The Riddle of Me: Self-Image

Whenever you’re obese it’s incredible how aware you are of every inch of space you take up. I was always painfully aware of my size. Whenever I’d have to squeeze past a table in a restaurant or push myself past bodies on an airplane to get to my seat, I was filled with an agonizing embarrassment and self-hatred. People were judging me, most of them just avoided looking my way but some would let contempt hang on their faces. I always avoided eye contact. I lived inside my own mind, constantly tearing myself down, and never paying attention to the world around me. I could never separate who I was from what had happened to me. I was too pliable, like extremely depressed Play-Doh.

I was jealous of all the other human beings that could hide their insecurities or bad habits. I would look around and imagine some to be compulsive gamblers, pathological liars, or maybe just awful people, but they looked normal. They looked healthy. I couldn’t hide how bad I was at life. I had to wear my shame every second of every day. I was a binge eater; I couldn’t cope with my emotions or the challenges life threw at me. I would hide, eat, lie about my emotions, and sink into my depression. I never imagined my life could be any other way. I was just made this way and I didn’t have the determination or hard work to make it better.

What a harmful lie I was feeding myself. What a harmful lie that was fed to me by others.

I hated my body and mind in every sense of the words. It was like being held hostage by my bad habits and choices. No improvement, no education, no growth. I would sit for hours every day and imagine what it’d be like to run again, to eat healthy balanced meals, to pursue education and knowledge, to be loved and to love myself. Those “dreams” would consume my thoughts. I now realize when I reflect, I never believed I would be better. Honestly, I think I was just waiting for an excuse to end it all. I thought that being happy and healthy was never in the cards for me. I spent years of my life never moving towards my goals while simultaneously hating this world that never made me someone that moved towards their goals. See my point?

I chose to be a victim. I chose to always victimize myself. That was my self-image.

When I thought I’d lost everything. I had nothing to hold onto.

So, I set fire to those thoughts.

One of the worst things that ever happened to me in my life, losing two people who were more dear to me than myself, it changed me. It changed me for the better and it made me open my eyes. I now feel like I see with such clarity what the world is, what life is, and more importantly what the possibility of a life well lived is. Stop putting expectations on yourself for tomorrow, stop putting expectations on your loved one’s behavior, stop putting expectations on your life.

Pursue goals, dream, hope, but never be anything but grateful. Once you realize how lucky you are to even exist. You can start to appreciate how short, scary, and beautiful life is. Stop ruining it by overthinking. Stop hating yourself. Embrace who you are and pay attention to your thoughts. You are in control, your choices and how you choose to allocate your time determines who you are.

Stand on the frontier of life. Push yourself and everyone around you to be better. Don’t choose to be less than what you could be because the people around you are fine with standing still. I will never let another human being on this earth tell me what I can or cannot succeed at.

Set the example. Impress them. Encourage them. Inspire them.

Stop being complacent in a life you’ve made for yourself.

Today, I am about as different from the person I was 4 years ago, as I am to a stranger on the street. My thoughts, my habits, my reactions and interactions, they astound me daily. Whenever negative and harmful thoughts pass through my mind, I no longer let them control me, belittle me, and dictate what my day will be like. I recognize them like a bird flying by in front of me, I acknowledge them, and then let them go. On to the next thought, the better thought, the more productive thought, the wonderful thought.

The best example I have is that instead of letting my thoughts and emotions consume me. I merely reflect them. It’s like being a mirror inside of yourself. The voice that answers to “I” in my head is constant. That is what I consider “me”. I am not the sum of my memories, thoughts, and other people’s behaviors toward me. I am the mirror, so I merely reflect it.

People’s behavior around me no longer offends me or hurts me. I don’t take responsibility for it. I can only be truthful and direct with my words and intentions and let the pieces fall where they may. If someone is rude or does something I don’t agree with morally or socially. It’s no longer dramatic or stress inducing. I merely remove myself from their company and continue to pursue my own happiness. I hold no ill-will towards the people who are no longer a part of my life. I wish them every joy and happiness. I just know that there are some human beings that will only harm my progress or add chaos to my life. I no longer have the time or the patience to fight with people. It has made me a more selfish, productive, and happier person.

I make a choice to dwell on the positive, helpful and true. I choose to reject or move from the unhealthy, false, and unhelpful thoughts. I strive for my mind to be filled with ideas, curiosity, fascination, love, truth, and hope.

I’m constantly pushing myself to be better every moment. I’m looking for ways I can challenge myself and improve. When I look in the mirror, I no longer focus on every part of myself I want to change. I look at my eyes and contemplate their complexities and colors. I marvel at how they show me the world and my body, how they let me perceive the universe around me.

I look at my arms and instead of hating the flab and their shape, I stare at them and marvel how far they’ve come. How strong they are, how much they help me throughout my day, throughout my life, how much I’d miss them if they were disappearing. I stare at my stomach and I marvel at what’s under the skin. The intricate organs, fluid, tissue, the constant activity that makes it possible for me to be here today. I marvel at how one day hopefully; I will grow a tiny human. I can be moved to tears with the slightest thought of how incredibly my entire body is. I see the “magic” in myself now. I have changed my mind about this life.

I hated this journey for so long because I only reflected on how bad I had let things get for myself. My health, my body, my emotions, everything was a wreck. I’ve now realized how lucky I am to have been through everything I have. The loss, the weight gain, the pain, the suffering. It has given me the gift of perspective. The gift of self-love. the gift of confidence.

Nothing lasts in this life. I choose not to grieve over what I have had and lost, I choose to embrace what is around me. I choose to look in the mirror and not only feel peace, but love. I have such a clear view of who I am, what I’m capable of, and what I want out of this life. It’s similar to the feeling of falling in love, except I’m not depending on anyone else for this euphoria and purpose. It’s me.

Now when I’m in public, traveling, dancing, existing. I no longer apologize for the space I occupy. When I stand, I feel my strength. I am confident. Losing weight does not make you a better person. It will not fix your life. Your size is insignificant in comparison to your life and happiness. Let weight loss be merely a side-effect to a balanced life, to a balanced you. Love yourself and the rest will follow.

So I guess what I’m saying is it all comes down to you. It all comes down to your choices.

What’s it going to be? Do you want to start loving being you?

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A bundle of insecurities

 

When I was thirteen or fourteen, my mother took me to the mall to get some new summer clothes. I managed to corner her in Abercrombie & Fitch. She kind of hated that place, so of course, I was desperate to shop there. I knew I needed tank tops, jean skirts, and flip flops. Everyone was wearing it. Cue eye roll.

I saw this tiny, white, tank top that I really wanted to try on. It was tighter than anything I’d ever worn before. I felt so confident in it. I don’t remember how much begging I did, but my mom finally caved and I was off to enjoy my weekend in my new favorite new top.

So I was in the lobby at the cinema in Oklahoma. I was there with three or four of my friends and I was feeling so good about myself. This summer was going to be different. My two front teeth were finally symmetrical and grown in–it took a while. I didn’t have a bowl cut, I was athletic and happy. I was cheering at the time and I was always moving. My skin was clear and my braces were off. I felt trendy and unstoppable. When the boys walked in, I stepped forward and waved. I had zero chill.

“Oh my god, Devon. Look at your arms.”

I genuinely remember thinking this boy was going to compliment me, but after studying his face I steeled myself for the blow. He wasn’t flirting. He was going to humiliate me.

“They’re massive. Gross! They’re bigger than mine. Wow. Look at this.”

A numb, crawling feeling washed over me while everyone laughed. I muttered something about his arms and melted away. I sat through the movie, I sat through pizza afterward, but when I went home I cried in my mother’s arms. I never wore that tank top again.

From that day on, every time I look in the mirror, every time someone snaps a picture of me, every time I get dressed, I stare at my arms and I hate them. I wear sweaters to cover them, I avoid having them exposed at all costs, I even crop them out of photos so I don’t have to see them.

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It’s so easy to pick up these insecurities as we go through life, huh? An offhand comment from a spouse that hits just right. A coworker who makes a jab and tells you to lighten up. Or even a parent that catches you at your weakest moment and knows exactly what to say to make it worse.

These things happen and they suck. All of us, at one time or another, have been embarrassed, have been humiliated. And most of us have embarrassed and humiliated other people, maybe on purpose, maybe unintentionally.

The reason why this is important when it comes to weight loss is that those voices are usually the ones we give the most attention to when we look at ourselves, when we try to grow. I’m sure you can’t recall all the times someone told you how cute you looked or how beautiful you are, but I bet you can remember when someone called you fat or ugly.

The bad news is that even when you are at your goal weight and have your “perfect” body. You still feel it. You still remember. That’s part of the beauty of the human mind. It feels like you don’t get to choose what replays in your mind the most. Some of the most amazing moments I’ve had I can’t remember clear enough, but some of the most awful things that ever happened to me are just sitting there in HD. Ready for my viewing pleasure in the blink of an eye.

Recently, while reading Siddhartha by Herman Hess, I had a small but important ‘aha’ moment about my journey. Every second I dwell on those thoughts, every time I force myself to become smaller out of insecurity, out of fear, I’m losing. I’m losing time, I’m losing happiness, I’m losing me.

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You are not the sum of what has happened to you or what you have experienced. You are so much more than that. Your life is precious and wonderful, and it’s so short! It goes by so fast and we spend so much time dwelling on the past or putting expectations on the future. We lie, cheat, drink, lie, and self-destruct just so we can get away from the bad in or around us. It’s a crazy waste when you think about it.

I’m making a choice not to do that anymore. I’m making a choice to be present every second I possibly can, to be grateful, to watch my husband smile, to push myself forward; to learn everything there is to know about this crazy universe, to stare in a mirror and find myself as beautiful as the beauty I see around me, to not give the people who hurt me power over me. No matter my size, no matter my situation, because what matters is that I am happy, and the good news is that happy is a choice.

Definitely the more cheerful choice if you think about it.

 

 

If you truly want to lose weight, stop trying to lose weight.

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Vitamin Donuts Coaching Week Two
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Doesn’t that sound confusing? I can’t count how many times a week I have girls telling me that they’re trying to lose weight but they give into temptation, they can’t stay consistent. – They say all of the changes they’ve made and foods they’ve cut out of their diets haunt them and pull them back into bad habits.

Of course it does! Because you’re not changing your habits or rewarding yourself with good behaviors. You’re only trying to cut out things you’ve rewarded yourself with for (months or years) and ignore the bad behaviors, but the problem with that is – they’re habits. Those habits aren’t going to just disappear over night. That same voice in your head that tells you to stop and get that fast food, skip that work out, and indulge every night. It doesn’t magically die when you decide to “diet”.

If I ask a person who eats 3-4 thousand calories a day to wake up tomorrow and eat 8,000? Do you think that’d feel like a lot, maybe a bit extreme? What about asking someone who is binge eating or in the midst of bad habits to start eating 900 calories a day? Doesn’t that seem a bit extreme too? Why would you do that to yourself? Stop making this a diet. 

I’m telling you, you’re going to have to start reasoning with that voice in your head, you’re going to have to work with it, to live with it. You’re going to have to make your changes one step at a time. Stop going balls to the wall and then wondering why you couldn’t remain consistent. This is your life.

First, start paying attention to yourself. Ask yourself questions and stop being irrational. You are behaving this way for a reason. You’re not just some loose cannon that LOVES feeling sad and horrible. Second, figure out who you want to be and ask yourself what keeps you from that? Third, stop making excuses. 

Everything I tell you is what I have experienced, everything I tell you is what works for me, everything I tell you, YOU can experience for yourself. Find your own path. Find your own balance.

Change your relationship with yourself and with food. Understand that once you start getting healthy on the inside and listening to yourself, you are going to WANT to make better choices. Everyone thinks that they just are who they are. They can’t change, they won’t grow, and the only way for them to improve is to stifle all those bad voices and just push forward.

You don’t have to do that. Stop repressing and start addressing. (Catchy, huh?) You are perfectly capable of being better, thinking better, moving better. You don’t have to settle for making massive pushes and then getting upset and reverting when you fail. If you’re making these tiny incremental changes then your body and mind won’t give you the backlash when you fail, because you’re trying and learning.

One of my goals is to make it where you don’t need me anymore. I don’t want you get you hooked on a shake, pill, or plan. I want you to learn smart and balanced habits so you can go to Vegas for the week or enjoy a big plate at Thanksgiving and stop being angry at yourself when you want to indulge.

That’s normal, I’ll repeat this again, I WANT YOU TO INDULGE.

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I’m willing to bet if you think about your situation, whether you’ve put on a little bit of weight or a lot of weight, it didn’t happen overnight. You didn’t magically wake up one day to find out that you were consuming 4000-5000 calories a day and that you were getting out of breath. This happened over time. You maybe had a few bad habits that snowballed, they got out of control. Now you find yourself making choices you don’t like and you’re not proud of the person you’ve become or happy when you look in the mirror. I want you to apply that same logic to losing weight. This change isn’t going to happen overnight but how you’re feeling isn’t permanent and you don’t have to feel this way.

I can give you a 7 day meal plan that makes you lose weight. I can give you DVD’s and tell you that you need to do those. I can tell you exactly what I do and ask you to copy it exactly, but ask yourself – How silly is that? You have to live your life! What if I tell you to eat eggs/oatmeal/or a shake in the morning. Oh my god. WHAT IF YOU’RE NOT NEAR ANY OF THOSE THINGS?! I don’t want to tell you what to do. I want you to to tell you what to do.

I want you to gain a confidence and balance in your life that encourages you to make the right choices. Without me or anyone else guiding you. That’s only going to happen with time and effort. You’re going to have to make small changes every day that add up to your goals and happiness in life. Life is messy and unpredictable – I want you to be prepared for that and be able to cope. Not panic and use food or bad habits as a crutch.

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Please stop saying “I could NEVER work out like that. I could NEVER buy chips and keep them in my house with out eating the whole bag. I could NEVER go a day without pop.”

There is a laundry list of things I said I could or would NEVER do. They all seem so silly now. I don’t understand why I used such negative and constraining language with myself and others for so long. If you feel like something is hard and impossible – I want you to start adding “Right now” to the end of your sentences.

“I can’t do that.. right now.”

You are not this constant, unchanging being. You are a person with needs, wants, behaviors, influences, a body, and a brain. You are fully capable of whatever you darn well please. Just stop putting these glass ceilings on yourself.

There are times in my life where I thought “I’ll never be happy. I’ll never survive this. I’ll never overcome this. I’ll never be athletic. I’ll never be loved. I’ll never be able to NOT eat this way. I’ll never be capable.” 

It was all such bullshit, guys. I’m sorry, but it’s true. It was all of these limitations and harm I put on myself. It was all of the times someone put me down or I felt like I disappointed myself or others. It was just all of these horrible echoes in my mind that were just cutting me at the knees. I let them sit on my mind and body like a heavy weight that kept me small mentally and obese physically.

Your thoughts are so important. They’re so valuable and strong. They push you, they pull you, they make you strive for the stars and they’ll slam you back to earth. Control them. Master them. Push for them to be better. Start asking yourself why you are doing things. Start asking yourself how you got here. Start asking yourself why you’re not where you want to be.

I’m not lying to you when I say I wake up and I WANT to eat healthy and I WANT to go to the gym. Some days I may drag my feet or want sugar more than usual but it doesn’t change my progress. This does get easier. You do get stronger. Once you start putting the right foods into your body and taking care of it, your mind and body will start motivating YOU. You won’t want to go back to binge eating, or feeling like crap because why would you when you figure out how good it feels to do this? You only have to try. 

I’m challenging you this week. Two things. 

  1. Stop being on a diet. Stop making this a starting line and a finish line. This is your life. You need to learn to make choices and develop skills that make you the person you WANT to be.  If a side effect of that is that you lose weight and feel better about yourself than you ever have – that’s great! That’s what I want for you.When you’re balanced, happy, and you WANT to feel good – the change happens. Become independent, become strong, question me, question this, question EVERYONE. Don’t just do what people tell you what to do when it comes to your lifestyle. Make it YOURS. If you want to eat a candy bar 3x a week  – figure out a way that you can still do that and be PROUD of your choices at the end of the day. I am not going to live the rest of my life without cheese, fried foods, chocolate covered things, or sugary drinks but I will still be strong, healthy, happy, and moving forward. Always. I suggest you start thinking about how you can do that too. Or else this isn’t really changing you, you’re just losing mass and not gaining knowledge or perspective on yourself.

    2. Stop using such negative and final language. Stop saying never, Start being positive, not just with others out loud. With yourself. Stop pretending like who you are this second is all you’re ever going to be. That’s so ridiculous. Start growing. Start changing. Start improving. Set goals that scare you, that challenge you. There is a part inside you that is separate from that random chatter and screaming in your head. There is this force in your mind and body that is fully capable of being reasoned with and that wants you to succeed. You just have to find it and let that center guide you to the best version of yourself. Whatever that is. I bet it’s even more awesome and powerful than you could possibly imagine. Find it. 

Email me and keep me posted on your progress. I don’t just want to know what you’re eating. How are you feeling? Are you feeling sad? Motivated? Indifferent? We can figure it out and get you pointed in the right direction if you’re feeling lackluster or frustrated.

I’m here. 

Love,

Dev

A letter to me

Dear Devon,

It’s 2013, you’re 22 and I know it feels like your whole life just crumbled around you. Matt and Mom are gone. The grief your feeling is constant, scary, and overwhelming. You don’t know if you’ll survive it or if you want to. I know you don’t want to get out of bed and I know you don’t want to even think about the future, but you have to. It feels like you’re alone, but you’re not. You have your family, your future in-laws (that’s right. you marry him. WOO!), your friends, and especially David. You don’t have to suffer in silence, those people love you and they want you to be happy. You may not want to talk about what you’re feeling, but you need to. Don’t hold it in and stop pretending to be so brave.

Right now you feel like everything is out of control. Your binge eating is at the worst it’s ever been and I know you can’t look in the mirror without being ashamed and angry. I know you think you’ll never be more than a victim. You don’t think you’re smart, beautiful, disciplined or destined to be happy. You think that what has happened and what you’ve done to yourself will just be what you are. I’m so happy to tell you it’s not.

You’re incredibly strong and you don’t even know it yet, but you’ll find out soon. One day you’ll realize that you can think about Mom and Matt and still be able to breath. One day after that you’ll realize that eating the way you are is self-harm and you don’t want to do it anymore. Then one day, you’ll wake up, go look in the mirror – and you’ll feel this feeling you’ve never felt before. Pride.

You’re going to start making choices that push you towards your goals. You’re going to stop putting yourself down and you’re going to learn new things about yourself every single day. You will pursue knowledge in a way you never have before. Your strength isn’t just emotional either, you’re athletic and capable. Once you get that weight off and you start working out, you won’t believe what you can do.

You don’t have to be so angry at yourself and the world. You don’t have to believe that voice in your head telling you that you’ll never be enough. You are more than enough and your love and kindness will touch people in ways you can’t imagine. You have a husband that loves you and pushes you to be better, and you’re going to have family and friends that make you feel overwhelmed with love and gratitude. Buckle up, girl. You have a lot of living to do, and guess what? You’re incredible. 

I can’t wait for you to figure that out.

Love,
Me

thebestone