Friday, March 4, 2016

The Butt Stops Here

Hello... It's me.

I said I would write now and again whenever I felt something.  Well, I'm feeling something right now.  Could just be gas or indigestion - who knows?  I'll give it a go.

 A few weeks ago I was standing at the deli counter at Target and I glanced at the woman next to me.  She was wearing an oversize hoodie, yoga pants and had no make-up on - what I affectionately like to call my "Target uniform".  She was looking down in all seriousness as if the weight of all the ham in the world was on her shoulders and I could tell that she, like many of us there, had no interest in grocery shopping and was clearly having a shit day.  What I also noticed was that she had the most beautiful, thick, long, natural eyelashes I had ever seen.  So I told her so.  Her face brightened right before my own short, stubby lashed eyes.

I was recently at the gas station where I ran into a woman who had the coolest, raddest (is that a word? Most rad? whatever), edgiest, short hair style ever.  I've always wished I could pull off a short cut like that.  One of the last times I tried pulling off a super short cut it was in the age of Duran Duran and my uncles kept singing "Wild Boys" to me every single time they saw me.  I grew it out. Anyway, I told this woman that I adored her hair and it was so flattering on her.  Her hand flew to her head and she made a few comments about just having worked out and then gave me a stunning smile.  I think her name was Rio.

I often feel compelled to compliment women where I see them most, which is in the locker room.  However, that can border on a bit of skeeviness so I'm careful.  The other day I saw a woman in there wearing THE cutest knit sweater dress, tights and boots.  My average day starts in stretchy pants, proceeds to stretchy gym pants and then ends in stretchy pajama pants after my shower so I love a cute outfit when I see one.  Since she was still dressed I figured it would be ok to say something so I did.  She smiled and excitedly told me all about how she found it at Savers and it only cost her $10 with the tags still on (the last three words spoken with the reverence only a person who enjoys second hand things will understand).

I try to do this stuff as much as I can and I fully admit it's out of selfishness.  Looking for the beauty in other people helps me.  Not that any of us are required to be beautiful for anyone else but still.  If I can see beauty in other people in all sorts of ways then maybe they can see it in me, too.  And when I give a compliment to a woman and I know I mean it perhaps I can improve upon my own ability to accept a compliment at face value.

So just a couple of days ago I saw a girl working out at the gym with an extraordinary rear end.  I mean it was glorious.  Amazing, in fact.  And to top it all off she had gorgeous eye lashes.  How is that fair?  I mean, my butt is ok.  It's perfectly adequate for what I use it for.  It looks good in a pencil skirt and my old man digs it.  But if I was at the Ass Store this is the one I would point to in the glass case while I politely asked the sales associate, "Excuse me, I'd like to see this one, please."  It was my dream ass.

I would totally shop here.  I don't even care what they sell.

I wanted to compliment this young woman on her fantastic posterior but, speaking of skeeviness, this is starting to enter that zone.  That zone of unwelcome attention for a body part or trait.

I once was told I had the perfect phone sex voice.  Except it was told to me by my manager as an explanation after I took a business call that didn't end well. I had prepared a job quote for a man who ended the conversation by asking for my measurements instead of asking me questions about the work I did because I just had THAT voice.  Thus 20 year old Cassidy learned how women aren't always taken seriously in a male dominated field and a compliment isn't always a compliment.  I digress.

So I wanted to tell this woman she had a really great ass and well done.  But maybe she doesn't want to hear about her ass.  Maybe she's gotten a lot of unwanted attention for her rear end.  Perhaps she's been harassed because of it.  Or maybe she just doesn't want some random stranger commenting on it because, honestly, we have the right to not want to hear commentary about our bodies.  Not to mention that complimenting someone on their ass is getting into that territory of sexualization.  I mean, I wouldn't go up to a stranger and say, "Nice tits."  I would do that to one of my close friends, though. That's different and would probably include a boob grab or a chest bump but I promise I do have limits.

Side note to the gentlemen who may have stumbled across my blog: If I, as a heterosexual female, have to think long and hard about whether a compliment to another woman about her body could be deemed inappropriate or even as sexual harassment, you may want to give a second thought or seven before you say some of the stuff that comes out of your mouths to random women and then expect to receive gratitude and blushing giggles in return.  Just a suggestion.

I opted out of saying anything to her.  Did I overthink it?  Yes, I did.  As is my way.  But hemming and hawing usually helps me err on the side of caution and I'm ok with that.  If I see her again perhaps I'll try the lash one again and covet her butt from afar.

I left the weight room floor and went back to the locker room where I gathered up my stuff, set it on the counter and started drying the sweat into my hair like a damn lady when I noticed another woman walk over and stand near me, just a few feet away right by the entrance to the locker room.  I've had conversations and dealings with this woman before and without knowing any specifics or details about her I would have to guess that she has some special needs or is somewhere on the spectrum (disclaimer: I say this having experienced a child who is on the spectrum and not with any medical knowledge at all).  This particular woman tends to walk around the locker room in the nude and every time I see her I think, "She has absolutely no fears about her nudity or body.  I wish I was like that." As she stood near the entrance to the locker room a staff member walked in and, well, I'll just share the email I sent off to this person's manager.

Ms. <name redacted>,

I'm a member at the gym and there was an incident that occurred there yesterday right about 5pm that I feel compelled to inform you about.

I was in the locker room drying my hair across from the sinks.  An older woman who is at the gym almost every day was standing near the paper towels right near the entrance to the locker room.  From my previous experiences and conversations with this woman, I believe she may be special needs or at the very least a vulnerable, older adult.  She also has no qualms with walking around the locker room in the nude, as is her right to do in the privacy and safety of the women's locker room.  She was nude as she stood next to the paper towel dispenser.

As I was standing there one of your employees, <name redacted>, walked in and came face to face with this woman.  <Name redacted> walked past her and through the other set of doors into the bathroom area.  A few moments later she walked back through and exited the locker room.  I packed up my bag and left shortly after her where I saw <name redacted> talking to one of the trainers. The portion of the conversation that I heard was, "You just can't unsee some things, you know?" followed by a lot of laughter.

She proceeded to walk towards the front desk just in front of me and at least 15-20 feet from the front desk she called out to the young girl working there and said,  "I need some eye drops right now.  I need eye drops to wash out what I just saw in the locker room.  Guess who I just saw..." and then she whispered in the girl's ear.  The girl reacted with horror and laughter and said, "Oh no!"

Now, there's a chance that she wasn't talking about this lady.  A very, very small chance.  But given the timeline of what happened and me immediately following her out of the locker room I am absolutely certain this person is who <name redacted> was talking about.  And I find it reprehensible.

Just a few short years ago I worked at a gym.  I taught group fitness classes and I was a personal trainer.  I taught Silver Sneakers regularly.  I managed the group fitness department and I was the location manager for that location.  I know exactly what sensitivity should be demanded of employees.  I know for certain how important membership is to a gym.  And, just as a human being, I know how people should be treated, especially as an older, vulnerable adult.  Imagine how disappointed I was to find out that <name redacted> isn't just a staff member.  She's the Operations Manager.

I'm thankful that I was the one that heard <name redacted>'s comment and not another member.  I've been a very active advocate for body positivity and helping people trying to find their own value and worth as a motivation to taking care of their own health and fitness. I know many people who don't even want to go to the gym for fear of being ridiculed for their bodies or their weight.  Those are the same people who should feel the most safe and welcome at a fitness institute when they are trying to better themselves.  Thank God it wasn't someone like that who heard <name redacted>'s comments and never wanted to go back to the gym.  I worry that she'll make future comments about other members, however, and do real damage.

I like this location.  I've had really good experiences with several members of the staff up front.  I hope that, at the very least, you can have a discussion with your OM to ensure that those kind of disgusting comments will not be directed at one of your paying members again.  She should be leading the much younger staff by example and frankly, I'm ashamed of what she's teaching them right now.

I would like to at least know that you received this email and have heard what I've had to say and plan to address it.  If you have any further questions or concerns I would be happy to talk to you any time.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


The juxtaposition of these two events, my worry over giving an inappropriate but well meant compliment and this horrible example of body shaming, just minutes apart, was mind boggling.  While I still believe I made the right choice in not commenting on this young woman's rear end I believe wholeheartedly that we need much more praise in our lives, especially as women.  We need to stand on the same side and remind each other that we are ok just as we are.  That we are beautiful and worthy and deserving of taking care of ourselves.  That there are things that are special about each one of us.  And we need to defend those who are being told they are less than.

I concede that I don't do everything with altruistic intentions.  When I praise another person I also do it in the hope that I can start to praise myself more.  When I stand up for another person, like I tried to do in this instance, I also do so in the hopes that I can learn to stand up for myself.  The fact is, it's so much easier for me to do these things for someone else than myself but I'm trying.  I'm learning.  I'm practicing.

If you can't do it for yourself right now practice doing it for someone else.  I promise you this: when you give someone a compliment or a voice when they so clearly need it the rewards are innumerable.  To see some random stranger who looks stressed and anxious, just like the rest of us, look up with a glow in their face and give you such a genuine smile in thanks?  Well, that's just everything right there.

Try it.  Repeatedly.  There's your homework.  And you have plenty of time because the indigestion has passed and there's no telling when I'll write again.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

On This Day

Every morning, as I sip my first cup of coffee, Facebook kindly reminds me what happened On This Day over the last few years.  Usually it's filled with an incredible amount of narcissistic nonsense, sarcastic statuses about my children, or bacon memes shared with me by my friends.  Much to my chagrin, I also get reminded of those days when we all posted our Facebook statuses in the third person, circa 2008. "Cassidy... is talkin' more Shick than a Bic".  Yeah.  I posted that once.  I'm past feeling embarrassed by it. (Bonus points if you know where that is from.)

A few weeks ago I was reminded On That Day that it's been about three years since I posted my very first blog.  I've been meaning to write for awhile and that definitely spiked my guilt sensors (which are acutely sensitive, by the way).  It's been about seventeen months since I have written and I wasn't even that prolific before that.  I'm not even sure anyone is still reading but, if you are, let me tell you where I've been.

I feel like I'm in some VH1 special about a B-list, Screech-like celebrity, though I'm sure I'd be more likely to end up on Dances with the Stars instead of a sex tape.  Maybe.  Who am I kidding?  I really can't dance.

(Note: I probably won't be filling this blog with funny memes and pictures as is my usual way.  There really aren't any that are even relevant and I'm still recovering from a Google search for funny Screech/Porn memes.  Word to the wise - don't.  Just don't.)

Where have I been?  Well, to sum up I'm completely cured of all body confidence and worthiness issues, I've reached my goal weight and I've had no more reason to overshare with all you people.


Life.  And I needed a break.  And vulnerability is exhausting sometimes.

My last post left me pretty spent.  Maybe not the post itself but the whole experience.  I had challenged myself to be vulnerable and open at a difficult time when I started the blog and when I had surgery. For the last three years I have, in the name of body gratitude, publicly talked about my body for an entire month on Facebook.  I overshared about my life-long feelings of shame. I was terrified when I had a boudoir photo shoot, all in an effort to see my own beauty and embrace my size.  And I was scared to death when I got on a stage to sing in order to face my body image fears that have kept me from trying new things.  Frankly, I was tired and emotionally spent from trying to double-dog-dare myself into loving me.  I needed a break.

I've known for awhile that loving yourself as you are is the key to making lasting change, should you want to do so.  But that doesn't mean it doesn't also take work.  I decided enough was enough.  Enough talk.  Enough poor-me blogs.  Enough scary to-do lists.  I needed to start walking the talk.

In the midst of work and family and all the normal life stuff I really committed to making time to care for myself again.  I started tracking my food intake again with a modest deficit.  I started working out regularly.  Between those two things I've lost about 30 pounds since last January.  But the weight loss isn't what I'm proud of (and I'm not even back to where I was when I worked at the gym).  I am proud of myself for making ME a priority again.  For practicing self-care in a way that respected my body.  It's not been easy to stay focused on that and I've battled some injuries but overall I'm doing ok.  I've made these behaviors a habit again and that makes me happy.  Even so, I've been a little off course the last six weeks or so (more on that later) and there always has to be readjustment, even with habits.  Self care is a work in progress and always will be.

Let's see.  What else have I been up to?  Well, I survived wearing a walking boot in a Minnesota winter.  I've taken more voice lessons with another instructor just for fun this time.  I've spent a lot of quality time with friends and family.  I've worked a lot of hours. These are not dramatic events but it's what I've been up to.

I also ran into my old boss / close friend from the gym last Spring.  When I finally recognized him I was about to say hi and then he gave me a look.  A look with more hatred than I've ever seen anyone give me before.  Then he turned and walked away.  This stayed with me for a few days, mostly because I don't think I can ever remember being on the receiving end of that much hatred before.  And I still don't know where it's coming from or what I did.  But I sat with it, processed it and realized it's not for me to understand.  It's not about me and I won't carry it with me anymore.  I forgive many people for the things that happened back then and I hope they can forgive me for whatever ways they feel I've wronged them.  But I've moved on.  I wish him peace. Look at me, I'm growing!

I also survived yet another reminder that family, the ones that are supposed to love you, won't always love you unconditionally.  I felt hurt and angry for a few days and then I let it go.  Their loss.

This summer I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary by taking a trip to Mexico with my husband, sans children.  It was relaxing and romantic and everything we needed, despite trying to fight off a little cold while there.  And, to make it extra interesting, I brought only bikinis.  Me.  Bikinis.  What? At first I thought I may try to make a challenge out of it - a blog post - and then I changed my mind.  I won't post any pictures here because it wasn't about that.  I can tell you what happened, though.  Day one - I put on my bikini and walked out to the pool.  That was it.  It wasn't some bold feat of strength.  It was a non issue.  A non issue in the best way possible and exactly what I needed.  I wasn't being brave because to say that would infer that I needed to be brave in the first place to show my body.  I was just a woman in a swimsuit just like all the other women in their swimsuits.  It felt wonderful to do it for me and not some crazy notion I committed myself to publicly.  It was freeing.  I can't wait for Facebook to remind me about my trip next year On That Day.  I felt beautiful and loved and free.

I've been wearing leggings and skinny jeans lately, God damn it!  That's gotta mean something right there!

It hasn't been all sunshine and tanlines and tight pants.  There have been some rough points, too.  I don't have the body image stuff figured out all the time and it sneaks in, usually when I'm actually upset about something else.  Hating on my body is the path of least resistance when it comes to self-loathing.  It's comfortable and I'm quite good at it.  Hell, in a recent bout of pain and grief I decided to get bangs.  About 2.5 seconds later I decided that every bit of sex appeal I had was now lying in a hairy pile on the floor and I was now completely unattractive.  Clearly I don't have it all figured out. 

What I know for sure is this - I may not always love my body.  I may unfairly punish it for other feelings I'm too afraid or too weak to deal with.  But through all that I still know that it's worth all the effort.  I am worthy.  You are, too.

I met a girl in the bathroom gym years and years ago.  I had seen her come in day in and day out to work out but I had never met her.  That day in the bathroom she was crying.  She was crying over her weight and her frustration and her feelings of unworthiness.  She was overwhelmed and was thinking of giving up on trying to lose weight.  That's when I promptly stepped in, hugged her next to the sinks and said the most asshole-ish thing a person can say at the gym. "I lost XXX number of pounds.  You can, too!"  Ok, maybe not the most asshole-ish thing but if she hadn't brought up the subject I would never have been that person to approach someone bragging about weight loss.  Lucky for me she still talked to me the next time she saw me.

We were brought back together again after I became a trainer and she had a horrible experience with another trainer that left her very disenchanted.  A friend brought it to my attention and I stepped in to fix it.  What I didn't know On That Day was that she would start attending all my classes faithfully and eventually become one of my closest friends.  She was part of my inner circle and integral in my recovery from leaving my job there.  Jenn was irreplaceable.  Facebook just reminded me a few weeks ago On This Day that we had been Facebook friends for 5 years.  It feels like I've known her my whole life.

In recent months she really struggled again with her own worthiness for different reasons.  I know this because she would text those exact words to me. "I'm struggling to feel worthy."  She knew I would get it but I was at a loss on how to help her.  I don't even have my own shit together most days.  Plus stuff gets in the way like life, family, people you probably shouldn't be devoting your time to, work, etc.  I thought I had time.  I thought we both had time to work it out and have a big hug and a laugh when we realized how crazy we were.

Seven weeks ago today Jenn died unexpectedly from an undiagnosed medical condition.  The night before I was texting her.  The next morning she was gone.  She was just fucking gone.

"Oh My! I might actually make it to cycle class tonight.  Seeing you twice in one week might be too much for me to handle."  Jenn wrote this on my Facebook wall On This Day five years ago.  Thanks, Facebook, for making me cry almost daily for 7 weeks.

On This Day I miss my friend terribly.  On This Day I feel a different kind of loss than I've ever felt before - the loss of a family member of my choosing.  On This Day I am also profoundly grateful to have had a friendship that leaves me devastated in its absence.  What a blessing to care so much that a hole is left when she is gone.  Because I've had plenty of relationships that were less than and I spent far too much time and energy trying to keep them and make them care for me, sometimes at the expense of the ones that really mattered.  I have learned such a profound lesson in this pain that she has taught me.

I may not have spent the last seventeen months mastering all of this body confidence stuff but I have spent the last seven weeks thinking about what matters.  What matters to me is that I live a life that leaves others devastated when I leave this Earth.  And I hope that I can leave this Earth knowing my own worth.  I'm heartbroken at the prospect that Jenn may not have fully understood her own worth or what she meant to people.  Those that she left behind know.  We know.

A week before Jenn passed away she emailed me a song that she thought could help another friend of mine.  I actually didn't get around to listening to it until the day we lost her.  She gave me exactly what I needed to hear that day.

 She was right.  I can handle this pain for awhile.  But I will miss her forever.

I'm not sure what will become of this blog.  I have no idea how much I'll still write.  I'm not feeling the need to be brave in order to earn my own self love.  I'm just trying to live and make the most of the time I have because it all seems so finite now.  I guess I'll just write when I feel something and when I have time.  If you are still here with me I thank you.  Deeply.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lady Sings the Blues (and smells like BBQ)

They say that 45% of people usually make New Year's Resolutions.  And by "they" I guess I mean the University of Scranton's Journal of Psychology, from which I got my statistics, but at least I didn't make them up this time.  Of those, only 8% have success.  49% have infrequent success and 24% never succeed and fail at their resolution every single year.  (I believe the remaining 19% were too hungover New Year's Day to remember what they resolved to do.  Or maybe they were distracted by cat videos on YouTube.)

Six months ago I made some resolutions.  They were not about weight loss, though that's not necessarily a bad goal if properly motivated.  I just don't believe in starting off my year bathing in a pool of self-loathing like most who resolve to lose weight on that day.  Instead I wanted to approach the topic of body confidence and body love from a resolution angle.  What goal can I set that I have avoided my whole life because of how I felt about my appearance?

Well, you all know I don't like having my picture taken.  Never have - that's no secret.  So one of my goals was to commit to 30 Days of Selfies in order to take back the power of the camera and learn to be more present rather than afraid.  I did it.  I took a photo of myself every day.  I only gave myself one or two shots at the most and I just went with it.  Sometimes I was at the gym.  Sometimes I was on my couch.  Sometimes I forgot until the end of the night and took one on my pillow. Sometimes I had cried all day. Sometimes I even wore a bra and make-up. (Moments saved for special occasions.)  By the end of the 30 days I was entirely sick of photos of myself but they no longer elicited any emotional reaction beyond, "Oh.  There I am again.  That's me."  I felt I had some success.

Speaking of which.

My other resolution had to do with vocal lessons.  I love to sing.  LOVE it.  I have no delusions about fame and fortune with my mediocre talent but it brings me such joy and all the same feel-good endorphins that a workout also gives me. I've always wanted to take vocal lessons but I knew they would almost always end with some kind of performance.  And THAT is what I just couldn't do.  Not only because I wasn't that great but because I was fat.  Not thin enough, not pretty enough, not talented enough, not confident enough, not perfect enough.  Not enough.  So I haven't had a lesson since the last one I took with my junior high choir director.

I have declared this last year since my 39th birthday my Year of Bravery.  I've made concerted efforts to do the things that scared me the most.  I wore a two piece swimsuit in public last Summer.  I had photos taken in my drawers.  There were numerous other personal braveries that I tackled.  But there was still another thing I was afraid of that was within my grasp as the age of 40 rushed at me at breakneck speeds.

After my month of selfies I contacted a vocal coach, Connie Olson, at the recommendation of a friend.  Within a week I had my first meeting with her and she asked me to be a part of the Showcase she has for her students at that very meeting.  I thought she was out of her mind.  I was terrified to sing in front of just her, let alone an audience.  But Connie was adamant and she's hard to refuse.

I took vocal coaching lessons with Connie from mid-February until June and in that time I could tell my confidence was growing.  My singing was stronger, my embarrassment was miniscule and my joy was abundant.  And never when I was with her did I think about not being pretty enough or thin enough to sing.

Until I thought about that performance, that is.  The thought of it still made me nauseated but I was committed.  June came fast.  Too fast. As the date of our performance at Famous Dave's BBQ & Blue's Club approached I started getting more and more nervous but I couldn't back out.  I told too many people.  Jesus, I shared it on Facebook, the most concrete and eternal of all promises.  I had to do it now.

I was nervous about the singing for sure but I was more nervous about how I would look.  I'm just not meant for the stage and I'm fine with that.  Too fine.  God, what in the hell am I going to wear? I found a dress that was curvy and feminine and sexy, I thought, without being too revealing since my kids would be there.  I took a few selfies (yay, me!) and sent them to some friends to get the nod of approval.  I got it.  I know I've gained weight but this dress made me feel good.  See?  Not so bad, right?  *cough*  We'll get back to that in a bit.

Connie asked me to sing three songs instead of the typical one for newbies and I had chosen three songs that I knew like the back of my hand.  Bluesy, jazzy, old school.  Perfect.

About two weeks before the show I found out we lost our sax player to another gig.  I could NOT not have a sax player with my songs.  Panic! Since I happen to know one of the best around I contacted Walter Chancellor Jr. and he was willing to help, thank God.  What an honor to share my first time on a stage with so much talent.

To say I freaked out over the final week or two would be an understatement.  I worried.  I panicked.  I literally made myself ill.  I'm not lying when I tell you my anxiety was through the roof.  Just ask my husband who had to give me daily pep talks or my friends who helped me after my post-rehearsal melt-down.  I was scared shitless.  Shit. Less.

I did come very close to vomiting the morning of the show.  Which would have been a damn shame because it was a Sunday.  And anyone who knows me knows that my family always has bacon on Sundays.  Always.  It's our church.  To vomit up bacon would be a mortal sin in my book. I held it together, though.  Fortunately by the time I started showering and getting ready I started to feel better.  I did my hair, put on my makeup, some heels and that dress.  That damn dress.  Anyway, I felt beautiful, which is a victory in and of itself, and I was as ready as I was going to get.

Throughout the afternoon, over several hours, I got Stuart Smalley type texts from a friend of mine who follows my blog and apparently uses my own advice against me.  I can't tell you how much they meant to me that day.  I was laughing by the last one and that's exactly what I needed. I saved them all.  Here they are:

"You know you look fantastic, right?"
"You also know how much fun you are, right?"
"You also know how smart you are, right?"
"You also know you have fabulous hair, right?"
"You need to take a selfie right now.  Duck lips and all." (I did and sent her one after another prompting)
"I also know you're wearing amazing shoes"
"I like your knees and your toes, too.  They're pretty awesome."

She sent all these texts without telling me she was coming.  When she walked in I was shocked and so very grateful.  My family was also there - my husband, kids, mom, aunt, cousin and baby 2nd-cousin who loved her first trip to a bar.  Fitting it was with me.

 In addition, some of the women I love most in the world were there.  The ones that put up with all my crap.  The ones that listened to me cry when I left the job that I loved.  The ones that support me daily and unconditionally.  I couldn't have asked for more.

I was surrounded by love and friendship and cheers and hugs.  I could do this, right?  RIGHT?

My first song was pretty awful.  I'm not gonna lie.  The tempo was off with the band so I was off and I never actually got it under control.  Was it worthy of American Idol when they make fun of the worst singers around?  No.  But it wasn't my best.  The second song I started to rally.  Much better.  The third song, Queen Latifah's cover of "Baby, Get Lost" from her standards album, The Dana Owens Album, was when I really felt like I did my thing for someone who has never been on a stage in her life.  Having a spectacular sax musician right next to me sho' nuff didn't hurt, either, but that's the video I'm going to share with you shortly.

When I got down from that stage, amid the hooting and hollering of not only my people but others in the crowd, I was all fired up.  Fired up with adrenaline and relief but most of all pride.  God damn it, I did it.  I really did it.  The adrenaline high was so strong I couldn't even eat much of my BBQ ribs after.  Now you know that's some serious excitement.  I was flying high the rest of the night and into the next morning.

When I got in the car to drive home I snapped another selfie of myself (because that's kind of how I roll now).  This is what pride looks like.  And feeling achieved.  And blessed.  And relieved.  And grateful, for myself and everyone else who supported me.  This is what knocking another item off the bucket list looks like.  This is 6 months almost to the day Resolution Success.

This is also "My shoes are starting to hurt my feet"

Now I knew my family took some video on a tiny pocket camcorder and I had enough sense to wait a couple of days to watch it.  I wanted to keep feeling all those feels.  I wanted to not think about how I looked or how I sounded and I wanted to be happy that I. Just. Did. It.  But I knew I was going to have to look eventually because I wanted to share it with you all.  So I looked.

If I had to guess just how negatively those videos would impact me I would never have come close to the full amount of self-loathing I was capable of.  They were bad.  So, so bad.  Not the singing - the singing was just as I described.  But how I looked.  I was devastated.

Now, it's no secret that I have gained weight.  A considerable amount in fact.  You only have to run in to me at Target in my stretchy pants and hoodie to discover that.  But what I saw in that video compared to what I saw in the photos I took of my dress and the selfie I took in the car were light years apart.  Light years.   Maybe it was the poor quality camcorder.  Maybe it was unflattering stage lighting showing every bump and roll. Maybe I was just swelled up like a tick.  Maybe the old myth about the camera adding 10 lbs was true and I had exactly 72.5 cameras on me. 

All I know is that it broke my spirit.  For a couple of days.  I was shocked and embarrassed and mortified that I got up there.  And just in case you think I am over-reacting, my husband did agree that the video was "unflattering" which is about as close to the honest truth as I'm going to get from a smart man who knows how to word things properly for his woman on the edge.

I had a pity party for exactly two days.  Then a friend told me she hid in the back room of her house when her husband's friend, whom they hadn't seen since their wedding, stopped by for a visit.  She hid because of how she looked.

And then I decided enough is e-fucking-nough.

I am fat.  Much fatter than I used to be or that I want to be. And perhaps I don't know how to choose outfits that are flattering under stage lights.  Maybe the video was worse than it looked in person or maybe I do actually look like that and I'm delusional. Maybe this didn't heal me from worrying about how I look.  Whatever.  It doesn't take away from what I did.  And that's what made me the most angry at myself.  I allowed what I DID for myself to be diminished by how I LOOK.  When will that stop?  We let ourselves be made small in the very face of our huge accomplishments because we aren't perfect enough on the outside.  It's got to stop and stop right now. 

My biggest fear was getting up on a stage to do the thing I loved and looking bad or sounding bad.  And the very things I was afraid of happened to some extent.  And no one died.  And no one kicked me off stage.  And no one, aside from myself, even said horrible things to me.  Perhaps I won, not because I have conquered the fear but because I did it in spite of it.  I am not fearless by any means.  But I can call myself brave now.  Lessons are never learned from perfection.  They are learned when, in the face of imperfection, you still act.

So what was my lesson?  I'm glad you asked.  I may have forgotten for a hot minute what I set out to do by performing on a stage.  I got caught up in ego.  I may be a slow ass learner but I'm getting there.  The lesson is this:  What I do for myself and for others and how those things make me feel are the only things that matter in this life.  How I looked while I did them?  That's nothing.  It's not often I get to feel proud of myself and successful and beautiful all at the same time.  I don't ever want to take that gift away from myself again.

I'm reminded of an article that I read recently on HuffPo by Glennon Melton and shared on my Facebook page.  I recommend the read but one thing that struck me was the line, "If you do not feel beautiful then FILL UP, Precious Sister."  Fill up on all the lovely experiences because that's where a beautiful life comes from.  And when I got down from singing I felt pride in what I had achieved in facing my fear.  I felt all the love of those supporting me.  I felt radiant.  To hell with the dress.

I got up on that stage, not because I'm thin enough, pretty enough, talented enough, confident enough, or perfect enough.  But because, god damn it, I FUCKING CAN.

I'm sharing a video with you of that last song.  In the spirit of full disclosure I will tell you that it's not the full body shot that I saw and disliked but it still doesn't exactly match what I see in the mirror.  However, I promised to be vulnerable and open and that means you get to delight in my amateur singing abilities as well as my sailor mouth and pantsless jokes.  Enjoy.

Hey, Forty?  Come at me, bro.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Asshattery and the Anti-Anti-fragile

Dear Asshat at the Gym,

You don't know me. You don't know I once lost 130 lbs. You don't know I was a trainer, spin instructor and kickboxing instructor. You don't know I just came off a couple of weeks of major self-loathing and I'm fighting to stay above water. You don't know that this is a lifelong battle of mine. You also didn't know I was feeling pretty damn good yesterday. I took a pic of myself in only one shot and I didn't hate it. I had a singing lesson that made me not quite as certain I'll be making a fool of myself in 11 days time. I had some wonderful compliments from friends - one in particular who said she still saw my strength. I got my workout in and felt strong and saw that I still had muscle definition in places, though more hidden than before.

You didn't know any of this. You could have paid attention to my form and knowledge and seen that I was not a newbie. You could have also seen I had my headphones in which is the tell-tale sign of "Don't even think about talking to me". But you didn't. Instead you walked up to a "fat girl" at the end of one of her sets and said, "Hey, would you like some inspiration? 6 months ago I weighed 267 lbs. Look at me now. I know you can do this. Keep going."

I let you have your moment. I let you have it because I know logically it was not about me but about your excitement over your accomplishments. And I know you meant well. And that first big weight loss is a drug you want to share with everyone. So I let you have it. And I high-fived you, even.

What I won't let you have is the "good day" I had yesterday. You can't take it away by reminding me that to everyone else I probably look like a fat girl who is just starting. Yesterday was mine.

But I swear to god, you douchebag, if you ever approach me again you will receive a lecture on how you don't know where any one is at in their own fucking journey. And how if you want to say something to someone at the gym it should be, "Hey, nice set" or "You're form is great". Or, here's an idea. MIND YOU OWN GOD DAMN BUSINESS!!


(The girl who will roundhouse a mother fucker the next time he interrupts her workout.)

I wrote this out to vent.  Actually the first draft had many more expletives than even I am comfortable with posting here, but the intent is the same.  Because this really hurt.  More than it should have.  And I realized it was my pride that was hurt.  And it was shame that I felt in his "inspiration".

Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever approached anyone like this at the height of my weight loss. Did I share it with people if it came up in conversation?  Yes.  Did I tell clients who were struggling and feeling like it could never be done? Yes.  But only after it was already a point of conversation.

The fact is I probably do look like someone who just recently started going to the gym.  And, while I can spot someone who really knows how to lift a mile away, not every one can.  So he didn't know who he was talking to and I can't blame him for that.  Though I may still blame him for his passive-aggressive compliment fishing.  That's my right.

I'm a big proponent of the "Mind Your Own Fucking Business" protocol.  I'm pretty sure that if more people would adhere to this it would solve all the major problems in the word - Politics, Religion, Human Rights.  Just Mind Your Own Business.  Please.

But when it comes to our bodies and what we do with them, I guess that's still everyone's business.   We're all sitting ducks for someone else to tell us how we should move, what we should eat or how we should be forcibly inspired.

No thank you.  Just no.  I get to decide how I'm inspired.  No one else.  That is also my right.  You know what inspires me?  People who stand up for what they believe in.  People who take risks in the name of personal growth even though they are scared shitless to do so.  People who know what their passion is and do what they can to chase it.  People who make a difference to someone else.

I don't give a shit what you've done for your body in the name of weight loss alone.  I never have - not even as a trainer.  What I hoped to give to clients then was a sense of control, of strength and empowerment.  I couldn't change their bodies in just one or two sessions a week.  That's impossible - a good trainer knows the real work takes places outside of those sessions. What I hoped to do was help to change what they believed about themselves in that time.  To show them they could do anything because they were already strong enough. I don't know if I ever accomplished that goal but it was what I set out to do.

Another friend mentioned that maybe this experience was my chance to work on being anti-fragile.  I know this is a popular phrase right now but it's not one that I really embrace.  I guess it really depends on what your definition of being fragile is.  Fragility that allows you to be broken and defeated? I don't want any part of that.

There is a huge part of me that is still fragile.  Fragile enough that some unknowingly insensitive jerk could hurt me at the gym yesterday.  But that fragility inside me is the place where I learn the most about myself.  It's where I feel and think it out.  It's where I continue to develop compassion and strive to never make another person ever feel that way because of my actions or words.  And when I am hurt that little bit of fragility eventually heals over to create a new strength I didn't know I had.

Thank you, Mr. Asshat at the Gym.  Today I am stronger.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tripping Balls

I'm still alive.

Back in January I promised to start writing about sustainable lifestyle changes for health. I had it all worked out in my head - I was going to talk about nutrition first, since so many were focused on that at the start of the New Year.  Then sustainable activity.  And so on.

Then I was slapped in the face with the reality that keeping up with being a mother, wife, business owner, CEO of my own house all while trying to focus on my own health and fitness while maintaining a blog was, well, unsustainable.  Real life sometimes gets in the way.

I have, of course, thought about many other things I wanted to write about since then but how could I go back and write about them when I promised you something else.  So many funny or emotional topics that I've probably forgotten because I was so focused on doing what I said.  But life is not always so linear.  And frankly, shit happens.

When I can't do what I promised I would do or what I expected I would do I start to have a little anxiety.  I feel pressured to fulfill my duties and I start to have guilt over my lack of perfection.  Jesus, this again?

I was re-watching an interview from Brené Brown (Yes, I am obsessed with her) and this quote of hers hit home. "Perfectionism is not about striving for excellence or healthy striving, which I'm for. It's a cognitive behavioral process, a way of thinking and feeling that says this: If I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect and live perfect I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment."

I've lived my whole life this way and part of the reason for my blog was to work through all the feelings of inadequacy that lead to my shame and guilt and worthiness issues.  So how ridiculous that I can't write when I feel moved to write because it doesn't fit into the perfect plan I had in mind.  Craziness.

I probably will write about sustainability as it's still my go-to motto for life.  But it may not be the next blog.  I may write about a workout or marriage or my socks.  I don't know.  We'll just have to see how I'm feeling and what I need to share.  Perfect is not going to work when it comes to this blog.  Or me.

So for now I am going to share with you something else I wrote back in November for a friend, though she didn't end up using it on her own blog.  I didn't know what I would do with it as it didn't perfectly fit in with my topic of body confidence.  But you know what?  This is my life on a day to day basis.  And every part of my life factors in to my own being.  All of it.  Even the balls.


This morning my day started with one son sneaking up on the other, butt first, to fart on him while he was pouring his cereal.  What followed was this conversation:

Oldest: Dude!  Why did you just fart on me??!!
Youngest:  Sorry.  It was an accident.
Oldest:  No it wasn't.
Youngest: Yes it was.
Oldest: No it wasn't.
Youngest: Yes it was.
Oldest: Dude. You don't back your butt up to someone and fart on them.
Youngest:  It's just natural.  Farts come out sometimes.  I can't help it.
Oldest:  What - do you have some kind of heat seeking butt that targets people?
Youngest:  Mmmmmaybe.

And so on.

Mind you it was not even 7am yet and I had only had coffee in my hands for about 5 minutes.

This is my life.  Every day. I'm the sole female in a house with 3 other males.  My husband and 2 sons. It is not for the faint of heart.

I knew life would be changed forever the moment I saw that little turtle on the ultrasound but I never imagined how much.  The first time I changed his poopy diaper I was distraught on how to proceed.  After all, men tell us all the time how even a graze to the old testicles can drop them to their knees, right?  So what in the hell am I supposed to do with these wrinkly crap-covered bits?  I delicately tried to wipe everything away when my husband grabbed a new wipe, violently scrubbed and said, "No.  Like this.  You gotta get up in there."

I've been up in there ever since.  Metaphorically speaking.  My entire life is so directed and influenced by these 6 balls that sometimes I truly believe I have grown a pair myself.  Not metaphorically speaking.

Back when I was in high school I used to say that I got along better with guys.  Most of my friends were guys.  Even after college and I got my first real job in a male-dominated field I was content.  Hanging with guys is so much better, I said.  Hardly any drama, I said.  I could do this forever, I said.

And then - Karma.

Hanging out with your guy friends is totally different than living with these people.  Trust.

First, the preoccupation with their genitalia astounds me.  I could not even begin to count the number of times I've had to say, "It's not a handle" in the last 13 years.  Why?  Why are we holding on to it like it's about to run off?  And I'm talking about toddlers here.  I get why they do it later but it's still not a handle.  Let it go.

I remember one morning I was quietly drinking my coffee and spending a little quality time with Matt Lauer while my preschooler sat on the couch next to me.  Out of the blue he struck up a conversation that I'll never forget.

Youngest:  Mom, how come my penis keeps growing?
Me: It's growing?
Youngest:  Yes.  I think it's 12" long by now.
Me:  It's not 12" long.
Youngest:  I think it is, mom.
Me:  No, it's not.  I promise you.  It is not 12"
Youngest: How long is 12"?
Me: It's a foot long.
Youngest: Like a footlong hotdog?
Me: Um. Yes... It's not 12"
Youngest:  It's got to be 5 or 6" by now at least.
Me: No it's not.
Youngest: 3?
Me: You really don't need to worry about how long it is right now.
Youngest: Ok.
Youngest: Can I have waffles for breakfast?

So there you have it.  This is where the delusions of grandeur and the preoccupation with size starts.  At 4.

I endure daily wrestling matches where one of them inevitably receives a blow to the groin.  Sometimes it's even done on purpose.  These children of mine, bless their little hearts, thought they invented a game called "Ball Slap".  They were crushed to find that it was already a game invented by the Romans (or so I told them) called Sack Tap.  (Saccius Tappius.  Google that shit.)

Curiously enough - when one receives a hard enough blow to the balls they get nauseated and completely lose their appetite.  Who knew?  At least now I know why I've never made it to my fucking goal weight.

Unfortunately, after the nausea and subsequent ice packs I had to witness a conversation between all three of my men regarding all the different names for their parts they could come up with.  These are just a few that I can remember:

eggs & sausage
family jewels
twigs & berries
peas & carrots
seeds & stalks
old one eye

Of course these are not new to me, but...How??  How did this become a thing?  Is it a bonding moment for card carrying testes holders?  For the life of me, I'll never understand it.

"Hold still.  I promise I can make the jump.  No, I won't land on your balls."

"Dude - don't even try to say I'm not in puberty.  I've got hair all over my balls."

"Mom, can you come look at this.  There's something wrong with my balls."

The word balls is so much a part of the vernacular in this house that I have very nearly forgotten the name for my own junk.  I live and breathe testicles.  All. Damn. Day.

I have pretty much covered just about every ball related topic that can be covered with these people.  But there is one that I'm leaving up to my old man.

I had to, sans alcohol mind you, begin my conversation about sex education with my oldest son with the sentences, "No, sex is not all about anal fisting.  And here's why."  Some middle school punk decided to inform an entire captive audience on the school bus that sex was anal fisting.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd hear my son say those words to me.  Christ, I think I was in my 30's before I knew what that was: 

Me:  So, I was two fisting my drinks last night.
Much younger friend: Yeah, you may not want to say it that way.
Me: Why?
Much younger friend: Have you heard of this new website called Urbandictionary?  Try it.

I covered anal fisting. You're covering masturbation, dad.  Peace out, mother fucker. I'm done.

I love my children.  They are my world.  And I've learned so much about boys in the last 13 years.  I've tended more wounds than I could even count.  I've broken up more fights and played with more trains that I grown woman should have to. (Seriously - trains?  What the fuck is that?  They go around once and I'm bored.)  Blood, guts, boogers, farts, spit, dirt.  This is what's included in the deluxe ball package when you purchase it.  Buyer beware.

Oh!  Package!  That's one, too.

We're in full on puberty now.  Aggression. Growth spurts. Testing of boundaries. Talking back. And the fighting.  God, the fighting. I feel like I live in a home where everyone is involved in a pissing match to prove their manliness, myself included.  I'm gonna win this one if it kills me.  And I'll be damned if I don't raise some good men.

This afternoon one of my boys didn't come home from school.  He wasn't on the bus.  Since he's walked home before without telling me I waited him out for quite awhile.  Still no kid.  I started driving around looking for him.  I searched every possible way home from the school.  The longer I couldn't find him the more panicked I got.  What if something happened to him?  What if someone took him?  My baby!

He finally called home and I got the message to pick him up.  Seems the bus was late getting back from the field trip he was on and then every single 7th grader that didn't have a phone was waiting in line to use the school phone so it took him forever for his turn. (Or so he says.  This could have been an ingenious master plan to finally convince me to buy him his first cell phone.)

I cried.  I'm not going to lie.  For almost a half hour I was terrified something had happened to my little man.  The one that thinks he's so grown up.  The one with hair on his balls.

These boys are still my babies.  They are the center of my universe.  It's almost as if I revolve around them, like they were some kind of giant circular orb type thing.  Something spherical.  And tender.  My family jewel.

I live with 6 balls.  It's my life now.  And I've learned so much about the male species from them.  Guys really are the best.  Except when they're not.  And then I have what's called *cue angels singing* Girls Night.  Where not once do we fart on another human being or talk about what we call our girl parts.

Our Kitty.  Our Vajajay.  Our Cooch.  Our Chocha.  Lady Garden.  Bean.  Beav.  Poonani.  Beefcurtain.  Muff.  Cookie.  Snatch.  Hot Pocket.  Princess Ladybits.

Yep.  Our names are better.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Blue Monday

I meant to get a blog done (finally) and have it ready for you before New Years Day.  Then I meant to have it done a few days later.  And then a day after that.  But well, you know, life.  It just happens.  I've had so many topics I have wanted to write bouncing around in my head that I fear they may now be all jumbled together and vomited from my brain in one big pile of wordy crap.  You're welcome in advance.

I'm actually glad I haven't had time to write until just this moment.  This morning as a sipped my coffee, used my five pointless Candy Crush lives and watched the Today show I learned that it was the most depressing day of the year.  Wow.  Why wasn't I told? Blue Monday they call it.  It's supposed to be the third Monday of January but some asshole somewhere must have got the wrong memo and bumped it up a couple of weeks.  I wasn't even prepared.

Well, that's not true.  Where I live our entire state was enduring a freak out of epic proportions I like to call Coldpocalypse 2014.  With windchills at -40 degrees and colder all the schools were shut down by the governor.  You know this was supposed to be the first day back after a two week winter break, right?  I'm done with togetherness and, frankly, so are my boys.  By 10:00am I was threatening these two adolescents with the punishment of organizing my underwear drawer if they didn't get their shit together and stop beating on each other or screaming.  Today was an Ice Blue Monday.

Why the depression in January?  I think there are a lot of reasons for it.  Long, cold days.  Seasonal depression. The relative slowness and inactivity after the craziness of the holidays.  The lack of something to look forward to.  But I think there is more to it than that.

Let's go back to Christmas Day.  I spent the entire day with my family relaxing, opening presents and enjoying our time together (until it was time for me to make dinner and then it was panic time since every year I forget I do not own double ovens).  It was a wonderful day. And much like last year I woke up the next morning in a bit of a funk.  I was feeling like a sorely needed fruits and vegetables and I was exhausted from the last minute play calls I had to make to even pull off the holiday at all.  But thanks to the daily body gratitude challenge I was participating in on my blog's Facebook page I was able to combat those feelings that I normally have about my body, post-holiday, pretty easily.  Unfortunately, my Facebook friends didn't fare so well. 

On Christmas I saw post after post of well wishes, glad tidings, happiness, family togetherness, great food and celebrations and just overall - JOY.  That all changed the very next day.

Every post I saw was along these lines:

"I need to get back on track."

"God, I'm so fat today."

"I can't believe I ate so much."

"The diet starts now."

"Nothing fits today."

"I feel disgusting."

It made me so sad.  The shift from joy to self-loathing was almost tangible.  I've been working so hard on keeping those kinds of thoughts at bay for myself and there they all were in the form of statuses from all my beautiful friends.

And this is the frame of mind that people are in when they make New Year Resolutions?  This is the feeling they are to be inspired to make change from?  I've already tried to explain why real lasting change will NEVER come from a place of non-acceptance.  I promise you - it won't work.  This is why I started the Body Gratitude Challenge in the first place.  It's normal to want a fresh start each year and to have new goals but I truly believe there is merit to entering the new year with love, gratitude and acceptance as your backbone before you initiate change.

Blue Monday 2014 happens to be the first Monday after New Year's Day.  This is the day that many start their resolutions, often fueled by this aforementioned self-loathing.  They're creating lists of all their "can't haves" and "must dos". Or worse, they are already a few days into their resolution and have already decided they have failed.  Depressing, indeed.

I wish only one thing for you in the new year.  If you must make changes in your lifestyle do so not to make yourself less but because you deserve so much more.  You deserve to be healthy.  You deserve to feel strong.  You deserve to make time for yourself.  You deserve to love yourself.

I made a couple of resolutions that have nothing to do with my weight or fitness level and everything to do with how I feel about my body.  While I have a lot of things I want to do and experience and achieve I wanted to name a couple of very quantifiable things that I could work on.  First, I'm going to continue on my path of taking back the power from the camera.  I feel very comfortable at this point with having my picture taken by a professional but it's the "selfies" and candid photos that scare me and have made me absent from my family's memories.  So, I have vowed to take more photos of myself and even post them "out there" in the interwebs.  In fact, I've committed to taking 30 days of selfies and even posting some of them in an effort to make the camera old hat.  I have some Facebook friends who have agreed to join me in this experiment and together I am hoping we can take some of the emotion out of photo avoidance and perfectionism so we can be more present.

I think selfies, as irritating and ridiculous as they can be, resonate with people. I decided to throw caution to the wind and start fulfilling my goal by posting a pic of me, post-workout, no make-up and tons of swass, right on my Facebook page in a post about sustainability.  Imagine my shock when it became the most viewed thing I've ever put on my page. By A LOT.  People want to see real pictures.  They want to see things they can relate to.  After I recovered from my vulnerability overdose I felt a change.  A shift in where I want to go with this blog.  I've struggled recently with my intentions and direction but I've got it now.  All because I posted a picture of myself in my sweaty clothes.

Did you know that the Word of the Year in 2013 was "selfie"?  It's true.  Because, regardless of what you say, you know you love them.  (Or you are lacking in photo buddies to hold the camera.)  Every one needs to selfie once in awhile.


A friend of mine suggested that rather than coming up with a New Year's Resolution she was going to pick a word or theme for the year.  I have my theme already.


It's not fancy.  It's not bedazzled.  It's not full of "lose 10 pounds in 5 days" or "blast that belly" promises.  Sustainability is real.  It's relatable.  It's bare faced and full of swass.  Sustainability is where it's at.  It's the word for 2014.  I promise.

I know we are already knee deep in resolutions and I wish I could write everything I'm thinking tonight but I can't so I'm going to divide it up.  I'm going to address the topic of sustainable change in relation to self-worth and body confidence over the next few blogs so you can see what I'm working on and what I'm hoping to achieve.  If it helps you, wonderful!  If not, maybe you'll get some duck lips out of the deal.

For now, I want to wish you a very Happy New Year and I'd like to post an oldie but a goodie.  Whatever changes you want to make in 2014 or whatever goals you hope to achieve, make sure they are in line with this Body Pledge I hope you'll take with me.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Parts is Parts

The long Thanksgiving weekend is over.  You're tired.  You're a little cranky about going back to work.  You may be a little grateful to have family all gone home.  And your pants are a little tight.  Oh, hell.  Who are you kidding?  You've nearly given birth to a food baby.

But your heart is full.

Most people spend a little time on Thanksgiving thinking about what they are grateful for.  After all, that is the essence of the holiday.  A lot of people these days go above and beyond that and spend the entire month of November being grateful with a new entry for thankfulness every day.  I think it's a fantastic trend that really has no down side.  But what happens after Thanksgiving?

Before the turkey carcass is even cold we are bombarded with messages that we don't have enough.  That we aren't giving enough.  That we can't rest until we take advantage of the biggest sale prices of the year.  These messages will continue right up until Christmas day, driving that frantic holiday timeline ticking down like a doomsday clock.  How many times have you already heard that our holiday shopping season is shortened more than usual this year?

I'm not a total scrooge.  I want to have a nice Christmas, too.  I love seeing the looks on my children's faces when they open their gifts.  I'll just do my shopping from the comfort of my own home and avoid the crazy out there.  And pants.  I'll avoid pants as well.  Which is just as well.  See: Food Baby.

The entire holiday season is supposed to be filled with joy and good-will but nine times out of ten I see my friends exhausted with the pace of it all, stress levels at an all time high.  We are told to be grateful for what we have for an entire month while we scour the ads for the best price per pound on turkey.  Then we are told we aren't enough for another 4 weeks.  Black Friday?  That sounds festive. Sale Sale Sale.  Buy Buy Buy. Shop Shop Shop.  By the time it's over we are tired, cranky (again) and most likely broke.  We are ripe for being picked off one by one in the next media battle.

Here the best (read: worst) part of the season starts.  Now we are told we are too much.  Can you believe the nerve of all our excess? After being instructed to consume in every way possible we are told we have gone too far and we have to change.  After all - 2014 is your year, right?  Time to get skinny.  Time to be better.

December 26th you will see the entire diet and industry machine roll out and begin to bombard you with reminders of all your inadequacies.  We see headless people everywhere with zoomed in bloated, muffin tops and plumber's cracks at every turn.  You have to change.  You should be ashamed.  Don't let another year go by.  Join now.  Save now.  Buy now.  Starve now.  And maybe, just maybe, you'll be good enough again.  Maybe. (But not really - that's not profitable for the machine.) Until it starts all over.

Goals are not the problem, not if they are reasonable and responsible.  There's nothing wrong with wanting to better yourself.  There is absolutely no down side to wanting to become healthier and stronger and happier.  But if you think for one second that this industry as a whole cares about you more than the power of the almighty dollar, you are fooling yourself.  There really isn't a lot of money to be made when it comes to body acceptance.  At least not until we demand something different.

Last year at this time I decided to publicly challenge myself with a month of body gratitude.  How would entering the season of New Year's Resolutions feel if I had already spent time being grateful and accepting of all of me, even the parts that were harder for me to love?  The result, which I wrote about, was not that it made me skinnier in 2013.  Sorry to disappoint you. But I've been skinnier and I can tell you without a single doubt in my mind that it didn't make me happier or love myself more.  No, what I got out of this challenge last year was appreciation for this gift of a body I have.  I completely changed my internal dialogue by focusing on the beauty I could see rather than the flaws.  Changing the way I think, removing that desperate feeling of "Oh my God, I have to lose weight NOW" and just appreciating where I was right that moment was life changing.  At least for me.

I've had a few requests to start this Body Gratitude Challenge again and I will be doing so starting today on my Facebook page.  I double dog dare you to try and come up with a new body part to be grateful for and accepting of every single day for 30 days so that you can start your New Year with a mindset of love and thankfulness for what you have rather than the feeling of inadequacy and imperfection that is shoved down your throat by an industry that actually benefits more from your failure than your success.  From your fabulous teeth and gorgeous hair to your too long toes and your dimply thighs - I want to hear about the easy parts and the more difficult parts to love. And I'm quite certain you DO have a winning personality and a breathtakingly sharp wit *cough* but that's not what I'm talking about here.  I want body parts and I want them all.  I know you're fabulous on the inside.  I want you to believe you are fabulous on the outside, too.

The only rule I have in the entire challenge is that you have to be positive.  No back-handed compliments to yourself.  No passive aggressive bullshit.  No self-deprecating nonsense.  If you think I won't call you out on it if I see it you are mistaken, my friend.  Do you even know me? Self-deprecation was almost a second language to me and I'll spot it every time.  You can't bullshit a bullshitter.

Join me on my Facebook page on my daily post if you'd like or start your own Body Gratitude on your own wall. Just promise me you'll go into 2014 with love for what you already have so that you can make loving, responsible choices for your health and your body rather than being motivated by shame and imperfection.  Shame doesn't motivate anyone.  But love does.  And so does acceptance.

You are so much more than all your parts, it's true.  And this may seem like a self-centered challenge to some.  But I promise you that only good can come from being grateful for the body you are in right now.  When you celebrate each and every part, even the ones you deem your "trouble spots", you lift up your entire being to a whole other level.  You are wonderfully made.  Join me in celebrating that.

"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." - Aristotle

But you have some pretty fucking good parts.  I promise.