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Monthly Archives: May 2013

My Body Issues vs My Support System Them Zero Us One

I sit here with tears in my eyes still. Though I suppose it is better because they are a mixture of a bunch of emotions instead of the overwhelming sense of despair that I was filled with this morning.

You’d think after three sessions of Plastic Surgery I’d be more prepared for what this part of the journey offers me. False. It throws me curve balls constantly. Try having consults with 4 different surgeons and getting 4 different opinions with 4 different prices. Confusion? Trust me a blog on this and how emotionally unstable I feel sorting through the emotions associated with it are coming, but not today, today we are going to be talking about body image.

I hate my body. This is my problem first and foremost. In my mind, I want to look like that girl I always wanted to be and could not be because size held me back. You know how when we are big we joke about the “skinny girl locked inside us.” Well for ME, that skinny girl had a face, a body and I knew what she looked like. And guess what. I don’t look a damn thing like her now that I am slender and it just pisses me right the freak off. True story. 

I associate the skin on my body with something terrible that happened to me. I was sexually abused by my step grandfather at the age of four and it went on until my Grandmother passed away when I was eight. I had a family that was emotionally, mentally and verbally abusive. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and I wasn’t allowed to socialize with other kids much outside of school, I became a loner and food became my friend. I was chubby by the sixth grade and for the rest of my life I was the morbidly obese fat girl who was nearly invisible to the world and that very few people thought were worthy of their time and attention. Food stayed my friend, my addiction, my everything and it was a self sabotaging relationship that I felt was completely out of my control and I blamed it, 100% on the abuse I had endured through my life. I was malignantly obese because everyone else had hurt me so much that I hid behind my weight and had a relationship with food. But then I decided to take control back, to take my life back you know why? Because if I followed my line of thinking, I was now 430 lb., couldn’t wipe my own ass to go to the bathroom and was killing myself with a fork and spoon. I was miserable, because I had allowed what they did to me to push me to this miserable existence and you know what FLIP THEM. I won’t let them kill me, I can change this. I lost 260 lb. Then I looked in the mirror and what I saw looking back at me was “Ha Ha, you thought you won didn’t you, but really, you didn’t, I’m still here to remind you that you’ll always be that little abused girl who is somehow broken by what was done to you and no matter how hard you try you cannot get away from that.” – It’s a sad and mentally damaging thing to hear in your head when you look in the mirror, the people who abused you, laughing at you, but that is what I heard. True Story.

This is part of what drove me to exercise and part of why I love it. Because through exercise I feel like I can fight back. Let me throw some kicks, some punches, get out some anger towards those people who pushed me into a life of obesity with their abuse. It was a brand new outlet for my anger and I loved it. The first time my own personal Trainer Suzie Hamann put a punching bag in front of me I felt like I had just received one of the best mental health sessions of my life.

Today I sat here, asking myself what I needed to do to improve my mental head space on this skin issue, because I can’t fall apart and have a mental break down every time I get bad news from a plastic surgeon as I attempt to try to pick which one I want to use and figure out which one I can actually afford. And while I am ashamed to admit it… I was talking to my dear friend fellow WLS and reconstructive plastics patient Laura Van Tuyl, and I said, “I think this morning was the last time I have in me of breaking down and crying over it when it’s not the result I need. I think it’s time for me to stop chasing a dream I know I can’t get to right now and go home and salvage what my be left of my graphics design business.” Laura’s reaction was to ask me why I was considering this, and after hearing what I had to say, ended with this thought “Don’t doubt in the darkness (or the moment) what has been shown to you in the light (of discovery and wisdom).”

I left it at that, there was nothing else left for me to say, I don’t like being in this place mentally and today, for the first time in my entire journey, it had pushed me to a place where I just wasn’t sure I could go forward. I sat in my Godfather’s backyard for an hour crying and trying to catch my breath.

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 10.19.58 PMI made a video trying to explain what I was feeling to this community because I’m not sure anyone gets it, heck I am not even sure if I get it yet… and then I looked down and my phone was ringing, I didn’t answer right away, I needed a moment or two to compose myself, so I let it go to voice mail.

The call was coming in from Bobby Whisnand, a Personal Trainer that I met at the OAC Convention in Dallas who has sort of taken me under his wing a little and has been helping me pursue my dream of becoming a trainer. A former Copper Institute Graduate, Bobby was part of my decision to attend the CI Course, he was also, the one that supported me and told me to go when I second guessed myself and whether I should attend the course back in April or wait until June as I had originally planned. I’m a huge fan of Bobby’s “It’s All Heart,” Program, not just because I am a fan of Bobby and everything he has done for me, but because it is the first program I have seen that I truly believe is centered around making sure EVERYONE can exercise, no matter what level of fitness they are starting at, and understands some of the physical limitations that morbidly obese people face. It is also to my knowledge the first program out there that actually has section included on Bariatric Nutrition. I could go on, but trust me I’ll be talking about It’s All Heart a lot when it comes out; the point here is the program is amazing, but Bobby Whisnand, the man behind it, is even more amazing.

The first thing Bobby said to me was ‘Pandora I want to tell you something and I want you to hear me out.” Which was exactly what I needed right then because I could hardly talk without sobbing. I listened as Bobby explained to me in great detail, how much he personally believes in me and in what I want to do, and be, and how much he is willing to help me get there. I wish I could tell you word for word what Bobby said, but honestly my head was spinning. What he said specifically isn’t as important as the message though, it was very clear to me after the call from Bobby, that whatever doubt I was having about where I am and where I am going, need to be gone. That is the one solid thing I have right now. I may never be ok with my body and what I see in the mirror, that is something I have to figure out for me and a very difficult part of my weight loss journey. But I do need to separate that from my future as a personal trainer, because I know that the only person doubting whether I can be a trainer or not because of how my arms look is me, and I’m not doubting my ability, I’m doubting my self-confidence.

I do not know how it is that I have been so blessed that on the days when I have fallen, and I mean fallen hard, on the days that I am so close to giving up, throwing in the towel and curling into a ball and screaming “you win, you win” to those nasty little body image demons that haunt me so much, I have the most amazing mentors in the world to reach out to me, take my hand and pull me through the darkness back into the light.

This excess skin, body image issues and my mistake of associating my body image with something unhealthy is a battle for me, I am fighting it hard, and I’ve had the blessing of having some amazing people there to pick me up and help make sure I “fall without failing” – people like Chris Powell, Heidi Powell, Bobby Whisnand, and some of the women in this community, I am a very lucky to have such an amazing support system filled with people who somehow know just when they need to reach out a hand to me.

As sad as this is, as I sat outside crying over this today, there was a moment where I felt sorry for myself and the thought entered my head that maybe I believed in my potential far too much, I mean what qualifies me to become personal trainer, I don’t have a normal BMI, I’m scared to take the test because I don’t believe I know it and I don’t think I have studied enough, I’m not a YouTube Superstar or a Marathon Runner, and then I looked down and there was Bobby Whisnand calling me. Alright Universe, I’ve heard the message.

I don’t know what lies ahead with this reconstructive surgery thing. I have a couple good ideas of where I am going, and right now, I think that includes right back to my own surgeon for an honest one on one about how confused I am right now. But what I do know, is that I am going to Dallas for a month where I am devoting 100% of my time to studying for my test, working with Bobby, and making sure that I utilize all the tools I can to pass this test, because what I want more than anything is to be a personal trainer and help others in their weight loss journeys. The excess skin and the surgeries to correct that might come before, during or after, but like my Father used to say, I will cross that bridge as I come to it. The next part of my journey is a month in June in Dallas focused on my future, and who knows, maybe when I am back in Texas, the rest will work itself out, my journey has a way of putting me in the right place at the right time and when I started second guessing this trip my mind was changed fast.

Next stop Dallas, next goal PT Certification, everything else I turn over to fate, destiny and whoever out there I am so blessed to have watching over me. This is my fist victory over my body image issues, it’s a small one, but I’m claiming it. My body image issues vs my Support System. Them zero, us, one.

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Ellen says “Fitch, Please” to Weight Discrimination

I had every intention of writing a blog today about my wonderful weekend at the WLSFA Event. I have so many great things to share, but I am afraid that will have to wait, something more important to our community is on my mind this morning.

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Yesterday Ellen Degeneres weighed in on the current controversy surrounding a public statement by Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries that the brand was “Absolutely Exclusionary” and only “wants to market to cool, good-looking people.”

 

The original comment was made in 2006 interview with Robin Lewis, co-author of a new book, “The New Rules of Retail.” But let this be a lesson that they things we say can often times bite us in the butt later, right Mr. Jeffries? Because he’s now publicly apologizing for the comment nearly seven years later.

There are a few aspects of this issue that I want to address. First and foremost let me say that as a small business owner I believe all business have the right to target to their selected audience and target demographics and to choose who that audience is. There is a big difference between however between a positive message being sent to your selected demographic audience and a discriminatory message that tells other people they are not good enough to wear your clothes. What was inferred Mr. Jeffries comment was not, young beautiful people wear are clothing it was, people of size are not cool or good-looking. The error is in the delivery of the message, and it was a big error that bit him in the butt down the road.

Ellen’s monologue on the topic was great, and in true Ellen style, delivered the positive message that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and has very little to do with how you dress, what you wear or how much you weigh. Which, let’s face it, is a pretty important message to get to our younger generation in a society where weight bias, weight discrimination and bullying and name calling is an often accepted act.

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I want to take a moment to say thank you to Ellen personally for standing up against this sort of discrimination and bullying and making sure to send a more positive message. While I may be able to fit into A&E clothes today if I wanted to, there was a time when I weighed 420 lb. and I couldn’t fit into the seat of airplane or a small car let alone some of Abercrombie and Fitch clothes. There was also a time, when I was that teenager getting called “Fatty,” listening to the fat jokes as I walked through the halls of my Southern California beach community high school, and pretty much being alienated from life because of my size. But more importantly, there was a time that my size 26 prom dress had me sitting in a bath tub trying to slit my wrists because of the hurtful, hateful, mean, and derogatory comments that people made to me made me feel helpless and worthless. I’m not telling you this for sympathy, I am telling you because I feel it’s important that we as a society understand how horrible comments and actions like these can be on a sixteen year old girl. The people who teased me had no idea WHY I was big. They had no clue how bad my home life was. They didn’t know that I had put on weight as a self-defense mechanism to the sexual abuse I had endured as a kid. They didn’t know me at all, all they knew was that I wasn’t “Normal Size” and so of course it must be ok to make fun of me and tease me.

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Of course, now, with her joke about a size 0 and size 00 clothing, Ellen has upset a whole new audience. But hang on a minute folks, you’re missing the point. Ellen isn’t saying there is anything wrong with being small, being petite or being thin, what Ellen is saying is that the way that such things are marketed and labeled are unhealthy to our society. What would you think if I walked up to someone and said “Hey you’re not here, you are invisible, you have no value.” or “You’re nothing,” or “You’re the lowest point or degree on a scale of human beings.” – It’s not the people who wear these sizes that Ellen is speaking out against, it is the clothing industry for the way they are labeling it. You notice she wasn’t joking about size extra-small, size small, or anything of that sort, she is making a point that the clothing industry is taking this too far. Several years ago there was an episode of One Tree Hill where the model stood on stage wearing a shirt that said “Zero is not a size,” The message here is NOT “you are too skinny, there is something wrong with you.” The message here is, “It is not ok for society to pressure you into eating disorders with their marketing strategy because they think beautiful is defined by a big fat zero whether it’s a size, a body fat percentage or part of a number you see on the scale. The message here is NOT shame on you for wearing a size 0, the message is shame on the clothing manufactures for making a size zero.

Now you can defend a size 0 all you want, but let me ask you something, why did they need to make it? Why must there be a size 0 to begin with? Because what a size 1 or 2 wasn’t small enough? Have you been shopping lately? I have, a lot, and you know what, I have clothes that range anywhere between a size 6 and a size 12, and you know what? Because everyone makes their clothes differently, some run big, some run small, some use metric sizes, some use centimeters, some use inches. Then there is Misses, Juniors, Petite, the list is endless. So why do we need a size 0? Why do we need a size NOTHING? Why do we need a size “I Don’t Exist?” Why wouldn’t clothing manufactures just make their smallest size a size one or an XXS? And what is next? When size 0s aren’t good enough will we go into negative digits? Why would anyone want to be defined as a zero to begin with? And why doesn’t our society see how damaging this is to our sense of self-worth?

Obesity is a disease that over one-third of our nation is fighting. It is one of the top killers in our country right now. People are dying every day from obesity related conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, cardio respiratory disease, sleep apnea and instead of standing up and battling this disease our society thinks it is ok to call them names, make fun of them, exploit them, and treat them like they are less than deserving and when we allow companies to do things like tell us that zero is a feasible size, and if you aren’t a size 10 or lower you aren’t beautiful or worthy of shopping where the beautiful people do, we are tolerating weight biased, weight prejudice and weight discrimination. I’d like to know how many people would tolerate the sort of behavior that is accepted against people who are overweight towards people battling some of the very diseases that obesity causes. Just think about that one for a moment.

Ellen DeGeneres is an amazing example of a human being and I hope that if I am ever in a position one day to impact so many with my voice and my words, that I am strong enough and brave enough to stand up and send the same sort of message she sent with her monologue “Fitch, Please.” I would buy this shirt in a heart beat if Ellen produced one, and I will always support anyone that stands up in the fight against obesity and size discrimination.

If you’d like to join the fight against weight bias, weight discrimination and help in the fight against obesity, I invite you to check out the following non-profit organizations. The Obesity Action Collation and the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America.
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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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