Bella is close to belly.

Two, it means beautiful.

So, now whenever I look at my belly or think about it, I automatically associate the word beautiful with it. My beautiful belly. In fact, whenever I see myself in a full length mirror, I simply say hello to Bella, as I would any good friend.

Again, ‘Hello Beautiful.”

I know this sounds silly, but my entire orientation to my belly (and, in fact, my entire body!) has changed.

It’s a wonderful feeling to look in the mirror and like what you see. In fact, it’s something that until this last couple of weeks, I’d never before experienced.

So, why does it work?

One of the things that I’ve learned from working with different weight loss coaches, is that you should treat yourself (and your body) like you’re (she’s) your own best friend. When you do that, it becomes impossible to beat yourself up. I mean, think about it: when is the last time you told your best friend that she was a big, fat slob, an abject failure, or destined to be fat for the rest of her life?

I would imagine that if you can actually remember a time, it was probably right before you lost that best friend forever! Bottom line is that you just wouldn’t do it.

So why is it that most women look in the mirror and say those things to themselves every day – if not every hour of every day?

I can’t explain to you in writing how much my life has shifted with this one little thing. I truly love my belly. Now that I have named her, I am more likely to touch her and wrap my arms around her, much like I would a beloved child. I am more likely to mind my posture and and to engage in deep breathing as I am more aware of how this affects her. And just yesterday, while out shopping for t-shirts, I was much more likely to blame the cut of the shirt than my belly!

So, instead of thinking automatically, my stomach looks terrible in this, I literally (and seamlessly) found myself thinking: this shirt doesn’t look good on Bella. Or, better yet, Bella does not like this shirt.

For those of you who have ever stood underneath the florescent lights of dressing room beating yourself up, you know what a miraculous shift this kind of thinking is. And if you can’t imagine it, just try it.

It seems like such a tiny, silly, easy thing, but it’s been the most significant change I’ve made so far.

Seriously. If you have a love-hate (or even a hate-hate) relationship with your body or belly, change it. It doesn’t take much…just a little imagination and a willingness to treat your body with the same respect you’d most likely treat anyone upon whose life yours depended.

I’ll let that sink in. And in the meantime, Bella and I are going out to enjoy the sun!

Treating your body as an equal

I was listening to an audio recording with wellness coach Jena LaFlamme, who posited, among other things, that in order for you to be successful in your weight release efforts, you have to learn to “treat your body as an equal.”

While I was still trying to figure out what that even meant, she went onto to point out we tend to blame our body for it’s failure to comply with the mind’s demands (i.e., to be thinner, to be healthier, to be stronger). That we try to force our body to do what we want it to do. That we, all to often, feel betrayed for our body for failing to meet our expectations.

Although I had been listening all along, when she used that word – the ugly b-word – I sat up and took notice.

How many times have I used that word in the last six months?

More importantly, how often have I said out loud (or thought without speaking, but that my body could hear nonetheless) that I just couldn’t trust my body.

Isn’t it funny that when my body is doing what I want it to do, I take full credit, but when it’s not (or rather, when I’m not) I blame my body. It only makes me feel marginally better that that’s the way it tends to go for most people. That is, we, as humans, tend to take all the credit for the successes and shirk all of the responsibility (that we can) for the failures.

I hadn’t realized however – that is, until I heard this recording – that I did the same with my body.

My willpower got the credit. My body, as if it weren’t actually a part of me, got the blame.

Pretty interesting, huh?

Pretty sad.

So, in the interest of facilitating my weight loss efforts and minimizing my tendency towards negative self-talk I am willing to accept the fact that there is two of us: the brain (which houses the willpower) and the body.

And I am also willing to entertain the notion that we need a relationship intervention.

And that means that I – that is, my brain, my willpower, my conscious thought (or whatever you want to call it) – is going to have to learn to treat my body as an equal. And that means that I am going to have to start listening to, start trusting, and stop betraying her.

I know that earlier in this post I said that I often felt betrayed by my body. So, if my body is the betrayer, then why would I have to work on not betraying her?

Well, when I started thinking of my body as an equal – even preliminarily – I realized that I (i.e., my mind) has been a worse friend to my body than my body has ever been to me. I’m the one that made the decisions to eat junk, to drink alcohol, to exercise to the point of injury (or not at all), to deprive us of sleep, etc. You name it – with the exception of a few truly dangerous and disgusting habits – I’ve done it.

And what has she done? Well, she’s got me where I want to go and she’s – thankfully – stored fat to protect me from all of the stress of my bad decision making. (For those of you who have been following my efforts at weight release, you probably realize how hard it was for me to actually put that last sentence into writing!)

So, in the interest of creating a true relationship with my body, who is my equal as opposed to being my possession that I can neglect, abuse, or blame at will, I will do my level best to listen, trust, honor, safeguard, nurture, and love.

One of the quickest and most effective ways to create lasting change in your life is through the use of positive affirmations – affirmations are statements that are positive, have an emotional intensity, and are written in the present tense. I will say these these – both morning and night – until, eventually, they’ll be true:

  • I listen to my body
  • I trust my body
  • I honor my body
  • I safeguard my body
  • I nurture my body
  • I love my body

Pushing my boundaries (shopping for spring clothes)

Shopping for clothes in stores is always an adventure.

For the last two days, I’ve been scouring the Kohl’s sales racks. For those of you who don’t know about Kohl’s – it’s a mid tier department store (somewhere between Macy’s and Target). They are known for their sales. At the “end” of every season, they slash their inventory by anywhere from 60 to 80%

Luckily for those who live up north, spring doesn’t really arrive until about a week before summer. That means that you can wear the heavily discounted stuff for weeks – if not months – before you need to break out the linen and t-shirts!

Regardless, while I was there a couple of interesting things happened.

One, I found myself shopping at the low end of the clothing racks. It wasn’t that long ago that I would start at the 12s or 10s or the innocuous Ms. This time I found myself seeking out the 6s, the occasional 4s and the Ss. (Unfortunately I am not naive enough to think that Kohl’s and other mid-level department stores all across America haven’t gone to what one might call “vanity sizing,” but it was still fun!)

Two, I actually put things back that made me look “too big.” This is noteworthy, not because I’m significantly smaller than I’ve been for the last year or so, but rather because I’ve finally come to terms with what I look like in a mirror. And, perhaps even more importantly, I’m no longer trying to hide it.

There was a time that I would have cringed if anything that even remotely looked like a curve was visible. This time, not so much. Does this mean that I don’t have any love handles or (perish the thought of even using this word) muffin tops? No, unfortunately, they’re there; that’s life.

When I did a little fashion show for Michael J, he congratulated me for trying more form fitting clothes.

I thanked him for the compliment and asked him to promise me one thing – that is, to tell me if I go too far, as its easy to get seduced by the pull of smaller and smaller sizes.

“How far is too far?” he asked.

Good question.

After a moment’s consideration, my personal guidelines for if I’ve taken it too far: I look bad or it looks like I’m trying to dress younger than I am.

He agreed. And I trust him to tell me truth.

If you have a Kohl’s near you (or any other store with decent clothes and ridiculously slashed prices) go spend a couple of hours pawing through the sales racks. You never know what you might find. Who knows, you might – if you’re lucky and you’re willing to take some chances – find a completely new you.

In fact, I’ve found some of my favorite pieces of clothing by trying on what other people have left in the dressing rooms. The benefit of trying on other people’s left behinds is that unless that person has your exact same taste, they’re choices are almost certain to be outside of your comfort zone and something that if you’d seen it on the rack you wouldn’t have given it a second glance – let alone tried it on.

As a wise man once said, all progress comes when you’re outside of your comfort zone. So step out of yours and have some fun. After all, it’s not like you have to actually buy it!

And just when I thought I had it beat….

….stress eating comes a callin’!

Ironic, given that I just lost that ten pounds again.

Yes, I am back below 140 and look remarkably different than I did just 5 weeks ago.

All of my clothes are looser, the shape of my thighs are different.

I’ve lost at least one inch off the waist.

I should feel pretty good about now, right?

Then why did I spend the entire evening eating way more than I should and, more to the point, more than I really wanted?

All of the weight loss coaches I know say that you eat to hide your emotions and that you’d be better off journaling them so that you can confront them once and for all. Intellectually, I know that, but it’s so much easier to grab a handful of walnuts.

(The good news is that although walnuts are incredibly fattening, they’re also really good for you. So, in that sense, I suppose it could have been worse).

So what am I feeling?

Besides overfull?

Well, let’s be honest: fear.

Fear.

Overwhelm.

Jubilation.

Excitement.

Fear (oh, did I say that already?)

I know the what; what I don’t know – really know – is the why.

Why am I afraid to be thin?

It’s not about not feeling strong or not wanting to be healthy – it’s about the size and shape of my body. And this isn’t the first time it’s happened. When I lost the weight the first time, I was at 142 for all of about 2 days. Last year, I got to 138.4, which lasted a little longer – at least 4 days, maybe 5!

So here are my questions for tonight, assuming I was the journaling type: Why am I afraid of being thin?

And when I figure that one out: What is the end goal? What does it represent to me if I achieve it? And what does it mean if I don’t?

Is it more important to be a solid size four (which means breaking through my limiting beliefs about who I am and what I look like) or to be a semi-solid size six who is comfortable in her skin?

One of my coaches says that if you really don’t want to do something, then that’s the thing you need to do most.

I’ll think about that too.

And who knows, I might even pick up a pen and write about it (because God knows that I’m going to be mad as hell if I get back on that scale come Wednesday and it says 142).

Cultivating a Mindset of Abundance (as Opposed to Scarcity)

A few nights ago my partner, Michael J, and I ran into an old acquaintance.

Over the course of the conversation, the man commented on how much weight he’d lost – 100 pounds this last year.

Michael J, who typically never comments on people’s weight, replied: “Yeah, I noticed you’d really trimmed down. Did you have a plan for that? Or do you have one moving forward?”

“Well,” he began, “I started over eaters anonymous and cut out sugar and bread. You know, no pasta, no bread, no burgers, no pizza, no cake, no pie…..”

As he continued to list off all of the the things that he “can’t eat,” I found myself thinking, “Wow, that’s intense. There’s no way could do that.”

Uh, hello?

In case you haven’t been following this blog, I am, for all intents and purposes, a newly raw vegan, who happens to also be gluten and (processed) sugar free. By definition, I can’t have any of those things either. But as soon as he started off on the list of what he couldn’t have, I got all internally defensive. And I started setting myself up for failure. I literally starting to tell myself that I couldn’t do the very things that I had been doing for the last 8 weeks. It was intense. And a little funny. And a little sad.

But do you want to know what’s really funny? I rarely think about what I can’t have on my raw food diet. In fact, I was 4 weeks into it before I fully realized that I was now an acting vegan – something else I swore I would never be able to do.

I’m not totally sure what the take away point is here, but it definitely warrants some thought. It may be that there are just so many ways that we set ourselves up for failure and that one way to do it is by focusing on what we can’t have as opposed to all of the things that we can. I’ll give it some further consideration and get back with you.

And if you have any suggestions, let me know.

If you don’t like what you see in the mirror…

…maybe you should try getting a new mirror!

I have purposefully refrained from describing my physical appearance in this blog. But I think it’s fair to say that my body has changed dramatically over the last three years.

Just to put it in perspective, I’ve gone from a size 12 to a size 6 on most days (and a size four on others).

But when I look at myself in the mirrors at home, I tend to see the same old me – that is, the size 12 me.

I think this has something to do with how our memory and brain work; we have an idea of what we think we look like and that gets transposed over reality. Maybe that’s why most people hate the way they look in pictures. Not because they look bad, but because the image doesn’t match their expectations.

My theory on this is that when you look at yourself in the same mirror, in the same lighting, at the same angle, you don’t really look. And when that happens, your mind fills in the details. Depending on where you are in terms of past weight versus present weight, that may or may not be a good thing.

Notably, on the rare occasions that I do notice substantial shifts in my appearance, it’s usually not at home. It’s also not in the floor to ceiling mirrors that I routinely change in front of at the gym.

Instead, I tend to notice differences in my appearance in other people’s bathrooms or, like this morning, in hotels.

I remember the first time this happened like it was yesterday. Not because I looked all that different, but because the experience itself was just so shocking.

I was in a strange house – at a party. I had gone into the bathroom and after I finished using the toilet, I stood up and caught a glimpse of someone in the mirror.

My first thought was, literally: oh my God, I didn’t close the door!

But I had closed the door. I was seeing myself – perhaps for the first time in a long time. I just wasn’t recognizing myself, because the face in the mirror didn’t match the face in my mind’s eye (or even the image of me that is reflected everyday in the bathroom mirror at home).

This morning, I had a similar experience.

The bathroom in the hotel where I am staying has three mirrors over the sink, all off set from one another – making a shallow half hexagon. There was something about the three way interaction of the mirrors that caught my eye as I peeled off my sweaty workout clothes.

What caught my eye was that I looked thin!

I mean, even with my belly pooch (which has gotten substantially smaller, btw), I looked pretty damn good.

There was something about the side angles that really showed that all of my post holiday efforts had apparently paid off. I was thrilled. Flabbergasted, but thrilled nonetheless.

But wait! It got even better.

As I leaned in to turn on the shower, ruminating on how thin I looked, I caught another glimpse of myself – this time a full-length image from the back that was being reflected from the aforementioned mirrors. (Note: I hadn’t even noticed the full length mirror on the bathroom door, which was – at that very moment – capturing my backside in full “glorious” detail. In fact, it was so surprising, it took me a few minutes just to figure out how that particular view was even possible).

I stood there, literally transfixed at the sight of my back, the turn of my waist, my hips, my thighs, etc.

And do you know what? I have a very nice ass.

And do you know what else? I had never seen it before.

Nor had I seen the fact that I have a waist.

Nor had I realized that the back of my thighs are actually quite shapely.

Moreover, I had never fully appreciated how it all fit together. I mean, how could I? I’d never seen it.

Because prior to that moment, when I looked at the mirror at home, I only looked at my face and (when the occasion forced itself) my belly.

And on the rare occasion that I did look at my thighs, I only looked down at them – usually while I was sitting (which only highlights their bigness).

It really was amazing.

Not to overstate the momentousness of the occasion, prior to that moment I had absolutely no idea what I looked like.

And these aren’t the only two times this has happened.

In fact, whenever I see myself unexpectedly in a strange mirror, I have this reaction.

A little less than two months ago, for instance, I actually tried to go around a woman who was walking directly towards me. (Luckily I recognized that she was wearing my scarf before my face actually hit the glass!)

Though I am no psychologist, I really believe that when we knowingly look in the mirror (especially a mirror that we routinely use), we have such a strong expectation of what we’re going to see that we actually see it. But when we see ourselves out of context or unexpectedly (or even from just a different angle), we actually get a glimpse of the way we really are.

So, if you’ve been working out or you’ve changed your diet but you think you’re not seeing any changes, you may not be.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that changes aren’t being made.

Try looking at yourself in a different mirror, in a different room – or even in a different house. Or, if you’re more of a homebody, but you don’t think you’ll be able to trick yourself in your own home, have a friend or partner rearrange the mirrors in your house while you’re at work. Or, if that’s not an option either, try just looking at your body in different ways, from different directions, in different lighting.

I think you’ll be surprised. Hopefully it will be a pleasant one.

So For How Long?

I ran into a friend at the grocery store today. She was there to pick up wine, cheese, veggies, and a number of other delicacies. I was there to get cat food, raw cashews, raw peanuts, mango, bean sprouts, and, well, cat food.

“Hey,” she called out when she saw me. “It’s the raw girl! How’s it going?”

We chatted a few minutes about life in general and work before turning the conversation back to diet – in particular, my diet.

“So where do you get your protein?” she asked as she handed her kale to the woman behind the register.

“Same place you get yours, ” I quipped as I nodded at the huge bunch of leafy greens. “You’d be surprised. My kale smoothie this morning had 18 grams of protein in it, which is almost half of the daily recommendation for women.”

She nodded in sober agreement: “Kale is an amazing vegetable.”

We talked a little more.

Essentially, I told her some about what MJ and I have been eating and how much better I’ve felt. I told her about the medication that I’d been able to stop taking, and how much more time I had now that I didn’t have to work out three hours a day just to keep the shape that I had bought in exchange for months of calorie counting.

“That’s amazing,” she said, but then added: “So, how long are you doing this for?”

Huh?

“I don’t know,” I responded, somewhat hurriedly and a little more defensively than I wanted to. “I’ve signed up for this eleven week thing. We’ll see how it goes.” (I am pretty sure at this point I also mentioned that my personal standard was 80% raw, though for three out of the last four days I’d managed to hit 100%, just in case she ever wanted to invite us out for dinner!)

“Eleven weeks, huh? That’s a long time.”

What was interesting to me about this whole exchange is that I hadn’t even crossed my mind that going raw (that is incorporating more raw food into my diet) had a stop date.

To me, choosing to eat uncooked food is just like the choice to go gluten-free: If gluten-makes you sick, you don’t eat it.

If eating raw food makes you feel better and helps you maintain your weight without having to spend three hours working out every single day, then you continue to eat it.

I also realized that in that brief exchange, that I have already adopted the identity of “raw foodist.”

It’s not really a label, per se, because I probably wouldn’t describe myself that way to anyone else. But it is how I’ve been thinking about myself. God knows I’ve spent enough time in the last four weeks obsessing over it! And I’ve spent more than enough money on information products and cookbooks to make the thought of exiting anytime soon down right painful.

So, back to the original question – which I thought was a good one – for how long? How long am I planning to do this?

Well, for as long as it takes – whatever that means.

The good news about being 80% raw (as opposed to 100%) is that you can still choose to be 100% most days. And on the days that you’re not? No one – including me – has to feel bad about it.

Amateur Fashion (strutting your stuff and changing your identity)

Tonight I am participating in my third amateur fashion show, sponsored by this super cool dress shop in White River Junction, VT: Revolution. Revolution is one of my favorite places to shop, not only because they showcase the work of local dressmakers, but also because the owner routinely makes runs to New York and consigns.

It’s fun, it’s hip, and it beats the heck out of all the department stores, which, in our neck of the woods, really are the only other option (and are, if you hate fluorescent lights and cheap mass manufactured clothes, not really an option at all). And I say that as a non-clothes snob. I’m also not a glamorous girly girl. In fact, I can honestly say that the last time I had make up on was during the last fashion show!

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So why would an almost 40, professor who wouldn’t couldn’t apply her own base if her life depended on it and who has body “issues” voluntarily sign up for an amateur fashion show?

Precisely because I am an almost 40, professor who wouldn’t couldn’t apply her own base if her life depended on it and who has body “issues”

So today, I will get to be a girl. And not just any girl, but a girly girl. I have an appointment to get my hair done at 3:30 and then make up at 4:30. There are a couple of hours to kill (probably drinking cheap wine and pizza [or my green stuff, salad and natural peanut butter sandwich that I plan to pack in]) with the other models – many of whom will be older than me!

The call for models sums it up:

WANTED:  Exhibitionist-type personalities to parade the Revolutionary fall collections! All shapes, sizes, ages & genders are encouraged to participate.

Prerequisite: You must be a little brave and pretty on the inside.

I don’t know that I am exhibitionist or all that brave, but there’s something incredibly liberating about wearing something that you might never normally wear, made up to the hilt, and just putting it out there. Essentially, what you’re doing is saying to the world: This is me! This is my body!

If you’ve ever struggled with body-image, there’s nothing more rewarding than sashaying down a catwalk and having hundreds of people (most of whom you’ve never met) cheering you on. There’s lights, there’s music. It’s fun. It’s invigorating. And, as this is my third in as many years, it’s also addictive.2895934129_f3ec85d1c0

This year, I am wearing two very different outfits. Michael J didn’t go with me this time to pick out clothes, thus he has no idea what the night will bring, so I won’t describe them here. But instead of the slinky dresses that I’d never be caught dead in off the runway that I’ve chosen in years past, this year I selected two outfits (one pants and a top and the other a sweater and skirt) that I could actually see myself in, like, on a daily basis.

As soon as I got home, I thought: why did you do that? Why didn’t you pick something crazy and out there?

Because, I realized, this year, I’m going as me! I don’t need to be in disguise. This year, I am going to tap into my exhibitionist side while wearing clothes that make me look and feel like myself! Scary, huh? I am going to be brave on the outside and pretty on the inside.

I am going to take my time on the catwalk, I’ll be as sexy as possible in my casual clothes, and most importantly, I’ll remember to smile!

Even if you think that this seems silly or out there, if you have a hip clothing store in your area that uses local “models” to highlight their fall and spring collections, sign up! It’s fun! It’s exciting! And it’s the quickest and possibly best opportunity to explore different ways of being in your body and seeing yourself in a new light. Besides, when’s the last time you walked in the room only to find hundreds of friendly faces cheering you on? It’s a total rush!

It’s really not about amateur fashion, it’s about reconstructing your view of yourself. Seriously, if you ever get the opportunity, take it! You won’t be sorry!

I haven’t lost the fight, but the struggle is gone

For as long as I can remember, I have fought with my body. I have gone to the mat on a daily basis, literally as well as figuratively, in my attempt to lose weight.

A week or so ago, I decided to to try a new thought experiment – I was no longer going to have negative thoughts about my body. Whenever the stray negative thought did come into play, I would immediately let it go and focus, instead, on how amazing my body is. Because the human body, no matter what condition it’s in, it is truly amazing. If you stop and think about it – really think about what it does for you and what it allows you to do – it’s not only amazing, it’s awe-inspiring.

I had originally said that I was going to try this for a month; but after just a couple of weeks, I realize that this is a habit that I will cultivate for a lifetime.

My relationship with my body, with food, and exercise has become so simple. So easy. I no longer feel like I am fighting against myself or trying to force my body to do something that it doesn’t want to or can’t do. For the first time in my life, I feel like I am aligned with my body. My body and I are on the same team.

Yesterday I came home and I thought, “I have to exercise, because I only did yoga and K-bells and no cardio; I only burned 250 calories this morning!” But then I sat down and really got in touch with how I was feeling. I was tired. Truly and utterly exhausted. It wasn’t laziness, it was the natural response to being out on the world after too many weeks of being closeted at home. Instead of forcing myself to get up and do something, I meditated.

For those of you know me, please get up off the floor! I know you must think that the world is coming to an end about now what with the daily yoga (which also is awesome) and meditation, but try to contain your laughter and disbelief!

When I got up from where I had been sitting – quiet, eyes closed – for a little over thirty minutes, I felt truly refreshed. I actually felt better, but I still didn’t exercise, wanting to maintain the sense of renewal and the feeling of being truly at peace with myself and, seriously, my body.

Suffice it to say that I think the experiment is working. I can’t imagine what else it would be. It’s made such a huge difference. The fight-to-the-death-struggle that used to dominate my waking (and sometimes sleeping hours) around food and exercise is gone. Does that mean that I am doing whatever I want in terms of food and exercise? No, it means that for the first time in my life, I’m aligned with my body, I am listening to my body, and I am making more reasoned and loving decisions for us both.

Even if you think that I must have pulled something serious during my last plough to shoulder stand, I invite you to try this; it works: whenever you start to think any negative thoughts about yourself or your body, stop them as soon as they register, let them go, and acknowledge just how amazing you and your body truly are. Not how amazing that it would be if you lost another 15, 20, 30 pounds, but as it is at this moment! I think you’ll be surprised. I was.

Less of me to love or more of “me” per square inch?

I took my measurements today. The last time I took them was October 2008. The changes don’t look like much – an inch here, a half an inch there. Though I must admit that I am most pleased to announce that both of my thighs are finally less than 20 inches in circumference! (That’s one at a time, by the way, not combined)!

In order to be consistent, I take my measurements at the largest part of bust, the smallest part of my waist, the widest part of my hips, the biggest point on my flexed bicep (both right and left) and seven inches above each knee at the thigh. I use the Myo Tape Measure, as I find it’s the easiest way to take your measurements on your own and be relatively steady in terms of tension. In other words, it’s harder to cheat!

I used to to do it every three months or so, but I’ve gotten lazy.

Since everything had gone down a little (with the exception of my waist, which has remained stubbornly put), I was pretty pleased. But, out of curiosity I decided to go back a little further in my records.

Since July 2007, I have officially lost 24.25 inches! Wow. That’s two feet if you live in the U.S and just over 60.96 centimeters if you don’t!

Almost instantaneously, my little voice kicked in: Where did all of that go? Which part, exactly, is gone? What if that was the best part?

Luckily, before I made it out of the bathroom and into the kitchen with my hand outstretched for the cashews, I remembered what Michael assured me of last year when my weight was fluctuating.

Essentially, the message was this: I love you, either way. When you’re up, there’s more of you to love, but when you’re down, just think if it as more love for you, per square inch. It doesn’t matter what you weigh, you’re still you.

The cashews sit unmolested in their airtight container in the cabinet and all is well in my world.

Moving Toward v. Moving Away

I’ve been doing some learning about the way people make transformations or change in their lives. Typically people are motivated by their hopes and aspirations (that is, what they want to happen or that which they are moving toward) or their fears and frustrations (that is, what they don’t want to happen or continue happening, or that from which they are moving away).

As a general rule, people are much more likely to be motivated by their fears than by their aspirations. Part of that may be that they are unable to fully realize or envision their aspirations, whereas it’s much easier to imagine their greatest fears (especially if they are already living them).

When I started my weight release journey three years ago, I had a really hard time envisioning what I wanted to accomplish. Then, one day, I was over at a friend’s house and I was looking at a selection of framed photos of her around her living room.

“See, I was thin once,” she said matter of fact-ly. “When X is over, I will be again.”

I was floored. And jealous. And, in that moment, it hit me why it’d been so hard to visualize what I wanted. I had no pictures of myself as I wanted to be!

Now, when I was in Weight Watchers, my leader used to talk about visualization and about how you should find the body of your dreams from a magazine and then put your face on it. I also remember thinking: Give me a break!

When I realized that part of my inability to visualize had something to do with never having seen it (what can I say, I’m not a visual person), I decided that I was going to take Judi’s advice, albeit some twenty years after I first heard it. But I didn’t do it using magazines and scissors, I did it via modern technology. Five cheers for photo manips!

The first thing I did was find the photo. I ended selecting a stock photo of Jillian Michaels. I then had Michael take a picture of me standing in the same position, with my head tilted just so. He then used Photoshop (or some other similar software) to create a photo that we joking call KJillian!

The first time I looked at the photo, I had to look away. I thought, ‘How embarrassing.’ In fact, it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that it literally hurt to look at it. Seriously, the dissonance was staggering. I literally had to keep it in a manila folder on my kitchen counter. However, over the course of a week, I got used to seeing myself like that. And as the image became more familiar to me, it also became more believable! Eventually, I put it up on the refrigerator.

Just as an aside, my little sister came over, looked at it and then looked at me and said, without batting an eyelash, “How did your head get on Jillian Michael’s body?” I told her. “Cool,” she said. Apparently not so embarrassing after all.

If you don’t have a picture about what you want to achieve (either in reality or in your mind’s eye), create one. Seriously. I’ll admit: thought it was the cheesiest thing in the world when it was first suggested to me, but it was incredibly powerful. In fact, it got to the point that when I would take pictures of myself (in similar clothes and in a similar position), I thought that they looked odd, which motivated me to move my reality towards the image in my head.

The same thing is true, by the way, if you have an image in your head of what you don’t want to be; you will become that. Remember, the one of the strongest human drives is self-consistency! My problem was, previously, that I saw myself as heavy or as someone who was 30 pounds overweight, so that’s what I created (over and over again). Bottom line: get rid of the bad images and bring on the good – even if you have to stoop to using Photoshop to do it!

Now that I have a solid image in my mind of what I want to move towards (that is, my head on Jillian Michael’s body or something similar), I sometimes also use moving away from – especially when I need a good kick in the pants, like a I did the day before yesterday, when I just could not get myself moving.

First, just writing that blog post helped, because I hate to admit that I can’t do something.

Second, I have a pair of pants that I bought at a consignment store. Technically they fit; however, I would never go out in public with them fitting the way they fit at the moment. Ironically, they are the smallest pair of pants that I own, but they make me look huge because they’re so tight.

Essentially, these are the “get leverage on yourself” or the “moving away from” pants. I put those on (to say that I just slipped into them would be a bald faced lie!) and all it took was five minutes standing in front of the mirror to get me down on the NordicTrack, followed up by my moving towards: Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred.

Are you a moving towards person or a moving away person? If you are primarily one, I strongly suggest mixing it up when you need a little extra motivation!

And if you don’t have a picture of what you want to achieve, get one – even if, especially if, you have to make it yourself!

Living an undivided life – Part 3

(Continued from Part 2)

The day that I reached my weight loss goal, I called the lovely fitness coach as promised. Once I had reintroduced myself, I told her the good news.

She seemed genuinely happy for me. And we spent a few minutes just celebrating my accomplishment.

After the initial euphoria (she really did seem as pleased for me as I was for myself), I cleared my throat and I said, “I have a confession to make. And, more to the point, I owe you an apology.”

She seemed surprised. “Really?”

Essentially, I gave her a recap of everything that I had been thinking about her (and skinny women in general). Then, I apologized for making that rude gaffe when 1) I asked her how much she weighed and 2) then promptly shaking my head and wrinkling my nose in disgust and lying: “Oh, I’d never want to be that skinny.”

“Did you say that?!” she asked.

“Oh yes,” I admitted. “And I was lying like a dog. In fact, I wouldn’t mind looking exactly like you. You’re gorgeous.”

She laughed. “I don’t remember you saying that,” she assured. “But then again, when that stuff happens — and it does — I really don’t take that on.”

It was my turn to be surprised. “Excuse me?”

“Well,” she began kindly, “that’s really about you, isn’t it? It really has nothing to do with me. Whenever someone says something like that, I just don’t take it on. You can’t really.”

I was flabbergasted. She may not be able to, but I certainly do.

Or more importantly, I used to.

I’ve had people say really ugly things to me during my weight loss process (as well as during other cycles of what I see as positive self-change) — hurtful things, non-supportive things. And I always took them on. And I felt bad and I worried. And sometimes I felt bad enough and worried enough that I ended up sabotaging myself in order to make my friends feel better.

But the coach is full of gifts it seems — and I realize, in retrospect, that all of the hurtful things that people say to me (just like the hurtful thing I said to her) are about them, not me. Just as my own rudeness was not about her, but about me. It was all me. And she was right not to take it on.

Needless to say, there’s something very powerful about being honest with yourself to the point of being able to be completely honest with others. There was also something extremely powerful about realizing that you’re wrong and taking the steps to own up to and apologize to those you have been wronged — not by anything that they’ve done in terms of their own self-change — but by those things that you’ve done.

Remember that old childhood rhyme — I’m rubber, you’re glue? I know that I must have sang it frequently as a child, but apparently it hadn’t stuck as an adult. Think about it before you criticize someone else. And if it turns out that you are projecting your own insecurities, own up to it. And don’t be afraid to apologize.

Raising your standards (or lowering your threshold)

One of the good things about taking a long time to meet you desired goal weight is that gradually your threshold of acceptability changes.

Back when I weighed 232 pounds, it was enough to be the smallest person in my family.

For the longest time, after Weight Watchers, it was enough to have lost 50 or 60 pounds. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my threshold was 179. It was not acceptable to get above this number; to do so, in my mind, would have triggered failure. Whenever I thought that I was getting fat again, I thought of the 180 me, not the 232 pound me. The 232 pound me was so far outside of my threshold of acceptability (my new standard for myself) that I no longer even considered it a possibility.

Two and a half years ago, I was creeping back up to 179. I adopted an alkaline diet/lifestyle, did P90x with a friend, and dropped close to 30 pounds. Unfortunately, my standard didn’t change and in a moment — try six months!– of stress, I ended right back where I started: 179 pounds.

Essentially, my standard hadn’t changed. And, consciously or not, I knew that.

The following summer, I tried it again. That time, I started with Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, followed by P90x (twice). I got down to 141.8. But again, during the winter months, my resolve started to slip. But last March, when I crept past 150, I said: enough! My standard had changed. 150 — which used to be a goal — had become the standard — the threshold of what I was willing to accept for myself.

Now, you might be thinking that this is just yo-yo dieting, but if you look at the trend line, it’s been moving steadily down. Moreover, I really believe (in retrospect) that all of those starts and stops — not to mention the dreaded plateaus — were actually necessary in order for my standard to change.

When I think of myself as being heavy, I never think of the 232 pound me; I rarely think of the 179 pound me, because I can’t even imagine going back there! And if you can’t imagine it, it won’t happen. Think about it.

And whenever possible, in whatever domain of your life, raise your standards and, in the case of weight loss, lower your threshold!