Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year, New Brittany

I've been debating whether or not I wanted to post about this. I guess I feel like I ramble at times, but I also find that my ramblings tend to be the words that touch people most- go figure.

Its a new year, and people all over the country are going to say that their resolution is to lose weight.

I stopped doing the resolution thing about 7 years ago. I'll spare you the story, suffice it to say, I didn't make it 2 seconds into the new year before I broke my resolution and I had a group of friends to remind me of it...constantly.

Since then, I've made it a point to learn something new and useful during the new year.

I have since learned how to change the oil in my car and a tire, how to can food brought in fresh from a garden, how to hand sew clothes and costumes (basically because I can't sew a straight line with a sewing machine to save my life but do excellent work by hand), how to knit, how to decorate cakes...the list goes on and on.

This year, as my friends talked about their resolutions, many of them talked about losing weight- they were going on a diet.

I have to admit, part of me wanted to join them.

I have had body image issues for a very long time. I grew up with a perfect, model-esque older sister, and a tiny perfect little sister...and then there was me. I was chubby.

I couldn't escape it. No matter how hard I tried, my body wouldn't let me lose weight. I ate like a bird, I would go to town with an old "Sweatin' to the Oldies" no avail. I hated my body...I hated being me. I wished over and over again to be my older sister. She always had a date for Homecoming and the prom, she was even nominated for Homecoming Royalty her senior year...she had boyfriends...

I sat at home. I did my friends' hair and makeup for dances. What was wrong with me? I was nice, I tried to do everything I could to be "pretty" and fit in- but I felt horribly out of place. I felt like the ugly duckling, only I felt like I had no chance to be turned into a swan.

The only place I felt in my element was in a choir class, singing to work through my emotions, or in a drama class- the one place I could pretend to be someone else without judgement. I loved my art, I was good at it, I found solace in it.

Instead of dating I had extra time and asked teachers for extra credit work and extra assignments... I got really into stage makeup and drama competitions- anyone who knew me knew I was the drama teacher's go-to gal...I ended up being a lot of teachers' go- to gal. Kids I went to school with knew I was a good study partner, and would clamor to have me in groups because they knew I'd do everything and they wouldn't have to do anything at all.

I accepted this as my fate. I waited and longed for high school to be over...I thought that perhaps if I had a fresh start things would be different.

College came. I made friends, and the fresh start seemed to be what I needed, at first. I found solace and acceptance in the music building with other music majors, I started to understand God's love for me through the love of a wonderful bishop...but I was still miserable.I had somehow managed to gain 40 pounds in a year- I didn't understand how that could be possible- I ate like a rabbit. I literally only ate at the salad bar my whole freshman year. I felt like a prisoner in my own body. I wasn't hugely fat, but I would find myself constantly comparing myself to the other girls in my ward. The boys I liked and had crushes on inevitably dated the "skinny" model types- I was the eternal best friend.

I started to loathe myself again.

Finally, I was sick of the never-ending diets. I was sick of hating myself. A friend of mine in high school had been diagnosed with insulin resistance. I had asked her about it in high school, and she had suggested that I give being tested for it a try. I wasn't brave enough to ask my parents to take me to the doctor- how do you ask for something like that?

"Mom,dad, I'm miserable, I hate myself and I think I may be sick." yeah, that would go over real well...

I guess I'd finally had enough. On the outside I was smiling, bubbly and warm- on the inside I was a self-loathing mess. I finally realized that I couldn't lead the double life anymore. I couldn't pretend to be happy when inside I was a mess.

I talked to my mom. We cried. She couldn't believe the baggage I'd been carrying around. Comments made by family members about my weight, friends, etc...all of them played as constant negative tapes in the back of my head- constantly ruining my happiness.

We made an appointment- the doctor was a jerk- I remember his words, "Well, you're in college, a lot of people gain the 'Freshman 15'. I think you're overreacting." My mom fought for me. I'm glad she did. I remember her words..I was so dumbfounded by this jerk doctor that I was numb and didn't know what to say. "Well, if it is the freshman 15, her tests will be negative and it will be our financial burden to bear, not yours. If my daughter says she is sick, I believe her. She needs help, and if you won't help us, we will find someone that will."

The doctor gave us the needed referral to another doctor for the insulin resistance test. He snarkily told us that we were barking up the wrong tree and that I just needed to get off the couch.

We ran the test. I remember meeting with my specialist for the first time to go over the test results. Dr.Vance said he was surprised that our primary care physician hadn't made a suggestion for the test sooner given my history. No normal person gains 60 pounds right after they start was a sign. The medical issues I'd had in high school with ovarian cysts...again, another sign. My test was very positive, and I WAS sick. It wasn't in my head.

I saw a nutritionist the next week.

For the next year I didn't eat sugar, potatoes, or regular pasta. I worked out every day for 30 minutes like the nutritionist suggested. I went from 200 pounds to teetering between 160 and 150. However, after a year, I went back. Dr. Vance couldn't see me, his senior partner did. I weighed in at 160. I was proud of that pride was short lived.

This other doctor- an older gentleman- said that after a year on the medication I should be "cured" of my insulin resistance, he was very "disappointed" with my progress. We scheduled a follow-up appointment in another month. His exact words were, "I hope we'll be seeing a lot LESS of you next month, if you catch my drift."

I knew what his drift was, I caught it...I was still overweight.

I felt like a failure. I had tried so hard and I thought I was doing so well. I was finally starting to accept my body and like a flash of light, this doctor took that from me.

I didn't go back for the follow-up.

I spent the next two years eating nothing but spinach and chicken, I worked out for 3-4 hours a day during the week, an hour on Saturday and only rested on Sunday. I got down to 137...the skinniest I'd been since junior high where I'd weighed in between 120 and 125...

I was skinner...I was miserable...the negative tapes still played. I was never going to be good enough.

I had finally had my first kiss during this time, only to get my heart broken the next day.

I had my first was an emotionally abusive relationship. He constantly made quips about my weight and made me feel like I was so "lucky" to be with him. He made me feel like I would never find anyone as good as him, and then he dumped me for a model-esque 18 year old girl who had just graduated from high school.

I worked endlessly for perfection. I HAD to be perfect...I needed to know what it would feel like to finally be perfect.

I graduated from college. I headed off to work on my masters degree. I ended up living alone.

I think this is where my healing began.

I stopped working out until I was ready to puke. I finally started eating chocolate again. I decided that I was done fighting.

I had the love of a wonderful, small singles ward. I started to discover that it didn't matter what my size was, if I was working to help and care for those around me I was happy. I had all the necessary tools I needed to be the person I wanted to be.

I had started putting on weight again, but I figured it was the change in diet. I wasn't going to worry anymore.

I met a man that I thought was going to love me forever. Life was good. Life was great. I was following my passions, I was loved by those around me, and I was loving them back. I was trying my hardest to lead a Christ-centered life and I loved every minute of it.

Then, my world came crashing down.

The man that I thought was going to stand by my side, decided I wasn't what he wanted. His exact words burned into my head, "I've had my fun, but now I'm done."

What was wrong with me? Why didn't he want me?

To make matters worse, I was sick and didn't know why. I was tired ALL THE TIME. I would get a headache if I hadn't eaten and would be nauseous after I did eat. I wondered if it was depression.

My older sister got me an appointment with a doctor friend of hers. I went in and gave my medical history.

The doctor stopped me when I said I'd "had" insulin resistance. Her response, "Sweetie, you HAVE insulin resistance, you are never cured." She ordered a new insulin resistance test. My levels were worse than they'd been before. I was now dangerously close to diabetic. She got me back on medication. She gave me a new diet regime. She told me that she wanted to hold off on medicating for depression until I had been through a few months of treatment on the blood sugar meds.

Slowly, but surely, I came out of a haze. I worked my way through the phases of grieving for my broken heart. I contemplated not finishing my Masters degree.

But I realized something...I had let other people and their opinions regulate my entire life. I needed to do something for ME. I needed to finish this. Would it be hard to see my ex all the time- yes- but I am a strong girl and God loves me. He always makes sure I have the help I need.

Was is tough- absolutely, but that was the day that I decided that maybe the subjective opinions of others shouldn't hold as much sway as they often do...that was the day I decided that I wanted to learn to love myself.

Do I still struggle? Yes- resoundingly yes! I catch those negative tapes playing in the back of my head every now and again, I still have my "fat" days and I do everything I can to take my mind off of it and move on.

Things have changed so much since then. Its been almost 4 years.

I am now married to the most wonderful man on the planet. This man is living proof of God's love for me. He loved me so much he made me wait until I found someone who was "perfect" for me, until I found someone who had ideals and needs that matched what I needed and believed in my own life.

Bless that man.

He always tells me I'm beautiful. On days when I feel "fat" he grabs me, kisses me, and sweetly says, "No you're not" Who can argue with that?

I've been thinking about my "body issues" a lot over this weekend.

Jeff doesn't like it when I wear makeup- he loves my freckles. I get self conscious because of acne scars and dark circles...

We went to visit my family in Idaho Falls this weekend. We were going to go out to dinner on Friday but I didn't want to go anywhere public. I had gotten dressed but hadn't bothered with hair and makeup. I said that if we were going somewhere where we were going to "dine in" we needed to take some time for me to get ready.

We were with my older sister at the time. She laughed and said, "ready, schmeady you don't need to do anything special." Jeff laughed pointed at Amber and said, "See, listen to your sister."

I, hesitantly, went to dinner- sans makeup and hair routine.

Jeff had his arm around me the whole time. He kissed me, he cuddled me- He loved me.

It has started to sink in- he loves me no matter what, I need to get over my own self doubt and accept that maybe without any assistance- I could possibly be enough.

At dinner two high school aged girls sat in the booth across from us. They were dressed to the nines, I started to get self-conscious. Jeff had left to go get some dessert pizza (we were at Craigos) and these girls then started to make fun of this old man that was walking back and forth between the buffet line and his table slowly using a walker.

I was horrified!

Why would I WANT to compare myself to people like that?!

It was then that it hit me- a little lightning strike, slap in the face from Heavenly Father- all the makeup in the world, all the hairspray, hair extensions, etc. could never make THAT beautiful. Anyone that could belittle someone like a harmless old man behind his back could never be beautiful...I felt ashamed for comparing myself to them for even a second.

Jeff and I left and I resisted the urge to turn and chastize them- it wouldn't do any good anyway..they would just use me as their next target- feeding their own egos and making themselves feel better by belittling others.


My mind went to a post on C.Jane's blog. C.Jane is a woman in Utah who cared for her sister's children while she was in a coma after a horrible plane crash- she has struggled with infertility- been through a divorce at a young age- and is one of the funniest people I have never met...(seriously, I've never met her) but she inspires me.

C.Jane lives nextdoor to a therapist and asked her to write a post for her about body issues. C.Jane gave birth to her second child, Ever, last year and admits to struggling with her body since then. This woman has helped her and C.Jane hoped that she could help other people too.

You can read the post for yourself by going to :

One thing that this therapist noted was how funny it was that we, as women, try to better ourselves by battling ourselves. Instead of accepting our bodies, feeding them, loving them we battle them- we force ourselves on diets that won't work, and they won't work because we aren't approaching it the right way. We are thinking of what is negative, we are embracing an ideal, that quite frankly, is subjective. We are ALL beautiful in our own way.

Here, she said it better than I ever could,

"You may be stepping on the scale every day (or even multiple times a day) to determine how you will feel about yourself. If the number goes up you feel depressed, discouraged and guilty. If the number goes down you feel positive and encouraged. You are battling with your own body and no matter the result of your diet, the diet industry is the real winner of the war—winning $50 billion a year! And then they turn around, invest some of your money into developing the next “break-through diet” and posting advertisements on-line, TV, magazines, billboards, that are actually designed to make you feel bad about how you look and subtly (or not so subtly) give you the miracle solution that will finally bring you peace...

In creating your own New Year’s resolutions consider this: you can choose your battle! Rather than engaging in a battle laid out for you by the media and body-obsessed culture—a battle designed for you to lose--you can choose to fight a battle that you can win. You can choose a battle that will help you achieve the self esteem and acceptance you are craving. For me and my life, I choose to battle the cultural lies instead of struggling against myself. I choose to battle the notion that my body shape, skin, hair style, clothing, and weight have anything to do with the peace I find in my life.

To get you started in creating some alternative resolutions, here are some worthwhile battles to consider:
· Throw away your scale and quit weighing yourself.
· Eliminate “fat talk” about yourself or anyone else.
· Honor your body—eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full.
· Say something positive about yourself every day.
· Make a list of 3 things your body did well each day.
· Express gratitude daily to those you love.
· Acknowledge that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and are beautiful in their own right—beauty is subjective.
· Exercise when it feels good and stop when it doesn’t .
· Become a critical viewer of the media. Acknowledge the insane standards set forth for us and laugh about the impossibility of it all and put your energy into something that will strengthen you.
· Make a commitment to give up conversations about dieting, calories, weight, etc.
· Work on developing areas in your life that you are passionate about. You will be beautiful when you love yourself."

So, darlings, here is the beginning of a new me. My goal for this year is to eliminate "fat" talk. The word "fat" doesn't exist in my vocabulary unless I'm talking about that white stuff attached to the steak I'm eating. I am going to feed my body and my soul. I am going to accept my body and thank God for the beautiful, wonderful gift that it is.

I am going to accept that my husband is right, I am beautiful and perfect just the way I am.

Hugs and loves until next time darlings.

1 comment:

Meikjn said...

I think we all struggle with our self image. I spent a long time hating my personality, and my body too (if for different reasons). I have some pretty aggravating medical problems too. being married has helped me so much. in a few years it will even be better for you.and I know exactly what you mean about crappy and mean doctors. sometimes they really don't listen. I found a specialist here in MN that fixed me up. it was such a relief to find someone who did not blame it on my overactive imagination. I have always thought you were beautiful I hope you know I am sincere about that. Andy still talks about how much he loves your voice.