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Filtering by Tag: body confidence

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Our scale is broken. I stepped on it Thursday morning and got blank results. I weigh nothing. I haven’t stepped on a scale in some time, but thought it would be a good idea to not be surprised by the scale at the doctor’s office when I go in for my yearly next week. So when the scale reads way more than nothing at the doctor’s office, I will act outraged and insist that their scale needs recalibrating. I like this current feeling of weighing nothing. Truth be told, I’ve been feeling pretty okay in this body. I eat healthy. I exercise daily. I spend about an hour every day on my yoga mat. I drink lots of water. And I’ve been listening to a whole lot of Lizzo.

I am completely and totally inspired by this woman and she is just one on my list of woman to look up too. ‘Look up too’ seems like an odd way to phrase it considering that most of these women on my list are a number of years younger than I am. They all have a similar message of self love and beauty at all sizes. I listen to their message and wonder what kind of woman I’d be today if these women had been there when I was a teen. I grew up looking at the impossible standards for girls on the cover of Seventeen and the chunky girl was always the sidekick for the main actress in the sitcoms. Health did not matter. Feeling fit and healthy was not up for discussion. There was an expectation of perfection without completely relying on a food disorder to achieve that perfection. Really, it was best if you were just born that way. If you could not be born thin and perfect then you would be placed in a lesser human category. Now we’re starting to see all shapes, sizes and colors for our clothing ads and magazine covers and leading ladies. There are discussions on exercise and eating whole and real foods. Diets are a thing of the past. Now we have lifestyle changes with an emphasis on healthy. And all I can do is sit back and think about how fucking empowering it’s got to be for a young girl to see and hear these messages.

But it is not too late for me to embrace this message, to feel empowered by these images and words of self love. I am learning the lesson of standing in front of the mirror and telling that person I see that she is beautiful. She is sexy. She is strong. She makes her own standards and blows them completely away. She is no sidekick. She’s the leading lady, the boss, the leader, the head hancho. I’m still getting used to the idea of telling that person in the mirror that we are the same. She is me.

But I’m getting there.

BODY CONFIDENCE AND YOGA

Cindy Maddera

I skimmed through an article the other day about how yoga fosters body confidence. I say 'skimmed' because the article wasn't giving me any new information. Nothing profound jumped off the page. Yoga teaches you to let go of perfection and to focus on your inner self. Ideally...this is what yoga teaches, but letting go of the idea of perfection in yoga is not so easy to see visually. Not until recently, like in maybe in the last two years, has yoga magazines like Yoga Journal graced their covers with models who are not super thin and wirey with muscles. Iyengar and Brikram yoga practices put an emphasis on alignment and perfection in poses and I have heard stories of serious Ashtanga teachers sending students away until they have mastered a pose in the ashtanga sequence. 

It is not just the yoga media and some forms of practices that seem counter intuitive to promoting body confidence though. There have been many times when I have walked into a yoga studio, looked around me and thought "I do not belong here." I have looked at the other students, I have met the teacher and I have immediately started listing all the ways I am not enough for this class. I am not fit enough, strong enough, young enough, skinny enough, enlightened enough. All of those not enoughs dissipate once I am moving on my mat, but to someone new to yoga, that whole experience can be very intimidating. Though Yoga Journal has gotten a lot better at showing a more diverse group of yogis throughout their pages, many yoga studios feel a little less diverse. It can be difficult to cultivate body confidence in that sort of environment. 

There have been many psychological studies on the effects yoga has women's body confidence. A study released in the September 2016 issue of Body Image handed out questionnaires to a hundred and something yoga practitioners and a hundred and something non-yoga practitioners and found that people who practice yoga scored higher on body confidence than those who do not practice yoga. They also found that the people who practice yoga scored lower on self-objectification. A study released in Psychology of Sports and Exercise in March of this year focused on the effects of mirrors on yoga students in a yoga practice and found that women in yoga classes with mirrors had greater body image anxiety. It is clear that yoga is good for us, but it is also clear that it has it's own set of complicated pros and cons.

One reason I choose to teach at the Y is because it is a way to expose people who normally would not go to a studio to yoga. My classes at the Y are a diversity of age, size, color and fitness and it is beautiful. I try every week to put an emphasis on safety over so called perfection. I purposefully set my class up in a way that they are facing away from the mirrors. I tell them to find the joy in their practice and I have started to see my students grow in their own confidence. These lessons are all well and good and something any yoga teacher worth their salt teaches. Something I feel I could do better as a teacher is pushing my students to create their own personal practice. Because this is where true self confidence blooms into the sweetest flower. Those times I practice on my own are moments when I feel the most beautiful. 

I know that cultivating a personal yoga practice hard. There are days I unroll my mat and think "I don't want to do anything." but I do something. It may be simply sitting back in child's pose and counting my breaths to ten, but it is something. There are no hard set rules of how long you should be on your mat or what you even need to be doing. That's the joy of making it your own. If you are a teacher, I encourage you to impress the importance of a yoga practice outside of a class. If you are a student, I challenge you to spend just five minutes every day this week on your mat, on your own.

Namaste. 

A TRUE STORY

Cindy Maddera

Cindy woke to the chiming sound of her alarm clock. She rolled to her side, maneuvered her arm around the dog curled up at her hip and turned the alarm clock off. Then Cindy slid that dog over so she could get out of bed. Cindy always got up out of her bed with mindfulness, first coming to a seated position and then placing both feet firmly onto the floor. Feeling her feet pressing into the rug helped to bring her out of dreamland and into the day. From here, Cindy stood and made her way to the bathroom. She stood there staring at her naked reflection in the full length mirror. Her first thought was of how they really should not have replaced those burnt out bulbs with new LED bulbs. The new bulbs made the bathroom too bright and every thing too clear. Her skin was almost translucent in this lighting and she could see her blue veins well enough to trace them. The bathroom was too bright. 

Cindy leaned forward to get a better look at the new pimple forming on her chin. Her eyes then caught sight of a red handprint impressed on the space between the tip of her sternum and her bellybutton. She cocked her head to the side with a curios expression. Cindy knew the imprint must be from sleeping on her hand, yet it was so distinct and detailed. She must of have been laying on her hand for most of the night. Cindy traced the fingers and noticed that even the lines in her palm were noticeable in the impression. She frowned at her reflection, at the hand print that seemed to accentuate her belly. Cindy could see that the stress of the last couple of months had taken it's toll. Her belly seemed bloated and flabbier then she wanted it to be. In the past few weeks, she had started a nightly ritual of placing her hands on the flabby part and willing the fat to dissipate into thin air. That's probably where the hand print came from. She had fallen asleep while waving an imaginary wand. 

Of course, Cindy never believed that willing her fat away would actually work. She just needs to step up her workouts and eat less food. She's working on both of those things, but Cindy is also very aware of the probability of weight loss versus age. She has noticed the signs signaling the changes to come. Those signs are equal parts relief and depressing. Today, as she stares at her reflection, Cindy feels older than forty one. More like eight one. In fact, she's sure she can feel the twinges of arthritis in her left knee. Cindy shakes her head in an attempt to clear out this sudden old tired feeling that has come upon her. She would not fall for it. She would not listen to the hateful girl whispering in her ear. If Cindy were the type of girl to believe, she could say that handprint was placed there by the Gods. They have placed it there as an affirmation that this belly is beautiful. They have placed that handprint there to remind her that the most famous Renaissance artists painted and sculpted women with such bellies. Cindy looked herself in the eye and thought "Too bad I'm not the type of girl to believe." 

With that last thought, she turned and stepped into the shower to start her day. 

I AM

Cindy Maddera

The Cabbage looked at her reflection and confidently declared "I am beautiful!" I marveled at her confidence. I don't think I have ever looked into a mirror and made such a declaration. More like "good enough", "that's as good as it gets", or my personal favorite, "that'll do pig. that'll do." There are four mirrors in this house: two on the wall in the bathroom, one handheld one in the shower and the little Frozen one that the Cabbage keeps in her box of dress-up clothes. That's the one she's looking into when she makes her declaration; her dress-up clothes are strung out all over the living room floor. I'm lounging on the couch, pretending not to notice while half watching some show on the Food channel. But I notice. I notice and the whole thing sits down hard on a nerve and bothers me. It bothers me for days. I keep picking at it like a scab in my brain.

It bothers me on several levels. I can't narrow it down to just one thing. I don't want the Cabbage to be attached to beauty, but at the same time I berate myself for mentally thinking that she shouldn't declare her own beauty. Of course she thinks she's beautiful. She is and everyone tells her that she is all the time, even strangers on the streets. I just can't get over the ability to declare one's self beautiful. Bold, conceded, brash. But then again, I wasn't doted on the way the Cabbage is doted on. I didn't have grandparents that were close or cared all that much. Those people who did dote, I didn't believe or trust. When I was really young and had long hair, my dad was the only one patient enough to brush it without making me scream. I would sit in his lap and he'd brush the tangles out of my hair and tell me I was beautiful. I thought it was my hair. My hair was beautiful and when I cut it all off, I lost my beauty. 

After that, I was the chunky one, the smart one, the overachiever, the busy one. Lisa Simpson. I remember walking with family friends down to the swimming beach at the lake we camped at every other weekend. I was thirteen and our friend Rena, part of the village of women who raised me, mentioned that I was slimming down. I said "thank you, but I could still stand to lose a few more pounds." She responded with a very stern "no, you most certainly don't." My mother's silence during all of this told me that she also believed I needed to lose a few more pounds. My mother's silence on anything positive about my body would be the fuel to push myself to do more, exercise more, eat less. Pretend to eat the food on my dinner plate. One small milkshake and five french fries for lunch. If I did x amount of this, I could eat y amount of that. Eventually I wouldn't care if I ate y amount without doing x amount of whatever. Eventually I wouldn't care if I was beautiful or not. Eventually I would realize that it's not my face or body that makes me beautiful. 

Yet, it would be nice to look into a mirror and be able to say confidently that I am beautiful, instead of seeing all the things I need to improve on or that giant pore on my nose. If I had to really narrow it down, if someone forced me to put my finger on it,  and describe what exactly it is that bothers me about the Cabbage's bold declaration, is that she can so easily say it about herself. She believes it when people tell her she's beautiful. Where I question everything, she just accepts it and I look at this five year old and wonder how she does it. How does she just accept and believe? Here is where I prove that I am ill equipped to raise a good and decent human being because here is where I admit to you that there is a part of me that wanted squash her belief that day. Maybe not squash it, but discourage it. This flashes briefly across my brain and I know it's not my voice saying it, but I know who's voice it is, which makes me wince slightly. I don't want to be that voice and in fact, refuse to be that voice. Instead, I let her be the teacher. I let the five year old be the mother. I stand in front of the mirror, clench my fists and just say it. I am beautiful. 

And I almost believe it. 

BICYCLE

Cindy Maddera

I was determined to not let the whole bike riding to work thing be just a passing fad and vowed that as soon as it was the weather was nice, I'd start riding Bessy to work. The nice weather showed up around here sometime last week. I rode the scooter. It's totally a lame excuse, but if I can't start my week with riding the bicycle, then I'm ruined for the rest of the week. Plus it was the first scooter ride of the season. Sunday rolled around and Michael said that it was going to be 77 degrees on Monday. I then declared that I was riding my bike! I said it with an exclamation point, but I didn't feel that exclamation point on the inside. 

The minute I agreed to ride my bicycle on Monday, I began to doubt myself. I've been walking over ten thousand steps every day, but I am not "in shape". My mind instantly pictured the three big hills that I have to tackle to get to work. Those hills took on a ridiculous incline. I tried to think of the downhill parts where I don't even peddle, but I started to remember those sections as being to short and to far between. What if I couldn't make it to work? What if I did make it to work, but it took me over an hour? Just what if I couldn't do this? Then Monday morning came along and I was still doubting the whole bike riding thing. Michael stepped outside and said "whoa! it's thick as soup out here!". I thought "here's my out!" I could always say that it's too foggy outside to ride. Except I didn't.

I dragged my bicycle out of the garage and headed out into the fog. As I turned the corner to head towards the bike route, I felt the cool air sting my cheeks and my eyes tear. Then I felt an involuntary smile creep up on my face as I coasted through the neighborhood. The stillness of the morning combined with the heavy fog gave the illusion that I was the only person on the planet. Then a car would pass or a person would emerge from the fog to stand at a bus stop and I would remember that I was not alone. I struggled up the hills that I have always struggled on. They were not better or worse than they were when I was riding to work regularly. When I got to work and parked my bike, I noticed something shimmering and sparkling in my peripheral vision. Dew drops had collected on my eyelashes. My cheeks had that rosy crisp air glow and I filled up with a little pride for myself. I suddenly wanted to brag. I rode my bicycle to work. Like this made me special even though I know that millions of people do this every day because it's the only way they can get to work. 

Well, pride goeth before the fall, because my ride home that evening was pathetic. I was so slow. It was like was I only moving just fast enough to keep me balanced upright on the bike. It took me forty five minutes to ride four and half miles home. The next morning was worse. My knees started to ache on my third turn of the pedals. My thighs were burning. My nose was dripping. I wheezed up the first hill. I seriously considered walking up the next hill. I practically whimpered with relief when I finally reached that last section of the ride where I could just coast into the parking garage. I knew my ride home would be excruciating. I thought maybe if I could get out a little early, I could just take as much time as I wanted to get home, but then a miracle happened. Just as I was walking out to the parking garage the sky opened up and dropped buckets of rain down. Michael had to pick me up on his way home from work. When he showed up, he said "What about your bike?" I replied that maybe Thursday or Friday he could just drop me off on his way to work and I'd ride my bicycle home. 

A friend of mine was saying the other day how she's been working out for three years now and she just didn't know if it was doing any good. I can relate. I walk every day. I get on my yoga mat. I hardly ever use the elevator at work and will walk up four or five flights of stairs three or more times a day. I have this idea that I am fit, but when I'm wheezing and pep-talking my way up a hill that idea becomes a very fine piece of china that I just violently threw onto the sidewalk. I have to remind myself that I haven't done this kind of activity in months. I have to remind myself that I am not in any sort of competition with any one and getting to work and back is not a race. I have to remind myself that it is OK to huff and puff. I have to remind myself that it's OK to be a little bit outside of my comfort zone. 

I'll be riding my bike home today.  

IN DEFENSE OF CLEAVAGE

Cindy Maddera

We were watching Saturday Night Live. Amy Schumer comes out to open the show and she's wearing a dress that shows off half her boobs. I may have said "that's a bold choice" out loud. Then at the end of the show Nicki Minaj comes out to join the crowd and she's wearing a dress that showed off way more than half of her boobs and Michael and I both raised our eyebrows. Then, this reaction made me a little mad at myself. When did I become so prudish and judgmental? I am not prudish. I am not judgmental. I was just raised with the idea that there are parts of a woman that should not be revealed in public. Excess cleavage was one of those parts. It's hard to shake off years of training dictating how a woman should be dressed. 

In the 1830s, people were arrested for performing the cancan. When I say people, I mean women. The dance was a bit scandalous. Underthings where revealed while lifting skirts up and high kicking. Woman were scorned for showing an ankle. Heaven forbid showing a whole leg. Since the beginning we, meaning us girls, have been taught to cover up. Those before us bound their breasts, wore multiple layers of underthings, cinched their waists with corsets and sat demurely in the corner where a woman belonged. Or where the men felt the woman belonged. This leaves me scratching my head at how this all came about. Early homo sapiens didn't fret over clothes and men and women worked together as a team to survive. Gathering enough food and fending off sabertooth tiger attacks just seemed to be a bit more important than the length of a loincloth. Somewhere along the line a man got hit in the head with a coconut or a rock and declared that God spoke to him to say that women and men were not equal. Men are by far stronger and better. Since that happened, women have been punished for being woman. Everything about our bodies is shameful. 

But then women won the right to vote. Bras were burned in the 60s and we passed reproductive rights laws. Women are CEOs of major companies. We've gained back most of that equality we had back in those early days of man. We tell our daughters, sisters nieces, stranger's girls that they can do anything a boy can do. You can play baseball. You can fight fires. Equal rights and blah blah blah. Yet we are still restricting ourselves with the clothes we choose to wear. Then Halloween rolls around and every costume for a woman on the sales rack is titled "sexy" fill in the blank. When we are at our Halloween parties and we see a woman show up wearing one of these sexy costumes, we pretend to sneeze the word "slut". I want to make it very clear that I have a serious problem with commercial costumes and this idea that everything marketed to a woman has to be sexy, but it's because Rick Grimes is not a sexy female Halloween costume. It's dumb. Adding the word "sexy" to every thing on the planet to sell a costume is dumb and the expectation that if you are a female your costume has to be "sexy" is also dumb. 

Slut is a word that we need to stop using. Period. It is an outdated demeaning word that has no value in this day and age. We are working so hard for that equality thing and when we see a woman wearing a tight dress and showing off her boobs our brains immediately say "slut" even when we know this word does not apply. It's easier to turn lack of confidence into something hateful towards a person who does not lack confidence. The only reason I'm not trying to squish my body into a Nicki Minaj style dress is because I lack the confidence to wear it. I am uncomfortable when fabric is actually in contact with my skin or I feel exposed. Though the other day I did glance down and notice that the blouse I was wearing made me look like I was having a good boob day.

It has become such a ridiculous contradiction. On one hand we are screaming about equality and telling our girls to be confident and when they express their confidence, we make it negative. That short skirt she's wearing is making boys look. I'm sorry, but when's the last time you were in a young person's clothing store like RU21? ALL THEY SELL ARE SHORT SKIRTS. Hey, don't dress that way, but all we're going to sell are clothes that will make you dress that way. No wonder we are all so mentally screwed up and have issues. 

How about the next time you have the urge to mutter "slut" under your breath, instead you just say "I wish I were that brave" or "I wish I had that kind of confidence". No, seriously. I really wish I had the body confidence of Nicki Minaj. 

WHAT'S UP?

Cindy Maddera

 I haven't really talked to much about my Jawbone Up since I got it. Someone asked me weeks ago if I liked it and I just kind of shrugged and said "sure". I really only use it to track steps and sleep.  I'm doing well over the recommended 10,000 steps a day and I mostly get in eight hours of sleep a night. There's an option to enter extra workouts and food, but mostly I don't bother. My extra exercise is just more walking and I forget to put in my yoga time. I never track my food or water. It just seemed too much, too time consuming. Also, I didn't care. I eat super healthy most of the time and I'm not a big snacker. I eat three good meals a day and that's it. Sometimes there's ice-cream or a cupcake, but to be fair that happens few and far between. 

Last Thursday, I received an email from Jawbone talking about how easy it is to enter your daily food now because they'd made some improvements. I shrugged and decided to enter in my Thursday food intake. By the end of the day I'd eaten 750 calories. I thought that seemed kind of low and the next day I was talking to Talaura about it. I told her that I was pretty sure I'd entered it in wrong. Then I told her all of the things I'd eaten and she said "no....that's about right." Walking just 10,000 steps a day burns about 2,000 calories. I am not eating enough calories. This explains why I have not lost any weight. Well, three pounds. I've lost three pounds. I smacked myself on the forehead for being so dumb. Then I started thinking I might have an eating disorder. Has my obsession over clean eating morphed from healthy to dangerous? And why does it always come down to food with me?

I mastered the art of pushing food around on my plate as a teenager, thinking that if I just didn't eat, I wouldn't be fat. Then in college, I didn't care what I ate because someone was always ordering a pizza and I always wanted to eat pizza. Also, every time I ate something in the cafeteria, I'd get sick to my stomach. Eventually this started happening with some of the fast food places we visited on a regular basis. I figured it didn't matter what I ate then as long as it stayed in my gut for more than ten minutes. Things got a little better when I had access to a kitchen and did more cooking, but we were also poor. That meant lots of spaghetti, anything I could do with a whole chicken, chili, and stews. Chris and I both gained a lot of weight entering graduate school. My answer to this was more exercise and less food. Still eating the same stuff, just less. I lost some weight. I thought this is as good as it will get and moved on.

Cut to the Food Revolution where documentaries like Food Inc. changed the way we looked at food all together. I dropped animals, with the exception of seafood, completely from my diet and ingredient lists couldn't go higher than the number of fingers on one hand. Organic all the way. Our grocery bill was astronomical, but I didn't care. I would bankrupt us in this new obsession to not eat poison. And this led to more weight loss and eventually I was a size I never remembered being before. Suddenly I was determined to stay at this weight no matter what. Then I didn't and gaining ten pounds this time was more emotionally devastating than the fifty pounds I had gained in graduate school.  How could I possibly adjust my diet any further? Maybe I wasn't exercising  enough? I AM DOING MY WHOLE LIFE WRONG? Those ten pounds might as well have been fifty.  It might as well have been a hundred pounds. 

When I turn forty, I want to be the kind of woman who doesn't care about this stuff. I don't want to stress and worry over every bite taken or not taken. As I sit wondering where all of that comes from I realize that we are constantly being bombarded from the minute we are born with what we should or should not eat. Eat this. Do not eat that. Today the best thing you can eat is this. Whatever you do never eat that. It will kill you. You eat that roll and you'll get fat. Julia Child died at the ripe old age of ninety one and she ate butter all the time. Calories be damned. I want to be able to say the same. Right now I'm working on balancing and finding that sweet spot of getting enough calories while eating the right things. I've added greek yogurt to my oatmeal and a snack of nuts between lunch and dinner. 

I'm still waiting to see what kind of woman I'll be at forty.

AND THEN I BOUGHT A SWIMSUIT

Cindy Maddera

I got up early Saturday morning. This is not unusual, but I used the time to treat myself to a good cup of coffee and perfectly toasted bagel from the Coffee Girls Cafe. I sat there lingering and sketching out the garden, making a list of plants I wanted to buy. Then I headed over to Target and Trader Joe's to buy the general stuff that one buys at these stores. It all sounded like a decent plan. I was out and about before the crowds of people showed up. Essentially I knew I would have the shops to myself. But then I stopped in the swimsuit section of Target. 

We are almost a month away from our vacation that involves a beach. I have looked at swimsuits online, but I just don't trust myself to order the right size. Also I feel like $100 is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on swimwear. All of the cute suits I've seen online are about that price. I decided that I would just smash my body into something cheap and be the only person holding a camera while on vacation. I pulled three suits from the rack and headed back to the dressing rooms where I removed all of my clothes under the cold glow of fluorescent lights. I tugged on one of the latest one piece styles that had the doily part on the sternum and cutouts on the sides. I watched as that doily stretched out across my belly and then cringed at how the color of the almost white fabric blended in with my skin. I peeled it off without even attempting the ties. I tried on the next one piece with a ribbed front and thought "OK". It wasn't too bad. The color didn't clash with my skin. Then I turned to the side to look and realized that my body is shaped like a bean. I am a human bean. 

I ended up with my third option, a retro black and white polka-dotted one piece. I felt like the dots distracted you a little from my bean shaped belly. I put my clothes back on and finished my shopping. Then I sat in the car and cried for about five minutes. This is it. This is my body right now. I suppose it's true that you are what you eat and I do eat a lot of beans. I am a round bean with decent legs and gangly arms. I eat kale and mung beans and walk over 12,000 steps a day. And I weigh 170 lbs. I posted that picture of my bean figured portrait not for reassurance that I do not look like that. I don't need to hear that I am beautiful. I certainly don't need to be compared to a 31 week pregnant woman, but I don't need to hear that my body is perfect. These are things I don't need. Because I hear them. I hear all of you telling me that image is not a true representation of me. What I need is to believe that my body is fine and good and beautiful just the way it is right now. I need to look in the mirror and not cringe at this shape, but see it for it's unique beauty. 

I don't know why I am struggling with this or why this has always been a struggle for me. I can remember that summer between being preteen and teenage years when I'd finally lost my baby fat. We were in swimsuits, walking down to the lake and one of our close family friends mentioned that it looked like I'd lost weight. I said "thank you, but I'm still going to try to lose some more." She was adamant that I didn't need to lose anymore. In fact she said that I was skinny enough and that if I lost any more weight, I'd be unhealthy. I looked down at my bean shaped belly with confusion. Was she looking at the same body I was looking at?! Because my body certainly didn't look like any of the  girls that graced the cover of Seventeen. Looking back now, I think that was the only time any one had ever told me that I was skinny enough. I was raised on the idea of thin and wispy and the older so called wiser women in my life warned against eating that second roll. Their advice for removing the bean shape of my belly was to just not eat, making food the reward, a treat. 

I've moved past the food being a treat thing. I eat the way I eat now not because it's healthy, but because it's food I want to eat. I like mung beans and kale. Now I need to move past the idea that there's something wrong with the shape of my body. Hello. My name is Cindy Maddera and my body is shaped like a bean. No, I am not pregnant and if you ask me if I am, I will verbally abuse you so hard you will wish that I had just punched you in the face. Not all women have concave bodies. Beans are beautiful. 

And so is my belly.

 

FAT

Cindy Maddera

I have two dresses sitting in my closet that I haven't worn in probably two years. Yes, I realize that this qualifies them for the donation pile, but they're really nice dresses and you never know when you're going to need to dress up for a wedding or a funeral or both. I tried one of these dresses on the other day because I thought maybe I'd wear it to a wedding at the end of February. I got the dress over my head, but there was no way I was going to get it zipped up the side. Then I had one of those panicky, I'm going to rip this dress, moments as I struggled to pull it back over my head. An inch. An inch and a half. That's what's gotta go from this body in order to zip that dress up. The thrill and pride of losing five pounds just flew right out the window.  

Here's what's ridiculous. I am right around the same size I was the last year I was with Chris (or Chris was with me, take your pick). At that time I was the skinniest I had ever been in my whole life. I knew that I would never be thinner and I was so happy and amazed that I was as thin as I was. I was thrilled to be the size I am now. I was happy, healthy and content with that body. Then Chris died and I lost about ten pounds. I lost ten pounds which I thought I couldn't lose. I mean if anything, I should have weighed more. Grief is so damn heavy. Grief should at least weigh twenty pounds. No, as it turns out it doesn't. Grief is light as a feather. Or at least light as pebble. 

I've been watching Awkward while I walk on the treadmill. I switch back and forth really between Awkward and Girls and the latest Downton Abby. There's a character in Awkward named Sadie. She's horrible and cruel. In season one she explains herself by crying to her mother "what do you expect? I'm surrounded by skinny petite girls while I have to write down every thing I eat and buy things from the special fat girls store." Sadie is a big girl. That's her excuse for being so mean. I hate this. When I look at Sadie, I see a perfectly normal girl. She's active, has won all kinds of horse riding awards and is on the cheerleading squad. Her character infuriates me. She really wants for nothing other than to be a size zero. This is a show that is meant for teenage girls. 

Counter this with Girls. They make no excuses for their weight. Laura Dunham's character, Hannah, admits to hating her body, but wears and doesn't wear clothes with a bold confidence that, frankly, I am jealous of. The show portrays girls with real bodies. Honestly, watching the show, I can see how their weight is the least of these girls worries. Figuring out what the Hell they're going to do to pay the bills is enough. I have mixed feelings about the show in general, but I will applaud the genuine female bodies.  In one episode you hear Hannah say that she finds her body disgusting and in the next episode she agrees that she is beautiful. That is the way. We all do it. One day we're disgusting, the next we're beautiful. 

I've wracked my brain trying to examine what it is exactly I'm doing differently now versus then. I no longer skip meals on weekends. Friday night dinners have gone from a bottle of wine and a sleeve of crackers to an actual meal. Usually pizza. I've added one and half people to my life. Turns out love weighs more than grief. I can go back to skipping meals on weekends. I can continue walking my 10,000 or more steps a day. I can continue to get on my mat and eat my kale. By the end of February, I just might be able to zip that zipper. Worse comes to worse, I buy a new dress and finally decide to put those others in the donation pile. 

I took a picture of myself once. It was during my first year into the whole 365 day project thing. It's a boudoir type photo. I'm naked, lying in bed with my legs up the wall. It's a tastefully sexy photo, taken when I was not even close to my second thinnest moment. I was just learning the art of liking myself. I remember being so proud of that photo. Where has that girl gone? I'm not sure, but I think I'm going to work real hard and bringing her back.