I haven’t posted in a LONG time, I know! Life this summer has been super busy.
The kiddos have been randomly participating in the Super Smash Bros Brawl tournament that is put on each summer by the Austin Public Library. ‘A’ has made it 3 rounds in once and the other 2 have both lost in the first round each time so far. They are troupers though, and keep going back for more.
We are also planning a move in the next couple weeks. Currently, my husband is driving from Austin to San Antonio every day. Depending on how light or heavy traffic is he has anywhere from a 90 minute drive to a 3 hour drive, one way. That’s a LOT of driving. In the fall, I will be attending Texas State University to work on a Bachelor’s degree in Family and Child Development. So, we will be moving to a small town in between his workplace and my school. The house we have chosen is amazing! The details are still being worked out, so I will post more on that when it is a done deal.
Oh, and we just got back from vacation! We spent the first (and largest) part of in in the Outer Banks of North Carolina for my in-laws’ 35th Anniversary. (We also spent a day and a half in our beloved city, New Orleans.) It was the first time in 5 years that the whole family was able to get together. We had a blast! I’m pretty sure my favorite (and the scariest) part was crab hunting on the beach at night. So fun!
The pictures taken that day are part of my reason for posting this blog today. And I’m sorry to say, it’s not exactly a fun one. You see, another picture that was taken that day, and has recently been added to Facebook was one of my husband and I.
Photo Credit: Paula Payne
I seriously wanted to cry when I saw this picture. At the time when I first looked at it, all I thought was “look at how FAT I have become!” Now, you may be saying “Are you crazy? You’re beautiful! You’re in a beautiful place with a man who loves you.” And you’d be right. Those things are true. But to me, in that moment, that wasn’t MY truth. My truth was that over the past couple years I have gained about 20 pounds and have “let myself go” so to speak.
The problem was, I did a mental flashback and compared this picture to one from 5 years ago. Then, I actually placed a real picture from 5 years ago next to this recent one. This was the result:
July 2009 vs July 2014
The thing is though, I had to remind myself that in that picture from 5 years ago, there is a LOT that is not seen. What you can’t see here is that I was silently suffering from an undiagnosed eating disorder, depression, and anxiety. I had starved and overworked my body to the point that I had to supplement my baby with formula because my body didn’t have enough fuel to make enough breastmilk to feed him. What you can’t see here is that in the picture on the left, I thought I was so FAT and GROSS when I looked at myself naked in front of the mirror before stepping into the shower. The woman on the right sees her image as curvy and feminine and beautiful. That girl on the left gave into those demons that whispered lies about her body and her worth. The woman on the right knows she is worth so much more; she believes that she is full of strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:25) no matter what the camera might reflect.
A little over a year ago, I came across a blogger named Amber. She had posted a blog called Cellulite: It’s Time We All Just Get the Hell Over It. Everything she wrote really resonated with me. I read some more on her site, Go Kaleo (Kaleo being a joke about Kale and Paleo diets) and joined a Facebook group that she started called Eating The Food (ETF) that was kind of like a support group for people who were dealing with eating disorders and body image issues or were just trying to quit the diet-cycle and needed encouragement. I have learned so much over the last 16 months of trying, succeeding, failing, and trying again at ETF.
One big thing I learned was that I was not eating enough. I went here and calculated my BMR (basal metabolic rate) and my TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) based on my age, height, weight, and daily activities. BMR is basically the number of calories that your body would need daily if you were in a coma. TDEE takes into account all of the activities you do each day (exercise, housework, walking from place to place, etc.) and the amount of calories needed to fuel that amount of activity. My BMR is currently 1,367 calories. Honestly, 5 years ago my goal was to be UNDER 1,200 calories a day AND I was working out for at LEAST an hour each day, usually more like 2 hours. No wonder I was in such a mess psychologically!
I probably do a lot more that this daily, but this gives a pretty good idea.
Another thing I have gained from ETF is a heck of a lot of body positivity. That group is amazing! I don’t post a lot (cause I’ve got 3 kids who keep me super busy and away from Facebook), but when I do they are always so encouraging. For example, this morning I posted about my body-image dilemma about how my body has changed over the last 2 years, and especially compared with pictures from 5 years ago. Here’s some of what they wrote to me:
I’m going to be totally honest, you are smoking. Your figure is HOT. I know it’s hard for you to see, I’m the same way with my old pictures, but you look amazing now. You’ll get to that happy place, it just takes time.
Jen, I know I’m looking through different eyes, but you look great in that photo. You are also standing with a man that you love in a beautiful area.
When I get into these moments, getting active somehow is the best way for me to break out of the negative ED headspace. Your body does amazing things! Taking a walk, doing a little yoga, etc., reminds me of that, somehow reconnects mind and body to work together 🙂
I don’t particularly like my picture taken, but something another member of this group said on someone else’s similar post has really stuck with me: when you try to take a picture of the moon with a camera, do you notice how different it looks than in real life with your own eyes? The moon never looks as beautiful in the digital representation so I’m taking the same view. I will never look as good in photos as I do in real life where my awesomeness aura can be measured on the Richter scale!
Try not to look at it as heavier = worse. Heavier can also be just a different version of yourself. Not better or worse, just different. You know how sometimes we enjoy changing up our hair color or playing with different styles? You are right now enjoying the experience of being this size instead of that size. You are still you underneath and are, as always, beautiful!
Jen, a lot of us have been through what you’re experiencing right now.
What I like to tell people is to take more pictures!!!! For a while, I was taking pictures of myself daily. Then study the pictures – post them here if you want – study them and find all the POSITIVE things in the pictures. Soon, you’ll see pictures of yourself the way we see pictures of you. You’ll see the beauty and health and happiness first.
Both bodies are good bodies and I think you are already making progress in recognizing the state of mind you were in for the left photo.
Seriously, how great are these people! They also have a TON of experience in all kinds of fitness from running to yoga to crossfit to you name it.
So there it is. I’m posting it out there for everyone on the internet to see. My big “fat” secret. I’m posting it because I don’t want to be ashamed of how I used to treat my body. And I don’t want to feel ashamed for my now healthier, properly fueled body. I’m also posting this as encouragement for anyone out there who is currently dealing with an eating disorder and/or body image issues. It does get better, if you let it. Yep, there are times when those urges attack at full force, but my hunger for life (and delicious food) gives me the strength to just say “no” to ED and say “yes” to ETF.
Today I have learned to look at this picture this way:
‘Smiling on the Outside, Dying on the Inside’ vs ‘Smiling on the Outside, Joyful on the Inside’
The woman on the right looks different, not only on the outside, but also on the inside. And that change on the inside is the most important change of all.
Be blessed, my friends.