Because I Could I Did Part 2

For as long as I could remember I’d wanted to visit the Carlsbad Flower Fields. Something about acres of flowers makes me happy in ways I can’t describe with words. I had so many excuses for why I couldn’t go. None of them really amounted to anything. 

I’ve been thinking too much lately about my life. Too much. I felt a shift a week ago, and decided “if not now, when?”  I needed to go now. I needed to feel life now. I’m tired. I’m exhausted of thinking I have to wait until I’m thin to live. 

Then there’s all the rainstorms we’ve been having. The universal forces decreed that I go now. 

And Because I Could I Did. I found a reasonable hotel in Oceanside via Priceline and booked two nights. Then I discovered Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside and decided to stop there too, so I could feel the peaceful vibrations of one of California’s holy places. 

If you want to do something, and it won’t break your budget, do it now. Do it while you can. Live. You’re worth it. 

Scenes from my adventures: 


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Because I Could I Did

Yesterday, on a whim, I went to the beach. Well before I went to the beach I ate lunch at Neptune’s Net–I ordered a garden burger at a place known for seafood. I sat on a bench, with the sun beaming happiness onto my skin, while I slowly consumed my meal. 

I do not often choose myself. Mostly I place others’ expectations well above the needs of my soul. I don’t feel okay unless I’m okay with others, unless I’m okay in their world. I recognize the backward thinking involved here, and I’m working on it. 

What does that look like? On a day filled with the wonders of the universe it means I follow my heart and take it to the ocean where I watch the ebb and flow of the waves and understand how miraculous life is if I simply allow it to be that way. 

So because I could go to the beach yesterday I did. 



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Breaking THE DIET COKE Habit

How long does it take to break a habit? Some say 21 days; others say more. A quick Google search reveals numerous books and articles that present varying view points. I suppose, in the end, it’s up to the individual. I broke a habit just over 36 days ago, a habit I never thought I’d break. I grew up drinking Diet Coke, well diet sodas of any type. I’m not sure when the habit started, but start it did. I drank several cans a day. Some days that would be all I would drink.

I don’t intend for this to be an essay debating the harmful aspects of diet soda—there’s a veritable fountain of information on that. Besides, I don’t think anything is really bad in moderation. This piece is about breaking a lifelong habit.

I remember being a teenager and clipping coupons from the newspaper so I could get a deal on diet soda. I’d go to the local library so I could cut coupons out of their newspapers. I’d have so many twelve packs of diet soda in my room that the stacks would be as tall as me. I lived on the stuff. LIVED ON IT.

Diet orange soda; diet coke; diet cherry coke; fresca—and the list goes on. I didn’t really care for Diet 7-up unless I felt sick. I never drank regular soda as I felt it left a coating on my teeth. A gross coating–like the coating of grease that would line my mouth after eating an apple fritter. I love apple fritters but don’t much care for that greasy feeling that lines my mouth after eating one or two or three; consequently, I haven’t eaten one in ages.

The decision to quit diet coke wasn’t necessarily a conscious one. I just woke up one day and was done. It was as though the universe made the decision for me. There was no battle. No fighting. My cells didn’t cry out for more. I never expected any of that. I never thought I’d give up the habit. Never.

The funny thing is I don’t crave diet coke as I sit here typing this. I think about it but do not have an urge to go buy it or drink it. I’ve even discovered a suitable replacement. Canned carbonated water infused with flavor. I have no idea how they make it, but it fulfills the need I have for fizzy drinks. A healthy replacement. Who knew? Certainly not me!

Many of my memories of diet coke are combined with sugary foods. I never saw a problem with eating a slice of chocolate cake while drinking a diet coke. A tasty combination no doubt. A combination that tasted so darn good. So darn good. Yet I don’t crave that combo now, at least not the Diet Coke part of it.

They say when you’re ready things happen. I guess this means I was ready. It gives me hope for breaking other habits, habits that have nothing to do with food.

A habit I’d really like to break is continuing to define myself by my relationship food and weight. I’ve lived my entire life defined by how much I eat and how much I weigh. People define me by my relationship with food. I can recall so many instances where people would tell me “you need to lose weight” or “you have a pretty face, but…..” I also define myself by my relationship with food and my body size. I feel as though I don’t have worth as a larger individual. That mental framework is reinforced by so many external factors. The average woman is a size 14 or 16, yet those are considered “plus-sizes”. I no longer wish to do define my self-worth by my body-size. That time has past. Long past.

I understand now what people mean when they say “I may have fat” but “I am not fat”. I am not fat. I am the soul. Don’t get me wrong I’d like to get rid of some of this fat, but I don’t want to define my self worth by my fat. I don’t want that to be my future. And I don’t want it to be my past. I certainly don’t want it to be my now.

That habit of thought is a habit I’d like to break. And I’d like to break it now.

Not tomorrow but now. NOW.

If you’re reading this, see the beauty in the now. I could write a list of the parts of my body I don’t like but I’d rather write a list of the parts that I do appreciate, such as the eyes that allow me to see. The fingers that allow me to type. The ears that allow me to hear. The mouth that allows me to speak. The legs that allow me to walk. That’s what I’d rather celebrate.

The negative thinking is a hard habit to break. But if I can give up Diet Coke I can break other lifelong habits while forming new habits. I belive that now. I didn’t believe that before.

I’m not saying I’ll never have another diet coke. I likely will. Or maybe I won’t but I won’t be controlled by that habit. And that’s a gift I’ll cherish.

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The Paradoxical Myth of Self-Care

Massages, manicures, pedicures, feel-good activities: I always used to think these constituted self-care, and they do but just a small portion. Real self-care has so many components. One of which is finding value in just being me and taking care of that me.

FOOD

What does that mean? It means I came home after yoga one day last week and made myself lunch rather than picking something up or going through a drive-thru like Taco Bell. It means giving up a lifelong habit of diet coke. I grew up on diet sodas, a lot of diet sodas. If I drank one once in a while it wouldn’t be a big deal, but the daily habit not so good.

I remember, as a teenager, cutting out soda coupons and buying stacks of diet soda. I’d subsist on diet sodas and sweets, so it’s no wonder I have a hard time giving them up. One day, though, I just decided not to drink them anymore, and that lifetime habit went away in a puff.

CLUTTER

A year ago I started a major decluttering project. I went through most of my apartment and got rid of so many things, yet over the past year piles resurfaced. Self-care means looking at why these piles returned. I either need to get rid of stuff or to put it back when I’m done with it.

I’ve also discovered that decluttering is a gradual project. There were things I owned a year ago that I thought I had to keep. Now, however, I’m finding I can let them go and create more space for new things, new moments, new memories, new experiences.

THE UNPLEASANT TRUTH ABOUT SELF-CARE

Self-care doesn’t always feel so good. In fact sometimes it’s painful. I really don’t care for it. How’s that for reality? Self-care means really taking care of myself. Spending time just being. And that feels so uncomfortable and painful.

I’m not sure why I find self-care so hard, so cumbersome. It’s like there’s a part of me that doesn’t think I matter, a part of me that doesn’t like myself. Sometimes that’s the mantra that plays in my head. I that makes some people uncomfortable, but so what? It’s how I feel.

Self-care is putting away the dishes when the dishwasher is done. Self-care is being able to look in the mirror and saying, “I value you enough to take care of you. I value you enough to love you. I value you enough to put you first.” I don’t do that, but I need to.

I need to wake up in the morning and feel good about being me and making whatever choices I make.

Self-care is waking up in the morning and deciding to have a healthy breakfast. One morning when my heater didn’t work and the apartment was 57 degrees I made hot tea and oatmeal and had some dates with it. Self-care is having fruit in the house instead of potato chips. If I buy potato chips I’ll eat the whole bag.

I’m not sure when or where self-care became so darn difficult, but it is and always has been. I do believe I find stronger gratification when I look outside my self. I don’t find value in my self unless others find value in me. That’s how I got to be morbidly obese and that’s why recovery feels so hard. So painful.

I see where I want to go. I see that I strive to be a strong independent woman who doesn’t need the approval of others to feel good or to function. Seeing where I want to go and getting there are two different things.

I spent many years focusing on the end goal, which always involved me being skinnier and having a thinner physique. It certainly didn’t involve me being fat. I have long believed that all my problems would simply dissipate if I lost weight.

For longer than I care to think about self-care involved thinking about the right diet—what latest miracle cure would help me shed the pounds. I tried so many crazy ones, including The Beverly Hills Diet, which required eating a lot fruit, sometimes only one type of fruit in a day. Oh yes. For all those years self-care=diet. I don’t want to spend one more second of my life in that treacherous hell-bound insanity of diet land.

I no longer wish to live in diet land. I no longer wish to live in the perils of my mind. The thoughts in my head are not always kind. Self-care involves shutting those voices up. Those voices that tell me I am not worthy. Self-care means allowing myself to feel loved by myself. To feel at peace. Just the way things are. Just to feel peace.

Self-care involves putting myself first. I’ve never been good at that. But now is the time. I came home tonight and made myself a vegetable stir-fry instead of eating a cookie and getting a sugary drink. The paradox is that it doesn’t always feel good in the moment, but it does feel better in the long run. And that matters so much more than instant gratification.

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Roses!!

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The Invisibility of Being Visible: the Otherness of Fat

While in graduate school I wrote an essay titled “The Invisibility of Being Visible: the Otherness of Fat.” The subject—the rise of the fat heroine in contemporary literary texts, such as Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone. I submitted the essay to a national conference and flew to Atlanta to present it. I remember the reaction of one of my colleagues upon hearing me read the essay: “She’s got guts.”

That essay, though, didn’t have an overt personal element to it. I lacked the strength to share my most vulnerable thoughts about my size, about my fat—the very element people first notice ironically renders me invisible. It’s odd I suppose to think of someone who is morbidly obese being invisible, but it was true then and it’s true now.

FRIENDS

I never had many friends in high school or in junior high. I had a few in elementary school, before the obesity started. If I wanted to do something like go to the mall I’d normally end up going alone, and that never ended well. One time I remember the horrors of the catcalls I’d hear while walking around the mall and people yelling at me “call Richard Simmons.” I wanted to slink away in shame, after going to See’s or Mrs Fields naturally. Those people saw me. They didn’t see my fat. And I needed in those moments to assuage my pain, wipe away my tears, and I needed sugary or fatty foods to do that. That’s the only way I could survive.

SCHOOL

As a junior in high school my PE teacher Judy Be***S wanted to help me lose weight, so she had me run laps two days a week instead of playing tennis or other sports with my peers. I felt the stench of humiliation as I walked around the campus instead of having fun. People saw me as separate, as the other. “Why is this girl walking laps when the other kids are in PE?” I could see these thoughts in their expressions.

I learned over time where I could hide instead of walking around the campus. Sometimes the teacher would ask someone to walk with me for company, but that made me feel so much more ostracized. I felt humiliated in those moments. When I think about it now I feel such sadness. I wish she had known better. I wish she could have understood the damage she was causing. In hindsight I can see she thought her actions would be helpful, but, in reality they caused much more harm. She didn’t see me. She saw the fat that had to be gotten rid of.

PROM

I never went to the prom. No one ever asked me. I am certain my weight was the mitigating factor. I could feel everyone’s pity. They knew. Fat girls were ostracized. I was ostracized, unattractive. Only pretty girls, in gorgeous dressed with well-groomed hair and make-up went to prom. Back then most stores didn’t carry pretty clothes for fat people. They only sold muumuus or other hideous clothing items. I would have given almost anything to be able to wear a pretty dress, to feel beautiful for just a moment.

People just saw the fat. That’s what the invisibility of being visible means. People see fat. They don’t see the person. And when they see fat they display pity.

MY FIRST JOB

I remember being sixteen and going for my first job interview as a greeter for a local mall. The day I went in for the interview I drove to the mall with butterflies in my stomach. I’d dressed my best and even put on light make-up. I walked into the mall with a feeling of nervous excitement and then, and then she saw me. I can still see the look of disgust and shock on the interviewer’s face as the morbidly obese teenager approached her. I knew in that moment that I wouldn’t get the job, but she played along, interviewing me and giving me a personality test. She looked even more aghast that I scored higher than anyone had before. She stumbled over her words telling me that.

I walked away from that interview knowing and feeling the inevitable. I drove home that day in a saddened state of despair. How could I explain my pain to anyone? I couldn’t even explain it to myself. I’m sure I ate over it. Food understands me and makes me feel better. She saw my fat. She didn’t see me. She couldn’t even see me when the results of that personality test told her I existed. Sure enough I didn’t get that job.

PEOPLE DON’T SEE FAT PEOPLE. THEY SEE FAT.

I also see myself through the lens of fat, through the lens of the others. At some point I decided I’d wear bright and colorful clothes because they brought me attention, and I craved positive attention. One time I found the most beautiful lime green gauze skirt, and I bought it even though it happened to be a bit see-through. It made me happy, and it brought me attention; although the attention didn’t always happen to be positive. People loved to tell me they could see my underwear through the skirt, but you know what? I didn’t care because I knew they wouldn’t say that to a skinny person. If a thin person wears a see-through item of clothing people are more likely and willing to admire the body beneath the material. The thinness we are supposed to aspire to. The thinness society says gives us value.

Fat doesn’t provide value in the eyes of others. I’m not lying. I’m giving you empirical evidence.

DOCTORS

Doctors only see fat too, most of them anyways. I’ve had doctors say to me the minute they see me “You need to lose weight.” They don’t ask why I’m there. They don’t ask about me. They take one look at me and see the fat. One time, at the age of 12, a doctor wanted to put me on a 500 calorie a day diet. TWELVE YEARS OLD AND A 500 CALORIE A DAY DIET. Even then I knew enough to know that was nuts. The irony of it all—he was morbidly obese. Maybe he wanted to protect me from the fate that befell him but his insanity backfired.

LOVE & FOOD

I never really wanted food. I really only wanted love. I wanted to see and be seen. If you’re reading this I don’t want your pity. But I’d like you to understand what happens to someone when the only thing the world sees is the outer shell.

THE INVISIBILITY OF BEING VISIBLE

For so much of my life I was invisible by virtue of my visibility. Even now sometimes I feel that way. I realized after a meditation the other day that I no longer wanted to be defined by my weight, not by me and not by anybody else. I don’t want to live my life thinking every choice has to be about weight loss. Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t plan on delving into oreos or buckets of buttercream frosting.

I want my life to be about more than food. The Invisibility of Being Visible is about me finding a way to become visible to myself. It doesn’t matter what or how other people see me. It matters how I see myself. And that my friends is a daily battle. Hard fought one second at a time.

I will become visible thought self-love. Visible to myself. Last night I cooked a meal; I played with food in a fun way. It was a healthy meal. But I didn’t count the calories. I ate until the point before where I was full. Then I went and meditated. Another form of self-love. A place where for a few precious moments I can stop the monkey mind and see myself through the lens of non-judgment. The only lens that matters. The lens that reflects true visibility.

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Sage Advice from Sequoias

 

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A Reactionary Tale

“Real Communication Happens in Silence”

~Osho

I am reactionary by nature, and that does not serve my physical or mental or spiritual health. I react because I base too much of my sense of self on others’ perceptions of me. So I internalize the reaction.

I’m a meditator at heart and when I listen to the silence the reaction disappears. That doesn’t change the reality—but it alters my perception. Circumstances are neutral—our reaction gives them a label.

Years ago, I don’t remember how long, I decided to joint a gym. I wanted some type of change. I wanted a miracle pill to help me lose weight—to make me SKINNY overnight. Isn’t that every girl’s dream? My weight tipped the scales at its highest point, at that time, so it took a great deal of courage for me to even think about walking into a fitness place.

When I close my eyes, and think about that day, I can still feel the fear inside me. How will people treat me? Will they want/insist on putting me on a scale? I never liked scales (I still don’t), for they instantly told me I had no worth. They told that to others too. Scales can talk you know? And when they speak I feel only shame, and others feel the right to judge me. I can see it in their eyes, and in their intense curiosity to see exactly how much I weigh. It’s no coincidence then that I didn’t have the courage to go into a gym alone. With the help of a friend I mustered up the strength to walk through the doors of 24 hour fitness in Simi Valley.

The first person at the desk greeted everyone with a big smile and then directed us to a salesperson, Chad. I remember his name and appearance clearly. 6ft. tall with dark hair and eyes. A thin muscular build. He wore a light blue sweat suit.

Chad explained the membership fees; once I agreed to that, he began another soft sell—personal training. While I don’t remember the exact cost I do remember not having the available disposable income, so no was the only viable answer.

Chad didn’t like that. He didn’t like hearing no. Suddenly he switched from friendly mode to intense hard sales mode. His body language went from laid back and relaxed to stiff and upright. He leaned forward on his desk with a slightly menacing stance.

“You have to do something you know.” He bellowed forcefully in an attempt to shame me.

“Why do you think I’m here asshole.” I replied in my head. I didn’t have the courage or sense of self to respond as I wished I could have. Hearing his words though, caused me to shut down. I could literally feel my whole body going numb. I wanted to wither and way and hide in a corner so no one would ever find me. I could feel a sense of shock over take me. In those moments I craved a whole bag of double stuff oreos—they would take away the pain and shame. I couldn’t believe this guy, this salesperson, resorted to bullying tactics.

I suspect he’d never been told no by a fat person before. Most fat people have a hard time saying no. We are conditioned people pleasers, and people like Chad can sense that and know how to pounce on weakness. To this day I am not sure how I walked out of that gym standing.

After leaving the gym that day, I told the story to others, to anyone in my intimate sphere, which wasn’t a problem in and of itself, but I told it with a gale force of extreme emotion. I allowed it to affect my behavior, my internalized nervous system. Describing the shame, I could feel my blood pressure rise, my cheeks turning red. The anger flooded through me with nowhere to go but inside. Breaking a thousand dishes probably wouldn’t have diminished my angst. I can still feel the twinges of anger when I think about Chad because he deserved to suffer the consequences for his poor treatment of me.

I took Chad’s attitude personally, breaking the #1 rule of The Four Agreements—“don’t take anything personally”. I took his jerkish behavior as a reflection of my own self-worth or lack thereof. It’s bad enough that society treats fat people as marginalized citizens, but I make it worse when I treat myself like a marginalized citizen. And when I react that’s what I’m doing. I’m basing my sense of self on others’ perceptions.

I am quite sure, by the way, that I ate over the words of the 24 hour fitness salesperson. I may not have eaten a bag of oreos, but I’m sure I ate some high-fat, high-sugar, highly processed food. Eating brings me comfort, makes me feel better, providing me with a false sense of love. It still does, but I’m learning to seek that love within, and that’s where meditation comes in. Meditation and silence.

I meditate to find answers, and while I don’t always find the answers I do find peace. From that place of peace I find a non-reactive place of response, the ideal to which I seek.

When I come from that calm space I am more likely to seek comfort in healthy behaviors or foods. Just because I want to eat may not mean I am actually hungry.

How often am I hungry? And what am I hungry for? These are questions I need to ask myself before I eat or before I prepare food. My body sends me signals when it’s hungry, and I need to work at tuning into those internal communications.

At the time of the 24 Hour Fitness story I meditated off and on but not on a regular basis. In the ensuing years I’ve learned the value of taking a moment or even a day to process an event before reacting. I’m training myself to see life as a movie with me as an actor who can choose how I will perform. I am becoming the creator of my life and not allowing others to determine my future or my now.

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Food and Feelings

I find myself spending too much time on the internet surfing for something outside myself. Approval. Love. The list goes on. I’ve spent far too much of my life looking for approval outside of myself. I still do. I fear the disapproval of others. I’m working on living for my own approval.

Last week I found myself upset with someone I have a great deal of respect for. I could describe the circumstance, but they really don’t matter. The feelings do. When I first realized I felt angry, disrespected I questioned myself, questioned my feelings, but I had the foresight to know I needed to wait 24 hours to respond.

My weight is a symptom of being a people pleaser. I need to know the people in my life love me or are happy with me and if they aren’t I do not function well. I know this about myself.

But over the years I’ve grown stronger, much stronger, so this time I knew I’d have to say something. I had to speak my peace. I had to allow myself to be human. I do not often do that. I hold myself to a higher standard, an impossible standard.

I felt disrespected. I felt demeaned. Expressing those words in a non-combatitive way would take a miracle, but I felt determined. I also felt fear. FEAR. FEAR. How would this person respond? What would they think of me? How would I handle it if I disappointed them? SO many unknowns. So many variables.

I also didn’t want to do this by email. I needed to say it in person. As the time approached I felt a certain calm. I spoke my peace. Right or wrong. I said how I felt. Disrespected. Demeaned. Powerful words. Difficult words spoken to someone I have the greatest respect and love for.

But speak them I did. An apology I received.

The aftermath? I don’t really know. It’s an unusual feeling for me. I want to know more than everything that things are okay. Okay for me. Okay for the other. But I don’t get to know that. To speak my truth I had to let go of how the other person would react.

I’ve questioned myself a bit: Was I over-reacting? Were my feelings legit? I NEED to know that everything is okay, but I do not get to know that. I’m not meant to know that. I need to be the best I can be. The best human I can be. Flawed. Full of love.

I also need to spend more time away from social media, so that I can become even more comfortable with myself. More comfortable with my own sense of humanity.

There’s more to these ramblings, but I’ll save them for another time. For now, I leave you with a picture of this adorable Starbucks ornament. I bought it for myself because no matter what I DID NOT OVEREAT or binge over this situation. That’s a victory I’ll take.

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