weight-loss

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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Dancefloor drama V: an irrelevant question of weight

Recently, I’ve started to learn how to lead as a dancer. I’ve a long ways to go, I only know about 6 moves, but what a thrill. Following is one thing: it is about embracing vulnerability and connection. But leading? Leading is different. Is it accepting to be seen – poor technique, undeveloped musicality, errors in judgment and timing. It is accepting the precious gift of vulnerability offered to me by my dance partners. It is the opportunity to treat them with kindness and patience whilst laying bare my own imperfections. Leading is self-expression and creativity and team work. Every dance is different and wonderful. I. LOVE. IT.

You can see it in my concentration & smiles.

In Paris, I took a semba workshop with one of Teacher’s besties.  Cultural difference #1: Semba is not as popular in France as it is in other kizomba dancing countries like Canada, Portugal, Netherlands, Italy or the UK. There were way more girls (followers) than guys (leaders), so I switched my role from follower to leader to help even out the pairings. Cultural difference #2: female leaders are an anomaly in France.  I definitely got a few stares, curious questions from my female dance partners, and that night, more than one dude commented, “Oh so you are back to being a female, now?” #verytraditionalgenderroles I didn’t have the energy to debate with any of them, or to point out that originally in Angola,semba is not a gender specific dance. It is most commonly danced between men and woman, but it can be danced between children, men and men, women and women, youth and senior citizen, whomever. It is a partner dance. Partners. 2 individuals. I ain’t about to stand around waiting for the better part of an hour for a dude to ask me to dance, when I can lead and dance with anybody I want!

(Aside, I survived leading in an intermediate class taught by Fabricio. This guy. Yeah! #majorvictory).

As is customary in class, the leaders practiced the step combo being taught by cycling through the followers. This allows for socialization and better learning opportunities: it is easier to identify common mistakes and strengths when the number of people one is practicing on is high.

Fabricio was teaching us a complicated move: swipe the girl’s leg, and make her do a very slow spin on one bent leg, which can only successfully happen if the leader properly supports her and keeps her center of gravity immobile. To the extent the leader messes that up, the follower will have no choice but to shift her weight onto the leader to avoid face-planting. Tricky. I flubbed up the move with my first few partners, much to our mutual enjoyment and giggles. By girl 4 I was getting the handle of it. By girl 6, I almost had swag. Girl 7 went smoothly, but she was very tense, which made it a little harder for me to execute, but no big deal – I would be tense too, trusting a stranger to not trip me, drop me AND spin me! Fabricio stopped the class to give some clarification. Girl 7 used that unexpected break to whisper to me:

Do you mind, I hope this isn’t an awkward question, but could you tell me, for real, honestly…

When you dance with me, am I heavier than other girls? Do you find me hard and heavy to dance with? You can tell me, I want to know. Do you enjoy dancing with me like with other girls?

She looked so embarrassed. Ashamed.

A rush of reactions, all jumbled:

  • Poor darling.
  • I wanna punch wtv loser(s) made her think she is fat and heavy. Girl had the same curvy shape as me, just a wee bit shorter. She weighed 145lbs tops, 5ft6-5ft7.
  • Why is she asking me this now, when Fabricio is talking? How on earth can I properly answer this, without disrespecting him by talking in class?!
  • How long has she been waiting to find someone she feels comfortable enough to ask this question to? It must be because I am a girl, so she feels less scared to ask me this. I hope I don’t fuck this moment up

I whispered back my honest answer that, no, she is FINE. She is a good follower, maybe a bit tense, but the heaviness of the follower, ESPECIALLY for this tricky spin, is a function of the leader’s ability to keep her center of gravity stable, not a function of her weight. And besides, I’ve danced with women that weigh well over 200lbs, and they can feel lighter, easier to lead, more responsive than some cute little twig bombshell hottie. Fabricio turned to look our way, so I kept quiet so as to not further disrupt the class. I could have said more, but she left class before I could find her and wrap up our convo.

I am by no means a small girl (5ft9, 160-165lbs/74-75kgs on a slim week). I’ve battled my body insecurities for years (here and here). I am taller than all my dance partners, even the ones that are not wee:

My bigger proportions (weight and height) has been problematic in the team – I am limited in who I can partner with for fear of injuring the guys’ backs on some of the lifts. It shouldn’t upset me, but it definitely makes me self conscious. At the same time, I can’t exactly fault them for occasionally struggling with catching a moving airborn target of 165lbs. Obvi, in those cases, they prefer dancing with a twig bombshell hottie. #backinjuriesaretheworst

I wish I could have convinced her that my enjoyment is not based on the girl’s weight but on her ability to embrace the connection. That its a question of vulnerability. Something that I struggle with too as a follower, and that is ok.

I wish I could have told her that any dude that tried to blame her for being difficult to dance with – specifically on her weight – was a jackass, a loser with an ego too fragile to own up to his failings as a leader, so he had to go crush her self-esteem instead. It is ALWAYS the leader’s fault. It is the LEADER that must communicate, guide, adapt to the follower. I wish she could take a class with Teacher, because Teacher goes ape-shit when he hears of some of the bullshit “his girls” are told by dudes on the dancefloor. Teacher’s famous piece of advice:

Leaders, if you bust out a move with a girl on the dancefloor and she doesn’t get it, ok, maybe you messed it up, you weren’t clear, your timing was a little off. Take a time out, calm yourself, get that adrenaline under control, do a few a basic steps. If you bust out that move a 2nd time, and she doesn’t get it again, ok maybe she is a beginner or a bad follower. So do a little 1-2 step, get her to relax and smile. That’s your job.

But leaders, if you then bust out that SAME move a third time in the same song… you’re just an asshole.

Dancing is about making sure your partner is having a good time, not about you going on an ego trip and putting your need to succeed a move ahead of your partner’s skills and enjoyment.

Nothing to do about weight in there.

I wish I’d told her she was beautiful.

I wish I could have told her to own her ginga.

I hope she believed me.

This is true love

I love cheese.

I’ve fallen in love with every water (and waitress) that has come by to offer to sprinkle cheese on my Italian meal. And by sprinkle, my meal is cheese with a side of Italian food ingredients.

Today. Valentine’s day. I hate Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is the reason I started blogging. I decided to ignore the whole concept. Didn’t bring chocolate to the office, dressed in black (and purple), just a normal day in the life of Vanilla.

Until.

My junior knocked on my cubi-office, and handed me a aluminum foil rectangle.

From one single girl, to another… Happy Valentine’s Day.

Y’all.

She got me a grilled cheese sandwich. If that is not true love, I don’t know what is.

I did say I have the best team ever? As if I needed further proof.

#dreamteam

Holiday diet vs January diet 

After 10 days in Paris, and 2 weeks of holiday festivities where I drank on average 1 bottle of wine/day, consumed a scandalous amount of jellybeans, chocolate and happiness, I had put on 10 lbs.

TEN.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 TEN (!) pounds.

(As Teacher so kindly put it, when he saw me, “Damn, girl, I can see the weight in your cheeks! And your legs, but especially in your cheeks! You weren’t lying when you said you got chubbier.” Bro, stick to dancing, and shhhhh. Don’t speak. Like, ever.)

So, January 2nd, back at work. New year, new me, time to detox, and be productive. I decide to cut out alcohol (primarily because it is socially frowned upon to be drunk while closing out the books for the year) and eat a salad, because rumor has it that vegetables are not a bad thing.

I lasted 48 hours.

January 4th, I woke up and my kidneys hurt. Badly.


Its a well known mantra that you should listen to your body. So Jan 4th at night, I had pizza. Jan 5th, I woke up feeling better. So for supper I had wine and a burger and onion rings. And yesterday, Jan 6th, I was tip top shape. So I drank a bottle of wine at supper with my former roomie Kirsten.

Methinks losing the holiday poundage might be a very gradual process. I wouldn’t want to trigger kidney failure, for the sake of being slim. #priorities #wineisbae #pizzatoo

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The struggle is real…

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Well. I forgot this still happened. Part II.

Yesterday I had another date with Young Boy (YB). You can read Part I here: it gives a little context about my mindset going into said date. A low-key affair, as we were both burnt from a long week at work. I like low-key dates because they often result in good conversations; useful in the getting-to-know-one-another stage, regardless of where that stage is headed (dating, naked gymnastics, friend zone).

Convo flowed freely, possibly because we have very different lifestyles and tastes. Even interests that we share, we approach from very different perspectives. For example, I exercise primarily because I need to remain mentally and emotionally stable: my appearance is bonus. For the longest time, despite exercising 4-6 times a week, I was rather thick (80+kilos), because of my emotional eating. Sure, that self-destructive habit made me ashamed, but thanks to my former therapist, I still felt some pride in investing the necessary time to take care of my brain and happiness. YB exercises because he feels it is a duty to remain healthy: anyone who lets him/herself go is lazy and signals to the world that they don’t respect themselves and don’t mind being a drain on society by clogging up the healthcare system with avoidable health issues. OYE. On so many levels. Yes, agreed that being overweight is linked to avoidable health issues. No, disagreed that it is a matter of laziness and lack of self-respect: those might be factors, but adulting is fucking hard, and the emotional and mental scars of life often translate into bad eating habits. Also? Life is a balancing act of conflicting priorities. To surmise a person’s whole character from their appearance?! OYE. Yet… I am not surprised. Many people share his point of view – hence my concern with maintaining my newfound #skinnybitch and #bangingbod status.

We started comparing Instagram profiles, and sharing the backstories of some of our favorite pics. I showed him a pic of me and Coach, after a particularly good, sweaty booté workout at the gym – seemed like a good choice, especially after our convo about exercising.

That’s one big black guy. How much does he bench/squat? Cute pic. Wait, you don’t fool around with black guys, do you? You DO?! Oh.” [Accompanied by a slightly nonplussed look.]

Oh, indeed.

Remember how my emotions are overwhelming, I can’t always properly identify what I am feeling, and as a result I have slightly delayed reactions? I had NO PROBLEM identifying my anger, and the only difficulty I had was biting back the impulse to reply,

Yeah, going back has been tough, you’re my trial run, white boy, and honestly, I don’t know that I am ready to make the switch back. You haven’t sold me on the concept.

SO ANGRY. Because the question didn’t revolve around me fooling around with guys. No. Specifically, it was concerned with black guys. My willingness to expose my body to black guys merits judgment. What, boy, bothers you so much about the black part of the guys I have fooled around with? Lets break down some of the most common aspects of their reputation:

  • big dicks: so is this a sizing issue, boy? Worried you can’t measure up? That I have been stretched out and am a loosey goosey?
  • into dirtier, nastier sex: well, for someone who has boasted about having a broad range of naked gymnastics interests, surely my possible exposure to similar concepts (7.5!!) can’t bother you, can it? Or are you worried I’ll call your bluff?
  • aren’t legendary for their monogamy: worried that I might be crawling with diseases? Dunno if you understand how safe sex works, but it isn’t related to the moral code of the person you bang. It is only related to whether or not the dude wears a raincoat. Worried that means that I might not be the greatest at the whole concept of monogamy? Because obvi my character is influenced by sexual osmosis. I cannot maintain my own moral compass if there is a penis around.
  • can actually cook and dance: nothing to be said, really.
  • are BLACK.

Its the last one that bothers me. Because while I am sure the other items probably were part of his reaction, its the BLACK part that really was the sticking point. So shocking that a white girl like me might actually view black males as humans worthy of my attention, time and occasionally body… the same as I do white boys. Or Arab boys (only because I find the possibility of being blown up during sex to be extremely exciting, duh). Or any other male that is alive, taller than me and funny.

Unconscious racism. Soooooooooo sexy.

There won’t be a part III.

My booté saga: a chapter at the office

Not the point of this post – part 1

Clothes. I like how they can be a form of self-expression. I also like analyzing why I put on wtv outfit I do in the morning: sometimes it reveals stuff on my mind, or a mood, that I wasn’t fully aware of. For example, last week, when discussing vanity, I put on that outfit because I felt it was a perfect mix of professional, sexy, fashionable and stylish (those are NOT the same thing!) and made my facial features pop. That was the version of myself I felt needed emphasis for a day with the auditors and a board meeting at night: during those meetings my intelligence would be on display anyhow so I wanted to highlight the other, more appealing aspects of myself to balance everything out. In contrast, earlier this week, I scheduled a meeting with CFO-boss that was likely to be very tense: I needed to communicate 1-2 messages that he wouldn’t be delighted about, and I had a vested interest in convincing him to endorse my proposed action plans. What did I wear? Something very corporate? No, my boss knows I am smart AF, that is why he hired me, no need to emphasize that. Something sexy? No, he’d find that displaced, no sense in unconsciously irritating him. Something very fashion forward? No, he is an accountant. So I wore work slacks, and a baby pink finely knit sweater – the kind that is office-appropriate but makes you wanna hug the person. Simple makeup, glasses, and an outfit to highlight that I am a cute, adorable girl. I chose to dress in such a way as to offset my strongly-worded arguments and my intense emotions, as those would be abrasive enough for my boss. It worked.

Not the point of this post – part 2

My team is young. Young enough that they are all on Facebook, and we are Facebook friends, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! (We are also coworker friends, but as everybody knows, if it isn’t on Facebook, it isn’t real). As such, they sometimes read this blog. The things they know about me! Makes me blush, except it doesn’t, bc #vulnerability, y’all. Anyhow, they know both this story about my dismay about my shrinking butt, and this epic prank by Coach Dr. Booté. A good story is a good story, even if it makes me sound like a vain, superficial twit. Bc I am totally not a vain, superficial twit, no way. I am a vain, superficial, nerdy SMART twit. Obvi.

The point of this post

Yesterday at work, I was checking out my outfit in the mirrors of the ladies washroom. I had a meeting in late afternoon with a supplier, and I’d chosen an super corporate dress for that purpose: previous meetings had left me with the impression that the supplier did not respect me to the extent I desired, thinking of me more as a girly girl than as a business woman to negotiate with. I was evaluating the severity of my outfit, distracted by the excellent workmanship of the cut (discreetly flattering, of course, because #bougie), when my youngest team member walked in. She pointed to me checking out my profile and consoled me with a smirk,

Vanilla, if you are worried about your butt being flat in that dress, I promise you it’s not.

Consider this a free lesson in How to Get Your Staff to Respect You 101.

#onpoint #howwellsheknowsme #hmph #thisvainsuperficialnerdysmarttwitisalsoademandingslavedriver #iswear #irunatightship #butmyshiphasbooty #teambootyaccountants

Booté post afterword

A little video of my latest attempt at mimicking a Pussycat Doll.

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.