Below is a response I received from TVan. It's a reaction she had to my post "Love the Body you're in even if it's not the body you want." Thank you TVan for sharing your experience!
"When I saw that quote, (Love the body you're in even if it's not the body you want.) I remember it being an eye opener. I was scrolling through Facebook and thinking how relatable that is to me. It's different from the normal quotes and other things you see about "loving your body." But this statement resonated with me: "love the body you are currently in, even if it's not the body you want"-Because it's true, this isn't the body I want, I don't like it in its current state because I know it isn't the final "me" and I want to change it, but I DO love it. I love it so much that I want to make healthy changes for it.
My family recently planned on going to the pool. At first I was a little hesitant because I told myself that I wouldn't go to the pool until I changed my body. My family had gone to the pool multiple times already and my friends have suggested it, but I just wasn't ready to be in a bathing suit as I know that I have gained a bit of weight.
And yet, when they asked this time around, I reminded myself of that quote and I ended up changing my stubborn decision that I had been keeping until I lost the weight. I remember changing and looking into the mirror and just repeating "love the body I'm in, even if it's not the body I want." I looked at myself with so much more "ease" as opposed to my normal disgust. It was a release!
As I mentioned earlier, I am pretty stubborn. I was determined not to go to the pool until I had slimmed down more, which resulted in me losing that family time. Because I had taken that moment to embrace that inspiration I was able to spend time with my family, my entire family, which is rare for all of us to even go to the pool at the same time with our busy schedules. I was able to create memories with my families that I will be able to look back on. I know that my sister was super happy because we don't get to spend as much time together. Because I made this decision and changed my mind, I spent priceless time with my family that I can remember forever. Family time is huge to me and I'm so happy I was able to get that and have the strength to forget about my worries and have fun.
Later on that day, when I ended up reading the articles, the concept of it was differently than what I was thinking in my head. At first I felt dumb that it wasn't the same meaning, but then I thought about it and just thought to myself "hey, it is different, but it's my inspiration and I created it to fit myself."
Your Facebook post was a simple post but it changed my entire evening and gave me priceless memories. It was simple..but rich with meaning.
Thank you for that because it truly did inspire me. I even have the photo of the quote on my phone
Thank you for letting me share my experience!"
Moving through this journey has been an emotional experience for me. I’ve taken time to reflect and remember how I have treated myself in past years.
Those memories include body shaming.
Body shaming is defined as inappropriate negative statements and attitudes towards a person's weight or size. And in this case, it was mine.
There were a few times in my life where I was over-weight. The freshman 15, probably more like the freshman 30 for me, during my first year of undergrad, and then for a few years after I birthed my son. My thinking was that if I hated the way I looked enough, it would propel me into doing something about it. What I did not realize at the time was that I was essentially teaching myself to hate myself.
For me, hating the way I looked got mixed up into the parts that defined me. I thought I was compartmentalizing those negative feelings I had about my body. I wasn’t. It turns out that it made me sad. Saying mean things to myself about my body did not inspire me to change. The sadness turned into procrastination and procrastination turned into behaviors that I did not see coming . . . unhealthy eating, inactivity, anti-social behavior, etc. There came a day when I decided to challenge my negative thoughts. I had to meet it headfirst and stop retreating.
My undergrad years were about 20 years ago. I don’t have recollection of how I decided to make my way into healthy living. However, I do remember the years post birth of my son (he is 7 and I am 39). It was not until about a year and a half ago when I decided that this negative self-talk wasn’t helping.
Slowly and religiously I countered those negative thoughts with positive affirmations. “Hey Paula, don’t be so hard on yourself. Your body birthed a human!”. “Hey Paula, Don’t give up.” “I’m worth it.” The list goes on. Finding those replacements was a huge effort mentally but they manifested in better decisions on eating, physical activity, and re-engaging with friends and family.
These experiences are private but I’m making a decision in my life to release my story to so that others don’t feel alone. I felt alone. I few days ago I released a blog with the title, “Loving the body you are in even if it’s not the body you want.” I used my father-in-law as the subject in honor of Father’s Day, but this story I share with you right now is the true birth of this title. It would take me a lot of tears, love, and perseverance to transform. I’m finally through it and hoping to never let myself go there again. Does this mean I never have moments of self-doubt? Absolutely not, it now means that I can separate what is fiction from truth.
Are you body shaming yourself? Do you know someone who is? Feel free to share your story here. I bet sharing our experiences will create a chain reaction of support and positive energy.
In honor of Father's Day I would like to introduce you to my incredible father-in-law, An. In order to write this piece I set aside time this morning to interview him. We are very close but in many was it was a reintroduction. It was special. I look forward interviewing others on my journey.
An is a man who embodies the essence of honoring the body he has. He's 83 years old and if you let him, he will talk your ear off about his younger years. He was an athletic young man. Very active. In his 20's he earned his black belt in Aikido. His focus on exercise waned throughout his 30's as he focused on opening up a restaurant and starting a family. As a matter of fact, he opened the 1st Vietnamese restaurant in Washington D.C. In his early 40's he made the decision to make a serious investment in his health. He began running long distances with the goal of running a marathon (26 miles and 385 yards). This goal turned into 12 consecutive years of completing the following marathons: New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and 9 Marine Corp marathons. (Interesting fact: Marathons in the 1990's used to have higher expectations for your finish time. NY marathon required you finish within 4 hours. Marine Corp required you finish in 5.) That means that between the ages of 44 and 56 he maintained healthy eating and exercise habits. He estimates that he was running about 1,100 miles every year. His lifestyle has changed a lot with age but the intent has remained the same. His WOD's (Workout of the Day) every day includes stretching, calisthenics, 35 squats, 3 to 4 mile walk and then the 5 Tibetan Energy Rejuvenation Exercises. He is a role model to me and a daily reminder that it's never too late. The changes I make now can positively impact my quality of life as I age. He sometimes wishes he was 20 again, but he cherishes the life he has now. Loving the body he's in - even if it's not the body he wants.
Below are some pictures I took today as he was showing off his squat skills with my 7 year old. Owens's look of shock is captured as he is in awe of how low Ong Noi (Vietnamese for paternal grandfather) could go.
An's Book Recommendations:
1. Andrew Weil, M.D. - Natural Health, Natural Medicine. The complete guide to wellness and self-care for optimum health.
2. Joel Furman, M.D. - Super Immunity
The memories of my childhood that stand out are the memories of me being painfully shy. It wouldn't be a stretch to have been diagnosed as a Selective Mute. I remember my years in elementary school being hesitant to start conversations or even just respond to others trying to start one with me. I have vivid memories of my family excusing this behavior by saying, "Oh, she's just shy." Days turned into months, and months turned into years of hearing, "She's just shy." That word got around and by then everyone treated me like I was shy. I don't know when it happened, but at some point I had taken their understanding as my truth. The idea that I was shy ultimately interfered with my education and social interactions with other children.
I distinctly remember the week before I started Middle School. I was about 12 years old and I had what I would call an "Ah ha!" moment. I remember thinking about how I was about to enter a new school where more than half of the children and all of the staff had no idea who I was. I was rejoicing in this. The anticipation of being new could maybe wreck a preteens confidence, but I was chomping at the bit to start the first day of school. I wanted the opportunity to eradicate shyness from my identity. I saw the opportunity in that first day of Middle School. I remember suddenly realizing that I should be the one making declarations about who I am. I understand that as a child it is going to be difficult to define who you are because who we are is constantly evolving. From birth to death we are evolving, but what is interesting is how much our world can make moves to pin us into a corner without us even knowing. We're being talked to in ways with assumptions about who we are. Why I mention this topic in my blog is that life for me as been this ebb and flow of living in my authentic self. I'm made up of many contributing factors, some bad - some good, but ultimately I get the final say of what sticks, right? This story is not to pick apart shyness or make any judgments about your shyness or what it means to be shy. The larger story is how the shy identity ultimately left me the day I decided it should go. Society, family, friends, social media, are powerful forces that can sometimes move you to pursuing a career you never really wanted, joining a sorority you don't really like, assigning value to stuff that you don't really need. Some of these things happened to me.
I say thank you to that brave 12 year Paula. Thank you for showing me that I can redefine myself at anytime, and that I deserve it - even at 40.
Before making the decision to live well every day, I was unforgiving of myself. It was relentless. I had strict and high expectations on how to support the world around me, especially for my family . . . but very little expectations for my personal well-being. I was encouraging everyone in my life to live better, love themselves, and be happy. I had loads of great advice but wasn’t sharing it with myself. That all came to a head 1 year ago. Bad news is that it manifested itself in high levels of stress, insomnia and anxiety. The great news is that it eventually sparked an idea in me to live better. It struck the core of me and it generated the thought, “Paula, you deserve to be happy!” That one positive thought came quickly, and the energy from that thought flowed through my body with unimaginable ease. The hard part would be living in that truth. What do I want my life to look like? How do I want to feel on a daily basis? What does happiness mean to me? What will my family think about this change? How do I start over?
Turns out that pausing, resetting and then hitting play is something I would have to do every day. Unhealthy habits are hard to give up. It will take reconnecting with myself, my family and my community in a whole new light. Watch me make small changes in my life that have moved me down the road of living well mind, body and spirit.