So there I was dancing around the room naked in front of the mirror. For someone who struggles with body image issues after massive weight loss, being able to do that without stopping to find a flaw and pick at something you don’t like about yourself? That is quite a non-scale victory moment in and of itself. I had to stop and double-check and make sure that the blinds were drawn and that nobody could see me rocking out to one of my favorite NKTOB songs as it started playing while I was put on lotion.
I was feeling like I was a sixteen year old girl, standing in front of the mirror naked dancing around like I was on stage with the five boys that owned my heart. Yeah roll your eyes, I was indeed a first generation block head. And no, I was not using my hair brush like a microphone. It was my lotion bottle. Don’t judge.
For months I have been trying to find the extra cash to buy tickets to their upcoming concert in Charlotte, NC. (The closest venue they are playing to where I live) Even after what happened when my best friend and I went to their meet and greet. And with everything else that suddenly came up my suddenly in my life. Well, it just didn’t happen. I probably could have afforded tickets if anyone that I knew was actually as big of a fan as I am. Then I could just buy one ticket but when I’d also pay for the privilege of making someone else go with me, that’s definitely not in the post bankruptcy Pandora budget.
Several months ago, I had the money and could have bought the tickets. But I wavered back and forth, trying to decide if I really wanted to go after my best friend got slighted and disappointed when we attended the Dallas show of their last tour with meet and greet tickets.
I danced around my room sans my clothing last night grooving to not only one, but three of their songs as they came on back to back. I realized how good I felt in that moment. I realized that I had made a mistake. I should have bought the tickets and I really shouldn’t have based my relationship with the band on how someone else felt. Even if that someone was my very best friend.
I make a point out of fighting weight bias and fighting weight stigma and since my friend felt that perhaps she had been slighted by her weight I wanted to rescue her and make her feel better. But there is something else that I have learned in the last year or two since that concert: sometimes we create that bias and stigma ourselves.
See me? I’m the walking billboard. It’s hard being the big girl in the crowd. It’s even harder being the big girl in the crowd when your now skinny friend who lacks the ability to know how not to sparkle comes up with a plan to try to get someone’s attention. While I believe that Tora was entitled to her feelings–they are real and valid and I wish that she never had to feel them–I also came to my own conclusion that it might have had a lot more to do with us and our actions (or lack thereof and personal sensitivity to the subject) and a lot less to do with the band members.
But my question of do I go or not? Can I go after telling everyone that I was upset my friend was so disappointed and felt it was related to her size? Can I support a band that had even a small part of someone I care about feeling that way? Will she be angry at me if I do go? [ See Related Article ]
All these questions made me hesitate and second guess myself, and in the end I decided to take the money that I would have spent on the concert tickets and buy myself something really nice at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend event I was attending. So I bought myself the 2015 Dooney and Bourke limited edition Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend purse. I heart it. I heart it much.
The purse is lovely, but as I danced around my room like a teenager getting my heart rate going, I remembered something my father taught me. Sometimes you have to focus on how people treat YOU. My experience at that meet and greet was absolutely amazing. If you had told sixteen year old me that someday I’d get to meet, hug and talk to each member of New Kids On The Block I would have signed any sort of pledge you asked me for. I’m talking obsessive-teenager-I-owned-all-the-merchandise-fan here, guys. As a young lady meeting them was one of my biggest dreams. As an adult it was still of the top 5 items on my bucket list.
Each one of them was amazing. They were kind and complementary. Jordan Knight made my century when he rubbed the back of my head not once but twice! Donnie Wahlberg paid me the best comment I’ve ever gotten by someone who doesn’t really know me personally regarding my weight loss when he told me that he wanted to hug me but more than half of me was already gone.
And that moment when Jordan Knight crossed a crowded room to head toward the stage and made a point to walk over to where I was, give me another hug and rub the back of my head that second time, well let’s just say my heart still drops when I think about my hands on his waist and his on the back of my head. In fact, my heart just skipped a beat. Yes, that really did happen. I have it on video. I kid you not.
I’ve had a really rough few months financially. Things went downhill really fast in the beginning of the year when I was trying to juggle taking care of myself and assisting in financially taking care of about five other people. My family in Oregon. My roommate and though not nearly as much as I once had too, my mother. I’m just learning the income flow patterns of the fitness industry. I’m in the second year of a new career and I’m trying to recover from the 6 digits of debt that 3-4 years of focusing on weight loss and reconstructive surgery cost me. I just started drowning fast when trying to stand on my own two feet for the first time ever while still having so many people who need my help.
The good news. I am standing on my own two feet for the first time ever. Even though I did have to declare bankruptcy, I haven’t fallen flat on my face, and that is a better financial me than I have been since I left home at sixteen. I can do this. I just can’t afford the little extras like getting my nails done, concert tickets, traveling for weight loss conventions and flying all over the country to run half marathons anymore. There are no more credit cards that I can use with the best of intentions to pay it back later. Shopping wasn’t really my transfer addiction. Experiencing life was. That’s how I explain it to my closest friends.
I’ve learned a good lessons out of this. Lessons are experiences points I accumulate. Learning them allows me to make better decisions next time. Next time I know what not to do in order to ensure that I get a more positive outcome.
Last night’s lesson was a special one. Last night I remembered that even in times when I feel like the struggle is too hard and road ahead is too long. There are five men out there whose voices can make me stop what I am doing while they are signing. Listening to their music motivates me and gives me a sense of self and a sense of strength that though it is inside of me I can’t always dial into.
When I was a lonely, overweight and sad teenager they helped inspire me to dance around and pretend that someday a boy like them would love me. [ See Related Article ] When I was a 30 something adult suffering from morbid obesity at 420lb. they helped inspire me to move. My first form of exercise was slowly walking around my neighborhood listening to their reunion album The Block. Now that I am approaching my forties as a healthier me who struggles with body image issues, they are the musical source that touches me deep enough that I can spend twenty minutes in front of the mirror dancing around naked without once stopping to find some excess skin I don’t like and tugging on it to see if it tightens up an area of my body that I am insecure about. I can waste hours of my day off doing this to myself if I allow it. True story.
I’m not perfect. I don’t always make the right decisions. I should have bought the tickets instead of the Tinker Bell purse. But live and learn. Maybe next time instead of wishing I had bought nose bleed tickets I’ll be making better financial decisions and buying a front row bar seat so I can remind those 5 men who I am. I’ll see if I can get Jordan Knight to rub my head again and who knows, throw my bra onstage or something. Dream big. I am not lying. I would do this. I’d likely do many things that someone out there somewhere is likely to disprove of. Freebie List. You understand.
Today however, I’m a little pouty. So I’ll allow myself to pout for a moment. I can’t afford $200 for decent tickets for two. OK. I’m done. Now instead of pouting I’ll throw on a NKOTB play list that includes all my favorites songs. I’m talking from the days of Jones Beach 1988 all the way to The Remix. I will enjoy knowing that I’ve had the opportunity to meet them and that nothing has changed in my relationship with them in the last twenty-seven years. They still touch my heart and some other parts of me, with their music.
And… Jordan Knight rubbed my head. Twice! Plus long after the concert is over I will have that gorgeous Tinker Bell Bag around my neck. So there is that.
It’s all about appreciating the experiences you’ve had, being grateful for what you’ve got and finding the joy in the lesson that life is teaching you.
And now, I’m going to go dance around naked to “Block Party” which is the song that inspired my fitness career.
Last week I received an email from the Outreach Coordinator at a company called Oscar Insurance who provides health insurance in New York and New Jersey. They were looking for influential bloggers to write about their Health Hero, a person in their life that helps them stay on track and stay healthy as part of their campaign to help spread the news about their new approach to healthcare.
I’m not the type to take the word “Hero” lightly. When I say someone is my hero it’s because they are someone who I look up to. A hero to me is someone who has by some act or another saved me. When you ask me who my Health Hero is, there is really only one true answer: Chris and Heidi Powell.
When you name someone famous as your hero usually you come off sounding like an obsessed fan. But the truth is though I am a fan, a big fan, I’m a fan because of how they have both helped me through some of the darkest moments of my life and encouraged me into the light during times that nobody else could.
Losing my father halfway through my weight loss journey was devastating
My Father was the champion of my weight loss journey. His concern for me at 420 lbs., being treated for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, clinical depression and sleep apnea and not wanting him to leave the world uncertain of how long I would be left in it was what propelled me to try to make some health changes.
Although I was still motivated to lose my weight, not having him there to say “I’m proud of you,” and cheer me on along the way left me feeling alone in what felt like the hardest journey I was ever going to take.
Around this time I wrote to Chris Powell for the first time expressing how much I admired him and what he does on his show and how much I desired to help others lose weight by becoming a Personal Trainer myself. I was so ecstatic when he responded to that letter and told me how awesome he thought I was. Having him say he was proud of me, not just for losing the weight but for the emotional obstacles I had overcome was the closest thing I could image to hearing my Father tell me he was proud of me.
Now I hated my body more than I ever had
I think many of us affected by obesity start out thinking that if we get skinny all of our problems will be solved. Since I was a little girl I believed that if I wasn’t “fat” my life would be much better. Boys would like me, girls wouldn’t bully me, people wouldn’t stare at me and kids wouldn’t make fun of me.
As an adult the same disillusionment that wouldn’t be so unhappy if I wasn’t so horrifically overweight followed me. Once I lost my weight I was startled to realize that I wasn’t any happier with the version of me I saw in the mirror than I was before I had lost my weight. Even though I had reversed all of the health conditions that obesity had caused me I still needed to deal with the depression and my new struggles issues with body image.
Luckily watching Chris Powell’s show Extreme Weight Loss had somewhat prepared me for this. His approach to total transformation and how in order to change your body you had to change your mind helped me start to wrap my head around food addictions and helped me start to understand why I hated my body so much. The realization that as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I associated my body with what had been done to me was a huge part of my transformation process.
The day Chris Powell became my Hero
I spent a year doing several rounds of reconstructive plastic surgery to have the skin removed thinking that I could cut it off and get rid of what I now considered the remnants of my abusers. But no matter how many surgeries I had, there was always some evidence of the fact that I once weighed over four hundred pounds. The day I realized that those old ghosts still haunted me was one of the darkest moments in my life.
In a moment of panic I reached out to Chris again via Facebook and asked him to read a blog I had written, “If you’re still hearing my voice I could use a pep talk right now.” Once again he replied.
“Pandora you have come so far. Never forget that! I am still so proud of you. I hope you won’t give power to those who hurt you in the past and still haunt you. It is YOUR body. You have achieved much but the journey continues doesn’t it? When you look at yourself in the mirror I want you to see what YOU have accomplished not what the past may still try to remind you of.”
I’m not sure there was anyone else that could have said those words that I would have been able to hear them from. Sometimes we’re not ready to hear a message no matter how much truth it contains. I honestly believe that Chris saved me that day with his words. Had he not answered me I’m not sure that I would have learned the lessons his words contained and I might have spiraled into very unhealthy place.
In a moment in my life where I literally felt like my past was burying me alive his words were the little bit of oxygen I needed to get me through as I started to dig my way out. He taught me to stop giving power to people who didn’t deserve it and to give that power to myself instead by learning to love myself, to appreciate and be proud of what I saw in the mirror because it clearly displayed how far I had come.
The Powell’s continue to be a pillar in my journey to a healthier mind and body
In the next year I got the opportunity to meet him and his wife Heidi Powell, who I instantly connected with because we shared the commonality of both having recently lost our fathers.
As time has passed there have been a couple other times that I’ve reached out to them. Sometimes I just need to hear them say they are proud of me.
When I was struggling with the number I was seeing on the scale after my last round of reconstructive plastic surgery and was emotionally paralyzed with the fear of re-gain, it took Chris telling me to stay off the scale and let my body heal for it to sink in.
In the last year or so I haven’t needed them as much in those ways because the lessons that they have taught me have stuck with me. They’ve added tools to my weight loss journey tool box that have left me better armed and now, my journey continues through my job as a weight loss and wellness coach and through sharing what I have learned with my clients.
But almost every day I see a post from Chris or Heidi that affects my life; A water check-in that asks me if I’ve drank half my body weight in ounces of water or a post asking me what exercise I plan on doing for the day that reminds me to move.
During the seasons of Extreme Weight Loss I keep my gym here in North Carolina open late so my clients and I can spend time on cardio machines watching the show together and Chris and Heidi are always sure to take the time to give me and my clients a virtual high-five to encourage us.
I’m constantly sharing posts from Heidi that I know have messages that will help others affected by obesity when they find themselves in those dark places that I was once in. Articles about body image issues, self-acceptance, a new workout routine or a healthy recipe that sounds delicious and makes you not feel so deprived.
Being a blogger it shouldn’t be so amazing to me that having only meet Chris and Heidi Powell once, their correspondence with me via social media outlets has enabled them to be such a huge part of my life. Everything they have done for me, the support they have given me, the constant encouragement and motivation they provide hasn’t only helped me stay on track with my health but has made me a better coach and helped me help others stay on track with theirs.