Through Thick and Thin: Loving Myself Regardless of Size

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Hi, I’m Liz. I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ and I struggle with food, exercise, and self-worth (among many other things).

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I have struggled with my weight since…high school…8th grade…6th grade…4th grade (I just rewrote this sentence 4 times. Each time I realized there was an event even earlier in my life in which I struggled with my weight). The fourth grade was my first memory of wishing my body was different. Nobody told me it had to be different, somehow I came to that conclusion myself. The funny thing is that in the fourth grade I thought my knees were too nobly.

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I had a friend in the sixth grade and she had these beautifully tanned legs without the bony knees. And to top it off, she was allowed to shave her legs! I remember sitting next to her and noticing how fuzzy and white my legs looked compared to hers.

Back then I wanted to be thicker, and now I am trapped in a battle between acceptance and wanting to be thinner. I won’t deny my desire to be thin, it’s very much there, and for ages I believed I needed to be thinner to be healthy.

That stupid BMI chart has wreaked havoc on my thoughts. Ever since puberty I have been a solid girl. Those nobly knees disappeared and I packed on pounds of muscle, no doubt from my intense Irish dancing practice schedule.

Irish Skipping

But somehow my height and weight didn’t match the chart and my doctors told me time and time again that I was overweight.

My mom would tell me over and over again how those charts weren’t accurate because it didn’t take muscle mass into account. But the damage was done, I had heard the label of “overweight” and I accepted it. I chose to believe a lie over truth and it has completely changed the way I live my life.

I started to compare myself to the other girls in my dance class. I would see my reflection next to theirs and become so jealous of their ability to cross their legs with knees behind knees (a guideline for Irish dancing leg positions in my school). I had no idea some of them were looking at my reflection and wishing their thighs could touch during crossed legs like mine (another guideline for Irish dancing leg positions in my school – “No gap! No Gap!”).

Comparison began to take over my life. I would compare myself to the ex-girlfriends of the guy I liked, to judge whether or not I was worthy of his attention. This comparison was mostly based on my understanding of beauty. Which, at the time was largely based on Britney Spears: skinny, busty, tan, and blond.

Over the years I would feed my sickness with the ridicule and judgments that others cast on me. I would collect their statements and use them as arguments against my beauty and worth.

“Have you been living under a rock? I swear your legs have never seen the light of day.”

“Have you ever thought of using Hydroxy Cut to help you keep off the chub?”

“College has not done your body any favors.”

“Your body type doesn’t fit with the look I want.”

“Thanks for helping me run a better mile time, Liz! I had to pick up my speed to get ahead of you because your legs were reflecting the sun into my eyes.”

All of these statements were said by people I loved and trusted at the time. I listened to these statements, but I couldn’t just hear what they said, what I heard was “you aren’t good enough the way you are.” A lot of hurt came from them, but I am realizing now that just because someone says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. And just because someone says something hurtful to me, doesn’t mean they intended it to be. And even if they did intend it to be hurtful and they did believe it, it doesn’t mean that my opinion about myself is suddenly trumped by theirs. My opinion matters too.

The problem was, my opinion became the same as theirs. I believed I wasn’t good enough the way I was.

Much of my high school, college, and adult life has been spent dieting, excercising, and tanning (both sunless and natural). ninjas

Even in my own world of Irish dancing, my Irish qualities were not acceptable. Everyone “knew” that tanned legs were more appealing to watch, so for every competition I was required to douse my legs in coats of tanner. My hair was dyed Barbie blond to match my wig, because blond, red, and black wigs stuck out the most. In theory these things would captivate the eyes of the judges and they would spend more time watching me than the other competitor. Do I blame my dance teacher for making me do these things? No way. My goal was to win and he knew how to get me there.

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But that was then and this is now. There comes a point when I need to start taking responsibility for how I live my life. I am an adult now, and I need to recognize that my opinion matters too. But what is my opinion about myself and my worth? Am I beautiful? Am I loved? Do others understand me?

Several weeks ago I attended a metabolism and training seminar by Mike Gaines from the X-Project (http://www.xprojectfrederick.com/). It was fascinating, thought provoking, and really just made a lot of sense, but it went against everything I had learned about dieting, fitness, and losing weight. The information he presented made me question every attempt I had made to lose weight and get fit. We were told that the first step to changing our lives was to ask the question “why?”

“Why am I at this seminar?”

“Why do I want what I want?” (In my case, why do I want to be thinner?)

The aim is to get to the root of your desire so you can create a goal. A goal that will actually get you where you want to go. Because if you don’t know where you are going, how will you know if you get there?

This would have been a great practice back when I was in competitive dancing. When I asked myself “why did I dance?” It was for two reasons: 1.) The pure joy of self-expression and 2.) To prove my worth. I thought winning would prove that I was worth something, but when I won with legs that didn’t look like my own, and hair that didn’t look like my own, winning felt more like tricking the judges into thinking I was something I’m wasn’t. The only thing it proved to me was that the real Liz wasn’t enough. (I know I didn’t win just because of tanned legs and blonde hair, but those things became so important that sometimes it felt like it). Not being enough in the one thing I felt I was good at, really sucked out the joy of dancing. Instead of re-evaluating my goals and desires, I gave up and I left the dancing world, hoping my issues would disappear with it.

But now I am older and wiser, so I don’t live that way… chyea….I wish. It has come to my attention that in the area of weight and pastiness I am still very much the old version of myself. I may have come a long way in other areas, but in this area I have yet to dig deep and find the root of my issues.

So back to this metabolism and training seminar; I went and started to question whether I was giving my body the right type of fuel for what I wanted it to do (I won’t go into details, but if you are interested check out the site. Mike is super awesome and clearly cares a lot about what he does.). I started to make some changes in my diet, without asking my “whys” and without setting my goals. I had some vague ideas of what I wanted to happen, but I never asked myself “why”. (BTW this is the first thing Mike said you must do, but I skipped it.)

A couple days ago (almost a month after adding more protein to my diet) I had a slight emotional breakdown. I had gained 7lbs. and a total of 3 inches. Fear gripped me: “This was wrong, this was all wrong, this isn’t what I wanted!”

Then I realized something. I didn’t even know what I wanted. I had not established the “what’s” and the “why’s”. All I had established was the how. Which is just crazy! How can you know how to do something if you don’t know what it is you want to do and why you want to do it? I sent a quick message to Mike with my fears, and he confirmed the flaw in my thinking. If I want to see results, I need to know what results I am looking for and working towards. And I need to evaluate my goals to make sure they are healthy, measurable, and achievable.

So, I went back to the first step, which was to ask myself why I went to the seminar in the first place and why do I do what I do?

Why do I want to lose weight?

Why do I want to be healthy?

Why do I do yoga?

Why do I count calories?

Why do I freak out when I “mess up” my diet by eating a bowl of ice cream?

Why do I feel so guilty for eating 6 cupcakes in one sitting that I force myself to run 6 miles afterwards? (Yes, that actually happened. Yes, I am embarrassed to admit that. But hey, what’s the point of a blog if you aren’t going to be honest, right?)

and,

Why the hell did I eat those 6 cupcakes in one sitting anyway?

So many “whys” and each new “why” presented itself with more “whys”. I knew my years of yo-yo dieting were a result of so much more than just a desire to lose weight, or to be healthy, but for years I avoided digging deeper for fear of what I would find.  I thank God for the Celebrate Recovery Program (http://www.celebraterecovery.com/), because it was with the use of my recovery tools that I was able to really look at these questions without fear of condemnation. I had the tools to dig, the unconditional love of Christ, and the support of others to help me handle whatever I found.

After hours of reflection, inventory, and prayer I was finally able to admit some things to myself:

-I want to be thinner because I have a fear of being rejected and abandoned for being the size I am. (I am my greatest offender. I have rejected myself for years because of my size, coloring, etc.)

-I want to be healthier so I can continue to do and progress in the things that I enjoy: yoga, housework, painting, etc.

– I want to be beautiful because I want others to love me, desire my presence, boast about me, and recognize my worth.  

Not all of these things are worthy or good, but the fat and skinny of the situation is that I want to be accepted and to enjoy life. Those things are not conditional to my size or skin color.

But just because I have some clarity on why I do what I do, doesn’t mean I am cured from all bitter feelings towards my body. This is why I need to set some goals, so I can work on accepting myself and enjoying life.

  1. Love myself no matter what

This may be a minute by minute goal. But now that I have a clear desire, and I know it is healthy and good, I can now begin to establish the “how”. I know that God loves me, but I have a hard time believing it because I have held fast to the bad things that others have said about me. What better way to fight lies than with truth?

  • Identify who has been there for me through thick and thin (get it?)
  • Place bible verses around my house that remind me of my worth and preciousness to God
  • Ask God what He loves about me

I have also set myself some more concrete and measurable goals as well. Goals that will remind me about the importance of giving my body the fuel it needs to be healthy.

  1. Do a handstand for 10 seconds or more
  2. Do 3 chin-ups

Since I have started fueling my body (instead of depriving it) I have:

Increased my handstand time by 2 seconds.

handstand 3 secs

Handstand 5 seconds

Increased my chin-ups from 0 to 2!

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And bonus, I have more energy to enjoy my runs, my yoga practice, and my circuit training. And you know that 2pm energy crash? I no longer have it.

And yet, I continue to struggle with the weight gain and increased inches around my thighs, stomach, and lower back. For some reason I have transformed goal number one “Love myself no matter what” into “get skinny so I love myself”. Why is my love of self conditional? Why is this such a big deal for me? Why am I so scared of getting bigger? Does my size outweigh (hehe) my other two goals? I am well on my way to attaining those goals, why have they suddenly become less important to me the moment I put on weight?

Does putting on weight mean I won’t attain goal number one? Well, no, in reality (as much as I hate it) this weight gain and increased inches is probably the best thing for me in regards to achieving goal number one. If I suddenly started to drop inches when I started this, it would be easy to love myself regardless of size, because I would be at a “more desirable size” in my mind. It’s easy to love the loveable, its way more difficult to love the undesirable. But why is it so difficult for me to handle this? Why am I not ok with this? Why is this stirring up so many uncomfortable feelings?

I had to get to the bottom of all these answers, or at least some of them. I hate feeling so needy, and I can tell I am pushing it onto my husband. I am sick of putting all this pressure on my husband to make me feel worthy and accepted. Sometimes I wonder if he feels like what he has to offer isn’t enough because I can’t seem to accept love.

So, since I am in recovery, I did what people in recovery do, I inventoried my fears about getting fat.

Wow, the things that came out of that. I’m not going to post that, are you crazy? There are some things too personal, even for me, to post. But like I said before, I am scared of rejection and abandonment. This discovery prompted me to look at the facts instead of my feelings:

  • The other day I wrote down different words that God says that I am. None of those were dependent on size.IMG_0796
  • For Valentine’s Day, Dean made me a list of reasons why he loves me. So far, none of them have been in regards to my size.IMG_1004
  • My true friends have been with me through thick and thin (get it?). Some even from 87lbs (in middle school) to 155lbs. None of them have rejected me or even changed the way they have treated me because of my size.
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So why can’t I focus on these things?

Because I am not accepting myself. Because I don’t think I’m worthy of love when I am 155lbs. That is the reality of this situation. When I say it, I clearly see the lie. When I write it out, it is so clear to me how flawed my thinking has been for years.

I will not accomplish Goal number 1 by transforming my body into something more pleasing to me. I will only succeed if I transform by the renewal of my mind. My physical body doesn’t need to change. My mind need only see my physical body differently.

Through my journey in Celebrate Recovery, God has revealed to me some of the root causes of my low self-worth. (I won’t go into those details now, however, I am currently working on my testimony, if I ever finish and you want to hear it, come to Celebrate Recovery with me!) I have seen the root causes, made amends for the things I have done, and I am starting to forgive others for what they have done to me. But now is my chance to make some decisions. It is my chance to live differently. It is my chance to ask God how He wants to renew my mind. And it is my chance to live a new life with the truth I now hold in my heart. But I have to choose to leave behind my old ways.

“Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.” Mark 10:50

Finally, let me say this:

I am loved. I am beautiful. I am understood. I am enough. I am all these things without doing anything. You are all those things too! But how do I go from knowing this, to believing this, to living this, and finally, feeling this?

I have to be willing to let go of the lies I have believed, I have to be willing to let go of the hurt I have felt, and I have to be willing to forgive those who have hurt me (even myself). I have to do this so I am not blinded by resentment and pain, so I can see the truth: I am loved. I am beautiful. I am understood. I am enough.551793_743932366810_715234138_n

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A Newbie’s Guide to YouTube Yoga

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A lot of people have reached out to me with questions about how I started yoga and how they can start.

If you have questions please continue to reach out to me, I love it! I love talking about yoga and encouraging others in their journey. However, I found that as more people asked me, I kept typing up a very similar initial response that included lists and reviews of my favorite YouTube yogis. I would spend upwards of 30 minutes each time composing this first response, which is fine, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but what I really wanted to talk about was what drew that person to yoga, how their bodies are adapting to the practice, the spiritual journey behind it, and to give encouragement. I wanted to connect with their journey, but after spending 30 minutes typing up my initial response I was all typed out. So, I have decided to post A Newbies Guide to YouTube Yoga which will share a small portion of my story, with a big portion about my favorite YouTube yogis. My wish is that those of you that are interested will continue to reach out to me and share your stories with me, and we can focus on the journey rather than the list of my suggestions.

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Yoga has become super popular in the US over the past 20 years (maybe more), and yoga classes are readily available to anyone who has the time and money to attend a studio. But yoga shouldn’t be just for those who can afford it. Yoga isn’t just a way to work out, it’s a way of living. It teaches you more than just poses, it teaches you the art of stillness and silence in the midst of a busy world. I practice yoga to still my mind and calm my spirit, to connect with God in a way that doesn’t allow my mind to dominate conversation like it tends to do during prayer time. I practice yoga to discover more about my physical body and spiritual body. I practice yoga to supplement what I learn in Celebrate Recovery (http://www.celebraterecovery.com/site-map).

What’s that? You want to try yoga, but you don’t have the time or money to attend a class? Luckily, we live in a world of technology, and there are thousands of yogis out there who want to share their love of yoga with anyone who has access to youtube. No money needed. All you need is a mat, towel, or blanket, internet access, and 20-90 minutes (it’s up to you!).

Since I have started practicing yoga, I have only attended one class. It was nice to get feedback from a certified teacher, but it’s not always necessary or available.

The first time I ever did yoga was 4 years ago when my husband, Dean, and I decided to try P90X together. I thought yoga would be a relaxing, stretching, type of thing…boy was I wrong. During our first week of P90X, Dean and I participated in our first YogaX practice. P90X yoga isn’t exactly yoga. Sure the poses are there, the movements are there, but it is missing some huge pieces: the discovery of self, the release of ego, and the marriage between spiritual body and physical body. However, at the time, I had no idea these pieces could be present in yoga, so I didn’t miss anything. The YogaX practice was difficult but I loved discovering my strength, balance, and flexibility all at the same time. I fell in love. However, I could not keep up the P90X workouts for more than a month, I returned to running every day, and as a result I forgot all about yoga for 2 years.

Fast forward 2 years to May 2013. I was starved for a workout but I didn’t feel like driving all the way to the gym or running. I decided to check out what workouts were OnDemand. It was then that yoga and I were reunited with the help of John Vitarelli.

It was during these video practices by John Vitarelli that I first experienced a true “surrender to the breath”. I experienced a peace and calm that I never experienced with YogaX. I continued to use OnDemand for my yoga practice for an entire year (upon renewing our cable subscription, Comcast realized we were getting OnDemand without actually paying for it). Without OnDemand John Vitarelli was no longer at my fingertips. And so, I ventured out into the world of youtube yoga.

I started my search with John Vitarelli, but because he is a well-known yogi and sells DVDs, he didn’t have any full practice videos out there. But with a lot of looking, a lot of testing, and a lot of yoga, I found my favorite Youtube yogis that fit my practice. Keep in mind, that there are tons of certified instructors out there for all different styles of yoga, these just happen to be the ones I connect with.

I’m not sure why I never ventured out into the real world with yoga, I have only attended one class in my whole life. Maybe it’s the money, maybe I’m insecure, maybe I don’t feel like driving…I honestly don’t know. Maybe I will look at that someday, but for now all you need to know is that all of my yoga training has been through videos.

Without further to do, here is my Newbies Guide to YouTube Yoga

  1. Learn the Basics

Yoga with Adrienne 

https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene

Adrienne Mishler is a down to earth, semi-goofy, and fully lovable instructor. Her videos are the place to start if you have never done yoga before and a great place to return to the basics. This doesn’t mean her videos won’t challenge you if you are familiar with yoga; these videos stick to the basics, but boy oh boy do you feel the burn at every level!

Adrienne offers a variety of modifications, has easy to follow instructions, and approaches her practice with a light-hearted manner that is accepting of flaws and imperfection. Her practices typically range from 15-30 minutes and she has several 5-10 minute “How to” videos for specific poses.

One of my favorite things about Adrienne is that she includes practices for real life issues:

Lastly, Adrienne has a 30 Days of Yoga experience that offers an easy way to start practicing and it’s all free! 

  1. Get Comfortable with Your Body and the Breath

Dagmar Spremberg 

Dagmar is a 500 E-RYT teacher, I have no idea what that means but it sounds important. Don’t let that intimidate you though, Dagmar has a soothing voice and a wonderful way of connecting her viewers to the breath. Within minutes of practicing with a Dagmar video, I feel the tension leave my body (there is just something about the way she says the word “Breathe”).

There aren’t many free Dagmar videos out there, I’m guessing she is pretty well known, and it is pretty clear why. Dagmar’s videos are geared toward an intermediate practice, however, with that being said, this specific practice was the first youtube practice I ever tried, and although I struggled through it, I enjoyed it immensely. It is also a favorite of my mom’s (she has been practicing less than year, and although she has a natural ability to pick up yoga, she isn’t completely familiar with the terminology, but was able to follow along with Dagmar’s descriptions). After I became familiar with the terminology I was able to follow along with Dagmar’s practices without needing to look at the screen at all, which really helped me maintain alignment during movements.

Dagmar’s practices typically range from 40-50 minutes and she also has very good “How to” videos that break down the proper alignment for specific poses:

Dagmar includes headstands and arm balances in her practices, which can be difficult for a beginner. But don’t let that keep you from experiencing the beauty and peace of her practice, she usually gives a modification and if she doesn’t, just replace any poses you aren’t ready for with a child’s pose. It took me 1.5 years to finally get my headstand, and that headstand did not include an ability to raise my legs up all the way.

  1. Find a Practice You Enjoy

Shareen Woodford        

https://www.youtube.com/user/ShareenYoga

Shareen Woodford has a variety of intermediate videos that include vinyasa flow, hatha flow, and ashtanga practices. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry about it, just try them all out and find what you like. Shareen’s practices are often filmed outside without a personal mic, so they can be hard to hear sometimes, and I find myself constantly checking the screen to make sure I am following along correctly. However, I find myself constantly coming back to her practices because of the way she flows through them. I feel like I’m doing a dance and as a retired Irish Dancer, I love anything that resembles a dance. Her flows can move a little fast, so if you are a beginner you might want to hold off on these videos until you get used to the terminology and the movements.

One of my favorite things about Shareen is her constant reminder to respect your body and your limits.

  1. Learn Your Limits and How to Challenge Yourself in a Healthy Way

Efit30 Yoga Vine with Donna

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFYbLvz0iXSzQjxr5UD9CxQ

If you are looking for a challenge this is where you want to go. Donna incorporates difficult arm balances and exciting transitions into her vinyasa flow practice. Donna’s instructions are clear and easy to follow if you know the terminology and the basics. Her practices range anywhere from 30-90 minutes. She also has a killer accent!

It took me two years of trying her videos before I could make it through a practice without needing to take a resting child’s pose every 10 minutes or even stopping the video halfway through and taking shavasana right then and there. Don’t get down on yourself if you can’t do it, do what you can and allow yourself room to grow. It takes time to learn when your body has reached it a limit. Honor your body and remember that your limits change daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. If you respect and honor your body you will protect yourself from injury while growing physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

  1. Learn New Poses and Have Fun!

Lesley Fightmaster https://www.youtube.com/user/lesleyfightmaster

Lesley Fightmaster is also a RYT-E 500 yoga instructor. She probably has the largest number of full length yoga practice videos on youtube. Lesley caters to intermediate and advanced students. Don’t be fooled by her “beginner” titled videos, they require knowledge of poses and terminology that a beginner may not possess quite yet. Lesley’s flow moves quite fast, and I find myself constantly looking at the screen because I don’t understand her instruction. But that is not to say that Lesley’s practices aren’t worth the effort, they so are!

Lesley is committed to providing free yoga practices for everyone! And she certainly does a fabulous job providing! Lesley offers creative and dynamic vinyasa flow practices for intermediate to advanced students. She has full practices specific to warming up the body for headstand, handstand, crow, firefly, you name it! Lesley incorporates a variety of arm balances and challenging transitions that keep me coming back for more. I thoroughly enjoy the journey of trying to learn something new, falling flat on my face (literally), and after months of practice, achieving an expression of the pose that feels beautiful to me.

I also love that Lesley does not edit out her mistakes. Every now and then she wobbles, drops a pose, or forgets a movement, because she is human. I love that she accepts her humanness and just keeps going, it encourages me to accept my humanness and enjoy the journey!

  1. Look it Up and Get Inspired

Kino MacGregor                    https://www.youtube.com/user/KinoYoga/featured

Rachel Brathen- Yogagirl https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCExTOE3jupt24BrWnisURYw

I originally had this as two seperate steps but I couldn’t choose which yogi to put with each step. Both Kino and Rachel offer heaps of inspiration, encouragement, and how to’s. Both these beautiful woman are very well known and have books, videos, products, you name it. But what I love about both of them is the transparency they offer on their Instagram and facebook accounts as well as their youtube accounts.

Typically, when I need inspiration I check out Rachel’s 1-2 minute practice clips to get my creative juices flowing.

When I want to learn proper alignment and technique I check out Kino’s How to clips:

But it was Rachel’s Handstand 101 that got me into my first handstand 

And it was Kino’s Demo Video that inspired me to continue practicing arm balances with my feeble Irish dancer arms.

Yoga is a beautiful journey to consider. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you and that’s ok. I have found so much peace, stillness, and love of self through my journey, and most importantly I have heard God and felt his presence in my life during my practice (But I’ll have to write about that another time).

Wow, that was super lengthy, but I hope this helps! And please, please, please tell me how it goes! If you know me personally or if you don’t, it doesn’t matter, feel free to contact me, I want to help! Also feel free to follow me on Instagram @lizzyeast

Namaste!

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