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Accepting The Perfectly Imperfect Me

slenderThe concept of being your “perfectly imperfect” self was first introduced to me by one of my heroes Heidi Powell. [ You can read her original article: I am (still) Perfect here]

One of the biggest things I have struggled with post-weight loss is body image issues. The picture to the right is one of my favorite photos of myself. I feel like I look fierce, strong, happy and proud of what I have accomplished. But there are days I don’t feel like any of those things.

At my darkest moment, I was having a nervous breakdown after reconstructive plastic surgery #4 in Dallas, Texas when things still were not looking perfect and the numbers on the scale were reflecting my swollen body weight and not the numbers I was used to seeing in weight maintenance.

It took Chris Powell telling me to get off the scale for me to stop obsessing and start trying to get back to me again. [ See related Facebook post here: July 22, 2013 ]

The truth is the hardest thing you will ever tell someone. The truth is really scary. It makes you vulnerable, because once you put it out there, no mater what anyone has to say, it is your truth.

But the truth is what I have promised you from the very beginning. So the truth is, there are still things that I don’t love about my body. There are still flaws that I pick out and can beat myself up emotionally over.

The excess skin on my hips and lower buttocks area still causes me skin and rash irritations.

The skin that hangs right above my bra line and pooches out over my tank top dives me insane. It makes me super self-conscious about wearing tank tops in public. But I force myself to do it because it’s a fear of something that I know is really only noticeable to people who are looking for it. Though I just told you all where to find it. So that ends that.

My arms still bother me. Two brachioplasty surgeries and two touch up surgeries later, I still dislike my arms. They just don’t look right and that little indentation that they keep telling me is a genetic traits that is unrelated to obesity or weight loss, absolutely drives me nuts. Every time I look at my arm I see a little fat roll. This makes me really self-conscious about wearing tank tops. But I force myself to do it as part of my acceptance of my imperfect body.

Shorts are an entirely different manner.  The skin I see hanging off my thighs if I do a plank in front of one of my group training sessions in the gym is so embarrassing to me that I refuse to wear anything but capri pants unless it’s cool enough outside to wear pantyhose underneath to help shape them and hold the skin in place.

My hair is never quite the way I want it. Coloring it myself rarely comes out the way I intended. But who the heck can afford paying a stylist constantly these days? If I can’t do it myself it’s not achievable.

My eyebrows, no matter how well-groomed I keep them do this wonky thing when I’ve rubbed my face nervously.

My boobs look great in a bra. Outside of one and naked in front of the mirror I obsess over how slightly differently my nipples were placed and how I can see the ripple in one of the implants. These I am told were normal things to expect after getting implants. I’m still not 100% convinced I made the right decision on that. Lord knows after being told at a weight loss surgery convention that one of the main reasons a group of women disliked me was because I was too skinny and my boobs were too big, I really second guessed that decision. [ Read related article here: The Teeter Totter of Weight Bias ]

My stomach still has more skin than I think it should have after three different abdominal surgeries to fix it. I’m sure I have defined abdominal muscles under there, somewhere.

There are areas of my body right under my arms and along the sides of my breasts where the skin is so damaged from obesity that I get these little pockets in the skin that if I’m not watching carefully can get infected. I truly believe that we need to work on getting doctors and insurance companies to realize that the disease of obesity damages the skin and that removing that damaged skin is a part of treating the disease.

My feet are funky. I think I have a hammertoe or something. My little baby toe is pretty much deformed. Even the people at the nail salon snicker at its appearance when I get a pedicure.

When I lay on my back on a bench doing a chest press I have weird excess skin on my back right around my shoulder blades where my muscles move. Dislike.

On any given day, I can look at all of these things in the mirror and I can fixate on and pick myself apart over how something should have looked had I never weighed 420 lbs.

I try hard not to do that. I try to accept that weighing 420 lbs. was part of my story. It is part of what makes me a good weight loss coach, it is part of what makes me good at helping other people fight obesity. It’s all part of who I am, part of the imperfect life that led me to being the perfectly imperfect version of myself that I am today.

Who knows where I would be if my story had been different? Each one of us has a past; we can either allow that past to haunt us or we can decide to define our future. My story has brought me to where I am today. To a career that feeds my passion to help other’s fight obesity and find the fun and potential emotional outlet in fitness as a Weight Loss and Wellness Coach and Fitness Instructor.

During one of my major moments of  body image issues, at time where I was upset that my body wasn’t perfect, a woman who I admire greatly asked me if I wanted to be an example of what most of my clients could never achieve, or if I wanted to be an example of what is attainable. This message hit home for me.

Each time that I catch myself standing in front of the mirror picking myself a part I remind myself that I am an example to my clients and my community of what can be achievable after 260 lbs. of weight loss. I am not perfect. Nobody is. But I am myself perfectly. I stay true to who I am and I am an example of my own story. That, my friends, makes me perfect at being my imperfect self. That make me perfectly imperfect.

Learning to accept your flaws and loving yourself in spite of them, and muting those internal negative voices that put your emotional well-being in jeopardy is an integral part of your weight loss journey. If you don’t learn to do that and love yourself success will exponentially be more difficult

So what is my biggest tip for battling the barriers of body image issue that can sometimes present themselves in my life after weight loss? In some of my worst moments, when my body image issues are getting the best of me and my internal voices are being unkind when I look in the mirror, I pull out some old pictures. I look back at the photos of when I actually weighed 420 lbs and would have given anything to lose the weight. I look back and the photos of all the skin that hung on my body afterward and remind myself how miserable I was and how good of a job my surgeons did with what they had to work with.

I stop and remind myself that while what I wanted was to have the body of a porn star, that wasn’t a realistic expectation.  Given my story, where I have been and what I have done, the body I have today, though imperfect for all the reasons I mentioned above, is still my body. I eat healthy, I work out on a regular basis and I do the best I can at making my body a reflection of who I am today.

Never let anyone including yourself fool you. Losing all that extra weight won’t make life perfect and it won’t make you perfect. Losing the weight is the big physical part of the journey but the emotional part just begins there.  From there you’ll face issues like regain, battling with the numbers you see on the scale, how you handle life without food as form of comfort and maybe the biggest of all, the body image issues that surface when you realize what your body should have or would have looked like had you never been affected by obesity.

From there, it is time to appreciate the journey. Be proud of what you have accomplished and understand that you’re exactly where you are supposed to be in your journey right now. Don’t focus on should, could or would, focus on being your imperfect self and understand that you are perfectly imperfect and that my friends, is exactly what we should be.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies, a Motivational Speaker and Exercise Instructor at a women’s only fitness facility in Wilmington North Carolina.

Attitude of Gratitude – Appreciating Your Journey

Sixteen months ago I wrote a blog that documented my running achievements thus far and gave a few tips on staying motivated and inspired in your journey.  At that point I had ran my first three half marathons and I was getting ready to take Dawn Brell, the winner of my first “How Do You Celebrate Success” contest, to run the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland.  I’ve learned a few things since then.

Sometimes life changes and things can get a little crazy.

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I started working full time as a professional weight loss and wellness coach in an all-women’s gym facility and the time I used to have to write about everything I was doing suffered greatly, as all my extra time outside of work was being spent on trying to get my own exercise done and getting acclimated to my new situation.

My days off became the days I had to run errands and get things done around the house and all that free time I once had thanks to my old work-from-home, set-your-own-hours life started to dwindle. Finding the time to be a runner, a blogger, a puppy mom and a good girlfriend sort of took a back seat to my career.

In March of 2014, I held the second “How Do You Celebrate Success Contest” and my winner Amy Smith and I were off and running. First we were doing a couch to 10k program to get ourselves ready to run a 10k that we would submit as our pace time for coral placement and next, we were training for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon.

 

Sometimes the biggest struggle is admitting you need support and being able to ask for it.

10724109_374080759417401_1504303184_nI lost myself somewhere between June and October. A really horrible bout of anniversary grief took me for a tail spin in June and it really took quite a while for me to recover.  I learned a valuable lesson though. I’m not impervious to falling into old bad habits and I don’t deal with the time of year that my Father passed away well when I try to do it alone.

But I had obligations to people that were important to me.  I had a commitment to Amy, as well as a commitment to a client of mine, Megan Hyler, to run the half marathons with them that I had helped them train for.

As the time for the first half marathon I had to run approached I was terrified. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I was convinced that all the time I had let go by between June and September had cost me my cardiovascular endurance and I’d lost the confidence that I could actually run 13.1 miles so I did what I normally do when I start doubting myself.

 

Sometimes you gotta pull up your big girl panties and deal with it.

20141111_130318So I went out and ran a half marathon, by myself, with just my dad and the music as my chip and time-keeper and I reminded myself that though it might be hard and I might have to push myself, I could indeed still do it.

Two weeks later I ran my fifth half marathon next to Megan Hyler at the Wake Forest Haunted Hallowed Half and pulled a PR of 2:31:59

Two weeks later, I was on a plane to Orlando to meet up with Amy, her friend Stacey as well as my dear friends Tammy, Heather and Joy, to do the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World where we all got to experience Heather running her first 5k. I learned so much about myself in that experience. I grew as a person and a coach thanks to the amazing women that were there to help support me.

Then came December, my first Christmas away from Oregon, and depression and sadness started sneaking their way back into my world. I sort felt like taking on a new career had taken over my life and put a dent in the things that were once a top priority for me, running, writing and sharing my journey with others.

11008270_783898281695301_76359475_nMy next half marathon was supposed to be in March. I had committed to running with a member of the gym that had tried to train for a half marathon two times before and had to stop because of injuries, and as March started creeping near I doubted myself and my ability to run a half marathon.

So I pulled on my big girl panties and signed up for another half marathon. I’d ran 3 half marathons in 2013, 4 half marathons in 2014 and now to try to get 2015 started right and convince myself I still had what it took, I did a last day registration for a local half marathon and got up early the next morning and went and ran the Wilmington 13.1 Half Marathon.

Less than a month later, with a lot of babying an unpredictable knee issue I ran my 9th half marathon alongside Ashley Hunt at the Quintiles Half Marathon

Sometimes you don’t realize your achievements until you write them down.

11023209_1581836505434143_1648585778_nThat half marathon really put some things in perspective for me. That morning Ashley and I went into that half marathon both a little unsure of what our bodies were going to allow us to do. When we finished that half marathon Ashley said something to me that will stick with me forever “Thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you.”

It was the first time that I had the experience of running beside someone who really needed me there to help push them. Most of the other women I have taken to a half marathon already ran one before they ran with me. They had done the same thing I had done, proven to themselves that they could do it first.

But crossing the finish line with Ashley as she completed her first half marathon was a new experience for me.

That’s the point that I sat down and started to look at what I had really accomplished. Since I started my new career this year I’ve had the privilege of giving several of my clients their first taste of running.

In the beginning of 2014 I had a goal to help inspire others find the love of achievements like your first 5k, your first 10k and your first half marathon. I had held these two contests on my site in order to help facilitate that dream and I had accomplished it. Being a part of Dawn and Amy’s journey to their first half marathon was amazing.

Through my career this year I have also been able to walk beside two women who are very special to me in their first 5k at the Wilma Dash with Jamie Martin and her amazing daughter Kylee.  I’ve been able to run beside Nichole Marshall and Whitney Umberger in their first 5k at Color Me Rad. I got to be a part of Megan Hyler’s amazing journey from first 5k to first half marathon and got to cheer her on as she continued to take on her first full marathon and soon, her first ultra-marathon.

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of running beside a new client turned friend, Sarah Hanson as she ran her first 5k. Sarah had taken on the personal challenge of running her first 5k in honor of her mother. Nervous and unsure of herself I decided to take the pressure of trying to do it with everyone watching off and take Sarah to run her first 5k with me the weekend before. Completing that 5k with her was really special, I got to see Sarah realize what she is capable of and though she swore to me she’d never run a full marathon, she didn’t exclude running a half marathon, and that brought a smile to my face.

Last weekend Sarah ran her second 5k in order to honor her mother and to do something healthy to deal with the anniversary grief of her mother leaving this world instead of falling back into unhealthy habits. In order to support Sarah two of her fellow Weight Loss Boot Camp ladies Crystal Conklin and April Turner took on running their first 5k alongside her.

I had led the entire group in a stretching warm up routine before the 5k started and one of the gentleman there told us that he was running his first 5k. We noticed him several times along the route and gave him the thumbs up every time we saw him to encourage him.  Once all my girls had crossed the finish line I decided to go back for him and see if he needed a little encouragement or support. When I told the girls I was going back, Crystal and Sarah decided that they were going to go back with me too. April would have gone too but she was nursing a really bad blister.

Let me just say that for someone who has lost weight and changed their entire career in order to help others fight obesity to see my clients come out to support one another and then go back to encourage someone else like this is one of the biggest emotional rewards I have ever received. Thank you ladies, it makes my heart sing to know that my clients are adopting the same pay it forward mentality that I have.

Sometimes you just have to stop and breathe and be grateful for what you have done.

Being a part of all amazing women’s journey has been a blessing for me this past year. It’s taught me more about who I am, what sort of coach I am, and it’s shown me that almost every experience that I have gone through during my own weight loss and running journey holds the value of experience that I get to pass on to others.

To each of you ladies that have chosen me as your friend, coach, and running partner. Thank you. Each of you has gifted me with something that is absolutely priceless, the experience of seeing you grow into healthier and happier versions of yourselves and celebrating your successes with you.

Each of us has a personal story, our journey is one big book and we write each chapter as we go. While I am always amazed by how my story can help motivate and inspire others I am even more amazed by how being a part of your stories motivates and inspires me.

I think one of the most important things for us to remember is that even though things might be scary and thought we might doubt ourselves sometimes it’s important to remember that sometimes life gets crazy and we have to roll with it and sometimes we just need to stop, look at what we have done and appreciate the journey and be grateful for it.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies, a Motivational Speaker and Exercise Instructor at a women’s only fitness facility in Wilmington North Carolina.
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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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