Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Power to Say No

"Genuine surprise started to over come me. I was skinny. Like healthy skinny. My arms weren't that big at all and my stomach actually was thin, it didn't hang over my pants at where did this self loathing come from?"

It has been over 10 years since this whole process began and I still can't answer why I struggle with this body image problem. And I am okay with that. To me the 'not knowing why' is not nearly as important as the 'what am I going to do about it'? 

But let me not get ahead of myself. 
There is more to the personal reason for me moving to Washington...

The Next Part.

...After the mental realization that I was actually in decent shape and shouldn't beat myself up about my body image I enjoyed about 2 years of freedom from stress and worry. I worked out regularly, ate relatively healthy, and stayed active. Then I went through a really hard break-up (a story for a different place and time) and moved to take a new job in a small town. A beautiful country town set at the bottom of the Finger Lakes with some of the most glorious autumns I have ever experienced. The people were great and my new job was wonderful. But the break up left me depressed.

This move to the small town was one of the best and hardest things to ever happen to my life. My time there was basically like pulling back all my layers of thick skin and getting to some root issues in my life. One of the issues that quickly came to light was my "stressing eating" habit. Since this beautiful small town had one big flaw - there are literally more fast food places to eat than restaurants - the light on my bad habit flooded down very brightly. It was easier/cheaper to get some chicken nuggets & fries than it was a salad and veggies. 

Excuses and Reasons.
I had to drive past at least 3 fast food places on my way home from work, every day. My excuses for why I stopped by frequently to fast food varied from "i hate cooking for one", "it's been a long day/week I deserve it" "I can't afford much else" "it's fast" and the list goes on and on. The problem was that they were all excuses; excuses that I was completely happy pretending were valid. 

Mix these excuses with legitimate reasons for having a hard time eating healthy (being on the road often, working dinner concerts with the most incredible food, and always being at parties with friends that were focused on good people with good food) and my body image issues came tumbling back. My image issues came back in a totally different form this time - I no longer silently compared myself to women around me. Now I was complacently accepting that I was heading towards becoming overweight. I easily got annoyed at people doing the latest food craze or diet. I unashamedly ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. 

At first glance this didn't seem like a body image issue but an eating issue. So I had to start looking at why I was eating so much, so poorly. I would be lying if I denied that part of it was just honestly the environment around me. It is was genuinely hard to create healthy eating habits there. It was not convenient to eat good foods often and work out regularly. The other part was I stopped caring about my body. I was so unhappy with my arms, legs, stomach, and now calves that I went into denial about how bad I was letting things get. The "if I can't beat them join them" mentality clicked in. It was easier to embrace eating whatever I wanted and being overweight than admitting how much I disliked my body and working really hard to get it into a shape I didn't think was still good enough.  
First week in small town life
Photo Credit to Family Life

30 Pounds Later.
With the first year in this small town I gained 15lbs; when I left small town life I had gained at least 30lbs. 
 In 4 short years. 

30 lbs later - making my way to WA

 In those 4 years I had great friends who said wonderful things like "But you hide it so well" and "you have a face that looks cuter with some extra pounds on it". I love these ladies in my life so much, especially since most of them were struggling to maintain a healthy lifestyle too. We all were stuck in the same rut of trying to be healthy in what is honestly a very unhealthy town.  

I am about to admit something I am utterly ashamed of (and pretty disgusted with now): the months leading up to me taking a new job and moving away I was eating fast food everyday, or at least 5 times a week. Something in me had broken. Because I couldn't figure out how to embrace my body I knowingly embraced the "well if I think I am fat I may as well eat how I want" mentality. Now before you think (or think I thought) that I was unhealthy overweight - I wasn't. However I was not a healthy weight either.

How Did I Feel, You Ask?

I felt like crap. Literally. It wasn't until I moved to Washington that I realized how bad I really felt. I rarely had an energy, I felt bloated and gross most of the time. I felt like I could never get enough sleep while never wanting to go to sleep. Headaches/Migraines occurred at a frequency where I never left the house without a bottle of Excedrin (I should have been their spokes person with how I endorsed it). And to put it out there for you ladies, my monthly cycle was at best bi-monthly at worst semi-annually. 

Physically my body was probably in shock.  How could it not be. I went from working out almost everyday and eating fairly healthy to maybe working out once a week (or month) and eating food with absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever. 

"I Can Say No".

About a year before I moved away from small town life a co-worker of mine started a pretty intense food plan (I forget what it is called). She had a life-coach, bought her meals monthly, cut out several food groups, started exercising regularly, and said no a lot. I MEAN A LOT! I worked at a place where we loved to celebrate. Weekly there were cookies, cupcakes, cakes, or left over desserts that were shared with the whole staff. So pretty much every week, sometimes daily, I heard her say "No Thank You". 
The defining moment for me was when a few of us gathered in the mail room sampling chocolates a donor brought in. I remember clear as day this co-worker taking a bite of chocolate, promptly walking over to the garbage can and spitting it out. I looked at her with disbelief. What did she just do. "If it isn't the best chocolate I have ever tasted I am not going to waste calories on it".  WOW.

The freedom to just say no impacted me so powerfully. For years I lived under this, I should say yes because it is there in front of me, I don't want to waste it mentality. In one quick second my whole way of thinking was changed. I didn't have to be controlled by my body's cravings, by my lack of will power, by my failure to see my body as something to be cared for.

But I Didn't Have the Power.

Sadly though, I didn't have the power to say no like that co-worker did (who lost and kept off over 50lbs). I would try and succeed. I would try and fail. My victories happened more when people were around. My failures were when no one was watching. It would take something big to get the change rolling. I couldn't succeed at a lifestyle change when I kept living the same life. And that is what I needed, a life style change

When my I got the message offering me a chance to see a new part of the States, experience big city life, hang out with 2 little boys all day I wanted to say yes. When I learned of my NannyFamily's eating and lifestyle habits I needed to say yes. 

The last 2 years in Washington have drastically impacted my life, I am excited to share that part with you. Thank you for reading the first 2 parts that needed to be shared first. Look back later this weekend for the conclusion of what really changed.

ceconner© 6.12.2015

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