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Well-being

A New Day on an Elliptic Road

So the road isn’t that new…I’ve seen it before, but never with these eyes.

On Wednesday I did something I haven’t done much lately.  First off, I drank over 64 ounces of water, which never happens.  But the real miracle was that I took advantage of that $28/month membership I shell out and went to the gym.  It was a nice day, but I wanted to go to the sauna, too.  I’ve gotta be honest…the sauna is the reason I keep my gym membership.  24 Hour Fitness in Sugarhouse is a complete dump, a bit shady, and not up to par with what a gym is these days.  But they’ve got equipment, classes, and a sauna.  If I ever made a little extra cash, I’d really like to try out The GYM in City Creek, but even with a discount it’s still a bit out of my reach.  That place seems legit, or at least when it first opened.  No weird vibes.  No diseases awaiting you within its walls.  Clean.  Secure.  Across the street from work.  Yelp has them both closely rated though, so it could just be hype or a missed opportunity on The GYM’s part.  Perhaps vising a 24 Hour Fitness a bit further away, like the one in Murray with a cardio cinema, would help out the situation.

24

24 Hour Fitness in Sugarhouse

I went at the ungodly hour of 6pm…right when all the office slaves get out and go.  Luckily, I found an open elliptical.  Punched in my weight and a 30 minute timer and off I went.

I didn’t push myself too hard.  I found myself thinking back to a couple years ago when I my stamina easily permitted me to go for an hour and crank the level intensity way up.  I still have the burning desire to throw it on a level 25 or speed my cadence at a lower level, but it was a huge wake up call when it wasn’t so easy this time.  Granted, I was a few years younger before and didn’t have any of the health issues I have now.  I ranged between a level 3 and 18 (18 is no easy feat, mind you), and the fastest I got was hitting 70 bpm once, but averaged around 50.  I couldn’t find my iPod so I put on a Florence + the Machine playlist from YouTube (more on her later).  Every three minutes or so I checked my time and thought, no way am I going to make it 30 minutes today.  My legs were feeling uncharacteristically heavy for some reason.  But I leaned on Florence, I had happy nostalgic memories, I stared blankly and felt intensity when I wanted to speed it up without notice, and I made it.  I thought I’d skip out of the cool down, but I made it through that, too.

flo

Florence ties with Alanis for best gym buddy.

After, I awkwardly strolled down the hall and through the locker room like I was still on a moving conveyor belt and entered the sauna, which was packed as usual.  A couple meat heads that go from steam room to sauna to hot tub, an old guy (there’s always one) that breathes really dramatically like he’s doing a pranayama yoga marathon, a guy in a hoodie, a couple dudes looking for other attractive dudes, and a woman in a swimsuit.  I have my favorite seat in the sauna which happens to be the favorite of many others, but the open spaces were either in the back upper row (climbing up to it can demonstrate what phase of the moon is) or sopping wet from the hot tub meat heads, so I stood for a while.  Eventually all the men left and I sat in my favorite seat, which was right next to the woman in her swimsuit.

I took out an earphone and immediately she started talking.

“Did you bring your swimsuit?” she asked.

Nope.  We continued chatting with the camaraderie that ensues between a fat girl and a woman who used to be the fat girl.  She was there for water aerobics and invited me to come on Wednesday nights.  The class is really small, mostly middle aged to old women.  I took Aqua Tone at university once and loved it…took it to replace the Zumba I so desperately wanted to love but didn’t.  The lady, Wendy, told me she used to weigh 300 pounds and now was about 205, and she started with this water aerobics class.  I committed to going in two weeks when I’m available.  She introduced me to the instructor before class.  Friend made, buddy system check.

I got home and waited for the endorphin high.  I didn’t feel it how I used to, but it was there.  I could tell by how I carried myself that I was feeling a bit of the high.  My legs were like cemented sausages and I could barely pick them up, but I was grateful I went, and sad when I remembered I had my second spinal injection the next day and wouldn’t be able to work out for a week.

Looking forward to some casual walks and going back to the gym soon.

Really looking forward to when my spine heals a little and I can go back to kickboxing!

Well-being

Healing Body

Last night, burritoed in a blanket, I sat on the back porch reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

tidy
With every sip of my golden milk turmeric concoction, I sniffled in a loud snort and turned a page…literally and figuratively.  I am on day four of head cold, which came immediately at the end of an irrationally long lady-cycle, which was immediately preceded by a four-day long violent bubonic rapture, formerly known as a full-body flu.

porch

Golden hour & golden milk.

Over the past few days, while I sniffled up my runny nose and poked at slices of habañero and serrano peppers floating in broth as a remedy to drown my congestion, I’ve had a lot of time to think and have a come-to-Jesus-talk with myself.  For much of my life I’ve been pretty bad at following through with major life-changing things, but always have a good heart, strong intent, and a big imagination and visualization.  The past couple years I’ve taken it one slow step at a time to fix myself in a place mentally where I can succeed in a strong go, but something always gets in the way.

death wish

I call it “masochist gourmet.”

Reading that book last night, I thought that the dramatic principles of tidying could easily apply to life.  Declutter it all.  Hold each item and feel it.  If it sparks joy, keep it.  If it doesn’t, thank it for it’s use and discard it.  Do not put anything away or tidy it until you discard all of the things that are no longer useful to you.  Once your life is tidy, everything falls in place and nothing but joy is left.  You will have more order and clarity.

My body has been a mess, and I think it’s a sign of something more than just age and weight, although tackling the latter will help significantly.  I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while to get myself on track and rally in support.  Cheering squads are significantly helpful to those who have a hard time staying on track.

I want to write all the things broken in my body that I want to heal, and take you along on this pilgrimage with me.  (I hate the word “journey” as much as I can’t fathom why people dip baby carrots in hummus…seriously people…just no.)  I’m here, humbling myself, admitting I have weakness and need support.  I’m a strong woman with a decent set of gnads, but some things are more easily accomplished with a cheering section.

Before I list what I want to heal, I want to emphasize that admitting that my body is physically tired and in need of some TLC has nothing to do with body acceptance.  The Complete 360 post I wrote back in December still stands true – you can live your life at any weight, and have a happy, successful life that is suited to you.  Body acceptance doesn’t mean you don’t make changes and always look for ways to progress.  It means you love yourself at all stages, no matter where you are.  We’re always moving, progressing, falling, dusting off, taking steps back, losing our keys, running out of gas, and filling up again.  Life is so dynamic and we need to be gummy with it and know your self, divine, and universal worth at all times.

This morning I told my friend Blair that I’ve been intensely thinking on all these things I want to accomplish, but how I’ve never really followed through with all my passion to get there.  She asked what my goals and desires are.  Immediately, the number one thing that came to my mind was to heal my body.  I think this is the most important step before I can move forward successfully with anything else.  Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.  Even before your husband and children.

meblairbw

Me and Blair wandering D.C.

This will serve as a starting point, and as I move forward, I will explore each of these more, and expand out to other themes that interest me.  I’ve read a lot and have implemented some things to help treat, but this will be my journal.  I approach this list knowing that weight loss is a key component in healing all of these, but I want to think of this in terms of healing rather than stressing over every tenth of a pound I lose.

Things I Want to Heal in My Body

  • Spine.  In December, I had shooting pain so bad that I thought a rib had broken and was stabbing all parts of my body.  I was hunched over, crying a lot, could barely do daily things like personal hygiene.  It culminated to a day at work when I couldn’t walk myself out of the bathroom, and security wheeled me out of the office building in a wheelchair.  The pain was so intense that I remember my coworker telling security it looked like I was going to pass out.  Shots, drugs, physical therapy.  In January I had an MRI of my thoracic spine, and we found that in my thoracic spine alone, I have six herniated discs and one extremely bulging disc at T9/10 (the one that caused me the pain), with a degeneration/narrowing of the nerve passageways in my vertebrae.
  • Menstrual Cycles.  I want to be a fertile Myrtle.  Since my first cycle on Valentines day in 7th grade, I’ve had irregular cycles.  A few years ago I had a new cycle every 6-8 weeks and it was so normal for me that I wanted to throw a party to celebrate.  In my late teens/early 20s, I took birth control to regulate, but I’m not willing to be on that regular hormone treatment as it does more harm than good in the long run.  I’ve always thought I had PCOS (more prominent facial hair, among other symptoms), but my last yearly exam with a new OBGYN told me that people often misdiagnose PCOS, and more often than not it isn’t the real cause.  In me, I don’t have any cysts rupturing, according to my OBGYN.  There are two hormones responsible for your periods.  One is communicating just fine between my brain and uterus/ovaries.  But the progesterone…that darn progesterone isn’t picking up the phone, and that is why I don’t have a cycle regularly.
  • Sleep Apnea.  In October 2013, I began noticing irregular heart beats out of the blue.  I had no idea what it was and it was very concerning.  Stress tests, holter monitors, and a visit with a cardiologist and I found I have PVCs.  In July 2014, I started noticing severe anxiety feelings while trying to sleep.  A year later in July 2015, I had a sleep test and found I have light sleep apnea.  The following month I started sleeping with a CPAP machine.  It took a couple months, but I can now feel the huge difference when I wake up and when I sleep.  My PVCs are mostly gone.  While the CPAP is helpful, I don’t want to be a slave to it.  My sleep doc said mine isn’t permanent, and with weight loss I can rid of it.
  • PVCs, or premature ventricular contractions.  While these have significantly diminished with sleeping with a CPAP, they still occur sometimes.  I can pinpoint when I started noticing them, and can link it to what the cardiologist said – likely a magnesium deficiency.  They’re not fatal or dangerous, but they’re a real pain in the arse when you’re trying to exercise or sleep.
  • Tooth Sensitivity. A year ago I had a cavity filled in a molar in my back upper left tooth.  I had to have it refilled with medication because it was so sensitive.  I still battled sensitivity after that, and was recommended to see a root canal specialist.  Of course, he wanted to perform the root canal then and there.  My tooth is alive, xrays show nothing, and I wasn’t willing to just do it.  (This is what led me to trying chiropractic and acupuncture for the first time.)  My sensitivity has gone down a lot, but I want to start regrowing the dentin and enamel more to build stronger teeth.
  • Costochondritis.  A year ago I started having some more intense pain in my chest, but it’s not a heart issue.  Saw my physical therapist (my old boss) and found I have inflammation in the cartilage in my front rib cage.  This proved completely true as physical therapy exercises helped the pain, and monitoring foods alleviated it, also.
  • Rosacea, Acne.  I have never seen a dermatologist or been diagnosed with rosacea, but my face is significantly redder than my neck or chest.  It started around the time I got a terrible sunburn when I went to Mexico when I was 17, although it bronzed after.  My freshman year of college, I was a slave to tanning beds (why was that ever a trend?), and that couldn’t contributed.  I’ve never had terrible acne, but I always have blemishes, redness, and little bumps here and there, enough to feel like my skin is in puberty and not in its 30s.
  • Eczema, Vitamin Deficiencies.  I’ve had eczema on my lower legs since I moved to Utah.  I’m terrible at drinking water, which is also why I figure my lips are very dry (although never peeling).  My nails frequently break or flake.
  • Varicose Veins.  Perhaps it’s more cosmetic, but on me they can occasionally be really tender.  I only have them in my calves.
  • Build My Immune System. I’m convinced that most colds, flus, and bugs can be avoided by preventative medicine.

I hope you’ll follow along as I work on healing my body and finding more joy in this life.

“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” (3 John 1:2)

Well-being

A Complete 360: An Update

Wow.

The response to my last post, “Let’s Do a Complete 360,” has been absolutely wonderful and mostly positive.  I am overwhelmed by how many people have identified with some element of what I wrote.

Not even 24 hours have passed and it has been shared on social media over 450 times, first by friends, then by their friends, and now by people I have no social media connection with.  It’s very Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.  I’ve received many messages from people ranging from childhood friends and acquaintances to complete strangers.  The post has been read by people in over 30 countries.  The number of views is astronomical and beyond what I ever imagined or intended.  I’m grateful that you, the readers, feel a connection and love from me.  You have it.

There have been, of course, a couple responses which were exactly what I spoke of in my previous post – people who enjoyed the article but felt the need to make sure I know that obesity is not healthy and I’m not being honest with myself by saying it is.  They are concerned of my influence on others, especially youth.  I always appreciate when people are thoughtful and concerned about issues.  That is what brings change!  As I mentioned before, there are a lot of these types of responses online infecting all social media outlets, but unfortunately they are often intently negative and come from an uneducated place, or a place of blind following without understanding knowledge for themselves.  That has not been the case with my “negative” responses, but it is what I referred to in my last post.

These types of responses concern me because they are debilitating to people who are still trying to find their footing and grow into something great.  The person being verbally attacked may be coming from a place I once was – used to bullying, media, and feeling worthless because of their body.  It is dangerous when such a person finally lets their roots dig a little deeper and drinks in nourishment from the well of self-worth, and then someone bored on the internet comes along to put in their two cents on the person’s every flaw, making many assumptions about the intentions and intelligence of the original poster and the effects of their actions on society.  How many times have you watched a YouTube video of a completely tone deaf person doing a cover of their favorite song, only to find a comment section brimming with comments like, “u need 2 kill urself,” “she is so disgusting I hope she dies,” and more?

I’d like to respond to this.

The negative people need to give it up.  Find something beautiful in themselves and focus on that.  In the process, they may meet many great people, some of which might look like or have a history like the people they mock behind the dim glow of the computer screen at 2 a.m.  Put the pride aside.  I get it, because I love to make sure people know I’m right, too.  But human beings – and I say this as someone who has her days of dislike in dealing with lack of common sense – are generally intelligent, intuitive, and all have the same goals.  We want to be better.  We strive for goodness.  We want to succeed.

The purpose of my original post – which most of you welcomingly understood – was that wherever you are at in your life, it is so important for you to see your value and your worth.  It is important to know and feel loved.  If you truly don’t feel like there is anyone out there that loves you, count on me.  Know that my heart has a much larger capacity than my gigantic glutinous maximus, and I have the capacity to love and encourage you.  This world needs more unity, more community.  We achieve more when we feel purpose and a sense of belonging.  I have seen many examples in my life of people – myself included – who have given up because they felt like a burden to society.  I’m sure we all know someone dear to us who has done the same.

Let me make it clear: I am not promoting obesity.  But I don’t think I need to clarify that, because you are smart, intuitive people.  I am promoting self-love, value, and worth, as a way to live your life with joy in whatever phase you may be in.  I’m promoting these values as a way to help you feel more positive and uplifted and to use them as a tool to help you achieve success in all your goals.  I’m encouraging these concepts as a way to build healthy relationships and compassion.

Do I know the risks of obesity?  Yes.  Am I truly, weight aside, free of all illnesses and disease at this very moment?  Yes.  Am I honest with myself about it on a daily basis?  Yep.  The funny thing is, when you’re labeled as something so ugly sounding your whole life, you desperately look for ways to get as far away from it as possible.  I could recite to you every fad diet, trend, life-style, how to perform pretty much any exercise, tell you the going rate of a personal trainer at ten different locations, and lend you one of my 25+ fitness DVDs.  Many of the obese want to get away from it, but the stress of trying to is overwhelming and we can’t quite cross the border.  We’ve got a lifetime of negative thoughts and habits to work through and battle, so we aren’t always successful on the first or fifteenth tries.  We know that we are racing against the clock, and it takes a lot to win the race.

What I have learned is that letting go of the stress of it usually changes my life drastically, which is why I’m keen on encouraging loving yourself where you’re at.  It’s worth looking at your blessings and accomplishments thus far to help you arrive at a place where you are mentally okay to move forward with whatever your goals may be.

For me, that means being okay with myself now and living a fulfilling life at my weight in order to be healthy enough to tackle the huge and daunting task of losing 185 pounds.  It means knowing that life is imperfect at any weight or any stage of physical beauty, and that losing weight wouldn’t make life magically perfect in love.  That frame of mind led me to my recent marriage, to my travel experiences, to my hundreds of friendships across the globe, to better family relationships, and to an actual desire to make healthier choices for myself and look forward to a brighter future.

A Complete 360 is not just an analysis of me at my current weight or physical beauty versus inner beauty.  It is the process of coming full circle.  We often think we need to pull a 180 and change everything about who we are to be a better person.  That is false.  If we take the time to nourish ourselves a little – to let our roots sink deep and explore the soils that feed our souls – we will realize we are actually pretty great where we are and who we are, and we can keep moving forward in the right direction with a little extra self-love and appreciation, value, and worth.

xx Stephanie

with mirth and laughter

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”

Well-being

Let’s Do a Complete 360

I’m a 32-year old woman.

Hi, I'm Stephanie and I'm 32.

Hi, I’m Stephanie and I’m 32.

I weigh 360 pounds.

Yes, 360 pounds.

What does that number – 360 pounds – mean to you?  What do you think of when you hear it?

If you have already met me and know me, does that affect how you think about me?

How about if you have never met me?

Have you judged me or formed some sort of image of me in the past 15 seconds?

Let me tell you a little about myself.

I am happy, generally healthy, and enjoy my life.

I am surrounded by wonderful family and friends who have gifted me their time, deepest trust, and respect.

I wake up every morning sheltered from the outside, a warm blanket on my skin, a soft pillow beneath my head.  I take a breath and oxygen fills my lungs and nourishes the blood rushing through my body.  I get out of bed and stand on my own two feet, walk to the kitchen, and prepare myself a breakfast from a cupboard that isn’t empty.

I have a dresser of clothing to choose from to wear to work.  Every weekday morning, I go to a job where I am employed full-time and paid a decent wage.  My employer offers me retirement, health insurance, subsidized public transportation, and a happy work environment.

I’m truly blessed.

I look in the mirror in the morning and I see beauty.  I feel loved, empowered by my own mind.  I am interesting and eclectic, assertive and uncomfortable with stagnancy.

How I feel when I look in the mirror is not defined by hashtags or trending news.  It is defined by the goals and boundaries I have set for myself.  What kind of person am I?  How do I treat others?  Have I thought of someone other than myself today?  Have I accomplished something I desire to achieve?  Are there any disharmonies in my life that need to be resolved, such as old grudges, the need to ask forgiveness, or the need to forgive myself?  Have I taken time to see beauty in my life around me?  Do I feel grateful for what I have?  Do I strive to stretch my limits and be a better person each day?

Helping with Hurricane Sandy cleanup.

Helping with Hurricane Sandy cleanup.

It may sound cliché, but inner beauty and reflection really does affect how your “outer beauty” is perceived.  To me, they are two completely separate contradictory categories that don’t integrate with one another very well.

Physical beauty can be looked at in two ways.  First, it can be a characteristic completely independent of any other part of oneself.  I like to think of this as the way the fashion industry, social media, and commerce in general look at physical beauty.  Look at products, goods, and services – we don’t have time to get to know the person in the advertisement.  We need a blank canvas, perhaps with a flair of personality, to provide us a general overview of the product so all the focus is on the product.  Seeing physical beauty in this way permits people to use their own rating scales and systems of judgement based on how they perceive attractiveness, much the same way we may be attracted to a certain artistic masterpiece or a tropical beach instead of a rainy countryside.

The second way physical beauty can be defined is the way which we are accustomed to seeing it on a daily basis, and that is through the lenses of seeing someone’s inner beauty.  When I look in the mirror, sure, I see enlarged pores, blotchy red skin (seriously, isn’t puberty over yet?), and a double chin, but when I reflect on the quality that I make my life, I see so much beyond those simple physical traits.  This second way of perceiving physical beauty is how we see our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmothers, and friends.

With this current #ImNoAngel buzz regarding the plus-sized industry lashing against Victoria’s Secret, I’ve felt that the media isn’t even as in charge of the standard of beauty anymore, but the consumers are.  Years ago, the media set it, and we consumers ran with it.  It’s in the homes where kids learn behaviors and manners and see examples of kindness and love.  It’s in the schools where educators try to harness the environment in a positive way.  It’s in the news and how we digest our events on a daily basis.  It’s in how we think for ourselves, and how we respond to our fellow human beings.  In general, I feel that we social media users have spun completely out of control with every snippet that appears on the internet.  We are all so tender and defensive and are desperate to be heard, to be loved, and to feel validated and that our voices matter.  This has resulted in many great things!  And it has also resulted in many poorly learned behaviors.

As someone who is clinically classified as super obese (a step higher than morbidly obese), I notice these behaviors and judgements rampant on the internet.  There isn’t a YouTube video with a slightly chubby person that doesn’t have a comment section infected by arguments about obesity, fat promotion, fat shaming, government paying for the health care of fatties, don’t promote fat, fat isn’t healthy, and on and on.  All of a sudden, everyone becomes a physician and nutritionist.  Years ago, in response to this I may have wanted to curl up and retreat.  But through many years of learning that this is my life to live, I’ve grown to love myself and enjoy life the same way as any thin, tall, short, disabled, athletic, what have you, human being.  No one has license to make you feel ugly, unworthy, not permitted to live a fulfilling life just because you’re at the top end or bottom end of the scale, because you were born with a disfiguration, or because of your preferences.

Joy.

Joy.

I’ve been obese my entire life.  I spent my childhood bullied.  While I had a few good friends and people generally liked me, there were always a few turds in the punchbowl.  Boys would run up and down the hall like gorillas and yell, “Mmmm ma ma mammoth!” When I’d get on the school bus, kids would move to the window seat and scream in fear that I would “sit on them.”  The kids at the end of the street threw my bike in the leech-infested pond and would call me fatty, fatso, and a host of other names.  Even in college, guys would drive by and yell “beep…beep…beep” out the window like heavy machinery backing up, or “mooooooo” at me.  I never had boyfriends.  Of course, as a teenager and kid, you long for acceptance.  I would buy presents, peace offerings, to give to my mockers in hopes that they would at least think I’m a nice person.  Sadly, it worked, and the teasing mostly stopped.  I let those things define me for a long time.

And then one day I decided to live.

I decided to stop letting the ignorant opinions of others define me.  Did they know my personal story?  Did they know that while other kids brought Little Debbies to school for lunch, I brought homemade beef jerky and fruit rollups, salad (that was in my “I want to be a vegetarian phase”, thanks to JTT), and Herbalife shakes and pills?  Did they know that while I was told I was great at volleyball and really wanted to join wrestling, I never joined because I was afraid of wearing spandex in front of them and having them judge me based on my weight?

Now happily wearing Spandex.

Now happily wearing Spandex.

I started focusing on my positive relationships and the friendships with people who truly loved me and saw me for who I am.  This greatly enhanced my confidence and my belief in myself.  Only when I allowed someone else to negatively define me did I lose sight and begin to fail at all the beautiful plans I had in my life.

I see beauty in everyone and in every moment, and that isn’t just something fat people say.  I feel enriched by having so many different people in my life.  I feel elevated and important through the relationships and accomplishments I have, through the lessons and examples I’ve learned.

I started to say “yes!” to opportunity.  I tried everything I always wanted to – guitar, French lessons, a crochet group with elderly ladies, pottery classes, “jogging” a 5K, archaeology classes, belly dancing with a performance troupe, and being assertive in making sure the men I liked knew how I felt.

Yes, even 360 pound women dance around in a bra and a skirt.

Yes, even 360 pound women dance around in a bra and a skirt.

I weigh 360 pounds.

Do I want to lose weight?  Yes.  Have I before?  Yes.  Is it hard?  Of course!  Will I do it again?  You bet.  Is it a long process?  Yes.

Am I healthy?  Yes.  Aside from PVCs from a magnesium deficiency and recent sleep apnea because of a recent weight gain (and I’ve been told that once I lose about 40 pounds it will go away), I have no health problems.  I’m not diabetic.  I don’t smell bad.  I have lazy days, but I’m not lazy.  I can walk, I can wash myself, I can travel, I can work out.

Fat people like to kayak.

Fat people like to kayak.

I weigh 360 pounds.

I’ve traveled to 16 countries.  I’ve traveled alone and felt free.  I’ve traveled with friends and had the time of my life.  Many ask me travel tips and advice.  Plane seats?  Tight.  But I compact in my own space and chat with my fellow travelers, looking forward to the destination while enjoying the journey. I’ve met hundreds of people, many with whom I still keep in contact.  I travel fearlessly.

360 pound people walk 28 miles all over Barcelona in two days.

360 pound people walk 28 miles all over Barcelona in two days.

I weigh 360 pounds.

I have a college degree.  Full-time employment where I am praised for my talents and abilities.  I speak two languages fluently and can converse in three more.  Music is another language I love.  I make beautiful music and am moved by the music of others and of nature.  I love to go for walks, do yoga, spin classes, and belly dance.

360 pound people graduate from college!

360 pound people graduate from college!

I weigh 360 pounds.

I’m comfortable being me.  I no longer stress over my fat arms or double chin.  When it’s hot, I wear tank tops.  I like to lay in the sun at the park and read a book, usually blaring music and laughing with friends.  I love to cook for others and share a meal.  I’m not afraid to eat in front of people.  We all need nourishment, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I like lingerie.  I enjoy intimacy in my life, all 360 pounds of me.

I weigh 360 pounds.

I’ve dated men at my weight, and at a lower weight.  I started being asked out when I started loving myself and living life.  I began to attract others when I shared the beautiful nuances of my heart and soul with the outside world.  I met, dated, became engaged to, and married my husband at my current weight.  And guess what?  He’s not a chubby chaser and doesn’t have a fat fetish.  He just has a Stephanie fetish.  He thinks I’m the greatest.

Wedding

360 pound women even get married.

I weigh 360 pounds.

If you do, too, or if you weigh anything – 65, 90, 180, 220, 600 – let me apologize for the internet.  Many people are under the impression that communicating electronically gives them a permit to be a complete ass and to be the all-knowing authority on you, your health, politics, standards of beauty, etc.  Everything is subjective and what we want it to be.

I encourage you to want your life to be awesome.  To want beautiful, great, interesting things.  Don’t let the internet get the best of your beauty.  It will tear you down and make you second guess yourself.  What has the internet done for you to win your love?  Nothing.

Surround yourself with wonderful people.  Be yourself.  Experiment.  Try things you’ve always wanted to try.  Talk.  Smile.  Smile!  If someone says something negative about or to you, let it fall away and keep moving forward.  Feel sorry for that person, and say a silent prayer that you hope they find happiness.

This movement isn’t about fat versus thin.  Let’s cut the crap.  All that stuff has marketing products at the root of it.  So a company makes clothes for slender women and another makes clothes for heavier women.  That’s what they specialize in, and that’s okay.  Some women love to wear lingerie and some are totally uncomfortable in it.  There are stores for every size.  And stop telling slender women to “eat a sandwich” and telling retailers for fat women to “stop promoting unhealthy”…it is all deeper than that.  We all need to wear clothes and eat sandwiches.

I weigh 360 pounds.  I’m pretty awesome.  I’m interesting.  I’m beautiful.  I’m quirky.  And I’ll be all those things if I ever weigh 160 pounds.

This “movement” is about human beings.  It’s about putting energy toward positive changes and making a difference.  It’s about enjoying life and feeling love and fulfillment and joy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this movement.  What are ways you make a difference on a daily basis?  What are some simple pleasures you love to enjoy every day?  How do you feel and show love?  Comment to let me know your thoughts!

Be merry [go-round]!

Be merry [go-round]!

Well-being

Charcoal

A couple nights ago, I was a ravenous beast.  I had no idea what I wanted, but, as usual, it wasn’t in my cupboards.  (Anyone else ever go grocery shopping, and then open your fridge a couple hours later and wonder why you don’t have any food?)  All I knew was that I wanted “fruit and fresh”.

A craving for pico de gallo slapped me across the face and I couldn’t forgive it.  I needed it badly, but it betrayed me.

Listening to my gut, I ran off to Chipotle for the first time in years, with daydreams of fajita burritos dancing in my head.  I once dated a guy that had an affair with Chipotle, and he dragged me into it, making us a beautiful love triangle.

It was a magical time.

It was a magical romance.

As with many relationships with no rational foundation, over time it became stale and gave me heartburn.  Oh – the guy and I broke up, too.

With anticipation to relive the flavors bursting out of their burritos and immaculately crystallized on their chips, I ordered both with extra hot sauce and dove in.  It was delicious – though not as delicious as I remembered – and I finished it all off, soon after slipping into a sweet carb-induced slumber, lulled by Ice T’s undercover suave in Law & Order: SVU.

Two hours later, not much past midnight, I awoke with fury.  My stomach was the size of a cantaloupe.  Long story short, I didn’t fall asleep until 5:30am (which is when I usually get up for work).  I didn’t get sick, but my stomach felt like a balloon covered in capsaicin and blown up too much.  I knew when I got out of bed, I’d need to do something to heal it.  In general, while my eating hadn’t been terrible, for the past few-six months I hadn’t necessarily been kind to my body, either.  I often feasted from the enchanting glow of the vending machines in the basement at work – Lunchables, hard boiled eggs (I know what you’re thinking), chocolate milk, potato skin chips, coconut water.

I went to Vive Juicery and picked up eight juices, all with ingredients that made me think of gentleness and healing in my body.  I have a juicer, but I didn’t have time to mess around.  (I’m pleased to say that they once again have my favorite, Sweet Mint!  I think grapes are out of season, so it currently doesn’t include them, but it’s still so wonderful.)

One of the juices I bought two of was the Sensei, which has lemon, ginger, honey, cayenne, filtered water, and activated charcoal.  Charcoal absorbs toxic substances that you may have ingested.

 

(courtesy of Brambleberry)

(courtesy of Brambleberry)

 

I also decided to try to eat more alkaline-friendly foods to balance out my innerds and reduce acid reflux (which, though sporadic, I never experienced until a year ago).  I’ve been eating really great, whole foods.

The first Sensei I sucked down (shortly after a shot of ginger) shot me back into a whirlwind of memories, which is the heart of this post.

I drank charcoal once before in my life, but it wasn’t a gentle experience.  The whole thing could be elaborated on using a series of blog posts and psychiatric self-evaluations.  As I drank this juice, an entire life chapter of thoughts and emotions came whirling back to me.

In September 2004, I had a “moment”.  Looking back, I realize a series (and lifetime) of events culminated to this moment.  I had no understanding of myself and my worth.  I was a happy person, and while I professed certain beliefs by word, my actions showed that I believed that my happiness and worth was based solely on the thoughts and approval of others.  Sadly, I think this is often typical of younger girls.

21

On my 21st birthday with my little from Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

One night, I was emo over a relationship I had been involved with and took some Tylenol to get to sleep.  I never took (or take) pills – OTC or otherwise – and so I wasn’t familiar with how I could feel them work in my body.  I took a few more when I didn’t feel them working.  Huffing and puffing around my apartment, I took a few other different things from the cupboard.  It was a mix of DayQuil, NyQuil, iron supplements, and whatever else was in the cupboard.  Being a bigger girl, I didn’t think it would affect me much.  I had no idea why I was doing it.  In my mind then, I think it was for attention, but I was in my apartment alone and it was really for my own wallowing, hoping someone would care even though know one knew.  I think it was sort of an “I bite my thumb at you!” and “take that!” to the world, even though the world didn’t understand or care about my immature suffering over not feeling validated by someone I was investing all of my energy into.  I started chatting with a friend on AIM (SO old) and apparently I was typing really slurry and like a drunk.  I ended up telling him that I took a couple things to relax.  He was concerned and called his friend (who happened to be family to the relationship) without my knowing.  Shortly after, my phone rang and it was the mother, asking if I was okay, and that she heard I took a few things.  I said I just took a couple Tylenol and then NyQuil so I could fall asleep.  She asked me to see how much I took.

I went to the kitchen and was shocked.  On the counter, there were about 30 pill wrappers, and a bottle of some liquid medicine (I don’t remember what).  I thought I was in control, but amidst it, I was affected by what I was taking and the amount to the point that I didn’t even notice or have comprehension of what I was doing.

They had called an ambulance in the meantime.  When it showed up with the police, I was embarrassed.  I worked at the popular gas station where all the cops came in, and I knew this one.  I remember that the officer, Nate, called me “sweetheart” when he was checking on me…I think we were both shocked that I was in the situation and it was a tender moment.  They saw all the wrappers and got me in the ambulance to the hospital.  He signed me in to the ER/Trauma Unit, where I was met by a butch nurse with zero compassion or patience.  The whole night was full of battles of nature different from this blog post: from the Pathways guy telling me God was imaginary to a trusted leader telling me to get un-involved with my hobbies and family.

But I definitely remember the charcoal.

Because of poisoning, I had to drink two giant Styrofoam cups of charcoal slurry through a straw.  It was the consistency of wet sand or sugar, and tasted like fluoride and powder.  It was awful, but the intended side-effects were worse, and you’ve never done it all until you’ve lost your guts every 30 seconds in a portable latrine (basically a glorified bed pan mounted to a walker) in open plain sight of everyone in the ER.  Because I was there for overdose, they wouldn’t allow me to go into a bathroom.  It was embarrassing and I felt shame.

I was in Trauma for three hours or so.  My liver toxicity (in hindsight, I think they were referring to AST/ALT) was around 87 after some elimination from charcoal.  Normal I was told was around 15-20 (though if you look it up, it seems it could be as high as 40).  The charcoal worked hard for me, and prayers did, too.  Around 2:30 am, they checked me into the Psych Ward and every half hour I was woken by nurses checking my levels.  By 5am, my level was a 7.  SEVEN.  They couldn’t believe it and said it was unheard of, and that someone upstairs must really love me.  I concur.  It was miraculous.

[I was going to insert a picture of a Psych Ward here, but the image search results are ridiculous!]

When I checked in, they wouldn’t believe I wasn’t suicidal.  And I wasn’t.  I didn’t want to die (in fact, I often battle a fear of death).  What started as a stupid, innocent cry for attention and self-awareness grew into a huge fiasco.  They took my scriptures and my clothes since my pajamas had a string in the waist band, and they said I could hang myself with it.  The scriptures, I was told, were a detriment to my psychiatric well being since they encouraged me to imagine things that weren’t real.

I ended up staying in the unit for four or five days.  More on that some other time.  They realized I was far more hygienic and sane than most that were there at the time, and that I could go.

The point of all this is that one little sip made me reflect on the sanctity of life.

I am so grateful that I have evolved into my own skin.  Not every day is easy, and some days in front of the mirror are disastrous, while most are just fine.  But not putting emphasis on my relationship status to define my worth and maturing through life experiences as really saved me.  I look back and want to throw my arms around that poor girl.  She had no belief in herself, or the greatness that she could achieve.

I’m grateful for family, and the closeness you can develop if you just give it a chance and show each other mercy.  For friendships and pardoning imperfections.  For trusting myself.  For the ability to feel love and that my value is not only divinely rooted, but sprouts from true compassion shared between humans.

I’m so glad I’m no longer in that place of insecurity.  Leaving it has washed away a multitude of guilt and imperfections.  I’ve traded it in for the nervousness of my abilities as I grow older, but I trust in myself and in my God to shield me from too much harm.

I’m willing to live in brightness and refreshment.  I love when I’m in a beautiful moment, and I’m so entwined that I don’t even have time to recognize that my body image has nothing to do with that glorious place.

I may have my days.  But I know I am a daughter of value and worth, of beauty and integrity.  I am a completely unique blueprint, never to be recreated.

 

Well-being

A Fatty’s Feelings on Food

I know you’re curious…you clicked because you can do so in privacy.  No one has to know of your curiosity on the taboo topic of the feasting feelings of your heftier counterparts.

I can’t speak for all heavyweights, but I can speak for myself.

Let’s start off and lay it all out on the table, unlike your last favorite presidential candidate or your most recently failed relationship.

I’m not full of surprises.

Or maybe I am.

But I want us to have a good relationship.

I’m a pleasantly plump girl.  Naturally, I love to eat.  But not in the way you’d be quick to assume.  I love the social experience, the nearly orgasmic moans rolling across the kitchen as forks penetrate mouths and culinary delights spread across palettes.
I’m depressed when I don’t feel hungry only because I just want the world’s flavors to nestle on my taste buds.

I’m a good girl.  I’ve got a strong faith.  I’m abstinent until I’m hitched.
But I seduce with food.

I just love food.  I have no training, no in-the-kitchen-with-grandma-recipes.  I grew up on a potholed street in a house insulated with quilt batting.  We ate large pots of goulash or sloppy joes for dinner.  My dad told me how he used to hang with the kids down the street when he was growing up, and eat “Tyner Dinners” – elbow macaroni and canned tomato.

I’m not scientific.  All I know is what taste buds like.  I don’t know that aphrodisiacs are proven, but I know for me, moments are aphrodisiacs.  For myself.

At the heart of it all, I’m complex, layered (ogres have layers, you know).
I have constantly been told I view the world with different glasses, I see things in ways that most people don’t see them.

I’m in the kitchen at 1:30am during a thunderstorm blaring my favorite Enya song on repeat and kneading pita dough by hand.
By 3am, I’m snoring on the couch with my laptop sliding off my lap, and I wake up as Ted Allen enthusiastically dooms the next hopeful chef with those fateful words, “You have been CHOPPED.”

At work, I’m making a mental list of everything I need to get at the store on the way home…just a few produce items.
By the time I leave the store, I’m swearing under my breath as I chastise myself for one more ridiculous food purchase on the credit card, and as I carry four huge bags to the brim with groceries and wait for the bus under the 99 degree Utah sun.

But food is never ridiculous.  Food is beautiful.  Food is logical.  Food is divine.

I don’t own any fancy kitchen utensils.  No mixers, no food processors, no nice knives, no silpats.
Most of the time, I don’t even have parchment, and I’m almost always out of aluminum foil.
Just me, some steak knives left by old inhabitants of my rental home I share with three other girls, some tomato stained cutting boards, and music.

Oh, that’s when the magic happens.

The cursing comes to a stop when I lay my debtful buys out on the 70’s counter.  Our kitchen is as hot as the devil’s infant incubator, so I have approximately 37 minutes until all of my food withers and rots.  Better get to work.

The magic happens when I flip on my music…Spanish guitar playlist.  Golden sun leathering me to a crisp.
I plunge my hands in a bowl of foamy, yeasty water full of fava beans, waiting to be shucked.

Yes, shucked.

Food is about imagination, about making it your own.  Be a thesaurus and let the words flow from your mouth and imagination when you’re in the kitchen, even if you’re just unrolling a container of pre-made biscuit dough.

I hope this makes you feel that experiences with food are accessible, personal, possible.

This isn’t a cutesie blog with giveaways and contests.

This is me talking to myself, just like I do in the kitchen.
A hoarding place, a memory, a fiery corner of my brain.

Well-being

Caving in to being accustomed

I’ve looked at kayaks with fear and trembling and enticement.

Over the past few years I’ve allowed less to scare me, but I suppose there is residual fear from a lifetime of being accustomed: accustomed to the worry that somehow my body will halt me from continuing (“what if I don’t fit?  what if I’m too heavy?  what if I’m laughed at?”) and the ‘what ifs’ (“what if I roll and get stuck and drown and my face gets pecked off by a pike?”).  These things initially flood my thoughts against my own will; a hefty portion of the beginning of my life was spent collecting a magnificent array of nicknames and embarrassing moments from being obese.  My twenties have been embellished with a stream of “Smokey Drives a Cadillac” experiences that have helped rid of that habitual expectation of worry or fear of judgement, and I’ve submitted myself to some of the most amazing opportunities.

Thankfully, while the body has mostly remained on the same end of the spectrum – though with some positive changes – I can say that I’ve shed the majority of the fear.

All of this intro to one little piece of heaven: I went kayaking for the first time.

kayaking

Let me start by saying that I’m in love with canoeing.  Every year when I come home to visit Michigan, my best friend (of 24 years!) and I canoe the AuTrain River.  There is something so empowering about steering my way down the river, and having the strength to carry us out of any sticky situation.  Arm strength, core stability, positivity, it all counts.

But I’ve been dying to kayak.

Kayaking was like this cool elitist thing to me, kind of like running.  I try to run, I want so desperately to run, but I can’t sustain mileage.  I’m more of an interval girl.  But I still count it as running!  I am infatuated with runners and as they jog by I study their faces, their form, their feet.  They are part of this club I try to mimic, but just am not yet able to be a part of.

I am the canoe and they were the kayak.

But now I’m the kayak!

Dale was one of my substitute teachers in junior high, but we have kept in touch over the years.  She was also my group leader when I was a part of Youth Volunteer Corps and we spent summer days volunteering to help clean up the forest.  She’s always had a great love for nature and not afraid to share that.  Being that I work with the U.S. Forest Service this summer, I have heard about her avid attendance at a slew of our summer programs.  It was on the Night Hike and Owl Calling put on by my counterpart Kelsey and me that I finally got to see Dale.  We chatted after the hike and planned on kayaking the next day at Pete’s Lake “because it’s a clear lake and just in case I roll I can pretend I’m swimming.”

Comforting.

It ended up being extremely windy and sprinkling on and off, threatening lightening, so we postponed a couple days.  I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful night!

We arrived at Pete’s Lake a bit before 7pm, welcome by the twilight’s outreaching arms.  I was excited and both extremely nervous, and I knew I wouldn’t chill out until I sat in the kayak and knew it wouldn’t feel like sitting on a flight on a puddle jumper for two hours (hey, my hips don’t lie…true to size).  She gave me a lesson on getting in and out and how to paddle, and in I went.

It was the most comfortable thing I’ve ever sat in.

She pushed me out into the lake.

Bliss.

The word “bliss” is perfect.  It feels like a word that would actually seep along the water from the base of the bow cutting the water, glimmering out in perfect ripples along the side of the kayak.  Blissssssssssss.

kayak3

We spent the next two hours paddling around Pete’s Lake, chatting about life and the value of having nature as your drug.  It was oddly quiet; usually it’s one of the busiest campgrounds.  Our kayaks cut the glass surface of the lake.  Common loons wailed in the southern corner.  The sun shone for the golden hour and began to create silhouettes as it tucked behind the trees.  It was amazing to see the lake from this perspective.  I spent my childhood summers swimming at the day use area, but never going beyond its bordering buoys (fear of drowning, fear of mucky water, always fear).  The lake was much bigger than I thought it to be, with various bays and treasures along the shoreline.

I could’ve spent a lifetime in that kayak.

I’m considering selling all my possessions and living in one.