body confidence

Is this acceptance?

I’ve put on weight. Like a fair bit. For real tho.

On the left: me, on July 28th, 2018. On the right: me, on March 24th, 2018.

That pic makes me wanna weep. In March I was still grappling with my diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder. I’d just begun to barely pull myself out of the worst depression of my life, one that had threatened to derail my career in Nov-Jan. My relationship with Hickster was a toxic destructive mess. I’d recently quit my dance team, and was experiencing semi-frequent episodes of cognitive distortion. I had lost a lot of weight from unhappiness. But I looked good. And I clung onto that notion like a life raft.

Since June, I am better. I am seeing the colors. I am also almost 15lbs heavier than I was in March. This is the heaviest I have been in years. As I am doing better, my career is back on track, and I’ve even been recently promoted, yay. But as a result, I have trouble working out 1-2x a week, I rarely go dancing, and my primary food group is candy and alcohol. Bad habits like stress eating are resurfacing. I am no longer anything close to being an athlete.

I look at that pic, and I feel shame. Because the weight represents the emotional burden of these past few months. I survived mentally, but there was a huge cost. And it manifests itself, in part, in a damaged body. I look at that pic and I see that I’ve let myself go, that I’ve stopped taking care of myself. I don’t believe anymore that I am beautiful. I feel worn out by all that life has thrown my way in 2018. I am ashamed that it shows.

But… this is not my first rodeo with body self-hatred (see reading list below), I know that this shame is self-imposed. It doesn’t correspond to how the outside world sees me. So even when I feel DISGUSTING, bloated and distended and almost deformed, I don’t let that stop me from slipping on a figure hugging outfit and going dancing. I want to stay home and hide under a tent, but I don’t let myself do so. That would be letting my sick brain win, and fuck off brain, I’ve too much pride for that.

When I saw those pics, I was horrified. I looked pregnant. I remember that night. I’ve been having digestive issues caused in equal parts by the lack of veggies in my diet, the industrial quantities of candy and also the spike in stress. It makes for a… “congested” combo, let’s just say. It’s one thing to feel icky plogged, it’s a whole other thing to look icky plogged. I blush with shame when I see those pics.

Except… I got SO many compliments from the dudes that night. My curves were not perceived as a bad thing, at all.

This guy ain’t complaining about nothing.

So even though I feel completely uncomfortable in my body, I know a lot of it is in my head. If I go out and force myself to dance, to put aside the vicious hateful voices in my head that tell me I am repulsive and gross and lazy and undisciplined, and let myself connect to my dance partners, I can find moments of freedom and joy. One dance at a time.

Maybe that is real acceptance? Acknowledging that the current state is not ideal, but not letting it stop me from doing what I love.

Acceptance is fucking hard, apparently.


Previous thoughts on body-image:

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That time my life was a TLC song lyric

I have been struggling with body acceptance lately, but 2-3 weeks at the gym with Coach Dr. Booté and I feel a lot better about it. Do I wanna lose 10 lbs? Sure, and I probably will. But I can look at myself in the mirror and say to myself “not bad, you’ll do”. #progress

I went dancing this week for fun, not as part of the team or dance squad. I dressed up, because it is easier to let myself be vulnerable when I am not feeling insecure about my looks – putting my best foot forward. #immyfathersdaughter #badpunsareathinginmyfamily

I had a good night of dancing, with many partners, most of them excellent leads, and my capacity to relax into a state of vulnerability to achieve the necessary connection with my partners wasn’t terrible. #practicemakesperfect #dancingasacopingmechanismagainstmyshadow. While waiting for my Uber outside the club, a car drove past me, and guy leaned out of the passenger window and yelled, “GIIIIIIIRL! YOU HAVE ASS FOR DAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYSSSSSSSSS”.

Not gonna lie, I really enjoyed that. Both because as far as cat-calls go, it was well articulated, properly enunciated and grammatically correct, and because I never expected that my life would be a TLC lyric, incarnate:

A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me
Hanging at the passenger side of his best friend’s ride
Trying to holler at me

That’s the second time I’ve been creatively cat-called on that same street corner. My new go-to location for an ego boost.

#itsthesmallthings

#hewouldhaveassfordaystooifhesquatted

#IcanintroducehimtoCoach

#backtobeingpromotionalmaterialforthegym

Kuduro cucumber

I’m PMSing, y’all. Because that is obviously a topic of general interest, I have detailed various symptoms about my PMSing here and here and here.

This past weekend was not a weekend of moderation. On Saturday, I worked out for the third time in 2017 (yay, traveling! So much fun, except so much jet lag, and bloating and delicious but unhealthy foods). Of course, one hour of intense exercise with Coach Dr. Booté warrants me eating ALL of the food ever, right? Recovery diet, and all that. Sunday: brunch with a friend, followed by supper at a resto with my Pops, and wine, and cider, and chocolate because TREAT YO’SELF ITS THE WEEKEND!

Yesterday, I woke up feeling bloated. I decided: New Monday, New Day, New Me. Imma go on a diet. All morning at work, this happened. Then, I had a business lunch with a key consultant, fancy stakehouse, and why not? Entrée, bigass meal, chocoholic dessert.

Y’all.

I was so bloated my nylons and underwear were cutting off circulation in my lower body. It was so uncomfortable, I considered going commando at the office, but I opted not to and suffer in almost-silence (I only updated my team about the status of my bloating every 15 minutes, including but not limited to such descriptions as “I’m as bloated as a cucumber!” “I’m never eating food again, I swear” “Being a woman suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks”), not because I felt it was scandalous, but because I felt that was the ultimate sign of defeat. I had to learn to live with my poor life choices.

I googled “death by water retention”.

Imagine my horror when, at dance class, I realized that of ALL the days… yesterday I had packed a crop top as my dance outfit.

I considered going home. #piorities

I didn’t bail on dance class. But I did sweat scary amounts, and turned the dance floor into a swimming pool. #sexy

Today, did I learn from my mistakes and eat healthily? HAHAHAHAHAHA no. I woke up craving a grilled cheese sandwich, and waited impatiently till noon to go and buy one for myself, which I scarfed down in approximately 34 seconds, and here I am sitting at my desk, debating if eating an entire chocolate bar counts as a serving of protein. I’m not sure, the science is out, but I’m thinking the answer to that legit question is “obviously”.

#olderandwiser

#diabetesandhighbloodpressureruninmyfamilycanyoutell?

Learning to enjoy being a girl

Reared in a strict Christian household, I was taught that pride is THE biggest of all vices, and vanity was more trivial, obnoxious and easily spotted – a transparent window into person’s character, and indicative of poor judgment and priorities (I notice a certain irony, now, that it is by appealing to my vanity that I was dissuaded from ever exhibiting any). As an only child, with an invalid mother, I grew up without any role models of how to be a girly girl. Sure, my mother would talk of how in her youth she loved the theatre of clothes, and passed a lot of her knowledge on to me, but it remained something that was not deserving of time and effort. I internalized the message that caring about my appearance (other than to avoid appearing slovenly/underdressed/vulgar/sexy) was indicative of poor priorities and a lack of meaning and purpose in my life. Worse, given that I was a woman in a man’s world, it was imperative that I earn people’s respect for my intelligence and character, not for something as transient and superficial as my appearance.

Well.

Early on in my career, I learned the lesson that people respond better to someone who is well put together. Dressing for the part (of smart, competent, reliable, engaging career woman) was necessary to ease the social interactions that are so key in the business world. But that wasn’t  vanity, that was a practical recognition of behavioural norms. So I revamped my wardrobe transforming myself into a power accountant. Still, I avoided spending unnecessary time on my appearance, other than investing the time necessary to shop for well-cut flattering clothes and good haircuts. #couldntbebothered

In the past 24 months, I’ve undergone a bumpy journey to body acceptance. My (former) therapist prescribed me with the obligation of never going more than 48 hours without getting a minimum of 30mins of exercise. He stressed that it wasn’t a matter of breaking a sweat, but of moving enough to trigger the endorphins my brain so needed to counteract its corrosive tricks, like going for a walk outdoors. And so was born the notion that I should commit to doing things that make me feel better – that I must be an agent (to some extent) of my happiness and well-being. From that point on, I made sure to never do less than 3 intense workouts per week. The link between my emotional and mental equilibrium and the consistency of my workouts was apparent almost immediately. My dietary habits also improved: I applied the same notion that I should eat what I genuinely wanted to eat to make me feel good. Sometimes that could mean chocolate and wine for the soul, French fries and pizza for the fun of it, or salad and chicken because I hate the bloaty, gassy feeling that comes from eating unhealthily for more than 2-3 consecutive meals. Unsurprisingly, I lost a fair bit of weight and got in shape. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing:

Then, I had a second watershed moment: accepting the sexy. Through dance, I’ve started to enjoy my body as a source of appreciation to myself and others.

I can finally admit that I LIKE having a bangin’ bod – something I never believed was within my reach. I LIKE that people admire it: I enjoy it, I’ve worked hard for it, I’ve gone through so much with it, I’m proud of it. I LIKE feeling good about my appearance, and will continue to take the time and effort to help my body and my brain be the best versions possible. I LIKE putting together an outfit that is flattering and makes me feel like whatever version of myself I feel like portraying. Always? No. There are plenty of days every week where I roll out of bed, pull on wtv is easily accessible/clean and forget to put on mascara. But there are plenty of days where I enjoy taking an hour getting ready for work and spend the day feeling like a million bucks. Maybe because I am so confident in my intelligence and my character, I no longer feel that has to be the first thing people notice about me. Any person who deals with me for longer than 30 minutes and does not realize I am smart, pretty awesome and beyond competent at what I do is merely demonstrating their sub-par observation skills.

I tell myself this isn’t vanity, as my happiness is not dependent on others’ perception in myself: I delight in my body and mind. Is it pride, the mother of all sins? I sure hope not. It feels like joy and peace, which is such a blessing after years of anxiety, paranoid brain and depression. I have no intention of fighting these new-found gleeful feels.

A form of freedom

I’ve spent my life disliking my appearance. I was too tall, too chubby, slightly knock-kneed. My torso was too short. My boobs too small. My hair was too frizzy and too thin. I saw the cellulite and tummy as proof of my inability to control my diet, my lack of self-discipline, my total uselessness. In my early twenties, I flirted with eating disorders, abusing laxatives, binge eating, starving myself until I was dizzy. My idols were Kate Middleton, Nicole Kidman and ballerinas. Waif-like, thin women. Women whose body types I will never resemble, because I was born with junk in my trunk, and I have an athletic build. No amount of starvation (regardless of self-discipline) will ever turn my body into this:

or this:

Then I met Coach, who calls me an Amazon. He’s always called me an Amazon, when I weighed 25lbs more than I do now, and when I weighed 10lbs less. He also calls all the girls in the competitive team Amazons. Some of us fight in the <51kg category, some of us fight in the >81kg category. Some of us are shorties (5’2”) and some of us are tall (me at 5’9”). We are ALL Amazons, because Coach defines an Amazon as a strong, confident woman, who knows exactly how awesome she is, and expects everyone to find her as fabulous as she finds herself. She owns any room she walks into and people are drawn to her self-assurance. The only physical attribute that is part of Coach’s definition of an attractive Amazon is strength; her strength makes her an equal partner and ally to any man. Her strength and her confidence are what make her attractive; the details of her physical appearance are irrelevant.

I had another watershed moment due to Beaut. While he enjoys athletic girls, he also enjoys women with a voluptuous body. He posted this video one day on his fbk.

I was taken aback by two things:

  • How many of his male friends clearly drooled over this video. They were rather explicit in their appreciative comments. I had always assumed that men shared the same definition of sexy as I did. WRONG.
  • Just how attractive I found the model Ashley Graham, even though she does not, in any way, resemble my ideal woman. She struts her stuff with absolute confidence. She is SO sexy. Unconsciously, I had always assumed that if I had body issues (due to my inability to conform to my desired, rigid body esthetic), that any woman who deviated even more than me from that esthetic must have proportionately more body issues. I had NEVER considered, in all my 31 years, that it was possible that multiple esthetics could be sexy. That perhaps attractiveness can best be defined as an enjoyment of one’s own body. Pretty sure Ashley Graham meets Coach’s definition of an Amazon.

Lately, I’ve reached a point where I am proud of my body. Partly because I have worked extremely hard to get close to my optimal fighting weight (which is 12lbs heavier than the weight I always arbitrarily deemed to be my “ideal” weight), and as a result I am much fitter, faster and stronger. For the first time in my life, I almost feel like an athlete. I am more concerned with what my body can DO, how much I can deadlift, how long I can run, how hard I can punch, how mobile I am in the ring, how well I can sustain my cardio through sparring, than with how my body LOOKS. I am proud of my body, for how far it’s come functionally, and my physique is one perk that I definitely don’t complain about. My relationship with food has significantly improved as well: I eat to make my body feel better. Sometimes (at least once a week) that means eating chocolate and french fries. Often, however, it means meat and veggies – not because I want to be thin, but because those foods make my body feel strong and light, and help me recover from my workouts. Eating a diet filled with artificial chemicals, salt, grease, alcohol and sugars makes my body feel bloated, sore and farty. Not sexy, or fun, and definitely a problem in the ring.

I feel beautiful, even though I can still see the imperfections in my body: my crooked nose, thin hair, thick arms, short torso, knock knees, cellulite and scars are all still there, and will always be there. I recognize that my body does not conform to my personal preferred esthetic of beauty. I am aware (thanks to the male gender’s propensity to freely comment on my, and other women’s, appearance) that my look will not appeal universally to all men. But here is the thing: I no longer care. I love my body, and that is enough.

#Amazon

#freedom

This Friday brought to you by a vain Amazon 

Convo with Bballer:

  

The art of being woman:

I can feel this way (pic above), yet still fret about how my jeans are too tight. I can feel that way and still feel completely incompetent due to my inability to stick to a nutrition plan that would allow me to drop the 10lbs I promised Coach I would months ago. 

But at the same time, I’ve learned to dress and shop better, to highlight my body’s strengths. I’ve learned to enjoy getting ready in the morning and constructing an image for the day that I’ll show the world: sometimes girly, sometimes powerful, sometimes nerdy, sometimes whimsical, sometimes beautiful, depending on my mood. The variations are endless. (The only variation I am still uncomfortable with is the sexy one. How well that fits with my Vanilla personality! Consistency is key, so they say.)

When I look at myself in the mirror, even on the most PMS-y, bloated day, I’m happy with what I see. Even though my belly is not flat, and my pawg-y butt and thighs have a bit too much jiggle, I’m content. My body and I have been through a lot together: we have the scars to show for it. It’s taken me a long time to learn how to take care of it, and often I still get it wrong. But by working together, overcoming injuries, some of which are decades-old, my body now allows me to box. I know my body is doing the best it can, and it’s my job to try help it along, and appreciate it for as long as I can. Because the day will come where my body will tire out and start to fail, whether due to illness or old age. When that day comes, I want to be able to look back on my life and say to my body, “we had a good run together. Well done.”

This Amazon business ain’t easy.