Wednesday, July 17, 2013

confessions of a fat girl.

Let me set the stage for you: I shudder when people use the term "fat" as a descriptor.  In fact, just this week, I corrected two little girls I heard playing and reminded them that we are concerned about being "healthy", not about being "fat" or "skinny".

I shudder... because for at least 70% of my life I have been overweight.

When I was little, I was cute with that little baby belly poking out.  As I grew, I was "healthy" until about 2nd or 3rd grade when I began the upward climb to overweight.  Mom and I used to talk about how it likely came from my love of whole milk.  I'd love to be able to blame whole milk.  Yeah, that'd be nice.  Damn you, whole milk.

A complicating factor in my weight gain/weight loss is that my entire life I have had severe asthma.  Severe to the point of hospitalizations so numerous I could not begin to catalog them for you.  Seriously.  Santa comes to see me on the peds ward at Christmas?  Yay.  Jack Hanna pops over in his khaki glory with a baby cheetah while I'm being treated at Duke?  Lucky me.  I wrote my own notes for missed school days starting in elementary school and Mom would sign them: "Please excuse Becky from her absence on March 15.  She had an asthma exacerbation."  I was proud of being able to spell both asthma and exacerbation from an early age.  I was not proud, however, of not being able to do normal kid things in PE.

Don't get me wrong- I LOVED that I was the DJ for circuit day and that I didn't have to run the mile.  Let's not lie, those were 2 of the perks of the disease.  (Well, that and the fact that Mr. Ianniello didn't make me dissect things because formaldehyde made me wheeze.)  But when I would need to sit out from a "basic" game of kickball on occasion... well that sucked.

How quickly we label ourselves and begin to act on those labels.

Me?  I was the SICK GIRL.  Who quickly became the FAT GIRL.  And that was my identity.

I was always friends with skinny girls.  Such is the plight, right?  My best friends were (and still are, mind you) these petite cute cheerleaders... it's by the grace of God I didn't try to throw them over the side of the canoe while we were at Girl Scout camp together.  My skinny girl proximity continues to this day... and it is only now that I don't compare myself to them.

So why do I refuse to call myself the fat girl these days?  Because of a mind shift... a total mind shift and, recently, a behavior shift as well.

About 12 years ago, I first stepped in to a Weight Watchers meeting.  I had allowed my weight (let's be honest, I didn't allow it like I gave it permission... I allowed it in that it crept up and up and I didn't acknowledge it until I got to a point I needed the professionals at WW to help out) to get out of hand and I was ready for change.  I counted points and went to meetings and became fixated on my diet lifestyle choice in a way that all good WWers know works.  I dropped around 20 pounds and was happy with my weight.

For a while.

Once I counted less points, I gained more weight... and when you throw in multiple pregnancies and hormonal craziness of fertility treatments... it was like I knew I was going back to F-- Girl land, yet I wouldn't acknowledge it.

In 2006 I experienced two miracles.  1, I got pregnant and was able to deliver a healthy baby girl. 2, I lost weight- both in my first trimester and then as a result of breast feeding.  In spite of the dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep, I was at a healthy weight and loved it!

So what made me put the weight back on if I finally conquered it?  One part of my weight problem is obviously food related.  But weight is not based solely on what goes in to your body.  We know the obvious secret... less food + more exercise= weight loss.  The exercise part scared the junk out of me.  Remember that kid who has bad asthma?  She never grew out of it as an adult.  I tried a group exercise class in college... I allowed the negative self-talk and fear to march me right out of the SRC at Carolina.  My one day in Hip-Hop-Arobics was hell for me, and I vowed not to go back.  I would go for walks on campus, carrying my inhaler in one hand and my pepper spray in the other (and a huge fear of confusing the two each time I need a hit of albuterol.)

5 years ago, my best friends (who I trusted to pour out my fears to before we started our group) and I trained together for a 5K.  I had to fight negative self-talk a TON on those early mornings doing sprints at the Y.  I was so angry that I was the least in shape.  I feared failure.  And, unfortunately, I ended up not being able to do the 5K we signed up for as I was recovering from pneumonia.  Yep.  Sounds like Sick Girl was right... she's never going to be able to do it.  Right?


After our miscarriage in April, I was cursed with baby-weight that didn't magically go away after surgery... nor did I have the luxury of breast-feeding it away.  (I did, however, offer to nurse my BFF's newborn in a totally inappropriate move.  I guess it's good I didn't push her over the canoe after all... she knows how to handle those comments.)  Every day as I looked at my mushy-er belly, it was a painful reminder of the baby I won't get to hold this side of heaven.  I knew that I needed to do something.

My dear friend, Debbie, had recently begun some group (or individual!) workouts that sounded do-able.  While Debbie herself is in amazing physical shape, not all the girls in her class are.  They are a wide range of ages, body types, and physical ability. I kept seeing posts on Facebook and asked Debbie on numerous times to give me the rundown... "It's rest-based."  "You do what you are able to do."  "No one looks at what you're doing, they are doing their own thing."

Sign me up.

So about a month ago, this girl decided to not worry about numbers on a scale (!!!) or what other people thought (!!!) and decided to get healthy.  I went to my first class with total fear and trepidation.  I told Debbie that I didn't want to be in the group picture that she always takes at the end of class.  I filled up my water bottle and faced my fear... and I didn't die!  Now I won't lie, I thought MULTIPLE times during the class that I might... but I didn't!  (And, I was so proud of myself at the end that I limped proudly into the group shot for all of Facebook land to see!)

Yesterday, with sweat pouring down my body during the work-out, I realized how healthy I have already become.

* I'm not always the fastest one on sprints, BUT I AM DOING SPRINTS!
* I can't do push-ups as beautifully (or as fast) as I'd like, BUT I AM DOING PUSH-UPS!
* I hate ab-work, BUT I HAVE ABS (who knew?) AND I CAN FEEL THEM!

Y'all... maybe these little baby steps aren't big deals to you- but they are mind-reforming to me.

I had to reach for my inhaler during yesterday's session, but it didn't stop me from finishing.  I am sore as I write this, but it feels so good!  And beautifully, my food choices are lining up with my exercise choices.  While I am not regimented in my intake, I don't want to undo all the good work I suffer through in the mornings.  Yes, I'm still enjoying s'mores this summer... or a drink or two with my sweet cousin at the beach... or Fried Green Tomatoes at a sidewalk cafe in Asheville.... but all of those choices are intentional, with no guilt or regret necessary.

I am a fat girl no more.  I am not held captive by my "can't do" thoughts.  I don't balk from group workouts because I'm worried about other people.  I am a curvy woman trying to give better shape to my curves.  I am a mom teaching my daughter to make good choices and to respect her body.  I want to retrain girls to think against "fat" and think about "healthy".  And I am still choosing to surround myself with cheerleaders who I won't push in the lake... for now.  For me, it's not mind of matter... it's mind over FAT-er.  And I'm winning.

**I'm happy to hook you guys up with Debbie if you're looking for an instructor who won't make you crazy.  She doesn't yell at you like Jillian Michaels and doesn't cheer you on like one of those Disney Channel sitcoms.  She puts your body thru hell- but it's FAST!- and shows you that you can do it.  She's certified in Metabolic Effect and is a lot of fun to boot.  Friend her on Facebook or message me for her contact info.  It's worth it.  If I can do it, you can too.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Without Expectation... an open letter to Thomas Wolfe.

Dear Mr. Wolfe,

As a native-Ashevillian, I have known of your life and work from the moment I knew what an "author" was.  I toured your homeplace, read your writings, sat on your front porch with a boyfriend, and even cried after your home was damaged in a fire.  I always grin in recognition of your angel when I see her.  I feel that you are woven into my story of childhood as a background character- despite the fact you died years before even my mother was born.

So it is with much respect and a bit of trepidation that I must admit: I disagree with you.

I believe, sir, that you can go home again.

I believe it... because I just lived it.

In previous years and trips west, I feel what your character Mr. Webber must have been feeling when he returned to his hometown to find it was not the place his memory had created it to be.  This happened for me previously as I visited my stepmother at my elementary school and felt like the halls were much smaller than I remembered.  It happened when I realized that some friendships were only going to exist for me in memory, rather than in current day.  It happened when my parents were sick or passed on and I realized that a trip home would not include the usual events of my trips west.

However, my heart just experienced a truer sense of a homecoming.  And it occurred without expectation.  I ventured home for a lengthy stay- to hike and to clean out my Mom's house.  Little did I know- because I had not made concrete plans- that my trip would also include a trip to a lovely local winery with friends... and checking out some venues that had been on my bucket list... and time with my girl and her dogs... and breathing in that miracle-working mountain air.  

I was gifted the benefits of surprise and healing because I had not "planned" for them to happen.

I sat in the auditorium at Mars Hill College and "felt" the goodness of teenagers hellbent on changing the world.  The pulse of that room stirred the same emotions in mine as I reflected on my first trip there 22 years ago.  I realized how "ripe" I was for that first experience- my heart was freshly broken from childhood expectations being taken away and was ready to be filled with love and laughter and opportunity to become who I wanted to be.  And as I was greeted by some of those same precious adults (who now loved on my daughter- also captivated in their midst), I felt the same encouragement and hope and respect from 22 years ago.  They believed in me then... and I think they still do now.

I walked around my Mom's backyard numerous times.  The overgrown weeds and bushes at first hurt my heart as I saw the lack of attention given to them by the absence of my mother.  In later days, I saw the green growth for the beauty it is... lush and life bringing.  I enjoyed watching my dogs explore that yard that I used to know by heart... and my favorite moment of the summer thus far happened when I had the chance to catch lightening bugs with Miss E in the very yard where my bug-catching-skill was perfected.

I walked through our fair city and pointed out sights and sounds to my precious girl- including pointing out your angel.  One day soon, I'll share with her your writing... as I'll share with her the writings of Wayne Caldwell... and the story I just read of Zelda Fitzgerald... and I'll tell her of the importance that southern authors bring in telling the story of our home and the characters we meet here.  I'll share with her the wisdom in your writings about not being able to return home- when you are expecting your home to receive you in the same way in which you left it.  And I'll also share with her my recent discovery that when you allow your home and all of the wonderful people and experiences you gained there to welcome you in their overgrown and weedy arms... and breathe it in... and not expect it to do much... but to just let you be... then... then you know that you are truly home.

And then... maybe then... parts of your broken heart will heal in an old way that feels brand new.

Respectfully submitted.