Friday Series — Self Esteem

Self Esteem, Step One:  Evict the people who aren’t supportive of your from your brain.  They’re not doing anything constructive.  Every single time you start to feel good about yourself, the voices come in with “you aren’t good enough”, or “you shouldn’t feel this way.”  Every time you take a chance to do something you’ve always wanted to do, the voices say, “You’re too fat for that,” or “Everybody will ridicule you if you try dancing/jogging/rock climbing/poetry reading”.

Those voices, the ones of society which has brainwashed us all our lives, are not doing us any favors.

I have a friend who is very successful in what he does.  He’s owned his own business in the past and decided it wasn’t fulfilling enough, so took a job elsewhere in the same field, but doing something more fulfilling to him.  He is in a couple of social organizations and does very well in them.  However, he’s in another social club where he was treated as if he doesn’t know anything.   This third organization was pretty clique-ish, and he never fit in with the ‘cool kids’ of the organization.   Even with all his successes, this one group was able to impact his self-esteem.

We were discussing this recently, and about how he changed locations of this social group, going to another group (closer to his home) in the same organization.  One that wasn’t so clique-ish.  He was surprised that people liked him and didn’t think he was a dummy.  He became one of the ‘cool kids’ of the club, although he never acts like it.  (My friend is honestly one of the more humble people I know.)

If he could be affected by a year or two worth of being told and shown how stupid he was, how worthless, how his ideas were never correct, even with years of successes in other areas of life, how more so people who’ve been treated this way for decades?  Or most of their lives?

I’ve recently learned to identify which thoughts that come up are ‘my’ voices and which are other people’s voices.  Now, some voices that are not ‘mine’ are acceptable.  Any thought that is supportive, whether it’s mine or whether it’s somebody else’s (like my husband or supportive friends) are allowed to stay.  They build me up and help me in my recovery of my self esteem.  They are the thoughts that make me think I really do have some talent for this or that, that maybe a I can make a living off my artistic abilities.  Or that I’m worth something just because I exist.

The voices that don’t get to stay are the ones that are abusive and non-supportive.  The ones that make you feel less than two inches tall.  The ones that make you question your own reality.  You know, the ones that say, “Maybe I just don’t have enough will power to make a diet work”, “You can’t do that thing, you aren’t good enough!”   Sometimes, because we’ve been brainwashed by society in general and friends and family in specific, those thoughts come in our own voices as well.

The thing is, those thoughts don’t serve us.  All they do is keep us from really living, from believing that we have the right to be.  That we have the right to exist.  And that we have the right to enjoyment of our existence (as much as anybody else does).  Those thoughts, those ideas that tell us we aren’t good enough or as good as or anything else denigrating have to be evicted.

It’s a lot easier said than done. 

When I first started in my path of recovery, I couldn’t even identify which were the detrimental thoughts and which were the supportive thoughts.  I couldn’t identify which friends were supportive of me and which were toxic to me.  It took many years to be able to identify the difference.  You’d think that would be easy, wouldn’t you?  But it wasn’t for me. 

I got so used to being judged and found lacking for something as superficial as the size of my clothing that I couldn’t identify that somebody who told me “You know I love you, so you know I’m saying this only with your best interests in mind, but you’d be so pretty if you just lose about 100 pounds” was being toxic to me.  But that’s what brainwashing does.  When you are told over and over and over that red is really blue, you come to believe it. 

Identifying the toxic messages, and then evicting them from your brain each and every time they come backis a major part of building self esteem.   And evicting them each and every time they come back is really the key here.  Brainwashing happens through repetition.  It’s going to take repetition to break it.  It’s going to take conscious effort to get rid of that programming. 

I found it became easier after a while.  I didn’t blame myself so much for things beyond my control (I’m sick, therefor God is punishing me; I’m fat, it’s my fault for eating too much, therefor I deserve the contempt society heaps on me).  After a while, I could even see how it’s society’s issue, and they have to deal with it. 

It’s YOUR brain.  You don’t have to let anybody you don’t want to have access to it.  It’s a conscious choice, and one that may have to be made hundreds of times a day, but it is possible to make it.  And making the choice to evict the toxic voices is one that will eventually help build your self esteem.

 

*NOTE:  I apologize for not getting this posted earlier.  Unfortunately, my mother-in-law (whom I am primary caretaker of) fell today and we’ve been dealing with the consequences of her fall.  At this point, it looks like the damage is minor, but it will take a few days before we can be sure if she’s broken a bone or not.  I planned to have this up by 10 this morning.  In the future, I do plan to have the posts up earlier than 3:15 MST.

Intuitive Eating … I’m doing it wrong

I’ve been wanting to write a post about how sometimes, for me, intuitive eating isn’t so intuitive.  But each time I start to write, the words come out all wrong.  Something was missing.  While I had a bunch of words down, I only seemed to be rambling on and on about nothing.

Then today, doing my normal online wake up routine of looking at all the comics I love but my local paper doesn’t carry, I found this from Cathy: http://www.gocomics.com/cathy/2008/10/29/

Cathy has tried diet after diet after diet after diet.  Never losing any amount of weight, and what she did, she always gained back.  Her closet has the requisite three different sizes so she always has clothes depending on where she is in her diet cycle.  She does not have, and never has had, a good relationship with food.  For her, it’s all about “good” food and “bad” food.

Irving, on the other hand, became fat once.  He was fat for about a year (that I recall, but that was a while ago, and I might be misremembering) and when he decided to lose weight, the next day, it was all gone.  Cathy hated him for that, of course.  Irving mainly eats what he wants, and doesn’t really wonder if what he eats is “good” food or “bad” food.

This one comic strip finally said what I’ve not been able to say no matter how many words I’ve thrown at this topic.  (And believe me, I’ve thrown at least 4k worth of words at this topic, deleting most of them because they just didn’t work.)

Food, for me, has always been about “good” food and “bad” food.  Most foods I like have always been “bad” foods.  When I was growing up, due to the idea that one could never be too thin, and my parents starving of me, anything that wasn’t essential to living (as understood in the 70’s) was “bad”.  So things like candy, cookies, cake, pizza, any oil/fat naturally found in foods were bad.   They also used food to punish me (both by with-holding food and by making me eat extremely disgusting things).  Rarely, they used foods as rewards.

So, it’s no wonder that intuitive eating isn’t so intuitive for me.  I have all these pre-conceived notions that this or that is bad for me.  If I eat breakfast at all (which I do have to do now because of some meds I’m on), if I eat anything other than All Bran ™ and puffed rice, I feel like I’m being “bad”.  If I want to eat a leftover piece of cornbread I made the night before, I know I’m being “bad”.   Even plain yogurt (without sugar added) and frozen fruit (also without sugar added) – fresh when I can get it locally – is “bad”.  It doesn’t matter what I want, or what my body’s telling me it wants to eat, it’s not “good” because it’s not one of the very small list of “good” foods. 

When I’m feeling stressed, I feel like I should go for high fat/high sugar/high calorie stuff because that’s what “normal” people eat, right?  And I want to be normal.  I’ve spent many years working on being normal, so I need to eat normal comfort food.  But a lot of times I find that I’m like Irving, and instead of wanting ice cream/potato chips/candy I reach for an apple.  Or an avocado.  Or snap peas.  Or carrots.  Or rice.  Okay, at least the rice is a bit more understandable as it’s simple carbohydrates like the ice cream or potato chips are.

So, it’s really easy to say “eat intuitively.”  The reality for me is, I have to remind myself daily to first of all eat, and then eat what I want, when I want.  (Remembering to eat is still something I struggle with daily.  Hunger is not a cue for me to eat, as I was hungry all the time, and I got used to just ignoring my body’s cues for more energy.)  It’s the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with since coming to FA and HAES.  Even harder than accepting that I’m not disgusting and ugly and lazy and stupid just because I’m fat.

I had been brainwashed for a good portion of my formative years that 1) certain foods were bad, 2) I was bad for desiring them, and 3) I could earn those bad foods by being good enough (for whatever value good enough meant that week or month).  Is it any wonder my relationship with food is so strained?  Or that, when I feel like I want a candy bar (because I’d not had enough fat or carbohydrates in my diet) that I feel “bad”, that I’m disgusting for wanting something so bad for myself.

I am actively identifying the patterns of brainwashing and breaking their hold on my psyche, my emotions, and my actions.  But there are still times when I feel that I’ll never get it “right”.  That I’ll never be able to truly understand that eating a piece of cake or a candy bar isn’t a bad thing.  That there really is no immorality about eating what I want.  That I’m not going to hell because I chose to eat gravy that didn’t have all the fat taken out of it, or that I actually sauteed my chicken breast in olive oil.

One of these days, I’ll make it, I’m sure.  But right now, today?  Yeah, I’m doing it wrong.

What are you waiting for?

This weekend my husband and I had a grand time doing a lot of stuff we didn’t do while I was having issues with my knee.   Last year a bit before this time, we’d decided we were going to go to the Denver Aquarium.  I LOVE looking at fish, and there are so many different species of fish and water animals out there.  The Denver Aquarium has a lot of the ‘normal’ ones you think of, as well as a bunch of ‘wierd’ ones.  Or ‘weird’ for this North American (some of the sea life from the Australia area were really interesting).

But it got me thinking.  We put this off for a long time.  Over a year.  Because of my knee.  Now, the first time we were going to do it was when we were coming back from an SCA event in Denver, but my knee had gone out and I didn’t think I could walk very far.  That was a good call because it took us two and a half hours to look at all the exhibits at the aquarium.  The second time, however, was after a Science Fiction Convention (called Mile Hi Con) that’s held yearly in Denver.  We’d gone to the Con, and I was using a wheelchair all weekend. 

So, why didn’t we go after the convention?  I had the wheelchair, so it’s not like I couldn’t have gotten around.  For no other reason than it was inconvenient and I didn’t want to be wheeling myself in a public setting.   SciFi Cons, for the most part, are insular and accepting.  Most of us geeks have been ridiculed and made fun of (many times repeatedly), so we tend to be more accepting of other ‘marginal’ populations out there.  So, wheeling around the Con wasn’t going out in public.  Going to the Aquarium was.

And yes, I didn’t do something because of what I perceived would be the attitudes of the people around me.  You know, that I was using the wheelchair because I was fat.

I recently read a blog from a friend who’s going through some tough times with his health.   Basically, in the last two years, he’s had a couple of surgeries for massively clogged arteries.  He’s had stints put in, has changed his eating habits, and has kept up the exercising he’d already been doing (he was playing racquetball a couple times a week with work teams and he also rides his bike to and from work every day — close to ten miles each way).  The one thing that hasn’t changed for the better in his life is his stress levels.  Unfortunately, that’s not going to be able to change any time soon.

Because of all this, his mortality has really struck home.   He was talking about how he wants to do all these things, and how he might not be able to do them, because of his health conditions.

My question to him, as well as myself was, “What are you waiting for?” 

I know that there are legitimate reasons to not do things one might want to do.  There are challenges that can make doing something extremely difficult if not almost impossible, such as not being able to go to the Aquarium the first time we wanted to last year.   With my knee hurting as bad as it was, there was no way I’d have been able to walk and stand over two hours through all the exhibits.

However, I also know a woman who is a paraplegic, and who races for a living.  Her race car (as well as her every day vehicle) has been modified so all of the controls are on the steering wheel.  My neighbor across the street is also a paraplegic, who also has a van modified so he can drive himself wherever he wants to go.

My point here (and I do have one) is that there are so many reasons we can use to not do the things we want to do.  “I can’t go dancing because…”  “I can’t go to the aquarium because…”  “I can’t do *whatever* because…”

A former college roommate used to tell me “can’t never could” whenever I’d use an excuse for not doing something.  I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I’ve come to learn she was right.  Every time I say I can’t, I don’t do whatever it is.  It may well be impossible for me to do something, but most times, I “can’t” only because I’m afraid, or it’s inconvenient, or something else.

As long as I keep making excuses to myself, life passes me by.  I’m tired of life passing me by.  I’m tired of not going dancing because I don’t want to hear what comments people may say about me, my shape, my lack of dancing skills.  I’m tired of not going swimming because the local high school girls swimming team meets at the Y where I’m swimming, because I’m afraid of what they might say to me (true story, I allowed my fears of what may happen to keep me from doing something I loved for months back in 1999).

I’ve recently made myself a bracelet that I’m wearing everywhere now.  The bracelet has three charms, one which reads, “Live Life”.  It’s just my way of reminding myself, “What are you waiting for?”

Saturday Fluff – Favorite Food

What’s your favorite food?  This question gets asked all the time in internet memes.  It’s the one question that’s sure to drive me crazy!

With all the different kinds of foods out there, how can I pick just one favorite?  I like sushi and sashimi, and steak and potatoes.  I like a turkey dinner with all the fixings, venison and buffalo.  I love strawberries in season (especially when I was lucky enough to live in North Carolina, only 20 miles from a strawberry farm).   Recently, I got a bunch of fresh picked carrots from a relative who grew them in her garden.  They were the most carroty flavored carrots I’ve ever eaten!

But there is such a wide variety of food out there, how can I narrow it all down to just one?  I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in not having just one favorite food. 

So, what’s your favorite food(s)?  Do you like something more during a specific season or time of the year than any other time? 

Or, do you have something you like that other people look at you and think you are just weird for liking?  My one really weird food item would be peanut butter and yellow mustard sandwiches.  No.  Really.  The tangy-ness of the mustard just does something really really good to the peanut butter.  But everybody who’s ever met me thinks I’m extremely weird for eating this.  My ex-husband even thought I was pregnant the first time I ate that in front of him.  It was such an alien concept to him (to have a tangy taste with the peanut butter) that he just couldn’t comprehend that I could be wanting this without my hormones going crazy.

Or am I the only one with really weird tastes?

Men (humans) are not mice.

No, really.  You’d think by now that researchers would understand that.

There was an article out in the Science Daily recently about how calorie restriction may not, in fact, extend people’s lives, even though it does for mice.  (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080924151018.htm)

One of the comments by the researchers was that it was “puzzling because it was the first time we hadn’t seen agreement between mice and rats on calorie restriction and humans on calorie restriction.” 

I am not a scientist, and have never claimed to be a scientist, but even I know that rats and mice aren’t humans.  No matter how good they are for laboratory testing, there is going to be differences between mice and rats, and humans.  The only way to understand humans, and how human bodies respond to things like diet, is to actually study humans on diets.   Google “Minnesota Starvation Experiment”.  That was a real study, done on real humans, with real results.

Actually, here, this is a good idea of what happens, physically and mentally: http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/135/6/1347      Just remember when you read this:  This was on a “low-calorie” diet of 1800 calories per day.  That’s not even as low as what’s considered “medically safe” now — 1200 calories per day.

So, yeah, humans aren’t mice.   Surprising, isn’t it?

Friday series

Part of my being able to accept my size and my being fat and live my life as if it doesn’t matter (because, well, it doesn’t) has been working on building my self-esteem.   I’ve talked a little in one post about self-esteem already, but I thought I might do a series on how to develop self-esteem.

One thing I want to make sure everybody understands:  I am NOT a mental health practitioner.  I have no formal training of any sort to help people overcome or anything.  I do not claim to have any credentials whatsoever.  I just have gone along on my own journey and learned a lot through dealing with my past and the repercussions of it.

The things I talk about may or may not help anybody else.  If they do, I will be ecstatic.  But this is not therapy, nor am I an expert on anything (except living in my own body, I’m pretty expert at that).

What “credentials” I have is that I’ve been working on self-acceptance for years.  At this point, 18 years to be exact.  I have been a part of many different 12-step groups (including overeaters anonymous at one time in the 80’s), have been in counseling for a good part of the 18 years, been a participant in other self-help groups and facilitated a self-help group once.  All this means is that I do a lot of navel gazing.  🙂

So, for the next little bit (basically, until I run out of things to say, or everybody cries “uncle” :D), I’m going to work on the self-esteem series on Fridays.

You don’t get to comment on what I eat … reprised

The other day, I got a response to “You Don’t Get to Comment on What I Eat”, saying:

I guess what I don’t understand is why you felt the need to offer up any kind of suggestion beyond “yes” in the first place. When you do that, I can’t help but feel that the other person feels an invitation to elaborate or follow up on your comments.

I did comment back, but I think this deserves a bit more discussion. I know a lot of people think that if you just don’t volunteer information, then people won’t do or say whatever it was they did or said. However, in this case (and I’d wager a lot of cases, but I have no statistics on that, so it’s just my own thoughts here), that’s not so.

See, the woman already felt the need to insinuate her advice into my life by asking if I was hungry. Being a good cashier, she asked if I wanted the candy left out, and that’s where good customer service ends. When I said yes, that should have been the end of that. But she felt the need to continue by asking if I was hungry. At that point, she already went over the line. If, at that point, I’d said it was none of her business, I’d be an entry on a customers suck forum as at least a “WTF”, if not being a “suck”. (Yes, I read customer sucks forums. It’s like a train wreck, I just can’t look away.)

If I answered back just “yes”, since she’d already gone there, answering back a one syllable sentance probably wouldn’t have stopped her reply.

Why do I have to always guard what I say? Why is it always up to me to have to live perfectly so I don’t get questioned? Why do I have to defend myself and my actions, when my actions and words were appropriate actions and normal to the environment I was in?

This is a classic case of blaming the victim. Being a survivor of extreme child abuse and rape, and then domestic violence as an adult until I got into counseling and changed how I saw myself, I know what blaming the victim looks and sounds like. I can’t count how many times I was told that if I’d only behaved myself, I wouldn’t have forced my parents to ‘punish’ me like they did. (This is also why I am so vehement against people trying to claim the parents of obese children are really abusing them. You want to know what real abuse is? Let’s sit down and talk. Don’t eat anything before you come over though, your stomach might not appreciate it. But I digress.)

I should be able to go wherever I want, and say whatever I want (as long as it isn’t inflammatory to other people) and be able to expect that people will treat me with respect. Period. I shouldn’t have to guard what I say. I shouldn’t have to be paranoid about what words come out of my mouth, constantly wondering if what I’m saying is going to cause somebody else to say something that’s offensive, abusive, or just a WTF comment. I shouldn’t have to live my life in fear of what I say.

Because, if I do live my life in fear that if I say, “Yes, I’m hungry. I’ve not eaten since breakfast,” I’m going to cause them to say something inappropriate to me, then I’m also going to live my life in fear of going outside dressed in shorts because somebody might harass me, call me names or tell my husband he needs to put a “wide load sign on her ass”. I’m also going to have to live in fear because if I go out to exercise, somebody might try and run me over in a car. Or if I go out to eat, and choose to have anything other than a small salad (dry, no croutons), I’m going to be accosted by another diner who is just “trying to help” when she tells me I really shouldn’t eat *whatever is on my plate*, because, you know, it might kill me. Heavens forbid I want to go to an ice cream shop and get a gasp shake. Or gee, I want to go to McDonalds and actually get a Big Mac Meal (TM), because then I’ll be playing right into the stereotype of all fatties eat McDonalds all the time.

If I stop being normal, and expecting people to treat me like they treat normal people, then I buy into their BS which says that I’m too fat for anything (read: not good enough). Too fat for respect. Too fat for a good life. Too fat to be desirable. Too fat to live, even.

And, I’ve bought that line for a long time. Since I was 18, I never went out of the house in shorts. Until this past summer. I rarely wore bright colors because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Until last summer when I got a red shirt and skirt. Nice and bright. Now I have three red shirts, two for summer, and one for winter. I never wore bold patterns, again, because bold patterns draw attention to myself. Now, I have a few things that have bold patterns.

I’m not afraid to demand the modicum amount of respect that everybody deserves. Nobody deserves to be harassed or abused. Nobody “makes” another person do or say inappropriate things just by answering a simple question.

I’m done living my life by other people’s rules. I’m done living my life in fear of doing or saying something that is going to “make” somebody abuse me, harass me, respond somehow inappropriately to me. If somebody asks me if I’m hungry, I’m not going to think, “Oh, best not answer that because she is probably setting me up for inappropriate remarks”. No, I’m going to respond like a normal person would, and expect to be treated like a normal person.

It’s taken me a long time to get to this point. I’m not giving up all the ground I’ve gained.